Col J P Singh
I came across ‘Sehswan Di Deodi’, a book written by Lt Col Joginder Singh, a friend, philosopher and guide, not mine but of many. I found this 133 pages book a wonderful recollection of past history of his ancestral village Sehswan and a community centre in the outskirts called ‘Deodi’ meant for various religious, cultural and social activities. The book covers the story of past 250 years history of the village with focus on how they were sited, developed and how they thrived as self sustaining units. It tells how our ancestors lived as a well knit community and how they created various traditions, customs and rituals and followed them religiously. Deodi, as face of the village was maintained as a valuable heritage. This book is a mirror of how people lived with dignity and pride.
Sehswan was founded by Jasrotia Rajputs in 1770 as a multi-community abode. Deodi was also constructed in 1770 and stayed in its originality till 1998 when it was renovated and given a better look. A 4 pages chapter (52 to 55), covers the village Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and how the ill-fated partition effected it. This story touched me the most and prompted me to write the review.
Till 1946 Jammu was an embodiment of brotherhood and communal harmony. Come partition, cracks developed in the society. A lot has been spoken, written and debated about communal killings in Jammu region and the Muslim migration. Col Joginder Singh has covered it in this book which will shake the head for disapproval of those who think that something like exodus of Pandits of nineties had happened in Jammu in 1947. Story of migration from Sehswan, described by Col Joginder Singh is worth its mention.
12 large Muslim families lived in Sehswan at the time of partition. The ripple effect of partition didn’t spare them. Hearing what was happening in Punjab and various other places and seeing plight of people coming to Jammu from Sialkot side, they felt insecure and decided to migrate to Pakistan. On this proposal, a village meeting was called in Deodi where Hindus assured them of their safety should they stay back but when the consensus arrived at was for their departure, they were promised safe passage across the border.
A plan was drawn by which next morning everyone from the village was to gather at the Deodi to bid farewell to Muslim brethren. Scene was such that those who were leaving were repentant and those who were not were feeling guilty for losing their faith and trust. With heavy hearts Muslims bid farewell to the village where their ancestors had lived for centuries. As per the plan, people nominated from the village escorted their procession (Jatha) to the border. After crossing Ujh River, they reached the border village Sumoan to cross over at night. Ensuring they crossed over safely, the escort returned to Sehswan.
During the hurried and stealthy night crossing over, Khursheda, daughter of Saain got separated from the Jatha and landed up in village Sumoan from where the Jatha crossed over. She hit the house of village Lambardar for shelter. As the luck would have it, there she met Amloo, the wife of Kaka Ram, a neighbour in Sehswan. Khursheda used to address Amloo as Chachi. After becoming a widow some time back, Amloo had shifted to her parental village Jogwan with her sons and was working in the house of Lambardar of village Sumoan. With the concurrence of Lambardar, Khursheda stayed in Amloo’s house for sometime hoping that her family will come looking for her. Once the hopes of reuniting with family were lost, and Sumoan being a border village, Khursheda felt that safest place for her was her own village Sehswan. She disclosed it to Amloo Chachi. Amloo shared it with Lambardar who deputed her to escort Khursheda to her native village. Amloo took Khursheda to Sehswan and spent a day in her in laws house. Next morning Amloo left Khursheda at the Deodi and returned to Sumoan. Sitting alone inside the Deodi lot of thoughts came to her mind. She thought of her childhood friend Kaushalya Devi, cousin-sister of the author of this book, now living at Rehari, Jammu. Coincidentally Kaushalya thought of going to the Deodi that morning. When she reached there, to her utter surprise she saw her friend Khursheda there. Seeing her, Khursheda burst into tears. Kaushalya consoled and hugged her. Kaushalya took Khursheda to her home where she also met her other friend Vidhya whose father Chain Singh was brother of Ram Singh, Kaushalya’s father. Kaushalya’s and Vidhya’s mother were also sisters. Seeing three friends together pleased both families. They praised Khursheda for returning to the village after separation from her parents and kept her in their house. Despite living happily with her friends, Khursheda remained concerned about the whereabouts and safety of her parents.
After sometime, when postal services were restored, Ram Singh received a letter from Mangtu, brother of Saain in which besides other things he had mentioned about the ill-fated separation of Khursheda. Khursheda was overjoyed to see her Uncle’s letter to her foster father. Her desire to meet her family increased. In the return reply Mangtu was informed that Khursheda had come back to the village and was staying in their house. He was told to tell Saain that besides being his daughter, she is their most loved daughter now. Intermittent letter exchanges continued. Mangtu was told that in case they come to take Khursheda, they will be treated as guests and helped in their deportation.
Two years of Khursheda’s hope passed by. Finally one day Saain & Mangtu with two others arrived at Sehswan. They went to the house of Govind Ram Sangra, a house slightly away from the village hutments. Govind Ram was pleased to meet them. Next morning Govind Ram took Saain to Ram Singh’s house where father and daughter met after more than two years separation. Ram Singh’s cousin Mukhtiar Singh’s had gone to Himachal. Pakistani guests were shifted to this vacant house for few days of their stay. Their presence in the village was kept secret. Only five families knew it. These families planned to send them back after three days of their stay. A day prior to departure, they were shifted to Ram Singh’s house. Before they could leave for Pakistan, villagers came to know and inquisitively gathered in Ram Singh’s house. People were keen that they stay longer and tell them about their life in Pakistan but that was not possible. They were repentant of leaving for Pakistan as it was not good going there. It increased public sympathy for them. Their deportation plan was discussed. The consensus was that they be deported through the govt abetted deportation policy. Ladies cooked delicacies for their journey. A tearful farewell was given to Khursheda Beti from the Deodi where the atmosphere became very serene. Kaushalya, Vidhya and their mothers were inconsolable. Ram Singh, Chain Singh, Devi Singh and Risaldar Prem Singh took them to Hiranagar Police Station for deportation from where they were respectfully deported to Pakistan. After a few months a letter was received from Mangtu in which he on behalf of all family members thanked Ram Singh & Chain Singh for looking after their daughter and parting with their foster daughter enabling her join her separated family.
Thus there is a clear message and a clarion call in just 5 pages of this book for a Holiday on the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh who had created such culture of bonhomie among his subjects and those whose efforts to label Maharaja as communal inadvertently/deliberately and those who have been facing bouncers, one after the other on the issue of Holiday to commemorate such bond.
This Rs. 250 book published by Classic Publications B D Bari, Mob-9419149293, covers the historians predicaments of manipulating truths with his personal insight for its reflections for the present/future. It should be an attraction for true proponents of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and those fuelling the fire. Book is considered necessary for wider readership especially in light of where we were and where we have been brought today as far as the communal politics in our UT is concerned.
(Lt Col Joginder Singh lives in House No-126/8, Greater Kailash Jammu and can be contacted at 9469505644.)
Col J P Singh