CuratorSpace Salon #5: Exploring People and Place

Mansaf Ali (right) with friends Balbir Singh (left) and Kulbir Singh (middle), Huddersfield 1966

Let’s Go Yorkshire is delighted to be taking part in CuratorSpace‘s fifth event on Thursday 27 September at Cafe Ollo in Huddersfield.

This special event gives you the chance to hear from creative professionals about the work they do and how they can help you to develop your own practice. You’ll also have the chance to have a drink and meet other people working in the creative industries. In addition, there will be a screening of the film A NEW LIFE IN HUDDERSFIELD – MEMORIES OF PARTITION AND MIGRATION followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Zoe Opal East and director Mandeep Samra.

Tickets are free but booking is essential and can be done via this link to Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/curatorspace-salon-5-exploring-people-and-place-tickets-49306601372

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PARTITION INFORMATION PACK

Mansaf Ali (right) with friends Balbir Singh (left) and Kulbir Singh (middle), Huddersfield 1966

Please find here the downloadable Partition information pack and accompanying document containing interviews of ten contributors featured in a new film A NEW LIFE IN HUDDERSFIELD – MEMORIES OF PARTITION AND MIGRATION.

The pack provides teachers with an introduction to this complex subject, with curriculum links to History, Literacy and Geography at KS2 and 3. The pack includes questions for debate to help teachers watching the film with their students, session plans and suggestions for follow up activities.

Partition Information Pack

Contributors featured in the Film

To watch the film please click on the following link:

http://www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/new-life-huddersfield-memories-partition-and-migration

A NEW LIFE IN HUDDERSFIELD – MEMORIES OF PARTITION AND MIGRATION (2018)

A new documentary A NEW LIFE IN HUDDERSFIELD – MEMORIES OF PARTITION AND MIGRATION reveals untold stories from Partition survivors and their families of how they escaped the violence, fled their homelands and eventually settled in the UK in search for a better life. On Tuesday 22 May, the documentary premiered to over 80 special guests at Heritage Quay in Huddersfield.

Documentary Premiere_PRINT (20 of 28)

The documentary explores local people’s stories of the 1947 Partition and how it dramatically shaped the lives of South Asian migrants who settled in Huddersfield.

A dedicated group of volunteers worked to gather people’s memories and archive the oral histories to a professional standard. With a special visit to the Yorkshire Film Archive, the volunteers developed their archival research skills helping to create this film to make this history visible and to bring about connection, empathy and new understanding across diverse communities.

The film will be preserved and made accessible by the YFA

ACROSS THE LINE – a podcast exploring the impact of the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947

ACROSS THE LINE is a podcast discussing the impact of the 1947 Partition of India and its significance to this day. This podcast was produced by Lauren Ebanks as part of The White Line heritage project developed by Let’s Go Yorkshire and contains episodes discussing: the history of Partition, how to share the history of Partition, the experiences of refugees throughout history and South Asian immigration to the UK.

Invitation to the film premiere A NEW LIFE IN HUDDERSFIELD – MEMORIES OF PARTITION AND MIGRATION

Let’s Go Yorkshire​ invites you to the premiere of A NEW LIFE IN HUDDERSFIELD – MEMORIES OF PARTITION AND MIGRATION on Tuesday 22 May, 3-5pm at Heritage Quay: University of Huddersfield Archives​.

The event will start with a short introduction before the film screening followed by a presentation of archive records relating to both the build up to Partition and its fallout by Iqbal Husain​ from The National Archives​.

Free event with light food and refreshments. Please RSVP to mandysamra@hotmail.com

TWL A5 Flyer Film Screening FRONTTWL A5 Flyer Film Screening BACK

The Legacy of Partition

Borders

In the last of a four-part series, project volunteer Barry Pavier writes about the legacy of Partition…

In August 2017 many people will have seen the BBC series ‘Dangerous Borders’, in which two of their correspondents, one of Indian and one of Pakistani heritage, travelled the highly militarised frontier between India and Pakistan. If there had been a similar programme travelling the border between India and Bangladesh it would have shown a 2,700 kilometre fence, three metres high and set in concrete, with plans for construction on the remaining 700 kilometres.

This fence is intended to keep out Bangladeshi economic migrants from crossing into India, particularly the provinces of Assam and Meghalaya. This is an issue which dates from the 1920s, and which was an often overlooked driver in the Partition of 1947. The leaderships of the Congress Party in Assam were almost the only people who desired the ultimate outcome long before June 1947, and strenuously lobbied the national Congress Party leadership against accepting the compromise Cabinet Mission plan.

Many of the ethnic Bengali inhabitants of Assam belong to families who were resident there way before 1947, and indeed before the 1920s. However, all of them are now being given the new label for illegal immigrants: ‘infiltrators’. The use of such a term indicates how Bengalis, and especially Muslims Bengalis, are seen as members of a hostile entity.

70 years on the logic of Partition is still playing itself out. If people were too much a threat to have them living in the same state as you then they will not cease to be a threat if they live in a state next door. The same logic breeds the notion of the enemy within – those who do not accept or fit with the notion of an exclusive identity.

The testimony of the people interviewed for #TheWhiteLine project shows that ordinary people did not share these views, but they suffered from the fact that those with power did. Today, there is a mass of evidence that shows that ordinary people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh still do not share these views, but power in society is dominated by those who do.

The British rulers did not consciously set out to create this outcome. What they did do was recklessly promote policies and commit acts that set the process in motion and kept it going for seventy years. In 1947 the only realistic conclusion has to be that they ran away with precious little thought of the consequences. Those responsible are of course now long dead, and so escape the need to answer for their actions.

After 70 years these may seem to be bleak conclusions. However, Partition is far from being the totality of the history of the people of South Asia. The end of the Raj did not have to happen this way – when in February 1946 the Royal Indian Navy mutineers hoisted the flags of the Congress, Muslim League and the Communist Party tied together they showed that another outcome was possible. If they had won then something different would have happened – we do not know what, except that it would have been different. Actions change outcomes, and no outcome lasts forever.

Podcasting Workshop 3 – Uploading a Podcast (Thursday 15th March)

Uploading A Podcast Workshop

The final workshop was taken by Richard Jones, a journalism lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. First, we continued with the final part of the last workshop. From this we learnt that when writing as a journalist, it is best to write in the present and not the past. This way you capture your audience’s attention immediately. For example, you could say ‘In the Partition of India, art was used to represent the people who died.’ However, it sounds better when you say it like this: ‘The people who died in the Partition of India are now represented through artwork.’ The subject matter is mentioned straight away, you get straight to the point, and as it is happening now it feels more relatable when you read/hear it.

Next, we were taught how to upload a podcast, which is the most important part of our project. The way we practised this was to start by making a YouTube account. However, first our soundbites had to be converted to the correct medium for this channel. In order to do this, we had to research suitable programmes that would do this. Then, once this is done, we could add our podcast material onto our account. You must make sure to give it a title, a description and some tags – these should be of people, places and organisations mentioned in the podcast, to help people find it when they search for those terms. It is also a good idea to add subtitles, to do this you click on your avatar at the top right, and select Creator Studio. Then click Edit next to the video and Subtitles/CC.

Alternatively, if you have an iPhone, you can submit it to iTunes. The easiest way to do this is to set up a WordPress blog and publish each podcast on there. If everything is okay it will then automatically be available on iTunes. We were also given a link to show how to do this.

Overall, I have very much enjoyed these sessions and I feel that I have learnt a lot. I know that everything we have learnt will come in very useful on our project.

Karla Hopkinson (project researcher)

WE NEED QUESTIONS!

TWL Podcast Query

As part of The White Line project, we will be recording several podcast episodes speaking to experts and community members about the Partition of India.

Comment below or send a private message (Letsgoyorks@yahoo.com) if you have a question you’d like us to try to answer on the podcast!

MR KHAN’S STORY

Mr Khan

Life before Partition

Mr Khan was born in district Hoshiarpur, Tehsil Garhshankar, in India, in 1936. He remembers his village, there were mountains nearby, he says. In his village, he says, there were no Sikhs or Hindus, there were only 125 Muslim families. There were Hindu villages about a mile away.

Partition

Mr Khan was twelve years old at the time of Partition. Mr Khan remembers his uncle first telling him that Pakistan was going to be created and that they would have to go there. They were very scared. They were surrounded by Hindu villages. Many of the Muslims in his village let off fireworks on their roofs to try to scare people – so nobody came into their village.

He remembers a village nearby that had many Muslims, they were gathered together by the Sikhs in the village, who separated the elderly people, killed the young men, took the girls who ran away, many jumping in the well. The same thing must have happened on the Pakistan side, he says.

Mr Khan’s uncle was a Choudhury, head of their family/community, says Mr Khan, everyone listened to him. He said that the Sikhs might get their women and girls. “We should just kill them ourselves first,” he said. One of Mr Khan’s brothers spoke up then and said to his uncle, “okay, first we’ll kill you. Their lives are as valuable and precious as yours. We won’t kill them.” But his uncle insisted that they all go towards the river Sutluj, push the women in and jump in themselves afterwards, since they would be dishonoured if the Sikhs and Hindus took their women.

On the way, there was a village of Muslims, who told them to go back, saying that no one would let them get to the river, they would kill them first. So they all went back to the village. A few days later, leaving behind everything they owned, including their animals (they left their buffaloes with a Hindu friend in case they came back), everyone in the village set off together on foot, to go to Pakistan.

Altogether, it took 2 ½ months for them to arrive in Pakistan. There were about 125 families altogether in the village, says Mr Khan: 25-30 of these were members of Mr Khan’s family. First, they all gathered in a camp that had been set up in a nearby village. Further along the way they rested at a gurdwara for the night. Sikhs came in the morning telling them to go outside, they sat outside for a week. On the way, it rained heavily. Many of those travelling, were left behind or killed during the journey, girls were snatched but Mr Khan’s kafila/group was not attacked as they had the protection of the army. Only one man from their village was attacked and killed one night when they first set off – since he had money. But many old people, ill people died or were left behind as they travelled – Mr Khan’s grandparents died on the way.

At one point Mr Khan’s uncle got a bullock cart so they could transport those who couldn’t walk. One woman had two babies, twins; she couldn’t carry both of them, so she left one behind. There was an old man from his village, Mr Khan recounts, and his son had no transport so he left him behind. He kept calling for his son – where are you?

They eventually reached Braham, where another camp had been set up, and stayed there for a month. According to Mr Khan, there must have been about 10 million people there. Leaving the camp, they continued walking, stopping at a few places along the way, until they got to Amritsar, where there was also a lot of fear. There were threats that all Muslims would be killed, none would survive. The Pakistani army protected them all night in Amritsar and accompanied them as they crossed the border on trucks, in buses, until they got to Lahore.

From Lahore, they came to Faislabad, where they first started staying with Mr Khan’s paternal uncle (chacha) who already lived there. He supported them at first. And then Mr Khan’s elder brother worked doing manual labour so they could manage food (flour, vegetables) and clothes. After that, everyone dispersed. Some went to Karachi, some went to Lahore. Mr Khan’s family had some land that his grandfather had owned – they started working on that land.

“Obviously at that time, since you felt scared that you would be attacked at any time, Sikhs and Hindus became your enemy,” says Mr Khan. There were some good people too, he says. One woman from their village was left behind, her husband was not around, he was in Shimla. Some Hindus helped her to get to the camp. Some chamars (low castes) converted to Sikhism, they also started killing, says Mr Khan. On Pakistan side the Muslims decided to start looting, and on the India side the Sikhs and Hindus did it. “The Sikhs who left Pakistan to go to India didn’t hurt anyone, and us who came to Pakistan, didn’t do anything to anyone. It was those who stayed in their home places that did the injustice. I don’t know if it was Hindus or Sikhs, these days it is Hindus who do more.”

Coming to the UK

Mr Khan came to the UK in 1963. He knew a little English. He recounts arriving at the airport and then Kings Cross Railway Station where he bought a ticket. He knew how many shillings and pennies were in a pound, so he could count his change, and he saw that he had been given too little. He went back and asked for his full change and was given it. He sat in a train and came straight to Huddersfield since his elder brother was there. At Huddersfield train station, since he had an address, he called a taxi and asked how much it would be. When the driver said half a crown, Mr Khan, (who recounts the story with a laugh), sent him away, saying that he knew about shillings and pennies but didn’t know what a crown was. But when the next taxi came, he didn’t ask him how much it would cost. He just told him where he wanted to go.

He left school to come to the UK, so he had to work in the foundry 40 hours a week; “I had never worked so hard in Pakistan,” says Mr Khan. “We thought we would just come for a short time, make some money, then go back. And we would go back,” he says with a laugh, “but our children don’t want to go now.” Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus worked harmoniously together. “There was a Mr Singh who worked with us,” he recounts. “He would bring hot melted iron to make radiators.”

“It’s important for young people to know,” he says, “how Pakistan was made, how we arrived in Pakistan. It was given to us by Allah Taalah.” It’s those who travelled to Pakistan at that time that properly appreciate it, he says. Mr Khan wishes he could return to his village to see it again today. His father’s grave is there.

MUHAMMAD IQBAL’ STORY

Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal, Greenhead Park, Huddersfield, August 1964

Life before Partition

Muhammad Iqbal was born in West Punjab (Gujrat) in 1928. He lived in the village with his mother, two brothers and sister. His father died when he was three years old; he was an army officer (subedar) stationed in Roorkee cantonment and was killed in the Second World War. Muhammad remembers that time, during the Second World War, from 1938-45; there were a lot of Royal air force, bomber jets flying over the villages, Japan bombarded Calcutta and India was declared a war zone.

After his father’s death Muhammad’s family went from being the richest family in the village to being the poorest. His elder brothers were not able to have a good education, because they didn’t have much money but Muhammad’s brother supported him to get a good education through school, college and university, although he also received many scholarships too. Mohammad went to school in the village primary school and then travelled three miles each way to go to high school in a bigger neighbouring village. He eventually went to university and gained a first-class Masters in Chemistry.

Muhammad’s village was predominantly Muslim, he remembers a Goldsmith in his village who was a Hindu, he was rich and influential according to Muhammad. There was also one other Hindu family in the village, says Muhammad, but he remembers there being no Sikhs there. Generally, however, according to Muhammad, most of the Hindus were in towns, there were more Sikhs in the villages. A couple of villages away from his village, in the north, in the south, and in the east, there were a lot of Sikhs – who were mostly shopkeepers. There were also a lot of Sikh farmers.

Everyone lived amicably as friends. Muhammad remembers a Ganda Singh who held a ration depot dealing in sugar, which, along with kerosene, was in scarcity during World War 2.

Partition

Muhammad was nine years old when Partition happened. According to him, apart from a few school teachers, people in his village were not well informed about what was happening at that time. Muhammad didn’t have to cross the border himself, but he shares the story of his brother’s journey across the border. Muhammad’s brother enrolled in the army in 1945, in the boys battalion, and in 1947 he was still in India (in Roorkee cantonment, where their father had been stationed until he was killed).

His brother later shared with Muhammad the story of his train journey from Roorkee, across the border, to Pakistan. In Ludhiana, the Hindu driver claimed that he had dropped all the water in the train – so there was no water. The idea was to stop the train and gather round the Jathas (Hindus and Sikhs) to kill the Muslims on the train. But the Muslims on the train were all soldiers, many carrying rifles, they guarded the train. It was monsoon time so they pulled the water from the puddles, into the engine and told the driver to keep driving until they got to the Wagah border. Otherwise, says Muhammad, his brother would have been one of the people killed.

Muhammad remembers a general feeling of fear and anxiety at that time, that there were big jatahs (crowds) of Sikhs, with ammunition, rifles, weapons, coming to attack this or that village. It was fear mongering – but due to the rumours, the locals would guard the village day and night. Through rumours and radio broadcasts, they heard stories about tens of thousands of Muslims being killed in east Punjab.

A large number of Muslims coming into Pakistan were waylaid, raided and massacred in large numbers on the way says Muhammad. There were no such killings in west Punjab. According to him, many more Muslims were killed than Hindus and Sikhs, since Pakistan was a smaller country and India was a larger, more powerful country. There was a smaller number of Sikhs and Hindus moving out of the country. Muhammad does not recall any Hindus and Sikhs being killed or injured in his area during Partition; indeed, he remembers the Muslims escorting them across the borders.

Muhammad doesn’t remember seeing any casualties in his area until 1947 when the state of Jammu and Kashmir was occupied by Indian forces. The Indian army used to come and bombard the villages, he recalls. His own village was close to the Jammu and Kashmir border – they could constantly hear the bombardment, firing, violence.

While the Hindus left his area, he says, only a few odd Muslim refugees from India, for example UP, came into his area. Most of the refugees coming into his area were from Jammu and Kashmir (now Azad Kashmir); Muslims defending themselves against the violent onslaught of the Indian army in Jammu and Kashmir. For example, refugees from the nearby town Bhimber, which had been occupied by the Dogra army, trickled out into nearby villages like Muhammad’s, where they had a connection. There were many women in the village next to theirs Muhammad recalls, who were married to men from Bhimbher or who were from Bhimber themselves, and many refugees went to those villages. Muhammad remembers his mother, who was the only person in their village from Bhimber, feeding these refugees, distributing their spare quilts. His family had built a room in their courtyard for cows and buffaloes, but, being poor, they didn’t have any animals, they let this room out to a family that was related to them and generally helped to take care of refugees.

According to Muhammad, the feeling towards the refugees was that of Muslim brotherhood, they were welcomed by the villagers, who shared whatever they had. He doesn’t recall any of the refugees going without food or warm clothes. They also started earning their own living quickly, working as carpenters, joiners, builders.

Talking a little about the history of the region, Muhammad tells us that the rulers of Jammu and Kashmir were Hindus – the state had been sold to them four generations earlier by the British for very little money – since they needed someone to rule it. It was a history of exploitation by these Rajas. In August 1947, after the spate of killings of Muslims in the area, in fear of the Mujahideen taking over, under pressure from Lord Mountbatten, Maharaja Hari Singh annexed the state to India – although, says Muhammad, 80% of the population was Muslim. After that, the Indian army was sent in and the killings continued. Muhammad also shares the experience of his wife’s family (who are also from Bhimber). Her great grandfather was the Chief Constable of Maharaja Hari Singh in Srinagar and had a big four storey house – this was occupied at that time by the Hindu/Indian army. Muhammad attributes the massacres that continue today in the Indian occupied Kashmir, to Maharaja Hari Singh’s actions at that time.

Eventually, the Hindu Army was ousted from Bhimber by the Mujahideen (Pathans from Afghanstan), with the help of pensioned solders in the nearby villages and younger men in these villages, who were given some informal training to fight back, from older retired soldiers– Mohammad remembers seeing the young men learning how to fight with bamboo sticks and a few rifles. Muhammad recalls seeing only one non-Muslim casualty in his life at that time; he had just started his high school in 1947, when the Hindu Dogras surrendered in Bhimber, to the Mujahideen and other trained people who were resisting. There was a wooded area by the Bhimber Road, which was turned into a POW camp – all those from the area who had been arrested were kept there. Muhammad and his school friends found someone lying in the wood, who had perhaps escaped the camp, and was hardly breathing. They reported it. When they returned after school, he was gone – the Mujahideen must have taken him says Muhammad. This was, says Muhammad, the only non-Muslim casualty he saw in his life.

After the victory, some of the families trickled back to Bhimber, but many settled in Guarat, Rawalpindi, Jhelum – since they could take the properties of the Hindu refugees that had left to go to India. Many, such as Muhammad’s father-in-law, who never returned to Bhimber but got work in the education ministry and settled in Lahore, got professional jobs in Punjab and didn’t go back for this reason.

Coming to the UK

Muhammad came from Lahore to Halifax in the UK on 23rd November 1963. He stayed in Halifax for two weeks, then came to Huddersfield. His first impression of the town was that of blackness; due to the industrial smoke, all the buildings were black. It was winter so it was very cold.

Muhammad found a job at Huddersfield Railway Station as a porter. It was a traumatic experience for Muhammad, since he was not used to hard labour. After four weeks as a casual worker at the railway station, Muhammad was offered a permanent job as a porter but with his degrees, he didn’t feel that he should continue. He managed to find a job as a research chemist where he worked for a year as a researcher, and invented a new blue dye for the company. He left the company however, since there were no health and safety precautions and Muhammad found himself having nasal problems and constant colds and flus.

He found an opening for a job of a teacher at Spring Road School; he applied, was interviewed and got the job, which he started on January 1st 1965. His work mostly involved working with the newly arrived immigrant Hindu, Muslim and Sikh children, from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, who had recently come to Huddersfield. He would receive them in the Spring School Reception Centre, teach them for 2-3 months as they started to understand the language and then disperse them in different schools across the borough. At the same time, he also taught Chemistry at King James’ Grammar School and he joined Huddersfield Polytechnic to do his research work; he had come to the UK with the intention to do his PhD. He started with and Mphil and was eventually offered a scholarship to do his PhD, which he completed by 1972. He was offered a job at Huddersfield University, with the additional responsibility of being International Students advisor – looking after the welfare of international students and recruiting more. Muhammad worked in this role for 33 years and eventually retired in 2003.

During this time, Muhammad was also active in the community, in race relations. He was a co-writer of books published by the Commission of Racial Equality and was a founder member of the Huddersfield Liaison Committee, as the first vice chairman.
Muhammad’s attempts to visit India, for work purposes, or in order to visit Roorkee (a place that is associated with his family history) in order to give lectures at the university, have been frustrated due to visa restrictions. It is very difficult for Pakistanis to go to India to visit religious sites – for example Sufi shrines, says Muhammad. In his opinion, the younger generation is not doing enough, for example to liberate occupied Kashmir.