4th August,1967 :
I was just getting out of an auditorium after offering a presentation in the seminar titled `Strategic Partnership between India and Pakistan’. My presentation was much appreciated by delegates from both sides. Today was my birthday too and I was in a festive mood.
Suddenly,a boy showed up and handed me a bouquet. Before I could understand anything, he ran away! The card on the bouquet read ‘From Pakistan on this very special day!’ The next line was even more mesmerising. It read `Wish to meet you on this day! Please don’t refuse, have been waiting for this moment for a very long time’! Waiting for you in hotel Hilton!
I was in a fix! First, I had no Pakistani friends! Second, why would a Pakistani wait for a very long time to meet me? I decided to give it a shot!
When I reached hotel Hilton, I was directed to Room no 420.When I knocked on the door,a polite voice asked me to come in. As I entered, I saw two people with backs turned towards me. I asked them the reason for their invitation as I knew none in Pakistan. They said I knew them very well and turned towards me!
I froze on seeing their faces! It was like I was in the center of a hurricane where powerful winds struck me from all sides threatening to shatter me into pieces. The phantoms of the past which I pretended to have forgotten had returned to haunt me!
They were saying something but their words didn’t reach me. Nor did they seem real! If they were real how did they come to know I was still alive? I wanted to leave that place immediately but my legs did not support me! I wanted to shout at them but my voice was stuck! Finally, I gave up.
They were saying something but I was lost in another world! A world of blood stained past where people cried for mercy before communally charged barbarians who enjoyed their misery with thunderous laughter, killed them after lots of torture and finally, coloured their faces with their hunt’s blood! It was a world where hapless women cried for mercy before gangs of communal thugs who finally raped and killed them! It was a merciless world where babies cried for milk besides dead mothers and kids cried besides dead parents not understanding what to do and where to go! It was like I was surrounded by a dense fog which did not wish me to look outside at the brilliant sunlight, a ray of hope.
Between this horror, I could see a village! It housed positive people who were creating history that day by attending a marriage ceremony between a Hindu brahmin and his love, a pathan girl! The groom appeared like me whereas the girl was Shehnaaz. We were waiting for the bride’s brother, Munir who was untraceable since morning. Suddenly a man rushed in and informed that Munir’s body was discovered in the jungle, 5 km from the village. He also informed that he was murdered brutally with hands and legs cut off and head severed from the body! All of us were stunned and rushed towards the spot!
Munir and myself had gone to the town in the morning to choose a sherwani for the marriage. Since we were childhood friends, I thought he could help me purchase the ideal sherwani. As we were getting back home, a strongly built man approached us and whispered something in Munir’s ear! Munir told me to return as he had some important work there. When I returned alone and was asked about Munir, I informed that he had stayed back in town for some important work.
Suddenly, a man appeared from between the crowd. He was the same guy who whispered in Munir’s ear! He alleged that he had seen me with Dharampal, leader of Hindu rioters! He began inciting the crowd for revenge from Hindus. Before I could counter him, some hard object hit in the back of my head and I was lost in darkness. The crowd took me for dead!
I woke up the next morning and worried about my family rushed towards the village. When I crossed the jungle, I encountered a fellow villager, Qadir. He informed me that all Hindus had been slaughtered mercilessly in the night!
He told me that guy entered my house and took my father out of the house by holding his hair. Then he kicked and hit him with an iron rod. Then he cut my father’s both hands and legs. He then raped my mother and sister. After this he cut my father’s head and handed my mother and sister to Shehnaaz who stabbed them mercilessly till they died!
Qadir told me that the last train to India was about to leave in an hour and I should think of catching it in time to save my life! He told me that my father too would have wanted this! I rushed to the station and managed to catch the overcrowded train to reach India!
Here I struggled a lot to be what I am today!
Suddenly the fog gave way and I heard that same rioter and Shehnaaz, now husband and wife say “hope you forgive us”!
I got up and on reaching the door turned back, smiled and left!