Yesterday, we visited Gah – Manmohan Singh’s Village. Manmohan Singh is the former prime minister of India. He was born in Gah – a village in present day district Chakwal (Punjab, Pakistan), which was part of district Jhelum at the time of Partition of India (1947). We were looking for old men who could recount the days leading to the Partition of India. We took a round of the village and met three senior citizens. ‘Voices of Partition’ is the latest project of my group ‘Theatre Wallay’.
The above two photos are of the old village mosque. Gah had a significant Hindu and Sikh population. The Hindus were dominant lot, and minor skirmishes were common as per the old men of the village. As Hindus dominated, they would not allow Muslim population to eat beef. Usury was another significant irritant. When situation started deteriorating, the Hindus and the Sikhs had sensed the danger. In early 1947, Hindu/Sikh population, fearing an attack, gathered in this mosque seeking protection. The Imam of the mosque assured them that they would be fully protected. He announced from the pulpit of the mosque that no harm should reach the non-Muslims living in Gah. The matter was settled as people had profound respect for the Imam.
However, some miscreants decided to seek help from people of other Muslim villages. Thus another more organized attack took place, but that too failed to harm the non-Muslim community on large scale. The Muslim population provided all possible help to the non-Muslims. The women were protected and when it became impossible to protect them, they were safely taken to another village, so when the more ferocious attack was launched, the female population had already moved to safer places.
These solar street lights were installed after a package was approved by Manmohan Singh. It was decided that Gah would be turned into a model village. However, it fell prey to usual apathy and lack of any structural support. The money has been spent on buildings and infrastructure, but there is no system/arrangement for the maintenance of the facilities provided. The school buildings are there, but are not being fully/properly utilized. Street lights are not being repaired. We fear that these would vanish in a year or two. This could have been saved if we had local government system, and this infrastructure had been handed over to the union council administration. Now there is no institution to take care of this infrastructure and ensure that it remains functional.