VoP team went out to cities and villages in search of people who had migrated from India to Pakistan at the time of Partition of India (1947), and recorded their interviews. We interviewed nearly 100 persons – men and women from various backgrounds now in their 70s and 80s. Quite a few of them passed away since we interviewed them. (We had no means to record stories of people who had migrated from Pakistan to India.)
- Muslims and Hindus were always at each others’ throat. We interviewed about 100 people, and almost all of them started their stories by narrating that they enjoyed good relations with their Hindu/Sikh neighbors. In our textbooks, this peaceful co-existence is never mentioned. They did mention some tensions occasionally, but the situation would normalize within days, and sometimes it remained confined to a two families, and did not affect the whole community. This happens almost everywhere – wherever two communities live together. No matter the communities are divided on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or any other.
- The Muslims of India were dying to migrate to Pakistan. From each story, it is very clear that nobody wanted to leave the land where they were born and raised. They had strong bond with those areas, and they wanted to stay, but the riots, arson, looting, and killings, forced them to leave. So many of them originally planned to go back to their ancestral towns/villages after the situation normalized. But international borders were drawn, and return was made impossible. Some old men and women, during these interviews, recalled their ancestral villages as their ‘watan’. Most of them had not come to terms with their new homeland.
- People living in same villages turned against each other. During riots, people of different faiths living in the same villages/communities did not attack one another. In fact, they tried their best to protect their neighbors irrespective of their faith. Muslim migrants told us of stories of how their Hindu/Sikh neighbors tried to protect them from other Hindus/Sikhs, and similarly Muslims on this side of the border told us stories of how they tried to protect their Hindu neighbors when other Muslims wanted to kill them. The attackers always came from other often far off places, and killed people whom they did not know personally.