Borders block 104 year old civilian's meet with daughters

18 May 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Ashutosh Sharma

Jammu: Borders and religions may marginalize human beings but they can not cut apart relations. Despite having an age of 104 years, time could not lessen Ishar Singh’s love for his first family, which got separated from him during partition of country and later embraced Islam. His daughters are settled in Pakistan and sons in US. Presently living in Digiana with second family, Ishar Singh remains equally concerned about his first family also. While narrating the incidents of partition and its aftermath, Ishar told Excelsior that although now he has grown frail yet he has strong desire to see the faces of her daughters in Pakistan before breathing his last. Ishar Singh was enjoying perfect family bliss with wife, Swarn Kour and seven children including four sons and three daughters in village Asniji, in Muzaffrabad, PoK till independence brought trauma along with it. Pakistan came into existence and with it came migration and massacre in the region. In October 1947 communal clashes broke out and Pakistan, whose very foundation was laid on religion, took over control of area. In the process of vacating the area, his two brothers were massacred and he along with his family was held captive at Kharla in Ilaqua Bag. Being a Sikh, he had two options-either to embrace Islam or to lose life to people charged with communal frenzy. One day while he was engaged in some job assigned by his captors, his wife along with children somehow managed to escape from the captivity and got separated from him. On the other hand he too managed to get away and came over to this side of border through Goalta, Uri and after passing some days with Indian Army at Baramulla finally settled in Batote with the assurance that after the passage of dark phase he will rediscover his family and start new life in India. Ishar continued his efforts to establish contact with the family and even mailed several letters to his village in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) but could not evoke any response as his wife along with children had left Muzaffrabad. Hopeless and hapless lady with the help of army had left Muzaffrabad. She went to Lahore in search of livelihood and managed to get job of nurse in Mayo Hospital at Lahore. Circumstances trounced his family to convert religion. But, his wife got meaning of life in the up bringing and education of children. During this process, she toiled hard with dignity and imparted higher education to children at her own without discriminating between daughters and sons. Ishar came to know about it from some refugees settled in Jammu who visited PoK and learned about his family putting up in Lahore. On their reference, Ishar visited Lahore in 1949 but by that time every thing had changed and his wife refused to embrace Sikhism again and refused to come to India as she was busy with the studies of her children. Ishar came back with a heavy heart in Batote and on the continuous insistence of relatives remarried in 1958 and started a new life. From his second marriage, he fathered five children and later settled in Jammu at Digiana. On the other hand, his elder son from first marriage, Inderjeet Singh, now Mohammad Shafi became a surgeon in New Jersey, US and rest of three sons also established business in US with the help of their elder brother. Having consolidated their position in New Jersy they took their mother along with them and got permanently settled in US. When Shafi had to leave for New Jersy he visited his father in Batote and remained in touch with his father over the years. Later, on the invitation of his first wife and her children, Ishar went to New Jersy in 1975 and stayed with the separated family for a month and came back. According to him, his elder son has married a Christian lady and is doing well there where as other three sons and daughters have married in Muslim religion. His daughters are living in Faislabad, Pakistan and are in teaching profession. Till now he has visited US eleven times and in the meantime also got a green card from the United States. But Ishar decided to live in India for the rest of his life. He holds his first wife, who died a couple of months ago, in high esteem and minced no words while appreciating her role in bringing up the family gracefully.