Raj Kumary Bowry
At the time of Partition of India and Pakistan my age was 24 years.
At last the night of Aug 14 & 15th 1947 came. Everyone was waiting very anxiously for that night. Because it was announced on Radio and in the newspapers that on this day and at this time India will be divided in two parts one India and other Pakistan. Both these countries will get independence at 12 o'clock in the night of 14th & 15th Aug 1947.
At that time we were living near Red Fort at Delhi. So I with my husband and daughter in my arms went to Red Fort to watch this programme. The whole ground of Red Fort was filled with people. At exact 12 o'clock the Flag of India was flying high in the sky for the first time. At that time Lord Mountbaten & Pandit Nehru were there to perform this ceremony. Everyone was very happy to see this there.
This independence people did not get on a silver spoon. The whole population of this part of the world was shaken. There was such a big migration of people from one part to another. Hundus living in Pakistan side wanted to come to India. From Indian side Muslims wanted to go to Pakistan, so from both sides people migrated. They travelled by train, bus, walking or by any other means they could get. It was a big problem for people to leave their homes, their worldly things and possessions and other things and come to settle in a new place about which they never knew anything. At that time people were not going from one place to another so much. So it was very difficult to them to leave their house and settle at a new place.
When people were coming they were looted on the way by goondas. Many girls were forcibly taken away by goondas. They were raped. Many tried to kill themselves in order to save themselves from goondas. Many people were killed, were physically tortured. Things whatever little they were bringing were snatched. Those who were coming by foot their condition was worst. They could not get food or water on the way. Many died of hunger, tiredness. It was a very bad experience for them. When these things people on this side of India heard they also wanted to to do the same thing in retaliation, so there was no law or order in the country at that time. Before giving independence the army & police was also exchanged. So at time it appeared that we were living in a country where there was chaos only.
Many relatives of ours were living in Peshawar & Lahore. My father was also doing his business in Jehlam. But he was lucky enough to close his business there and come back to India before the announcement of Partition.
Although we were living in Indian part but we have the effect of division on us also. My brother-in-law's family, my sister-in-law's family and one of my auntie's family were in Lahore. They came to stay with us. They have nothing with them when they came to live with us. We have to support them for more than one year. Slowly they arranged their house and jobs and were settled. It was so difficult to arrange for everything of daily life for them house, food and other things. The same problem was for those people also who went to Pakistan.
Those people who could not stay with anyone, they stayed in camps. At many places Govt has made camps where Refugees were kept. There Govt tried their best to help them with food, living places, medicines etc.
In the name of religion many people were killed. There may have been some people who did not want to go after leaving their house but they were forced by circumstances to leave. Because one sect was ready to kill another, so just to save their life they had to move.
Before Partition Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christians were all living like friends or relatives. In our schools also we were studying together. We never thought that one day like this we will behave like enemies.
Summary of Interview with Raj Kumary Bowry [Mother of Cllr Sood]
My full name is Raj Kumary Bowry. My full name is actually Raj Kumary and Bowry is my surname.
Could you tell me your age at the time of partition?
At the time of partition my age was 24 years.
And you had completed your school education and your college education and did you have a job at the time?
I have completed my education and I was married at the time. I was mother of one child.
What year were you married?
I was married in 1942.
And your first child?
My first child I got on 23 December 1945.
When you were married, where were you living?
When I was married I was living in Ludhiana, Punjab. After marriage I came to live in Delhi with my husband.
But your family was quite well off at the time?
Yes. My family was quite well off. My whole family was in Ludhiana. My parents were living there, and my in-laws were also there, so my whole family was there.
Now I can remember that you told me earlier about the schools and that you had friends in the Muslim community as well as the Hindu community and there was no feeling of tension at the time.
When I was studying, in our class there were no different schools for the different sects. And I was studying in a government school. Hindus were there, Muslims were there, Sikh girls were also there. We were studying there in the same class. And we used to play with them and study with them but we never thought they were separate from us. We were living like friends.
You had friends in all the communities that you played with?
Yes, we had some Muslim friends and some Sikh friends. I had many friends. I still remember the names of two or three girls, [two from the Muslim community] who were very fond of me. I don’t know whether they’re still alive or not, but they used to play with me.
Did your parents mix with Muslim families as well? Did they have friends and did they socialize together?
Yes, we were socializing in this way whenever they could get a chance they used to talk outside their houses. If there is any function like marriages, we used to invite them; they used to come to our house and we never thought that we would be separated from each other like this [i.e. after Partition].
Did you go to a particular temple nearby?
The temple was nearby; we used to go there. But mostly I used to go to Arya Samaj in that area.
I think you explained to me earlier that during the war there was no tension between the different communities, but this only happened after the war came to an end?
During the war I don’t think we have got any tension between us, but tension mostly came after people knew that India is going to be parted [i.e. divided] and it is going to be parted on religious grounds…
And then when the trouble starts, there are these gangs of people who begin to terrorize different neighbourhoods. Had you any experience of that where you lived?
Because people used to come in gangs, these were mostly the goonda people you can say, because only those people who were living there comfortably had respect for each other never did this thing. I remember in the front of our house [in Ludhiana] there was a Mohammadan family living there. He was working in the police. One night that fellow came to our house and told my father that so many people are after me, they want to kill me. So my father said don’t worry. He brought him into our house and he kept him in the backroom. He said, don’t worry… and he kept him nicely. But he went to Pakistan afterwards when the big caravan of the people was going. So my father in the dead of night took him and he left him there [i.e. with the caravan]. So this was the relation of Hindus and Muslims then.
How long was he staying with your family?
He stayed about eight or ten days.
Quite a long time. Do you know what happened to the rest of his family, his wife and children?
I think his family was gone. He was alone at that time. So people did not care at that time for their belongings. They only cared for their lives, that we should get out of this place comfortable.
So this man your father looked after, he just left his house and all his belongings…
Everything, yes. He left everything and went there [i.e. to Pakistan]. Once a year or so afterwards he used to write letters to my father. Once my mother… there is one put down [point] at the border [its] name is Atari [the Indian side of the Wagah crossing]. On one side Pakistan’s flag flies in the day, on the other side India’s flag. A little space is left there. So once he wrote to my mother that he wants to eat something my mother was cooking. So my mother took something she made for that fellow, took it to the border and he came from the Pakistan side and he ate that food. They met there and he ate that food… That was the relations, you can say how good were the relations…
Some of your family were left stranded on the other side of the border when partition came?
Yes, my auntie was living in Peshawar which comes under Pakistan and three or four other families were living in Lahore. My sister-in-law and her husband were there, my brother-in-law and his wife was there, my auntie was also living there in Lahore. So after partition they came to the Indian side, but they could [leave] safely. They left their belongings, everything. They came and they came to stay with me in Delhi. And I kept them for a year although it was difficult, still whatever we used to eat we used to give them food and the house also. So after one year, slowly, slowly, they could arrange for their jobs and house and then they moved to their house.
How were houses found for these people? I understand that they were supposed to have a house that was equivalent to that they had had on the Pakistan side. People were exchanging property, finding that people had gone over to the other side and left property empty? Did this happen to your family?
No. This did not happen to my family. First they got their jobs and then they took their houses on rent. Slowly, slowly they arranged everything, their furniture, everything because living we need so many clothes…
So in terms of your own family, nobody was killed or injured as a result of partition?
But they had to leave everything behind them and start again when they came to India?
Yes. They were not injured; they came safely by train and they arrived safely.
You had other people staying in your house with you in Delhi… people who had come from the Pakistan side of the border?
One of my husband’s friends, he also came to stay with us. But he stayed for two or three months. They were doing their own work. But money shortage was there. But food was no problem because it was not so costly. They never said we don’t want to eat this, we don’t want to eat that. Whatever we provided they ate, vegetables or other food, because salaries were not so [high] and we had to feed 13, 14 or 15 people and it becomes difficult… They lived happily with us and they were much thankful to us for keeping them.…
Now I know that you have prepared a few words about your experiences… in a story form which you are going to read to us now onto the tape. So if you would like to start this, we can add in things as you remember them as you go along.
… This independence people did not get on a silver spoon. The whole population of this part of the world was shaken. There was such a big migration of people from one part to another, Hindus leaving Pakistan, they wanted to come to India; from India, Muslims wanted to go to Pakistan. So from both sides people migrated. They came by train, bus, walking or by any other means by which they could come. It was a big problem for people to leave their homes, their worldly things and possessions, their houses and [to come] to settle in a new place about which they never knew. At that time because people were not going so much from one place to another. When people from the Pakistan side were looted by thugs on the way; even many girls forcibly taken away by goondas; those who were coming by foot, for them it was a very bad experience. On the way there was no food supply or water. Many relatives of ours were living in Peshawar and Lahore. My father was also doing his business in Jhelum but he was lucky to close his business there before the announcement of the division of India. Before the division, both Hindus and Muslims were living like friends and relatives. In school we had both Hindu and Muslim girls, Muslim friends. We never thought that one day we would behave with each other like enemies. Although we were living in the Indian part, we had the effect of division on us also. My sister-in-law, my brother-in-law and her family and my auntie’s family were in Lahore. They came to stay with us. They had nothing. But slowly, slowly they arranged for their jobs and were settled. They stayed with me for more than a year. It was so difficult to arrange for everything of daily life for them – house, food and other things. The same conditions was for those people who went to Pakistan from India. In the name of religion, many people were killed. Those who did not want to move from one place to another, they were forced to move because one sect of people was ready to kill another. After the [end] of the Second World War there was no law and order in the country. Anyone could kill anyone whom they [wished to] because at that time the military was also divided. Pakistani military went to the Pakistan side, the Indians came to the Indian side.
Raj and her husband standing by their Morris car, with Manjula in her father’s arms (she would be about 1 and a half years old), c.1947, Delhi
Mrs Bowry today with her daughter Manjula Sood, the Lord Mayor of Leicester
Mrs Bowry and Manjula at the Red Fort in Delhi, Summer 2007
Page Last Updated: 5 January 2009