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The Rediff Special/
'For 60 long years, we prayed for our family's re-union'
October 19, 2007
Sixty years after Partition, the Tandon family in Kashmir remains a living reminder of the horror that was visited on both India and Pakistan in 1947.
The decades of separation, tinged by dreams and prayer, haven't fully answered the hopes or addressed the desperation of Jagdish Lal Tandon, 76, who lives with his family in Jammu city.
Jagdish was just 16, full of energy and dreams for a better tomorrow, when the sub-continent was partitioned. The teenaged Jagdish did not know then that the independence of one nation and the birth of another would be the cruel knife that would slice through the heart of his family.
"We lived in village Hatian Dupatta near Muzaffarabad, when the holocaust of Partition struck our small business family," he says
"Some of our family members fell to the bullets of the tribal raiders, but most of us were protected and saved by Sai Mohammad Khan Awan, a Muslim friend of my father, who sheltered us in his home. He stood like a rock between us and the raiders for seven long months till we were moved into a Red Cross relief camp," Jagdish recalls.
"My family -- including our parents, six brothers and two sisters -- finally moved to Jammu in August 1948 with the help of the International Red Cross."
Two of his cousins, who had been separated from the rest of the family, remained back with another Muslim family friend who saved their lives. "Both of them, Mohan Lal and Kanshi Nath, finally converted to Islam and their families continued
to live in Muzaffarabad," Jagdish says.
"For 60 long years, we prayed and craved for our family's re-union. Kanshi Nath and Mohan Lal, who were christened Sheikh Ghulam [Images] Rasool and Sheikh Abdul Rashid, are no longer alive. Buried with them was the hope and prayer they carried in their hearts -- that they would see us again."
And then, Fate decided to be kind. Or so it seemed.
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"After many years, we did manage to locate the families of my dead cousins. Khalid Hussain, a family friend and a retired government official from Jammu, boarded the first Karwan-e-Aman bus from Srinagar [Images] to Muzaffarabad in April 2005. He made queries about my cousins and their families and was finally able to locate the children and families of both of my cousins," Jagdish said.The story of the family's tragedy should have ended with their arrival at Muzaffarabad on October 6, 2005, where they were received with joy and tears by their relatives.
Jagdish, his brother Basti Ram Tandon and his son Subash decided to go to Muzaffarabad for a family reunion; the hope they had nourished for over half a century was finally becoming a reality.
But Destiny had another cruel dispensation waiting for them. Two days later, on October 8, a massive earthquake struck Muzaffarabad.
"My brother, Basti Ram, died on the spot. My son and I were wounded. We somehow managed to come back to Jammu," Jagdish said.
Now, in the sixtieth year of Independence, Jagdish has again applied to travel to Muzaffarabad.
"I pray what my family has been through doesn't happen to anyone else in the future and the two neighbouring countries live in peace and harmony," he says.
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