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Phul Kanjeri remembers the lost families of Partition

Phul Kanjeri, a village near Amritsar, is full of memories for Asha Ram...Gurdip Singh... Nirmal Kaur... and many others who lost their families during Partition. Before the carnage, Phul Kanjeri was an important trade centre between Lahore and Amritsar.

But all that changed during Partition. With the exception of 20-odd families who still live in the village, the rest sold their property and moved elsewhere. Fifty years later, a group of families connected with the village will meet next month to mourn those who died in August 1947.

Every year, the relatives of Lala Kahan Chand Chopra and Atma Singh come to the village to attend the bhog ceremony in their memory. Chopra, a rich landlord, and Singh, a businessman, lost 19 members of their family on the night of August 13, 1947.

Twentyone families which migrated after Partition attended the ceremony last August. According to Asha Ram, a cloth merchant who survived the holocaust, at least 300 villagers were killed by Pakistani raiders. Houses were burnt, shops were looted and no help came their way for 48 hours. The foundations of many houses destroyed in that violence are still visible in the village.

Nirmal Kaur, a resident of New Delhi, attended the bhog last year. She recalls how her trade unionist brother Darshan Singh was stabbed to death when he confronted the raiders who had come to attack the village.

The villagers also remember their Muslim friends -- Mohammed, Mohkam Lohar, Tofail Mohammed and Jumma, all of whom migrated to Pakistan after the village became a part of India.

Phul Kanjeri grew into an important trade centre during the days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who visited the village regularly. He built a baradari and went there occasionally to see a mujra performed by his favourite dancing girl, Mora, a resident of Lahore. Phul Kanjeri, it is said, derived its name after her.

According to an oft repeated story, Ranjit Singh once invited Mora to dance during one of his visits. As the dancing girl -- or Kanjeri -- was crossing the canal which ran on the outskirts of the baradari, her silver sandal, which the maharaja had presented her, fell into the canal. Mora refused to dance and the maharaja ordered that a bridge or phul be constructed across the canal at once.

The canal dug during the maharaja's time has now been reduced to a small dry channel and the phul is nowhere to be seen.The baradari too suffered in 1947 and in the two Indo-Pak wars. It is presently occupied by jawans of the Border Security Force.

Standing amidst the ruins of the village stands an impressive memorial built in the memory of the soldiers of the Sikh Regiment who died while recapturing the village from the Pakistanis in the 1971 war. Phul Kanjeri has seen many nightmares in this last half century, but it remains resolutely Indian.


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