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24 September 2014

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You are in: Gloucestershire > Faith > Faith features > Qasim's Journey

Qasim Ahmed

Qasim Ahmed

Qasim's Journey

A young Muslim from Gloucester retraces the journey made by his family after Partition divided the Indian sub-continent into two separate nations 60 years ago.

Qasim Ahmed is an 18-year-old Muslim from Gloucester who recently travelled to India to retrace his family roots.

The trip was arranged by the BBC as part of 'India & Pakistan 07' - a season of programming marking 60 years of independence for both nations.

The project followed the progress of three teenagers from Muslim, Hindu and Sikh backgrounds as they retraced the upheavals experienced by their grandparents' and great-grandparents' generation during Partition in August 1947, when the Indian sub-continent was divided and the new Muslim state of Pakistan was created after independence from Britain in 1947.

The birth of the new nations sparked massive upheaval and violence. Millions of people were uprooted and forced to move across the new border. The relationship between Indian and Pakistan has been difficult ever since.

'Deeply possessive'

Qasim, who recently completed A levels at St Peter's School in Gloucester, spent a week in July 2007 in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. He spoke to BBC Radio Gloucestershire before and after his emotional journey of discovery, and also recorded audio and video diaries about his trip.

Qasim Ahmed

Qasim prepares to pray in Chahot

On his journey out, Qasim said: "I feel deeply that this land of India, that I was separated from because my relatives moved over, is my land as well.

"I feel deeply possessive of India, and I feel angry and bitter that my relatives had to move during Partition. I feel as if this country is a part of me as well as Pakistan."

Talking after his trip, Qasim said his visit to both the Indian and Pakistani sides of the Punjab had been an eye-opener.

"For once I felt I was seeing a real part of my heritage. I felt connected to that place.

'Same culture exists on both sides'

"Now I feel that I am a British Punjabi and there is really no such thing as being Pakistani or Indian.  It's related to the culture and the region and I felt more at home there than I did in Pakistan.

"Having had the opportunity to visit both sides of the border I felt the same culture exists on both sides.

"But I am also happy that I am British, that I have this dual nationality, that I have lived here all my life."

The three teenagers' experiences are recounted in a TV documentary called Midnight's Grandchildren, broadcast on BBC Four on August 14 to mark the 60th anniversary of Partition, and a radio documentary, Divided By Faith, to be broadcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire on Bank Holiday Monday August 27.


Ahead of his trip Qasim carried out research to find out more about his personal family history. This is some of what he discovered:

  • Qasim’s great great uncles and aunt migrated from India to Pakistan after Partition.
  • The village in India where they lived is Chahout (or Chahoot) near Samana in Patiala.
  • Their house was on the north side of the village. They had a well renowned as Khara well, just outside the house. There was no school in the village.
  • On the East side of the town they had 4-5 houses of Hindus; the remainder of the village was all Muslim.
  • Being in a majority they were living quite peacefully until a village (Savear and Sapear) about 10-15 km from Chahoot was attacked and about half of the residents were killed by mobs. About half a dozen distant family members were also killed.
  • From their own village of only two villagers were killed by a mob, whilst on a  farm.
  • Following this the elders from Chahoot and Khari met and decided to migrate. They only had a few hours to prepare for the journey. The residents of both villages left together at night.
  • In their whole family 4-5 households they had just an Ox Cart, carrying their belongings and some essentials.
  • They Travelled to Samana where they were hosted by Mr Shah, who was a minister at the time. He provided them with shelter and food, and they stayed with him for three months.
  • Then they left for Pakistan on foot as a Caravan, consisting of thousands of people. The caravan stretched for about 10-12 miles.
  • They travelled to Pakistan via Amritsar. They reached Qasoor after travelling for 25 days where they they stayed in an open air camp.
  • Many people died on the way due to disease, malnutrition and exhaustion. Their youngest brother, 4-5 years old also died in Qasoor due to cholera and dysentery.
  • From Qasoor they travelled by train to Gujurat. They stayed in Gujurat for two months in a camp which was set up in a school. There they were provided with food, shelter and bedding. It was bitterly cold and they had no money left. Most of the belongings they had, had been traded on the way to buy food.
  • After two months they were allotted farm land in the village of Pundgaran where they are presently residing.
  • The remainder of their family and villagers are now scattered all over Pakistan (mostly in Faisalabad).

last updated: 03/04/2008 at 15:45
created: 22/06/2007

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