‘I have been longing to hear their voice before I die’
Speaking to TOI over phone from Pakistan, Mudassar If- tikhar Awan, former deputy mayor of Muzaffarabad, said that his mother, Aatam Kaur, who hailed from Pattika Sikhan vil- lage (now in PoK), had a “love marriage” with his father, Mo- hammed Ayub, against their fam- ilies’ wishes at about the start of Partition.
He hoped his plea for help to both the Indian and Pakis- tani governments would not go unheeded. “My mother accepted Islam and changed her name to Shamim Akhter.
However, follow- ing the Liaquat–Nehru Pact signed in 1950, which termed forceful conversions null and void, my mother was forcefully taken by the authorities from Muzaffarabad to Jammu, and later to Dehradun with other refugees in 1956,” said Awan, who was just three years old while his brother, Ijaz, was one and a half years old when the family was torn apart.
The Liaquat–Nehru Pact (or the Delhi Pact) was a bilateral treaty between India and Pakis- tan in which, among other things, refugees were allowed to return to their hometowns to dispose of their property; abducted women and looted property were to be re- turned and forced conversions were nullified.
“My brother and I were too young to understand what was going on. Within a year, my father passed away. We were raised by our paternal grandmother. When I was in college, she told me that after reaching Dehradun, my mother converted back to Sikhism, later giving birth to our sister, Joginder Kaur,” Awan recounted.
He said, “My mother had in- formed the same through letters sent to our father in Muzaffara- bad in 1957, along with their pho- tographs. Since then, I have been longing to see my mother and sis- ter or at least listen to their voice before I die.” Awan added that he has tried all possible means in- cluding petitioning the govern- ments on both sides to help him trace his kin but all efforts have been futile.
Awan’s story recently caught the attention of a Pakistan-based social media influencer, Nasir Dhillon, who posted about it on his Twitter and Facebook ac- counts on August 11 after coming to know about the story from Awan’s nephew, Malik Afnan. “Mudassar and his brother have known their mother and sister only through photographs. His story of loss and longing must re- ach the masses,” Dhillon said.
Amarjeet Singh, Dehradun- based Congress leader and state president of United Sikh Federa- tion, too shared the information among Sikh groups in Dehradun and Punjab. “We are doing our best to trace his mother and sister. We just hope that our efforts yield results as it will restore faith in humanity and heal old wounds,” said Singh.