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It was a hug that held 74 years of ache and longing. When Sikka Khan, 75, fell into the arms of his brother Sadiq Khan, now in his 80s, the couple wept with unhappiness and pleasure. Greater than seven a long time have handed for the reason that brothers, destroyed by the horrors of partition, have seen one another. With Sikka in India and Sadiq in Pakistan, nobody is aware of if the opposite is alive. But each had stopped trying.

However on a dry January afternoon this yr, the couple had been reunited alongside the border that had so badly torn their household aside. “Lastly, we’re collectively,” mentioned Sadiq to his brother, tears welling up.

It was 75 years in the past, on August 15, 1947, that the subcontinent was divided alongside non secular traces into two unbiased international locations, India and Pakistan. It turned a bloody and bitter partition. After 300 years of official British presence, the important thing determine of Indian independence, Mahatma Gandhi and his protégé and future prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, envisioned a secular state. Muslim political chief Muhammad Ali Jinnah, nevertheless, argued for a separate state for Muslims, fearing the implications of a Hindu-majority India.

Partition map of India

As non secular tensions had been stoked, lethal riots broke out, concentrating on Hindus, then Muslims after which Sikhs. Britain, wanting to extricate itself from India rapidly, oversaw the picture of the uncooked border that ruptured the Indian state of Punjab within the west and Bengal within the east, to type a disjointed Pakistan that angered all of the individuals.

Photo of the crowd
Guests to the Partition Museum in Amritsar, India, examine images of crowds throughout the 1947 partition. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty

This instigated a mutual genocide on either side of the brand new border. Total villages had been burned, youngsters had been massacred, and an estimated 75,000 girls had been raped. In Punjab, the epicenter of the violence, pregnant girls had infants reduce from their bellies and trains filled with refugees – Muslims fleeing India’s Punjab, Sikhs and Hindus fleeing western Pakistan – had been attacked and arrived at stations crammed with silent, bloody corpses.

The precise demise toll will not be but recognized, with estimates starting from 200,000 to 2 million, and it led to the most important pressured migration in historical past as greater than 14 million individuals fled their houses. Since then, India and Pakistan have been sworn enemies, separated by a border that over the a long time will grow to be more and more fragile and impenetrable.

Sikka Khan holding a picture of his brother Sadiq.
Sikka Khan holding an image of his brother Sadiq. Photograph: Hannah Ellis-Petersen / The Guardian

Households caught up within the chaos and brutality are pressured to go away all the pieces behind and plenty of are separated as they cross into India or Pakistan. Though many attempt to discover others, by way of newspaper advertisements, letters and messages on discover boards, cross-border communication is restricted. Visa restrictions and a deep-seated concern of “the opposite aspect” additionally stop many from ever returning to the border.

However lately, social media has opened up a realm of latest prospects. Fb pages and YouTube channels, some with hundreds of members from India and Pakistan, have began reconnecting individuals with houses and relations who had been misplaced throughout the partition and battle that led to the division of Kashmir.

Video accounts and fragments of data are posted on the web page: pictures or names, villages, or home descriptions. As a result of the writings are extensively shared by individuals on either side of the border, and by the diaspora world wide, they generally grow to be leaders. Whereas getting a visa to cross the border continues to be a problem, video calls have been organized so individuals can see the houses and villages they had been pressured to go away so way back.

Sadiq talks to Sikka by video call
Sadiq Khan (on display screen) speaks to his brother Sikka (proper) over a video name. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty

“For individuals who lived by way of partition, the insistence on their origins stays sturdy,” says Aanchal Malhotra, a author who has spent years documenting the oral historical past of partition.

“One of the widespread issues I hear in my analysis is ‘After I shut my eyes, I see my house’ or ‘Each night time in my desires, I cross the border.’ Many individuals are resigned to the truth that they’ll by no means see their house once more. However the nice energy of social media is that it has no limits and it’s good to see the best way it’s utilized in India, in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, to attach individuals to the previous that they thought shedding

Makhu Devi, 87, who lives in Indian-controlled Kashmir, says she has been given a brand new lease of life after a Fb group lately linked her with relations nonetheless residing in her outdated village, now in Pakistan, that she was pressured to flee. . They now have an everyday cellphone name, though the primary few occasions everybody can hardly converse, as a result of the crying is simply too heavy. “My reminiscence is getting recent,” Devi mentioned from the cellphone. “I used to be introduced again to that point. I felt as younger and energetic as I used to be then.

Makhu Devi, 87, on the phone with her family in Pakistan.
Makhu Devi, 87, on the cellphone together with her household in Pakistan. Photograph: Aakash Hassan

The second and third generations have additionally adopted social media teams, to attach with ancestors which might be usually not mentioned within the household amid the tradition of silence unfold across the partition. Traces of cross-border communication have been opened up in modern methods, together with by way of lively relationship. On Instagram it is not uncommon for individuals to look hashtags of the city or village the place their grandparents got here from to see what it appears like at present and discover individuals who nonetheless dwell there.

Muhammad Naveed on his computer
Muhammad Naveed, workforce member of Pakistani YouTuber Nasir Dhillon’s Punjabi channel Lehar. Photograph: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty

Punjabi Lehar, a YouTube channel arrange by Nasir Dhillon, 38, an actual property supplier from Faisalabad Punjab in Pakistan, has made round 800 movies serving to individuals reconnect with individuals or locations misplaced throughout the partition. In accordance with his estimate, 300 have led to private reunions between family members separated by the India-Pakistan border.

Dhillon grew up listening to his household and village elders speak about ancestral villages he may not go to, and he started utilizing social media to share tales and collect data. However after his put up and video began going viral, “the response was so overwhelming that I spotted that is the story of all the Punjab”.

“Every part I do is due to my roots,” Dhillon mentioned. “We might dwell in two hostile international locations, however our hearts are nonetheless in pre-partition occasions. I pray that there’ll by no means be a partition like this anyplace on this planet – it’s a merciless factor.

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His biggest remorse is that he was not in a position to take his father, who died in 2018, to his ancestral household temple in India, which he was lastly capable of finding due to social media. “He actually needed to see his house village until the final day,” mentioned Dhillon. He hadn’t been in a position to go to there both; final yr India rejected his visa software.

It was due to Dhillon’s channel that the Khan brothers discovered one another once more. Sikka, who was born right into a Muslim household in what’s now India’s Punjab, was simply six months outdated when partition violence broke out. Away from their house and mom, they’re pressured to take shelter with an area Sikh household who shield their Muslim neighbors from the bloodbath.

After every week of homicide, they seem, however to a horrible scene. The close by river was filled with our bodies pink with blood. And in Sikka’s house village of Jagraon 40 miles away, there are not any Muslims left; no hint of Sikka’s father, his 10-year-old brother or his eight-year-old sister. Sikka’s mom, consumed by grief, drowned herself. Sikka was left with out a household aside from a penniless uncle, and was raised by a Sikh household from his mom’s village.

He spends his grownup life looking for information about his household, particularly his beloved brother Sadiq. He made speculative calls and wrote a whole lot of letters to obscure addresses in Pakistan, however to no avail. He by no means married; with out household round him, he mentioned, “this factor is at all times misplaced so it by no means feels proper”.

Sikka Khan on his phone
Sikka Khan (centre) talks to his brother Sadiq in Pakistan on a cell phone video name. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty

Coincidentally in 2019 a good friend from the village was despatched a YouTube video of Punjabi Lehar by a relative. In it, an aged man in his 80s residing in Pakistan talks about looking for his lacking brother after he fled Jagraon village throughout partition. After Dhillon was contacted, it was confirmed: this man was Sadiq Khan.

An emotional video name was arrange between the 2 sisters, and shortly they had been speaking on daily basis. Sikka lastly learns the story of his household; that his father had been killed in a communal assault and his brother and sister had fled to the border refugee camp the place his sister had died on account of sickness. Sadiq arrived in Pakistan, settled in Faisalabad and had six youngsters and a number of other grandchildren, however there was by no means a day when he did not take into consideration his lacking brother.

The brothers had been prevented from assembly for nearly three years due to visa issues and the Covid pandemic, however in January, a reunion was lastly organized within the Kartarpur hall, a pilgrimage website lately opened to Indians and Pakistanis. “I really feel full,” Sikka mentioned of the encounter. Each brothers agreed: that they had stayed this lengthy in order that they might meet once more.

In April, Sikka was lastly granted a visa to remain in Pakistan for 3 months, and Sadiq then got here again together with her to India for 2 months. They hope to see you once more quickly; Sadiq retains teasing Sikka that if he returns to Pakistan, he’ll lastly discover his spouse.

“Now I’m not nervous about something,” mentioned Sikka. “I simply wish to see my brother and keep near him.” However, Sikka added, he was additionally offended. “Why are they dividing this nation, dividing my household? There are nonetheless many individuals who have not discovered their households or haven’t got visas to cross the border. I am the fortunate one.”

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