Sunday June 23, 2024

Sikh reveres Muslim couple who defended his family during Independence

The story of a Sikh family who was protected by a Muslim couple during the deeply distressing period of Partition

By Sher Ali Khalti
December 02, 2021
Dr Tarunjit Singh Butalia during Pakistan visit.
Dr Tarunjit Singh Butalia during Pakistan visit.

LAHORE: After 75 years, a Sikh, Dr Tarunjit Singh Butalia, is on a visit to Pakistan to visit the graves of a Pakistani couple who had saved the lives and honour of his family during the bloody Partition of India in 1947 when hundreds of thousands of souls were lost to the senseless, mindless violence.

Talking to The News, Tarunjit Singh, the Executive Director of Religions for Peace, USA, said, "I came here to pay homage and the long overdue gratitude to the Muslim family of Bashir Ahmed Virk and Amna Bibi, who provided protection to my Sikh grandparents, Captain Ajit Singh Butalia and Sardarni Narinder Kaur, in Lahore during the deeply distressing period."

Butaila visited their graves and in a gesture of offering his deep abiding love, he kissed the graves. "They were great souls who saved the lives and honour of my grandparents and two uncles during the deeply dreadful period,” said Tarunjit Singh. "While Bashir Ahmed Virk and Amna Bibi are no more in this world but their goodness lives on and we cherish that in our hearts every day."

 He declared: "As I bid farewell to the graves, I knelt down to kiss them. And that was when the words of gratitude exhausted and the tide of tears overflowed."

Singh said he was told by his grandmother that Bashir Ahmed Virk, the father of current MNA of Gujranwala Mehmood Bashir Virk, swore upon the Holy Quran that he would not let any harm come to the family of his grandfather, and took him in as his brother. "Amna Bibi stitched new clothes for my grandparents and took care of my two uncles as her very own, one of whom was about three-month baby at the time."

At the chaotic times when trust and confidence in friends and neighbours was lost in the cries of murdering hordes and smouldering homes, there were several lofty human souls who endured all to uphold human dignity by protecting others on both sides of the newly-drawn borders (Pak-India) in the face of existential threat. 

His family was in mortal danger, uprooted and haunted when Bashir Ahmed Virk protected his grandparents, Captain Ajit Singh Butalia and Sardarni Narinder Kaur. 

He said that he wanted to tell the world of the magnificent heroes on both sides of the borders, who came to the protection of people caught in the harms way. Those were tumultuous and chaotic times and entrusting someone with the lives of their dear ones was waning in the blood and smoke. 

"The late Virks had won the trust of my grandparents which we cherish to this day. The time offers to heal the deepest of scars, 75 years have now passed. Now it is time to march ahead, forego the past, defeat the hatred that is holding the region hostage in the interest of larger humanity. It is in the interest of people of Pakistan and India to allow peace to prevail on both sides of the border," said Dr Butalia, suggesting to the South Asian nations to minimize their differences, so that enmity could be transformed into friendship for the prosperity and well-being of their peoples.

Talking to The News, Mehmood Bashir Virk, PMLN MNA from Gujranwala, said his parents had abiding love for the fellow human irrespective of caste or creed and as an influential of the area, they ensured no harm comes to anyone in the village. 

"During that challenging period, no Hindu or Sikh was killed or even slightly harmed in the village," he claimed. "My father protected the life and honor of the entire village from troublemakers."