I was born in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) some six months before we, a family of five, were forced to migrate from our ancestral home and hearth to the newly but heartlessly partitioned India.
We, who were labelled becharey refugees as if with a branding iron, finally got settled — after being shunted from one place to another — at Dhuri, a small town in Punjab’s Malwa region.
It must have been a hell of a time for my parents to start their lives from scratch. But they did manage to survive while living in a mohalla which is still known as Refugian da Mohalla. The ‘refugee’ tag will perhaps never go.
I recalled all this while watching, with moist eyes, the plight of millions of hapless and homeless people during the ongoing bloody conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
‘War does not determine who is right — only who is left’ — how well Bertrand Russell explained the horrendous outcome of any war! Perhaps no war can ever be justified. Still, there has been no end to wars from the distant past to the present.
The current conflict, which has caused horrible sufferings to millions of people, mostly innocent, clearly demonstrates that humankind has still not learnt any lesson from past wars.
What pains one the most in this regard is the hypocrisy of those nations which first justified the conflict and watched the deadly dance of death and destruction like a war movie, and then offered with great fanfare relief material to the war-torn people, calling it a ‘humane’ act.
Paradoxically, none of these ‘sensitive’ and compassionate nations has made any palpable effort to help end the conflict or offered homeless people a safe refuge in their territory.
We, the homeless migrants of 1947, were able to rebuild our lives in a few decades despite carrying the seemingly heavy tag of ‘refugee’ — more so because we were wholeheartedly offered a safe refuge.
However, it is beyond imagination to think how these unfortunate Palestinians, who were living a relatively normal life till a few weeks ago but are now staying in camps and makeshift shanties without sufficient food, water, shelter and basic health facilities, would pick up the pieces.
I wish and pray that they, too, are taken as ‘refugees’ by some of their neighbours, lest they should perish in their homeland. Now, I feel that living with the ‘refugee’ tag is still better than living in a homeland that this war has turned into absolute hell.
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