January 17, 2020
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Naeema Begum

A Mohajir in Sindh, uprooted from UP, she finds no respite from a harsh, blood-shot life.

Naeema Begum

I relived the trauma of 1947 when they killed my son two years ago. There were brutal torture marks all over his body. The skin had been ripped off and burnt from many parts. They took him from the house on November 18, 1995, and brought him back three days later He could barely move. A day later, the police came home again, dragged him out into the street and shot him. What can I say? He was my only hope.

The police claimed that he was a Mohajir Qaumi Movement follower, but he was never a political activist. He was trying hard to get a job at a nearby tannery. I visited the police station every morning and evening when he was in custody but they didn't even allow me to see him. Nor did they say anything about his whereabouts. Sometimes, I was brusquely told he had been handed over to the Rangers, sometimes that he had been despatched to Islamabad, or that he was on remand at some other place. Sometimes, they would crack a joke and say he had been sent off to get married. Later, we learnt that he was at the police station all the time, hung upside down and tortured.

My memories of India? My life changed in 1947 when my family migrated to Pakistan. I remember very little, except that we used to live in Sultanpur, UP. I was too young to remember everything that happened. But I was told that our caravan was looted by dacoits. My mother lost all her jewellery and other valuables. When we reached Hyderabad (Sindh) we had no place to go. We took refuge in a school for several days and then were given quarters in the Saddar area of Hyderabad. After my marriage, we shifted to Korangi in Karachi.

My husband is a ticket collector at the local cinema and his earnings are barely enough to feed the family. I have lost one son, the other is 20 years old and a heroin addict, now in hospital undergoing treatment. I only pray to god that he will be all right and start working. Of my four daughters, two are married. They were married off in the family so we didn't need a lot of money. Now I only hope we can find good husbands for my two other daughters.

It has never been easy. I bought a sewing machine with the help of a loan from relatives and I stitch clothes to earn some money. Somehow, we make ends meet.

The future? When we were young, my father used to say that we would have a better life in Pakistan after making a sacrifice: that is giving up our home in India. In Pakistan, life is the same, a struggle as always. I think people like us will have to go on making sacrifices. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I am getting tired of the sacrifices, the grind--all for nothing, nothing.

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