This essay is about two sides of my family; My fathers’ side and my mothers’ side. I have obtained information on my fathers’ site that dates back to the 1890s. My paternal great-grandfather moved from Afghanistan to India in 1895 as a child and later settled down and eventually having my paternal grandmother in 1939. My paternal grandfather's family moved from the northern part of India during the 1890s as well due to economic reasons. After the partition between India and Pakistan, both my paternal grandmother and grandfather moved to Pakistan in 1947, staying there for 48 years. The paternal side of my family moved to various locations between 1986-1996, including my father who came to Canada seeking asylum in 1996 because of the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims happening in Pakistan at the time. My maternal great-great-grandfather moved and lived in what is now Sialkot. He remained there for some time before having my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather then took part in World War II until 1944, the year he had my maternal grandfather. He then moved to Lahore after the war and not soon after he moved to Karachi after the India/Pakistan partition in 1947. Finally, my mother and her family immigrated to Canada in 1997 due to the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan and they have been living here since.
This essay will explain that the reasons my father’s family relocated were the Pakistan-India Partition, persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslims, and economic/social reasons. In addition, it will also explain that the reasons my mother’s family moved were because of the Pakistani-India Partition World War II, and the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims. First, I will begin by discussing how World War II affected my family, and more specifically my mother's side of the family. My great-grandfather resided in India during the war and was enlisted as a soldier to fight for Britain in 1943. World War II was a conflict that involved nearly every part of the world and spanned from 1939-45. The war was fought between the Allies, which consisted of Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union, and the Axis powers, which consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Before explaining how this event had an impact on him and by extension the rest of his family, I will explain the historical significance of WWII in the context of India. India was under British rule since 1858, holding various territories and states. When Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in September of 1939, the British Raj is a part of the allied nations that participated in the war and sent Indian soldiers to fight under Britain against the axis powers. It is also worth noting that the Viceroy of Britain at the time, Lord Linlithgow, declared war on behalf of India without consulting with the Indian leaders. This leads them to protest by resigning. In contrast, the Muslim League was in full support of Britain.
During the first 8 months of the war, 53,000 men were enlisted into the Indian Army, and by 1940, 20,000 men a month were joining resulting in over 2 million soldiers for the army by the end of the war. Many soldiers came from different backgrounds and played various roles in the war. Some were doctors in Indian military hospitals, teachers teaching languages, mechanics fixing vehicles, etc. and the non-combatants were cooks, tailors, washermen, etc According to my grandfather, my great-grandfather was a soldier at the time and was battling with others against Japan in 1944. He mentioned that the battle was near Burma and upon further research, I concluded that this battle was most likely the Battle of Imphal. Based on his description, the battle took place from March to July, which is also about the same time the Battle of Imphal took place. The Battle of Imphal took place in the city of Imphal, which was the capital of the state of Manipur in India. The Japanese were trying to destroy the Allied forces in Imphal and invade India but were driven back, resulting in heavy losses. According to my grandfather, my great-grandfather was close to being killed in this battle as he was shot twice. However, he ultimately managed to survive his injuries and decided to return to his home in Sialkot later in 1944. Men who enlisted in the army enlisted for various reasons.
Many came from pro-British families and felt pressured by landlords or overseers and others saw it as a guaranteed source of food and shelter. A place in the Indian Army would also provide enlistees with a job, which means people were able to support their families back home properly. My great-grandfather was one of these people. His family lived in relatively poor conditions because no one in his family was working at the time. He saw joining the war as an opportunity to make a steady income and be able to provide for his family back in Sialkot. He planned to make enough so that he could move out of the poor conditions he was in and relocate to a different area. After the war, he took his family and moved to Lahore, where he resided until 1947. The impact WWII had on my family was minor compared to the other major events in this essay, but it allowed my Great-Grandfather enough income and stability to move out of his poor conditions and migrate to a different location, one that was ultimately better for him and his family. His relocation was short-lived, however. In 1947, India was partitioned into two, forming Pakistan, the country that would become home to my family for many years. Next, I will discuss how the partition of Pakistan and India affected both sides of my family. First, it is important to understand what exactly the partition was and what effect it had on the geographical location at the time. India was under British rule from 1858 until it became independent on August 14, 1947.
The British announced in February of 1947 that they would be ending their rule in 1948 and will hand over the reign to the appropriate political representatives. The Viceroy of Britain, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, was charged with deciding the boundaries between India and Pakistan. He advocated for the transfer of power to occur earlier. This was because there was increased violence and tension between Hindus and Muslims in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal. Thus, the date was set for transfer to mid-August, 1947. The Viceroy announced the plan on June 3rd, 1947 and it was publicly endorsed by various political leaders such as Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad, (representing the Indian Congress), Muhammed Ali Jinnah, (representing the Muslim League), and Sardar Baldev Singh, (representing the Sikh). According to the plan, the Muslim Majority provinces in India which included Bengal, Sind, Balochistan, and the North West Frontier Province would be asked to decide whether they wanted to have a future constituent assembly based on India or have an entirely new and separate constituent assembly. The provincial assemblies would meet separately to vote on whether the province would join the existing constituent or form a new one that will frame a constitution for Pakistan. Essentially, the majority vote will decide whether the provinces would be partitioned or not. Once it was decided which provinces would be partitioned, a boundary commission would be appointed to set the boundaries of the dividing lines. At the end of June, The boundary commission finally announced its decision on August 17, 1947, after the Independence of Pakistan and India.
On August 17, the new borders were officially demarcated and split the provinces of India, Kashmir, and Punjab into two. Not only was this partition one of the most complex ones in history, but it also had long-lasting effects on the areas and people it affected. Not soon after the partition, there were riots, violence, and mass migration. Millions of people were moving to either India or Pakistan, depending on which was the safer option. For Muslims, Pakistan was the ideal option as it was created for Muslim minorities, while Hindus and Sikhs opted for India. Around this time, many migrants were killed by members of opposing groups or their own families. This was largely due to the tension caused by religious, familial, and territorial ties. “Choosing a side” would mean one would have to abandon these ties, thus potentially resulting in violence by others. Both my paternal and maternal families experienced this because they were residing in Punjab. They were forced to migrate to Pakistan largely to escape the violence and persecution they were experiencing as Muslims at the time. Violence near the Punjab border was especially high as it had high concentrations of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs alike.
The tension among the groups resulted in countless amounts of murders, arson, rape, and abductions in the area. Fearing for their lives and the lives of their families, paternal and maternal great-grandfathers ultimately decided to move from safer locations. My paternal- Great-Grandfather decided to move to Faisalabad and my maternal-Great-Grandfather moved to Karachi, both cities being far away from the violence. It also is important to note that neither of my great-grandparents knew each other at the time of their relocations and were residing in separate locations near the border prior. This further adds to just how broad of an impact this partition had on the people of Pakistan and India as countless lives were lost and millions of lives were changed forever. The fate of my family was most certainly changed forever. Both my great-grandfathers had moved to what would become their home for many years, residing there until they would be forced to relocate. Both sides of my family lived in Pakistan for over 50 years following the partition, but there were still many issues within their newly formed home. Issues such as discrimination because of their religious identity, which I will discuss next. Now, I will explain how the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan led my family to relocate one final time and immigrate to Canada. Mirza Ghulam Ahmed founded the Ahmadiyya movement on March 23rd, 1889 in Punjab. My family was residing in Punjab around the time the Ahmadiyya movement was conceived, with my maternal great-great-grandfather even having met Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, according to my grandfather. My family was indoctrinated into the Ahmadiyya movement by their community and has been Ahmadi ever since. The Ahmadiyya movement is also one of the more controversial movements in Islamic history. This is because in Islam, a Mahdi, or promised Messiah, is to appear near the end of times.
The Mahdi is supposed to bring forth peace and rid the world of evil by killing the Dajjal, or the Anti-Christ. Unlike the other sects of Islam, who believe that the Messiah has yet to appear, the Ahmadiyya believe that this messiah was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the self-proclaimed Mahdi. Because Ahmadi believe Muhammad was not the last Prophet of God, many Muslims consider all the followers of the Ahmadiyya as non-muslims and treat them unjustly. Ahmadis are widely persecuted in many countries and are subject to systematic oppression as well as violence. In particular, I will discuss how Pakistan subjects persecution to Ahmadi because of its relevance. Pakistan has the largest Ahmadi population in the world with 2.5 million people being followers of the Ahmadiyya movement. While all of its followers identify as Muslim, the Pakistani Government officially declared them non-muslims and the rights and religious freedoms of Ahmadis have also been significantly reduced. In 1984 General Zia-ul-Hauq, the military ruler of Pakistan at the time issued an ordinance that forbids Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim. Because of this Ahmadi was not allowed to freely practice the Islamic faith in public. Ahmadi was also not allowed to worship in mosques or prayer rooms, use the Islamic greeting in public, and was supposed to declare an oath claiming that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a fraud and that all Ahmadis are non-muslim before applying for an ID or passport. Violation of these laws can result in an Ahmadi being jailed for up to 3 years or even receiving the death penalty. All of these laws and regulations had a significant impact on the way the public viewed and treated Ahmadi as well. Hate crimes and violence against Ahmadis were the norms.
People would often vandalize their mosques, threaten or hurt followers, and even sometimes resort to killing or arson. According to my parents and my grandparents, violence and hate against them and others in their community were frequent. My mother and father were often discriminated against in college by other students because of their Ahmadi identity. My uncle was also even severely beaten by a group of men yelling and calling him “Qadiani” which is a derogatory racial slur for those who follow the Ahmadiyya movement. Both sides of my family did not feel safe in Pakistan because of the violence. This is why many of my family members, like many other Ahmadis in Pakistan, decided to seek asylum in other countries. Mother and her family were the first to seek asylum in Canada as my maternal Grandfather made an asylum claim for himself and his family in 1995. Individuals seeking to make an asylum claim do so at an inland CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) or an IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) and after which a CBSA or IRCC agent will determine the eligibility of the claimant based on various factors. After which the claimants will receive a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) where a case is evaluated based on the evidence and arguments presented. My grandfather had a hearing and after evaluating his claim, he received a positive decision.
This meant he and his family received a protected persons status and could apply for permanent resident status, which they did. My father also made the same claim and succeeded in 2000, the year I was born. Ultimately, the persecution of the Ahmadiyya was an event that not only had a major impact on many Ahmadi in Pakistan but on my family as well, leading them to decide to immigrate to Canada and settle here. While all of these events affected the world and their respective geographical location in some way shape or form, the most important aspect of them is how connected they are to one another. Britain decided to let go of British India only after WWII, which led to the eventual partition of India and Pakistan, causing mass migrations and changes in both nations. The Ahmadiyya movement was also conceived during the British rule over India, and after the partition, they became persecuted in the very country that was made for them. All of these events clearly illustrate the path that my family took. From British Punjab to Canada, along with all the effects the events had on the location and world at the time. Ultimately, my family’s story is just one of the many in the sea of stories these events create, which shows that not only did these events have long-lasting effects on the history of the world, but also the history of individuals that lived through them.