Human Interest

Brothers separated by Indian partition meet after 74 years

By Amjad Ali

Islamabad, Jan 18 (EFE).- Two brothers, aged 10 and two years respectively, were separated during the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, leaving one in India and the other in Pakistan, until 74 years later, when an online campaign managed to reunite them.

Muhammed Siddique and his younger brother Muhammed Habib now hope for a visa would allow their long-awaited permanent reunification.

“Enough tears, we are finally together again,” Habib told his older brother, who was crying as they melted into a hug in Punjab province in northern Pakistan, without being sure whether, after that meet, they would come face to face again.

Their story goes back to August 1947, when after 300 years of presence in the Indian subcontinent, the British left their “Crown Jewel” divided into two – India, with a Hindu majority, and a Muslim Pakistan.

This led to one of the biggest migrations in history as millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims crossed the border into the territory they felt they wanted to be a part of, a bloody process that saw nearly one million deaths from massacres committed by the majority communities in each region.

Amid the chaos and the murder of their father during the partition, the brothers were separated.

While Siddique fled in a convoy with his four-year-old sister to Pakistan, his younger brother Habib remained in India with his mother, with whom he was traveling.

None of the brothers heard about one other again until 2019, when the Pakistani Youtube channel Punjabi Lehar – created to help reunify people separated during the partition – put the spotlight on them.

Nasir Dhillon runs the channel with more than 544.000 subscribers and has helped bring together more than 200 family and friends from both sides of the border.

Two years ago, he uploaded a video of Siddique and a Canadian doctor soon informed him that his brother was alive and residing in the Indian Punjab.

Since then, “both brothers started talking on WhatsApp video call for hours on daily basis before they finally met last week,” Dhillon told EFE.

The site chosen was Kartarpur, an area in Pakistani Punjab where since November 2019 a 4.7-kilometer (2.9-mile) long corridor allows Sikh devotees from India to visit the shrine of Darbar Sahib during the day without a visa.

“That was the happiest day of my life when I met my brother after 74 years,” Siddique, 84, who lives in a village in northern Pakistan, told EFE.

Both brothers faced much difficulty growing up: the mother committed suicide by jumping to a canal, affected by the murder of her husband and the loss of her eldest son and daughter, while the sister too died a few years after the partition.

Habib did not marry and lived with a Sikh family in Indian Punjab, while Siddique was raised by an uncle on the other side of the border.

“After the meeting when my brother was going away it reminded me of the time we got separated 74 years go,” Siddique said, wondering when he will get to meet Habib again.

Since that meeting, Siddique has continued to urge the Pakistani authorities to issue a long-term visa to his brother so that they can live together for the rest of their lives.

“I appeal to (Prime Minister) Imran Khan to issue visa to my brother so we can spend rest of our lives together,” said Siddique, adding he wants nothing more but to spend time with his brother before death.

A diplomat from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, who asked not to be named, told EFE that the visa application would be reviewed before a final decision.

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