Wednesday, November 3, 2021




By Kamla Patel
 Translated from Gujrati by Uma Randeria
Price 350/=( Hardbound and 236 pages )
ISBN 81-88965-27-8
Published by… ‘Women Unlimited’ , Hauz Khas , New Delhi.
( Available on Amazon and Flipkart)


Kamla Patel (1912-1992) was a freedom fighter who spent her early years at Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram ,Ahemdabad. She headed the Kasturbha Gandhi National Memorial Trust . Alongwith Mridula Sarabhai, Kamla Patel did exemplary work for the recovery of abducted women after the partition of the country. For this work, she kept visiting Pakistan regularly and met every person in the political , police and military hierarchy. Later, she was also associated with Khadi And Village Industries Commission.

The problem of women abducted during the  riots was one of the saddest chapters in the history of the partition. A period when man became a jungle wolf, partition riots had many dimensions. Women were subjected to every type of torment ,pain and sorrow by people who had lost sanity in the communal frenzy and lawlessness. This book gives first-hand account of 'Operation Recovery' carried out by Government of India and Pakistan immediately after the partition of the country . One gets a painful knowledge of efforts put in by Kamlaben Patel and her team to recover thousands of abducted girls, children and women who were restored to their homes and families.

 The book takes us to the pathetic refugee camps in Lahore, Jalandhar , Amritsar and many cities where Kamlaben spent about three years . The individual stories are truthful memoirs of the horrible period of the history of the subcontinent. A period when merchants of death and destruction traded children, girls and women like vegetables or fruits. The stories are candid, painful and true to every word. The book has a rare archival value apart from conveying the efforts of some great women who applied balm to the bleeding wounds created by the partition. Roughly about 25000 women and children were abducted in the partition riots. Out of this, as per data available in the book, 20728 were recovered .

One is simply amazed to read the stories of exemplary humanitarian work done by some great women from India under the guidance of Mridula Sarabhai. These daring women ran two huge camps in India and Pakistan. Hindu women and children recovered in Pakistan were sent to the camp in Lahore and Muslim women and children recovered from East Punjab were sent to the camp in Jalandhar city.From Pakistan side,  Miss Qari was actively associated with this work. Children and women were recovered from Dera Ismail Khan , Gujranwala, Jung,Jhelum, Miyanwali, Lahore,Montgomery,Multan,Rawalpindi,Sargodha,Sheiikhpora ,Sialkot ,Kohat ,Lyallpur, Bahawalpur,Sindh ,Ambala, Karnal, Hissar ,Ludhiana,Amritsar, Jind, Delhi , Nabha, Firozepur,Karnal,Rohtak,Faridkot, Kapurthala, Alwar ,Bharatpur and Patiala .

This 236 pages book is set into 36 small chapters . Prior to chapter 1 , a reader comes across the translator's  note, preface and a lucid  11 page introduction to the subject of the book . In chapter 33 and 34, the author gives details of her visits and work in J&K state . Other chapters deal with the author's visits and work in various offices and camps in India and Pakistan .In chaper 2 ,we read with keen interest as to how terrified and suspicious was the ambiance inside Mrs Amanulla's house where Kamlaben Patel stayed on her arrival in Lahore after the creation of Pakistan .The hate, suspicion and fear had not died down .Many Urdu newspapers in Pakistan named these daring women as spies from India.

 It was at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's initiative that a department dealing with the issue of abducted women was formed under the Ministry of External Affairs . It was headed by Gopalswami Ayyangar . Rameshwari Nehru was appointed as director of this department. Pandit Ji and Sardar Swarn Singh also took keen interest in the affairs of this new department.

 In the book ,the author takes us to the refugee camp in DAV College, Lahore to know pathetic tales of human misery. We are taken to refugee camps in Amritsar to know similar painful stories. Women, sad, dumb,terrified and poor bore the savagery and madness of partition riots .One reads with painful interest the story of Sudershan ,a Hindu girl from Lahore who refuses to go to India .Another story that evokes sympathy is about Latif who was actually born to Hindu parents. The story of Daya Lata also keeps the reader engrossed. The sad tale of Prema, also keeps echoing for many days after one reads it.

Through the book, I came to know that Dr Saif ud Din Kitchloo had given his Amritsar house to the' Society for Recovery of Abducted Women ' to be used as office. I also came to know how Kashyap Bandhu Ji had been closely associated with Mridula Sarabhai and Kamlaben Patel for similar work in Kashmir after the Pakistan sponsored 'Tribal Raid' . Both Kashyap Bandhu and Comrade Dhanvantri find lavish praise in this book. Comrade Dhanvantri also did commendable task in this area in Jammu .
About Bandhu Ji , Kamla Patel writes this :-

 " Bandhu Ji’s aim was to eradicate poverty and illiteracy among the Kashmiri people . He made his homeland his field of work and literally buried himself in the task of uplifting his people . Sheikh Abdullah , the leader of Kashmir , had tried to persuade Bandhu Ji to join his cabinet, but having pledged himself to the service of the people , he refused the offer. He was a selfless Gandhian who was always clad in Khadi . Mridulaben had informed me about the special place that Bandhu Ji occupied in the hearts of the Kashmiris .The poor section of the society had a great deal of respect for him .On one occasion , in my presence , a shepherd presented a Pashmina shawl to him. A man sitting near Bandhu Ji praised the quality of the shawl, and without a moment’s hesitation , Bandhu Ji put the shawl on that man’s shoulder.
I asked him later , why he had given that shawl to someone else . He smiled and replied , ’That fellow was keen on owning the shawl. Let him be happy. Why should a crude and unpolished person like me , who has suffered hardships for many years , and even courted imprisonment , spoil his last years by using a fine shawl ? ’ Apart from Sheikh Abdullah , he knew Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad from his childhood, but totally disapproved of his modus operandi. When Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned after being removed from his post , Bandhu Ji was also put behind bars . After being released from the jail, Bandhu Ji immersed himself in another kind of assignment . He took up the herculean task of a plan which had been shelved for years , of saving innumerable villages located on one side of the  Wular lake that were inundated year after year , and resulted in much damage . I was indeed very happy when I read in the newspapers that as a result of his ceaseless efforts , this task was finally completed .”

About Dhanvantari , Kamla Patel writes this :- 

“   I must mention the late Dhanvantari Ji , the veteran worker whom I came into contact with . Dhanvantari Ji lived in Jammu. The former Chief Minister of Kashmir , Mr Sadiq regarded him as his Guru. Years of imprisonment had played havoc with his health, but he still had the fervour of a revolutionary .He was a bachelor . When he was released from Andaman Jail, he was well past the marriage age. His sister in law took good care of him , and Dhanvantari Ji looked upon her as his mother. There was a history behind his low back pain from which he constantly suffered .Those who were imprisoned in the  Andaman jail, could not get a glimpse of the world outside .In such circumstances ,some of his fellow prisoners devised an ingenious method of looking at the outside world . Dhanvantari Ji was made to act as a’ horse ‘ , and seven to eight prisoners would climb on the top of one another to reach the high wall and look over it. One of the men who was riding the horse had a fit of cough , as a result of which the whole pyramid collapsed . Dhanvantari Ji suffered a serious jolt in this process , and the pain in his  lower back became his lifelong companion. ”

The book ends with a wonderful tribute to Mridula Sarabhai. The tribute brings forth the true  humanitarian and the compassionate woman that  Mridula Sarabhai  remained all along her life  .
 I recommend the book to one and all.

"Jab jab kabhi socha hai
Dil thaam liya maine,
"Insaan ke haathon se
Insaan pe kya guzri"  ".........( Firaq Gorakhpuri )

( My heart begins to sink , whenever I think:
" What man has made of man ! " )

( Avtar Mota)

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