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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Naseem Mirza Changezi, 2016 October 23.
Oral history with Naseem Mirza Changezi, 2016 October 23.
Changezi, Naseem Mirza, 1910-, Popli, Ritika, and Parashar, Jayant
Author (no Collectors):
Changezi, Naseem Mirza, 1910-, Popli, Ritika, Popli, Ritika, and Parashar, Jayant
Naseem Mirza Changezi was born in the year 1910 in his ancestral home at Pahari Imli, near Churi Walan in Jama Masjid, in Old Delhi and was a freedom fighter, and fought alongside the likes of Bhagat Singh and Rajguru for Independence from colonial powers. He has been profiled and documented numerous times, by leading scholars and academics of history owing to his deep knowledge and memory bandwidth about his Persian roots and the Mughal history of Northern India. He says, “The study of my genealogy tells me that successively 23 generations of mine hail from the family of Genghis Khan, the founder of the great Mongolian empire. My ancestors travelled from Mongol to Iran, and then to Afghanistan. By that time Babur, who lay the stone of Mughal empire in India, asked his ancestors to leave Afghanistan within two or three months. The two clans were both Mughals but Babur’s side was Timuri Mughals and we were Changezi Mughals, so Babur did not want a fight and loss of soldiers, hence, he asked my ancestors to peacefully leave."He then adds that, his family left Afghanistan and moved to the area of Sindh and as they settled there, the forces of Mirza Jaani Beg Khan and Mirza Ghazi Beg Khan attacked the region of Sindh, which was being ruled by Jam Feroze, who was the last ruler of Samma dynasty. Simultaneously the region of India and neighbouring states (Hindustan) had just started to be ruled by the Mughal ruler Humayun. Then, by the time Akbar’s rule came about and he asked his ancestors to become equal stakeholders in ruling Hindustan, but his ancestors refused. Then Akbar preceded to send an army of two lakh personnel under the leadership of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana and they fought for almost a year, and his ancestors lost the war. His ancestors were then brought to Akbar and he dismissed them to stay in Agra. He recalls, “When Shahjahan, in the early 17th century decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi, my ancestors also came along. They built a palatial palace right in front of the Delhi Gate of the majestic Red Fort (Lal Quila). And since then, we have lived in Delhi.”He says with utmost pride, “My family fought for the Independence of this country and has been doing so for the last 150 years.” His great-grandfather was the deputy collector working for the British crown, but, he participated in the first revolt of Independence in 1857, and in turn was awarded life imprisonment. He says, “There had been various wars for Independence prior to 1857, within the kingdoms, but the reason it is known as the First War of Independence is because this was the first time that the masses at large took part in it.” He also adds that, today the Hindu dominated area like Sitaram Baazar in Old Delhi, was earlier a Muslim area with many old palaces that were of the Muslim feudal landlords, which was later vacated. His mother passed away when he was just 2 years old, but his father decided to never remarry. He recalls an interesting a very interesting incident about the religious relations between the two communities prior to the Partition through the motif of parrots. He says that keeping parrots as domestic pets was a very widely accepted norm during those times, and the Hindu women would teach Urdu poetry and couplets to the their parrots, whereas the Muslim women would teach poetry and couplets from Hindu literary texts to their parrots. When he was four years old, he remembers going to the Ganges river with Hindu families and would also celebrate Holi and Diwali with them, and would be done so respectful of each other’s boundaries.He remembers the Indian lawyer, and philanthropist Rash Behari Bose, who was the key person in organising the Indian National Army. His work was to organises and agitate the young revolutionaries against the colonial power. He says that, “In those times, the young men of the historic Anglo-Arabic school of Ajmeri Gate would participate heavily in this movement initiated by the Indian National Army (INA). May father was one of them and I clearly recall that he would tell me how he was taught to make explosives and bombs that could be used for revolts. My father along with Rash Behari Bose would be on the forefront of such activities, and I grew up amongst all their idealism and members.” He recalls the interesting Delhi Conspiracy Case which also involved his father, “When Lord Hardinge’s howdah, the then governor-general of India, was passing through the streets of Chandni Chowk, Bose was dressed in the garb of a woman, and my father had put his ladder on the backside of Company Bagh. Bose then took out a homemade bomb and threw it on Lord and Lady Hardinge but it only ended up injuring them through splinters.” He says that they were told not to come under the scanner of the police, and he and his contemporaries all hailed from Anglo-Arabic school, who participated actively in the freedom movement. He says they worked under the leadership of Jugal Kishore Khanna, who lived in Dariba Kalan, and was associated with the Congress and later the INA. He says, “We would work as secret messengers and would take old cloth bags and tie it around us with some pieces of silver and gold and then walk on the streets pretending to be sellers, and shout out aloud if anybody had silver to sell. The person would then come down and take away the message from us, and that is how we would not get caught.” He recalls that the Congress workers who were under the leadership of Asif Ali, later came under Brahma Prakash who went onto become the first Chief Minister of Independent India.He has continued to live in his ancestral home for 106 years now, and was in that same house when the Partition took place. At the time of the Partition, he was 37 years old, and had an illegal pass by a Hindu name ‘Ram Kishan’ which helped him to travel around the city and not be contained by the curfew that would be put on the Muslims in Delhi. He says, “Many killings took place during that time. My work would be to make a daily trip to Nizammudin station where the trains would be leaving for Pakistan, and people would travel from Delhi, and they would get injured during those travels so I would escort them till the camp at Jama Masjid so that they could be quickly treated. The trains would leave from Old Delhi railway station, and the Muslims were treated very badly. The wagons that were provided by the Corporation to transport cattle, were used by the Muslim refugees to load their own belongings and they would pull it themselves and go to camps at Purana Qila.” He says that Partition was solely a result of various political forces, and stresses on the love both the religious communities had for each other before the Partition took place.Post Partition, he says that in Old Delhi the refugees who came later put up their own businesses on the pavement right in front of the shops, and started selling the same products at a lesser cost which affected their business. This was one of the major points of discord. He says, “The decision to stay on in India, and not migrate to Pakistan was very simple for me and my family because my ancestors had through the generations fought on this land. My father fought for the Independence of this country, so there was no question of leaving our own home. Although, my father did receive many persuasive letters from authorities in the newly formed Pakistan to come there. However, his father sat him down and asked him to write a reply, in which he clearly recalls that he wrote, ‘Do rivers like the Ganges or Yamuna flow in Karachi? Does Lal Quila stand on that land? Is there my beloved Jama Masjid there? If yes, then I will come in a jiffy. If no, then don’t ever write to me again.’ Although, his father never stopped him or any of his siblings from migrating but none of them did. But today he is pained at the current state of affairs, and completely opposite to what they had hoped for when fighting for Independence. He angrily adds, “The nation today might be independent, but it is not even close to what we had dreamed of as young revolutionaries.”He completed his matriculation from Punjab University. He was an ace hockey player and was selected by Delhi Hockey Association in 1942, played with Dhyanchand and participated in various tournaments, and visited Karachi and Lahore before the Partition took place. One of his friends named Qayyum, who was also a great hockey player migrated to Pakistan after the Partition. He says that all his friends and contemporaries who passed away and today, he is the only now left who saw all the incidents unfolding in front of him. Today, he lives with his son and wife.He relays a very important and historical memory of his life wherein he was given the task of providing food and shelter to Sardar Bhagat Singh for two months, when he had in the process of planning to explode bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly. He says, “There are many who laid down their lives for the country, but there are few like who had the grit and determination of Bhagat Singh. He always wanted to be a martyr for the country and was ready to lay down his life in a matter of minutes if it would get freedom from the colonial rulers.” He then pauses to sadly reflect and says, “But this is definitely not the freedom which any of us wanted. I never wanted to die, because I wanted to live and work for Independent India.” He says that Partition shouldn’t have taken place as both the countries would have been stronger united in all spheres of development.
Urdu and Hindi
Physical Description:
4 video files
Publication Info:
Delhi (India : Union Territory)
Delhi (India : Union Territory), June 5, 2016
Filmed interviews