Contact Us

The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Sardar Tarlochan Singh, 2012 January 15.
Oral history with Sardar Tarlochan Singh, 2012 January 15.
Singh, Sardar Tarlochan, 1933 and Bhalla, Guneeta Singh
Author (no Collectors):
Singh, Sardar Tarlochan, 1933, Bhalla, Guneeta Singh, Bhalla, Guneeta Singh, and Bhalla, Guneeta Singh
Sardar Tarlochan Singh was born in 1933, in village Todial, which used to be district Jhelum, about 80 kilometers from Islamabad, with 5% Sikh population, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Inder Kumar Gujral were also from the same district as Sardar Tarlochan Singh. Mr. Singh’s Father’s name was Sardar Blatant Singh and his mother was Sardarni Rampyari. His father was a business man and his mother was a housewife. He had one brother and one sister, who were younger to him. As kids, they used to ride bicycles for miles for fun as most sports in their village were traditional- like kabbadi. He recalls that bicycles were also the best mode of commute for them. He used to travel to different villages via horses or bicycles but he used to mostly go to his mother’s village. He lived in a normal three room house, which was common for their village, with a open courtyard, and they had a buffalo at home. His mom always milked the buffalo, and made milk products out of them. There were no hospitals super close by, but there were midwives and some local clinics.People from Mr. Singh’s village were there for a hundred years and more, Muslims migrated to this village eventually too, but due to the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh population had many benefits and prosperous amounts of land. His uncle used to be one of the best athletes in the area at that point, he used to always be invited to display his skills, his name was Bhagat Singh.People from the Sikh community, as he recalls were money lenders, which he thinks was a good profession for them. Land was minimally used for farming as the area was hilly but land holdings were still used to grow wheat, some vegetables, and flowers. Most women in the village worked on the charkha, and they bought cotton that came from East Punjab and South Punjab, they made Khadi out of it. Muslims worked as farmers and artisans, while the Sikh community was entirely business based. The two communities did share the same passion for the army. The most popular music was Kirtan in the Gurudwara and folk music, for entertainment people played volleyball and cards when they had enough time to do so. Some other forms of entertainment were shopping where people from Kashmir and Peshawar came to sell ‘heeng’ and other rare commodities. He also recalls that most festivals were celebrated separately by the communities and mostly in religious sites. The education in his village was great and they had a majority of Sikh educators and some Muslim teachers.He remembers hearing about the Akali movement led by leaders like Tara Singh. The meetings would take place in the village Gurudwara. The people of the village were interested in freedom from the British but not necessarily in the idea of Partition. They hadn’t anticipated it. People assumed that eventually there would be peace and only took very few things with them as they thought they’d be able to go back. When they migrated they only had clothes, no money or other possessions. They took the train to India, from the railway station in the village.The train took almost 10 hours for them to get from Rawalpindi to Patiala, which was traveling onwards to Delhi. They stayed in a Gurudwara for many months, there were about 120 other people living in small rooms there. During the travel, they closed all the train windows so that they couldn’t see outside and no one could peak in. This was also a tactic to avoid being attacked. The atmosphere was tense in the train, as everyone was stressed.Once they moved to Patiala, Mr. Singh was a child laborer and didn’t attend school for a year, where he collected eggs from different villages and sold them to people. After which he continued his schooling from all the scholarships he received for being an outstanding student. His father started a business there but couldn’t succeed, soon after which they all moved to Patiala and Mr. Singh finished his studies. On moving to Patiala, they were allotted a house based on the possessions they’d left behind, the compensation wasn’t completely fair but it was helpful.Once he was done with schooling, he managed to make a living and got involved in tourism. He joined service in Punjab, joined the public relations departments, he worked in Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, he says that -“I’m a success story, a man with such a poor start, with no money, who has made it!” He headed the Department of Tourism in Delhi for 7 years, then he was a member of Parliament for 5 years, and finally was the first Sikh person to become the Chair of the National Commission for Minorities. He also worked to help the agricultural sector grow.He got married in 1951, he met his wife, when he was posted in Public Relations in Bakhra Dam, their parents agreed and then they got married.He thinks that Partition should have been peaceful, but the leaders didn’t allow it. He says - “Many other nations had situations like ours, but no blood shed like the one we saw, half a million lost lives. It’s hard to imagine how neighbors living next to each other became enemies, we became like animals, I saw people being killed, houses being burned, bodies of the people flowing in the canals and people being shot in trains.” He saw this happen everywhere, in Punjab and it was a horrible scene. He says that he saw ladies weeping and men being killed on the streets of Patiala and that “one can’t imagine how a human can be so wild”. He also is of the opinion that something like this can be avoided worldwide if the authorities strictly followed the principles and rules. He mentions that more than 3 million Sikhs are living abroad now. He asks Sikhs to compare themselves to the Jews. He claims that the Jews are stronger and established because they control the media in the U.S and U.K, are more literate and spend more of their knowledge on energy on the advancement of their community by using their intelligence and not focusing on little conflicts. He thinks that the Sikh community can use its strengths to work towards more positive outcomes.At the end, Mr. Singh recalls his visit to his village, where he lived before migration and with sadness he says that it wasn’t the same, not as prosperous and not as lively.
History and History
English and Panjabi
Physical Description:
2 video files
Publication Info:
New Delhi (India)
New Delhi (India), January 15, 2012
Filmed interviews