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The Saint of Khushpur

Published May 27, 2013 03:42pm


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enter image description hereAt Samundri, two stories explain the name of the town. According to the first one, the place was famous for its three temples and was referred in Persian as “Seh Mandari”. With the passage of time, Seh Mandari was localised to Samundri. Second story dates back to Suri times, when the North India-bound caravans stopped here and took a break from their journey. The large water ponds and Baowli gave an aquatic ambience and thereby the name, Samundri.

Two temples out of the three have vanished – one can only guess where they went. Few believe that the temples existed at Shaukatabad, while others endorse their locations near Canal. The third temple at Chakki wala Bazar has been converted into a boys school and the only Gurudwara at Bukhari Chowk, into a girls school. All pre-partition buildings have been razed save a house with few deities at the front. Though the city is much older but the official year of Samundri is recorded as 1887. Besides the ambience and the entertainment, Samundri is famous for free spirited men like Teja Singh.

Born in Taran Taran, Sardar Teja Singh moved to Samundri when his family shifted during the settlement scheme. He was recruited in a Cavalry regiment but retired after a while to serve the Khalsa cause. At this point of the 19th century, missionaries were very active in India and the conversion trends were upsetting. To counter these effects and facilitate the community, an organisation by the name of Khalsa Dewan was established. It aimed at opening schools and hospital to offset the missionary welfare measures. Teja Singh is considered a prominent figure in the Khalsa Dewan movement and many schools, he founded, are still functional. He is also attributed for founding Shromini Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee. Due to the active participation in Rakib Ganj, Gurudwara Janam Asthan and vociferous criticism of the government’s attempt to subdue Sikhs, Teja Singh spent a considerable time including his last days in prison in July 1926. A hall at the Golden Temple commemorates the services of this proud sardar.

Next to Samundri are the several small villages. Some are the likes of Nara Dada, the two villages rehabilitated by the immigrants of Hoshiarpur and the others are Kaisgarh which is now known as Rasiana. Khush Pur lies next. The name was given to this village by a missionary Father Felix who laid foundations stone of this village originally 51 G B. Felix literally translates into happiness of Latin and the villagers took up the name of a place of happiness after Felix and regardless of the future. In its history of almost a century, the villagers had lived their life by and large happily but things have changed now. As many of the small tracks converge on the mud house, there are many tales of atrocities and injustice that culminate in this village.

The bishop of Faisalabad, John Joseph was also born here but unfortunately could not be buried here. Being a Bishop, he did not let go of the hope he was taught at the seminary and remained steadfast with his commitment to guide. The justice system of Pakistan, however, was strong enough to bend the Jesuit will. In 1998, Yaqub Masih was wrongly indicted for blasphemy, Bishop Joseph took it upon himself to fight the legal battle. He tried to explain to the masses that a 96 per cent majority could never be threatened by the 4 per cent minority. Justice was yet a dream and the torturous legal procedures forced him to shoot himself in the session courts, Sahiwal. His blood stained clothes are buried in Khushpur. The court set Yaqoob free, four months later.

Another grave is of Shahbaz Bhatti. From taking up his name to taking up street politics, Bhatti did everything he could to mingle with mainstream society. Unfortunately, the society neither valued his life and nor protested his murder. To date, residents of Khushpur, clearly remember the last rites of Bhatti and Joseph, as these were the occasions when Christians all over the country filled up the fields of the village.

Between the grave of Bhatti and the soiled clothes of Father Joseph, large numbers of three lined news filled up the Christian memory. These were the unnoticed accounts of personal feuds which ended up at 295 C. These incidents of excruciating pain are too recurrent to fade away.

Miles away from Khushpur and ages away from Pakistan is the indifferent capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. The city claims the patronage of deceased saints like Bari Imam and Golra Shareef but is oblivious of the living few.

When Augustino Bono was posted to Islamabad, surprise rather than fear struck him. During his routine diplomatic assignments, he came across a resident of Khushpur who invited him to his village.

Bono’s visit to the village was something like the homecoming of Felix. Amidst celebrations, he saw what many of us failed to see. The misery, poverty and the sufferings moved him to the point of grief. He tried holding up his tears as an old man stepped ahead and held Bono’s hand. His swollen Dravidian lips trembled with gratitude.

“I had dreamt that someone will come to this village and help us cure our sick, I am sure you are the one.” Bono returned but those words stayed hooked in his heart. Through fund-raisings, help from friends and family along with his life savings, he decided to materialise the old man’s dream.

Today, Augustino Bono Foundation hospital at Khushpur serves humans, not Christians or Muslims. The facility, with the handful of dedicated staff, works around the clock to treat the sick and wounded.

Regardless of his expertise in Urdu and his diplomatic excellence, people of Khushpur do not refer to Bono as His Excellency, but consider him a saint and call him Baba Bono.

The cycle that escorted us out of Khush Pur had a Psalm painted on the rear mud-guard. It spoke of the contentment writ on those dark faces. Lord is my shepherd.
(Psalm 23)

Author Image

Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (50) Closed

Mahmood May 27, 2013 03:41pm

Mr. Miraj! Please also highlight the tragedies of East Punjab during and after partition.

Singh May 27, 2013 04:22pm

The third temple at Chakki wala Bazar has been converted into a boys school and the only Gurudwara at Bukhari Chowk, into a girls school? Shame on Pakistan to allow this to happen. If same is done anywhere else to a Masjid, Muslims will be first one to complain and protest all over the world. As a Sikh, I am deeply hurt.

Kumsha May 27, 2013 05:03pm

@Singh: It should be a matter of happiness that Gurudwaras and temples are used as school. The same thing happened to mosques on our side of the border.

Times' have changed but human goodness is no less appreciated now! There are good human beings walking, suffering and struggling Around us.

Indian May 27, 2013 05:51pm

@Kumsha : Which Mosque has been converted to school ? Demolition of one Babri led to thousands of temples being destroyed in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Be careful what you are conveying to muslims on the other side of the border. They are waiting for such stories to further cement their hatred towards India.

Shiv May 27, 2013 05:53pm

@Mahmood: Indian Punjab still has a muslim majority district Malerkotla. While the Hindus in the two Hindu majority districts given to Pakistan have been decimated.

Hamid Shafiq May 27, 2013 05:57pm

@Singh: be relax MR Singh when some community migrate then their worship places is the house of ghosts just like in india so do not deep hearted.

Khan Wali May 27, 2013 06:23pm

@Singh: I saw .Masjids' in East Punjab converted into cattle's 'baras' in my recent visit to East Punjab, so it is better to convert your 'Mandirs' and 'Gurduwaras' for noble cause where as there's no population of Hindus and Sikhs there! We specially preserve a 'Mandir' for thin Hindu population in our locality in Peshawar

Mahmood May 27, 2013 06:29pm

@Mahmood: ....Because my family was the serious victim of that, belonging to Hoshiarpur we lost 90% of family there.

kamljit Singh May 27, 2013 06:31pm

Salam to Miraj Sahib for bringing people together . I am from a place near Nara Dada mentioned by Miraj Sahib . He is a saint , faqir,fankar and magician of words , soldier of God ,He touches the soul and spirit of mankind.Waiting for the book he is being requested to compile his gems into.

Rishi May 27, 2013 07:19pm

@Singh: 22g, As an Indian myself, i am deeply gratified that the gurumandirs have been converted to school. This is a befitting conversion of any perfect religious institution. May the students out of this school become citizens of peace.

Singh May 27, 2013 07:40pm

In East Punjab, Masjid did not become Schools. They remained Masjids. By the way India has more Muslims than Pakistan even today in spite of Pakistan having a higher population growth than India.

Talib May 27, 2013 08:06pm

@Singh: Very true concern Mr Singh. In Islam, we have tolerance and respect for other religions, but only on paper and rote learning but not in deeds. Sure we get hurt easily ourselves if these things are inflicted on Muslims.

kanwar May 27, 2013 09:02pm

excellent article..! A highly informative and thought provoking narrative, i hope n pray that some day the plea of Pakistani Christians will be heard and 295:B-C will be reviewed...but for now under the constant fear of persecution, the Pakistani Christians will continue to do what they have been told in the Holy Bible...."Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."(Romans 12:14)

KSD May 27, 2013 09:02pm

Only a brave soul can stir up an average one and you, Mr. Miraj, manage to do so with everyone of your weekly articles. Please take care of yourself as you so eloquently verbalize the feelings and thoughts of a silent majority. I wish you a long and productive life.

KSD May 27, 2013 09:10pm

@Mahmood: During partition, yes, but after partition you will be hard pressed to find examples of forcible conversions or, for that matter, any atrocities against minorities in east Panjab.

Singh May 27, 2013 09:31pm

@Kumsha :

Than what is the big fuss about Babri Masjid. Let us make it a school. There is a difference. For you Mosque a place to worship. For us a Gurudwara is place to feed those cannot feed themselves because we see God in the face of every man who enter a Gurudwara. We do not ask anyone to become Sikh. We just want to serve them food with no strings attached. That is way a Muslim can visit Golden Temple and will be served food no matter what. Sikhs make not even .1% of world population but serve food to about 20 million people around the world every year without asking for anything in return.

koi-kon May 27, 2013 10:31pm

@kamljit Singh : Thank You Kamaljit Saheb

Khalid May 27, 2013 11:56pm

@Singh: Brrother Singh, we in Pakistan are not following any religion. It is "everyone for himself religion", and we are not ashamed to call it Islam. Prophet Mohammed once vacated a mosque for Christians saying "let them pray in peace". We follow him BUT only it suits us and fulfils our needs. I am ashamed to be a Muslim.

kamljit Singh May 28, 2013 12:29am

@Mahmood: Sorry Mahmood. i am from near Hoshiarpur. We miss you. People now realize what they did in the frenzy. shame on those leaders who did not think of the human sufferings the partition or independence would bring.Were we not happy with our lives even when the goras were there but no blood shed of the innocents.?

SBB May 28, 2013 12:36am

@Mahmood: Why don't you research and do it? There are plenty of Muslims and Masjids in East Punjab. No one's going around killing them or converting them.

SBB May 28, 2013 12:44am

That's an amazing story, thanks Mr. Miraj. A single man can make a huge difference no matter where he is. Our lands have produced countless saints over the past hundreds of years... these lands are sacred. These are all matters of faith.

Khalid May 28, 2013 01:43am

@Singh: CORRECTION: Actually Pakistan has more Muslims than India.

Singh May 28, 2013 02:30am


Sorry for your loss but can you imagine how many Sikhs got killed during partition. A Muslim in Hoshiarpur could save his life giving himself a Hindu name and likewise a Hindu could save his life in Lahore giving himself a Muslim name but a turbaned Sikh in Lahore and Rawalpindi did not have that advantage and could be seen and identified from 10 miles and were killed without any questions asked. So if you see Sikhs loss percentage wise was more than anyone else. But we have no ill feeling against anyone. On the contrary, it gave Sikhs a chance to work hard and do better all around the world and you will not find a turbaned Sikh begging any where in the world.

BRR May 28, 2013 04:03am

@Mahmood: As if one crime makes up for another

Masood May 28, 2013 04:47am

My hats off to Augustino Bono. this is called HUMANITY, a real do-er, not by words but by deeds. I wish there were more like him. Any way I can help??

suresh May 28, 2013 06:02am

@Singh: you should not feel ashamed as they are converted in to a place of learning, had they been destroyed then I would have been ashamed.

N. P. May 28, 2013 06:49am

@Singh: Sir, the 45% Muslim population of East Punjab was wiped out in weeks in India and most Mosques there have been converted. At Independence Bangladesh was part of Pakistan therefore even today combined population Muslims in Pakistan along with Bangladesh is way higher than Indian Muslims. Indians ceaselessly mention this strange point often.

N. P. May 28, 2013 06:52am

@Singh: Why are you hurt after wiping away Muslims who were 45% in Indian Punjab, destroying most of small mosques and converting Muslim majority cities like Amritsar into Sikh majority. It was tit for tat then. By the way there were hardly any Hindus or Sikhs left after partition therefore why would the Gurdawaras remain.

Hope you understand Sir.

Kumar May 28, 2013 11:18am

@Mahmood: Hi Mahmood Direct Action was initated by the league, the conseuqences was the bloodiest partition ever. Hindus and Sikhs did not want to leave their ancestral places .The Muslims were in fast forward and eager to go to their holy land.The Hindus and Sikhs lost the most compared to the Muslims. Have never heard a masjid being converted to any other institutions in India but Hindu and Sikh places of worship in Pakistan have been destroyed and looted and their stature reduced to nothing. How can a country forget their roots. Invaders are glorified while son of the soils are vilified based on their religion. Hindus do not have any place to go to worship in Pakistan while the Pakistanis comes by the droves to visit the Muslim shrines in India which have flourished.The muslims in India have multipled but look at the state of minorities in Pakistan How can partition be so one sided .

Sameer May 28, 2013 03:33pm

@Kumar: Thanks for the truth

Aqdas May 28, 2013 05:57pm

Mr.Miraj How nice of you to tell of the light of christians in Pakistan.It is a shame that we have not been able to reassure them of safety and progress.I hope things change and we do change our attitudes towards them.

As far as your crying for gurdawaras is concerned please do have a look at the 1 million muslim most from east punjab that died during partition.Who do they ask for justice? the sikhs have never apologized for it nor felt any shame , so why should we cry for "their" buildings?Thats a rubbish comparison on your part.We should have nothing but enmity for them and a desire for revenge!

Khan May 28, 2013 07:41pm

@Kumar:typical Indian propaganda that all was hunky doory in India for Muslims. During independence Indian Punjab was the killing field of Muslims apart from rest of the india, mosques were destroyed muslims were slaughtered, women's raped, property looted. Have the courage to accept facts.

Imran Siddiqui May 28, 2013 07:44pm

@Kumar: All parties claimed to have lost the most, as per my fore fathers, Muslims and Sikhs lost the most. Before criticizing Pakistanis, do criticize the ones who demolished Babri Masjid, attacked Golden Temple, rape Kashmiris and those who committed a Muslim genocide in Gujrat and rest of India. Last but not least, Pakistanis have never elected an extremist, however, India's next PM will be a person name Modi.

Khan May 28, 2013 07:59pm

@Singh:was you hurt when you get to know the atrocities committed by Sikhs towards Muslims during independence in the form of muder, rape, keeping Muslims girls as keeps, destruction on mosques and conversion to horse stables etc..

pathanoo May 28, 2013 11:33pm

Thank You, Mohammad Hassan Miraj. Your stories from a good heart and a brilliant mind. Pakistan is fortunate to have writers like you. May THE GOOD LORD BLESS YOU.

John May 29, 2013 12:31am

Masjid cannot be brought down other temples can be razed.... What sort of equality is being preached?

Ayaz mirza May 29, 2013 01:39am

Dear Kumar, my. Village Is three Kilometer away From Kitas (Kitas raj ) and temples are unattended but in safe and sound condition.

SherePunjab Singh SherGill USA May 29, 2013 05:14am

S. Teja Singh Samundari was Sandhu Jat from Burj Rai Ka only4 Kms from Patti. His son Bishan Singh ji was first VC of Guru nanak University, Amritsar and his son Jasjit was a Gatka player and wrestler of khalsa College Amritsar. He joined IFS (Ind Forest Service) as DFO and his younger brother was in IFS (Ind Foreign Svs) and posted in USA. I have visited Pakistan 4/5 times and have seen love, respect and affection of all Punjabis. I have seen people weeping by remembering their villages they left in India. But politics and fanatic mullas do not want peoples to inter mix. It hurts when we see that very common historical and religious places of Guru nanak Sahib, whom muslims also respect a baba peer Nanak has been converted to residencies. Awqaf Board only misuse Gurudwara money and spend in papers. I wish that some one must also write about the atrocities on east side of Wagha also. Is haman vich sare hi nange ney.

Mehmud_Ahmed May 29, 2013 06:59am

I wish someone could also write about the services Tahir Heat Institute at Rabwah, now renamed Chenab Nagar by Mullahs was providing. A retired Heart Specialist, Gen Nuri was managing this unique instituion which has been equipped with latest state of the art surgical equipment donated by the Ahmadi physicians and surgeons working in the West. Heart specialists from all over the world volunteer time to perform procedures during the year. These volunteers pay their own fares and also bring latest medicines. There have some instances when such medicines were refused clearance by the Customs in Pakistan when declared for use for the Tahir Heart Institute. I speak on the basis of personal knowledge. What a shame/

gulshan May 29, 2013 09:22am

Mr. Miraj, Well narrated! You are an amazing story-teller.

Razi Azmi May 29, 2013 04:07pm

You write well and, what's more, you have your heart in the right place. May you keep writing as a good human being!

Shah May 29, 2013 04:16pm

Indian history is so wrong that I do not know where to begin.

  1. I can start by pointing out the last British survey in East Punjab where they found almost 12 million Muslims living there. Only under 6 million came to Pakistan, rest went missing in historys dust bin. Millions just gone! In West Punjab, under the orders of Quad-e-Azam, the army was active in helping stranded Sikhs and Hindus, guarding their caravans and trains.

  2. The majority of Hindus were living in East-Pakistan so naturally their number went Down in West-Pakistan after the 1971 Indian invasion and the subsequent etablishment of Bangladesh.

  3. The majority of Hindus are living in Sindh were there are many temples all cross the state. Sikh Gurdwaras in Lahore to Hassanabdl are there for any one to see.

  4. Many mosques, especially in East Punjab and Haryana, have been converted into horse stables and many have simply been torn down. This is also very visable all over East-Punjab.

  • Just because you are not thought this in Schools does not mean there was no atrocities agains Muslims in India.
Shah May 29, 2013 04:20pm

@Singh: you are wrong. The official Indian governments population data paint a different Picture. AND mosques were destroyed in East-Punjab, even converted to Gurdwaras!

Shah May 29, 2013 04:21pm

@Singh: Better to be converted in to a School as Singh pointed out instead of just falling apart like many mosques did in East-Punjab.

Manvinder May 29, 2013 08:45pm

moving..... what else to say...!

Shahid May 29, 2013 09:16pm

@Singh: These were converted to schools since there were no more worshipers, all had left and this is the best way to conserve these buildings, at least these are spreading education. Come visit in the coming better days. let's hope

Khan of Kalabagh May 29, 2013 10:42pm

@Singh: I, as Citizen of Pakistan, am very ashamed of these acts of ours and strongly condemn them, i hope my children and their children may be able to revive the religious worship places in the country

Jam May 30, 2013 08:56am

It is sad to see that anyone looses their home, family, etc. I wish Dawn publish similar sad story of millions of Muslims who lost their homes, mosques, property, etc due to riots that were imposed on them in Bosnia, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, etc.. I wonder what Dawn gets for doing so.

J.John May 30, 2013 10:35am

How many Mughal emperors build Mosques by razing key Hindu temples? And you though Mughals were good for undivided India?

Hindu Kush May 30, 2013 12:47pm

Mr. Hassan Miraj! I feel that tour forefathers were Sikhs or Hindus because you not remain 'Impartial' to bloggers from Pakistan and other side of the border. If you not give my comment it will be clear that my feelings are correct!