Mianwali Colony: Gurugram locality of migrants from Pakistan district with same name
With the hope of carrying forward the legacy of their ancestral place, migrants from Mianwali decided to christen their new home by the same name and, thus, Mianwali from Pakistan became entwined with the history of Gurugram.
Nestled in a corner of Old Gurugram is a colony that derives its name from a place in Pakistan and whose history is a vestige of one of the most defining moments of the subcontinent — the Partition. Located along the New Railway Road in Sector 12, Mianwali Colony is rooted in history that transcends borders. It is named after Mianwali — a district in erstwhile West Punjab, which now falls in Pakistan’s Punjab province — and was established in the early 1960s by people who migrated from there in search of a new life and home. However, while doing so, these people also carried with them, memories from their homes in undivided India. Partition, to them, only meant a division of countries and not necessarily a severing of shared cultural and social ties.
With the hope of carrying forward the legacy of their ancestral place, migrants from Mianwali decided to christen their new home by the same name and, thus, Mianwali from Pakistan became entwined with the history of this city. The colony was established by Chaudhary Ghanshyam Das, a lawyer, who played a pivotal role in its making. Das, along with other people from Mianwali, got together and formed the Mianwali Gurgaon Cooperative House Building Society that was registered on April 26, 1962. While only a few original members of the society are alive today, they continue to reminisce the tumultuous trajectory that shaped their lives and Mianwali.
‘Kept moving between rooms on ground and first floors, anticipating danger’
“In 1947, when Partition took place and Punjab was divided, our people found themselves at the crossroads of history. Pakistan had come into being. While some stayed in Pakistan, others decided to move to India. Displaced from different districts, people started migrating to India and decided to live together with people from their original localities,” said Ramesh Chandra Gera, 83, who originally hails from Mianwali and lives in the colony.
Gera was only 11 when the Partition took place, but he distinctly remembers the circumstances that preceded and followed the cataclysmic event. “I do not remember seeing any violence. However, news about a fight at some place or incidents of violence occurring at other places would reach us. In mid-August, violence peaked and the big bazaars in Mianwali were set on fire. For three days, we kept moving back and forth between the rooms on the first and ground floor of our house, anticipating danger,” he recalled.
His family stayed in Mianwali for two more months after the Partition, and later moved to the refugee camps from where they reached India. Amid loss and displacement, life in India had to be started from the scratch once again as Gera moved to Gurgaon along with others from Mianwali. “Jahan roti ka guzara hua, wahin kaam shuru kar diya logon ne (People started working wherever they found livelihood). People from Mianwali who had moved to Gurgaon decided to have their own colony,” he said.
A new beginning
Under the leadership of Das, the Mianwali community started working towards forming their own society. He was assisted in the task by other people from Mianwali and together they formed a society.
“Back then, Gurgaon came under Punjab. We had to get the registration of the society done from Jalandhar since the societies’ registration office operated out of there. After registration, they started thinking about potential areas for creation of the colony,” recalled Gera.
Among the considerations were three places: an area beyond the railway station, another area near the Old Najafgarh Road, and the third choice was the place where the colony now stands. The third option was chosen since the area was in close proximity to important facilities. It was closer to the bazaar, hospital, and schools. A land of 1, 22, 758 square yards was bought by the members of the society for the colony space. Based on the membership of the society and the demand for houses, it was decided that plots of three kinds would be earmarked for people. A, B, and C pockets were created which had a total number of 376 plots of 500, 300, and 200 square yards, respectively.
“When people left Mianwali, they decided to live together as a group wherever they went next. In line with this understanding, only people who had migrated from Mianwali were given membership of the society. Later on, as the society developed and fewer people started settling down, it was decided to allow people from other districts to have houses here. People from Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan also got plots here,” said Suresh Chaudhary, 56, grand nephew of Das. Suresh is also the current president of the society.
Over the years, most people who originally hailed from Mianwali have sold their plots and moved out into newer places. The owners might have changed, but the community spirit remains intact. “While people have moved out, the Mianwali biradri (clan) continues to uphold the ideals with which it was first started,” said Gera.
He said that the name Mianwali was a remnant of his past and everything that had shaped his life. It was an heirloom that weaved both memory and history, and one that always reminded him of his roots in undivided India. “Countries change but people don’t. How does one forget the places where one grew up in? I remember everything. My memories from those days in Mianwali are intact and fresh. My village Shadia fell on the Lahore-Multan line. I can still draw the map of my village,” he says confidently. Enthused with the mention of his village, he goes on to share other anecdotes. “Our area was a Pathan area. We are known to say things bluntly, whether people like it or now,” he said.
The excitement in his voice, however, also comes with a tinge of regret. Gera regrets not being able to go back to Mianwali, unlike others. “Many people went to Pakistan’s Mianwali on a visit after the Partition. I, however, couldn’t go there. My friendship of those days was essentially friendship between students of classes 5 and 6. Most of my friends would have become old by now. I am not sure if they’d be even able to identify me,” he said.
He, however, is optimistic that people from Mianwali, both in India and Pakistan, would embrace each other notwithstanding the many decades that have passed. “Most of our ancestors have left us. However, I am sure that they would have been easily identified by their friends in Pakistan. Some of the elderly people from Pakistan do send us messages some time asking us to visit. Even today, if we are given a chance to go back, people of my age would go there,” he said.
Youngsters unaware of history
While people like Gera continue to hold on to the nostalgia that the name Mianwali invokes, many in the younger generation are unaware about the history that is intrinsically associated with the place. For many youngsters, the place is nothing more than a name that sounds unique.
“Most younger people don’t really know about the significance of the name or the connection with the original Mianwali. However, they do ask questions about the etymology. I have answered this question to at least a hundred people by now. They get very fascinated when I tell them about the cultural history of the place,” said Nikhil Chaudhary, 30, who belongs to a family that originally came from Mianwali.
Nikhil grew up listening to stories about Mianwali from his grandfather. However, like most youngsters, he also plans to move out of Mianwali in the near future. “There has been rampant commercialization in the area due to which there is a lot of burden on the infrastructure. We have been thinking about moving out. However, at the back of our minds, the thought of holding on to our history is there. It’s a dilemma that me and many others face,” he added.