Episode 1 My Family, Partition and Me: India 1947


Episode 1

Anita Rani marks the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India by exploring its impact on four British families, including her own.


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Transcript


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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find disturbing

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This is the Wagah border crossing between India and Pakistan.

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Every evening, the flags of these two great nations

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are lowered in a hugely popular display of national pride.

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But just 70 years ago, this border didn't even exist.

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In 1947, 200 years of British rule came to an abrupt end

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and this vast subcontinent

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was divided between an independent India

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and the new Muslim homeland of Pakistan.

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It was called Partition,

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but this British-led plan

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became one of the most catastrophic events of the 20th century.

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Across India, millions of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs

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fled their homes in the largest forced migration ever recorded.

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Over a million people lost their lives

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in the chaos and violence of Partition

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and families like mine were torn apart.

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Many Partition survivors decided to rebuild their lives in Britain.

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And now, 70 years on, we, their children and their grandchildren,

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are going back to discover how Partition dramatically changed

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our family stories forever.

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Two years ago, I explored my family history on Who Do You Think You Are?

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What I learned about Partition was a turning point in my life.

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It's the most shocking, horrifying account

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of what humans are capable of.

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TEARFULLY: It's bonkers. I can't...

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The story I uncovered had a huge impact on me and on many viewers

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who contacted me afterwards,

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and I've made it my mission

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to complete the journey I started and to help other British families

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explore their own Partition stories.

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In this series, I and three other Britons

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from different religious backgrounds will be doing just that

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in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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-What do you think, Mum?

-Beautiful.

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It feels like we've stepped back in time.

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We'll be returning to the homes our families were forced to flee...

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-So, recognise it?

-TEARFULLY:

-Oh, my God...

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..and hearing first-hand from survivors.

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MAN WEEPS

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We saw dead bodies in the middle of the road, pavements.

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We come from all sides caught up in the violence -

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Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and British Colonial.

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70 years on,

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this is our last chance to hear the truth about Partition

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from the people who lived through it.

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The flashback comes often.

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I feel God was very cruel to us.

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In the 1940s, the British Colonial population in India

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was 100,000 people.

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They ruled over more than 380 million Indians.

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But the Empire was on its last legs.

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India was on the verge of independence from British rule

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and the future of this vast country

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was being fiercely contested along religious lines.

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Muslim leaders wanted to create

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a new, independent homeland called Pakistan,

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while Hindu and Sikh politicians

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were desperate to keep India as one country.

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As religious violence gripped the nation, in August 1947,

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the British announced their solution.

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Partition would split the states of Punjab and Bengal

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to create East and West Pakistan.

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As Hindus and Sikhs fled to India

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and Muslims to Pakistan,

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15 million people became refugees.

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People who'd lived together for generations, ate the same food,

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spoke the same language, celebrated each other's religious festivals,

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were suddenly and violently split apart.

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Hindus and Sikhs on one side, and Muslims on the other.

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70 years on, many of their descendants, like me,

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now live in Britain.

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And our first story begins in Cheshire.

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Binita Kane is the daughter of a Hindu Partition survivor.

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A doctor, she lives with her husband, Mark,

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and their daughters, six-year-old Jasmine

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and four-year-old Maya.

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I am conscious that I have lived a very privileged life

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compared to my father.

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But it's something I'm absolutely grateful for every day.

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Binita's father, Professor Bim Bhowmick,

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lived through Partition as a child

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and came to Britain from India in 1969.

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Also a doctor, he lives with his wife, Aparna, in North Wales.

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In 2002, he was awarded an OBE for his services to medicine.

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I am 77 years old

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and I was born in a beautiful little village

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called Mandari Gram, in Bengal,

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which was part of India.

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I'm one of...ten children

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and I was...

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..number nine.

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My dad and I are really close.

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He's very warm-hearted, he's generous.

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He's very funny. When you think of everything that he's been through,

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some of the things he's achieved - getting his OBE -

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he has got an amazing character.

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-Hi.

-Hello.

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Hello!

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Binita is... I call her almost "my heart".

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And she's so caring.

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Binita has agreed to become the first member of Bim's family

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to return to the village where he was born, in what is now Bangladesh.

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This is the refugee certificate.

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We had to keep it because this is the only evidence

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that we were a refugee. I'll write down the English names.

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When he was only six years old,

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Bim's village was attacked in one of the first outbreaks

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of Partition violence.

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His father, Jamini, led the family

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on a long and dangerous journey to safety.

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The other thing I got is this.

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We never had a photo of my father,

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so we asked an artist and he did an oil painting

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and every time I go home,

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I go to this picture and bow and I say,

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"Dad, you'll be proud of me."

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I think he's got some fears and some worries about me going.

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He's never been back.

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He's never had to confront,

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really, what happened.

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I'm really looking forward to going.

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I'll be fine.

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Mandy Duke is also planning to retrace

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her family's Partition history.

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She works as a carer in Winchester.

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I like to look after people.

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It's very satisfying when you come away from someone's house

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and you know you've helped them.

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Mandy's grandfather, Arthur Wise, was born in India.

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But after Partition, he brought his family back

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to start a new life in England.

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That's me being held by Grandpa.

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Loved Grandpa to bits.

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I miss him every day. He made me feel special...

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Sorry.

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This is really silly. I always feel like this when I think about him.

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Arthur Wise died in 1992.

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His eldest daughter, Mandy's Aunt Pamela,

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is 90 and lives in Surrey.

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Mandy was very fond of my father,

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but she never knew anything about our life in India,

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and so I think it will be quite a surprise for her,

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the things that happened out there.

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Hello, Mandy. Hello.

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Welcome to Owlwoods.

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-Good to see you.

-Yes. Come this way.

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Mandy's grandfather, Arthur Wise, was a keen amateur film-maker.

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This film is taken over 70 years ago.

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This is 9 Harrington Street, which is our home in Calcutta.

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These are our servants.

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We had eight servants,

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Hindus AND Muslims.

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And here they're just playing around.

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It was a wonderful lifestyle.

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We wanted for nothing.

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This is my father playing in the garden.

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How did Grandpa end up in India?

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His family had been there for generations

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and he was a very successful businessman

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and very respected by everybody.

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This is bringing back memories, that's the thing,

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-while I'm looking at it.

-Well, that's nice.

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I mean, this is what I want to know.

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I want to know what it was like. That looks such a happy time.

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It was a happy time, before all the trouble started.

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Well, I hope you have a wonderful time

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when you go out in the footsteps of the family!

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And I look forward to hearing about it.

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I'll come back and tell you all about it.

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Our third story belongs to 78-year-old Asad Ali Syed.

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During Partition,

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Asad fled India with his family for the new country of Pakistan.

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He moved to Britain in 1965 and now lives in Sheffield.

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I was born at Ambala in India.

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My father was a doctor

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and I can remember there were no worries at that time.

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I was a happy-go-lucky sort of child,

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you know what I mean!

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Asad has come to Manchester to visit his grandson Sameer

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and his young family.

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Assalamu Alaikum!

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THEY GREET EACH OTHER IN OWN LANGUAGE

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-Assalamu Alaikum!

-Dada!

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Assalamu Alaikum.

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My grandfather doesn't really talk a lot about his childhood.

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-Assalamu Alaikum.

-ALL GREET IN OWN LANGUAGE

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But the things he has mentioned to me,

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the things that he's seen,

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I can't imagine anybody going through that

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without having some kind of... trauma or damage.

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Asad was only seven when he and his Muslim family

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were forced to flee their home in the Indian town of Ambala.

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These are the only photographs that I have left from India, you know?

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Um, here's my father.

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-Gosh.

-Yeah.

-I've never seen this photo.

-This is the surgery.

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-Oh, wow.

-He practised at Ambala for 22 years, actually.

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-Yeah.

-He was quite famous.

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-This is my picture.

-That's you in the middle?

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I'm not even sure how old I was at that time.

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-Not more than three.

-So, like, the same age as my daughter.

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Your daughter, younger daughter, yes.

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Sameer has never been to India

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and has agreed to travel there with his grandfather.

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The reason I want Sameer to go with me to Ambala

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is I want him to know the real story about my life,

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about Partition, because...

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HE SOBS

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..very difficult time.

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Asad, Sameer, Mandy and Binita

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are going back to explore their Partition stories and find the homes

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that their families were forced to flee 70 years ago.

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During Partition, Bengal was split to create East Pakistan,

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now the predominantly Muslim country of Bangladesh.

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Binita has come here to look for the village

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where her father Bim's Hindu family lived for generations.

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This is my first time in Bangladesh.

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It's amazing to be here where it all started.

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This is the first time that anyone from Binita's family

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has returned here since Partition.

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I've brought the refugee certificate that my dad gave me

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and translated for me.

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It has the address, so the district of Noakhali,

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and I'm heading towards the village of Mandari right now.

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Mandari lies in the heart of the rural province of Noakhali,

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several hours' journey from the nearest city.

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It's really, really remote.

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I remember Dad describing...

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his memories of this place as it felt like a paradise...

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..and a beautiful, beautiful place to live and I can really see that.

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-BIM:

-Mandari was a beautiful, tranquil village...

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..away from the spoils of the city and the din and bustle.

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You are living carefree, happy.

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Nothing else touches you.

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We never heard any radio or newspaper,

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anything, came ever to the home.

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70 years after Partition,

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Hindu visitors like Binita are still rare in Mandari.

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Thank you. We seem to have attracted rather a crowd of locals,

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who seem very interested in what's going on.

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Hello. Say hello.

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Er, Binita. My father was born here 77 years ago.

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Yes. I am.

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And I've never been here. This is my first time.

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SHE CHUCKLES

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Maybe!

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Aww, thank you. Thank you, it's really amazing to be here.

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OK, everybody.

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-BIM:

-We were the only Hindu family in that village.

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My father, Jamini Mohan Bhowmick, he was a landowner...

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..and he always employed the local Muslims

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and used to arrange the entertainment in the evening.

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Everybody say after me, "Hello, Jasmine!"

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He used to play Bengali songs

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and the villagers will come

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and everybody is nodding their head and enjoying themselves.

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There was a very pleasant atmosphere.

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Never heard any hard words or anti-Hindu feelings whatsoever.

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Mohammed Kanchan, a local Muslim, has lived in Mandari all his life

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and is one of the oldest men in the village.

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Assalamu Alaikum.

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Wa alaikum assalam.

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So nice to meet you.

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My father was from this village.

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His father was Jamini Mohan Bhowmick.

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Did you know my family?

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Wow.

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So, you used to put the sweets in here

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and take them home, like that?

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OK.

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My father told me that Jamini Mohan had some land in this area?

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All of that land there, wow.

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Mr Kanchan has brought Binita

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to the house where her father Bim was born.

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The family that own it now have agreed that she can look around.

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Wow.

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Oh...

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It's just hard to believe my grandma could have given birth

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to ten children somewhere like this...

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..70 years ago.

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Corrugated iron.

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And my dad was born in this room and this is where he lived as a child.

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Somewhere where my family were obviously very happy at one time.

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But, at the same time,

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it's the house that they had to flee from in terror.

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The first outbreak of Partition violence

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occurred in the summer of 1946 in Calcutta.

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Reports of atrocities against Muslims

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spread throughout Bengal, and in Noakhali district,

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roaming gangs of armed Muslims began a campaign of terror

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against Hindus.

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On the 10th of October, the peace and harmony of Mandari

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was shattered as a mob arrived in the village

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to attack Jamini Bhowmick and his young family.

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DOGS BARKING

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You could hear the dogs howling,

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which, in our mythology,

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signs of bad omen.

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We went to bed as usual.

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We were sleeping, we didn't know anything.

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Suddenly, Mum came to our room

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and said, "Shush, just run."

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We could hear the shout, "Allahu Akbar".

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We could see smoke coming out from the next village.

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Somebody's house must be on fire.

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It's probably another Hindu family.

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And then we are down in the field and hide.

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You could see the fear. Everybody's trembling.

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After about an hour, we could hear my father coming

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and my father said, "They will come again tonight."

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We just thought the noose is very, very tight.

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You can't go anywhere

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and you'll be dead.

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I was six years old,

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very close to my father.

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To see him...

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That he can't do anything for us.

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We are trapped.

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Totally trapped.

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I've heard my dad tell me that story before,

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but it didn't really make any sense back then.

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And now it's very tangible, it's very real,

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sitting looking out over my grandad's land.

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How he got them out of here, I just don't know.

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250 miles west of Mandari,

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across the Indian border, lies Kolkata,

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formerly the capital of British India.

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Mandy has arrived in the city where her grandfather, Arthur Wise,

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and his family used to live before Partition.

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The driving's scary as hell.

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All the buses and cars all seem to have dents and scrapes in them.

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You can see the difference...

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Oh, crumbs.

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This is Mandy's first trip to India.

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Oh, wow. Goats walking along the high street

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as if it's perfectly normal.

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Beautiful buildings.

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You can see that that must have been wonderful in its day,

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but it's got a little bit dilapidated.

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In the 1940s, Calcutta was a thriving business centre

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where many of the wealthiest British families lived.

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Mandy is searching for the house where her Aunt Pamela grew up.

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We lived in Harrington Street.

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It was a lovely house with big rooms,

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a wonderful veranda where we used to take tea.

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Local historian Dr Jayanta Sengupta

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has agreed to help Mandy with her search.

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-Hello, Mandy.

-Hello, Jayanta.

-Good morning.

-Good to meet you.

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This is the exact location where your family house was.

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-Unfortunately...

-Oh, right.

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It's a shame.

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The house was demolished a couple of decades ago.

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This garden in the front is the only part of the house that remains.

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I've seen cinefilms of my family in that garden.

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My mother and father did entertain quite a lot.

0:22:360:22:40

Food was always served on silver salvers with crystal glasses.

0:22:400:22:45

The best of everything.

0:22:450:22:47

It was a wonderful life, actually.

0:22:490:22:51

What I've seen of the films,

0:22:530:22:55

they looked incredibly happy here, and they looked very settled.

0:22:550:22:59

Yeah, why wouldn't they be?

0:22:590:23:00

They had an incredibly comfortable lifestyle here.

0:23:000:23:03

Your grandfather managed an American oil company

0:23:030:23:06

-and your grandfather is right here...

-Yeah, I can see him.

0:23:060:23:09

-..with the garland.

-There's a lot of staff there, isn't there?

-Yes.

0:23:090:23:12

It just looks like a big family photo

0:23:120:23:13

-with three white men in the middle of it.

-That's right.

0:23:130:23:16

They had lived in this safe and secure bubble for so many years.

0:23:160:23:20

But this is the time when that bubble burst.

0:23:200:23:24

After 200 years of British rule,

0:23:260:23:28

the calls for Indian independence had become impossible to ignore.

0:23:280:23:33

By 1946, Mahatma Gandhi's Quit India campaign

0:23:330:23:37

had widespread support throughout the country,

0:23:370:23:40

particularly in Calcutta.

0:23:400:23:42

I was cycling down one day.

0:23:460:23:48

Out of the blue, an Indian man pushed me off my bike

0:23:480:23:52

in the heavy traffic and shouted at me, "Quit India!"

0:23:520:23:55

It was a miracle I wasn't run over.

0:23:550:23:58

When my father came home in the evening and saw me cut and bruised,

0:23:590:24:05

he said, "If this is what's going to happen in India,

0:24:050:24:08

"you'll have to make plans to leave."

0:24:080:24:10

It wasn't safe to stay any longer.

0:24:100:24:14

Shocked by the attack on his eldest daughter,

0:24:140:24:17

Arthur Wise sent his family back to Britain.

0:24:170:24:20

But he stayed on in Calcutta, where he'd been elected leader

0:24:200:24:24

of the European group on the City Council.

0:24:240:24:28

My father was really not happy about the Partition.

0:24:280:24:32

He knew that it would be terrible between Muslims and Hindus

0:24:320:24:36

and he decided that if he could better the life

0:24:360:24:39

of people in Calcutta, he would do so.

0:24:390:24:42

Jayanta has brought Mandy to the council chamber,

0:24:450:24:48

where in the build-up to Partition,

0:24:480:24:50

tensions were rising between Muslim and Hindu councillors

0:24:500:24:54

over which country Calcutta would belong to.

0:24:540:24:57

So...

0:24:570:24:59

-Wow!

-This is the...

0:24:590:25:02

council chamber of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

0:25:020:25:06

It's just amazing. It's absolutely stunning.

0:25:060:25:09

Your grandfather was a key member of this council

0:25:090:25:13

-for four years...

-Really?

-..1944 to '48.

-Wow. I didn't know that.

0:25:130:25:18

The most turbulent years in the city's history.

0:25:180:25:20

Bengal being a Muslim-majority state

0:25:200:25:23

had a real chance of going over to Pakistan.

0:25:230:25:26

This was the scene of very heated arguments

0:25:260:25:29

and some fist-fighting between Muslim members and Hindu members

0:25:290:25:32

over the future of Calcutta.

0:25:320:25:34

-And so we have a speech here from your grandfather.

-Thank you.

0:25:340:25:38

OK, there he is. Councillor AA Wise.

0:25:400:25:42

"This evening's meeting is a disgraceful exhibition

0:25:420:25:45

"of the conduct of some of our city's representatives."

0:25:450:25:48

-Oh, he's angry.

-Yes.

0:25:480:25:50

"It was up to them to object in a constitutional manner

0:25:500:25:54

"and not express themselves in such a violent manner."

0:25:540:25:57

That so sounds like Grandpa, telling him to wind it in.

0:25:570:26:00

-Doesn't it?

-Yeah.

0:26:000:26:01

"We must not lose our hopes,

0:26:010:26:04

"but rather bring about a better understanding

0:26:040:26:07

"between our fellow councillors." So, he's a peacemaker.

0:26:070:26:10

Yes. Most of the British, when they saw trouble,

0:26:100:26:13

they would pack up and leave, but not your grandfather.

0:26:130:26:16

-He tried to mediate as a voice of peace.

-It's really amazing.

0:26:160:26:19

I never realised he was part of this at all.

0:26:190:26:21

He never talked about it.

0:26:210:26:23

I knew he lived in India, I knew he was born in India,

0:26:230:26:26

but I had no idea he was actually part of trying to keep the peace.

0:26:260:26:30

It was great to find out that Grandpa

0:26:310:26:33

is actually in a piece of history and written down on paper

0:26:330:26:35

that he wanted things to go smoothly, without violence.

0:26:350:26:39

And he had the guts to say how he felt.

0:26:390:26:42

After all, this was his home.

0:26:450:26:47

He'd never known any other, and he didn't want to just walk away.

0:26:470:26:50

As the end of British rule approached, 1,000 miles to the west,

0:26:570:27:01

the Punjab was also becoming a flash point

0:27:010:27:04

in the dispute over where the line of Partition should fall.

0:27:040:27:07

Asad and his grandson Sameer, two Britons with Pakistani heritage,

0:27:100:27:15

have arrived in India.

0:27:150:27:17

They've come to the Punjabi town of Ambala

0:27:190:27:22

where Asad was born 78 years ago.

0:27:220:27:26

It has changed a great deal.

0:27:260:27:28

-There are shops everywhere now.

-Yeah.

0:27:280:27:31

It was just empty roads, you know?

0:27:310:27:34

During Partition, the threat of attack by Hindu and Sikh mobs

0:27:340:27:37

forced Asad and his family to flee Ambala for Pakistan.

0:27:370:27:41

And 70 years on,

0:27:410:27:43

he's come back with Sameer to try and find his old family house.

0:27:430:27:48

-That end building, does that mean anything? No?

-Not in the least.

0:27:500:27:54

-It must be so weird for you.

-It is strange.

0:27:560:27:59

I just can't believe that this is the place where I was born, Ambala.

0:27:590:28:04

Oh.

0:28:040:28:06

In 2013, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

0:28:060:28:12

Because cancer has gone into my bones now,

0:28:120:28:15

this is the last chance for me to go to India and see my birthplace.

0:28:150:28:21

Asad's father, Hamid Ali Syed,

0:28:280:28:31

was a well-known doctor in Ambala before Partition.

0:28:310:28:35

Hindus and Sikhs and Christians and Muslims,

0:28:350:28:38

all patients, they would come to him.

0:28:380:28:40

Father had his surgery on the first floor.

0:28:400:28:44

We used to live on the second floor

0:28:440:28:46

and we had everything, by the grace of God.

0:28:460:28:49

All the luxuries that we could think of, you know?

0:28:490:28:52

Did you have a balcony?

0:28:550:28:57

-Yeah.

-That has a balcony.

0:28:570:28:59

-Has it?

-Yes. Let's have a look.

0:28:590:29:01

So, recognise it?

0:29:070:29:08

That was a very beautiful house.

0:29:100:29:12

Everything has changed.

0:29:120:29:14

From here to there, I think, it was our house.

0:29:140:29:19

-VOICE BREAKING:

-And we used to live in that...

0:29:190:29:22

Oh, my God...

0:29:230:29:25

HE SOBS

0:29:250:29:27

Oh, Sameer...

0:29:270:29:29

Asad's old house is now owned by a Hindu doctor and his family.

0:29:340:29:39

They've agreed to let Asad and Sameer have a look around.

0:29:390:29:43

Thank you.

0:29:430:29:44

Go have a look. Your old house.

0:29:460:29:49

The property is now used for storage.

0:29:490:29:52

-This is the room where I was born.

-In this room?

0:29:590:30:02

-In this room, yeah.

-Wow.

0:30:020:30:04

I remember these pillars.

0:30:120:30:14

I used to feel they were huge.

0:30:150:30:18

They look so small now.

0:30:180:30:20

-The children's bedroom used to be on that side.

-Right.

0:30:200:30:24

Tired?

0:30:280:30:29

I didn't expect it to be in such a bad state.

0:30:340:30:37

I expected someone to be living here and I think that's what he expected,

0:30:370:30:42

as well, which is why it's such a massive shock to him.

0:30:420:30:45

I'm really glad he's got someone from the family to support him

0:30:450:30:48

because, you know, he needs it right now.

0:30:480:30:51

It used to be such a beautiful house with those lovely balconies.

0:30:520:30:57

And now it looks like a ruin, you see?

0:30:570:31:01

I can't help crying, you know...

0:31:010:31:05

This is not my country, this is not my house.

0:31:050:31:08

-CRYING:

-I don't belong here.

0:31:080:31:10

Sameer...

0:31:100:31:12

HE SOBS

0:31:120:31:14

Before Partition, Muslims like Asad and his family

0:31:220:31:26

made up almost 60% of Punjab's population.

0:31:260:31:29

And the largest Islamic political party, the Muslim League,

0:31:290:31:34

wanted the entire state to be included in the new Pakistan.

0:31:340:31:39

My father was an active member of Muslim League at Ambala.

0:31:410:31:45

I used to go to these demonstrations.

0:31:450:31:48

I had a little flag of Pakistan.

0:31:480:31:50

I was carrying the flag, you know,

0:31:500:31:52

and I was shouting, "Pakistan Zindabad! Long live Pakistan!"

0:31:520:31:55

On the 14th of August, 1947,

0:31:590:32:02

the new nation of Pakistan was born.

0:32:020:32:05

All the Muslims were very, very happy and we were celebrating.

0:32:050:32:10

We were distributing sweets, you know?

0:32:100:32:12

Embracing each other.

0:32:120:32:14

Everybody was very, very happy.

0:32:140:32:17

But the border between India and Pakistan still hadn't been agreed.

0:32:170:32:22

As both sides staked their claim to the Punjab,

0:32:220:32:25

no-one had any idea which country their home town would belong to

0:32:250:32:29

after Partition, and this transformed places like Ambala

0:32:290:32:33

into tinder boxes of religious tension, just waiting for a spark.

0:32:330:32:38

Three days later, on the 17th of August,

0:32:380:32:41

the British finally announced the line of Partition

0:32:410:32:45

and Ambala fell on the Indian side of the border.

0:32:450:32:49

I could see my father's face that he was really worried about the family.

0:32:510:32:56

What's going to happen?

0:32:560:32:58

So that's when he decided

0:33:010:33:03

that he will have to go by train to Pakistan to set up a new life.

0:33:030:33:07

Balbir Chan is an 81-year-old local Sikh

0:33:110:33:14

and a former patient of Asad's father, Dr Syed.

0:33:140:33:17

THEY GREET EACH OTHER IN OWN LANGUAGE

0:33:170:33:20

He remembers the family's departure from Ambala.

0:33:230:33:26

-On the front of the building?

-On the front of the building.

0:33:510:33:54

Yes, I know. Yes.

0:33:540:33:56

Oh, wow.

0:34:130:34:14

Wow.

0:34:180:34:20

Yeah, yeah.

0:34:210:34:22

That was quite a harsh thing to hear.

0:34:270:34:30

It shows how much the Partition changed people's mentality.

0:34:300:34:36

You grow up having so much faith and trust in your family doctor

0:34:360:34:40

and then he expresses his political views

0:34:400:34:44

and all of a sudden you want to kill him.

0:34:440:34:47

That's what happened in the Partition,

0:34:470:34:50

that's what it made people become.

0:34:500:34:53

I can't understand it.

0:34:530:34:55

It doesn't compute in my head how you get from that to that.

0:34:550:34:59

As Asad and Sameer discover the dangers their Muslim family faced

0:35:010:35:05

in India during Partition,

0:35:050:35:07

in Bangladesh, Binita is in the remote village of Mandari,

0:35:070:35:12

where her Hindu father Bim and his family were terrorised

0:35:120:35:16

by a Muslim mob from outside the village.

0:35:160:35:19

SINGING

0:35:210:35:24

She's come to meet one of the few surviving Hindu families

0:35:250:35:28

left in the area from that time.

0:35:280:35:30

ALL ULULATE

0:35:380:35:40

Ray Mohangal is 90 years old

0:35:490:35:52

and was a good friend of Binita's grandfather.

0:35:520:35:55

HE SOBS

0:35:590:36:02

HE SPEAKS TEARFULLY IN OWN LANGUAGE

0:36:030:36:06

So, you knew my family?

0:36:180:36:19

One of those small boys would have been my father, Bimal.

0:36:190:36:22

Did you know Bimal?

0:36:220:36:24

Can you tell me what happened when the riots started?

0:36:350:36:40

Why were you scared? What was happening?

0:36:460:36:49

So, you lost 16 people in one house?

0:36:580:37:02

And how did you manage to stay here?

0:37:280:37:31

I know it was probably quite painful

0:37:390:37:41

to talk about some of those memories,

0:37:410:37:43

but we didn't even know if any of my family's friends were still alive,

0:37:430:37:48

so it's just amazing to see you.

0:37:480:37:51

Thank you.

0:37:580:38:00

ALL PLAY MUSIC AND SING

0:38:000:38:03

The attacks by Muslim gangs on villages

0:38:040:38:06

across Bengal's Noakhali district, almost a year before Partition,

0:38:060:38:11

were designed to clear the area of its Hindu population.

0:38:110:38:16

Up to 5,000 Hindus were slaughtered

0:38:160:38:20

and thousands more forcibly converted to Islam.

0:38:200:38:24

A further 200,000 people,

0:38:240:38:26

including Bim and his family, became refugees.

0:38:260:38:29

-BIM:

-The flashback comes often

0:38:310:38:34

and brings you back absolutely vividly.

0:38:340:38:38

There's a feeling of hurt.

0:38:380:38:40

You can't get it away from your mind.

0:38:470:38:51

It makes you wonder why these things happen.

0:38:510:38:54

I wasn't expecting to meet any Hindu families that were still alive

0:38:570:39:01

and still exist now alongside their Muslim neighbours.

0:39:010:39:04

It would have been really, really hard for my dad to come back,

0:39:060:39:09

to hear people talking about his father with such fond memories -

0:39:090:39:13

I don't know how he would have coped, to be honest.

0:39:130:39:16

It's good that he didn't come.

0:39:180:39:19

In the Bengal state capital, Calcutta, a year before Partition,

0:39:250:39:30

trouble was already brewing.

0:39:300:39:33

Inflammatory speeches by both Hindu and Muslim leaders

0:39:330:39:36

meant the tensions in the city were already high.

0:39:360:39:39

Then the Muslim League announced a nationwide "Day Of Action"

0:39:390:39:44

and this was to prove disastrous for the people of Calcutta.

0:39:440:39:49

Mandy's grandfather, Arthur Wise,

0:39:500:39:52

had already sent his family back to Britain,

0:39:520:39:55

but had stayed on in the city to try and broker peace

0:39:550:39:58

between the two sides.

0:39:580:39:59

He filmed as the riots broke out.

0:40:010:40:05

-ARTHUR:

-The slaughter was terrible.

0:40:050:40:07

Coming with their huge sticks

0:40:070:40:10

and batons to kill one another,

0:40:100:40:12

including knives, because that's what they were doing.

0:40:120:40:16

They were stabbing one another on the roadside.

0:40:160:40:19

They would even go in and kill the children and women.

0:40:190:40:22

Mandy has never seen this footage before.

0:40:220:40:26

I know we had home movies from when we were kids.

0:40:280:40:30

He used to show me when they were...

0:40:300:40:32

The children were running out in the garden,

0:40:320:40:34

but I had no idea he had things like that.

0:40:340:40:37

-PAMELA:

-My father went out with his cine camera,

0:40:370:40:40

just so that people could see something of what happened.

0:40:400:40:44

Thousands were killed.

0:40:460:40:47

They were lying all over the streets.

0:40:480:40:50

The vultures even came into the city,

0:40:500:40:53

and were attacking these corpses.

0:40:530:40:56

It was a dreadful sight.

0:40:560:40:58

That is absolutely awful, that that happened.

0:40:590:41:02

And the fact that Grandpa stayed here

0:41:020:41:04

in such a dangerous time... he did well.

0:41:040:41:07

The riots that Arthur Wise filmed in August 1946

0:41:090:41:14

became known around the world as "The Great Calcutta Killings."

0:41:140:41:18

They set the pattern for the Partition violence

0:41:180:41:21

that was to engulf India over the next two years.

0:41:210:41:24

More than 5,000 Hindus and Muslims died in less than ten days,

0:41:250:41:30

with the British authorities seemingly unable

0:41:300:41:33

or unwilling to intervene.

0:41:330:41:35

BELL RINGS

0:41:390:41:41

-Hello, I'm Mandy.

-Hello.

0:41:430:41:45

Mandy has come to meet Gauranga Chattopadhyay

0:41:450:41:47

and his childhood Hindu friends, Santosh and Sharm Sunder.

0:41:470:41:52

My name's Mandy...

0:41:520:41:53

As boys, they witnessed first-hand

0:41:530:41:56

the violence that her grandfather filmed.

0:41:560:41:59

16th August. We had no clue what was going to happen.

0:41:590:42:03

We knew that it had been declared as "Direct Action Day".

0:42:030:42:08

We thought there'd be some violence,

0:42:080:42:12

but nobody imagined anything like that to happen.

0:42:120:42:16

We saw dead bodies lying by the roadside,

0:42:160:42:19

in the middle of the road, pavements.

0:42:190:42:22

The next morning, there was no milkman.

0:42:220:42:25

And we went out of our house,

0:42:250:42:27

and there were some young men at the corner.

0:42:270:42:29

My father said, "I'm looking for the milkman."

0:42:290:42:32

He said, "Your milkman doesn't exist any more."

0:42:320:42:36

That must've been really frightening.

0:42:360:42:38

The initial killing was the Hindus were being killed.

0:42:380:42:41

And later on, Hindus killed Muslims.

0:42:410:42:43

It happened both ways.

0:42:430:42:45

My father was walking near the heart of Calcutta.

0:42:450:42:49

A man came out of the mosque,

0:42:490:42:51

stabbed him and slit his stomach,

0:42:510:42:55

and went back to the mosque.

0:42:550:42:57

He survived for about three days,

0:42:570:43:00

and then he didn't.

0:43:000:43:02

I'm really sorry for your loss.

0:43:050:43:07

I mean, that must've really affected you, you were, you were young...

0:43:090:43:13

14.

0:43:130:43:14

And the eldest son has the very unpleasant religious duty

0:43:140:43:20

of setting the body on fire,

0:43:200:43:22

by putting the fire flame on his, starting with his mouth.

0:43:220:43:28

I had to do that.

0:43:300:43:32

Very difficult to...

0:43:330:43:35

forget that feeling, get over that feeling.

0:43:350:43:38

I'm sure it was.

0:43:380:43:40

Sorry if I've been emotional, please excuse me.

0:43:420:43:44

We're all feeling a bit emotional.

0:43:440:43:46

My father was killed

0:43:460:43:48

literally a stone's throw from where British soldiers were standing.

0:43:480:43:54

No action was taken.

0:43:540:43:56

I... I'd like to apologise

0:43:580:43:59

for anything that you feel now about the British.

0:43:590:44:03

Before I came to India,

0:44:030:44:05

and I met people and saw these films,

0:44:050:44:08

I had no idea what had happened here.

0:44:080:44:10

You don't know, you don't know what happened.

0:44:100:44:13

To meet people who were actually there during that time,

0:44:150:44:17

who'd lost loved ones... It's absolutely horrible, sorry...

0:44:170:44:20

I felt guilty, and yet I know that Grandpa tried to make things right.

0:44:240:44:30

I'm glad he did the films,

0:44:300:44:32

and I'm glad that people can see what happened.

0:44:320:44:35

But when you meet the people who were actually there during the time,

0:44:350:44:38

it became very, very real.

0:44:380:44:41

Sorry.

0:44:410:44:43

As Partition violence spread throughout India,

0:44:470:44:50

the British Army prepared to leave the country.

0:44:500:44:53

Troops were ordered not to intervene

0:44:530:44:56

unless British lives were at risk.

0:44:560:44:58

And while over a million Indians died between 1946 and 1948,

0:44:580:45:04

only a handful of British casualties were recorded.

0:45:040:45:07

The worst violence of all took place in Punjab,

0:45:100:45:13

after the line of Partition was announced,

0:45:130:45:15

as millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims

0:45:150:45:19

fled their ancestral homes.

0:45:190:45:21

Caravans, or kafillahs, of refugees

0:45:210:45:23

stretched for miles in both directions

0:45:230:45:26

and made for easy targets -

0:45:260:45:28

as did the packed trains full of desperate families

0:45:280:45:31

trying to make their way to safety.

0:45:310:45:33

MUEZZIN CALL TO PRAYER

0:45:330:45:36

In the Indian town of Ambala, Asad and Sameer

0:45:400:45:42

have come to the central mosque.

0:45:420:45:45

Asad used to worship here as a child

0:45:450:45:48

before his family fled the town by train

0:45:480:45:50

days after the Partition line was announced.

0:45:500:45:53

Oh, God, look at that!

0:45:530:45:55

-"Welcome, Syed Asad Ali, with best compliments"!

-Wow.

0:45:550:46:00

The head of the mosque, Maulana Qasim, is waiting to meet them.

0:46:000:46:04

After Partition, the mosque fell into disrepair,

0:46:450:46:48

and only reopened in the 1960s

0:46:480:46:50

as Muslims from other areas of India migrated here.

0:46:500:46:55

Assalamu Alaikum.

0:46:550:46:56

Dr Mohammed Khaled has been researching what's happened

0:46:560:46:59

to the original Muslim residents of towns like Ambala.

0:46:590:47:04

Some Muslims, they migrated to Pakistan.

0:47:040:47:07

-On their own, sensing there is trouble.

-Yeah, sure.

0:47:070:47:10

And there were those people who were of good means,

0:47:100:47:12

high means, middle class.

0:47:120:47:14

That's why my father left Ambala

0:47:140:47:16

as soon as he could, in the middle of the night.

0:47:160:47:20

But those people who did not have means,

0:47:200:47:23

who did not have any wherewithal,

0:47:230:47:26

they had to go on foot.

0:47:260:47:27

-Right.

-And there were caravans, kafillahs, of thousands of people.

0:47:270:47:31

And these are the papers

0:47:310:47:33

from the former British civil servant at that time here.

0:47:330:47:37

See this.

0:47:370:47:39

"A foot convoy of about 15,000 Muslims under a military escort

0:47:390:47:44

"was attacked by a big mob of Sikhs,

0:47:440:47:47

"armed with several types of dangerous weapons.

0:47:470:47:50

"The escort did not fire on the attackers.

0:47:500:47:53

"About 4,000 Muslims were killed by the Sikhs."

0:47:530:47:56

Just from one kafillah, one caravan. They were sitting ducks.

0:47:560:48:00

Was there any provocation that made them a target?

0:48:000:48:03

Read... Read this.

0:48:030:48:04

This one, "August 22. Up train which left Ambala in the afternoon

0:48:040:48:09

"was stopped at Doraha

0:48:090:48:11

"where a large crowd of armed Sikhs

0:48:110:48:13

"set upon the Muslim passengers,

0:48:130:48:15

"shouting Muslim atrocities in Amritsar are to be avenged."

0:48:150:48:20

-Yeah.

-Right, so this was a revenge attack?

0:48:200:48:23

You know, on both sides, people said that we are avenging

0:48:230:48:26

what is happening on the other side of the border.

0:48:260:48:28

But it was a kind of genocide.

0:48:280:48:30

-Yeah.

-It was not massacre, it was a genocide.

0:48:300:48:34

You were just a child at that time.

0:48:340:48:36

-Yeah.

-And thousands of people lost their lives,

0:48:360:48:39

and you were travelling through this area at the same time.

0:48:390:48:42

It's amazing you survived.

0:48:420:48:44

Yeah, you're lucky that you survived, your family survived.

0:48:440:48:48

When Partition was announced, about 60% of the Punjab was Muslim.

0:48:480:48:52

But after the Partition, in Indian Punjab, only 1.6% were left.

0:48:520:48:58

It is totally ethnic cleansing!

0:48:580:49:01

CHANTING

0:49:010:49:05

Knowing more about where it all started, visiting these places,

0:49:090:49:13

makes me realise that as a child

0:49:130:49:17

my grandfather had no idea how much danger he was in.

0:49:170:49:21

But his father knew,

0:49:210:49:22

which is why he took them out of there in the dead of night.

0:49:220:49:25

It makes me feel sorry for him,

0:49:270:49:30

for having to go through that as a child.

0:49:300:49:32

And I understand a bit more about why

0:49:320:49:34

my grandfather gets so emotional.

0:49:340:49:37

Because so many years on, he's still...not at rest.

0:49:370:49:42

Back in the Noakhali region of Bangladesh,

0:49:480:49:51

Binita is exploring how her Hindu father Bim and his family

0:49:510:49:55

escaped the violence that descended on their village.

0:49:550:49:59

During these four, five days of severe trauma and terror,

0:50:020:50:06

my father went and saw one of his powerful Muslim friends,

0:50:060:50:11

Mr Mojafa Mir, and I remember him very well.

0:50:110:50:15

He was a regular visitor to our house.

0:50:150:50:17

And he arranged a small boat for us to escape,

0:50:170:50:21

which will be pulled by two local Muslims.

0:50:210:50:24

The riverboats in Noakhali have changed very little

0:50:260:50:29

in the last 70 years, and Binita has come to see one.

0:50:290:50:32

Her father, Bim, and nine members of his family

0:50:320:50:35

hid themselves in a boat just like this

0:50:350:50:38

to escape the violence in Mandari.

0:50:380:50:40

We got into the stern of the boat, so that nobody can see us.

0:50:400:50:45

My little brother was on top of my mum,

0:50:450:50:47

and we others on top of each other.

0:50:470:50:50

It was hot, sweaty.

0:50:520:50:55

We could hardly breathe.

0:50:550:50:57

The minute they got onto this boat, they became refugees

0:51:020:51:05

and they left behind their ancestral lands.

0:51:050:51:09

The big house, their wealth.

0:51:090:51:11

And they didn't know where they were going,

0:51:110:51:13

what the future held for them.

0:51:130:51:15

I get a pang of fear, even myself, now, thinking about it.

0:51:170:51:22

And as we are going, we were stopped. "Who goes there?"

0:51:240:51:27

We were there and trembling now.

0:51:270:51:30

Those two people were wonderful. They covered us up.

0:51:300:51:34

They said, "This is... The local Muslim family is travelling."

0:51:340:51:39

We owe our life to them.

0:51:410:51:43

Before she leaves Mandari, Binita has come to meet Abdul Zahir,

0:51:560:52:00

the grandson of Mojafa Mir,

0:52:000:52:02

who provided the boats for her family to escape.

0:52:020:52:06

My father wanted me to come here

0:52:060:52:08

and thank you and your family for what they did 70 years ago.

0:52:080:52:13

My dad told me that there was two men that pulled the boat.

0:52:220:52:27

Wow, so it's this gentleman here?

0:52:420:52:45

Thank you. It's so nice to meet you.

0:52:470:52:50

OK.

0:53:040:53:05

I... I... I just want to thank your family,

0:53:130:53:18

and for you,

0:53:180:53:20

you saved...my...my dad's life.

0:53:200:53:23

You helped my family escape.

0:53:230:53:25

-Thank you so much. Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:53:270:53:31

I have a photograph to show you.

0:53:310:53:36

My Baba, here.

0:53:360:53:38

This is the little boy who you saved.

0:53:380:53:42

Bimal, he's Jamini Mohan's little boy.

0:53:420:53:46

And then this is me and my family.

0:53:460:53:49

My husband and my daughters.

0:53:490:53:52

It was just amazing to have the opportunity on behalf of my dad

0:53:570:54:00

to say thank you to some of the people who saved his life.

0:54:000:54:03

Particularly as they were Muslims,

0:54:030:54:04

and they actually put their own lives at risk by helping my family.

0:54:040:54:10

Back in Kolkata,

0:54:200:54:21

Mandy is retracing her grandfather Arthur Wise's attempts

0:54:210:54:24

to bring peace to the city as Partition approached.

0:54:240:54:28

She's come to one of its most famous buildings

0:54:280:54:31

to meet historian Dr Rudrangshu Mukherjee.

0:54:310:54:34

Even before I welcome you,

0:54:360:54:37

I must request you to take your slippers off.

0:54:370:54:40

OK.

0:54:400:54:42

Welcome to Gandhi Bhavan.

0:54:420:54:45

This area was largely slums and hovels

0:54:450:54:48

where very poor Muslims lived.

0:54:480:54:50

It had been witness to awful violence,

0:54:500:54:53

Hindu-Muslim violence.

0:54:530:54:55

Gandhi came and stayed here two days before India's independence.

0:54:550:55:00

-He lived here?

-Yes. And Gandhi deliberately chose to live here

0:55:000:55:04

to establish peace between Hindus and Muslims.

0:55:040:55:07

So, let me take you inside Gandhi Bhavan.

0:55:070:55:10

By August 1947,

0:55:130:55:15

Mahatma Ghandi was one of the most famous men in the world

0:55:150:55:19

and revered throughout India by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike.

0:55:190:55:24

His 30-year campaign of non-violent protest

0:55:240:55:27

had forced the British Empire to accept Indian independence.

0:55:270:55:31

But now he was faced with an even greater challenge -

0:55:310:55:35

to stop the violence of Partition.

0:55:350:55:37

So, this is an important building for Gandhi.

0:55:390:55:42

This is an important building for Kolkata.

0:55:420:55:45

But for you, personally, this is also an important building.

0:55:450:55:49

-Oh, why?

-Your grandfather came to this building to meet Gandhi.

0:55:490:55:53

-He met him?

-Yes.

0:55:530:55:56

-ARTHUR:

-Gandhi had confidence in me

0:55:560:55:58

as go-between the Mohammedans and the Hindus.

0:55:580:56:02

As I walked in, he said, "Give Mr Wise a chair."

0:56:020:56:08

I said, "Mahatma Gandhi, I will sit where you're sitting.

0:56:080:56:13

"And that's on the floor."

0:56:130:56:15

This is a photograph of Gandhi's Central Peace Committee.

0:56:150:56:20

There is only one member who is neither a Muslim nor a Hindu.

0:56:200:56:24

He's the only white face there.

0:56:240:56:26

-Yes, that's right.

-He never told me any of this!

0:56:260:56:29

That committee, of which Mr Wise was a very active member,

0:56:290:56:32

was the beginning of the establishment of peace in Kolkata.

0:56:320:56:37

I think that makes your grandfather a very unique individual.

0:56:370:56:42

I'm really pleased that

0:56:420:56:44

it wasn't just me seeing that,

0:56:440:56:46

-that other people saw who he was.

-Yes.

0:56:460:56:48

Two weeks after the Partition line was announced,

0:56:510:56:54

as violence still raged across India and Pakistan,

0:56:540:56:57

Gandhi and his committee held a huge rally in Calcutta

0:56:570:57:02

where hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims

0:57:020:57:05

came together in peace.

0:57:050:57:07

Arthur Wise filmed the event from the speaker's platform.

0:57:090:57:13

He left Calcutta shortly afterwards to rejoin his family in Britain.

0:57:130:57:19

I'm very proud of my grandpa.

0:57:270:57:29

I basically thought he was one of the rich English

0:57:290:57:32

who had a very, very nice life,

0:57:320:57:34

and had to leave India because there was trouble.

0:57:340:57:38

But I feel now that he was a very important man,

0:57:380:57:42

and I hope that what he did do doesn't get forgotten

0:57:420:57:46

any more than the awful things that happened

0:57:460:57:49

shouldn't be forgotten.

0:57:490:57:51

Mandy's Partition journey has come to an end.

0:57:520:57:55

Next time, Sameer traces

0:57:570:58:00

his grandfather's dramatic train journey across Punjab.

0:58:000:58:03

Binita discovers how her refugee father, Bim, and his family,

0:58:040:58:08

escape to India.

0:58:080:58:10

And I'll be going on my own Partition journey,

0:58:110:58:13

as me and my mum become the first members of our family

0:58:130:58:16

to return to my grandfather's village,

0:58:160:58:18

which is just over the border,

0:58:180:58:20

a few miles in that direction, in Pakistan.

0:58:200:58:23

Anita Rani presents the extraordinary and emotional stories of three British families - one Muslim, one Hindu and one British colonial - who lived in India 70 years ago, at the time of Partition.

Binita Kane travels to Bangladesh to discover what happened when her Hindu father Bim had to flee his ancestral village as a young boy. Mandy Duke travels to Calcutta, scene of some of the worst partition violence, to uncover the amazing story of her grandfather Arthur Wise, who filmed there as violence broke out. And Asad Ali Syed and his grandson Sameer, two British Muslims with Pakistani heritage, journey to the Indian town of Ambala, to search for the house where Asad was born before his family were forced to flee to Pakistan.