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Welcome to Witness, here at the British Library in London.
This month we have another five people who have witnessed
extraordinary moments in history first-hand.
We will be remembering a royal wedding in Japan,
a remarkable feat of engineering under the Alps, and a new
But first, we are going back to August 1947, when India gained
independence from Britain and was split into two
countries, mainly Hindu India and mainly Muslim Pakistan.
Partition affected the lives of millions of families.
Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan's was one of them.
I am Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, known as Sulaiman to family and friends,
I am from a Muslim family which once ruled a very large feudal estate,
including the beautiful a palace in Mahmudabad in
But the Indian government is laying claim to my property,
No-one is paying for it, so these days, everything is crumbling.
The partition of India into two states, a Muslim majority
state called Pakistan, and a Hindu majority
It was estimated that one million people died,
Some Muslims went to the state of Pakistan.
It was not just the country that was divided.
In the late '50s, my father took Pakistani nationality,
and that is when my family's problems began, because when India
and Pakistan went to war in 1965, the government laid
There was an act of Parliament called the Enemy Property Act,
which empowered the government to take over temporarily
It was not just our family which was affected.
The properties are worth billions of dollars.
But our issue is that only my father took Pakistani nationality.
We had to fight our case from the lowest to the highest
And the Supreme Court judge said that by no stretch of imagination
could I be considered an enemy, and considered me the heir
to my father's properties, but then the government went
and changed the laws and the battle has begun again.
I suppose, like so many people in India and Pakistan,
we are still caught up in the repercussions of partition
and the acrimonious relations between India and Pakistan.
In a way, I have been forced to live in the past.
And with apologies to Yeats, I feel as if I am drowning
in a beauty that has long since faded from this Earth.
Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, speaking to us from his beautiful
Next, to the summer of 1965, when a remarkable feat
The Mont Blanc tunnel runs for 11 kilometres under the Alps.
The dream of decades has come true and the Paris-Rome motor journey
To both France and Italy this was an historic occasion.
The joint opening ceremony was performed by General DeGaulle
From here, this looks a pretty big hole, but when you think
of the size of the mountain through which it is being driven,
it is rather like trying to drive a needle through the granite
Franco Cuaz is 91 now, and long retired, but he still lives
Now, in 1977 a state hospital near Paris began quietly changing
Obstetrician Dr Michel Odent believed that childbirth had
He wanted a more natural approach, so he introduced a pool
There is something special about the relationship
As soon as it is lifted into the air, its lungs
Dr Michel Odent, obstetrician, this is his maternity unit,
run according to his deeply felt beliefs about women
The right place to give birth would be the right place to make love.
When I arrived in 1962, the way women were giving birth
was the same as in any hospital, on a table, with legs in stirrups.
But gradually, gradually, we reconsidered everything.
We have introduced the concept of home-like birthing rooms,
a smaller room with no visible medical equipment,
to help women to feel more at home in the hospital.
At a time when they still have the vision as hospital
as a place where you come when you're sick, to die.
1:00am, and a young couple have driven 150 miles
to have their first baby here, in an ordinary state
By changing the environment, we have attracted more women
to our maternity unit, women coming from far away.
And that is why I became an obstetrician!
From 200 births a year, to 1,000 births a year.
A pool to help mothers ease the pain of labour.
Babies are occasionally born under water.
We have painted the walls in blue, dolphins on the walls.
They wanted to enter the birthing pool before it was full.
The main objective was to break the vicious
All medication, all drugs have side-effects.
After being in the womb in warm fluid for nine months,
the baby emerges happily into the warm water
with its life-support system from the mother still intact.
I remember the visit we had with this British obstetrician.
Well, I do not think we would have room for it in our hospital.
And I find Dr Odent's views about it a wonderful mixture
I do not think the word "mysticism" is appropriate.
It is true that I tried to consider in a scientific language
TRANSLATION: It felt like a family atmosphere, very reassuring.
It gave you confidence in yourself, and that is what I needed.
I was pleased when I heard women talking in a positive way
We have to learn from positive experiences,
Michel Odent now lives in London and birthing pools are widely
Remember, you can watch Witness every month on the BBC News Channel,
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Next, we're going back to August 1972 when the dictator Idi Amin
ordered Uganda's Asian minority to leave the country, accusing them
80,000 people were forced to leave Uganda, including Gita Watts.
We had 90 days to sort everything out, to get out of the country and
he sort of made the impression that if we didn't get out on time, we'd
be sitting on fire. More than 12,000 towns and villages like this in
Uganda. In every one of them, the Government is pressing its campaign
against the Asian traders. The Asian community was close-knit, all the
Asian shops inrolled together and we all knew each other. Each family and
all the kids knew each other. We weren't well off but we were
comfortable. People started rushing to the embassies and my dad had to
sign everything over. That means his assets and his business, over to the
Ugandan bank. We were given ?55, that's all he was allowed to take
with him. It was just unbelievable, you know, after everything that he
earned, he was just left with ?55. When we first got to the airport,
people's luggage was opened and people were checking for gold and
money and, for some reason, my parents put a ring on my finger. We
were told to get that ring off me because the ring was so tight we
struggled to take it off. My parents tried everything to take this ring
off. In the end, it was cut off. The scariest bit was that we had
soldiers with guns and knives surrounding us. I was panicking
trying to get this ring off. It was a relief that we had to go on
display when the plane was taking off. My dad was probably thinking,
you know, he got his family out of the country at last. But he was
leaving back something that he really loved, the country that he
loved. The Asians arrived in cold wet weather at Stansted, whole
families arriving with little cash. The few belongings they brought
often seemed of nothing more than sentimental. The time of the year we
arrived it was winter time. That made it worse as well with the rain.
I had not seen the snow before. We were scared because we didn't know
where would we go. I mean, my mum was told to take us to Leicester, a
town called Leicester, we didn't know what it was like, we didn't
know any English when I grew up and went to secondary school I came
through a lot of racial abuse from kids, you know, calling names and
waiting for me outside school and wanting to like beat me up and not
liking my colour. Recently, we just went back to Uganda. I just wanted
to see the country that I was born in and why my parents loved that
country so much. It was nice to go back to the hospital where I was
born. It really was an amazing experience. In all, 60,000 Asians
were expelled from you began Da, nearly half settled in Britain,
including Gita watts. Finally back to 1959 and a ground-breaking Royal
wedding in Japan. Witness has been to Tokyo to meet a TV director whose
coverage of the TV event entranced the nation. So he marries a
commoner, breaking tradition of over 200 years.
The ceremony lasting 15 minutes took place in a wooden shrine within the
walls of the imperial palace. There was no hint of any western influence
in the wedding ritual. In robes such as the members of the imperial
family have worn for centuries, the Crown Prince and his bride were made
man and wife. Burdened by no fewer than 12 kimonos, it took the
Princess three hours to dress. The total weight was 33 pounds.
Cheers accompanied them all the way as they proceeded on their drive
through Tokyo. That is all from us this month. I
hope you will join us next month back here at the British Library.
We'll have five extraordinary accounts of hiss true through the
eyes of people who were there. For now, from me and the rest of the
team at Witness, goodbye. It's certainly looking like a
weekend of two halves. Best of the weather today, cloud and some rain
on the way tomorrow. Especially in the west.