The tension-filled and momentous days of Ramzan that the city witnessed soon after Partition

The Ramzan of 1947 is still vivid in the mind. Just after the first Independence Day Delhi was a city torn by riots, Chandni Chowk, Fatehpuri, Paharganj, Beadonpura, Regarpura and Dev Nagar were some of the centres of rioting. People were scared to go out of their houses but still some brave hearts went about their business undaunted. Mastehasan Farooqui often recalled how he used to visit the grave of Hazrat Kalimullah even during curfew hours. He lived just behind the Jama Masjid and had to cross the main road and a babool thicket, which existed in the place now occupied by Azad Park. 

Though he did not have a pass, the policemen patrolling the streets came to know him because of his piety and devotion to the medieval saint who was entrusted with ecclesiastical reforms during the reign of Aurangzeb. The young Kalimullah had seen the gory sight of the beheading of Sarmad, the Armenian poet and mystic, on the steps of the Jama Masjid. The exalted Sufi that he was, Sarmad is said to have picked up his severed head and danced until Mullah Jeevan the emperor's spiritual guide, pleaded with him to accept the law of nature and submit himself to death lest catastrophe overtake the whole of Delhi.

Hazrat Kalimullah had witnessed many other momentous events and it was to this saint that Farooqui used to make his daily devotions, thanks to the policemen who allowed him to move about. During Ramzan just after Sehri, he went to the grave and spent the morning there. Later as Sajjada Nashin it was he who built up the place into a shrine. Now unfortunately it has become a rabbit warren because of structures that have come up all around. 

Baritone exhortation

Ramzan nights in 1947 did not see much activity in the Walled City. Some shops were open in Matia Mahal, Hauz Qazi, Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk and Fatehpuri. It was from these that rozadars brought their requirements for the last meal before the fast. The Imam of Jama Masjid (grandfather of the present one) went to the mosque with an escort to conduct prayers. But in the middle of the night the eeriness was pierced by the baritone exhortation of an old faqir, Ramzani, who sometimes broke out into a song urging the faithful to abandon sleep and get up for Sehari in time. The stars were still shining in the autumnal sky when he made his rounds, unmindful of the risk he faced from hostile elements.  

Kalloo's tea shop in Machhliwalan attracted a lot of youths who drank “randibaz chai” (half tea half milk) and ate suji biscuits, a speciality those days. Some however preferred to have slices of double roti (loaf bread) made by the local nanbais, soaked in milk, as a light repast before the roza. Then one night Ramzani was attacked by some ruffians who had sneaked in from Daryaganj. His cries did not go unheeded and young men armed with lathis soon came to his rescue. A few days later the shrine of Kalimullah was vandalised and in the following week a beggar woman was criminally assaulted near Edward Park and a namazi wounded in the neck by a turbaned refugee armed with a sword. However these incidents did not disturb the peace and Id-ul-Fitr was celebrated, albeit on a subdued note, after the end of the most tension-ridden Ramzan in Delhi.    

Keywords: PartitionRamzan