Anxious to meet his grandchildren after a long gap of three years, 77-year-old Syed Murtaba Raza boarded the Samjhauta Express from Lahore on September 7, oblivious of the communal riots that had broken out in this district the same day. Dashing all his hopes of a warm reception, co-passengers on a train to Muzaffarnagar informed him that curfew had been imposed and the entire city virtually turned into a fortress.
“I was shocked to know about the communal clashes. The last time I talked to my son, he did not give any such indication. It is so painful to hear that people have been killed in the mindless violence fomented for selfish political interests. The disputes of whatever nature could have been resolved amicably. There was no need for them to take up arms and kill their own brothers …. Now I am stuck at the railway station as, due to curfew, my son cannot pick me up,” said Raza, a retired Pakistani Railway employee.
Raza was born and brought up at Joli, a village on the outskirts of Muzaffarnagar, where communal violence had erupted the day a “khap mahapanchayat” was organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
Raza, who last visited his son in 2010, said he had no intention of becoming a Pakistani citizen when he left for Karachi way back in 1957.
“I had gone there on a three-month visa to attend the last rites of my close relatives who were killed in a house collapse. Days before the visa was to expire, I was instructed by the Pakistani authorities to leave. I then paid farewell visits to my relatives, one of whom introduced me to her husband. He was a high-ranking officer in the armed forces. The influential officer took me to a government department and at his instance the officials prepared my citizenship papers in no time. Back in Pakistan, I have a son, grandchildren and several other relatives who had migrated after the Partition,” he said, showing his Pakistani passport.
Police personnel, who spotted Raza loitering on the railway platform, enquired about the purpose of his visit and helped him contact his son on the phone.