Sikh family gave son away to grieving Muslim couple


Dhillon Sa'aB™
Staff member
A promise is a promise — and for the past 62 years, Charan Singh, also known as Manjur Jugnu, now pushing 80, has smugly kept a pledge made by his father, Master Maan Singh, to Noor Mohammad and his wife. The Muslim couple had lost both their sons in the orgy of violence during partition and Maan Singh had given his only son, whom they’d named Charan, to the Muslim couple.

Jugnu’s life story is stuff of the celluloid: a youth whose love story began in Punjab’s hinterland but couldn’t blossom; then, amid blood-thirsty mobs of Hindus and Muslims, that unbelievable gesture by his father towards the Muslim couple, which took him across the Radcliffe Line into Pakistan.

A strapping young lad of 17 in 1947, Jugnu was in love with a girl in Indian Punjab. But when his father asked him to move to Pakistan with an unknown Muslim couple, he didn’t ask why — his father’s promise was a matter of honour. Jugnu left for Pakistan, where he settled with his new parents at Faislabad. His heart pined for his motherland, his love and his family. The pain of parting made a poet out of him, and that’s how he acquired ‘Jugnu’ as a nom de plume.

With time, the only son of Master Maan Singh saw both his fathers — one biological and the other foster — dying. But now he has a family to look after in Pakistan, his country. Talking to TOI over phone from Faislabad on Thursday, Jugnu said that he along with his parents lived at Ghuman village in Batala tehsil near Amritsar. In 1947, when Partition riots broke out, the Ghuman elders decided not to harm Muslims or their properties. Rather, the villagers helped them reach Pakistan. ‘‘The village elders also announced compensation for any loss to Muslims,’’ Jugnu said.

‘‘Noor Mohammad and his wife came to our village for help after losing their two young sons,’’ he said. Since his father had said the loss to Muslim families would be compensated, Noor Mohammed wept and reminded him about his dead sons. Maan Singh had to honour the pledge of village elders.

‘‘The Muslim couple stayed for 16 days at their home, disconsolate. By then, my father had decided to give me away to Noor Mohammad,’’ said Jugnu. He vividly remembers when his father said, ‘‘Mere muh to bhavaen galat gal nikal gayee hovey, par hun tu meri gal puri karni hai (I might have said something wrong but now you have to keep my words).’’

Noor got Jugnu married to Safia, the daughter of a relative. They lived for a while in Lahore, and later moved to Faislabad. But Noor’s poverty forced Jugnu to stop his studies and do odd jobs for a living. He visited India in 1952 and also saw his village. But he has never returned since then. Noor died in 1963, while Maan Singh passed away in 1970.

He said he used to miss his parents and his country and started writing poems and became famous in Faisalabad as ‘Manjur Jugnu’. He now runs a small shop selling grocery while his 24-year-old son Imran runs a separate shop in the same city. He has four daughters but is reluctant to tell their names.

As also about his adolescent lady love: ‘‘Please don’t ask about her, it’s too personal,’’ he said.

Source: TOI