Shocking story of a Sikh woman who was left in Pakistan during partition and who married a Muslim had kids, then sent to India, reunited with first husband had kids, and now reunites with Muslim family.
A 77-year-old Indian woman who has had two homelands, two husbands and two religions has finally brought her family together after decades of separation.
“My wish was to see my children again once in my lifetime and my wish has come true,” said Harbans Kore at the family reunion in Pakistan.
Ms Kore, a Sikh, had travelled from the Indian city of Ahmedabad to meet the Muslim son and daughter she had not seen for more than 40 years.
Ms Kore’s story began at the time of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
She and her husband were Kashmiri Sikhs living in the village of Pataika, 16 kilometres (11 miles) north-east of Muzaffarabad in what is now Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Tensions between Muslims and those Hindus and Sikhs still living in the area were such that after a few years Ms Kore’s husband fled to India.
I wish she could stay with us but she cannot because she has to go back. She has a family there also
Zeenat Bibi, daughter
She was left behind.
Assuming the husband had gone forever, Ms Kore converted to Islam, marrying a Muslim man named Hadayatullah.
Together they had a son, Manzoor Hussein Awan, and a daughter, Zeenat Bibi.
But in the mid-1950s, Ms Kore was forced to leave for India under an agreement between Islamabad and Delhi to reunite women with their original families. That was when her separation from daughter Zeenat and son Manzoor began.
In India, Ms Kore re-converted to Sikhism and had another two daughters and a son with her first husband.
For many years, the members of the divided family did not know of each other’s whereabouts or even if they were alive.
Then seven years ago Zeenat, now 53, and her brother, 48, found out through a relative that their mother was still alive
The family wanted to meet immediately but heightened tension between the now nuclear rivals India and Pakistan prevented it.”It was just two years ago that we were able to locate her telephone number and then we spoke by telephone, wrote letters and exchanged pictures,” said Zeenat.
It was not until the recent thaw and the resumption of a bus service between the Pakistani city of Lahore and India’s capital, Delhi, in July that their dreams were realised.
Ms Kore finally crossed back into Pakistan last week, accompanied by her Sikh son, Dalveer Singh, and her daughter-in-law.
They were greeted by Zeenat and Manzoor, along with grandchildren and other family members, at the Wagah border crossing.
One of Ms Kore’s Sikh daughters joined the reunion this week, along with the daughter’s husband and own daughter.
Ms Kore said: “It is lovely to see my children after all these years. I am lucky to see my son and daughter and my grandchildren again after such a long time and I feel so happy.”
But one person Ms Kore could not be reunited with was her Muslim husband – he died two years after she left for India.Ms Kore and other family members are staying with her family in Muzaffarabad until the middle of December.
Ms Kore wants to show her ancestral village to her Indian children but is not sure if the authorities in Muzaffarabad will allow her to go there.
Zeenat said: “We know how we suffered all these years and how badly we missed our mother. I wish she could stay with us but she cannot because she has to go back. She has a family there also.”
Her only other regret was that her mother could not attend the wedding of her son last October.
She invited the family but they could not get the visas or bus tickets in time.
Manzoor said of the reunion: “We have been deprived of our mother’s love and affection for more than four decades and now we are so happy to meet our mother and family.
“It is the first time in my life I have found this happiness. Everybody is happy – my wife, my children, my sister and every member of our family that we are together again.”