‘I want to visit Pakistan before my death’ – Sardar Son Singh from shrine of Bu Ali Shah Qalander

By Ravi Nitesh,

At a time, when we are witnessing difficult times for communal harmony and situation of conflict between India and Pakistan, at a time when few advocate and propagate hatred in the name of religion and nationality, there still are examples that are shining like a ray of hope.

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Here is one such example of Sardar Son Singh, whose father was a victim of partition and migrated from Pakistan to India, but despite being from a victim family, Son Singh has no hatred against Pakistan or Muslims, instead he advocates peace through his thoughts and actions.

Shrine of Bu Ali Shah Qalander
Shrine of Bu Ali Shah Qalander

It was a visit to Panipat (Haryana) recently. I was there to attend an event on invitation of known social activist Ram Mohan Rai. Panipat is a name known for battles in history books, however, this place has become a ground of peace and social reformation in many senses. Panipat has many crowns who worked for peace and social reformation and particularly for Indo-Pak relations; this place has become more relevant as many people migrated from and to Panipat during partition.

A famous shrine of Bu Ali Shah Qalander is situated in the city and about this sufi saint of Chishti order, it was said that he was very popular and had received fragrance (Bu) of Muhammad. I had the fortune of visiting the shrine resonating great peace, calmness and love.

The whole area that surrounds this shrine is a well-known market and an area that provides livelihood to many. Just outside the gate of this shrine, many shopkeepers are decorating their shops with flowers, itra, agarbattis and chaadars. I found one Sikh named Son Singh there who was dedicatedly selling the same things. It was a wonder that a Sikh was selling chadars, itra, etc to be offered for a Muslim shrine. I talked with him and got to know his interesting, thought-provoking story.

He told me that his family was doing the same thing since last 60 years. He narrated that his father Gurubachan Singh migrated from Shekhupura, Lahore during 1947. He did not remember the exact place from where his father was, but he knew that it was somewhere near Churakhana and the name of place was changed later to Jalalabad (probably) that was situated near a Gurdwara. During partition, his father Gurubachan Singh somehow managed to reach safely to Amritsar first and then went to Pilibheet (in Uttar Pradesh) in search of livelihood. After being in Pilibhit for some time, he came to Panipat, where he settled in one room that was filled with wool as this area belonged to weavers who had migrated to Pakistan. He got married in Panipat with the girl of another migrated family.

Son Singh told that his father Gurubachan Singh, in spite of being a Sikh by religion, knew Urdu language very well and would recite Quran very well. During his stay in Panipat, Gurubachan Singh read Guru Granth Sahab in the morning and then Quran at this shrine. Son Singh remembers that his father used to talk about Maulvi Attaullah of the shrine, who was a good friend of him and Gurubachan Singh used to offer Namaj with him. Son Singh tells that he (his father Gurubachan Singh) did it voluntary and he never minded doing it or never thought it as undoable or un-pious. He also wanted to go to his native place Shekhupura in Pakistan once but later he died and could not go back to see his birth place.

Sardar Son Singh on his shop
Sardar Son Singh on his shop

Son Singh still carries his legacy. He has respect for the Sufi saint Bu Ali Shah Qalander. He tells that he could have opted for other business also but he decided to run the same that his father had started. In spite of a victim of partition, he has no hatred for Pakistan or its people. He is only an eight standard passed and he sadly accepts that he could not learn Urdu. After knowing about me that I am working in a small way for Indo-Pak friendship, he expressed his desire that though his father could not go to Pakistan and died here, but he wants to visit Pakistan at least once before his own death. He also tells that he believes that people of both sides are same and friendly and he imagines that how nice it would be if all these fight and enmity of governments will be stopped.

I could see this Son Singh who in spite of not so educated was educating me about communal harmony and peace bonds, about humanity and love, about tolerance and dedication and many such things together. When we took his permission to leave, he immediately pulled my hand and told a boy working in his shop, ‘Chai aur biscuit lekar aa’ (Bring tea and biscuits soon), we accepted his offer with respect and left. While saying goodbye, he also offered dinner for us at his home with his family. This gesture was extremely unexpected in our present society.

We left though, as we were already late. It was a 10 minute meeting with a stranger but it was so powerful that I was thinking on my way back, if I would become Son Singh.


(Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam and core member, Aaghaz-e-Dosti (a cross border friendship initiative) and secretary, South Asia Fraternity. He tweets at @ravinitesh )