June 8, 2023

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Even after 75 years of India-Pakistan partition, divided families continue to suffer

Karachi/NewDelhiAugust 13 – Brothers Ali Hasan Bagai and Syed Abid Bagai, separated for 75 years by the partition of India and Pakistan, speak to their families via video call, with words and tears that unite them but no hope of reunion.

Three-quarters of a century after their countries broke away from British rule in 1947, thousands of families like the Bhagai brothers are still torn apart.

“I regret not being able to touch them,” younger brother Syed told Reuters in New Delhi. It was good to see Ali Hasan in Karachi, but nothing like “hugging, touching, shaking hands or talking to them” in person.

Muslim-majority Pakistan celebrates its independence on Sunday, while its Hindu-majority arch-nemesis celebrates its independence on Monday.

The Bakkai families last met eight years ago, when the elder brother traveled to New Delhi. According to the brothers, the two families tried several times to get visas but were rejected by both parties.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full. Tensions peaked in 2019, with each sending warplanes into the other’s airspace.

After World War II, Britain carved out new countries as its empire, fueling massive sectarian immigration in both directions, marred by bloodshed and violence on both sides.

About 15 million people moved countries, mostly for religious reasons, and more than a million people died of religious unrest in the 1947 partition, according to independent estimates.

Amidst the split, Bagkai could not share happy or sad moments. Ali Hassan, the elder brother, was not allowed to attend the Indian funeral of his two sisters and their mother in New Delhi.

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