Monday, February 14, 2011
Lal's ancestors, especially his grandfather Pundit Ganda Mal, was highly respected by the Pakistan's lawless tribes, who, despite his being a Hindu would call him to Jirga (panchayat) to settle disputes in the now forbidden tribal Orkazai Agency area of Pakistan.
Jagdish is one among many Pakistani Hindus living in various parts of Punjab, who fearing persecution at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists and the Taliban had arrived in India, leaving behind their plush properties and running businesses, to find a safe haven for themselves and their children.
His five children and wife Santosh vividly remember the holidays they spent in their walnut orchard in the tribal areas, but now the area was under the control of local Muslim fundamentalists who had threatened people like Jagdish to leave the country. As the Talibans advanced towards Peshawar, the family decided to move to India, leaving behind their belongings.
On October 2, 2008, Jagidsh Lal along with his parents, children, wife, brother, Bakshish Lal, and five more families had arrived in India aboard the Samjhauta Express and found shelter in Khandwala, where some of his relatives and friends were already living in Peshori Mohalla.
'Being a Pak national it was not easy to settle here as everyone looked at us with suspicion,' said Jagidsh, who paid a sum, which the family had brought from Pakistan, towards a rented house and Rs 25,000 as a goodwill amount for a shop in Putlighar, where he could run his ancestral ayurvedic medicine clinic.
In late 2009, Talibans started retracting from Peshawar due to Pakistan government's assault on them and the conditions started improving and Jagdish Lal decided to send his brother Bakshish Lal back to Peshawar to run the clinic as he couldn't find clientele for himself in Amritsar. 'But media, here, projected our migration in such a manner that back home in Peshawar other Hindus came under criticism even from moderate Muslims. So, we stopped talking to media,' said Santosh. 'Do you think I will send back my brother to danger, no, the conditions have improved there and he is running his clinic well,' he said.
Living on extended visa, here, in India, Jagdish Lal said he wants his children to settle here in India, but he would like to return to his roots since the conditions were far better in Peshawar.