I started my college life in an old private Trust run institute called Dayal Singh College which was affiliated to the Punjab University of Lahore (one of the most prestigious Universities in the country at that time). Sardar Dayal Singh was a Sikh – the scion of a feudal, land-owning family who was influenced by the ideals of Brahmo Samaj started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal. Having a philanthropic bent of mind, he started several public institutions in the city of Lahore especially in the field of education.

Brahmo Samaj and a few other reformist movements in India were started in the nineteenth century aimed primarily at the reformation of Hindu society which had stagnated over the centuries. Brahmo Samaj favoured female education, simplicity in marriages and equality of men and women. Some of the leading lights of the Bengal became Brahmos which helped to reverse the tide of Hindus getting lured to Christianity and Islam. Brahmo Samaj tried to reintroduce the concept of widows being allowed to remarry. This had become a taboo amongst most high caste Hindus all over India especially in Bengal. In some areas widows were encouraged to burn themselves as 'Satis” on their husband’s funeral pyre. In case they did not commit Sati, their heads were shaved, and they had to live like ascetics. They were required to wear only one white garment, the 'Dhoti', and eat only frugal vegetarian meals.

Dayal Singh College Trust was supported by the vast lands owned by the founder and his family. Among other public institutions set up by him was the Tribune, a the daily English newspaper from Lahore. This was only the second English daily started in Punjab. The first one was the Civil & Military Gazette (CMG) owned and edited by the British. The Tribune was the first English newspaper in Punjab edited and owned by Indians. It espoused national causes and reforms without fear of the rulers and played significant role in the Independence movement of India. It hired some of the leading nationalist writers as its editors, some of whom courted arrests for the sake of freedom of press. After 50 years of struggle in India before Pakistan was created, the newspaper moved first to Ambala and later to Chandigarh where it built its own offices and a residential colony for its employees. It is now 110 years old - remains a leading English newspaper of North India with its sister dailies in Hindi and Punjabi.

The Dayal Singh College still exists in Lahore with the same name and under a new management with Muslim staff. Two new Dayal Singh Colleges were opened on the Indian side, one in Karnal (in Haryana) and the other in Delhi. The great Dayal Singh Public Library started by the Trust which had lakhs of books is still functioning in Pakistan under the same name It was, in my time, the biggest and largest public library in pre-partitioned Punjab run by a trained Sikh Librarian who had a Ph.D. in Library Science from London University. The Library was only about a mile from my house in Shah Alami Gate but was located on the fashionable Nisbet Road. I learnt to love books in this library.

This library introduced me to the best of the contemporary authors in Urdu and Hindi and I must have spent many hours of my college years in the quiet and very pleasant atmosphere of this Library. Munshi Prem Chand, Sudarshan, Upendra Nath 'Ashk', Ismat Chugtai, Saadat Hussan Manto, Krishan Chander, Shaukat Thanvi, Yash Paul, Khawja Ahmed Abbas, Rajendra Singh Bedi became my favourite authors. I read the Hindi translations of Bengali authors like Rabinder Nath Tagore, Bankim Chander Chattterji and Sharat Chander Chattopadhyay. They were so different from other Hindi and Urdu writers. They depicted the contemporary Bengali society as they saw it – caste and tradition ridden.

Dayal Singh College was located in an upmarket area of the city on Nisbet Road. The campus covered about eight acres and included hockey, football and basket ball grounds as well as a rich College Campus library. My memories are closely connected with their sports grounds. I used to walk (I could not afford a bicycle then) the three kilometres from my house to College. I would attend classes in the morning and often participate or watch the games being played on the grounds in the evening.

The new reading habit I acquired in the Dayal Singh Public Library turned into passion for writing too. By the time I was in the third year of the College, I was selected as the student Editor of the Hindi section of the college magazine. In fourth year, I also became the editor of the English section and continued with that role for the two years of my Masters studies. Student editors worked under the supervision of the Professors of the concerned subjects. Teachers gave full freedom to the student editors while ensuring that we avoided any controversial subjects or anything that might incited communal hatred. Editing the magazine which came out every month was an experience in itself and came in very useful in my later life. It was also of immediate use as it developed my writing skills which are so essential to sitting in examinations especially in humanities. I worked part- time as a night editor in a Hindi daily newspaper during my student days and earned good money to help pay for my higher education. Earning while studying was very uncommon in the India of my days when even graduates were having trouble finding employment.

College fees in those days, by today’s standards, were very low. Average monthly fees were lower than 10 rupees per month per student. Even for a Masters degree, fees did not exceed twenty rupees a month in the late forties. But, twenty rupees was a lot of money. A domestic servant then earned five to ten rupees a month.

Dayal Singh College was a non-denominational institution which admitted students irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. However Muslims, either due to economic backwardness or due to their lack or enthusiasm towards western education were not on its rolls in large numbers. I would guess that only ten to fifteen percent of the students enrolled in the College, were Muslims. Most of them preferred Government College if they qualified for admission or joined the newly-established Islamia College. Beside these Colleges, there were other private Colleges too, like the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College (D.A.V) and the Sanatan Dharam College (S.D) and Forman Christian College (F.C.). For women, Kinnard College was the sought after option for daughters of elite bureaucrats and landlords. My college was a co-educational institution with some girls on its rolls. Government College, Lahore was not co-educational. For Hindu girls, there was also Fateh Chand College.

On getting my Bachelor’s degree, I was persuaded by my mother to take up the job of an Upper Division Clerk in the Punjab Accountant General's Office. Clerical jobs were in plenty for good degree holders in the aftermath of World War II. I had wanted to go for further studies and to do my MA in Economics. However, my mother told me that “my earnings” will help her to run the household which was in a financial mess at the time due to the losses incurred by my older brothers in their business while my father, she argued , was more or less retired due to various ailments. “Who will pay for your education?” she asked. It was a fair question so I decided to quit studies.

This is when I must pay my tribute to the Principal of my College during my time. Professor Dayanath Bhalla had a degree from Cambridge University. He invariably moved about in the College in his academic robes and truly loved his students. I was a student in his B.A. (Honours class- Economics) and he seemed to like me. One evening, I went for a walk on Nisbet Road. Principal Bhalla happened to be standing at the gate of the College in his Principal's robes. He beckoned me and asked, 'Why haven't you joined MA?'

“Sir, I want to take a year off to build my health,” I answered sheepishly.

The Principal was perhaps a psychologist.

'Any financial problems?’ he asked. I just smiled and kept quiet.

“Can you bring twenty rupees and come tomorrow? The rest I will manage,” he said.

Destiny brought some more luck-which changed the course of my life. The next morning my elder brother, Sohan Lal, saw me in a pensive mood and asked why I looked so serious. On his persistent inquiries, I unfolded my secret to him and he promptly put twenty rupees in my hand. I was off to do my Masters. My studies were not interrupted or stalled for financial reasons. Principal Bhalla changed my carreer as otherwise, I would have been an Upper Division Clerk in the Punjab Government. The Principal managed a small scholarship as well as financial grant for me to continue my studies without being a burden on my parents. Soon, I also became totally self-supporting when a Hindi daily newspaper offered me the job of an Assistant editor – on night duty – so that in the morning I could attend my College.

My college years (1940-1946) were set against the backdrop of the last few traumatic years before the independence of India and the tragedy of partition. Relations between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim students were harmonious in Dayal Singh College and there seemed no outward differences in thinking. One of my closest friends during College was Anwar from the Government College, Lahore. We went out for long walks, met at our house and ate together (though my mother had kept separate plates and utensils to serve him- thankfully without his getting to know about this). He was the younger brother of a government doctor based in Kapurthala State on the East Punjab side. During the partition days, I was informed that Anwar did not survive the mob fury in his home town. Among my Muslim contemporaries in College, I recall three students who became well known. Sahir Ludhianvi gave Hindi films some of their immortal songs and he was a great Urdu poet of his time. He did not leave India for Pakistan. Ejaz Batalvi, was another well known poet and became an advocate in Pakistan. Masood Mehamood rose to become the Police Chief of Punjab in Pakistan and ended up getting involved in his country’s political conspiracies and landed in jail.

During those days, protest marches by students were almost daily occurrences. After August 1942, when the ‘ Quit India ‘ call was given by Mahatma Gandhi, there was hardly a day when we were not on strike. These were spontaneous outbursts against the British rulers. Everyone came out of the classes and started slogan shouting for one leader or the other. The entire top leadership of the Congress was in jail. But new leaders came up to offer themselves for arrests. For us students, it was fun to miss classes and to participate in the action for freedom. We tried to unfurl the Congress tricolur flag on top of the College building. If someone tried to stop us – more agitation and more slogans followed.

I remember a few Muslim students tried to unfurl the Muslim league flag on the College building. This led to unpleasantness but there was no fighting. We, in Dayal Singh College, were at our best civilized behaviour. In our College we avoided discussing politics among students belonging to different communities. The slogans in favour of Pakistan were not loud in our campus. I felt that Punjabi Muslims did not believe in the division of India. This was more a U.P. phenomenon. Nevertheless, it was growing at the level of national politics as the Muslim League gained strength and acceptance all over India among Muslims of India.

There were some leading Muslim nationalist leaders in the Congress like Dr. Saifuddin Kichlu of Amritsar and Mian Iftakhar-u-ddin who were both at some stage President of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee. Maulana Abulkalam Azad, the veteran freedom fighter, headed the Indian National Congress. In North West Frontier Province, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (head of the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement) led the Congress Party which was in power in the State. However, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League followers were able to create enough of a communal divide to isolate the Muslim leaders who sided with the Indian National Congress.

The Urdu Press dubbed the Indian National Congress as a Hindu body and Congress Muslims or nationalist Muslims as the “show boys” of the Congress. Muslim Urdu papers like 'Zamindar', 'Inquilab', 'Nawai Waqt', etc wrote in venomous language. In Punjab, Hindu owned Urdu daily newspapers perhaps outnumbered the Muslim-owned Urdu Press and they retaliated with greater venom creating more divide. The editorials of Mahashey Krishan (Pratap), Mahashey Khushal Chand or his son Ranbir (Milap) and Pritam Ziai in Vir Bharat were read mostly by Hindus. It was sort of a competition to win the heart and mind of their respective communities. Both communities tried to outdo each other in hate writing.

As a student, I loved reading Urdu papers representing both the communities. Religion became the focal point of loyalty and not rational discussion of political issues. But who cared?

Out of curiosity, I attended public meetings of the Muslim leaders who sat on the fence or were against the Congress. There were excellent speakers among them like Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, editor of ‘Zamindar’ ( an Urdu daily of Lahore) or Atta Ullah Shah Bukhari, - a leader of Ahrar Movement. Followers of Allama Masharaqi, Khaksar volunteers often marched through the city streets in military dress with Belchas (earth diggers) in hand. It was called the 'Belcha Party' or Khaksars. Fully armed with earth-diggers, they marched through the Hindu areas scaring the residents as they shouted slogans which affected the Hindu psyche. Khaksars were not a pro-Muslim League outfit but they supported fundamentalist Islam- their inspiration came from Arabia – most of them had little pride in their homeland and looked down upon Hindu religion and Hindus of the country. This led to reaction among the Hindus and RSS espoused the cause of Hindu solidarity and unity against designs of the Muslims. Before independence, hardly ten percent Muslims in Punjab were literate – literacy was better among the Hindus and Sikhs. Therefore, it was easy for Mullahs and clergy to excite and provoke Muslims in the name of religion.

Not everyone in India before independence could read or afford to buy a newspaper in the morning. “Lassi' or barber shops were the popular venues where people assembled and discussed political or social matters. These shops kept a number of papers to attract clients. While someone read the news loudly, small 'Panchayats' gathered in groups of five or ten . At times, my opinion was sought by older people in my street assuming that I may have inside knowledge of real political happenings behind the scene. They knew that I was connected with the Press. I remember feeling very flattered and did 'share' my 'wisdom' with the old people with grey white heads and enjoyed their nodding in agreement with me.

The Punjab Government at that time was a coalition led by Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, leader of Unionist Party. The Unionists had a secular ideology, but were basically the party of the pro-British feudal Muslim land-lords of Punjab. They had a strong hold in West Punjab's rural areas, mainly due to their muscle and money power. The Muslim Chief Minister Sir Sikandar Hyat was a Jat and undisputed leader of Muslim landowners at that time in the north-western districts of the Punjab State. They had Hindu representatives in the Ministry like Sir Manohar Lal and also Sikhs like Sardar Dasaundha Singh (a butt of many popular Punjabi jokes). The Haryana area of Punjab was represented by Sir Chottu Ram, a Jat leader of towering stature from Rohtak.

Together, the Unionist Party represented the landed aristocracy of Punjab. The Jats in both North and South Punjab had common interests. They were in the clutches of the Hindu Bania community of money lenders who had loaned them money over the years. The Unionist Government enacted many laws favouring the landlords. They amended the earlier British law which allowed the arrest of those unable to pay back loans. This brought the government on a collision course with the Hindus who had more money- lenders among them! Hindus took out huge processions calling the amended laws as Black laws. Hindu Press strongly opposed the new legislations while the Muslim Press supported the amended laws. The Province was divided on communal lines. However , as students we were not affected by these local issues - our major agenda was independence and the transfer of power to the Indian hands. As the independence appeared to be in sight – how to reconcile it with the demand of Pakistan.

Arrest of the debtors for non-payment was a cruel law during the British Raj. I remember my own father running from arrest and hiding here and there to evade the police. A money lender had filed a suit against him for his arrest and attachment of his property for failing to pay back the loan taken against his house in Lahore. Some unethical money lenders had the habit of getting the signatures or thumb impressions on blank paper for exaggerated amounts. They inserted the amount arbitrarily in the case of illiterate debtors. The debtors had to sell off their property as repayment was difficult or slow. This ‘mortgage’ system resulted in the land passing into the hands of the money-lenders. It was an economic problem and needed to be looked into- but it turned into a communal problem.

The Chief Minister, Sir Sikander Hyat Khan at that time was not in favour of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his concept of Pakistan. Sir Sikander wanted Jinnah to keep away from Punjab which was firmly in his hands. Nor did he favour the total independence demanded by the Indian National Congress. The Unionists were more on the side of autonomy under the British rule, perhaps a Dominion status.The Unionist party was predominantly Muslim, they could not openly oppose the Muslim League either.

No top Punjabi or Bengali leader was among Jinnah's top advisors. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a Gujarati Khoja Muslim, a Shia, who was not known for his adherence to Islamic laws like not eating pork or not drinking liquor and did not even speak Urdu properly. He was educated in England from where he got his Law degree. He married a Parsi girl. His only sister Fatima Jinnah remained a spinster all her life. His only daughter also married a Parsi-Christian young man, much to the annoyance of her father.

My assessment is that Mohammad Ali Jinnah's idea of Pakistan did not have the support of the majority of the Muslims of India, certainly not in Punjab. However, Jinnah and his followers could trigger Hindu-Muslim riots in different parts of India leading to bloodshed. They started riots in Calcutta (Bengal) against the Hindus followed by a large scale massacre of Hindus in Neokhali (Bengal). The Hindus and Sikhs retaliated in Calcutta and later in Bihar forcing Mahatma Gandhi to undertake a fast unto death to stop the riots. Riots and bloodshed were Jinnah's weapons of blackmail. Pakistan or civil war, he screamed.

My six – year campus life – l940-46- was the most eventful in the contemporary history of India. It was in l940 that the idea of Pakistan was shaped. Muslim League for the first time explained in their Lahore resolution what they wanted in the name of Pakistan. They demanded one fourth of India where Muslims have an edge in numbers to make a new country which will be run by Muslims. It will have two wings , one in the west and one in the east with a corridor through India to link the two wings.

The Word War 11 had started in 1939 - initially Axis Powers led by Germany and Italy had almost the whole of Europe conquered till the USA joined on the side of the Allied powers against fascist Hitler. Hitler made another folly by attacking the Soviet Union and was stuck in the snowy muds of Russia. Japan came on the side of Germany in Asia - again giving an edge to the Axis powers.

Indian revolutionary Subhash Chander Bose disappeared from India and re-emerged in Germany and later in Japan at the head an Indian National Army knocking at the doors of India. The Indian youth in my age group were t confused which side to take. The entry of USSR into the War on the side of the Allies had turned the Imperial War of Great Britain into Peoples’ War for our Communist friends in the campus.

Britain so far wanted India to help in the War effort but was not willing to commit that at the end of the War India will also have its freedom. Instead, the British Government of India diverted all the resources of the country towards War efforts causing a unprecedented famine in Bengal which took a toll of thousands of Indians who died on the streets of Calcutta. In l942, when Britain wanted the Indian National Congress to defend India from aggressor – Germany and Japan - Gandhi wanted the British to quit India first. Viceroy Wavell put Congress leaders in jail- including Gandhi and his frail and ailing wife Kasturbha. This angered Indians a lot and students of my generation got involved in the quit India movement.

After the War, the British seemed to be tired of trying to hold on to the governance of India and the new Labour Government which replaced the Conservative Part headed by Winston Churchil, decided to transfer power to Indians.

India and Pakistan both got their independence at the same time - the rest is history. We are still grappling with the problems created by partition of the country.