“I sheltered Bhagat Singh for 2 and a half months. He had come to the Council Chamber (in New Delhi) to carry out a bomb blast. He wanted to be a martyr,” says Naseem Mirza Changezi, a freedom fighter who was 107 years old when he was interviewed by The 1947 Partition Archive in 2017. He died the following year.
Changezi was born in 1910 in his ancestral home at Pahari Imli, near Churi Walan in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. The freedom fighter fought alongside the likes of revolutionaries Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru against colonial powers.
The Family Of Genghis Khan
Changezi has been profiled and documented numerous times by leading scholars and academics due to his impressive knowledge on the Mughal history of northern India. “The study of my genealogy tells me that successively 23 generations of mine hail from the family of Genghis Khan, the founder of the great Mongolian empire,” he says.
“My ancestors traveled from Mongolia to Iran, and then to Afghanistan. By that time Babur, who lay the stone of Mughal empire in India, asked his ancestors to leave Afghanistan within two or three months. The two clans were both Mughals but Babur’s side was Timuri Mughals and we were Changezi Mughals, so Babur did not want a fight and loss of soldiers, hence, he asked my ancestors to peacefully leave.”
Great Grandfather Imprisoned For Life
“My family fought for this country and has been doing so for the last 150 years,” says Changezi. His great grandfather was a deputy collector under the British crown, yet he still participated in the revolt of 1857. He was later imprisoned for life. “There had been various wars prior to 1857, within the kingdoms, but the reason it is known as the First War is because this was the first time that the masses at large took part in it.”
Changezi’s mother passed away when he was just two years old and his father decided to never remarry. He says that keeping parrots as domestic pets was widespread in his village, and the Hindu women would teach Urdu poetry and couplets to the their parrots, whereas the Muslim women would teach poetry and couplets from Hindu literary texts to their parrots.
Rash Behari Bose
“My father along with Rash Behari Bose were on the forefront of [revolutionary] activities, and I grew up amongst all their idealism and members,” he says.
Changezi has lived in his ancestral home for 106 years and was in the same house when Partition took place. He was 37 years old when Partition began, and he had an unofficial identification card under the name “Ram Kishan.” This pass allowed him to travel around the city and not be affected by the curfew placed on the Muslim population in Delhi.
Who Was Ram Kishan?
“Many killings took place during that time. My work would be to make a daily trip to Nizamuddin station where the trains would be leaving for Pakistan, and people would travel from Delhi, and they would get injured during those travels. So I would escort them till the camp at Jama Masjid so that they could be quickly treated.”
The trains would leave from Old Delhi railway station, and people were treated very badly. The wagons that were [used] to transport cattle were used by refugees to load their own belongings and they would pull it themselves and go to camps at Purana Qila,” he recalls. He argues that Partition was the result of various political forces, and stresses that a great love was shared amongst the religious communities prior to the division.
In Old Delhi the new wave of refugees would set up their own businesses on the street in front of the shops and began to sell the same products for less. This practice caused a lot of friction in the city.
My Father Fought For This Country
“The decision to stay on in India, and not migrate to Pakistan was very simple for me and my family. My ancestors had through the generations fought on this land,” says Changezi. “My father fought for this country, so there was no question of leaving our own home. Although, my father did receive many persuasive letters from authorities in Pakistan to come there.”
However, his father sat him down and asked him to write a reply, in which he clearly recalls that he wrote, “Do rivers like the Ganges or Yamuna flow in Karachi? Does Lal Quila stand on that land? Is there my beloved Jama Masjid there? If yes, then I will come in a jiffy. If no, then don’t ever write to me again.”
This interview, conducted by Ritika Popli is reproduced with explicit permission from The 1947 Partition Archive.