Bir Bahadur Singh lived through one of the most traumatic events of Partition - the well deaths and beheadings in the village of Thoha Khalsa in Punjab, which now lies in the Kahuta district of Pakistan. When the village was under attack in March 1947, Sikh families beheaded their own children and Sikh women jumped to their deaths down a well rather than risk capture and dishonour. I got in touch with Bir Bahadur Singh through a friend, the historian Urvashi Butalia. He and his son Bhola Singh turned up at my home in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, on 11 May 1997. He immediately launched into an account of what happened in the village - the ragged start to the recording is because I was taken by surprise. At time, Bir Bahadur Singh broke down in tears but insisted that I should continue recording. He spoke in Punjabi and Hindi with his comments at times amplified by Bhola Singh.
Towards the end of the recording posted above, Bhola Singh reads a Sikh prayer for the dead of Thoha Khalsa, then he and his father chat about some photos I had taken when visiting Thoha Khalsa the previous month. I met Bir Bahadur Singh again a few months later when he took me to a Thoha Khalsa memorial service at a gurdwara in the Bogal district of Delhi. I am posting at the bottom of this page the programme in my series India: a people partitioned which includes an account of Thoha Khalsa.
Bir Bahadur Singh and Bhola Singh, May 1997
Bir Bahadur Singh at the Singh Sabha gurdwara in Bhogal, March 1998