The Muslim freedom fighter who hid Bhagat Singh

“I hosted Bhagat Singh for two and a half months. He had come to the Council Chamber (in New Delhi) to detonate a bomb. He wanted to be a martyr,” says Naseem Mirza Changezi, a freedom fighter who was 107 when he was interviewed by The 1947 Partition Archive in 2017. He died the following year.

Changezi was born in 1910 at his ancestral home at Pahari Imli, near Churi Walan in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. The freedom fighter fought alongside revolutionaries Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru against colonial powers.

Genghis Khan’s family

Changezi has been profiled and documented many times by prominent scholars and scholars due to his impressive knowledge of Mughal history in North India. “The study of my genealogy tells me that 23 successive generations descended from the family of Genghis Khan, the founder of the great Mongol empire,” he says.

“My ancestors traveled from Mongolia to Iran and then to Afghanistan. At that time, Babur, who laid the stone of the 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 didn’t want fighting and loss of soldiers hence he asked my ancestors to leave peacefully.

Great-grandfather imprisoned for life

“My family fought for this country and have done so for 150 years,” Changezi says. His great-grandfather was an assistant collector under the British crown, but he still took part in the revolt of 1857. He was then imprisoned for life. “There had been various wars before 1857, within the kingdoms, but the reason why it is called the First War is that it was the first time that the masses in general took part in it.”

Changezi’s mother died when he was only two years old and his father decided never to remarry. He says keeping parrots as pets was common in his village and Hindu women taught Urdu poetry and couplets to their parrots, while Muslim women taught poetry and couplets of Hindu literary texts to their parrots.

Rash Behari Bose

“My father and Rash Behari Bose were at the forefront of [revolutionary] activities, and I grew up among all their idealism and members,” he says.

Changezi lived in his ancestral home for 106 years and was in the same house when the partition took place. He was 37 when the partition started and he had an unofficial ID as “Ram Kishan”. This pass allowed him to move around the city and not be affected by the curfew imposed on the Muslim population of Delhi.

Who was Ram Kishan?

“Many murders took place during this period. My job was to commute daily to Nizamuddin station where the trains were leaving for Pakistan, and people were traveling from Delhi, and they were getting injured on those trips. I therefore accompanied them to the Jama Masjid camp so that they could be treated quickly.

Trains were leaving from Old Delhi station and people were treated very badly. The wagons that were [used] to transport the cattle were used by the refugees to load their own things and they pulled it themselves and went to the Purana Qila camps,” he recalls. He argues that the partition was the result of various political forces and points out that great love was shared between the religious communities before the division.

In Old Delhi, the new wave of refugees set up their own businesses on the street outside the shops and started selling the same products cheaper. This practice caused a lot of friction in the city.

My father fought for this country

“The decision to stay in India and not migrate to Pakistan was very easy for me and my family. My ancestors fought over generations on this land,” Changezi explains. “My father fought for this country, so there was no question of leaving our own home. Although my father received many persuasive letters from the Pakistani authorities to come there.

However, his father sat him down and asked him to write a response, in which he clearly remembers writing, “Do rivers like the Ganges or the Yamuna flow in Karachi? Is Lal Quila on this earth? Is there my beloved Jama Masjid? If so, then I will come in a jiffy. If not, never write to me again.

This interview, conducted by Ritika Popli, is reproduced with the express permission of The 1947 Partition Archive.

Thelma J. Longworth