Rishi Sunak on Monday pipped Penny Mordaunt to become United Kingdom’s first Asian Prime Minister. His political rise as well as ancestry has become the talk of the town. While Sunak was born to Hindu-Punjabi parents in Southampton, his grandparents came from a place called Gujranwala, now in Pakistan.
Gujranwala, known for good food and culture of wrestling, is located about 1.5 hours from Punjab province’s provincial capital Lahore.
Before Partition, when Rishi’s grandparents used to live in Gujranwala, the city used to be a locality, which was surrounded by at least seven gates, that were the entry and exit points to it. It is now known as downtown Gujranwala.
A team from ABP News travelled to Gujranwala to find out more about the whereabouts of Rishi Sunak’s grandparent’s house and also to know about how life was during the early 1930s when communal riots and bloodshed forced many to leave everything behind and move on either side of the border.
Gujranwala is a congested, densely populated surrounding with narrow streets, filled with shops of clothes, jewellries, electronics and others.
Androom Gujranwala has scattered presence of Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras, deserted houses over 100 years old, that, despite the deterioration, stood tall and beautiful among small renovated houses.
Speaking to locals, ABP found out that most of the people who experienced the bloody riots of 1930s and then migrated across the border, were not alive, but their families still stay in the same homes.
Muslims living in Gujranwala were never among the rich or even the upper class society. The rich and the upper class was represented by the Sikhs and the Hindus, who used to live in big beautiful mansions, while many Muslims would work for them as employees in their businesses and households.
However, after the communal riots started, bloodshed and insecurity forced many Hindu and Sikh families to leave their lavish lifestyle, expensive mansions and big businesses behind and relocate for their own and their family’s safety.
Locals also revealed that many Hindu families assigned their Muslim household workers to take care of their homes as they would come back after the riots. However, the riots saw a massive inflow of migrating Muslims from India, who took the opportunity to take over the ownership of the properties that belonged to Hindus and Sikhs.
Rishi Sunak’s grandparents were also among those upper class privileged Hindu families who were forced to compromise their cherished assets for the safety of their family and whose assets were either taken over or looted by the migrated Muslims or by the ones already present in Gujranwala.
Over 90 per cent of the families living today in Gujranwala were not comfortable in talking about the time.
While most of the people refused to speak about what had happened, the streets, old buildings and old markets stood there as a representative of history and told its story visible to the naked eye.
Amid the riots, Rishi’s paternal grandfather Ramdas Sunak left Gujranwala to work as a clerk in Nairobi in 1935. His wife, Suhag Rani Sunak, moved to Delhi first from Gujranwala, along with her mother-in-law, before travelling to Kenya in 1937.
Ramdas and Suhag Rani had six children, three sons and three daughters.
Rishi’s father Yashveer Sunak was born in 1949 in Nairobi. Yashveer arrived in Liverpool in 1966 and went on to study medicine at the University of Liverpool.
Yashveer married Usha in Leicester in 1977. Three years later, Rishi was born in 1980 in Southampton.