Thursday, August 17, 2017

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Wounds remain unhealed,  lessons unlearntReena Saini Kallat''s work on Wagah ''Light leaks, winds meet where the waters spill deceit''. Printed with permission from the artist
70 years later…

Wounds remain unhealed, lessons unlearnt

As the memory of those horrible days and years fades away, we are itching to reopen some of the settled questions about our collective existence. Perhaps after seventy years it is time, once again, to revisit those blood-stained days and recall Partition’s sobering lessons…14 Aug 2017 | 7:34 AM

With rare exceptions, the world has simply not known how to divide a nation amicably and peacefully. The division of India in 1947 to carve out a new state of Pakistan inevitably produced its own ghastly share of violence, dislocation and disruption.

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Harish Khare

With rare exceptions, the world has simply not known how to divide a nation amicably and peacefully. The division of India in 1947 to carve out a new state of Pakistan inevitably produced its own ghastly share of violence, dislocation and disruption.

Admittedly, the British decision to grant India independence was principally driven by the simple fact that the four-year-long World War II had totally exhausted the imperial will to rule; in fact, the British desire to hold on to India had already been tested morally and ethically by the Indian National Congress, which under the Mahatma’s leadership had waged a unique peaceful freedom struggle. The British middle classes, with their pretensions to liberal values, had no answer to the Mahatma’s saintly leadership. The Union Jack had to be lowered from Red Fort, sooner than later. 

But by the time the British came to the conclusion that they could no longer stay in India, they had already instigated mischief among the Indian leadership. The colonial rulers had cynically worked on the Indian society’s religious fault lines, encouraged and cultivated sectarian agendas which ultimately coalesced into the demand for a separate nation.

The Muslim League, under Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had already legitimised use of violence in pursuit of its demands. The League’s call for ‘Direct Action’ was an invitation to chaos and the mobs. Once a society develops a taste for violence, its leaders are rarely able to calibrate and control the streets. By the time August 15, 1947, came the Muslim League’s leadership skills were already over-extended even in what came to be known as East Pakistan and West Pakistan. In India, the Congress leadership was barely able to push the mobs back. 

Still, a monumental tragedy was destined to take place. The sheer scale of the number of Hindus and Sikhs, who found themselves forced to migrate out to India and of the Muslims in India who had to leave for Pakistan, was maddeningly benumbing. Grand statistics simply cannot convey the trauma and the tragedy that engulfed this part of the world soon after August 1947. 

A sympathetic American reporter and an eye-witness described the post-Partition days as “one of the great convulsions of modern history.” On December 12, 1947, he tried to convey the nature of disaster that overtook the two nascent nations: “Consider what has happened. In an orgy of religious-communal madness, some 10 million citizens of the north-western provinces had been routed from their homes. An unknown total, probably between 2,00,000 and 5,00,000 (compared to 2,95,000 American war-dead in World War II), had been put to sword, machine-gunned, or roasted alive. The splintered Punjab administrations were quickly swamped and there even appeared danger that the infant central governments of India and Pakistan Dominions might succumb.” Phillips Talbot (An American Witness to India’s Partition).

The frenzy in the East was no less violent, no less gory, no less bloody than it was in the West. The Hindus, the Muslims and the Sikhs joyfully discovered their capacity for inflicting violence and death on their erstwhile neighbours as well as total strangers. The massacres, the mayhem and the madness outpaced humanity and all known civic-minded virtues; the trauma and tragedy touched nearly every home, every life. No one was unaffected; no one could remain emotionally unmolested by this continental turbulence. 

After a few months the mobs could be rolled back and blood could be washed off the streets, but the memory of Partition-centric violence was now etched on the soul of an entire generation on both sides. The two successive states had entrenched habits and protocols of acrimony and suspicion and political leaders and sectarian interests saw to it that India and Pakistan would not settle down to a peaceful co-existence. 

The raw memories of Partition also impacted on how the two states went about the business of creating an internal political order. Once Jinnah was gone, Pakistan hastily abandoned his ideas of an inclusive society and nation. In India, the Mahatma was assassinated. The murder was planned by those who wanted to make India a Hindu State and they thought the Old Man was an obstacle. Ironically, the assassination settled, once for all, how India would grant equal protection and equal citizenship to all its minorities. 

Perhaps some in India would argue that Partition’s unfinished agenda still remains unattended. May be, after 70 years, we should simply revisit those horrible, horrible days of chaos and disorder before we embark on another self-defeating journey…

Reporting turbulent timesArchives

Reporting turbulent times

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

The Tribune, ever the chronicler of the people and events of Punjab, found itself in an unusual situation of becoming the subject of news reports.



13 Aug 2017 | 12:46 AM

NEW DELHI, June 20. — It is understood that Mr. Jinnah is greatly upset at the fact that his so-called Muslim state may be known as Pakistan and the rest of the country would continue to be called India, both in international world and inside the country.

Miani Hindus And Sikhs Wiped OutArchives

Miani Hindus And Sikhs Wiped Out

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Most of the liaison officers (supported by L. Mohan Lal and Seth Rattan Chand, who are here) say that there is no planned evacuation.


Hindus & Sikhs evacuated from W. Punjab

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Mass evacuation of Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab has been completed within the allotted time. There remain about 5,000 people scattered in small pockets whose evacuation is expected to be completed in about a week’s time.



13 Aug 2017 | 12:47 AM

NEW DELHI:Great enthusiasm and scenes which could hardly be forgotten were witnessed tonight when the Constituent Assembly held its midnight session for the assumption of power.



13 Aug 2017 | 12:49 AM

NEW DELHI, Sept. 30. — Addressing the prayer meeting yesterday, Mahatma Gandhi said: “My reference to the possibility of war between the two sister Dominions seems, I am told, to have produced a scare in the west.


Separated by Partition, united by The Tribune

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

The largest mass migration in human history was taking place and relatives of Congress leader Sardar Atma Singh, who lost a large number of relatives in the Sheikhupura riots, were anxious about his whereabouts.


Refugees Forum

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Mr Ram Narain, Stenographer, Punjab Registered (I. & S.) Stockholders Association Ltd., Saddar Bazar, Ambala Cantt. wants to know from any refugee from Lyallpur the whereabouts of Ch. Kanshi Ram Sub-Inspector of Police, lately incharge Traffic and Special Branch, Lyallpur and family.

Unfinished epic of grief & shameLiterature

Unfinished epic of grief & shame

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Punjab never saw peace in its three-millennia history, except for a brief spell of 50 years of the Punjabi raj under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Foreign aggressors ravaged it for centuries. Its partition on the basis of religion in 1947 was the last straw whose magnitude and scale of tragedy is unprecedented in human history.

A genteel, unplanned divideBengal

A genteel, unplanned divide

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

The story of partition of Bengal substantiates the perception that Indian history has always been north-centric. Any story on partition will talk about aspects and responses that applied to Punjab and rest of the north, but were nearly absent in the division of Bengal.

Snapshots of sorrow and sufferingFramed

Snapshots of sorrow and suffering

13 Aug 2017 | 12:50 AM

The photos may be faded but the scars and pain remain fresh even after seven decades.

Pain seven seas couldn’t easeDiaspora

Pain seven seas couldn’t ease

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Partition haunts me every day. Yes, it still does,” says Balbir Momi. Seventy years is a long time, a very long time, but the memories of those days still play out before his eyes.

A museum for memoriesMemorial

A museum for memories

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Written by a father to his son, this letter sums up the fear, desperation, pain and loss thrown upon the people of India by Partition. Refugee at a camp in Gujarat, now in Pakistan, Diwan Chand wrote this distressing letter in Urdu to his son,

Trauma retold on celluloidCinemascope

Trauma retold on celluloid

13 Aug 2017 | 12:43 AM

Pangs of Partition continue to reverberate through the corridors of time. One of the most tragic moments in the recent history, Partition tore apart a country and hearts and devastated millions of lives. Involving migration of nearly 15 million people across the hastily drawn Radcliffe Line, perhaps each migrant’s story on either side of the border deserves to be told.