See More on Facebook

Curiosity

Raising a toast to India-Pakistan Partition literature

Third generation Indians and Pakistanis are doing their bit to not let the India-Pakistan rhetoric affect them, the rhetoric that peaks every year on August 15 – when India was partitioned to create Pakistan.


Written by

Updated: August 13, 2018

It’s the eve of India’s 72nd Independence Day, and divisive India-Pakistan rhetoric is at an all-time high.

The Partition of India was one of the largest migrations in human history. Millions of Muslims migrated to Pakistan, and millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed towards India in 1947. Hundreds of thousands of people made it to their destinations. But  hundreds of thousands did not – they were killed in the violence, arson and looting that erupted. Many of these people were raped, abducted, disfigured and forcibly converted.

A third generation of Indian and Pakistani writers is rising above hateful rhetoric to preserve stories of survival and resilience. These writers document the pain, losses and worthlessness of the Partition, while staying miles away from the hateful language often adopted by pundits on both sides. 

Prerna Bakshi dedicates her Partition poems “Burnt Rotis, With Love” – “to all the children of Partition” including  her own grandparents, and “to all the stateless people. To all the people on both sides of the border. To the people of India, Pakistan and beyond”.

She writes beautifully about – “Broken glass bangles, abandoned homes, segregated neighbourhoods, all legacies of Partition. Partition – asks more questions than it answers.”

Bakshi defends the renewed interest in Partition, saying  it is important to preserve those memories, no matter how ugly or how divisive.

Radhika Swarup is another young writer, who has explored the themes of Partition in her debut novel “Where the River Parts”.

“Hazy memories of adults discussing the past when they thought us children asleep. Passing conversations. A throwaway comment. A lament on a changed Delhi. Greater detail slowly emerging from the shadows as I grew older. Acknowledging all those who have contributed to my personal sense of Partition would be impossible,” Swarup writes in her book.

“It was my grandparents who made the move from Western Punjab to Delhi, and my parents’ generation that was suffused with the drive to build a secure future for themselves. My generation, however, feels the need to know where our family comes from, and to understand what drove that horrible, frenzied, traumatic exodus on both sides of the border,” Swarup tells Asia News Network.

The goal of Swarup’s  book, she says, is “to not only capture the Partition, but to put a human face to the violence, and to convey the aftershocks of that horrific schism”.

Swarup writes bravely about difficult subject matter. Asha, the book’s protagonist, a Hindu, falls in love with Firoze, her Muslim neighbour in Pakistan. Asha’s family is forced to flee Lahore and that journey changes her life’s course. Her family is killed, and in India she is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love to ensure a roof over her head.

Asha is a faithful wife who tries not to entertain any memories of Firoze, till her granddaughter falls in love with a Pakistani boy in New York.

However, in real life that is seldom the case. Indian-Pakistani marriages can be tricky in many ways. Zainab, a woman who spoke with Asia News Network and requested her real name not be used, is now in her 90s, had an unfortunate marriage in Pakistan and was not allowed to return to India after her divorce.

She met her husband in the UK where they were both studying, and after marriage she decided to move to Pakistan. To live in Pakistan she had to give up her Indian nationality. After Zainab and her husband parted ways she decided to return to India, the country of her birth. However, she had little idea how difficult it would be for her to regain her blue passport.

She continued to make several trips to India over a period of 10 years (by now she was 50), but all her efforts proved futile. She argued with Indian authorities that she had no family in Pakistan and that she was old and wanted to be back where her roots were. On one of her trips to India she overstayed. She hoped to see them bend rules for a woman who was now in her sixties, and quite harmless. Instead, she was deported.

Indian-Pakistani marriages are logistical nightmares – with women having to relocate and give up on their nationalities.

“Though for the couples concerned, the marriage and the move is a natural enough thing to do if you care for each other…for society at large it’s an act of insanity,” Sara, whose name was also changed, said.

However, having taken the plunge Sara says she now sees her husband and herself as “cultural ambassadors”.

“Me marrying an Indian or him marrying a Pakistani is an act of courage and of huge historical relevance – much more important than any ministerial exchange, wouldn’t you think?” she added.

Nida, another woman who spoke the condition of anonymity, has made India her home, as well. “I have set up my home and have great friends here,” she said.

“For three months at a time, I can forget that my status is temporary. But then at the end of three months, I have to pull out my ticket and passport and leave. On the other hand if I apply for a resident permit, I can’t leave at all. Why should it have to be this or that?” Nida added.

Both Nida and Sara articulate their angst – not through their writings – but through visual art.

Narinder Singh witnessed the bloody carnage when she crossed over to India from Pakistan in 1947. She was seven years old at the time.

“When we were leaving Lahore we were asked to carry all our valuables to the camp, which we did, and they took it all. When we reached India we had nothing. My family used to sell caps and envelopes,” Narinder, who now lives in Jalandhar, told Asia News Network.

Balbir, her brother, regrets the Partition. “The bigger a country, the better. If Pakistan and India were one country, we would not have had a crisis like Kashmir, which is a never-ending dispute. Or other disputes with Muslims.”

Pakistan’s Anam Zakaria has spent the last few years documenting such bitter-sweet stories – an effort that culminated in a book “Footprints of Partition”.

She tells Asia News Network, “While many Partition memories are soaked in bloodshed and violence, survivors will also speak of being rescued by the other community, of leaving behind their properties and life savings in protection of the ‘other,’ of joint festivities and communal harmony.

“It is essential to uncover the multitude of stories Partition survivors hold deeply buried in their hearts for they can offer the only challenge to the jingoistic and myopic state narratives bent upon juxtaposing one community as triumphant over the over.”

Thanks to the third-generation, who knows India-Pakistan’s future Independence Days will celebrate only their sameness, their oneness – and kill the hate, that is exuded every August 14-15.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Lamat R Hasan
About the Author: Lamat is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Curiosity

Woman accused of blasphemy freed in Pakistan

Asia Bibi was initially found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death. After her release from Multan’s women prison in the light of the Oct 31 Supreme Court verdict overturning her conviction and death sentence, Asia Bibi was brought to Islamabad on board a special aircraft on Wednesday night, reliable sources told Dawn Newspaper. The aircraft carrying Aasia Bibi, whose acquittal of blasphemy charge sparked countrywide protests by religious parties and groups, landed at the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport of Islamabad adjacent to Nur Khan Air Base. Soon after her landing, she was taken to an undisclosed place in Islamabad amid tight security. The authorities were keeping her movement and whereabouts secret for security reasons. Authorities concerned were also tight-lipped about her future plan and it was unclear if she would be kept in Islamabad or would be allowed to fly out of the


By Dawn
November 8, 2018

Curiosity

When Hollywood came calling to Bangladesh

An enchanting tale of opportunity and the silver screen in Bangladesh. This fascinating story needs retelling, particularly for the younger generations in Bangladesh, who would take pride in knowing that a fairly sizable portion of one of the most successful, Academy Award (Oscar) winning, block-buster epic movies of Hollywood of the 1950s, “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956), was filmed at selected locations of Sreemangal, in Sylhet and Barabkunda, in Chittagong. And that, in those immensely difficult days of road communication and a host of other logistical problems, an indefatigable gentleman from Dhaka, G M M E Karim, rose to the occasion and volunteered his fulltime services to render shooting of the film possible on schedule. A hugely resourceful and multifaceted personality, Karim, besides being an accomplished professional, was also a big game hunter in his younger days—he had shot his first full grown


By Daily Star
November 7, 2018

Curiosity

Imran Khan delivers warning to religious groups

Pakistan premier Imran Khan warns off religious group after supreme court rules on high profile blasphemy case. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday issued a stark warning to religiopolitical groups that have been agitating against the Supreme Court verdict to acquit Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of committing blasphemy. The premier addressed the matter in a short video message that solely focused on the Asia Bibi verdict and its aftermath. The message was broadcast on state-run PTV. He said he had been “compelled” to communicate with the nation due to the reaction given and language used by a “small segment” in response to the SC verdict. Pakistan was founded “in the name of Islam” and the verdict given by the SC is


By Dawn
November 1, 2018

Curiosity

Japan panel to call for creating IT watchdog

An expert panel will call for the government to set up a team of specialists to monitor the business practices of tech giants in its interim report to be released early next month. According to the draft of the interim report on measures to step up regulations on tech giants such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., the expert panel will also urge the government to consider obligating these firms to disclose important information, such as the terms and conditions of deals with their business partners. The government will make earnest efforts to tighten regulations on digital giants as similar moves have already been seen in Europe. The expert panel will release its interim report in early November before compiling the final version by the end of this year. Based on its proposals, the government will examine concrete measures from next year. In the draft of t


By The Japan News
October 29, 2018

Curiosity

Top Pakistan court reinstates ban on airing of Indian content on TV channels

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Saturday reinstated a ban on the transmission of Indian content on local television channels. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a case filed by the United Producers Association pertaining to the broadcast of foreign content on Pakistani television channels in the SC Karachi registry today. “They are trying to [obstruct the construction] of our dam and we cannot even ban their channels?” the top judge fumed as he ordered the broadcast of Indian shows to be “shut down” before adding that the authorities should “only air appropriate content”. In 2016, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had imposed a complete ban on airing Indian content on local television and FM radio channels.


By Dawn
October 29, 2018

Curiosity

Japanese journalist Yasuda freed 3 yrs after being kidnapped in Syria

The Japanese foreign ministry has confirmed that Yasuda has been released. Freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda, who was kidnapped soon after travelling to conflict-ridden Syria in 2015, was confirmed to have been released, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Wednesday. “We have confirmed the safety of Junpei Yasuda,” Kono told reporters at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo. “Staff at the Japanese Embassy in Turkey travelled [to an immigration facility in Antakya, southern Turkey] and are speaking with him,” the foreign minister said. “His health condition initially seems OK.” On Tuesday night, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government had been informed by the Qatari government that Yasuda had been released and was staying at an immigration facility in Antakya, near the border with Syria. Yasuda, 44, is said to have been held


By The Japan News
October 25, 2018