Seventy years ago, India became independent from British colonial rule. But that exhilarating moment was also accompanied by a cataclysmic event, when the sub-continent was partitioned into two separate countries.
In the upheaval that followed, millions of people crossed over to the other side, leaving behind their homes, their friends, their belongings and their memories. Many did not make it, falling prey to violent fanatics who wantonly killed, raped and looted. The two nations began life amidst this blood shedding and that brutal legacy still informs debate between the two to this day.
The generation that experienced Partition is now fading away and for younger Indians, Partition is a very distant memory. They know of it through stories, history books and popular culture, but often what reaches them is not just one-dimensional but also distorted. In the current climate, the dangers of a simplistic narrative of what was a complex series of events are all too obvious.
It is important that we as Indians get to hear a multitude of voices about that period, when, while there was hatred in the air, there were also exceptional moments of kindness and displays of humanity. When old friends became bitter enemies, but strangers stepped forward to help. When all seemed lost and then a new life began.
It is also worth remembering that Partition affected not just two or three monolithic communities. There are many significant instances of marginal groups being hit equally badly, stories that have remained in the shadows.
And of course there is much by way of literature, poetry and cinema that has recorded the saga of Partition, telling us stories that convey the myriad emotions of the time.
The Wire‘s #PartitionAt70 series brings a number of stories, through text and multimedia content, that will attempt at drawing a comprehensive picture of those weeks and months when entire geographies and histories changed forever.
- How Partition Shaped the Businesses That Moved Across Borders - The businesses that moved have left a deep legacy on the economic and developmental policies in both India and Pakistan.
- Violence, Fear and Friendship: A Family’s Journey to India After Partition - Satish Pruthi and his family nearly didn't make it to India when a mob attacked the group they were a part of. But with help from friends on both sides of the border, they created a new life.
- For One Family, Wounds of Partition Are Still Raw, but Fond Memories Remain - Sikh siblings Gurbachan Kaur and Ajit Singh recount the days of Partition when they had to flee from Pakistan to India.
- Jan Gan Man Ki Baat, Episode 100: 70 Years of Independent India - Vinod Dua discusses the journey of independent India through development indicators.
- Watch: Restorying Partition – Retrace - Granddaughters Aastha and Bhavya's bedtime stories included their grandmother’s time spent in Peshawar, and because of that Peshawar felt like a place far away, belonging to a fairy tale.
- Manchester Museum’s Partition Exhibit Gives Space to Neglected South Asian History - The impact of Partition has remained an untouched territory in the cultural landscape of Britain, which Memories of Partition is addressing by capturing the collective memory of people affected by it.
- After Partition, My Father Couldn’t Find His Wife, But He Did Find Hope - My father was able to reaffirm the one faith he had: that as often as not, human relations override political, national and even religious dividing lines.
- Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy’s United Bengal Plan That Could Have Changed the Course of India’s History - Suhrawardy, a largely forgotten figure today, was Bengal's chief minister in 1946 and is often mis-remembered as a Hindu-hating communal leader.
- Chronicling the Bitter Truth of Independence in Lahore - Yashpal's two-volume Jhutha Sach, which revolves around two key moments that directly shape Partition, closely connects history and fictional narrative.
- The ‘Hindu’ in Hindustan, and the Troubles of History Repeating Itself - Despite economic troubles, a questionable education system and a booming healthcare sector catering fabulously to its minuscule elite, it is religion that is on the tip of every politician’s tongue.