I read this interesting, albeit a little contentious, piece by  Ravinder Kaur that examined the impact of partition on settling the communal question. The article states:

The sixtieth anniversary of the independence of Pakistan and India on 14-15 August 2007 has prompted official celebration in both countries, as well as an ocean of commemorative coverage in the world’s media. The terrible violence that accompanied the birthpangs of the two states from the ashes of empire is an inevitable theme in much commentary. What is being less addressed amid the profusion of human stories – and what this article considers – is whether the problems of communal division in the sub-continent were or are best addressed by the partition of territory.

The recent weeks have seen a splurge of such discussions in the media (including the new media) that attempt to re-examine and explore the partition of India. In particular, the sufferings of millions who crossed the line have yet again come to light.

Another reflective piece that I discovered is “pain of partition” that recounted the sufferings of migrants on both the sides of the divide.

And today, Vidya Rao – a celebrated classical singer from India sent this petition that seeks to heal the wounds that still hurt our collective lives:

Apology Petition

Dear Victims of the Partition-related Violence in South Asia:

The mass murder, rape, pillage and suffering that accompanied the partition of British India in 1947, have left deep scars on the psyche of the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the former East Pakistan.

Tens of thousands were murdered, raped, and maimed, and millions were displaced in an immense human tragedy, that continues to poison our discourse, and feed mutual suspicions and hatreds.

Therefore, we, the members of the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA), and others, who have signed below, believe that the time has come for all of us jointly to condemn, without distinction, the insane orgy of violence and intimidation that accompanied the great human divide of 1947.

On the 60th anniversary of the Independence of India and Pakistan, we recall that dark chapter in our history so as to ensure that these tragedies will not be forgotten, or repeated.

We hope that coming generations will learn from this man-made calamity, and turn away from divisions based on religion, ethnicity, language, national origin, caste, or creed.

Taking lessons from history, we undertake to shun the political use of religion and communalism.

We regret that our forebears, the colonial British administration, and the successor governments did not prevent the tragedy. They also failed to punish the perpetrators, and apologize to you and your families.

In the spirit of harmony and goodwill among the people of South Asia, and to help build a new South Asian present and future, we grieve for and with you. We offer our deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets to you and your families.

We are sorry!

This petition can be accessed here and those interested may like to sign it. I know the prevalent cynicism about such online petitions, but long journeys begin with small steps.

We have a barricaded road ahead – let’s aim to tread this difficult path.

7 Responses to Healing the wounds of Partition ..

  1. gulnaz says:

    i have only recently stumbled across your site and i love it! i love the intelligence of the posts as well as the intersting comments. great job, good on you!

  2. YH says:

    I personally feel that attempts like these (i.e. Ravinder Kaur) are a part of the problem and not solution. For one thing, enough dirt has been put in the eyes of the world by people to take an essentially political deadlock between two popular parties who could have come to an arrangement vis a vis Cabinet Mission Plan which mind you Jinnah bent over backwards to accept… and turn into a grand battle of good and evil… which changes depending on which side you are on.

    All nation states are created out of ethnic conflict. Pakistan is no exception. In my personal view violence could have been avoided had Congress not insisted on dividing up Bengal and Punjab as the pound of flesh for giving away Pakistan. Communal violence and butchery that happened was abhorrent. Perhaps Mountbatten – the first GG of Independent India- should not have played politics with the boundary commission force.

    However which view you take or which view you don’t take is besides the point. Partition violence as a theme as been so over done … and so exploited that it is perhaps time, we say : enough. Pakistan and India exist as two independent nations. Let us respect this and work together as Pakistanis and Indians – two people(s) of sovereign nations working together for common humanity. Let us start by making sure that there is never again a war in South Asia.

    And let us take our rivalries and channel them towards competing with each other in development, progress, literacy, human rights etc.

  3. Zobaria says:

    Just forgive, for goodness sake, just forgive. Forgive before grudges escalate into extremism and extremism into war. Hope that humanity can transcend the differences and we can learn to see the faces and souls, as precious as any of ours. What’s done is done, forgive for our future generations that they can live in peace. Forgive before it’s too late… and we are left to collect the bodies. Accept and respect each other and learn what needs to be learnt. Understand that there are hearts which still ache to go back and see the places on both the sides, which were once their homes and smell that soil and touch those walls, and mourn for what once was. Grit your teeth and say enough, no more of it. Can you, can I? I will mourn, but I will forgive.

  4. cubano says:

    I think that it is ironic how partition or creation of borders were ideally meant to be a deterrent to ethnic or communal violence but instead caused much more hatred and discord on a grander scale. The expression of that hatred was subsequently provided immunity from condemnation by passionate and absurd patriotism.

    It seems ridiculous now to think that divisions can cause people to be peaceful.

  5. Nauman says:

    This apology petition states that “We hope that coming generations will learn from this man-made calamity, and turn away from divisions based on religion, ethnicity, language, national origin, caste, or creed.” People usually preach non-discrimination on the basis of religion, caste and creed. But interestingly this petition also mentions “national origin”. If we don’t discriminate on the basis of nationality then borders become irrelevant. Then why is it that USA is erecting a fence along with it’s border with Mexico? Israel with Gaza and West Bank? India in Kashmir? And Pakistan on Durand Line?

    Fact of the matter is that nationalism is a new religion. Now we don’t discriminate on the basis of religion but on the basis of nationality and class. We Pakistanis are lucky in this matter that we have other loyalties besides nationalism. Pakistanis usually consider themselves as Muslims first and Pakistani afterwards. This is why our feelings of nationalism are mild compared to Indians.

    I agree with YH on most points. Just want to say that we don’t question the legitimacy and desire of Indian Hindus to have a Hindu majority state. But Indians take a reductionist approach and say that if secularism is a norm then what was the raison d’etre for the creation of Pakistan?

    Social and political phenomena is complicated. Secularism, non-discrimination, equality and humanism are ideals. We must strive to seek these ideals because they are empirically proven to be good for the mankind. But at the same time we should also keep in mind ground realities. Existing realities are sometimes bitter and we notice some discrimination on the basis of religion, culture, language, caste, creed and class at the level of state or society. So let’s not live in a fool’s paradise. Accept and acknowledge our differences and then try to settle them in an amicable way.

  6. RR says:

    Nauman Mian

    Many thanks for such a thoughtful comment. It is well argued and makes some interesting points.

  7. […] Today’s post comprises a few poems that may capture several moods and facets of the profound historical event – independence for India and the end of British imperialism. This momentous day was preceded by unprecedented violence, modern world’s largest migration and a boundary -etched with blood -that still divides India and Pakistan. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »