A new book on the Partition saga

Changing mindsets


One might cry out, humanity is dead if there was any, in disgust and disbelief after going through the events of the partition of the subcontinent. It is hard to believe that hatred and instinctual savagery can derive men to the edge of morality. Politics, religious bias and ethnicity do have the poison to make men so vulnerable that they get ready to put everything at stake.

Partition of the Indian subcontinent is seen as one of the most brutal and unfortunate events in the world history. There are incidents of mass murder by every religious and ethnic community of each other as well as rapes and abductions of women, looting and separation of families during the migration. Despite all these regrettable episodes humanity could not be overshadowed by violence and insanity. But history hardly caters to the efforts of peace, therefore the humane and positive episodes during the partition riots are not part of the recorded history.

The fiction written during and after the partition depicts the humane side of the partition. The works of Kartar Singh Duggal, Manto and Khuswant develop characters that rise above their religious and ethnic identity and serve the cause of humanity. The book under review Humanity Amidst Insanity, edited by Tridivesh Singh Maini, Tahir Malik and Ali Farooq Malik is also an attempt to bring humane and positive episodes of the 1947 partition holocaust to the fore. The book is a compilation of interviews of the survivors of Indo-Pak partition.

In the introduction of the book the editors make it very clear that the purpose behind such a work is not to forget the trauma and atrocities of the partition but the idea is to look at the positives in order to bridge the gap between the two countries. There is no organised database of the survivors who had positive experiences so the editors had to rely on their personal efforts that certainly paid of.

On the Indian side individuals who are settled in Ludhiana, Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Kurukshetra were interviewed. They had migrated from Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Kahuta, Sialkot and Bahawalpur. Individuals like Brigadier SS Chowdhary have tales of selflessness and compassion to tell. SS Chowdhary was deputed to as Additional SP at Rohtak at the time of the partition. He was responsible for the safe evacuation of the Muslim refugees in the district. He said that he was approached by various Hindus asking him to allow them to loot the caravans of the Muslims. About his determination to rescue the Muslims he said that it was his duty to give the refugees a safe passage. He even fired at those groups who tried to hurt the Muslim refugees.

Individuals from Lahore, Kasur and Faisalabad were interviewed on the Pakistani side. Shaukat Ali Awan, chief Meteorologist from Sargodha, was born a year after the partition he recollects the stories of her father who rescued the non-Muslims. His father Malik Ghazanfar Awan was a sub-inspector in the police department of the United Punjab Government in 1947. His father also got a chance to meet Sikh Leader Master Tara Singh after sixteen years of the partition. Out of sheer gratitude Tara Singh embraced Awan for what he did for the non-Muslims.
Other interviews including Taj Bibi, Fameeda Bano, Chutal Khan, Rana Ameer Khan, Ahmed Salim, Professor Rafique Muhammad, Umer Farooq Malik, Khursheed Bibi, Mirza Nasir-ud-Din and Dr Asif Nisar are worth reading. Their recollections are vivid with a blend of nostalgia and anxiety.

Louis W Goodman Dean, school of International Service American University has commented on the book by saying that “Awareness of ‘positive episodes,’ as described in this book, can inspire positive acts by others under stress and can help leaders bring out the best in themselves and those that depend on them for guidance”. Works such as this can certainly change the mindset of the people and changing mindsets is akin to changing the world.

Humanity Amid Insanity is a book of its kind. It is a commendable effort by Tariq Malik, Tridivesh Singh Maini and Ali Farooq Malik to give hope to the people of India and Pakistan that we can coexist. It is not only the sufferings of the partition that the editors has tried to evade but also the enmity that still lingers on between the two countries.
The road to progress, prosperity and above all peace for both India and Pakistan is the spirit of compassion and tolerance. India and Pakistan has fought three wars since partition that led only to destruction, chaos and hatred. Its never late to mend.

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