Partition: A Violent Streak

‘Remembering Partition’ by Gyanendra Pandey aims to explore the “moment of rupture” brought about by the “Partition and Independence of the Indian Subcontinent”(1). The partition was characterized by violence namely “killings, rape and arson”. The term partition does not only mean the division between India and Pakistan but it also signifies the partition of “families”, “childhood memories” and “ancestral homes”. It was indeed a “partition of siblings that should have never occurred”(2).

The author argues that the partition was not just a “political project” but also a “history of struggle”. Along with tracing the “process of nationalising the nation” the author wants to understate the struggles of the different sections of the society. The Sikhs, Muslims and the Hindus were defined by religion and not occupation, culture or other variables. The author further argues that partition cannot be separated from violence. He explains, “Partition was violence, a cataclysm, a world torn apart”(7).

The partition can be divided into three parts of horror. The first part refers to the demand by the Muslim League in 1940 for a Muslim majority state called Pakistan. “Pakistan was to be a Muslim dominated state to balance a Hindu dominated Hindustan”(26). The decision of the Muslim League for ‘Direct Action’ in 1946 led to a break out between the Hindus and Muslims resulting in the loss of innocent lives. The impression of having an Islamic state that enjoyed equality and justice led to great enthusiasm amongst the Muslim community (27). “ The goal of Pakistan was seen as the answer to Hindu oppression and Hindu Capitalism”(27). The second part dealt with the division of Muslim majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal. This led to the expulsion of all the Hindus and Sikhs from Western Punjab. The third part portrays the movement of people in Punjab resulting in massacres and nightmares.

The collective suicide at Thao Khalsa where people preferred killing themselves and their families instead of submitting to “ bondage and dishonour” goes to show that partition was an unprecedented decision. It led to the death of innocent lives and broke families apart. The author clearly brings out the conversion from a “political project” to a killing project. We often forget to pay heed to the struggles, killings and the loss of innocent lives that are sacrificed for political tension. The question still remains as to “how much violence and intolerance has it taken to produce the ‘successful’ nation of the twentieth century”? (19)

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