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JLF hosts session on India’s ‘Partition’, stresses need to clear misconceptions surrounding it

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Jaipur: Much of the toxic memories and legacies around Partition in 1947, which continue to create bad blood, even seven decades later arise out of misconceptions about its reasons, dynamics, and processes and its important to clarify these so both India and Pakistan move beyond assigning blame to healing, say some historians of the event.

It was also contended that Partition was not necessarily inevitable, the violence it entailed doesn’t seem to have been elaborately planned and even shocked leaders on both sides, though they had contributed to it with their careless, and inflammatory statements, while there are many aspects that have not received the level of attention they should, such as the effect on people outside the three major communities and the areas like Punjab and Bengal that are usually focused upon.

At a session titled “The Great Partition” at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday, Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal, who has argued Partition was one of the possible outcomes being negotiated, said the Muslim League’s March 23, 1940 resolution calling for a separate homeland, was part of its movement to settle the question of minority rights but noted it ended up aggravating the issue instead of solving it.

“Minority rights are a legacy of Partition, and it is an issue in all three nations,” she said.

Writer and journalist Nisid Hajari contended that the genocide of Partition was either triggered by being misguided by a political figure, or falling prey to madness, but in either instance, people could not fully explain their actions, and nobody admitted responsibility.

British historian Yasmin Khan noted the demand for Pakistan has been conflated with the violence that followed.

“They’ve been put on the same track… disentangling both is difficult but important,” she maintained.

US-based history professor Venkat Dhulipala noted the event had seen emergence of a “hostage population” theory or that minority rights can be ensured by a certain terror and such rhetoric was widespread then, as was talks about transfers of populations, made by people like Mohammad Ali Jinnah and even B.R. Ambedkar.

“The violence can be understood by the incendiary and passionate statements made in the public sphere,” he said.

But Jalal noted that most of the violence was not about religion as is commonly thought, but about property or its forcible seizure from those who could not resist it.

Intervening here, publisher and writer Urvashi Butalia highlighted how patriarchal Indian society enabled violence and as families were already violent towards their women, it was just the degree and the targets of violence that changed during Partition.

She also suggested that it was a mistake to define minorities in purely religious terms during Partition, since many other minorities were also affected, including Dalits, hijras and women, or even the inmates of mental asylums.

On the responsibility for Partition, Hajari said even Mahatma Gandhi did not have the political power to stop it though he had tried to tamp down on the violence.

“I hesitate to assign percentages, but the Congress made several mistakes and could have been more generous politically.”

Khan said it should be known that the leaders then were also human and faced many pressures and compulsions and that is why they couldn’t compromise. “There were several missed opportunities. The Cabinet Mission Plan was one…,” she said.

Jalal, however, maintained it was imperative “to go beyond finger-pointing to healing”.

She noted that a recent poll in Pakistan had 39 percent of respondents saying they were helped by a Hindu or a Sikh during the Partition, but these stories have not come into the mainstream narrative yet. “Without them, the unimaginable violence would have been unconscionable.”

Hajari also said literature and art can also approach the matter better than straightforward histories, while Butalia also suggested that these break away from traditional historical narratives and allow for interpretations of the Partition story through a multitude of perspectives. (Vikas Datta, IANS)(Photo: http://www.pinkvilla.com)

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This Day That Year : 5 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know Happened on August 15, 1947

India and Pakistan are twins, but with different birth dates. Do you know why?

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.
  • Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 14
  • Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his speech ‘Tryst With Destiny’ to herald the beginning of a new India
  • The decision of India’s date of independence was taken by then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten

New Delhi, August 15, 2017 : It was a Thursday unlike any other. India’s independence on August 15, 1947 marked more than just a date in historical records and text books. One date unchained almost one-fifth of the world’s population at the time from colonial rule.

You will come across numerous articles on the internet that will test you on things that you didn’t know about India’s independence. But this is not just another article on the internet and it is not what this article will do.

Instead, what this article will do is tell you five things that happened on this day that year; that is five things that happened on August 15, 1947 – a day that has been forever etched in history as the Indian Independence Day.

 

  1. The then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten pre-poned the date of Independence by an entire year
  • The 1940s saw the awakening of the Indian masses, courtesy Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose (by his contribution to the formation of the Indian National Army).
  • By the end of the II World War in 1945, the British were financially weak. This mired them to run their own country, let alone the many colonies.
  • Labour Party emerged victorious in the Britain elections (1945) which promised to grant independence to countries that were British colonies, including India.

Talks had already begun on the transfer of power, to overlook which Lord Mountbatten was appointed as the last Viceroy of the British Empire in February 1947.

According to the original plan, power was to be transferred from Britain to India in June 1948, but Jinnah’s demand for a partition instigated polarization and large scale violence in the territory. Thus, the inability and reluctance to control the warring citizens forced Lord Mountbatten to pre-pone the date of independence by almost a year, from 1948 to 1947.

The decision of the date of indian independence was Lord Mountbatten's
Lord Mountbatten with Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Wikimedia

  1. Pakistan chose to shift its date of Independence from August 15 to August 14

Even though Pakistan celebrates 14th August as its Independence Day, technically the day it achieved independence was the same as India, that is August 15th. This can be supplemented with the Independence of India Act which states “as from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty seven, two independent dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan.” 

However, to commemorate Pakistan’s independence, this date was shifted to August 14 for which a variety of explanations are given,

  • It is widely postulated that Lord Mountbatten delivered the King’s message of independence on August 14 in Karachi because of which the date is considered the official date of the declaration of Independence of Pakistan.
  • Others believe that August 14 was the 27th day of Ramzan which made it an extremely auspicious day in Islam and hence favoring the choice.
  • It is also believed that Lord Mountbatten was supposed to be a part of independence celebrations of both the countries. To ensure his attendance, Pakistan shifted the date to 14th.

This makes India and Pakistan twins, but with different birth dates.

ALSO READ Five Important Eras in Indian History: How the Indian Map was drawn and redrawn!

  1. August 15 was the date of independence but Partition took place two days later

Contrary to popular belief, the activities at Delhi on August 15, 1947 went on very smoothly and two independent dominions emerged. However, the official announcement of the partition of these ‘two’ new countries was yet to be made.

Today, parts of Punjab are very well known to exist on both sides of the border dividing India and Pakistan. Being one of the biggest states of the time, it was expected to witness mass migrations upon partition. To keep things under control, a smart option would have been to announce the partition of the country before announcing independence to steer clear of any confusion and allow people to move to the country they wanted to live in.

The partition led to mass killings and crimes
The partition led to mass migration of people across both sides of the border. Wikimedia

But Lord Mountbatten refused to publish the new boundary guidelines before August 17. This was because the migration was sure to cause large scale chaos, crime and killings. If that happened before independence was announced, the British Raj would have had to hold responsibility.

Hence, the official announcement of the boundary was published on August 17, 1947 which means on the morning of August 15, the people of Punjab did not know whether they were living in India or in Pakistan.

 

  1. Despite succumbing to their rule for over 100 years, Indians bid a tender farewell to their departing colonizers

On the day of the Transfer of Power, while Hindus and Muslims continued to butcher each other in different parts of the country, a whole lot of them united to send-off British colonizers with warmth and affection. This can be supplemented by records from the Indian Army’s journal, Fauji Akhbar which described the events of the day :

“(The Governor-General) was acclaimed as no other Governor-General of India within living memory has been greeted. Cries of ‘Mountbatten Zindabad’ and ‘Lord Sahib Zindabad’ were heard.”

The reception at New Delhi, and eventually the farewell at Bombay given to the British troops and Lord Mountbatten was indeed very warm and overwhelming (not to forget very contradictory) as thousands of people chanted ‘England Zindabad’ and ‘Jai England’ for their ex-colonizers.

 

  1. There was no performance of the National Anthem on 15 August 1947

In the fifth session of the constituent assembly, as it struck midnight and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru recited words that were to become history, India heralded a new beginning. Power was thus, transferred from Britain to India and ministers were sworn in. However, during the Indian independence ceremony, the national anthem was not sung.

The speech was made at midnight of 15 august 1947
Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru delivering his tryst with destiny speech. Wikimedia

Although Jana Gana Mana had been already written by Rabindranath Tagore in 1911, it was not officially adopted as the national anthem of India until 1950.

 


 

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Seven Decades after Partition: Sikhs in Pakistan Struggle amid Bombings and Violence

Sikhs in Pakistan have been looking to leave Pakistan as their homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam

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Sikhs in pakistan
Types of 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force), now 3 Frontier Force, Pakistan Army. ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons
  • In today’s period, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities
  • Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty
  • Mr. Singh heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan

Aug 15, 2017: At the age of 11, Radesh Singh’s grandfather left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, which is bordered by Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

Pakistan wasn’t even a glint in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the year 1901 when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

It has been 70 years since the partition of India, which divided the subcontinent into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and led to one of the largest migrations in modern history.

Singh’s family have been waging a secessionist uprising in India ever since, demanding unmitigated sovereignty for India’s Punjab state where they command. Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. Feeling increasingly less at home on either side of the border, they have been victims of local Taliban violence in the recent years in Muslim Pakistan.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947. Singh stated that poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, which was controlled by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. He said, “It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” mentioned BBG Direct.

ALSO READ: 10,000 members of Sikh community in Pakistan lack Education and Health: Sikh Leader 

According to Singh, the enmity in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was slightly lower in the northwest. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in Pakistan appeared like a reliable option at the time.

The Sikhs had lived harmoniously for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen. Singh explains, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. In the 18th century, they oversaw a dynasty headed by a Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, whose capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. He rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians assume is as old as the city itself.

In today’s period, easily identifiable because of the colorful turbans and the surname Singh, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities. As indicated by the CIA Factbook, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims which include Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus.

Singh asserted until 1984 Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived unitedly in northwest Pakistan. Their children married and worshipped together. But after the tragic assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the entire scene changed consequently.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you”, Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs in Pakistan are contending with the government for possession of dozens of Sikh temples (Gurdwaras); however, they have succeeded to restore some of the buildings. The Pakistan government took over the buildings after 1947 and allowed the squatters to remain.

Once a vibrant Gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs, it no longer resembled a house of worship but rather a sweeping courtyard. However, it was until now that two families called it the home, said Singh.

Singh who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said young Sikhs have been looking to leave as the homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan. But every country eyes them with suspicion.,” he said.

He adds, “Even Indians see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.”

According to Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began when Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan.

Extremism aggravated after the 2001 intrusion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he proclaimed.

The tribal areas were steadily caught by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs cut. Singh said the brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands abandoning Pakistan.

Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he told.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”


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British Library to host 70 years of India-Britain Cultural relations of Jaipur Literature Festival

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New Delhi, April 21, 2017: The British Library will be transformed like never before as the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival animates its iconic spaces for the first time in celebration as part of significant 70 years of India-Britain cultural relations.

Held for two days on May 20-21, the fourth London edition of the ZEE JLF@The British Library will present a sumptuous showcase of South Asia’s literary heritage, oral and performing arts, music, cinema and illusion, books and ideas, dialogue and debate, Bollywood and politics in the context of this broader view of India and its relationship to the Britain.

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The speakers at the programmer include: Oscar-winning British director Stephen Frears, Swapan Dasgupta, Shashi Tharoor, Shrabani Basu, Neel Madhav, Philip Norman, Tahmima Anam, Sarvat Hasin, Amit Chaudhuri, Kunal Basu, Amit Chaudhuri, Meera Syal, Prajwal Parajuly and Lila Azam Zanganeh, Anita Anand along with William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale.

ZEE JLF@The British Library is the first of five cultural strands which form part of the Year of UK-India of Culture in 2017, celebrating the deep cultural ties and exchange in what is a year of great significance for the world’s largest democracy as India marks 70 years as an independent democratic republic.

“In only a decade the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown from 14 lost tourists to third of a million people and it’s now the biggest festival of literature in the world. We can’t wait to bring its energy and colour to the British Library: our Jaipur-on-Thames,” author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple said in a statement.

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Namita Gokhale, author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director said: “Delighted that the fourth edition of JLF in London will be hosted by the British Library. London is a uniquely cosmopolitan and literary city, and we look forward to celebrating diversity through a series of vibrant sessions that reflect the special spirit of Jaipur.”

Sanjoy Roy, Producer, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said: “Our collaboration with the British Library is reflective of the shared history between the sub-continent and the UK. The festival will continue to be a platform for diverse voices and will celebrate 70 years of India’s independence.”

“The British Library is delighted to be hosting the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival this year as we celebrate the UK-India Year of Culture. The exciting programme reflects the richness of this new cultural partnership,” Jamie Andrews, Head, Culture and Learning, The British Library, said in a statement. (IANS)