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10,000 partition stories to be added to ‘The 1947 Partition Archives’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

partitionWashington: During India-Pakistan partition in 1947, Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah sent a message to renowned Indian author Khushwant Singh asking him to stay in Lahore and become a high court judge, an offer he declined and decided to move to Delhi.

“I drove on a totally empty road, blank road, all the way to Delhi. I didn’t see a soul till I reached Delhi,” he told 21 year old Manleen Sandhu before his death in March 2014 relating his personal experience of Partition.

“Jinnah sent a message to me through my father–he was his friend–to stay on in Lahore and become a high court judge. I was a lawyer.”

“Bad times. No humanity at all…After Partition I returned to Lahore many times. I had no venom against anyone,” he said shaking his head as he explained his decision to move amid escalating violence.

Khushwant Singh’s story is among nearly 2000 stories comprising over 4000 hours of video footage recorded by citizen historians like Sandhu for ‘The 1947 Partition Archive’.

What began as a small grassroots effort to preserve the disappearing memory of Partition, at the University of California at Berkeley in 2011, has quickly spread across the globe to 157 cities where Partition witnesses reside.

Young, tech savvy citizen historians train to record oral histories and spread out in their communities with their phones or any other recording device as part of what has become the largest known oral history collection of South Asian memories.

Today a majority of the stories come from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, though many pour in from diasporic communities spread across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia.

They’re telling of how far refugees scattered in search of a stable life following Partition.

With those who were teenagers at the time of Partition, in their 80’s now, The 1947 Partition Archive has announced a manifesto to record 10,000 stories through 2017, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Partition.

The people-powered Archive relies in part on trained volunteers, or citizen historians, for recording the stories, according to a media release.

To accelerate the recording of stories and reach the 10,000 story goal, the Archive is announcing its next call for story scholars, a ten month long concentrated story collection fellowship programme.

Anyone who has attended a free training to become a citizen historian and recorded a story is eligible to apply. Applications opened on Aug 30 and the deadline to apply is Oct 31.

An anonymous donor, feeling the urgency for recording stories, has endowed the programme with $100,000 which will fund the field work and back-end archiving for 10 story scholars. Together they will record 1800 stories.

As founding donor Dr. Narinder Kapany, an Indian-born American physicist known for his work in fibre optics, says, “Partition affected every community. Stories of Partition are everyone’s stories. And time is of the essence to make them known.”

The Archive will begin releasing the stories for public viewing in 2017.

The Archive’s long term plans include building Centres for Learning on Partition that combine tolerance education, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It will be launching its task force for institutionalising the memory of partition later in 2015.

The first exhibit based on The Archive’s stories launched in 2014 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

With inputs from IANS

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In Pakistan, Hindus don’t get even a ‘Crematorium:’ Will you believe that?

There are a lot of Hindu family residing all over Pakistan and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area

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Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
  • Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices
  • As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence
  • Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan

Death is said to be a great leveller. But the tragedy struck to some section of society in Muslim-dominated Pakistan is altogether different.

Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices. People who can’t even afford to travel, they have no option but to bury the mortal remains of their near and dear ones.

As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence. But with the passage of time, they vanished in the thin air of the terror-torn nation. Even in areas lying in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where about 35,000 Hindus and Sikhs live, the cremation grounds are also rare.

Also Read: Today’s Social Issues and their Answers to Children

The law of the land is non-existent for the minorities communities like Hindu’s and Sikh’s. Without taking no-objection certificate, people from these communities can’t move an inch even. The grief-stricken families have to wait for the clearances, as they are left with no other option.

People are forced to travel long distances to cremate their relatives from the areas like Swat Bannu, Kohat, Malakand etc. The cost to travel such long distances ranges from Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000 and on the top of it, the fear of robbery during these travels cannot be ruled out. Not all the Hindu families can afford to perform the last rites in the manner they want.

Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan. The minority communities are compelled to bury the dead because cremation grounds are vanishing fast in Pakistan.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons
Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons

Although, the administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has allowed the minorities communities to perform cremation near temples. But most of the temples are built on the agricultural lands and commercial areas, which have already been encroached upon by land mafia.

There are a lot of Hindu family residing in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long.


After much of the protests, finally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started building the facility from the chief minister’s fund, as per some government sources.

There are almost 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Peshawar. And unfortunately, due to lack of proper facilities, people over there are also facing the same situation what others are facing in areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also Read: 7 new-age social issues in India that need a check

To expect some kind of generosity from the war-torn state like Pakistan is out of the way. Instead of spending extravagantly on the military expansion, Pakistan should come forward and full-fill the basic amenities for the citizen of its country. It’s the people who make the country and not the other way round.