Tuesday October 23, 2018
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A line on the map: Partition through the eyes of a refugee

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By Gaurav Sharma

partitionWe all celebrate Independence Day with much gusto and elan. Draping ourselves with the tricolor while waving the tiranga, bonding with family over warm breakfast while being eager-eared audience to Dada’s epic tale of partition, the Independence Day is the celebration of the unity of people. Unity of all people pledging their allegiance to the idea of nationhood, that is.

Our ancestors are the eyes into that history of nationhood. The gory, murky and inglorious history which is reproduced in front of the youth through the realism of  their verbosity. Their herculean memory is living proof of the evils of demarcated boundaries. The perils of nationhood. And yet it is the very same nationhood that we celebrate and glorify on this day. Some swear their lives by it, and so they die for it.

On this Independence Day, NewsGram brings out freedom and splintering into two, in all its eclectic scope through the empirical lens of an Indian refugee GD Taneja.

GS: You were born under the unified India. Do you consider it as a privilege or a bane?

GD: I was born in Karachi in 1926. During that time, Hindus and Muslims used to live peacefully, considerate of each other’s belief systems. It was beyond toleration, it was a recognition of our understanding of brotherhood. Living by that principle made life more enriching. It was indeed fortuitous of me to be born in a unified India.

GS: What was the prevalent behavior of Hindus and Muslims?

GD:  At the time the partition was announced, the region around Karachi constituted a meager 5 per cent of Hindus, the vast majority comprised of Muslims. Hindu festivals like Baisakhi and Janmashtami were celebrated with equal zeal by both the communities. We respected Allah, the Muslim idea of God.

GS: How did the camaraderie change so drastically?

GD: We were not persecuted by the immediate Muslims of Karachi. Religious zealots from the mountainous region of Waziristan mercilessly attacked our homes, our places of worship and thus began a sinister chain of violence. They had weapons against which we could not retaliate. Sikhs were attacked relentlessly, and we were taken in as mistaken-identity.

GS: How did you manage to escape the onslaught?

GD:  A Hindu SHO (Station house officer) gave us refuge in the police station at the behest of our Muslim brethren. Had it not been for them we would have been slaughtered in the precarious passage to the station.

GS: Keeping in mind the religious massacre during the partition, do you believe that religion splinters humanity?

GD:  India was, and is kept united by religion. It gives hope to people, a wanting to move forwards in life. It is only due to some fanatics that religion gets a bad name. Religion gives knowledge, one that is aimed at uniting people rather than segregating them into kafirs and mlecchas. Politicizing religion further exacerbated the problem.

GS: How do you reflect on Independence Day today?

GD: I look at Independence Day with hope and a touch of sadness. That we had to undergo a vicious war in which scores were killed and raped to realize our ‘freedom’ goes to show that religion has to be tolerant of multitudinary interpretations, in order for it to bring out real transformation.

Current situation of Pakistan is a testimony to that fact. We have to be extremely careful in treading the fine line between religion and fanaticism. Secularism is not the solution because it breeds ignorance of other people’s knowledge and faith.

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Indian Diaspora Celebrates India’s Independence Day in Poland

India as a soft-power has emerged in a big way in the length and breadth of Poland.

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Indian community celebrates Independence Day in Poland. Flickr
Indian community celebrates Independence Day in Poland. Flickr

The Indian community-based in the Polish capital celebrated the 72nd Independence Day on Wednesday with great patriotic fervour.

Hundreds of Indians along with their Polish friends assembled in the Indian Embassy early morning and were greeted by newly-appointed Indian Ambassador Tsewang Namgyal.

Namgyal unfurled the tricolour and joined the people there when the national anthem was played at the venue. He then read a message by President Ram Nath Kovind delivered on the eve of Independence Day.

Addressing the Indian community in Poland, Namgyal said: “You are an important bridge between the two important nations. Your hard work and your commitment speaks (for) itself.”

Indian restaurant
Indian restaurant. Pixabay

Kirti Gahlwat, a yoga teacher sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), displayed her talent and mesmerized the audience with her remarkable asanas.

She was followed by Kathak dancer Jigna Dixit, who was also sponsored by the ICCR to promote the dance form in Poland. Dixit was joined by several Polish students.

In the afternoon, the Indian community in Warsaw organised an event displaying Indian cuisine, spices and handicraft items. At the same time, Polish girls performed on Bollywood songs and also showcased Bharat Natyam and Kathak dance forms.

Also Read: 70 years after Independence Power reaches Elephanta Isle near Mumbai

“India as a soft-power has emerged in a big way in the length and breadth of Poland. There are more than 100 Indian restaurants in Warsaw alone. One can find an Indian restaurant practically on every important street in Warsaw,” said J.J. Singh, President of the Indo-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“There are more than 300 yoga centres and there are five Polish groups which organise Indian music and dance programmes regularly,” he added. (IANS)

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