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History of Partition broader than family stories, cliches

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New Delhi: British historian Yasmin Khan said that while the Partition of the Subcontinent remains a traumatic experience for its victims and continues to poison relations between India and Pakistan and Hindus and Muslims, its toxicity is also due to several misconceptions that persist and not seen in a wider, contemporary perspective.

The Partition of the Subcontinent remains a traumatic experience for its victims as well as continues to poison relations between India and Pakistan and Hindus and Muslims but its toxicity is also due to several misconceptions that persist and not seeing it in a wider, contemporary perspective, says British historian Yasmin Khan.

“What information we have (about the Partition in 1947) is through family stories, cliches… but when you read the scholarship on it, there is a different view. Among the misconceptions is the conflating of the demand for Pakistan with the violence that was seen,” Khan, an associate professor of history at Oxford University, told reporters in an interview.

“The demand for Pakistan was not a call for a violent carnage… if you take the case of Muslims’ displacement only, it nearly wrecked the Pakistan project.”

“But both these issues have been linked, virtually fused together, thus making the demand offensive and upsetting with consequences that are well known.”

“Disentangling both (the demand for Pakistan and the violence that accompanied Partition) is difficult but important,” maintains Khan, whose debut work “The Great Partition – The Making of India and Pakistan” (2007) makes a compelling case that while there was both wide support – and opposition – to Partition, virtually no one had any understanding of what it would entail or what its results would be.

The author, who was in India to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, also notes that the leaders on both sides were shocked by the level of violence and tried to take steps to curb it, but it is also important to remember that they were also human and faced many pressures and compulsions that prevented them from reaching any compromise solution, despite several opportunities. “The Cabinet Mission Plan (of 1945, recommending a loose confederation) was one,” she said.

Khan says it is also important that Partition should be seen in the “broader” international context of the late 1940s, as the Second World War had ended recently, most of the Europe was in ruins, with colonial powers themselves having sustained heavy damage and expenses and there were refugees all over Europe and Asia – as well as a large number of returning, demobilized soldiers.

This was the milieu in which moves towards decolonization were initiated, but colonial powers like Britain in the case of India were themselves weakened and in a hurry to transfer power, she said.

“The focus for the British government was rebuilding the country… setting up the British welfare state, and there was a strong inclination to reduce the Empire’s commitments and bring soldiers home,” said Khan.

The situation in Palestine, also ruled by the British and seeing similar tension between two religious communities, also had many “commonalities” with the situation in the subcontinent, she said.

In this context, she also notes that since there has been extensive literature and advanced scholarship on Partition, South Asian scholarship can lead the way for the understanding of more regions that underwent decolonization – with varying results and outcomes.

Khan, who has also written “The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War” (2015), an extensive account of the effect of the conflict on the Indian “home front” as the country faced a total war and its manifold demands, as well as the political implications – radicalization and growing communal divide including among the armed forces, also argues that war also had a major role in the Partition – as well as the violence.

“Partition would have not happened without the war.. the Congress leaders were in jail (following the Quit India protest in 1942) and the Muslim League made advances.”

“There was the free availability of arms, of the trained returning Indian soldiers, including those of the INA, specially in Punjab, while the British found it difficult to maintain peace because of divided loyalties of Indian troops and pressure to send British soldiers home,” she said. (Vikas Datta, IANS)

 

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The Other Side of “Hindu Pakistan”

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province

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The-Other-Side-of-“Hindu-Pakistan”
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Sagarneel Sinha

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country. BJP didn’t let the opportunity go by launching a scathing attack on Tharoor and his party for insulting Hindus and Indian democracy, forcing the Congress party to distance itself from its own MP’s comment. Only one year is left for the next general elections and in a politically polarised environment such comments serve as masala for political battles where perception is an important factor among the electorates.

Actually, Tharoor, through his statement, is trying to convey that “India may become a
fundamentalist state just like its neighbour — Pakistan”. Tharoor is a shrewd politician and his remarks are mainly for political gains. The comments refer to our neighbour going to polls on 25 th of this month which has a long history of ignoring minorities where the state institutions serve as a tool for glorifying the religious majority bloc and ridiculing the minorities. This compelled me to ponder about the participation of the Hindus — the largest minority bloc of the country, in the upcoming polls.

There are total 37 reserved seats for minorities in Pakistan — 10 in the National Assembly
(Lower House), 4 in the Senate (Upper House) and 23 in various state legislatures — 9 in the Sindh assembly, 8 in Punjab and 3 each in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistani Hindus, like other minorities have the dual voting rights in principle. But the reality is they have no rights to vote for their own representatives as the seats are reserved — means the distribution of these seats are at the discretion of parties’ leadership. Practically speaking, these reserved seats are meant for political parties not for minorities. In case of general seats, it is almost impossible for a Hindu candidate to win until and unless supported by the mainstream parties of the country. The bitter truth is — the mainstream parties have always ignored the Hindus by hesitating to field them from general seats. In 2013, only one Hindu candidate — Mahesh Kumar from the Tharparkar district won from a general seat, also became the only minority candidate to make it to the National Assembly from a general seat. This time too, he is nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — a major centre-left party of Pakistan. However, there are no other Hindu candidates for a general seat from the two other significant centre-right parties — former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-E-Insaf (PTI). Although, there is a Hindu candidate named Sanjay Berwani from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — a Karachi (capital of Sindh province) based secular centrist party of Pakistan.

Shashi_tharoor
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is
elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country.

The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures. It means that despite the state’s hostile policies, Hindus have been able to remain stable in a highly Islamist polarised society. 90% of the Hindu population of the country lives in the Sindh province. Hindu population in Umerkot,Tharparkar and Mirpur Khas districts of the Sindh province stands at 49%, 46% and 33% respectively — making them the only three substantial Hindu districts of the country. The three districts have 5 National Assembly and 13 Provincial seats. However, Hindus have never well represented from these seats.

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province. Many of them belong to the Schedule caste — the Dalit community. A recent report based on Pakistan Election Commission’s data says that out of 2.5 lakh women of Tharparkar district, around 2 lakh of them are not included in the electoral list — means that they are not entitled to vote for the upcoming general elections. All over the country, there are about 1.21 crore women voters who will not be able to vote in the elections. The reason is the lack of an identity card. Most of them are poor who are unable to pay the expenses required for an identity card. This has made difficult for independent Hindu Dalit candidates like Sunita Parmar and Tulsi Balani as most of their supporters will not be voting in the upcoming polls. In Tharparkar district, around 33% percent are the Hindu Dalits — brushed aside by the mainstream parties. The reserved seat candidates are based on party nominations, where mainly the upper caste Hindus are preferred. Radha Bheel, a first time contestant and the chairperson of Dalit Suhaag Tehreek (DST), a Dalit organisation, says that the fight is for the rights of the lower socio-economic class and scheduled castes. Sunita, Tulsi, Radha and the other independent Hindu candidates know
that the possibility of winning from the general seats is bleak but for them the contest is for their own identity — an identity never recognised by the political parties and the establishment of Pakistan.