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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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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.