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India’s First Partition Museum in Amritsar to Mark 70 Years of Independence From Colonial Rule

The museum is a nonprofit trust that has raised money from companies including the Hindustan Times and Airtel and individuals such as Suhel Seth

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Refugees en route to Pakistan during partition. Wikimedia
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  • To mark seven decades of India and Pakistan as independent nations, a new museum has been inaugurated
  • The last of the 14 galleries of the museum is known as the Gallery of Hope, where visitors are invited to write down messages
  • Ahluwalia said she wanted to establish the museum after hearing her 83-year-old grandmother’s stories of the subcontinent for years

Amritsar, India, August 18, 2017: 70 years have passed since Pakistan and India were made from the former British colony. Until now, there had never been an avenue to know about the memorabilia and stories of those individuals who lived through the horror of partition. For marking seven decades of these two nations as independent countries, a new museum has been inaugurated.

“If you look at any other country in the world, they’ve all memorialized the experiences that have defined and shaped them. Yet this event that has so deeply shaped not only our sub-continent but millions of individuals who were impacted has had no museum or memorial 70 years later,” said the Partition Museum’s CEO, Mallika Ahluwalia.

The exhibitions that are held in red-brick building of Town Hall in Amritsar, the border city of north India, include proofs like newspaper clippings, personal items donated and photographs, which show how the area’s freedom fight from colonial rule developed into one of the most violent scenes witnessed by it, as communal clashes killed numerous people of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs communities and an additional 15 million dislodged from their ancestors’ homes.

ALSO READ: Top Highlights of PM Narendra Modi’s Speech on India’s 71st Independence Day

An ancient pocket watch belonging to a person killed in Pakistan during mob violence. A traditional cot of rope carried across the border by a refugee. Fabrics which were woven from craftsmen of the time. And various old family photos.

Screens are put that display video interviews of the now-elderly people who survived. The last of the 14 galleries of the museum is known as the Gallery of Hope, wherein visitors are summoned to write down messages of peace and love on papers in the shape of a leaf before putting them on a tree with barbed-wire. The idea, as said by Ahluwalia, was to invite visitors to contribute in the tree’s “greening” and to reflect and encourage peace between the nations.

“You end up feeling so grateful to that generation who, I think, helped rebuild the nation, despite having suffered such trauma,” said Ahluwalia.

She said she wished to establish the partition museum after hearing the stories of her grandmother who is 83-years-old about the subcontinent before the splitting took place and before she was forced to leave her home in Pakistani as a girl of 13 years.

“What must it have felt like for her, to one day come from, you know, a relatively affluent family, have a normal background, and the next day all you have left of your things is a small suitcase,” Ahluwalia said. Her personal experience made her think it was essential to build the museum, “especially as we saw that generation leaving us.”

This museum is more crucial as it is the first partition museum of India, she said. The tickets are rated low in order to motivate people to visit the museum. It is a nonprofit museum and companies like the Hindustan Times and Airtel and individuals like Suhel Seth have helped it raise money. The place was donated by the government of Punjab.

Shiv Visvanathan, a sociologist said that the subject has been painful for several people, and that reconciliation needs the work of both the sides. The museum too, should reveal realities of both sides, he said.

“If a nation-state becomes the repository of memory, it becomes a one-sided memory,” Visvanathan said. “We have to acknowledge the mutuality of violence. There is no one truth. No one victim.”

This museum is situated in Amritsar, well-known for the famous Golden Temple as this city of Punjab marks one of the first arrival points when refugees made their way to India.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025

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UP Madrasas Defy CM Yogi Adityanath’s Independence Day Orders to Sing National Anthem and Record Proof of Celebrations

The question is, why would BJP-led UP state government issue guidelines exclusively for madrasas to celebrate Independence Day?

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BJP government in UP released an order definiting protocol for independence day celebratin
Madrasas in UP were asked via a government order to record 'evidence' of Independence Day celebrations (representational image) VOA
  • BJP-led UP state government released celebration protocol for August 15
  • Madrasas across different cities of UP decided against singing the Indian national anthem as part of the celebrations
  • Indian Independence Day is celebrated annually on August 15

Uttar Pradesh, August 17, 2017: As India celebrated its 71st independence day, celebrations took place in all states of the country. However, some discrepancies were observed in various cities of Uttar Pradesh, where madrasas celebrated the day following ‘confusions’ created by Uttar Pradesh government’s recent orders on the celebration protocol in Islamic schools.

Madrasas are a specific type of religious school or college for the study of Islamic subjects, though it may not be the only subject studied there.

The UP government had issued a notification to all madrasas across the state ahead of the Independence Day, devising guidelines for the celebration of Independence Day. According to the government circular, flag hoisting and the recital of the national anthem must take place at 8 am on the Independence Day across all madrasas. In addition to this, they were also instructed to film the events organized to celebrate the day as proof.

Though many madrasas paid heed to the government orders, some maintained that they never received any official intimation of the celebrations.

According to Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahli, head of Darul Uloom Firangimahal, an “unnecessary hype” had been created in the context of the government order as Independence Day has always been celebrated across all madrasas with zeal and enthusiasm.

Sharing similar views, Ashraf Usmani, spokesperson of the Darul Uloom Deobandh insisted that the protocol of the celebrations had been the same in the past too. He also added that none of the madrasas in his knowledge had received any such circular.

According to Usmani, there was no need to give an “evidence” of the celebrations. “This is the function of our freedom, why will we not celebrate it” he added, mentioned PTI report.

Asserting the same opinion, Firangimahli, who is also a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, also believes that the BJP-led state government should not have issued the order specifically addressing the madrasas but instead released it for all schools, colleges, and universities.

The Yogi Adityanath-led state government’s orders had created ripples immediately following its release and there were reports of clerics divided upon it.

Following this, about 150 madrasas connected with the Barelvi sect had decided to defy the orders of the government. It was decided in a meeting held on August 14 that celebrations were to take place with gusto, and the events of the day would include unfurling the Indian tricolor and distributing sweets to pay tribute to the freedom fighters. However, according to a PTI report, Maulana Shahabuddin Rizvi, national general secretary of All India Jamat Raza Mustafa had said that “No action will be performed which goes against the Shariat like the singing of the national anthem and videography.”

According to them, the word ‘adhinayak’ in the Indian national anthem was originally written in praise of the British in 1911, which is against the shariat.

Prohibitory orders were immediately promulgated in Bareilly district on the night of August 14 after a few Muslim organizations decided to defy government orders.

ALSO READ: India Celebrates its 71st Independence Day: What People Want Freedom From?

As per reports, on August 15, in Kanpur, Meerut and Bareilly, three of the biggest madrassas of the state, a majority of the madrasas celebrated the Indian Independence Day by unfurling the national flag, however decided against signing the national anthem. The students are believed to have sung Sare Jahan Se Achha, a 20th century patriotic song and not record the proceedings of the event.

Minority Welfare Officer of Bareilly, Jagmohan Singh was later quoted by PTI reports, saying that a formal report on the recitation of the national anthem and the videography of events undertaken to mark the Independence Day was being sent to the government for scrutiny.


 

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