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JLF hosts session on India’s ‘Partition’, stresses need to clear misconceptions surrounding it


Jaipur: Much of the toxic memories and legacies around Partition in 1947, which continue to create bad blood, even seven decades later arise out of misconceptions about its reasons, dynamics, and processes and its important to clarify these so both India and Pakistan move beyond assigning blame to healing, say some historians of the event.

It was also contended that Partition was not necessarily inevitable, the violence it entailed doesn’t seem to have been elaborately planned and even shocked leaders on both sides, though they had contributed to it with their careless, and inflammatory statements, while there are many aspects that have not received the level of attention they should, such as the effect on people outside the three major communities and the areas like Punjab and Bengal that are usually focused upon.

At a session titled “The Great Partition” at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday, Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal, who has argued Partition was one of the possible outcomes being negotiated, said the Muslim League’s March 23, 1940 resolution calling for a separate homeland, was part of its movement to settle the question of minority rights but noted it ended up aggravating the issue instead of solving it.

“Minority rights are a legacy of Partition, and it is an issue in all three nations,” she said.

Writer and journalist Nisid Hajari contended that the genocide of Partition was either triggered by being misguided by a political figure, or falling prey to madness, but in either instance, people could not fully explain their actions, and nobody admitted responsibility.

British historian Yasmin Khan noted the demand for Pakistan has been conflated with the violence that followed.

“They’ve been put on the same track… disentangling both is difficult but important,” she maintained.

US-based history professor Venkat Dhulipala noted the event had seen emergence of a “hostage population” theory or that minority rights can be ensured by a certain terror and such rhetoric was widespread then, as was talks about transfers of populations, made by people like Mohammad Ali Jinnah and even B.R. Ambedkar.

“The violence can be understood by the incendiary and passionate statements made in the public sphere,” he said.

But Jalal noted that most of the violence was not about religion as is commonly thought, but about property or its forcible seizure from those who could not resist it.

Intervening here, publisher and writer Urvashi Butalia highlighted how patriarchal Indian society enabled violence and as families were already violent towards their women, it was just the degree and the targets of violence that changed during Partition.

She also suggested that it was a mistake to define minorities in purely religious terms during Partition, since many other minorities were also affected, including Dalits, hijras and women, or even the inmates of mental asylums.

On the responsibility for Partition, Hajari said even Mahatma Gandhi did not have the political power to stop it though he had tried to tamp down on the violence.

“I hesitate to assign percentages, but the Congress made several mistakes and could have been more generous politically.”

Khan said it should be known that the leaders then were also human and faced many pressures and compulsions and that is why they couldn’t compromise. “There were several missed opportunities. The Cabinet Mission Plan was one…,” she said.

Jalal, however, maintained it was imperative “to go beyond finger-pointing to healing”.

She noted that a recent poll in Pakistan had 39 percent of respondents saying they were helped by a Hindu or a Sikh during the Partition, but these stories have not come into the mainstream narrative yet. “Without them, the unimaginable violence would have been unconscionable.”

Hajari also said literature and art can also approach the matter better than straightforward histories, while Butalia also suggested that these break away from traditional historical narratives and allow for interpretations of the Partition story through a multitude of perspectives. (Vikas Datta, IANS)(Photo:

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Attention Readers! Here are Five Books to Look Forward to in November 2017

While October saw a diverse bookshelf, ranging from "Finding my Virginity," by Richard Branson to "The Bhojpuri Kitchen," by Pallavi Nigam Sahay, the upcoming month is more about concrete titles by well-known faces.

Looking for books to read in November? We have got you covered! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 30, 2017 : With the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Man Booker Prize – the two most coveted literary honors – having been awarded earlier in October, the literary season has indeed set in.

Two literature festivals have just concluded in the national capital. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature will be announced in about two weeks, while the Jaipur Literature Festival is also round the corner. What better time for publishing houses to release the most-awaited books of the year?

While October saw a diverse bookshelf, ranging from “Finding my Virginity,” by Richard Branson to “The Bhojpuri Kitchen,” by Pallavi Nigam Sahay, the upcoming month is more about concrete titles by well-known faces.

Here are five books we can’t wait to read this November

1. “The Book of Chocolate Saints” by Jeet Thayil (Aleph)

One of the most-awaited literary books of the year by Jeet Thayil, a past winner of the DSC prize, the Sahitya Akademi Award and a finalist of the Man Booker Prize. In incandescent prose, Thayil tells the story of Newton Francis Xavier, blocked poet, serial seducer of young women, reformed alcoholic (but only just), philosopher, recluse, all-round wild man and India’s greatest living painter. At the age of 66, Xavier, who has been living in New York, is getting ready to return to the land of his birth to stage one final show of his work (accompanied by a mad bacchanal). Narrated in a huge variety of voices and styles, all of which blend seamlessly into a novel of remarkable accomplishment, “The Book of Chocolate Saints” is the sort of literary masterpiece that only comes along once in a very long time.

2. “Conflicts of Interest” by Sunita Narain (Penguin)

One of India’s foremost environmentalists, Sunita Narain gives a personal account of her battles as part of the country’s Green Movement. While outlining the enormous environmental challenges that India faces today, Narain says political interests often scuttle their effective resolution. She recounts some widely reported controversies triggered by research undertaken by her along with her team at the Centre for Science and Environment, such as the pesticides in colas report, air pollution research in Delhi and endosulfan research in Karnataka, among others. Narain also includes an ‘environmental manifesto’, a blueprint for the direction India must take if it is to deal with the exigencies of climate change and environmental degradation.

3. “Life among the Scorpions” by Jaya Jaitly (Rupa)

From arranging relief for victims of the 1984 Sikh riots, to joining politics under firebrand leader George Fernandes, to becoming president of the Samata Party — a key ally in the erstwhile NDA Government – Jaya Jaitly’s rise in Indian mainstream politics invited both awe and envy. All this even as she continued her parallel fight for the livelihood of craftsmen on the one hand, and conceptualised and ensured establishment of the first Dilli Haat in 1994, on the other. With all the backstories of major events in Indian politics between 1970 and 2000, including her experience of dealing with the Commission of Inquiry and courts regarding the Tehelka sting, the story of Jaya Jaitly makes for a riveting read. A powerful narrative on why being a woman in politics was for her akin to being surrounded by scorpions; this is one of the best books set for release and a hard hitting memoir that offers a perspective on the functioning of Indian politics from a woman’s point of view.

4. “Chase Your Dreams” by Sachin Tendulkar (Hachette India)

Why should adults have all the fun? In his career spanning 24 years, hardly any records have escaped Sachin Tendulkar’s masterly touch. Besides being the highest run scorer in Tests and ODIs, he also uniquely became the first and only batsman to score 100 international centuries and play 200 Tests. His proficient stroke-making is legendary, as is his ability to score runs in all parts of the field and all over the world. And Tendulkar has now come up with this uniquely special edition of his autobiography for young readers.

5. “China’s India War” by Bertil Lintner (Oxford University Press)

The Sino-Indian War of 1962 delivered a crushing defeat to India: not only did the country suffer a loss of lives and a heavy blow to its pride, the world began to see India as the provocateur of the war, with China ‘merely defending’ its territory. This perception that China was largely the innocent victim of Nehru’s hostile policies was put forth by journalist Neville Maxwell in his book “India’s China War,” which found readers in many opinion makers, including Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. For far too long, Maxwell’s narrative, which sees India as the aggressor and China as the victim, has held court. Nearly 50 years after Maxwell’s book, Bertil Lintner’s “China’s India War” puts the ‘border dispute’ into its rightful perspective. Lintner argues that China began planning the war as early as 1959 and proposes that it was merely a small move in the larger strategic game that China was playing to become a world player — one that it continues to play even today. (IANS)

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Saket Suman and was first published at IANS. Saket can be contacted at