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Refugee train

By Prakhar Patidar

This year we celebrate the 74th year of Independence from the rule of the British empire. The colonisation, the struggles to break free from it and the victory in which India emerged as a free country has been preserved in our history books. The victory may have been sweet but our independence day doesn't just mark our freedom it also marks the dark period of partition that followed. Tensions between Hindus and Muslims were already on the rise as the freedom struggle came to a conclusion and as India and Pakistan parted ways, the tension took an ugly form of riots, violence and massacres.

Families had to flee their homes to migrate to their free countries, losing hope, dignity, loved ones and sometimes lives along the way. The statistics calculating the loss this grave period saw can never do justice to the lived experience of those who had to migrate. This history of having to leave all behind and move to a new nation has marked generations and continues to have a deep rooted impact.

How do we talk about a shared crisis such as this that brought out the worst in humans and rendered them to their most vulnerable as well? Though difficult, it is important that we remind ourselves of the darker parts of our past while we celebrate the better ones so as to never make the same mistakes again.

Partition had such a dent in the collective consciousness of the people from both sides of the border that the horrors of it still continue to haunt us. One of the more organised ways to keep the memory of those horrors alive so as to not let them happen again has been through museums. They act as reminders of our mistakes while also honoring those who suffered losses.

The Museum of Partition in Amritsar is the world's first museum of partition and is situated in the historic Townhall Building of Pakistan. Their exhibits consist of refugee artefacts, art and archival material. Moving beyond the material history of the partition, various researchers, archivists, trusts and foundations have made attempts to do their bit in bringing partition experiences to the forefront. One such example is the, active since 2008, a charitable trust that works towards "documenting, preserving and sharing eye witness accounts from all ethnic, religious and economic communities affected by the Partition of British India in 1947". There are only two out of the many resources available that allow us a closer, more personal look at the partition.


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