PHD RESEARCH SCHOLAR, CES, JNU
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, DU
The partitions of 1947 and 1971 are registered in the collective memory with large scale violence, carnage, genocide and horrors of cannibalistic behaviour by so called civilised human beings. Gyanendra Pandey in his essay notes how this mass movement across borders, anxiety of religious hostility and actual acts of violence on communal lines were not expected as the direct result of partition by the authorities. The leaders of either nation had not prepared themselves for such large scale violence-driven exodus from either side of the borders.
Until almost the end of August 1947, Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru, along with a host of other leaders and officials on both sides, expressed their opposition to any large scale transfer of populations. Yet by the beginning of September, several lakhs of Punjabi refugees were on the move, under official ‘coordination’ in both directions…Jinnah and the governments of both East and West Punjab, continued to express the hope that ‘officials of the opposite community, would at a later stage come back (or, where they had not left, stay on) and serve in their Provinces.’(41)
The scepticism regarding one’s safety and the ostensible danger to one’s life was stark and blaring reality for the people who found themselves on the wrong side of the border. The minorities were not only threatened with imminent danger of communal hostility but for a larger part had been witness to communal violence and also in several cases been its innocent victims. Partition fiction in both the nations is also therefore invested in trying to articulate and thereby understand this madness that engulfed the nation in the immediate aftermath of the political partition. What Gyanendra Pandey seeks to stress in his observation is the need to address the issue of forced displacement and the forced migration people had to undertake because of real acts of violence or otherwise perceived danger of violence. The scars that are registered on the body, the mind and the psyche of the victims in the violence and xenophobic hatred unleashed by partition have to be decoded in a more sophisticated and engaging manner. The violence of partition was also mental and psychological as it involved a forceful erasure of one’s past, one’s homeland, memories, cultural and social affinities and also national identities. This was then followed by a forceful imposition of a new beginning that was scarcely desired in most cases.
What we are dealing with is the tearing apart of individuals, families, homes, villages and linguistic and cultural communities that would have been once called nationalities; and the gradual realization that this tearing apart was permanent-and that it necessitated new borders, communities, identities and histories. (43)