Today as we mark the 70th anniversary of independence, there is another side to the independence story that needs to be addressed equally i.e. the history of Partition. The creation of independent India and Pakistan in 1947 came at a heavy price. The communal violence between Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs led to the largest peacetime exchanges of population ever. Today while attending the independence day celebration event in my college, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering what would have been the scenario of India on 15th August 1947. An image of bloody riots and human catastrophe surfaced before my eyes. The spine chilling image suddenly disrupted the tune of “Mazhab Nahi Sikhaata Aapas Mein Beyr Rakhna”, and the august gathering suddenly seemed to me as a funeral, where we had gathered to mourn the loss of millions of lives who paid the price of independence.
70 years of independence has still failed to free many partition survivors from the horror of Partition. While attending an event recently on Partition, a family member of Partition survivor shared how even after 70 years she hears dreadful screams of “Wo aa rahe h… Baccho ko bachaao… wo aa rahe h…” from her mother in law’s room. Col. Jaspal Singh Bakshi born in Kahuta (now in Pakistan) migrated to Amritsar during Partition, says “Log kehte hai, jo ho gaya so ho gaya. Nation bhul gaya. Nation to bhulega hi, par hum nai bhul sakte.” Mr. Joginder Singh Sethi, migrated from Lahore, Village Ghugh, to Ludhiana, shares how he still cannot free his mind from the physiological effect of being betrayed by a dear friend who invited him for dinner. Soon Singh realized that it was a bait as he was greeting by a vexed mob waiting to murder him. It has been 70 years since that incident and Mr Joginder have still not been able to gather courage to trust or befriend anyone.
Harbans Singh was 10 when his village of Sahiwal (now in Pakistan) was attacked. “Our village was surrounded by thousands of rioters, that is when my father started killing female members of the family. First my father killed my mother and then my three sisters…” Time and again women are considered to be embodiment of honour and their bodies become communal, both for violation and for protection. Since last 70 years they have turned from loving daughters to carriers of morality, who are better dead than alive. It is sad that the narratives of women have been ignored, suppressed and silenced. Theirs was the story of the lack of identity where a woman’s agency in deciding for herself was questioned. And even in Post-partition independent India, women’s bodies did not just represent their communities, but also the new nations.
When asked in a lecture “Why is it that there is so much silence about Partition even now?” Tanvir Mokammel replies, “there is a Bengali proverb, Oplo shokh e kator, odhikh shokh e pathor, which means when you are sad you cry and let your emotions out, but too much sadness makes you hard as a stone and you keep it all in. Partition is such a traumatic incidence which has caused immense sadness and is still taking time for people to open up.”