From Dandakaranya to Marichjhapi: rehabilitation, representation and the partition of Bengal (1947)

The Partition of India (1947) is commonly understood as a violent territorial and political separation of peoples, their forced evictions and migration as well as communal upheavals. But India's Partition can be seen as something more than separation of communities and the creation of distinct national identities. This paper suggests that refugee rehabilitation, one of the important processes of the post-Partition years, formed the rubric through which we remember 1947. Rehabilitation and resettlement of refugees formed the narrativizing principle of a number of novels that were written in the 1960s and 1970s in Bengal that deliberately looked at the fall-outs of the Partition other than communal tensions and migrations. Rehabilitation created a different experiential reality for a large number of refugees, and issues of home, settlement, livelihood, and work created a new body of literature that re-looked at Partition in important ways. In the course of this paper I examine some such novels in Bangla; one of which, Shaktipada Rajguru's Dandak Theke Marichjhapi (From Dandakaranya to Marichjhapi), is the story of a group of refugees’ journey to Dandakarnaya and then onto Marichjhapi in the Sunderbans that probes the circumstances behind one of Partition's most forgotten histories.

Debjani Sengupta
Taylor & Francis Online