Aftermath: An Oral History of Violence

Verma, Meenakshie
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From Google Books: "Violence has been a running motif in the history of the Indian subcontinent. In Aftermath, Meenakshie Verma studies its effects on ten individuals who were victims, and in some instances perpetrators, of terrible acts of violence in events ranging from the Partition of 1947 to the Bangladesh war of 1971, the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002. In her path-breaking study, she examines the effects of violence on individual lives, how survivors grapple with normal life thereafter and, importantly, the implications of trying to retrieve long-suppressed memories decades later. Drawing heavily on oral interviews, each of these accounts describes how for all concerned whether they are victims, aggressors or onlookers one brief moment of madness has had repercussions which persist even half a century later. The survivors continue to struggle with their guilt and grief, desires and regrets, nostalgia and melancholy, as they get on with the business of everyday life. Heera Lal, who stabbed a stranger just like that one morning in 1947, has lived for years with a shadow which appears only when he is alone. Mangat Ram fired on a caravan of refugees but feels no guilt, seeing himself merely as an instrument of destiny in the days of junoon or madness. Kesar Devi whose breasts were cut off is renamed Adhdha, the Half, and denied her identity as a woman by her own people. Abdul Nasir, survivor of the Gujarat riots, dreams of flying snakes and exploding bombs. Sobha Rani, reduced to prostitution, speaks of her grief in cosmic terms. Meenakshie Verma's sensitive portrayal of these lives is a powerful indictment of collective violence. Alongside, by showing the difficulties of reclaiming memories and making sense of them long after the event, she lends a new perspective to the study of ethnocidal violence."