The Partition of India - Diaspora of Forced Exile: A Historical and Literary Perspective

Dr. Kamal Chitra Jadhav
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From "The relevance of Partition narratives is greater today than ever before in the history of independent India. In the wake of fairly recent sectarian violence, it becomes imperative to go back in time, explore and analyse the reasons for the genocide of Partition, and try to grapple with the partitions of the mind that are a part of contemporary experience. The event and its tragic consequences are rooted in politics and in history, hence apart from literary narratives, extra-literary discourses have also been referred to. These are crucial to our understanding of this chapter in India's history. This book also attempts to highlight the importance of relatively recently discovered oral narratives. Feminist historiographers have brought to light hitherto dark and unexplored silences of Partition survivors, buried in the innermost recesses of the traumatized mind. These small, individual voices are pitted against the formidable array of documented, government-authorised official histories taught as parts of syllabi of schools and colleges across the country. A question that has often been asked is why it took writers so long - almost three decades - to articulate their anguish about the events of 1947. Partition survivors like Bhisham Sahni, Gulzar and Krishna Sobti have confessed, that the shock and horror at the bloody happenings around them had numbed them into a stupor of silence. They were galvanised into articulating their thoughts at a much later period, after witnessing disturbing events around them. For Sahni, it was the Bhiwandi riots of May 1970, for Urvashi Butalia, the Sikh massacre after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in October 1984,was the catalyst for her bestselling book 'The Other Side of Silence.' It seems that writers too need temporal and spatial distancing for artistic creativity, and so the writing appears much after the event. For me, it was the more recent destruction of the Babri Masjid by Hindu fundamentalists in 1993, and the Gujarat riots of 2002, that confirmed the worrisome presence of communal forces in our society and prompted this book. It is interesting to note that most women writers on the Partition employ women protagonists - possibly analysing the female psyche during those turbulent years is better done by those who themselves were first-generation survivors and of the same gender. The grand narratives of the nation have consistently ignored the roles of women and the plight of children during Partition. Only recently have the cataclysmic events of Partition, and the deep scars it created on the psyche of women and children, been explored. The diasporic journeys on both sides of the border have been movingly analysed and in many narratives one sees the forced dispersal, not only as an isolated event, but also as a universal human condition. Partition has implications not just for the past, but more importantly for the future. Partition writer Krishna Kumar5 speaks of the "past-in-presentness of Partition" implying how inextricably it is interwoven with the present, and therefore how crucial it is to find answers to questions that still baffle historians. Personal interviews as well as informal interactions with eminent writers on Partition history, have been of tremendous help in the writing of this book. I am truly grateful to the contributors, for giving so freely of their time, to enable what I hope is a fairly comprehensive analysis of a crucial chapter in Indian history."