Saturday, May 11, 2013

Silent Screams from the partition of India

Silent Screams from the partition of India

There was a time when this world was a small place. It was small because the man was not introduced to a sentiment, called ambition. By then, not everybody cared where continent of America was or the country of Greenland. Everyone was happy within their civilization confines and kingdoms. All nations had cross cultural influences and trade routes, but there were no intents to intrude someone else’s house. Time changed, men, states or even empires became hostile. Alexander turned out to be the first man to make almost entire known world his slave. Centuries passed and this game of power went on. Among such blood sheds, a ruthless country entered India in 1601, a land where Hindu and Muslim co-existed in the piece. Tempted by its prosperity, the England couldn't help but fall for India. Deep down within, they knew that they couldn't ever rule it, without breaching harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims. 

When World War 2 turned out to be a bitter experience for the British, England promised independence to India in return for support to defeat the AXIS Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan). All political parties supported the cause, however, All India Muslim League, the party, claiming to speak for Indian Muslims remained neutral. With a spirit of vengeance, the English decided to leave India, but only after tearing it apart between the Muslims and the Hindus. 

Initially, most Indian leaders opposed the partition of the country, but dreadful Hindu-Muslim riots in Kolkata and Rawalpindi increased pressure to seek a dividing wall. The partition agreement between Indian and newly formed Pakistan included the division of Indian government assets, the Civil Services, Armies, and Railways. Radcliffe Line was drawn to decide the border between India and Pakistan. This line helped in keeping Muslims and Hindus separated, but unfortunately, it wasn't helpful to those Hindu, who were staying in proposed Pakistan or Muslims who, by then were part of India. Lahore and Amritsar were centers of the problem as they had equality of both communities. 

There was an intense fear of being a minority among Hindus, Sikhs from Pakistan and Muslims from India. They started migrating in massive number, hoping for relative safety. In such political unrest, Hindu Sindhis decided to stay back in Sindh, but a sudden influx of Muslim refugees from India and incidents of violence made them leave for India. Despite this migration, a significant Sindhi Hindu population was left behind. Sindhis, whose entire province had gone to Pakistan felt like a homeless community. Later on, they went through a trauma of poverty as the loss of their homeland had a lasting effect on their culture. 

Partition of India

While the mass migration was going on across proposed borders, Britain was busy in ensuring that their officials attend independence ceremonies for both nations. The process of making both nations free was rushed in order to do so. Unfortunately, there was neither one day gap between freedoms of nations nor enough time left for peaceful migration.

The same happened what was expected. With official Independence of India and Pakistan on 15th and 14th, August 1947, the undivided air melted away in burning properties, inter-communal violence and rapes of girls. What one could witness was only long convoys, arrival at new and unfamiliar places, modes of long travel and breakouts. A large Hindu and Sikh inhabitants were attacked in Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Multan. Similarly in Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Gurdaspur, Muslim majority was killed. Newly born governments of both nations were completely unequipped to deal with migrations, violence and slaughter of such massive magnitude. Estimated number of deaths reached to 1,000,000, leaving twelve million homeless. Unfortunately, one could never locate the actual causality figure as no official report was commissioned on Partition to list out lost human lives and burnt properties. 

Countless children died in the course, but women lost everything, their family, their friends, their cities. They were kidnapped and raped. The Indian government claimed such 33,000 Hindu & Sikh women missing, while Pakistan claimed 50,000 Muslim women. By 1954, India recovered 20,728 Muslim women, while Pakistan recovered only 9032 Hindu and Sikh women. Fearing non-acceptance by their family and relatives, the majority of them refused to go back to their homeland. In 2003, Chandra Prakash Diwedi’s critically acclaimed film - Pinjar (based on Amrita Pritam’s literature of the same name) showcased the plight of such women. 

Around 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan from India while 7,250,000 Sikhs and Hindus moved to India from the other side. As independence of India and Pakistan was declared prior to the actual partition, this migration across boundaries became one of the largest population movements in the recorded history. It was almost unworkable for newly formed governments to accommodate such large number of Refugees. Hindus from East Pakistan (nowadays Bangladesh) settled across Assam, West Bengal and Tripura. Some migrants were even sent to Andaman Islands, a strange land, far-far away from their homeland and rich Bengali culture. 

Only God knows how difficult it becomes to forgive Britain for such unplanned execution of partition between Indian and Pakistan. In India, there has been inter-religious unrest since the days of partition. Even after more than six decades, generations of refugees cannot get over with that trauma of partition. The people who were so close to their fathers and mothers are no more visible to them. The smell of street food that they talked all their life about is no more in the air. If this doesn't make India-Pakistan partition the most undesirable chapter in human history, then what else could?

1 comment:

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