By this point, every Indian, Pakistani, and their grandfathers has watched the Google Partition ad, tears welled up in their eyes. For the uninitiated, Google’s recent advertisement tugs at heartstrings, telling the tale of two chaddi buddies, separated by Partition, and reunited by their grandchildren nearly seventy years later. When the ad went viral via Facebook, sitting thousands of miles away in America, I bawled as I watched the granddaughter listening to her grandfather’s nostalgic retelling of the idyllic life he led in Lahore, eating jhajhariya, with his buddy Yusuf, and his granddaughter’s instant Google fixes to reunite him with Yusuf in Delhi. Continue reading An Incomplete Reunion – Ruining the Post-Partition Party: Archit Guha→
Guest post by YASMIN QURESHI. Excerpts from this essay were read at an event organized by the Partition Archives project in Berkeley earlier this year.
Abbu’s family, like many other Muslims in India was torn between staying in their ancestral land and going to the new country founded for Muslims. The call for Pakistan and the Muslim League movement was more prominent in the elite or educated classes. For Abbu’s family it was a distant idea and life outside Dilli was inconceivable. But the partition wave didn’t leave them untouched and a few family members including Abbu migrated to Lahore. Lahore was chosen because they had heard it was similar to Dilli. A year in Lahore was enough for them to realize their heart was still in Dilli. Ghalib ki galiyan, echoes of azaans from Jama Masjid, pigeons flying above their roofs and the aroma of korma brought them back to the home their father had built.
The conflict of choosing between the newly founded nation states of India and Pakistan divided many families. Some of Abbu’s relatives shuffled between the two for many years till they were forced to make a choice by the governments in the 1960s. His elder sister’s family and a few other nieces and nephews decided to become Pakistani citizens.
For Muslims that stayed in India, the next few decades were years of fear and subjugation. Communal violence, often organized and manufactured by political parties or the right wing Hindu organization, RSS throughout the 1960s in cities where Muslims were in large numbers was a threatening message to the Muslims that if they choose to stay here they would have to live as a silenced minority with a constant reminder they were guilty of dividing India. Continue reading Dilemma of Indian Muslims After Partition: Yasmin Qureshi→
I wrote recently about the surprising political maturity with which NCERT textbooks teach Indian students about the Partition. These textbooks were prepared under the National Curriculum Framework of 2005. This is of course not limited to the Partition chapter or indeed just the history textbooks. But I was particularly moved to see the Partition chapter. As you read it you realise what school textbooks can do in shaping how future generations see themselves, their own history and identity. I think a lot of people in both India and Pakistan would like to read it. Here it is:
Guest post by SAMEER KHAN: Mr. Chaddha lived in my neighbourhood, a tall lanky elderly gentleman who looked young for his age. I would often see Mr. Chaddha come for a morning walk in our local park, but I stayed aloof, not having an interest in the elderly gentlemen in the park who were either part of laughter clubs or the local residents union. Whenever I managed to struggle out of my bed for my morning exercise I would notice Mr. Chaddha walking ramrod straight like a soldier. He was never generous with his smiles and would simply nod his head whenever I greeted him.
One pleasant winter morning as I passed Mr. Chaddha in the park I was surprised to hear him call my name. I went towards him, and looking at me from his towering height he asked me, “Can you read and write Urdu?” Startled by the question I answered, “Uncle I can read Urdu but I am not too confident of my writing abilities.“
This is a book review byAJAY BHARADWAJof an authoritative new book on the Punjab’s Partition by Prof Ishtiaq Ahmed. If you have any questions about the book or about the Partition in general, please leave them in the comments section and we will soon put them to Prof Ahmed.
Ishtiaq Ahmed claims that his work is “the first holistic and comprehensive case study of the partition of Punjab” (p.xlv); he has lived up to it admirably. A study of rigorous scholarship, with painstaking fieldwork on both sides of the divide, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed’ offers unbiased insights into a minefield called the Partition of Punjab. As the title itself suggests, the book delves deep into the most difficult aspect of Partition history which has come to define it — the scale and magnitude of the killings at that juncture.
The primary sources that Ahmed has accessed in his endeavour are equally interesting for a number of reasons. While the historian draws extensively from the classified fortnightly reports (FRs) of the Punjab governors and chief secretaries to the viceroys, he simultaneously pays heed to oral history or the personal narratives of individuals — “witness to or victim of traumatic events” — that he has recorded over a decade and a half. The coming together of the two strands creates an intricate web of high politics and everyday life, which contributes to a layered, richly detailed and immensely moving account of the partition of Punjab — leaving a permanent imprint on the mind of the reader. Continue reading An undivided history of Punjab’s Partition: Ajay Bharadwaj→
Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te (Let’s Meet At Baba Ratan’s Fair); Length: 95 minutes, Year 2012; Directed and Produced by Ajay Bhardwaj
Ajay Bhardwaj’s third documentary film based in East Punjab, India, takes us into a deeper exploration of some of the themes touched upon in his previous works: Kitte Mil Ve Mahi and Rabba Hun Ke Kariye. Indeed, at one level Milange Babe Ratan De Mele Te is about a journey of an impossible return to a pre-Partition Punjab in which religious identity was fluid and the sacred and profane intermingled and fused. Continue reading Let’s Meet – On Ajay Bharadwaj’s ‘Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te’: Virinder S Kalra→
This guest post byKRISHNA JHAandDHIRENDRA K JHAis an excerpt from their book, Ayodhya: The Dark Night, about the original Ayodhya conspiracy of 22 December 1949
The sound of a thud reverberated through the medieval precincts of the Babri Masjid like that of a powerful drum and jolted Muhammad Ismael, the muezzin, out of his deep slumber. He sat up, confused and scared, since the course of events outside the mosque for the last couple of weeks had not been very reassuring. For a few moments, the muezzin waited, standing still in a dark corner of the mosque, studying the shadows the way a child stares at the box-front illustration of a jigsaw puzzle before trying to join the pieces together. Continue reading The muezzin’s last call at Babri Masjid: Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K Jha→
The insensitive governments of India and Pakistan are not moved even when one of their citizens dies in the other country, especially if the citizen was a poor fisherman arrested for the crime of inadvertently crossing a maritime boundary.
मंटो ने रचनात्मक अभिव्यक्ति के लिए कला की कोई भी दिशा चुनी हो, हंगामा किसी न किसी तरह अवश्य हुआ।
– बलराज मेनरा व शरद दत्त
कोई सत्तावन साल पहले महज़ बयालीस की उम्र में तक़सीम-ए-हिन्द और शराबनोशी के मिले-जुले असर से अकालकालकवलित मंटो आज सौ का होने पर भी उतना ही हरदिलअज़ीज़ है, जितना हैरतअंगेज़, उतना ही लुत्फ़अंदोज़ है, जितना तीरेनीमेकश। शा यद आज भी उतना ही मानीख़ेज़। बल्कि यूँ मालूम होता है कि वक़्त के साथ उसके अनपढ़ आलोचकों की तादाद कम होती गई है और पिछले दो-तीन दशकों में मुख़्तलिफ़ विधाओं में पसरे उसके लघु-कथाओं व बड़े अफ़सानों, मज़ामीन, रेडियो नाटकों, मंज़रनामों, ख़तों, फ़िल्मी संस्मरणों और अनुवादों के बारीकतरीन पाठों का सिलसिला थमने की जगह ज़ोर पकड़ने लगा है। और पाठ-पुनर्पाठ की ये धारा सिर्फ़ उर्दू या हिन्दी में ही नहीं, बल्कि अंग्रेज़ी में भी मुसलसल बह निकली है। जिसके बूते दक्षिण एशिया का यह अप्रतिम कहानीकार अब समस्त दुनिया की एक नायाब धरोहर बन गया है। यह वाजिब भी है क्योंकि मंटो के अदब व फ़लसफ़े में पश्चिम व पूर्व का अद्भुत संगम हुआ। मोपासाँ, चेखव व गोर्की वग़ैरह से उसने अगर तुला हुआ, मुख़्तसर अंदाज़े-बयान सीखा तो एशियाई माहिरों से रस बरसाने वाली दास्तानगोई का चमत्कार, और तफ़्सीलात का इज़हार।
Jamal Kidwai tells the (continuing) story of the Partition through family memories:
As children we would invariably be divided into Pakistani and Hindustani groups. We would have long arguments about who would win the next war, whether Imran Khan was a better all-round cricketer than Kapil Dev; we would even divide ourselves into Indian and Pakistani teams when it came to playing cards, scrabble, cricket or antakshari. These competitions and arguments brought small but interesting victories. Like once when in the course of an argument, a Pakistani cousin pulled out a tube of Colgate toothpaste, a far slicker plastic tube than our usual Indian toothpaste which came in tin tubes and was easily rusted. He was taunting us about the quality of the toothpaste tube which, of course, proved how backward India was compared to Pakistan. At this point one of us from the Indian team noticed that ‘their’ tube had a mark ‘Made in India’. Nothing gave us more joy than that and the Pakistani team was not only defeated but was left embarrassed for the rest of the holidays. (Material wealth and consumer goods was one area where Pakistan, with its imported goods from the US, was far more ‘developed’ than India and it gave us great pleasure to puncture that aspiration.) [Read the full article.]
Delhi, Or Dilli has been a city and a capital for a long time and even when it was not the capital, during the Lodi and early Mughal period, and later between 1858 and 1911, it continued to be an important city. We are of course talking of what is historically established and not of myths and legends. During this period there have been 7 major and several minor cities within the territories now identified as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCR-Delhi). New Delhi is the eight city. This piece marking the hundred years of the shifting of the colonial capital to Delhi from Calcutta in 1912, will talk about both Shahjahanabad and New Delhi. We will see how Shahjahanabad the once most powerful and rich city of its time and the last capital of the Mughals was gradually ruined, plundered and virtually reduced to a slum while next door arose, a new enclave of Imperial grandeur known now as New Delhi. Continue reading Delhi 1803-2012: A Brief Biography→
On Josh Malihabadi’s 30th death anniversary, doing the rounds is this recently uploaded interview of the Urdu poet, amongst a rich archive uploaded on YouTube by Radio Pakistan.
Josh migrated to Pakistan only in 1958. About the loss of Lucknow, he says it was like losing the world. He says in this interview about a visit to Lucknow, where he asked a taxi driver, how is it going with all these Sikhs and Punjabis who have come to Lucknow. The taxi driver replies, we have taught them (Lakhnavi) etiquette!
Anis Kidwai belonged to the illustrious Kidwai family of Barabanki. The family has made more than a signal contribution to the making of India. Not only in politics and governance but also in diverse fields of creative endeavour. This short piece, though, is not about her or about her family but her most remarkable record of the unfolding tragedy in the Capital of India and in its surroundings in the aftermath of independence and partition.
Anis Kidwai, though extremely politically aware with sharp and clear views on what she saw happening, was not a political activist and would have probably continued to lead a well settled, almost sedentary life in Mussoorie, had the unthinkable not happened. Her husband, Shafi Ahmad Kidwai, the administrator of the Municipality, who had almost single handedly tried to keep peace in Mussoorie when everyone else had either given up or joined the rioters, was murdered.
Heer-Ranjha in a Pakistani film poster, circa 1970s
The Social Space of Language: Vernacular Literature in British Colonial Punjab by Farina Mir Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2010. ISBN-817824307-5 pp-277, price Rs 695
This book straddles several anomalies that are rather obvious once stated but are rarely formulated as such. How is it that the world of Urdu literature becomes so dominated by people from the Punjab in a span of fifty years, beginning circa 1900s, and in a sense, continues to remain so? Iqbal, Faiz, Meeraji, Rashid, Bedi, Manto, Krishan Chander and down to our times Mushtaq Ahmed and Zafar Iqbal, a top twenty or top fifty list of modern Urdu litterateurs would likely contain eighty percent Pubjabis. And how is it that Punjabi, which produced such a brilliant and varied repertoire of stories, epics and poems until the late medieval era by such extraordinary luminaries as Baba Farid, Bulle Shah, Waris Shah, Haridas Haria seems to drop out of our horizon in the modern era, where all we know of is an Amrita Pritam or, less likely, a Surjit Patar. Where such poverty after such riches, where such preponderance from such invisibility? And yet, how is it that Punjabi still continues to enjoy immediate and even aural connotations that transcend nationality, religion and, even as it defines a community, a specific ethnicity. What then is a Punjabi community and where and how has it existed specifically in the colonial era but, in many resilient ways, down to our times? Continue reading Punjabi Qissas and the Story of Urdu→
[The Bangla film Sthaniya Sambaad (Spring in the Colony, 2009) was recently released. The film, by way of mapping the diurnal workings of a refugee colony in contemporary Calcutta, asks important questions about the changing cityscape, of the new, emerging world of land grabbers and fly-by-night investors and of the bemused young and old who are outside of this world and yet are sucked within its machinations. This is a conversation about education, humanities and the nature of artistry in the age of modularization—between MOINAK BISWAS, one of the directors of the film (with Arjun Gourisaria) & Reader, Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta and PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY, Associate Professor of English, University of Delhi.]
Prasanta: Your film got a commercial release finally, which is wonderful. Among the initial reactions, in reviews, internet discussions and so forth, one notices a lot of interest in the polyvalent nature of your craft. I would like to take one particular strand of the film and probe a little: that is, its quite sharp critique of the phenomenon of vocationalization of education. This is a constant and niggling thread, right? Now, one fundamental argument for modular training, especially in humanities and social sciences, at this point, is a democratic one: that it will provide competence to a large number of the unemployed, ensure jobs and help in national growth. Continue reading Trysts at Midnight: Calcutta, Now: Prasanta Chakravarty→
A close friend of mine—a fine political scientist with nuanced literary sensibilities, once suggested that he is inherently suspicious of carefreeness and gaiety in relationships, friendships and in public exchanges. One must take time, let matters marinate (‘jaarano’ he proposed in Bangla) and not be prematurely upbeat and exuberant while forging bonds and taking actions. The deficient modes of resting and concealment are important preconditions in order to take on varieties of political manipulation, social one-upmanship and literary cleverness that besets our time.
Conversation One. I’m sitting in a barber-shop in Sector 34, Noida, getting a haircut. The older guy sitting next to me, getting a shave, asks this younger fellow who’s just got up from a haircut –
Tu kahaan se hai bhai? Where are you from?
Main to Noida se hi hoon. I’m from Noida only.
Noida ka to na laage hai. You don’t look like you’re from Noida.
The young man in question was slight and skinny, and was dressed in what could be described as generic global college student/hipster style. The conversation continued. The barber said, no he’s definitely not from Noida. The young man turned on him and said, Tum kaunse Noida ke ho, Well, you’re not from Noida either. The barber says, Main to Bihar se hoon. Main thodai hi chhupa ke rahkta hoon. I’m from Bihar. I don’t hide the fact. Then the barber says, Yeh to lawaris hai ji. He has no parentage, sir.
Lawaris hai? To phir kaunsi naali se nikla hai bhai? No parentage? Then which drain have you crawled out from?
There have been several news reports recently about attempts by the builder Mafia to capture properties near the Jama Masjid in Shahjehanabad (popularly, known as old Delhi) to build a 100 room hotel. Reports have also suggested the involvement of a local politician, though the politician has refuted the allegations very firmly.
This piece is not about the builder mafia or the local politician, but about another issue that has cropped up during the investigation of the attempted land grab. It has been found that the ownership of one of the properties is under dispute and a case has been going on for close to two decades.
The reports say that the disputed property belongs to the “custodian of enemy properties”. Even a cursory reading of the reports would reveal the identity of the original owners of these properties. The original owners of these properties were Muslims of Delhi.