Speakers at a virtual conference on “the Partition of India and Settlement” have said that historians and researchers must make due effort to explore the human side of the 1947 Partition of India where men, women, and children suffered considerably.
The historic event involved trauma, humiliation and brutal killing. The partition historiography is witnessing a shift from High Politics to the lived experiences of the people who have gone through the process of displacement. The pain and sufferings of the people involved, directly and indirectly, reflect evils in our society, they said.
The conference was organized by the Institute of History, Government College University, Lahore.
In his inaugural speech, GCU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr Asghar Zaidi said “August 1947 marks the independence of South Asia from the British Raj and the beginning of a process of decolonization. The event of partition brought one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the 20th-century as it accompanied an unprecedented scale of migration, violence, and bloodshed.”
The VC said that this event had re-shaped every aspect of state and society in the subcontinent. He laid stress on learning more about “The New History of Partition”, which focuses on the human dimension of the Partition.
Tahir Kamran, who teaches at the Beaconhouse National University, argued that both, the Indian political leadership and the British government were responsible for the unprecedented turbulence and communal chasm experienced by Punjab just before the partition. British Punjab was not conducive to the Partition, however, the communal polarization made it imperative to draw a dividing line.
Sarah Ansari, from Royal Holloway, University of London, discussed how the physical movement of people during the partition helped to shape the meaning of everyday citizenship on both sides of the new border. She suggested that the ideas about citizenship were intimately tied to the politics of movements in Sindh and UP and the understandings of emerging citizenship in both places were often shaped by material predicaments of refugees and minorities.
Nayyer Abbas from the Institute of History explained how the partition and the refugee settlement affected each region differently because of factors such as family bonding, and irrigated lands.
Lubna Akram, who teaches at the Institute of History, discussed the women’s experiences of violence and trauma as reflected in the literary works in Pakistan and India. The pain and suffering of the women unveiled the evils of society towards them.
Masooma Zafar from the Institute of History explained how the Partition continues to remain relevant even today. Hundreds of thousands of South Asian women experienced multiple gendered and sexual violence forms. She contended that oral sources and literary representations in comparison to conventional histories provide a better understanding of the emotional and physical experiences of 1947.
Umair Ayub Khan, who teaches at the Institute of History, suggested in his paper “New History of Partition” that the partition experiences differed because of class, caste, gender and ethnicity. He asserted that the partition experience continues to live in the families, communities and social groups whereby allowing different questions to be asked about the past and the present.