Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism, and History in India

Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism, and History in India

Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism, and History in India

Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism, and History in India

Synopsis

Gyan Pandey's latest book is a compelling examination of the violence that marked the partition of India in 1947, and how the preceding events have been documented. In the process, the author provides a critique of history-writing and nationalist myth-making. He also investigates how local forms of community are established by the way in which violent events are remembered and written about. The book will be of interest to historians of South Asia, to sociologists and to anyone concerned with the Indian subaltern story.

Excerpt

The years 1945 to 1947 were marked by intense struggle in the subcontinent. What the Second World War established, and the end of the war only underlined, was the changed military, political and economic position of Britain in the world and the radical transformation of the political temper in India. All this lent unprecedented urgency to the question of the transfer of power and the establishment of national government(s) in the subcontinent. It was in this situation that the Indian National Congress leadership was released from jail, efforts at mobilisation of different sections of the society were actively renewed, large-scale urban demonstrations and rural uprisings occurred, new elections were held and sustained high-level constitutional negotiations took place after 1945.

Much of the politics of the previous three or four decades had been about national liberation. It was a serious complication that the call for Indian self-government was now joined by the call for Muslim selfgovernment in a new country to be named Pakistan. Talk of independence was rife. However, while the Congress and those in sympathy with it expected the independence of a united India, the Muslim League slogan became 'Pakistan for Independence'. There were two nations in India, it was argued, and the acceptance of the Pakistan demand was the only road to the genuine independence of all Indians, the Muslims in a free Pakistan and the Hindus in a free Hindustan.

Yet the idea of Pakistan itself, the proposal for a partition of British India between its Muslim-majority and its Hindu-majority provinces, had not had a long history. It was in March 1940 that the Muslim League formally proposed the establishment of separate states for the Muslimmajority regions of north-western and north-eastern India; and as late as September 1944, in his correspondence with Gandhi, and April 1946, in a meeting of all Muslim League legislators of the centre and the provinces, Jinnah and the Muslim League were still having to clarify that the proposal . . .

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