The Partition of Bengal and Assam: Contour of Freedom

By Bidyut Chakrabarty | Go to book overview

7

HISTORY OF PARTITION OR PARTITION OF HISTORY?

The fractured and wounded voice of the people

Partition is a story of re-negotiation or re-ordering. It is a resolution, at least politically, of 'a conundrum' involving Hindus and Muslims in the presence of 'a third party', namely the British. It is also an unfolding of historical processes into which people were drawn spontaneously or under compulsion and participated as significant actors in what was also 'a history of struggle' for survival in changed circumstances, following the construction of a new political identity as Indians or Pakistanis. Independence came in 1947, but with partition. The single most important event that interrogated the concept of 'nation' was the success of Jinnah in creating a sovereign Muslim homeland. 1 While the idea of an Indian or Pakistani nation was largely constructed or imagined, it had acquired distinctive characteristics in the struggle against imperialism. The imagined nation was influenced by history, memories of the past (both constructed and real) and the philosophical inclinations of India as a socio-cultural identity. This story can be told in two ways. The first is by focusing on institutional politics to map the unfolding of the events and processes that finally led to partition by linking the various levels of politics over a historical period. Undoubtedly significant, the importance of institutional politics, both in its 'high' and 'low' forms, may appear teleological unless linked with what had fashioned its articulation in a particular way. In other words, a critical engagement with the British political design to pursue the imperial goal is one of the ways of dealing with the outcome with reference to both its immediate and its ultimate background. The other interesting way is to capture the multiple 'voices' of those who were directly or peripherally affected following the sudden changes in the political map of India, some of them were passive but interested observers. Some represented the elite, but most were, argues Mushirul Hasan, 'ordinary folks whose fortunes and destinies were changed without taking into account their feelings and interests'. They spoke 'in different voices', expressed 'varying concern' and chose 'separate and distinct points of identification'. 2

With the demarcation of boundaries, for those who had been uprooted

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The Partition of Bengal and Assam: Contour of Freedom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Hindu-Muslimdifferences 36
  • 2 - Divide and Rule 55
  • 3 - Politics of Accommodation and Confrontation 85
  • 4 - An Alternative to Partition 132
  • 5 - Redefining Borders 154
  • 6 - Construction and Consolidation of Identities 176
  • 7 - History of Partition or Partition of History? 209
  • Conclusion 239
  • Glossary 251
  • Bibliographical Essay 253
  • Bibliography 262
  • Index 273
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