Punjab Migration 1947: Violence against Muslim Women and the Settlement

By Kiran, Naumana | South Asian Studies, January/June 2017 | Go to article overview

Punjab Migration 1947: Violence against Muslim Women and the Settlement


Kiran, Naumana, South Asian Studies


Introduction

Migration is a painful process for every human being to pass through but it is more vulnerable when is happened under terror and is imposed by force. One this kind of migration had been imposed on Muslims of India generally and on Muslims of Punjab specifically at the time of independence in 1947. Muslim women especially of Punjab had to face great violence through the hands of Sikhs and Hindus in Indian Punjab and states located in East Punjab including Patiala, Nabha, Kapurthala etc. and those who had successfully reached in Pakistan had to face other kinds of social and economic problems like their male counter-parts.

This paper deals with the issues including what kind of problems were faced by Muslim women in 'patriarchal society' (Didur, 2007: 35) on Indian side and then on Pakistani side also? What help and support had been extended to them by the women on Pakistani side to settle down in the new country? After giving background of partition, paper will mostly focus on the months from August 1947 to December 1947 during which most of the massacre, ethnic cleansing, rape and kidnapping of women had taken place. Especially from August 1947 to October 1947 communal civil war of the Punjab had proved to be one of the largest campaigns of ethnic cleansing in the world history. (Hassan, 2006: 42) These elements had reached at its climax after announcement of Radcliff Award on 17 August 1947 and it continued till December 1947. However IAN Talbot has mentioned that this phase of violence continued till November 1947. (Talbot: 2006, 37) Muslim women had to pass through the horrible experience of their lives. Besides bloodshed there were thousands of incidents of rape, kidnapping, keeping women as hostages, forced conversion to Sikhism or Hinduism, killing and in some cases forced marriages.

This paper has been produced on the basis of primary source material which includes the files of the Gold Medalists, available at archives of the Pakistan Movement Workers Trust. Oral history or personal narratives of the female victims are the most important source of information to build the argument in this paper. Each such account of the women is contributing in enriching the living history of the Punjab partition. The author had conducted interviews of a lot of females who had passed through the bad experience and of those who had helped the migrated ladies in the settlement process. The interviews had been conducted since last many years from many elderly ladies of author's own family also who had also migrated from different parts and states of Indian Punjab to Pakistani Punjab. The newspapers, biographies and autobiographies of women workers are other important source material.

Why is there Need to Produce Living Women History of the Partition of Punjab?

The partition of Punjab and then migration is still a cataclysmic event in the history of Pakistan movement. Until now some valuable works had been produced on partition experiences of Muslims of Punjab, but such works mostly present general picture and general plight of human being. Ishtiaq Ahmed's The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed is an excellent work but it has depicted the event, seen with men's eyes only and the voice of female gender could not get its space in his work.Being a man he had to be conscious of the social and cultural boundaries of the area. Pippa Virdee had accepted that many Pakistani women were not ready to share their traumatic experiences with her. (Virdee: 2013, 4962). It might have happened due to her foreign nationality. Tai Yung Tan's The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia deals mostly with Sikhs and their problems. It generally covers all sorts of migration of post-partition era including migration form Delhi and Bengal also, so women of Punjab could get less space in it. Sarah Ansari's Partition, Migration and Refugees is another valuable work but it deals with the Urdu-speaking migrants of Delhi and other areas who had been settled in Karachi and other Urban centers of Sindh, Pakistan. …

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