We know that the joy of our country’s independence from colonial rule in 1947 was tarnished by the violence and brutality of Partition. The Partition of British India into the sovereign states of India and Pakistan (with its western and eastern wings) led to many sudden developments. Thousands of lives were snuffed out, many others changed dramatically, cities changed, India changed, a new country was born, and there was unprecedented genocidal violence and migration. This chapter will examine the history of Partition: why and how it happened as well as the harrowing experiences of ordinary people during the period 1946-50 and beyond. It will also discuss how the history of these experiences can be reconstructed by talking to people and interviewing them, that is, through the use of oral history. At the same time, it will point out the strengths and limitations of oral history. Interviews can tell us about certain aspects of a society’s past of which we may know very little or nothing from other types of sources. But they may not reveal very much about many
matters whose history we would then need to build from other materials. We will return to this issue towards the end of the chapter. 1. Some Partition Experiences Here are three incidents narrated by people who
experienced those trying times to a researcher in 1993. The informants were Pakistanis, the researcher Indian. The job of this researcher was to understand how those who had lived more or less harmoniously for generations inflicted so much violence on each other in 1947.
2. A Momentous Marker
2.1 Partition or holocaust?
The narratives just presented point to the pervasive violence that characterised Partition. Several hundred thousand people were killed and innumerable women raped and abducted. Millions were uprooted, transformed into refugees in alien lands. It is impossible to arrive at any accurate estimate of casualties: informed and scholarly guesses vary from 200,000 to 500,000 people. In all probability, some 15 million had to move across
hastily constructed frontiers separating India and Pakistan. As they stumbled across these “shadow lines” – the boundaries between the two new states were not officially known until two days after formal independence – they were rendered homeless, having suddenly lost all their immovable property and most of their movable assets, separated from many of their relatives and friends as well, torn asunder from their moorings, from their houses, fields and fortunes, from their childhood memories. Thus stripped of their local or regional cultures, they were forced to begin picking up their life from scratch.
1. What did the Muslim League demand through its resolution of 1940?
2. Why did some people think of Partition as a very sudden development?
3. How did ordinary people view Partition?
4. What were Mahatma Gandhi’s arguments against Partition?
5. Why is Partition viewed as an extremely significant marker in South Asian history?
6. Why was British India partitioned?
7. How did women experience Partition?
8. How did the Congress come to change its views on Partition?
9. Examine the strengths and limitations of oral history. How have oral-history techniques furthered our understanding of Partition?
Please refer to attached file for NCERT Class 12 History Understanding Partition(Politics, Memories, Experiences)