Asia-Pacific, India, Pakistan, Human Rights, Opinion, Politics

Uprooted: The Partition of India and Pakistan

Two nations standing on the ruins of a humongous blended family — India and Pakistan. The partition of these two nations was the biggest ever recorded in the World History. Millions forced to leave not just their homes and their valuables, but their identities. Identities that make us who we are! It was not their homes they were leaving behind, but their roots.

My Connection to the Partition

My grandparents are victims of the partition. I’ve listened to them with keenness, while I had muskmelon late in the afternoon with them. With tears in their eyes, they would recall the horrors they had come across in their prime. What is now Pakistan was home to my ancestors. They lived in Mianwali, apparently on the wrong side of the border, even though they had been living there for years before the year 1947.

What intrigues me everytime I see India and Pakistan laying weapons on each other now is that we carry the same blood, yet we cannot stay at peace with each other. Just like our blood, our rivers flow together; our crops grow together, our people watch similar TV shows and movies. Perhaps we are two birds from the same tree who flew away and have now forgotten their roots.

The partition of India and Pakistan is said to be a politically motivated act, where the interest of certain people was valued above those of millions. It left an estimated 17 million people to become homeless refugees overnight. For every Hindu or Sikh killed in the newly created Pakistan territory, there was a Muslim killed in the Indian territory. What exactly happened? Why did brother and sisters come about killing each other? What happened that led to millions being uprooted from their premises, from their homeland, from their soil to either a new land and new identities, or only death?

A Religious Partition

The answers lie in the sensitive documentary by British film director of Indian origin- Gurinder Chadha, who is traveling through stories of people who have undergone the act in the first place, and trying to knot the loose ends of the narratives that we know today. In her brief meeting with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, it was said that the colonizers themselves planted the actual seeds of Partition in the then India! The British empire. The British Empire took upon themselves a strategy to rule the people in a better manner through dividing people by their religion. They were “fermenting” ideas of Muslim consciousness by promoting separate Muslim institutions. Most Muslims, on the contrary, were still not ready to accept the fact that there be an independent nation for Hindus and Muslims, apart from a minority of a few.

“Indians” in the 1930’s were still fighting together for their demand of a free nation. They were still living together as one huge family. Until jealousy and politics took over. The pivotal players of the independence and partition of the two nations — India and Pakistan — were Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The three leaders were a voice to the long-demanded freedom movement of India from the British colonizers, but in the 30’s, something changed between them. Something erupted between the three of them that led them to separate sides. Some say it was a misunderstanding, while other say it was greed for power. Whatever it was, it led to Nehru and Gandhi to being together, while the Muslim leader, Jinnah, left out being isolated by his friends.

Another War

What happened back then was not just going to be another broken friendship, but was going to be a foundation for a broken nation. Jinnah took this very seriously and took upon all kinds of opportunities that led to him coming to the forefront. While the complexities of their relationships grew, people still did not demand a separate nation based on religious lines. It was only in the year 1940, a couple of months into the second world war, that struck the Britishers massively. Jinnah in his speech declared a vote to Islam as a vote to a separate nation. The British Government desired manpower from the Congress in India; however, Nehru and Gandhi declined. This gave Jinnah the opportunity to rise in their eyes. He sided with them over the aim of a separate nation, soon.

Broken friendships, broken promises, broken nations and the world, together gave rise to another war, this time in the year 1945. A cold war! Britishers wanted to leave India as soon as they could, however, leaving India was a risky business with India being a hub and a luring nation to the whole world because of its bustling resources. Jinnah understood this position, something that Nehru and Gandhi failed to follow.

The non-violent protest against the British Empire soon took a bloody turn wherein, for the first time violence erupted in Calcutta (now Kolkata), killing about 5,000 people — both Hindus and Muslims. This was the first time brothers went out to kill each other. This was in the year 1946 when the British Government was still ruling India. They did not do anything about the situation. The Britishers were bankrupt, and India was becoming a financial burden. They were looking to leave the country as soon as they could.

The Partition of India and Pakistan

It was only after the arrival of Lord Mountbatten in India that the original proceedings for the partition of India and Pakistan took place. Jinnah became the first Governor General of India after demanding for a separate nation, while Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India, declining the same demand. Shocking things happened between certain people, while the boundaries were still unknown. At midnight on August 15th, 1947, when India became independent, the lines dividing the two nations were finally decided and revealed. These lines were not just made up hypothetically across the states, but drawn in blood!

Blood wrote what followed in the history of these two nations. Millions forced to leave their homes, a million people killed, most others died due to lack of food and other resources, thousands of women were raped, while others made to walk naked in streets with their breasts cut. Children saw their grandparents, parents and family members killed with spears and axes in front of them, while they pleaded for mercy; these children were orphaned in an alien world.

Wounds Unhealed

My grandmother still cries when she talks about this, the first-hand excerpts I get from her freeze me to a point. It makes me question, who asked for all this? Did the people ask for two nations or did they have certain political motives to fulfill? Did the people who wanted the power lose their families? Were the children of such people left orphaned?

I, born in the 90s, am a descendant of someone whose life was turned upside down because of a minority of people and their internal issues and conflicts. We still live in the shadows of the ruins that were created about 70 years ago; still hoping for a new sunrise on these creatures of loss to get peace and calm in their lives and their heart.

About Saumya Khanduja

A cat lover, a book lover, and a beach lover: Saumya is all shades of being human. A sociology graduate from India, who spends most of her time writing. Outside the realm of the web, she loves cooking, sketching, and listening to the cello. A Game Of Thrones enthusiast, she might be small, but can "slay" you!

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