JAWED: Partition has impact on today's youth
Opinions Column: If Not Our Own, Then Someone's
Today, both India and Pakistan remain crippled by the narratives built around the memories of the crimes of the partition.
Britain’s departure from India in August of 1947 was the last step in a series of struggles to achieve an independent Muslim country within India. The result was the infamous partition in which the South Asian subcontinent divided into two independent nation-states: a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan (West Pakistan and East Pakistan, the latter now known as Bangladesh), displacing 15 million people and killing another 1 million, which still echoes in today’s youth. The departure itself brought minimal violence, but the Muslim/Hindu migration that followed took the form of a terrifying outbreak of sectarian fighting.
A genocide followed.
Last semester, I took this course called "The Making of Modern India and Pakistan," hoping to understand the reason behind what was, in simple words, a genocide.
My unsatisfactory answer? Religious intolerance.
Being Pakistani, I was raised to be patriotic in lieu of the struggles my grandparents and their parents faced so that the generations that came after them would live a life without religious or imperial oppression. And I am genuinely so, so patriotic, especially after moving to America. But as humans, especially all Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians — patriotic or not patriotic — we need to ask the question why the issue of religious intolerance was so deeply rooted that a partition of states needed to happen to resolve it — which it did not
Pakistan was not founded as an Islamic nation, “It was instead envisioned as a state designed to provide economic stability and opportunity to Muslims who, post-partition, would otherwise have found themselves a minority in a predominantly Hindu nation. A state founded for Muslims is by no means the same as an Islamic state,” according to an article from Tribune Media.
It was primarily clashes between Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs that ignited the desire for a separate Muslim country, but why did it get to that point? This partition happened approximately 70 years ago so a lot of the people who survived it are now aged or have passed away. Today's Pakistanis and Indians, Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs cannot exactly give an answer to that but we can definitely learn from it.
In the 19th century, before British intervention, India was still a place where traditions, languages and cultures cut across religious groupings, but even centuries of cultural mixing between the different religious groups could not prevent the massacre. The partition fell into place as a natural result of hate begetting hate. What was initiated as a divide-and-conquer strategy by the British — pitting Muslims against Hindus — turned into a violent rendition of self-preservation.
“Some 75,000 women were raped, and many of them were then disfigured or dismembered ... Partition is central to modern identity in the Indian subcontinent, as the Holocaust is to identify among Jews, branded painfully onto the regional consciousness by memories of almost unimaginable violence,” according to an article from The New Yorker.
The stories passed down to us are what define our past. But there is always more than one side to a story.
I have heard stories of violence against Muslims during the partition and so have most Pakistani Muslims I know, but there was equal violence on both sides. Muslims suffered, Hindus suffered, Sikhs suffered, the entire South Asian subcontinent suffered.
Violence escalated as the territorial boundaries were determined, and it has only gotten worse since. Even today, both countries’ governments are not open to each other (if we do not take into account that both nations, unfortunately, have very corrupt governments and an ironic under-the-books type of relation). Both Pakistan and India have harsh restrictions specifically for each other, regarding their visas and other related issues. Which brings up Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Because of its location, J&K could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Former Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of J&K, was Hindu while most of his subjects were Muslim. Unable to decide which nation J&K should join, Singh chose to remain neutral, which as we are about to see, is not an option.
Seventy years and three wars later, the land of J&K is still being grappled from both sides in a power struggle, as once again, innocent civilians caught in the crossfire suffer the most.
It does not end. The partition did nothing for the hatred. It did not solve any form of religious intolerance, it only escalated it. The people caught up in the partition were civilians too. We are civilians too. And the only thing we can do now is to learn from their mistakes as we try to hold onto our identities.
Malaika Jawed is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year. Her column, "If Not Our Own, Then Someone's," runs on alternate Fridays.
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