That Punjab is lost forever…

In a personal email, my friend AC wrote these lines. I was quite moved by the tenor of the text and the exceptionally sensitive understanding of our past from a second generation post,-partition Punjabi. This post makes an important point as we have been discussing issues of history as well as the senseless point-scoring that goes on in the blogosphere by avid nation-state-ists. Raza Rumi.

Comments on India-Pakistan-related blogs all to quickly devolve into “Hindus this” and “Muslims that.” It’s just so useless. We should be enjoying and rejoicing in each other’s existence rather than incessantly lamenting past wrongs, real and perceived. An Indian on your blog is asking why Hindu Bengalis didn’t exterminate Muslims as effectively as the Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis did; a Pakistani is claiming that the Congress actively sought to wipe out the Muslim population across all of India.

My family saw some real hell in partition, but I have to tell you, that generation has always shown a keener interest in stories of my travels to Pakistan than their children or grandchildren. My grandparents’ generation experienced the catastrophe of partition firsthand, lost much wealth, and lost many years of their lives to rebuilding. But they were schooled in Urdu and left homes and friends behind, so I assume there was a feeling of affiliation as well. They saw humans at their worst yet at the same time held in their hearts memories of what was best in the people they knew — stories of courage, generosity, and affectionate friendships. So it is their kids who seem to bear the most personal grudges against Pakistanis. Easy to dehumanize people you have never known, I suppose.

Also, it seems everyone’s story is different. I recently heard the family accounts of a Pakistani friend from Islamabad whose family migrated from Delhi; he said that his grandparents had no real recollection of living amongst or knowing any Hindus. (That would make sense; Shahjahanabad and its environs were an overwhelmingly Muslim place pre-1947.) In that sense, perhaps Punjab was different… more social intermingling, more religious and cultural ferment over the centuries thanks to the colliding influences. That Punjab is lost forever…

The image depicting is from the LIFE magazine archives: “Men placing bodies in mass grave as bulldozer stands ready to cover them up with dirt after [communal] attacks …”
Location: Wagah, Pakistan Date taken: October 1947 Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White
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7 responses to “That Punjab is lost forever…

  1. It is worth thinking about: why and how is it that before the British arrived in the sub-continent, its many peoples lived together in peace and harmony, but deadly hatreds sprang up during and after their rule. A little known retired university professor in Idaho has suggested that the British were responsible for bringing divisive ideologies to Mughal India. I wonder if anyone has done any research on that.

  2. If the British had organised the partition, people might have left, reluctantly and emotionally, leaving behind only good feelings and taking all the good memories with them. The event of the partition was handled very poorly by the British; intentionally – I tend to believe.

  3. Hello Raza ji
    today i read an article written by u in the sunday edition of Hindustan times …must say thearticle was very informative and well written …congrats…

    also i would make a request to u to subscribe to my blog if u feel u have liked it in the past . the link is http//:www.rashmitalwar.blogspot.com


    Rashmi Talwar
    Mobile:- +91-98141-09211

  4. Rashmi ji
    Many thanks for the comment. I have added your blog to the blogroll.
    thanks for visiting and salam
    Raza

  5. Why blame the british.
    they were leaving the country.
    Anyone leaving usually doesnt care what happens to the place, except to threats for their own personal safety.

    British were not personally attacked in 1947.
    They made a gracious exit for themselves.
    If the place is torn apart, what is their problem.

    The problem is with the evil idealogy Jinnah brought, that they cannot live with Hindus.

    Even Mughals and many other muslim kingdoms did that, in the history of india.

    but they never said, we cannot live with you.

    This was the first time such an evil thought has been propagated.

    once you do that, in the land of pure, how can any hindus, sikhs be left alone ? they have to be killed or driven away.

    on top of that, muslims have example of mohammed who cleansed Jewish people in mecca and medina.

    So it is bound to happen, with or without jinnah.

  6. Sam

    I wonder what you mean by the “gracious” exit by the British. They claim to be great rulers and yet they left behind a massacre. I believe this was done purposely. People did not know which side they were on when the British declared Independence.

    The British took upon themselves to bury the Muslims after the siege of Delhi in 1857. Please read a detailed account in William Dalrymple’s recent book, The Last Mughal. It was the British who created a wedge between us. Bahadur Shah Zafar was old and ineffective as a ruler but even during the seige, he ensured that Hindu – Muslim riots do not break out (also mention in Dalrymple’s book).

    After the British departure, there was going to be far too much disparity between the Hindus and the Muslims thus there was a great liklihood (in Muslim analysis) of Hindu domination (for the first time now – in a nation state) and thus demand for a separate country. The problem was really socio-economic. Remember, Jinnah was against the creation of Pakistan till he felt that Congress did not have a level playing field for the Muslims. He left Congress for this reason. But do refer to his speech on 11th August, 1947 where he declares all citizens, regardless of religion, as equal citizens.

    I have not yet come across any evidence of the cleansing of Jews by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Perhaps you can point it out.

  7. @ Sam….

    a brief, intelligent and subtle look at a tiny aspect of partition…and the best that you can come up with is that Jinnah was evil and that ethnic cleansing only occured on the western side of the Punjab?

    I mean just how asinine can one get? doesnt there ever come a time when one catches one’s own self mid thought and goes… ‘gosh that really sounded stupid’…..

    anyway…if you cant contribute anything meaningful to an intelligent discussion…best not to say anything at all I would advise…and if you read the article….it will describe your category of people quite aptly….
    never did suffer stupidity well myself….!

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