Since the past couple of months I have been thinking a lot about home and ways in which it archives the passage of time. In one such afternoon of sluggish enquiry, I learnt about my great-aunt for the first time some forty years after her death when I discovered an old trunk in my house. The trunk was brought by her when she migrated from Sylhet to India (Assam) because of the partition of 1947. Coincidentally, the day I discovered this relic of the inglorious history turned out to be the anniversary of the country’s independence. It was on the 15th August 2018.
With grief in her usual frail voice she utters, “I saw the poverty with my own eyes; my Mother’s gold and silver ornaments had to be traded to make ends meet. I remember running from pillar to post for loans and to collect pending money. What other alternative we had? None! All of us left Wahlong for Shillong in the next few months after partition for the better or worse, while Dad persisted to stay back and supervise the remaining lands (certain portions of our land is in Bangladesh today). Our journey to Shillong was treacherous! We walked from Wahlong to Mawbang and then we finally took a bus to Shillong.”
The Hindutva ideology, much like other fundamentalist undercurrents would have us deny the humanism of Manto and the syncretic traditions of Husain. It is in this context that the Partition themed fiction provides an effective counter-narrative to all efforts at social engineering. It need hardly be mentioned that the absence of an effective political discourse challenging the RSS-BJP combine, willing to transcend the secular-communal binary, mandates a search for a different language sensitive to past history and cognizant of our own failures.
“Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.”
My father passed away almost 20 years ago but I remember him every day. I remember him as a loving and doting father, a jolly, generous, kind, often compulsive person, always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. He would buy us gifts – clothes, toys and food whenever he felt like. I would always be so happy and glad just to be in his company. He had many names and identities you might say. He was known by his Muslim name as Abrar Hussain, his nickname was Khuku and Johnky, his Christian name was Peter.
The specter of Partition continues to loom large in the politics of the subcontinent. How one imagines the Partition and how it came about is…
The entry of refugees in large numbers is never welcomed anywhere. Demographic balances in Northeast India were threatened, even overturned, by the influx. The Bengali refugee, competing for scant jobs in the already impoverished economy, was a threat. The next phase of violence and ethnic cleansing began.