“… A continent for better or worse divided.” –Partition by W. H. Auden
“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” That’s how the movie Back to the Future ends.
For us, the people originally from the eastern part of Bengal, it was like, “where we came from, we didn’t have roads.” Forced displacement in the name of religion made us refugees in our own land – the country for which my forefathers fought for, so that it could get its independence.
I still remember my paternal grandmother telling me of how my grandfather and her, along with other ‘refugees’, worked day and night with soil and earth and dust to build roads. They knew, the rulers, even though they were Indians and no longer British, would not do anything for them.
The post-Partition Indian government ignored us, and turned Bengal into a land of destitution.
My maternal grandfather told me stories of how an old Muslim man wanted to cross the border and go to the eastern side during the late 1960s, because he feared the religious fundamentalists would kill him.
But, he also knew that on the other side of the border, the Pakistani army was ruthlessly killing Bengalis.
During the 1947 Partition of India, more than 75,000 women were raped and disfigured, according to William Dalrymple. And according to Lisa Sharlach, more than 200,000 women were raped during Bangladesh genocide.
In the first instance, the leaders were mostly Hindus, and in the second instance, Muslims. Religious fundamentalism has always been an exterminator of the common man’s dreams.
The Indian government did not provide us with any aid. We were tagged with the term ‘refugee’ and the rest of India forgot about us.
Before Partition, we knew that our country extends from Lahore, Karachi to Dhaka and Barisal. After that, we were told that, those are no longer parts of our country and we have to move to another place.
Noam Chomsky, while describing the effects of colonization on Bengal, said, “Bengal was one of the richest places in the world when the first British merchant warriors arrived there. They described it as a paradise.”
The same fields of Bengal became a slaughterhouse for wandering rioters and rapists.
There was a very old woman who used to beg in front of a metro station. She once told me, how before the Partition she was happy and rich.
During the 1947 riots, she fled with her jewellery and tried to cross the border. She hid behind bushes, took shelter inside abandoned houses, where once unknown happy families would’ve lived before the Partition.
She succeeded in escaping from the clutches of the rapists, but when she tried to seek help from people, she had to give away all her jewellery to get help, even when those people were from her own religion.
When I met her, she told me that she was at least 85-years-old.
As an after effect of the Partition, no national leader had to beg for a living, but she had to. When the names and pictures of those leaders are to be seen everywhere, her story remains untold…
The tragedy didn’t end with the incidents of 1947 and 1971.
If one could finally see, anyway anyhow, that “India will awaken to life and freedom” and how all the suffering will bring new dawn to this country, it would be different.
But, the truth is very clear and visible. From 1983 Nellie Massacre to 1984 anti-Sikh riots to 2002 Gujarat riots to 2012 Assam violence to 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and other instances portray what Partition brought to us.
If the creation of India and Pakistan was that fruitful, then why is the valley of Kashmir still cordoned by more army men than smiling and free faces? Or why the unrest in the North-eastern states of India still remains unresolved?
Places like Bengal and Punjab saw the outbreaks of innumerable riots. People saw their country becoming a foreign land. The land which my forefathers used call their own country has become a foreign land to me.
This political chaos that started with the Partition is still going on. At a time when a self-proclaimed religious fundamentalist group (who has vowed to build a Ram Mandir after demolishing the historic Babri Masjid) is in power, the general conscience of the Indian public needs to be evoked.
The suffering of Dalits, Kashmiris, people of North-eastern states, minority communities reflect the consequences of the violent and heartless Partition.
Partition gave the opportunist religious groups an excuse to justify their atrocities.
Recently, according to a The Times of India report, one accused of Muzaffarnagar riots became minister of state and, according to the report, he “has been ‘rewarded’ for his Hindutva image”.
In this chaotic political state, when I ask myself what is patriotism in India right now and how can one just simply forget its roots and accept whatever you are given, the answer turns out to be very simple.
Currently, patriotism is what the government wants you to believe and one’s patriotism must include praising the government.
I live in a land where people speak the same language that I do, but still I have to be the ‘refugee’ because my roots are now a foreign country.
In spite of being a ‘refugee’, I have to believe in the definition of patriotism that is currently prevailing in this country.
This contradictory nature of the current situation reminds me of Sartre’s words, “What is life but an unpleasant interruption to a peaceful nonexistence” and gives rise to the question, “Where’s my country?”