CM Roundtable VII on From the Ashes of 1947

Posted by sepoy on August 23, 2021 · 86 mins read

For the seventh issue of CM Roundtable (CMRT), we are delighted to host a conversation on Pippa Virdee’s From the Ashes of 1947: Reimagining Punjab. The CMRT is a series that presents multiple, in-depth reviews of an exciting new book. We thank each of our distinguished panelists for engaging in this public dialogue. We especially thank Abraham Akhter Murad for convening and introducing this Round Table.

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Abraham Akhter Murad is currently a DAAD Visiting Fellow at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University ⤴ TOC

I grew up a ten-minute drive away from one of the largest refugee camps of the Indian Partition. The Walton refugee camp in Lahore housed thousands of scared, dehydrated, hungry, and hurt refugees who had come from what became independent India to the new state of Pakistan. Countless had lost loved ones during the violence around forced migration, many too were perpetrators of that very violence.

It was only a few years ago that I engaged with the place directly. Some of my colleagues and I wanted to document Partition migrant communities who had made home in the neighborhood of Krishan Nagar, now renamed Islampura in Lahore. This is where we met an old teary-eyed gentleman who gave us an account of how he crossed into the Pakistani border on foot during the Partition riots. Speaking in Urdu for the university youngsters who had come to talk to him, he told us of the relief he felt when he had crossed the border to come to his new homeland. Delighted by his frank willingness to talk to us, we wrapped up the shoot and packed our video and audio devices once the recording was over. It was only later in the day as we gathered over tea and when I started asking the old man privately about himself in Punjabi, that he revealed the multiples murders he had committed during the Partition riots before finally reaching Krishan Nagar in Lahore.

The writing of ‘high politics’ history is crucial for us to analyse and understand the end of British imperial rule and the making of the dominions of India and Pakistan. If one wants to find out how independence came about, one must certainly look at the very top. However, as Gyanendra Pandey rightly points out, national histories of the achievement of freedom make the violence of Partition “non-narratable.”1 Shruti Kapila further asserts: “what sort of crime and violence is this which has remained guiltfree for seventy-five odd years? It was a civil war for want of a better word. Say it for what it was, it was a fratricide.”2 Pippa Virdee’s monumental book From the Ashes of 1947: Reimagining Punjab invites us to grapple with the history and memory of this fratricide. This monograph is the result of painstaking attention to detail in archival research and extensive field work over several years in both Pakistani and Indian Punjab. Her success as an oral historian, her ability to blend in with the locals and gain their honest trust has enriched this book. It has been a pleasure to bring together different scholars to reflect on it.

A few years ago, when Pippa was finalizing her manuscript, we compared a homemade paratha I had brought to my office at the Information Technology University in Lahore with the homemade paratha Pippa had brought to ITU from Ludhiana after crossing the Wagah border. It was certainly hard to tell which paratha was Pakistani and which was Indian, though possibly non-Punjabi Indians and Pakistanis would have seen both parathas as clearly Punjabi! The small tiffin boxes of sarson ka saag, arvi, lobia, and aam ka achaar also alluded cartographic identity. As Pippa rightly notes, “the shared culture and heritage of the two Punjabs is only too apparent; however, there are clearly differences in the way West Punjab and East Punjab have developed over the past seventy years.”3 This book not only captures the moment of ‘India’s cracking’ but also the long-drawn-out processes which slowly refashioned the two new Punjabs across the Radcliffe Line that became an international boundary between two nation-states that define themselves in inimical terms.

Reckoning with Partition and interrogating the communalization of identity is ever important today. In Pakistan, “the displacement of history by an ill-defined Islamic Ideology has been one of the main obstacles to the development of a critical historical tradition and reasoned public debate.”4 Far-right Islamist parties in the country continue their competitive myth-making. The third time vandalisation of the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the Lahore fort by a Tehreek-e-Labaik worker on August 17, 2021 is only one example of this.5

India too is not far behind. The Hindu nationalist Union government is gearing to change history textbooks of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Romila Thapar warns us against the attempts to legitimize “the currently popular, distorted history to defend political ideology.” 6 Prime Minister Modi’s announcement of a Partition Horrors Remembrance Day on August 14, 2021 is an extension of this very vision. It seems that Hindutva identity finds meaning in and renders itself visible by choosing the date Pakistan retrospectively decided to appoint as its own Independence Day over that of August 15. These top-down approaches also reveal a disjuncture between the ruled and those who rule. After all, it wasn’t until a whole two days after independence on August 15 that the actual map and borders of India and Pakistan were revealed to the general public on August 17, 1947. On issues like Partition violence, identity, and azaadi, we must, therefore, reach back to scholarly works like that of Pippa Virdee.

Coming back to the Walton refugee camp of Lahore, if one passes through the huge open ground today, one would hardly guess it to be a major entry way into Pakistan for thousands in 1947-8. Sprawled in between the open site are a number of portions of an unfinished monument. A construction periodically in arrest since 1991, the proposed name for the memorial site is Bab-e-Pakistan or Gateway of Pakistan. Overtaken now by wild plants, dogs, and black kites, the unfinished memorial site presents us with the ambivalent nature of Partition memory and reckoning in the country. On the one hand we have neglect and forced amnesia and on the other we have myth-making. In ruination before completion, this unfinished monument, if nothing else, is a reminder of the arrested project of decolonization. Transfer of power is certainly only a fraction and perhaps the bare minimum of the long project of self-rule.

For generations, the people of Punjab would refer to that fateful day of August 1947 as the wand, batwara, or takseem (Partition) since their experience of freedom was overshadowed by pogroms, rape, loot, and forced migration. While violence affected all, the specific gendered and sexualized violence against women was particularly conspicuous. It is striking that on August 14, 2021, a young woman was assaulted by around four hundred men at the Minar-e-Pakistan monument in Lahore and videotaped live on social media with many further seeking to trivialize the act by blaming the woman for being there on her own.7 Misogyny is equally rife in India where rape and sexual assaults continue to be used to assert power. There is much that has changed in the last seventy-four years but there is much too that remains the same. As we begin another anniversary year of the end of British imperial rule and the making of India and Pakistan, let us revisit and reckon with that great raula and clamour of 1947, underneath which lies the promise and mixed reality of self-rule.

This roundtable on The Ashes of 1947 has essays by four excellent scholars and a response by the author of the book. Uttara Shahani, Emily Keightley, Manav Kapur, and Ilyas Chattha will give readers within and outside the academy a flavor of Pippa Virdee’s remarkable achievement. The writers further invite us to think through newer issues in Partition Studies and finally more still by the author herself in her response essay. It has been a pleasure to bring the five together. I hope you enjoy reading and thinking through the complicated legacies of Partition.

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Crossborder Microhistories

Uttara Shahani is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford on the British Academy-funded research project ‘Borders, global governance and the refugee’, examining the historical origins of the global refugee regime. She would like to acknowledge the Economic and Social Research Council ⤴ TOC

The historiography on the great Indian Partition of 1947 is voluminous.8 Within that field, studies of Punjab dominate. This is perhaps chiefly because of the genocidal violence and the rapid exchange of population that accompanied Partition there. In comparison, Bengal and Sindh were relatively more ‘peaceful’ and witnessed more protracted flows of refugee movement.9 Pippa Virdee’s, From the Ashes of 1947: Reimagining Punjab, is another effort at understanding Punjab and Partition, but with some novel microhistories from within the region. These break down what can become a monolithic view of Punjab, violence, and Partition. Virdee pays close attention to questions such as where and why violence did not occur and examines how refugees used their already existing knowledge of the ‘other side’ to plan routes of migration. She also looks at how Partition’s migrations lay behind economic transformations in postcolonial Punjab, both in India and Pakistan, introducing a fresh comparative perspective. Virdee trains her lens on the three specific locations of Malerkotla, Ludhiana (in India), and Lyallpur (in Pakistan). Finally, From the Ashes of 1947 takes us back to the gendered violence of Partition in Punjab and the abduction of women, but with a focus on Pakistani women, who have received much less attention in the historical literature than their Indian counterparts.

Virdee begins with a critical overview of the existing work on Partition. To the expert on the subject, Virdee treads familiar ground, but the opening chapter will help introduce the lay reader and the student to the prodigious range of writings that Partition studies has produced, as well as to the shifts in scholarly emphasis from high politics and the role of ‘great men’ to oral histories and memory studies. Chapters two and three outline a history of Punjab, its colonization, politics in the region, and Partition. Virdee reminds us that Punjab was a highly militarized area prior to Partition, as army recruitment was a significant feature of British rule in the region. This would have a considerable bearing on events as they unfolded at Partition, as large numbers of military personnel, still armed in the wake of the Second World War, made up a part of Punjab’s population. Chapter four discusses the problems in understanding, naming, and theorizing the violence that accompanied Partition in Punjab.

Virdee argues that while much has been said about the violence that prevailed in Punjab at the time of Partition, less has been said about something equally, if not more compelling–its absence. Punjab seemed to be soaked in blood everywhere, but within this maelstrom there were also havens of peace, small though they might have been. Chapter five explores “sacred Malerkotla”–a small princely state that set itself against the savagery that surrounded it. Virdee makes the powerful point that “by focusing on the violent nature of communalized histories, both nations can be justified in promoting and maintaining the current stance which continues to endorse division rather than reconciliation. Yet, if for a moment more accounts of cross communal collaboration were recognized more widely, it would challenge the often jingoist state discourse”(p.77).

Historians of the Indian principalities have shown how these states were often more successful than British India at maintaining communal harmony, through a system of cross-communal patronage and a swift if autocratic system of justice.10 As Joya Chatterji has pointed out, at the time of Partition, refugees often chose to escape to the princely states, rather than to the newly formed republics of India and Pakistan. Partition refugees had an expectation that the princes would guarantee justice and safety.11 Malerkotla, also studied by Anna Bigelow, was not immune to communal tension and faced further pressures when refugees made their way there.12 As Virdee shows, the continuing presence of a functioning authority in the form of the Nawab, who took swift action to ensure that peace prevailed, worked in favour of maintaining harmony. The Nawab additionally asked for Vallabhbhai Patel’s help in summoning the army and offered to absorb the cost. In contrast, there had been an almost total collapse of authority in the former British Punjab in August 1947.

Virdee asserts that the influence of shared spiritual traditions and sacred spaces which existed in Malerkotla (as they did all over Punjab) in maintaining the peace cannot be overplayed, as in many instances intertwined sacred histories did not serve to mitigate communal violence. But she suggests that the legend that Guru Gobind Singh had blessed Malerkotla reinforced the state’s decisions to keep Malerkotla calm. Akali jathas who participated in ethnic cleansing elsewhere avoided Malerkotla. The Sikh notion of izzat, and the importance accorded to the Guru’s blessing (demonstrated in the oral histories Virdee records) in tandem with the Nawab’s actions appear to have worked together to prevent violence. Significantly, other rulers of the Punjab princely states allowed state troops to attack refugees at this time. The story of Malerkotla offers a persuasive illustration of how the active choices of ‘people on the ground’ had a considerable bearing on how Partition played out in different parts of not only the subcontinent, but in regions within a region.

From the Ashes of 1947 adds to the more recent scholarship on Partition that explains why refugees went where they did. These were not arbitrary decisions and the presence of previous networks, however fragile, was key to where refugees chose to resettle.13 Virdee investigates the two localities of Lyallpur (renamed Faisalabad in 1979) and Ludhiana and the cross migrations between them, enabling an original comparative analysis of migration in both East and West Punjab. In colonial times, networks of connection existed between Ludhiana and Lyallpur. Lyallpur was where the canal colonies were constructed. Agriculturalists from central Punjab migrated west-wards to what became the ‘breadbasket’ of colonial India. Virdee reveals how people re-migrated eastwards in 1947 to their ancestral homes in Ludhiana district from which their grandparents and parents had earlier departed, and where some still owned land. Thus, these refugees had a history of mobility that allowed them to make the decision to move when confronted with the crises of Partition. Conversely, Muslims in Ludhiana went to Lyallpur because they had heard stories from Hindu and Sikh migrants about the canal colonies.

Virdee adds further complexity to the narrative of Partition violence in Punjab. In Lyallpur, the conditions were relatively peaceful, yet the British governor, Francis Mudie, and the Sikh leader Tara Singh, insisted the Hindus and Sikhs migrate despite their being reluctant to do so. Virdee quotes a message from Mudie to Jinnah, “I am telling everyone that I do not care how the Sikhs get across the border: the great thing is to get rid of them as soon as possible. There is still little sign of the three lakh Sikhs in Lyallpur moving, but in the end they too will have to go”(p. 106). He followed up his message to Jinnah by appearing in Lyallpur the next day to make sure the DC carried out his instructions. Apart from the callous tone of Mudie’s missive, what stands out is his refusal to countenance the desires of the local populace to stay where they were. As Virdee emphasizes elsewhere, people in the Punjab were not asked about “their desires and dreams of what azaadi should look like” (p. 230). There were multiple visions of Pakistan. A staunch supporter of Pakistan, Mudie also had his own vision of what it should look like. Mudie had served as governor of Sindh before Punjab, where he had dismissed minority fears and thrown his not inconsiderable official weight behind obstructing minority petitions to secure their position within the province. Virdee does not explore Mudie’s role further, especially in relation to what his actions meant for Pakistan’s newly constituted minority citizens and their mass exodus. Mudie might have been acting to prevent further violence, but his role in the mass migrations of Partition may need further examination.

Ultimately, Virdee shows, Lyallpur district had one of the largest populations of non-Muslim refugees to evacuate from West Punjab. The last groups to be evacuated were the oppressed castes and tribes. Virdee writes about the Bazigars–a nomadic tribe that made their living through acrobatic performances–used as pawns in a political game between the East and West Punjab governments. There is also a revealing snippet in the story of Mai Jiwan at the end of chapter eight. Mai Jiwan brought vegetables to the homes of people, and at the time of Partition, people did not want her to cross the border to Delhi. The person who recounted this tale to Virdee understood this as a sign of the ‘love and affection’ that existed between people who were forced apart. In the words of Virdee’s interviewee, “People said in explicit terms “she [Mai Jiwan] belongs to us therefore we would not let her go”(p. 207). But is there more to this story than affection? Within the Pakistan government there was a deep-rooted fear that “allowing” the oppressed castes to leave would mean a breakdown in essential services that many upper castes (Hindu and Muslim) depended on but would not dream of performing themselves. The Pakistan government undertook several measures, including punitive action, to force the non-Muslim oppressed castes to stay behind, resurrecting the colonial-era Essential Services (Maintenance) Ordinance of 1941 to prevent them from leaving. It is likely that fears about the departure of the oppressed castes causing a breakdown in the day-to-day conveniences to which people were so accustomed existed outside government, in wider society, especially at this time of crisis.

By September 1947, the governments of India and Pakistan had concluded that a planned exchange of population for Punjab was the only way forward, even as many refugees clung to the hope that they would eventually return to their homes once peace returned. What is striking about the mobilization of people in Punjab in 1947 is the official involvement (however inept) led by the governments of India and Pakistan as well as the provincial Punjab governments on both sides of the border. The Military Evacuation Organization was set up specifically to assist those crossing the Punjab border in contrast to what was happening in Bengal and Sindh where people were also attempting to cross borders, but without official assistance.14 Outside of the Punjab, both the governments of India and Pakistan were determined to put a halt to the influx of refugees. As Chatterji suggests, ‘Punjab perhaps was the exception rather than the rule in the history of Partitions.’15

The contrast between Punjab and other regions undergoing mass exoduses and arrivals is also apparent in the difference in the official approach to refugee rehabilitation.16 As Ian Talbot argues, the new Indian state sought to legitimize itself in dealing with the migration and rehabilitation of Punjabi refugees.17 The Indian and Pakistani governments earmarked vast amounts of aid to build townships for refugees and stimulate industry in Punjab. Virdee writes that New Delhi provided the East Punjab government with Rs. 2.5 crores to develop twelve townships, while in Pakistan Rs. 8 crores were earmarked for this purpose. These schemes were beset with nepotism and corruption. Nonetheless, Punjab and its refugees were accorded a special status, albeit a highly internally differentiated one, dependent on caste and class.18 The stereotype of the Punjabi refugees’ ‘self-sufficiency’ and the state’s role in rehabilitating them were the bases of self-congratulatory and nationalist official accounts of rehabilitation.19 Clearly violence had a role to play in the distinction between the governments’ approach to Punjab and other regions. But violence alone does not fully answer why the governments were so deeply apathetic, sometimes outrightly hostile, to refugees from other regions. Virdee demonstrates how state support, particularly in industrial development, benefited Punjabi refugees on both sides of the border. Some more comparative analysis of the exceptionalism in dealing with Punjabi refugees and why they found favor in official policy in the transition from refugee to citizen would have been welcome. This exceptionalism was constitutive not only of the experience of non-Punjabi refugees but, as From the Ashes of 1947 illustrates, of Punjabi refugees themselves.

A more recent trend in Partition historiography has been to treat Partition as a process in lieu of fixing 1947 as an endpoint. Historians have begun to investigate the afterlife of Partition,20 the permit regimes that confined people to one side of the border,21 the demographic changes, the processes of rehabilitation and resettlement, and the great differences in the sorts of rehabilitation people could access.22 Within these accounts, the roles of caste and gender have assumed more importance.23 How older gender and caste hierarchies intersected with occupation after Partition are now the subject of a great deal of interest.24 Partition’s demographic changes impacted economies and patterns of production which in turn had an influence on caste-based occupations. Virdee describes how the arrival of vast numbers of refugees in Lyallpur and Ludhiana (chapter 7) transformed both towns into industrial hubs (in contrast, towns like Amritsar declined). Ludhiana now provides most of India’s woolen hosiery demand. The cycle industry has also boomed since independence. Virdee records the role of the Ramgarhia Sikhs and Viswakarmis who traditionally worked as carpenters and blacksmiths in playing a pioneering role in building Ludhiana’s cycle industry and the machinery sector of the hosiery industry. She finds a parallel to the Ramgarhias in Pakistan in the Lohar community who historically worked as blacksmiths but became leading figures in Sialkot’s surgical instruments industry. Management in the hosiery industry in Ludhiana has however remained in the grip of the trading castes like the Khatris, Aroras, Agarwals, and Oswals. Communal divides are the overwhelming burden of Partition histories. Virdee’s important insights here deserve much further unpacking to illuminate how Partition migration might have shaped or transformed the social and political dynamics of caste in Punjab.

Virdee provides further evidence of refugee enterprise and ambition in Lyallpur which became the second most industrialised city in Pakistan after Karachi in the 1960s. Refugees were initially attracted to Lyallpur as it was in the most fertile area in West Punjab, but they rapidly transformed it, with state help, into a base for textile manufacture. Thus, as Virdee demonstrates, Partition and its migrations formed the background to economic metamorphoses on two sides of the Punjab that were connected to each other in the past and remain connected by their similarities today. Scholarship on Partition has tended to emphasize refugees’ relationship with the state. A new direction in Partition studies is to understand how refugees inserted themselves into local economies on both sides of the border.25 Virdee’s fascinating studies of Lyallpur and Ludhiana represent a much needed and exciting step forward on this route and should act as an invitation to other scholars to pursue the lines of enquiry she opens here.

Oral histories have recovered the extraordinary scale of gender-based violence in Punjab, and the experiences of children.26 In chapters eight and nine, Virdee turns her attention to this violence. India and Pakistan came to an agreement to ‘repatriate’ abducted women, but, as oral historians have documented, many abducted women did not want to return to their natal families for a host of reasons. The question of the recovery of women had become bound with ‘national honour’ and was imbued with a zealousness that had less to do with the well-being of the women and more to do with establishing the legitimacy of the new nation-states. Virdee challenges the view that ‘recovery’ in Pakistan did not seem to be as charged as it was in India. On the contrary, she argues, there were many appeals to bring back abducted women, not least in the press, which documented ‘the repatriation rate’ of Muslim women and how many women were received by their relatives. Virdee’s significant contribution is to shed greater light on the experiences of Pakistani women–using oral histories, government archives, and newspaper reports. She also includes fiction, which was often much better at voicing what women left unsaid.

Each chapter in the book ends with verses from different poets–all seem to question whether Partition and the creation of new nations resolved anything at all. Virdee concludes the book with a rumination on ‘freedom’ and what it has meant in the newly independent republics. She also draws attention to how people’s complex linguistic and religious identities became essentialized in the postcolonial Punjabs, although there are signs that sometimes previous memories and connections survive.

Virdee’s study highlights the great value of cross-border micro-histories in Partition studies. As Virdee points out, strict visa regimes and a hard border continue to keep people apart. For the most part, such comparative studies remain the preserve of scholars who do not hold Indian or Pakistani citizenship or who do not have significant Indian or Pakistani connections. One can only hope that there will be a day free of such constraints.

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Temporal Transgressions

Emily Keightley is Professor of Media and Memory Studies in the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University. She is the Principal Investigator of the project Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination (2017-2022) funded by The Leverhulme Trust. ⤴ TOC

It will not surprise the editor of this roundtable to hear that I have struggled to write a response to this wonderful work by Pippa Virdee. I have been reflecting on what has been so particularly challenging about the task. Notwithstanding my own inadequacies as a writer, I have concluded that it is perhaps the very nature of From the Ashes of 1947 as an historical work that makes it at once so elusive and engaging. In accounting for the meaning of Partition over time, the identities that it has transformed and sustained, and the ways of being that it enabled and curtailed, it interweaves the literary with the experiential and commingles this with the raw materials of traditional historiography: dates, statistics, and accounts of the machinery of states and institutions. This makes a singular response to it almost impossible.

The moment I thought to have apprehended the nature of its intervention in the field of Partition studies, I glanced at it from a new angle and it provided new ways of thinking about Partition, about decolonization, about Punjab. It is this character that is, in my opinion, its greatest achievement. It has captured the warp and weft of Partition not simply as a process of States and colonial powers, but as embedded in spatio-social contexts, made meaningful in the microcosms of everyday life. Partition is cast, not as a bounded event stranded in the past, but as a continuing and an integral part of contemporary postcolonial experience.

It is from this point that I take my departure, to consider the contribution of Virdee’s account of Punjab as troubling our sense of historical time in a number of ways, firstly by transgressing the elite time of political history by inserting the disruptive and unruly time of the aam log into Partition narratives, secondly conceiving of the spaces and places of Partition as temporally unstable, contingent and continually emergent, and thirdly by transgressing the temporal structures of historiography by shuttling back and forth between the temporal tenses, bringing imagined futures into dialogue with experienced pasts.

In her opening words, Virdee makes clear that her analysis of Partition is one which transcends boundaries. She envisions a “history without hard borders” in which vernacular experience is brought to bear on high politics; where the experiences of the many, in all their richness and diversity are rendered visible, alongside those of the few well-known protagonists. In her aim to explore Partition and dislocation as a process rather than an event (p.xx), she disrupts the temporal distinctions that have characterised the traditional histories of Partition. She utilizes oral historical accounts of personal experience which refer not simply to 1947, but to the character of life in the preceding and intervening years. What is revealed in this process is not simply a binary between elite and everyday experience in which the aam log are simply a counterpoint to elite disconnection from chaos of Partition, but a sense that the experience of Partition is one which crystallizes in the alignment of a range of factors, from the social networks that people possessed which enabled them liquidate assets and move in more frictionless way, to the role of serendipity and chance in people’s trajectories of movement across the newly constituted borders. From Jaswant Singh’s account of relatively orderly, planned, prompt departure from Lyallpur by air to Abdul Haq’s perilously and disjointed train journey of 100 miles from Ludhiana to Pakistan which took over eight days rather than the usual two and a half hours. In Virdee’s account, the time of political process and state action is both unsettled and enlarged by these multiple, divergent but co-eval experiential tempos.

As has been well established in what we might call the ‘second wave’ of Partition studies, one of the social characteristics which most profoundly marked a persons’ experience of Partition and its repercussions was gender. It is in Virdee’s discussion of women’s experiences of Partition violence and dislocation that the potential of vernacular time to trouble the elite time of the nation is thrown into the sharpest relief. It is, I hope, no accident that trajectory From the Ashes of 1947 is a gradual move towards an acknowledgement of the gendered nature of Partition, moving through the state and cultural perspectives on the status of women and culminating in the penultimate chapter on “Lost Innocence and Sold Honour” in which the lived experiences of these women are reflected on as far as is possible through the oblique accounts which continue to reverberate in personal memories and familial stories. This follows what Veena Das has called the descent of violence ‘into the ordinary’–those domestic, private spaces which women have predominantly inhabited. The oral vignettes poignantly reveal the ways in which the autobiographical narratives of women been punctuated by the radical ruptures of sexual violence and abduction, and also the ways in which the painfully slow interactions between patriarchal states in the interests of repatriation, disrupted and derailed women’s efforts to establish some kind of reconfigured and continuing personal and cultural identity and familial belonging in the wake of Partition violence.

The second temporal transgression in From the Ashes of 1947 is one intimately connected to the changing character of space and place over time. Virdee weaves together a narrative which brings the ‘there-then’ repeatedly into view of the ‘here-now’ and in doing so troubles accounts of Partition in which we conceive of India as a static canvass on which borders are drawn and redrawn. It is one of the significant achievements of the book that it nuances research on the transformations of place following inwards and outwards migration. As Virdee notes, the case for rural refugees has been substantially discussed, but processes of rehabilitation in urban centres have received less attention (p.163). The accounts of the research participants require a rethinking of rehabilitation in this urban context, away from the movement of bodies and the physical requirements of those bodies, but the mobility of skills and agency, which contribute actively to the transformation of both Lyallpur and Ludhiana as places. For example, in the narrative of Mohammad Sadeeq the flexibility and reimagining of his industrial and entrepreneurial experience allowed the exploitation of opportunities afforded in the post-Partition urban space. In this sense the mobile body is not seen against the static backdrop of the geography of Punjab, but rather in a sense much more aligned with Massey’s understanding of the social nature of space and place, but that post-Partition Punjab is actively produced and reproduced as a constellation of places in and through the social processes at stake in migration.

In Virdee’s account we see the active reconfiguration of places over time, where memory and imagination operate in conjunction to produce qualitatively new meanings of Punjab itself. In the traffic of people across and between Lyallpur and Ludhiana, the two case study towns featured in the book, it is the persistence of previous homes and localities which renders the experience of Partition visible in the present. The images of the Lyall Emporium in Ludhiana and the Ludhiana Store in Lyallpur (p.129) are visible testaments to the ways in past places of belonging are re-made in new environments. This actively resists the abrogation of Partition journeys, instead demanding that pre-Partition there-thens’ are irreducible parts of here-now, the meaning of which is contingent on the journey made between them.

I conclude with the final and perhaps the most significant temporal transgression that is made in From the Ashes of 1947; the reciprocal movement, not only between the Partitioned pasts and their contemporary reverberations in the present, but between past, present and an imagined future rooted in but extending beyond Partition. This future is at once one of nations-states and their interactions, and also of continually emergent identities and of new ways of being in a postcolonial world. In her last chapter Virdee characterizes these as dreams, but these visions of the future are perhaps more continuous with or tethered to memory than we might consider dreams to be. New ways of being are actively produced in the interstitial space between competing imaginaries, rooted in different layers and facets of Partition as a lived process. For example on the one hand, the nostalgic loss expressed in Daman’s poem (p.208) which constructs a shared experience of division and a commonality in the project of redressing the abandonment of care for one-another, and on the other the fixity of the triadic composite of language, religion and a spatialized idea of the nation - that Virdee (citing Kalra 2014)–Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan; Urdu, Muslim, Pakistan; and Punjabi, Sikh, Khalistan–which produces divergent rather than co-dependent visions of the future.

Virdee demonstrates that these divergences open up a critical space for renegotiation of the future. She cites an interview with Tahira Mazhar Ali (p.217) in which she weaves together the history of freedom from British rule with a disappointment with the contemporary social inequalities’ endemic in Indian society. In doing so Ali makes the claims that freedom is a project which may have its roots in processes of decolonization in the twentieth century, but must continue into the future to achieve the just society characterized by a closed gap between the rich and poor and equality of opportunity. For example, bringing remembered narratives of everyday experience to bear on political cultures grounded in a ‘toxic masculinity’ (216) allows for reflection on and challenges to the position of women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In her discussion of the contemporary reflections of Arsalan Khan, Virdee somewhat pessimistically points out that in the present, little has changed for women in this regard, the thriving feminist movement in India and the digital responses to sexual violence in the wake of #metoo, point to an imagined future which takes it’s bearings not only from the misdeeds of a Hollywood film producer, but from a deeper, longer trajectory of women’s survival of patriarchal violence in processes of nation-building. Indeed, Virdee notes elsewhere that the move to digital communications technologies provides new spaces and opportunities for realizing these imagined futures.

It is in this sense Virdee brings the unsettled history of Partition into view of the ways of being that pertain, not simply to horizons of Partition experience, but to horizons of postcolonial expectation (Koselleck 2004) and it is in their mutuality that we might continue to seek the elusive meaning of Partition.

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Multiple Disassociations

Manav Kapoor is a lawyer and a history PhD candidate at Princeton University. He works on citizenship and belonging in the subcontinent in the period after British India’s Partition.. ⤴ TOC

Long Columns of Men, Women and Children carrying bundles on their heads and terror writ large on their faces…the tragic face of millions in the strangest event of India’s history, the Partition–Out of the Ashes, M.S. Randhawa, 1954

Pippa Virdee’s ‘From the Ashes of 1947 is an invaluable contribution to a new turn in Partition studies–the decisive move away from high-politics, whether provincial or national–towards an experiential understanding of Partition, including popular histories and living history. Viewing Partition through this lens blurs chronology and time periods, even as it sharpens our focus on those affected by it, breathing life into the ‘terror-struck faceless millions’ that state-sponsored narratives viewed as the ‘victims’ of the Partition, to be provided succor to by the state.

Her work joins a growing and fascinating body of work on a longer, more complicated history of the Partition, that has started to be written in the last decade and a half. Zamindar (2007) and Chatterji (2007) first pointed out the complicated ways in which the rehabilitation and citizenship of ‘Partition refugees’ were shaped by state policies; work by Haimanti Roy (2013), Rotem Geva (2017) and Uditi Sen (2018) shows us that refugees and migrants also pushed back against the state. In doing so, they present a nuanced and layered understanding of how refugees asserted claims for property and citizenship to emerge, in Sen’s words, as ‘citizen-refugees’ in both India and Pakistan. In these narratives, the state is one of the authors of policies of rehabilitation, not the sole author. Virdee’s work, taking high politics as a starting point, uncovers other lesser-known facets of the Partition of Punjab. In doing so, it focuses on those people and regions affected by the Partition, engaging with violence, rehabilitation, memories and memorialization. Her ability to access archival sources and engage with people on both sides of the Radcliffe line in Punjab is crucial to the project.

As provinces bifurcated at Partition, Punjab and Bengal faced particular challenges, both similar to and different from each other. Partition sundered and ‘unmixed’ communities that had historically lived together; as Virdee states in her introduction, this makes both personal accounts and micro-histories important, both to understand the experience of Partition as well as the impact of it on Punjabi (and Bengali) lives. Violence, in the Punjab, had many facets. At one level, it reflected the collapse of the state during the crucial summer of 1947. At another, it reflected a need to ‘control’ territory by purging it of the perfidious other. Both nascent states, she demonstrates, were complicit in this violence–her work on Malerkotla moves away from the peace/violence binary so often used in portraying Malerkotla as an ‘exceptionally’ tolerant place to depict the role of the state administration and apparatus in maintaining, at least, the absence of violence.

Her analysis of violence is at its sharpest when dealing with gendered violence–violence against women. Taking on from work by Butalia (1998) and Bhasin and Menon (1998), she demonstrates how gendered violence based on tropes of purity and pollution were perpetrated, not only on members of rival communities (through sexual and physical assault), but even on one’s own. Indeed, as she notes, Partition-related violence was not confined to that visited on members of the rival community–gendered violence could also have been visited upon women by their own family members, often the result of seeking to protect the purity of their religious groups. This continued even in the forced repatriation and ‘rehabilitation’ of women as part of both states’ effort to “leave no stone untouched” in restoring abducted women to their families to ‘move on’ from Partition’s collective national trauma; as she demonstrates towards the end of the book, though, this has persisted even now. Liberally using literary references and memories, she is able to show us a variegated, complicated picture of the many forms of physical, psychological, even bureaucratic violence that was inflicted on the many sufferers of Partition.

Chapter VII and VIII bring out the tortuous transition ‘from refugee to citizen’, as she examines how the dislocations of Partition had a significant impact on urban development patterns. While Lahore and Amritsar were by far the largest cities in colonial Punjab in the half century before Partition, other industrial towns included Sialkot, at the border with Jammu, and Batala, in Gurdaspur district.27 Post-Partition, the situation changed dramatically, in no small measure due to how evacuees left, and where they came to. Taking on from recent work on the impact of Partition on specific towns–such as Talbot’s (2006) study of Lahore and Amritsar or Chattha’s (2011) work on Sialkot and Gujranwala, Virdee focuses on Lyallpur (since renamed Faisalabad) and Ludhiana to show us how refugee initiative and labour supply were key to them emerging as ‘power houses’ of Indian and Pakistani Punjab. In doing so, she presents a nuanced picture of how refugee capital and initiative was sustained and bolstered through government decisions, which allowed these towns to displace earlier economic hubs like Sialkot and Amritsar. Her comparative study is also able to show the ‘ghosts’ of the past that persist in these towns–whether through the names of shops, localities and institutions that reach out to their pre-Partition past, or remembered, imagined homelands.

Virdee’s work is able both to uncover the role of the state in narratives around rehabilitation and Partition-related violence. In popular narratives, the Punjabi refugee story in India has been represented as a ‘triumph of will’ or alternatively, as a statist success story; Virdee shows us that the state is never absent from it, while simultaneously ensuring that her focus remains on people. Her turn towards a “nuanced, empathetic and localised micro-history” allows us to think about how refugee rehabilitation was carried out, and what this meant for the many refugees who applied. In both Punjabs, the model of refugee rehabilitation arose as a solution to the problem of how incoming refugees were to be resettled while protecting the property of the outgoing evacuee. In rural areas, this was of the essence–the exigencies of harvesting summer crops required the settlement of ‘refugees’ on agricultural property. In the case of urban property, however, many claims were for the value of the property, and in ensuring how abandoned houses, factories, buildings and shops were parceled out. Rehabilitation Commissioners in both Punjabs grappled with thousands of applicants asserting ‘claims’ for their property. Connections, contacts and skill-sets were invaluable in actually being allotted such property.

Virdee cites one of the aims of her books as allowing for a ‘kinder…more democratic history’ of the Punjab region. An excellent work of scholarship, it has succeeded in its aims. In its final questions about the failure of both states–and many of their citizens–to attain ‘closure’, it invites us to rethink how both India and Pakistan, in a hurry to get on with the ‘business of independence’, turned their eyes away from the trauma of Partition and the multiple disassociations it had led to.

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Localized Histories

Ilyas Chattha is a historian of modern South Asian history and teaches at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan. He is the author of The Punjab Borderland: Mobility, Materiality, and Militancy, 1947-1987 (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and Partition and Locality (Oxford University Press, 2012) ⤴ TOC

The Partition of India in 1947 is one of the most significant events in South Asian history. The Punjab was at the epicenter of the collective violence and its accompanying mass migration. Nationalist histories have tended either to stress the achievement of independence over its human costs, or have used partisan accounts with the aim of ‘blame displacement’ to reinforce notions of community ‘sacrifice’ and ‘honor’. With the fiftieth anniversary of independence in 1997, the turn to the ‘human dimension’ of Partition, termed the New History, has transferred focus from ‘high politics’ studies on the genesis of Partition to its human aftermath for ordinary people.

This book developed from Virdee’s doctoral thesis, represents a significant contribution to the understanding of this topic because of its original sources and because it questions wider interpretations of the processes of Partition-related violence, migration, resettlement and economic recovery. The work successfully provides much new empirical information on the effects of the 1947 division of the Punjab concerning both refugees and the local populations. Together with the studies of Ian Talbot (2006), Neeti Nair (2011), Ilyas Chattha (2011), Vazira Zamindar (2007) and others, this volume shows the complex nature of partition violence and gives a face to the hitherto unnamed victims and perpetrators. It also shows how refugee rehabilitation was a long and fraught process, but one which provided opportunities for both the locals and refugees.

From the Ashes of 1947 provides local case studies of Ludhiana, Lyallpur and Malerkotla as a way of supplementing the existing literature on Partition. The book shares a lot with other Partition literature but the local case studies on both sides of the border add an extra dimension to the literature. The book begins with a comprehensive overview of the concepts of identity, memory, ethnic cleansing, genocide and forced migration that provide the theoretic framework of the argument. Having established that, it then provides the historical background to the events leading up to the decision for Partition, explaining national and regional high politics, as well as the start of unfolding violence in the Punjab. It goes on to delve into the diverse and complex sets of community relations, drawing up the borders, making sense of the 1947 violence and the production and expulsion of refugee populations.

Chapter five on Malerkotla is fascinating, because there was hardly any violence in this princely state at the time of Partition. The reasons are interesting and convincing. Virdee examines the impact of Partition and its aftermath on the socio-economic development of Ludhiana and Lyallpur, for both cities had prospered economically in the post-1947 period. Going beyond statistics and explanations of government policy (of which there are plenty), interviews with refugee entrepreneurs are employed. Many of these traders embrace their humble origins as artisans or skilled workers who were at the right place at the right time when partition was initiated and acknowledge the role of the state in getting the economy going again.

The real strength of this research is in the source material. It is certainly the last opportunity to capture voices and memories of the people, now very aged, who lived through the 1947 tragic events. This book, therefore, extensively uses a wide range of non-archival sources, particularly oral histories speaking with both the victims and perpetrators of the violence. The book supplements the oral histories with primary sources in terms of the archival records, which are highly original. In particular, the oral narratives and poetry used in this volume attempt to bridge the gap between traditional and popular history. The first-hand accounts, as well as poetry at the beginning of each chapter, acts as historical source material unveiling the truth that official documents hide. The oral histories and poetry that the author presents here focus on the diverse aspects of the Partition: the patterns and motives of violence; the sense of displacement; the memories of refugee convoys/camps, and the nostalgia for pre-1947 bonds between the ‘Punjabis’—Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.

From the Ashes of 1947 connects the experience of individuals to the history of nations, and their ‘high politics.’ It also provides the link between private and collective memory. The account focuses on the localities of Ludhiana, Lyallpur and Malerkotla as she tells her story of partition-related violence, the displacement and inflow of populations, and the destruction and slow renewal of local economies. These localities allow her not only to examine the searing experiences of refugees (which have prompted and supplied the raw materials of the ‘new’ historiography of partition), but also to think about the impact of these new arrivals on local economics established. Virdee’s ‘locality-based approach’ allows her to particularize events and changes in Ludhiana and Lyallpur, but the implications of her studies of violence, displacement, and renewal are of consequence for the larger discussion of partition and its aftermath in the subcontinent.

Virdee reminds us that partition violence was so overwhelming and so unprecedented in scale that analysts have struggled for terms adequate for the phenomenon. Her point on the 1947 violence is simple: such violence was more orchestrated, more studied and prepared for, than prior analysts have had the confidence or desire to claim. Is the case she makes generalizable to all partition-related violence? Not really, for the evidence she has unearthed in the localities she studies cannot be replicated in every violence-afflicted area, but she does provide useful examples of research that can, decades after the fact, specify agents and victims.

While the book is very dense and the details are wholly convincing, in some way, it is not as informative as it might have been, especially on themes of localized violence and identification of its instigators and perpetrators. The accounts of violence routinely attribute this to ‘Muslims’, ‘Hindus’ and ‘Sikhs’ but without identifying the actual perpetrators and their chains of command. Crime reports and FIRs registered by the victims of violence often identify the local constituencies and categories for violence and looting, as well as typologies and occupational basis of perpetrators – for example in some localities the killers were local tribesmen (in some cases hired ‘Pathans’), goondas (local criminals), qasaai (butchers) and lohars (iron-workers) (Chattha 2011). Did such elements exist in Ludhiana and Lyallpur? Did such instances have any interaction with wider episodes of violence? Did engagement in previous criminal activity or involvement with state-sanctioned violence predispose individuals to become perpetrators? There is also no mention of the extent to which non-communal factors were also at work―in practice, local rivalries, whether political, economic, class-related, or personal, could be equally significant as apparent religious differences.

Material motivations for violence have also received little serious attention aside from the reflection. Alongside political identity and religious organization and territorialization, material motives for wealth, or property have been a key trigger for the lingering partition violence (Chattha 2021; Talbot 2019). We are also little informed about the ‘foundational violence’, whether it was societal emanating or state-directed violence, in a transitional environment from empire to the nation-states. What control did political parties and communal organisations exert over local episodes of violence? There are no final answers. Kalyvas’ The Logic of Violence in Civil War has conceptualised civil war type situations as having ‘joint violence’ that straddles the divide between the political and the private, the collective and the individual. This is engendered by a ‘convergence of local motives and supra-local imperatives’, which endow such situations with their ‘particular character.’ In that sense, it would have been helpful to have a more sustained analysis of links between local episodes of violence and the interaction between supra-local organizations and local perpetrators of violence.

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Pippa Virdee is Reader at De Montfort University (Leicester), UK, where she teaches Modern South Asian History. Her forthcoming book is Pakistan: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2021). ⤴ TOC

Firstly, I would like to thank Uttara Shahani, Emily Keightley, Manav Kapur, and Ilyas Chattha for their thorough reviews of my book. Abraham Murad has been the prime mover behind this round table discussion and has persevered in bringing it to fruition, under difficult circumstances. I also owe my gratitude to Manan Ahmed Asif and Chapati Mystery for hosting this exchange of views and I hope that it will raise wider issues.

In the preface of my book, I have traced its trajectory back to the research that I undertook from 2000. Back then, I changed my career and started my PhD, not anticipating how much this would impact my life. Away from banking/finance and into academia, I find it ironical that today the latter more-or-less resembles the former, that is the world I left behind! Anyway, the work discussed here was thus in the making for (too) long. It started life as a dissertation under Prof. Ian Talbot, which then receded into the background of my subsequent research, before being resurrected, together with the latter, in this book that came out in 2018.

This journey was enabled by a Penderel Moon studentship to investigate the ways in which Partition violence, migration and, eventually, the resettlement of refugees across the Radcliffe Line, changed the landscape of the divided Punjab. I was keen to bring in a comparative dimension of concrete experiences in both West and East Punjab, a rarity at the time and, sadly, even today, given the difficulties of accessing the two countries that Punjab was divided in. Secondly, I wanted to focus on the people and the manner in which their everyday, ordinary life was shaped by these moments, or a long/great process as it has since been referred to, underneath the high political gaze.

The reviewers have noted these themes in their reviews and it is encouraging to see that, as it is to see them raise other important issues, emanating from the book, for future research. I have selected below five overlapping themes that informed my writing on the Partition of Punjab and which the reviewers have identified in their generous engagement with it.

I. The aam log

All four reviewers pick up the prism of the micro, whether this is in relation to history or the historiography of Partition, whose human dimension has been in focus since the late-1990s. That it has now metastasized into people’s history, however earnest an endeavour, it is still largely steered by locating the “extra-ordinary” and with anthropological influences of placing the self in the historical. This research was done after the noon of high-politics and before the dawn of crowd-sourcing, listening to the ways in which the aam log of divided cities attempted to knit their lives again.

Shahani draws attention to the importance of caste in relations of the story of Mai Jiwan, recounted by Tahira Mazhar Ali, suggesting that behind the affection showered on her could be an awareness of disruption to the essential service performed by her. This ambivalence could indeed be the reluctance to see her (kind) move. After all, similarly overlapping motivations around property has been shown to be behind the resistance to receiving migrants, beyond the refugee-making in Punjab, across India-Pakistan, despite the political rhetoric. The paternalistic state-society on both sides prevailed in parallel, perhaps in tandem.

II. Cross-border histories

It is simplistic to write a history of South Asian regions except by crossing their boundaries, whether these are state borders or social lines. But as the pre-1947 generation fades, such transgressions give way to a taxonomy of conformity. A lack of cross-border histories is arguably the most telling illustration of the insecurities reigning from Multan to Mandalay.

The comparative case study of Ludhiana and Lyallpur (Faisalabad) in the book provides a particular (and, personal) lens through which to explore an aftermath of Partition. Both were hitherto small towns, a majority of whose population was from the other community, which–in turn–shared a longer colonial history of the development of canal colonies in western Punjab. As the mobility of pre-WW1 period was reversed into migration post-WW2, the common (cliché) characteristic of enterprise-entrepreneurship vis-à-vis refugees was nevertheless key to how these two towns, and their now-homogenous citizenry, became industrial hubs.

In telling this story, I chose to foreground individual accounts and kin networks, rather than state/private investments. Here, the role of serendipity was a recurring theme, reflecting the slice of luck that all lives require to emerge victorious over all circumstances of victimhood. There is no gainsaying that much of the memory of Partition is about its violence, understood broadly, but there was also life, post-partition, which was to be lived, a leitmotif of Chattha’s and Kapur’s own works; if only, to refract the memories from or re-present the reality of Partition.

III. The everyday violence

Still, some of my research remained on aspects of communal violence during Partition, for my PhD studentship was in the name of a person, Moon, who was a member (1929-44) in Punjab of that much-vaunted steel frame, the Indian Civil Service. Moon remained an administrator afterwards (1949-50) of Himachal and was very concerned about the casualties of Partition. Such concerns would later morph into a quantitative quest of second-generation testimonials, modeled this way or that. Ironically, from humanizing Partition we have anonymized them again, only this time they appear as dots of people’s life-journeys on maps and graphs.

Much before this datafication of differences, my focus was on a difference of another kind, namely, with those sites where violence did not take place, such as the princely state of Malerkotla. I found the alternative of non-violence there as illuminating in understanding violence elsewhere. While tolerance is routinely celebrated, this example is rarely emulated. Malerkotla’s peace–as picked up by Shahani–shows how statecraft and social convictions can prevent violence, as much as they can continue to promote it in the everyday.

IV. Women and oral histories

Here, since the ground was broken in the late-1990s, there has been welcome waves of detailed treatment of Partition from a gendered perspective in East Punjab and (formerly) East Bengal. But there remains a gap when it comes to West Punjab (and Sindh). As Keightley and Shahani note, I have purposely focused on women’s experiences there, with the related objective of interweaving women’s experiences in the main strand, rather than viewing it in isolation.

This second wave of Partition Studies, as referred to by Keightley, has been personified to a remarkable extent by female scholars, determined by the methods of oral history, and much of its direction has emanated from the Diaspora. The digitization of memory and commodification of decennial anniversaries has repackaged Partition scholarship since 2017, as an inter-disciplinary cottage industry. Far away from the sober 60th year reflections in the confines of a conference at Southampton, the 70th year of Partition saw a veritable explosion in its use as a heritage hook, a cultural war, a grant-gambit, twitter-threads and numerous media documentaries/dramas.

Social media and the selling thereon of all things Partition and, indeed, now many Partitions, cannot but be a mixed bag. The democratization of academic domain has gone hand in hand with a deepening digital divide, reflecting existing social and cultural capital. The politicization of Partition is as unbridled today as it has been in writing nationalist histories of that moment. Partition in the UK is the buzzword for heritage amongst the diaspora, while in the US (and beyond) the influence of Holocaust and Memory Studies is palpable where the material memory of Partition, in/out of museums, is captured and displayed for all to see.

V. The past in the present of azaadi

Emily Keightley highlights the ‘there-then’ and the ‘here-now’ dichotomy in approaches to history. There is remembering and forgetting, recovery and erasure in this exercise, whose simplest illustration is the (re)naming of businesses and places; poignant then but–perhaps–problematic now, as seen in the recent plight of Karachi Bakery in India. Established in 1954 by Sindhi refugees from Karachi, this pre-1947 ancestral nod is now seemingly provocative for the largely ignorant and a mostly homogenized public sphere. It is here that I thought it was important to discuss the nature of freedom versus azaadi.

While the former references the fabled nationalist struggle for political independence from British colonialism then, the latter, associated for long with the unfulfilled Kashmiri self-determination, has become a catch-all for most notions of everyday liberties now. Partition may have fulfilled the Pakistan Movement but not the minorities question in India and Pakistan, which remains on the cusp of kitne partitions aur; of mind, imaginings, heart, livelihoods, hearth. These issues will reverberate for long, starting with the 75th year of Partition/Independence in 2022.

I started on the ironical note that the passage of this research from dissertation to publication saw my current vocation resemble my former trade, and I should end on another. For a book that was so concerned with micro-histories of the everyday existences of aam log during and beyond Partition, it is pertinent to note how the micro-blogging website, Twitter, is used by twitter-historians (both popular and scholarly) to depict bite-size histories in 280 characters. When history-writing becomes first about finding a snappy headline/acronym and then about crowd-sourcing memories indiscriminately in a market of competitive myth-making, on the one hand, all narratives go beyond the boundaries of the nation-state and yet, on the other, they keep to the confines of class, caste, gender, race and majority community. Capturing and representing the aam log or the “people” within these new technologies raises old questions. Thus, those with greater access to technologies, inspire an extension of Spivak: can the subaltern speak, if they do not tweet? As for those with ‘agency’, peering in from the methodological, disciplinary and other kinds of ‘outside’, it is what it was: a game, one from which there is no azaadi in sight.

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Bhasin, Kamla, and Ritu Menon. "Borders and Boundaries: women in India’s Partition." New Delhi: Kali for Women (1998).

Chatterji, Joya. The spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-1967. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Chattha, Ilyas. “Partition and Locality: Violence, Migration, and Development in Gujranwala and Sialkot 1947-1961.” OUP Catalogue (2011).

_____. Partition and Locality (OUP, 2011)

_____. ‘Looting on the NWFP and Punjab: Property and Violence in the Partition of 1947’ South Asian: Journal of South Asian Studies, 45.1 (2021)

Das, Veena (2006) Life and Words, University of California Press.

Geva, Rotem. "The Scramble for Houses: Violence, a factionalized state, and informal economy in post-Partition Delhi." Modern Asian Studies 51, no. 3 (2017): 769-824.

Koselleck, Reinhardt (2004) Futures Past. Columbia University Press.

Kalra, Virinder Singh (2014) ‘Punjabiyat and the Music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’ South Asian Diaspora 6(2) 179-92.

Kalyvas, S.N. The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Massey, Doreen (1994) Space, Place and Gender, Polity.

Nair, Neeti. Changing Homeland: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Harvard University Press, 2011)

Roy, Haimanti. Partitioned Lives Migrants, Refugees, Citizens in India and Pakistan, 1947-65. New Delhi, NTC: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Sen, Uditi. Citizen refugee: forging the Indian nation after Partition. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Talbot, Ian. Divided cities: Partition and its aftermath in Lahore and Amritsar 1947-1957. Oxford University Press, 2006.

_____. ‘The 1947 Partition Violence’, in R. Mohanram and A. Raychaudhuri (eds.), Partitions and Their Afterlives: Violence, Memories, Living (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2019), pp. 1-23.

Urvashi, Butalia. "The other side of silence: voices from the Partition of India." Delhi: Viking (1998).

Virdee, Pippa, ‘Remembering Partition: Women, Oral Histories and the Partition of 1947’, Oral History, 41, 2, (2013), pp. 49-62.

Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali. The long Partition and the making of modern South Asia: Refugees, boundaries, histories. Columbia University Press, 2007.

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  1. Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition: Violence, nationalism and history in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 45. 

  2. The Mojo. 2021. “Modi Government announces Partition Horrors Remembrance.” Facebook, August 14, 2021.

  3. Pippa Virdee, From the Ashes of 1947: Reimagining Punjab (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), xx. 

  4. Ayesha Jalal, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 8. 

  5. Imran Gabol, “Man arrested for vandalising Raja Ranjit Singh’s statue at Lahore Fort,” []Dawn, August 17, 2021]( 

  6. Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, “Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib Decry Hindutva Attempts to Distort India’s History.” [The Wire, August 13, 2021]]( 

  7. Imran Gabol, “Police register case against hundreds for assaulting woman in Lahore’s Greater Iqbal Park on Aug 14,” Dawn, August 17, 2021 

  8. One example of an historical overview is Yasmin Khan, The great Partition: the making of India and Pakistan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007/2017). 

  9. Joya Chatterji, The spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-1967, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Uttara Shahani, ‘Sind and the Partition of India, c.1927-1952’, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2019; Natasha Raheja, ‘From minority to majority: Pakistani Hindu claims to Indian citizenship’, unpublished PhD dissertation, New York University, 2018. 

  10. Pamela Price, Kingship and political practice in colonial India, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Ian Copland, ‘The political geography of religious conflict: towards an explanation of the relative infrequency of communal riots in the Indian princely states’, International Journal of Punjab Studies, 7 (2000), pp. 1 – 27. 

  11. Chatterji, ‘Princes, subjects and Gandhi: alternatives to citizenship at the end of empire’, in Gandhi’s moral politics, ed. Naren Nanda, (New York: Routledge, 2017). 

  12. Anna Bigelow, ‘Saved by the saint: refusing and reversing Partition in Muslim North India’, Journal of Asian Studies 68 (2009); Sharing the sacred: practicing pluralism in Muslim North India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 

  13. Chatterji, The spoils of Partition; ‘Dispositions and destinations: refugee agency and “mobility capital” in the Bengal diaspora, 1947–2007’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 55 (2013), pp. 273-304. 

  14. The Indian government agreed to an official evacuation programme from Sindh after the Karachi riot in January 1948 after months of campaigns by Sindhi minorities wishing to evacuate. Cross-border migration to India from Sindh and from East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) is ongoing. 

  15. Chatterji, ‘New directions in Partition studies’, History Workshop Journal, 67 (2009), p. 217. 

  16. Chatterji, The spoils of Partition; ‘Right or charity? The debate over relief and rehabilitation in West Bengal, 1947–50’in Suvir Kaul, ed., The Partitions of memory: the afterlife of the division of India (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001) pp 74–110; I. Talbot and G. Singh, The Partition of India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), Chapter 4. 

  17. Ian Talbot, ‘Punjabi refugees’ rehabilitation and the Indian state: discourses, denials and dissonances’, in Taylor C. Sherman, William Gould, and Sarah F. D. Ansari, eds., From subjects to citizens: society and the everyday state in India and Pakistan, 1947-1970 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp.119-142. 

  18. Ravinder Kaur, Since 1947: Partition narratives among Punjabi migrants of Delhi, (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007). 

  19. U. Bhaskar Rao, The story of rehabilitation, (Delhi: 1967); Talbot, ‘Punjabi refugees’ rehabilitation and the Indian state’. 

  20. Tai Yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya, The aftermath of Partition in South Asia, (London: Routledge, 2000); Haimanti Roy, Partitioned lives: migrants, refugees, citizens in India and Pakistan, 1947-65, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 

  21. Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar, The long Partition, and the making of modern South Asia: refugees, boundaries, histories, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007/2010). 

  22. Sarah Ansari, Life after Partition, migration, community and strife in Sindh, 1947-1962, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Chatterji, The spoils of Partition; Kaur, Since 1947: Partition narratives among Punjabi migrants of Delhi

  23. Kaur, Since 1947; Anjali Bhardwaj Datta, ‘Rebuilding lives and redefining spaces: women in post-colonial Delhi, 1945 – 1980’, unpublished PhD dissertation, (University of Cambridge, 2014); Uditi Sen, Citizen refugee: forging the Indian nation after Partition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). 

  24. Bhardwaj Datta, ‘Rebuilding lives and redefining spaces’. 

  25. Ilyas Chattha, Partition and locality: violence, migration, and development in Gujranwala and Sialkot, 1947-1961 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2011); Bhardwaj Datta, ‘Rebuilding lives and redefining spaces’; Anwesha Sengupta, ‘Unthreading Partition: the politics of jute sharing between two Bengals,’ Economic and Political Weekly, 53 (2018), pp. 43-49. 

  26. See Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin, Borders and boundaries: women in India’s Partition, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998); Urvashi Butalia, The other side of silence: voices from the Partition of India, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1998). 

  27. Until 1911, Delhi was the largest city in the Punjab, but I have not included it in this list on account of its removal from Punjab in 1911, pursuant to becoming the capital of British India. Until 1881, Amritsar was larger than Lahore, but Lahore grew much faster than Amritsar in the period between 1891-1941.