The struggle that won India her freedom and gave birth finally to Pakistan, is often valorised as a non-violent movement led by a 20th Century sage-politician, Mahatma Gandhi.
While it is indeed true that Gandhiji’s philosophy of non-violent struggle elevated the freedom struggle to a higher plane and inspired political fighters around the world to seek the unlikely path of forgiveness and peaceful resistance to win their battles, it did not prevent some horrific acts of revenge and mob violence.
Of these, the Partition that bloodied the birth pangs of the two countries was the worst fallout. Till recently considered the largest human migration in history, it was also one of the least documented acts of communal violence.
In Bahrain, I have met and spoken to many people in their eighties who cannot speak of the Partition without trauma. And, rightly so. So many families, separated by thousands of miles and a lack of access to correct information about the situation had to blindly choose their nations and communities.
As the millions streamed out of both countries across nebulous borders and through a frightening miasma of massacre and danger to refugee camps, families in Bahrain could only pray for their loved ones, entrust their safety to God and wait for a letter – or if they were lucky, a telegram or a rare phone call – that their relatives had reached safety.
Imagine, no GPS, no mobile phone and no minute-by-minute information access – just a fervent prayer for your loved ones to hold on to your sanity.
Old-timers tell me of their emotional visits ‘back home’ in India or in Pakistan and how it shapes the rhythm of their lives even today. They wait for the specific month when they left their towns and villages and return to a familiar season to bask in the beloved unfamiliarity of a land they moved on from.
Only now, as the Partition generation is slowly dying, are their voices and memories being gathered by a new breed of historians who have come to the fore, armed with new methodology and understanding. Since the Partition, many wars, genocide and criminal discrimination of groups of people have erupted in different places.
Even as we celebrate the wonder of a thriving democracy 75 years young in India and Pakistan, a nation born at the altar of idealism, let us remember how much peace and harmony matters to us all. We live in Bahrain, in a system that encourages inter-faith understanding and it is easy to forget the convulsion of the Partition and other acts of mass destruction of the fragile humanity that binds us all.
Let us mark this month by personally recording our understanding of the suffering that a generation underwent for our peace. Open our hearts and minds and ears to records of the trauma through loved ones and the grandparents of friends. Read about it and keep the memory alive lest we forget the pain and are tempted to treat this thorny path again.
Only then will the sacrifices of the ‘Partition generation’ have not been in vain.