Versions of history

107 days back, someone very close to me lost his life in the most unexpected way. Days were tough, nights tougher. I was, and still am certain that my outlook towards life, people and relationships will never be the same. Everything changed and became horrible in a flash.

105 days later, I start reading the book ‘India After Gandhi’ which notes that history in India has stopped being written after midnight of 15th August, 1947 (Independence day). And for those who wrote biographies on Gandhi have their history till 30th January, 1948 (Gandhi’s assassination). So the writer tries to explore what happened next in the contemporary India. Still it starts with 1940s.

Migration of 10 million people – 150,000 brutal deaths. These are the official numbers that are recorded attributing to partition.

The above two incidents, separated by 7 decades are interestingly connected by Joseph Stalin. I heard this quote years ago, but suddenly it started making so much sense. “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic”.

While reading the book, I was reminded of an old photograph and a heated conversation that I had with my grandmother after this photograph was taken.

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From left : Gurpreet, Abdul, me

The first character in this picture is 8 years old Gurpreet, my elder cousin, and probably my first friend. Since his dad (my father’s elder brother) was moved by the preachings of Sikhism, he changed his religion from Hinduism when he was 23.
The tall guy in the middle is Abdul in his teenage. He used to assist his dad in a shop in our neighbourhood when he wasn’t playing with us. Two of his many other tacit duties were to pick me up from school every day and to bring my favorite ice cream so that I keep my mouth shut as much as possible.
The third one, in the green sweater is me after 6 years of coming into the world.

If you are used to Indian names, you would get that the 3 people here are from 3 different religions – worshipping 3 different forms of God, going to 3 different holy places, though celebrating all festivals together. And how bizarre this fact sounds to me while writing. These people cannot be different. These are still inseparable!

But I do remember my grandmom advising me to stay away from Abdul. When a child aged 6 is asked to stay away from his friend who never fails to bring smiles to him, he is bound to retaliate. When I couldn’t find any sense in what she said, she showed me a deep scar on her back and narrated the day when at the age of 14 she saw her parents being killed and how she managed to get on a train to India from Pakistan, bleeding by the knife attack. No matter how much I am sure that she’s completely wrong, still I think I have no idea what she went through.

But the reason for writing all this is that I need to know the other sides of the story. I am sure there would be 4 versions to this history of partition – the Indian government version, the Pakistani government version, the British Raj version and finally, the truth.

One version’s villain is the hero of another. But I am curious to know what the people of Pakistan and British think about there versions. I sincerely invite everyone who is reading this to tell me what/who according to them was the reason of so much violence and their views about the partition of India. Also what image do they have of Jinnah, Gandhi and Nehru.

I am refraining here to give my opinion because I need to listen and learn, rather than speak, for a change πŸ™‚

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16 thoughts on “Versions of history

  1. Love, Life and Whatever February 5, 2016 / 8:03 pm

    No words. We read in history and then media channels and expressions of many scholars and politicians. But the ones who faced it the psychological scar will stay until they remain. Because they just didn’t outlive death but they just survived against the most inhuman aspects anyone can face. While I agree we cannot stereotype people but perhaps truth is the most subjective of all today. Anyhow it was heartening to read the piece.

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  2. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder February 5, 2016 / 9:47 pm

    Prateek, this is a very sensitive issue and, I refrain myself from discussing it in details here. Perhaps, the partition had hit worst the two states of Punjab and Bengal. My ancestors migrated from their home ( now Bangladesh) to India, West Bengal. They not only left their house and every other asset there but also left the memories of almost half of their lives. I can fully understand what your grandmom meant, because, the same thing I’ve heard from my own. The scar, the psychological scar was ever etched in their hearts. They saw the worst of times, witnessed shuddering incidents. You are very right to say that there would always be four versions of this incident, which one is true, we know.

    I’ve read a number of accounts of the partition period. And, trust me, it’s horrifying beyond words!
    have you read Sadat Hasan Manto’s short story, “Khol do”? If not, please read and you’ll get just a glimpse… you’ll get the link of the story online, I guess…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. luckyjc007 February 6, 2016 / 2:31 am

    A very interesting read. I hope you get some answers you are looking for.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. assortmentbox February 6, 2016 / 10:00 am

    I guess truth lies somewhere in between the different versions, this loss of faith is a dangerous thing which makes men into monsters . Perhaps the Muslim as a minority had a fear of being marginalized by the Hindu majority , and the British Raj made use of it. Maybe only a single person wanted a separate country , maybe its his persuasive speech that led to division of a single country. When they will realize that we all are the same and we return to the same abode I hope that there will be peace between India and Pakistan. I hope we may find the light of truth soon! πŸ™‚ A very thoughtful post.

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  5. assortmentbox February 6, 2016 / 10:03 am

    I wish to find the truth myself. What I said is what I have heard . I do not wish to hurt the sentiments of any community. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. assortmentbox February 6, 2016 / 10:07 am

    I guess the truth lies somewhere in between the different versions. I guess the fear in the minds of Muslim minorities where made use of by the British Raj , a division based on their faith which transformed men to monsters and sowed the seeds of discord that still sadly grows in many hearts even now! 😦 I hope to find the truth someday , I hope both India and Pakistan realize that they all are the same . πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. izza ifzaal February 6, 2016 / 2:19 pm

    What I learnt from my history lessons was the fact there was so much brawl and violence was because Muslims believed in oneness of God. they ruled supremely until the rulers started adapting ways contradictory to our religion and the downfall that came resulted in invasion from British and Indians. Partition was meant for people to follow their own religion freely without any malice but I believe the violence parties hated the fact and wanted slavery in hands of weak. In their debacle poor n weak suffered from both sides. If those callous people just understood the idea of One nation theory no gory details would have filled our history pages. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Prateek Kohli February 10, 2016 / 6:29 pm

      Izza ! Hi! I thought of tagging you to ask your opinion on this but changed my mind when saw that a lot more is going on in your mind lately πŸ˜€
      Reading your comment makes me think that history doesn’t really differ that much then. The ambitiousness of a few people (basically 2 of them) probably was chiefly responsible for the most unfortunate course of events.
      But as I research more, it was also be a very effective plan of destabilizing an emerging economy full of resources so that it doesn’t compete with the Allied countries, torn after the world war.
      I am unable to imagine that people could suddenly get so much upset with their friends’ religious beliefs that they were ready to kill them, let alone live with them – after centuries of living together !

      Liked by 2 people

  8. milliethom February 13, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    This is very interesting, Prateek, and I’ve read some of the comments above as well. Although the partition of India and the resulting violence is well known, I don’t know enough detail about it to contribute to your understanding of the reasons for that violence – other than differences in religion. But you seem of the opinion that religion wasn’t the cause. I hope someone can help you with this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Prateek Kohli March 7, 2016 / 4:04 am

      Hi Millie! I now suppose that both – religion and hunger for power were the causes. A dormant fire of hatred was intelligently given the required wind that burnt millions.

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