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Colonial History of India
<!--QuoteBegin-Viren+Oct 1 2005, 09:49 AM-->QUOTE(Viren @ Oct 1 2005, 09:49 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Mudy: We hear reports now and then of how the Brits shamelessly hold exhibitions of diamonds/jewels/statues looted from India without given credit where it's due.

However lot of evidence is annecdotal and not published (at least I didn't find online). I was looking in terms of some sort of economic study or GDP/GNP numbers going back say 300 years - I am not sure if it was even recorded then. I've searched InfinityFoundation essays too and didn't find much.

Couple weeks back I was having a conversation with a friend (American) who's a bit of history buff. While doing a compare/contrast of the Amercian war of independence with our own, he mentioned that Brits valued India as it's crown jewel and were not willing to loose it for US. Seems that they didn't dedicate enough resources to squash the rebellion in US and that was a primary reason bluecoats were able to drive out the redcoats within a decade or so. I don't know as to how true this is, others on the fourm might know more. Would be a good exercise to get the timelines, local battles, events, economic numbers in the period between 1750 to say 1850 and check it out.

Read Cornwallis.

He was defeated in America in 1770s and then came to India and defeated Tipu SUltan in 1795
The British made a calculation and figured out that the economic system of India was more profitable.

This decision was correct and by 1870 they were the dominant power in Europe.
This led to the rise of Germany and other empires.

But the British were able to rise to become the first global super power by 1900
The anglo saxon global trading model and the jewish global financial center in London and Bank of England is a result of this decision by British to abandon America since it was a overreach.
Do you call that an empire?
Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan
Buy this book

Reviewed by Spengler

Robert Kaplan of the Atlantic Monthly longs to be the American Rudyard Kipling, the chronicler of the intrepid subalterns and leathery sergeants who save the empire through pluck and grit.

His latest volume reports two years of rough trekking with Special Forces and Marines from Colombia through the Middle East to the Philippines. But Kaplan's warriors less resemble Kipling's imperial soldiers than W S Gilbert's policemen in The Pirates of Penzance. When they sing, "Yes! Forward on the Foe!", the major-general exclaims, "But Damme! You don't go!"

There is no American empire, because there are no imperialists. The working-class warriors of American light infantry and

The best V8 on the planet

commando units aver that no one in Washington has a clue about what is happening on the ground. Rather tales of derring-do, Kaplan has produced a litany of aborted missions, mixed signals and bureaucratic bungling. The American military, one concludes from his report, is spinning its wheels.

Save one aborted Marine sally into Fallujah, Kaplan heard not a single 5.56 millimeter round fired in anger. His Special Forces hosts train feckless Colombian or Philippine soldiers, knowing that they will sell their ammunition to the enemy to supplement a $2 per day income. They fix children's teeth and build schools to win hearts and minds, recover the bodies of downed pilots and try to gather intelligence from local services. They want to fight regardless of risk to life and limb, but the Pentagon will not let them.

Fine journalist that he is, Kaplan faithfully records the boredom and frustration of American forces abroad, and has brought forth a boring and frustrating book. Conspiracy theorists who imagine that America pulls puppet-strings throughout the world should be made to read it as punishment.

Kaplan quotes British historian Niall Ferguson to the effect that the "[American] empire is as much a reality today as it was throughout the three hundred years when Britain ruled, and made, the modern world". But Kaplan's anecdotes show that America is not an empire, but rather a Gulliverian giant lumbering about after Lilliputian antagonists.

To begin with, the 10,000 or so Special Forces in the US Army are the wrong sort of people: tattooed, tobacco-chewing, iron-pumping Southerners, clever at improvised repairs or minor surgery in the field, and deadly in firefights (although Kaplan never sees one), but without the cultural skills essential to their mission.

They complain incessantly about Washington's stupidity and risk aversion, but humbly accept their orders because they are humble people: the working and lower middle classes of America. "I had not been particularly impressed with the linguistic skills of Green Berets," notes Kaplan. "The United States was more than two years into the war on terrorism. Pashtu should have become a common language by now among the Green Berets assigned to Afghanistan. But with few exceptions, even the counterintelligence officers I met barely spoke the language. The situation was no better in the Pacific; almost everyone I encountered in 1st Group knew some Oriental language or other, but rarely the one needed in the country where he was currently deployed."

One wants to say, paraphrasing Mick (Crocodile) Dundee, "You call that an empire? This is an empire!" I refer of course to the British Empire, which for better or worse has no successor. One example (noted by Sir John Keegan in his 2003 study Intelligence in War) will suffice. No more than 3,000 British officers served in Imperial India at any given time, but they "wore a version of native dress, spoke Indian languages and prided themselves on their immersion in the customs and culture of their soldiers".

The Raj relied on soldier-adventurers such as Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890), who joined the army of the East India Company after his expulsion from Oxford. Burton learned 25 languages and an additional 15 dialects, traveling extensively in South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the American West. He passed for a Sindh on the Northwest Frontier and for a Haji in Mecca; his translations of Arabic and Sanskrit classics remain in print. T E Lawrence ("of Arabia") earned a first in Medieval Studies at Oxford, and spent years in archaeological excavations in Syria prior to his service in World War I.

Soldier-scholars of this quality cannot be found in the United States - Yale University had one undergraduate reading Middle Eastern languages last year - let alone in the US military. Part of the reason for this lacuna is cultural, as I argued in Why America is losing the intelligence war (Asia Times Online, November 11, 2003). Immigrants came to America precisely in order to flee the tragic destiny of the cultures they abandoned, and the second generation almost invariably forgets the language of its forefathers. Of the pitifully small percentage of Americans who learn the languages of countries in which their country's strategic interests lie, an infinitesimal portion might choose the military as a career.

Therein lies the great difference between America's global police exercise and a true empire. Cultural insularity forms only part of the explanation for America's maladroitness. The other explanation is money. The main object of empire is to loot the colonies and get rich quick. Between 1760, when Robert Clive drove the French from India, and 1780, nearly 300 returning East India Company servants bought their way into England's landed gentry. The high aristocracy swelled with the ranks of West Indian planters and East Indian nabobs (governors) during the 19th century. [1]

A likely lad from a middle-class family with a bit of education and some social connections would choose imperial service as the fastest route to wealth or prestige. Where there is a great deal of wealth, there is also prestige. Men like Burton or Lawrence made their reputation as soldiers and writers rather than as traders, but the imperial flow of wealth underwrote the career choices of the British elite.

The flow of wealth from the empire was the pillar on which Britain's economy stood, funding Britain's growing net creditor position with the rest of the world. As Amiya Kumar Bachi wrote in the Economic and Political Weekly of June 8, 2002:

<i> The export surplus accruing to Europeans from trade and production in British India goes up annually from more than 25 million [pounds] in the 1870s to more than 50 million in the 1910s. If we compare these figures with those of British foreign investment estimated by Imlah (1958: 70-75), we find that they formed more than half of such investment flows (in fact they exceeded them in some years) up to the 1890s and a very substantial fraction still of British foreign investment in the peak years before the first world war</i>. [2]

Exports of Indian opium alone averaged 12 million pounds a year between 1884 and 1894, a not inconsiderable contribution to British wealth, at the expense of untold misery in China and other parts of Asia plagued by drug addiction.

There is of course another side to the British Empire, without which India would not today exist as a nation with a common language, namely English. Lawrence James recounts the "white man's burden" aspect of the empire in his Rise and Fall of the British Empire [3], for those who wish to read an apology. Doubtless some parts of the empire were better off under British rule than they are under independence, but India surely is not one of them. The British bought gifts: centralized administration, public works and order, but they were dreadfully expensive.

Americans have no empire, and therefore nothing whence to extract wealth. To the extent America might be said to have an imperial back garden it is South America, whose economic relations with America are of trivial importance. America buys oil from the Middle East, enriching the locals, but its oil companies do not make a thousandth of the scale of profits that imperial traders made in South Asia a century ago.

China forms America's most important foreign economic relationship, accounting for a quarter of its payments deficit, but I do not know anyone who characterizes that relationship as imperial. The Chinese are their own masters, and the trade relationship benefits both sides.

Britain's empire created wealth for the British, expressed as a net creditor position with respect to the rest of the world, as Dr Bachi observes above. America is falling into a net debtor position, above all with China. That is the opposite of an imperial profile.

Ambitious Americans do not head for the oilfields of the Persian Gulf or the emerald mines of Colombia, but to the business or computer science faculties of leading universities. The great fortunes of recent years stem not from overseas trade but from technological fads, mergers and acquisitions, or entertainment. That explains why America's elite has little interest in what Robert Kaplan wrongly imagines to be a nascent empire.

Even if Yale or Harvard produced the likes of a young Richard Burton, the army would not get them. As Kaplan observes:

The American military, especially the Non-Commissioned Officers, who were the guardians of its culture and traditions, constituted a world of beer, cigarettes, instant coffee and chewing tobaccos, like Copenhagen and Red Man. It was composed of people who hunted [ie, stalked], drove pickups, employed profanities as a matter of dialect, and yet had a literal, demonstrable belief in the Almighty.

Kaplan makes much of the military romance of the South, where nostalgia for the Civil War remains strong. There is a lesson here. The dream of a slave empire stretching from the Mason-Dixon line down through Tierra del Fuego inspired the meanest private in the Confederate Army (Happy birthday, Abe: Pass the blood, Asia Times Online, February 10, 2004).

The Southern rebels intended to grab Cuba and ally with the French army that invaded Mexico in 1863. Poor Southerners defended the rights of the minority of rich Southern slaveholders because they, too, wished to obtain land and slaves. That, I have argued in the past, explains why the Confederacy sustained the highest rate of casualties - nearly 40% - in any modern war. Men will fight to the death for the chance to raise their station in life.

Something of the old imperial urge percolates in the resentful culture of the American South, and that may explain why so many of America's military adventurers hail from the lands of the old Confederacy. But they are of the type of Peachy Carnahan rather than Kim. Rather than retire to an estate in Wiltshire, they will buy a motor home. One might say: that is the way the empire ends, not with a bang, but a Winnebago.

[1] Mark Bence-Jones of Burke's Peerage and Gentry, provides a detailed report.
[2] http://www.epw.org.in/showArticles.php?root=2002
&leaf=06&filename=4555&filetype= html
[3] London: Little Brown, 1994.

Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan. Random House; New York, September 2005. ISBN: 0-7393-2340-7 Price $18.98, 421 pages.

(Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us for information on sales, syndication and republishing .)
beyond orientalism - syncretism and the politics of knowledge
Gauri Viswanathan

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Pindari Society and the Establishment of British Paramountcy in India
by Philip F. McEldowney

Sections -- The Rise of the Pindaris | The Independent Period |
Pindari Society | Initial Clashes with the British | The British Reaction |
Summary and Conclusions | Footnotes | Bibliography
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts (History) at the
University of Wisconsin - 1966

In the past historians of the British period in India have emphasized both the British and the political-military aspects. For the early nineteenth century, considerable literature exists concerning the Presidencies, British policies of expansion, and the outstanding Governor Generals. Few historians have extensively examined the social and economic developments in the rest of India between the Wellesley and Lord Hastings administrations. This paper, in part, hopes to fill this gap. In addition, it provides a study of an area immediately prior to European control.

This study began in fulfillment of one of the requirements for the Indian Studies M.A. In spite of subsequent expansion and revision, I am disappointed not to have discovered more material about the social structure of the Pindaris, their economic effects upon India, and the complex social situation in central India. I believe I have examined most sources readily available in the United States on the Pindaris, especially at the University of Wisconsin libraries, but also the Chicago, New York City, and the Minnesota Ames libraries. Additional material, undoubtedly available in England and India, would contribute to a better-documented examination.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Archaeology and identity in colonial India.
Antiquity; 9/1/2000;

<b>Introduction </b>

<i>`How is it that your countrymen steal our gods?' asked a Brahmin of the Baptist missionary, John Chamberlain who noted the details of this conversation in his diary on 20 November 1817 (Davis 1997: 164): </i>

`Sir, a gentleman whose name I do not remember, came to me to let him take the image of Lukshmee away, which stood on the point where the river and rivulet meet; and he said he would give me a sum of money if I could consent to it. I told him that I could not take any money for it; that she was worshipped by all the people around, and that several times a year the people assembled from the country at a distance to see the goddess, and to bathe: at which time much was offered to her'. The gentleman persisted. He returned four or five times, offered ample remuneration and even took the brahmin by boat to see the assemblage of gods in his Calcutta house, but still the brahmin refused to sell. Finally, the gentleman `got his people together, and took away the goddess by night. There the tree stands, Sir, but the goddess is gone!'

This story, about an Indian priest and a British military officer and antiquarian Charles Stuart (1757-1828), is a useful starting point for a discourse on the theme of <b>archaeology and identity in colonial India</b> on two counts (Fisch 1985). Firstly, it is illustrative of <b>processes that were an integral part of the colonization of India</b> -- <b>the acquisition, control and attempt to alter existing structures -- either through peaceful means, when `ample remuneration' was offered, or by force or deception,</b> when `the gentleman got his people together, and took away the goddess by night'. Secondly, it reminds us that modern interest in the material paraphernalia of India's past coincided with and, in many cases, manifested itself in situations of domination and conquest.

This requires emphasis since much of the literature on the history of the discipline has treated its evolution in terms of the development of a neutral, scientific enterprise, detached from the imperial process and its politics. In sharp contrast, this essay assumes that the evolution of Indian archaeology cannot be discussed without referring to the circumstances in which this process unfolded, those of the creation and expansion of the British colonial state.

Its central argument hinges on the radically different positions occupied by the `colonizers' and the `colonized' and the impact of this on the manner in which archaeology was used by each group to construct the `other' and their own identities. To put it another way, while Charles Stuart, the subject of the above-quoted incident, has been seen by many as the most influential antiquarian of his time in the `age of discovery' of India's material past, from the perspective of the devout worshippers, whose goddess was taken away, antiquarians and things archaeological <b>could only have been the signifiers of an `epoch of loss'. </b>

<b>Connecting archaeology to Empire</b>

The affiliations of archaeology with the British administration of India were close and influenced, at various levels, the ways in which different groups of people perceived it, in relation to themselves and others. I shall highlight some of them, conceding in advance that selectivity has to be exercised in a paper of this length. <b>The first is that self-conscious, systematic surveys of sites and antiquities for the purpose of reconstructing India's historical past were intimately connected with the British need to gather and order information about their subjects in newly acquired territories. </b>

These surveys became part of the East India Company's system of governance and resource mapping under Wellesley (1798-1805), gaining in momentum after the capture of Sri Rangapattana in AD 1799, which practically completed the British conquest of India south of the Vindhya mountains. It was this political context, an unequal relationship of force, that allowed all kinds of British officials, to treat subcontinental sites as an easy hunting ground for antiquities.

Cunningham (1814-93), one of the pioneers of Indian archaeology, is an example of this. He came to India as a military engineer and served as the first Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from AD 1861 till 1885, with a gap between 1866 and 1870 when the Survey was suspended. <b>That Cunningham regarded his field of interest as a mine which would provide trophies to be carried home is evident from his contract which allowed him a share in the antiquities that he discovered (Roy 1953: 10). </b>

Unfortunately, the bulk of his collection that included a large number of Gandharan Buddhist sculptures (c. 1st to 6th centuries AD) from northwest India, was lost in AD 1887 in a shipwreck off the coast of Sri Lanka. Many other collections, however, found their way to Great Britain and such memorabilia also included parts of old buildings. A prayer niche at the Elgin Museum in northeast Scotland, is one such case, which originally formed the central mihrab in the Sona mosque at Firozpur in Gaur but was removed by Grant, of the Bengal Civil Service, around 1842 and subsequently presented to the museum of his native place (Macdonnell 1905). Clearly, part of the identity of a `colony-returned' British gentleman was the collection of artefacts which he carried back as mementos of his Indian experience (FIGURE 1).

Moreover, since archaeology over a period of time (1861-70 AD), was transformed into a permanent arm of the British Raj, <b>its priorities in terms of research and conservation shifted backwards and forwards in relation to the needs and requirements of the Empire.</b> The discontinuance of Cunningham's field surveys in AD 1866 and the shift towards the documentation of Indian architectural and art remains illustrates the connection.

This was at the instance of the Lords of the Committee of the Council of Education in England who required that photographs, plaster casts and accurate measurements of India's ancient buildings be sent to England (Despatch 1867). This, in turn, is intimately connected to the movement for the reformation of industrial design in England, which several reformist designers -- Gottfried Semper, Owen Jones and Henry Cole, among others -- believed would be accelerated through inputs from traditional Indian ornamental design (Mitter 1977: 221). The archaeological documentation undertaken in India from 1866 until 1870 AD was related to this concern. <b>The visual invocation of India's material past, it was hoped, would prove to be an instrument in improving the inferior and uninspiring standards of design at home. </b>

Similarly, Lord Curzon, Viceroy between 1899-1905 AD, developed an agenda regarding India's historic architecture. Apart from his own deep interest in monuments, this <b>was shaped by the social context in England and by the need to make imperial governance appear more `enlightened'. </b>Historic buildings that had been pillaged or converted into dingy, governmental spaces, such as those in the forts at Delhi, Lahore and Agra which had been built in the heyday of the Mughal empire (1526-1700 AD), were encountered by Curzon across much of India and proved to be an embarrassing reminder of `a century of British vandalism and crime'. So, their restoration came to be perceived as an urgent, necessary step in promoting a more cultured image of colonial rule (Lahiri 1998: 10).

<b>The anxiety to forge such an identity even led, in one instance, to the return of cultural plunder. </b>These were the pietra dura panels in the Red Fort at Delhi, constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century AD. These panels were looted by Captain Jones during the revolt of AD 1857 and sold to the British government for 500 [pounds sterling]. Today, they form the backdrop to Shah Jahan's throne, but found their way back to India because of Curzon's initiative. This coincided with a special occasion, the AD 1903 Delhi coronation of Edward VII, so that `the background of the throne should represent to assembled spectators, by a careful restoration to its original condition, not the vandalism of an earlier generation, but the generous enlightenment of a later and more cultured age' (Curzon 1902).

<b>One must remember, too, that if one of the objectives of monument conservation was dismantling signs of colonial violence so as to lend credence to the construction of a beneficent imperial identity, a related concern was that of immortalizing the British presence as one that had suffered much at the hands of `native' violence. </b>

This concern is evident in the repairs undertaken by the Archaeological Survey Department at the Residency and Alambagh in Lucknow. These were meant to preserve, as far as possible, the damage that they had suffered during the revolt of AD 1857. As John Marshall (1908), the Director-General of Archaeology in India, put it: `there is little interest or value attaching to the architecture of any of these buildings, but a great deal attaching to their historical associations, and these associations are largely destroyed when all evidence of the damage sustained in the Mutiny has been effaced'.

Finally, an enduring image, at the heart of many archaeological tracts penned by British scholars of colonial India, was of themselves as the resurrectors of India's past, and the sharp contrast between them and the inhabitants of India. The Bhilsa Topes by General Cunningham, containing the results of his survey of Buddhist sites in the Vidisa region of central India, is a typical example. That British explorers held the keys to unlocking India's history shines through in the poem which forms the conclusion to this work (Cunningham 1997: 368):

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->    Nought but the Tope themselves remain to mock 
    Time's ceaseless efforts; yet they proudly stand 
    Silent and lasting up their parent rock, 
    And still as cities under magic's wand; 
    Till curious Saxons, from a distant land, 
    Unlock'd the treasure of two thousand years, 
    And the lone scene is peopled ...  <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Yet a very different leitmotif was used by Cunningham for representing indigenous people. <b>One encounters `bigoted Musalmans', `avaracious zamindars' (landlords) and destructively rancorous `fiery Saivas' (devotees of the Hindu god Shiva) and they are all represented as vandals. </b>This was a common enough metaphor in archaeological writings and one is reminded here of <b>James Fergusson's (1876: 53) description of the `ruthless Moslim' [sic] and the `careless Hindu' who were supposed to have thoroughly obliterated all traces of ancient cultures in the Ganga valley! </b>

Two issues may be kept in mind as we attempt to interpret these discourses. One is that such stereotyping helped in justifying certain kinds of policies (Chakrabarti 1997: 111).

For one thing, <b>because the `natives' were characterized as unworthy of their ancient material past, unlike the `curious Saxons' who were discovering it, this provided a justification for the physical removal of structural remains and antiquities from their original settings. </b>

The second is that <b>information concerning the interactions between Indians and British officers constantly challenge such stereotypes.</b> For example, most of Jacob's recommendations for restoring the `Tower of Fame', a 15th-century AD monument at Chittorgarh, were those that had already been proposed by the 'native' mason there (Jacob 1903). Again, the restoration of Mughal buildings in the Red Fort at Delhi were based upon a pre-Mutiny work penned by a `native', Syed Ahmed Khan's AtharaI-Sanadid, and translated from the original for John Marshall by another `native' -- his assistant, Maulvi Nur Baksh (Marshall 1902).

<b>So, representations of the irreducible differences between British researchers and Indian inhabitants are best viewed as ideological reformulations of a more general colonial stereotype in which Indians were characterized in terms of unchangeable essences which helped to confirm British power. </b>More importantly, these could not be sustained at the practical level of archaeological research and conservation where the British relied upon local knowledge.

The Indian perspective: perceptions and resistance </b>

A useful entry point for addressing the question of indigenous identities would be India's living heritage (made up of religious shrines, family memorials and ancestral forts) since this was the cultural ground where `archaeology' and its resonances most deeply affected Indians. It is unlikely that archaeology was viewed as an intellectual pursuit concerned with unravelling India's material past by the average Indian who happened to come in contact with its practitioners.

Instead, archaeologists were generally regarded as persons who were part of the British Sarkar or government. As Vogel (1902), an archaeological surveyor noted, for the `natives', `Sahibs' are `identical to the Sarkar'. This was with good reason since the actual work of conservation and the procurement of antiquities was, on the advice of officers of the Archaeological Survey, executed by government engineers and local administrative officials. We can also see the way in which the world of monuments and artefacts was dovetailed with the domain of government from the fact that they were the agency to which various appeals concerning such issues were directed.

The request, by a section of the Muslim community at Agra, for the restitution of the Mubarak Manzil, a building that was apparently built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707 AD) (The Observer 1904); and the appeal by the Jain Digambar Prantik Sabha for custody of 15th-century AD Jain images discovered in Rajputana (Jain Digambar Prantik Sabha 1903), are two such instances. At the same time, government machinery did not merely intervene when appeals like those mentioned above were directed towards it.

<b>On the contrary, religious structures of all kinds were documented, measured, studied and conserved as a part of the general archaeological policy of the British Raj. Consequently, a very real fear came to be increasingly articulated about archaeological work being a government strategy for encroaching into the religious sphere. </b>For instance, the adhikaris (caretakers) of the Radha Ballabha temple in Brindaban petitioned the government in 1902 asking whether the plans and photographs of the temple which were being prepared meant that the government wished to make a claim to its title or possession (Gale 1902).
That such fears were not entirely unfounded is evident </b>from the case of the Mahabodhi temple in Bihar, which stands close to where Sidhartha Gautama, the historical founder of Buddhism attained enlightenment. Between AD 1876 and 1884, the British government in India spent 200,000 rupees for the purpose of its architectural restoration.<b> More importantly, they believed that by thus repairing it, they had acquired rights over the shrine. </b>

Curzon stated this with more candour than most when he said, that the acts of restoration at Mahabodhi 'seem to involve the gradual assertion of a co-ordinate authority, with power, if not to dispose of the shrine or to expropriate the Mahanth, at least to superintend his superintendence and to control his control' (Lahiri 1999: 37). Shrine guardians and devotees, therefore, frequently regarded archaeological work as something that places of worship had to be protected from lest they altered existing rights. A good example of how this was done comes from the restorations undertaken in the first decade of this century at the Dilwara temples in Abu which were built in the 12th and 13th centuries AD. In July 1904, Seth Lalbhai Dalpatbhai, acting president of the Jain Committee, in his discussion with the Agent to the Governor-General of Rajputana, was categorical in stating that whilst the entire Jain community was anxious to have their temples restored, and were most grateful for the counsel and advice of European officials, it was their express wish and desire that the work should be left entirely under their management and control, and should not be considered in any way government work.

A system was thus evolved by which money was raised entirely by the community, whilst the Jain Committee controlled and managed the work of conservation. The Archaeological Survey and its officers were neither closely nor directly involved because, the Jain Committee seemed to fear that the `Government are trying to get the temples into their own hands, and that these repairs are the thin edge of the wedge' (Cousens 1905).

It is improbable that Indians perceived any distinction between antiquity collectors and archaeologists. Both took away antiquities, including objects of worship, and paid money for them. That several of the images which were removed to museums were under active worship is worth remembering. These ranged from Pala, c. 8th-12th centuries AD, Buddhist statues from Bishenpur in Bihar (Bloch 1904) to Kushana, c. 1st-3rd centuries AD, images from shrines in Mathura (Vogel 1908).

At the same time, these cultural practices also resulted in occasions of resistance, and in circumstances where officers of the Archaeological Survey were required to consider themselves, not simply as persons who treated places of worship as a means of enriching museum collections, but as representatives <b>of a system that encroached upon the integrity of indigenous forms of worship. This is powerfully captured in the 1907 agitation around the Neelichhatri temple at Delhi.</b>

Its genesis can be traced to Marshall's desire to acquire rare Mughal tiles, `green and yellow and red with a wonderful variety of designs -- some of the finest perhaps that exist in India' (Marshall 1907) -- which formed part of the roof of this small Hindu shrine. These, Marshall hoped, could be taken down and put as exhibits in the Naubat Khana Museum. However, as the work of dismantling began, a spontaneous agitation broke out and eventually succeeded, through an appeal to Delhi's Deputy Commissioner, in getting the removal suspended. In this incident, the government was seen to be vandalizing religious structures through its archaeological practices (FIGURE 2), with resistant subjects positioned against such <b>`official vandalism'. </b>

Interestingly enough, <b>here the `colonized' do not appear as marginal voices but as people who, cutting across community lines, could successfully resist such incursions into their religious terrain.</b>

A final related point, though, may be made. This incident should not suggest that Indians only appeared as defenders of their heritage in situations of confrontation.

We know from various British reports that historic structures of various kinds used to be repaired by `native' rulers in their own states, and also through endowments by individuals and groups. The instances cited by Cole, Curator of Ancient Monuments (1880-83), range from historic forts and palaces in the Rajputana states at one end of the spectrum and South Indian temples, at the other end (Curator 1882). One does not have the space here to go into detail, but the point is that the fate of structures with which the annals of their ancestry and their traditions were intermingled, were a matter of concern for various groups of people. These, of course, were maintained through traditional systems of conservation although the Indian people, in such cases, did not use the language or concepts of archaeology as it is understood by us today. <b>Yet, they were involved in preserving their material past or those parts of it that gave them a sense of identity, as good rulers and as devout worshippers. </b>

<b>References </b>

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->BLOCH, T. 1904. Letter of 7th March, 1904 from T. Bloch to J. Marshall. File No. 46, Serial nos. 1-61. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

CHAKRABARTI, D.K. 1997. Colonial indology: sociopolitics of the ancient Indian past. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.

CUNNINGHAM, A. 1854 (1997 reprint). The Bhilsa Topes. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.

COUSENS, H. 1905. Report to Marshall. File No. 26, Serial nos. 1-11. May 1905. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

CURATOR, 1882. Reports by the Curator of Ancient Monuments in India on the preservation of National Monuments in Madras, Bombay, Rajputana and Kalburgah, Proceedings of the Home Department (Archaeology and Conservation of Ancient Monuments. New Delhi: National Archives of India.

CURZON & COUNCIL. 1902. Despatch to George Hamilton dated 18th September, Proceedings of the Revenue and Agriculture Department (Archaeology and Epigraphy)--A. New Delhi: National Archives of India.

DAVIS, R.H. 1997. Lives of Indian images. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.

DESPATCH, 1867. Secretary of State for India to Governor General of India in Council. 9th December, Proceedings of the Home Department (Pub
lic)--A--May 28th 1870, nos. 88/89. New Delhi: National Archives of India.

FERGUSSON, J. 1876. History of Indian and eastern architecture. London: John Murray.

FISCH, J. 1985. A solitary vindicator of the Hindus: The life and writings of General Charles Stuart (1757/58-1828), Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1: 35-57.

GALE, A.B. 1902. Letter of 31st July to Goswamis Gobardhan Lal and Keshori Lalji, File No. 40, Serial No. 27. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

JACOB, S. 1903. Note after inspection of the Old Tower of Fame at Chittorgarh on 22nd January 1903, File No. 79, Serial No. 1025, November 1902. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

JAIN DIGAMBAR PRANTIK SABHA. 1903. Letter from President, Jain Digambar Prantik Sabha, Bombay to C.H. Pritchard, Proceedings of the Department of Revenue and Agriculture (Archaeology and Epigraphy), January 1904--A--No. 13. New Delhi: National Archives of India.

LAHIRI, N. 1998. Coming to grips with the Indian past: John Marshall's early years as Lord Curzon's Director-General of Archaeology in India -- Part 1, South Asian Studies 14: 1-23.

1999. Bodh-Gaya: an ancient Buddhist shrine and its modern history (1891-1904), in T. Insoll (ed.), Case studies in archaeology and religion: 33-43. Oxford: Archaeopress.

MACDONNELL, R.G. 1905. Letter to Viceroy's secretary. File No. 27, Serial Nos. 1-3, June 1905. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

MARSHALL, J.H. 1902. Restoration of the Palace Garden Hayat Bakhsh (Life-Giver) in the Delhi Fort. File No. 129, Serial No. 21, November 1902. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

1907. Letter of 6th March to Commissioner, File No. 106, Serial Nos. 1-15, May 1907. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

1908. Letter to John Hewett, 9th August. File No. 183, Serial Nos. 1-2, August 1908. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

MITTER, P. 1977. Much maligned monsters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

ROY, S. 1953. Indian archaeology from Jones to Marshall (1784-1902), Ancient India 9: 4-28.

VOGEL, J.P. 1902. Memorandum on the preservation of archaeological material in the Peshawar District, File No. 86, May 1902. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India.

1908. Letter of 3rd March to John Marshall, File No. 96, Serial Nos. 1-49, March 1907. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

NAYANJOT LAHIRI, Department of History, University of Delhi (South Campus), Benito Juarez Road, New Delhi 110-021, India. nlahiri@ndf.vsnl.net.in

COPYRIGHT 2000 Antiquity Publications, Ltd.
The love affair between Edwina Mountbatten, last British vicereine of India, and Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister. <b>Their particular intimacy began shortly before the Independence of 15 August 1947 </b>and continued until Lady Mountbatten's death in 1960, when she was touring medical facilities in Southeast Asia in her capacity as head of the Saint John Ambulance Brigade. Her body was found with open letters from Nehru, which she was rereading. Both lovers had lived very privileged young lives, with exceptional English public-school educations, and had undergone a conversion to careers of public service.
<!--QuoteBegin-Aryawan+Aug 4 2005, 07:16 AM-->QUOTE(Aryawan @ Aug 4 2005, 07:16 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>INDIA'S DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION UNDER BRITISH RULE</b>

India produced 25 % of the world output in 1790, it was reduced to 2 % in 1900 under British Rule.....</b>



thanks for these two links.

i read them.

but when i tried to paste the two links in another forum, the link just wouldnt work.

is there a correct way to do it ?
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Nov 30 2005, 05:16 PM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Nov 30 2005, 05:16 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-Aryawan+Aug 4 2005, 07:16 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Aryawan @ Aug 4 2005, 07:16 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>INDIA'S DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION UNDER BRITISH RULE</b>

India produced 25 % of the world output in 1790, it was reduced to 2 % in 1900 under British Rule.....</b>



thanks for these two links.

i read them.

but when i tried to paste the two links in another forum, the link just wouldnt work.

is there a correct way to do it ?

It seems that 'cache' in your computer is disabled/not working.

Alternative would be to write down the url/site address and type out in your post.

Are you from "World Affairs Board"?
no i am nt from the world affairs board.

and in case cache is not working, do you know how i could activate it.

better yet, if you tell me how you found those papers, then i could browse to the place.

i went to HIER/HEIR site but could not find these two amidst the maze of research papers they've put up. under which year do these two come ??
1. click on the link.
2. that will open a new browser window and the url would be in this new window's URL field.
3. copy-paste from that field.

The software that runs this forum compresses long URL with "..." in middle and thats why you cant copy paste directly from forum.
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Dec 1 2005, 07:40 AM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Dec 1 2005, 07:40 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->hi.
no i am nt from the world affairs board.

and in case cache is not working, do you know how i could activate it.

better yet, if you tell me how you found those papers, then i could browse to the place.

i went to HIER/HEIR site but could not find these two amidst the maze of research papers they've put up. under which year do these two come ??

May be clearing the cache folder, temporary forlder, clearing cookies might work. Then reboot........I am not a computer expert...it happens to me also.

I found them while doing key word search. Anyway the links are working. You may just write down the url and type them on your posts.

These papers are often quoted by GOI as a reference. PM did while receiving his Gora saheb award from his Alma mater.

Hope this helps!
<!--QuoteBegin-Aryawan+Dec 1 2005, 08:02 AM-->QUOTE(Aryawan @ Dec 1 2005, 08:02 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Dec 1 2005, 07:40 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(ben_ami @ Dec 1 2005, 07:40 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->hi.
no i am nt from the world affairs board.

and in case cache is not working, do you know how i could activate it.

better yet, if you tell me how you found those papers, then i could browse to the place.

i went to HIER/HEIR site but could not find these two amidst the maze of research papers they've put up. under which year do these two come ??

May be clearing the cache folder, temporary forlder, clearing cookies might work. Then reboot........I am not a computer expert...it happens to me also.

I found them while doing key word search. Anyway the links are working. You may just write down the url and type them on your posts.

These papers are often quoted by GOI as a reference. PM did while receiving his Gora saheb award from his Alma mater.

Hope this helps!

i am not a comp expert either but will still try to do as you say.. once i figure out how to, that is.

the links in the post here ARE indeed working.
but when i cut-pasted them in other forums , to spread the word about the pom damage to india, it wasnt working.

do you remember what key words you searched or under which year in the HIER library are these to be found ??

as for the "gora saheb award"..... hahaha... i like sarcasm, especially when its due.
we had alot of respect for mammohon singh the economist and f.m.

ever since he became a sonis pupet and then a gora saheb awardee full of admiration and obligation for the non-existant pom legacy in india, its dwindled considerably.

his lip service to the poms and adwani's to jinna are inexplicable to say the least. our leaders seem to have lost it.

Royal cover-up of illegitimate son revealed

Peter Day and Jon Ungoed-Thomas

SENIOR royal courtiers tried to cover up allegations that the great uncle of the Queen fathered an illegitimate son, newly released documents show.

They reveal that police conducted an extensive investigation into an affair between Margery Haddon, a married woman, and the Duke of Clarence, eldest son of the future Edward VII.

The liaison was said to have occurred during a royal tour of India in the 1880s, but when Haddon turned up in London to claim she had conceived the duke’s child, senior officials quietly arranged her passage back to India, where she had been born and raised.

Clothes were provided for her through a secret account and a “go-between” for the duke provided maintenance payments for the boy, Clarence Haddon. Embarrassing letters in the woman’s possession were believed to have been purchased by lawyers acting for the duke.

The allegations remained out of the public eye for years until Clarence Haddon turned up in London in the 1920s to stake publicly his claim to be an illegitimate member of the royal family. His claims were dismissed and, because he lacked documentary proof, he was seen as a crank.

However, his and his mother’s full story has come to light in documents made public by the National Archives in Kew, southwest London, after more than 70 years.

They show Margery Haddon’s claims were taken seriously enough for the Metropolitan police commissioner, head of Special Branch and one of most senior of the monarch’s officials — the keeper of the privy purse — to investigate.

The files, comprising hundreds of pages of police reports, royal correspondence and photographs, start with Margery Haddon’s claim that her affair with the Duke of Clarence began at a ball in India in 1889.

The daughter of a civil servant, she was a vivacious woman brought up in Calcutta, then the seat of colonial power in India. By the time she met the duke, she was married to a civil engineer, Henry Haddon.

The Duke of Clarence, nicknamed “Eddy”, was known as a womaniser and heavy drinker. Robert Lacey, the royal biographer, said: “He had a reputation as a somewhat debauched character and it’s interesting if there is evidence of a royal cover-up. There was always great anxiety among the royal family about protecting his reputation.”

After the ball, one of a number during the tour of India by the duke and his younger brother, the future King George V, Haddon claimed she and the duke became lovers. The following year she is said to have given birth to her son, Clarence Guy Gordon Haddon.

Two years later, in 1892, the Duke of Clarence died at the age of 28 during a flu epidemic, leaving the way clear for his younger brother to become king. By now, Margery Haddon had come to Britain but her life was starting to fall apart. She was divorcing her husband and had begun to drink heavily.

By 1914, after a number of failed marriages, she had descended into alcoholism and seemed almost deranged. That year she was arrested outside the gates of Buckingham Palace after shouting she was the mother of the Duke of Clarence’s illegitimate son.

Her claims were quickly reported to the royal family and prompted an inquiry by Patrick Quinn, the head of Special Branch. In July 1914, Quinn met Sir William Carington, keeper of the privy purse, to discuss the case.

The meeting at Buckingham Palace was a sombre one. Quinn’s written record of the discussions states: “(Carington) invited my opinion on the question of making a payment . . . He was afraid she might have some proof.”

There seems to have been some cause for alarm. The military aide said to have arranged the Duke of Clarence’s relationship with Margery Haddon in India, Lieutenant George Rogers, had been named in Haddon’s divorce proceedings.

The implication was that it was he who had fathered the illegitimate child. However, the files show his family told police a different story. In fact they said Rogers had acted as a “scapegoat” for the illicit royal relationship and his family provided maintenance payments for Clarence even though he was not his true father.

In a statement to police, a representative from Lewis and Lewis, a legal firm which had acted on behalf of the Duke of Clarence during the divorce proceedings, said: “Certainly there were some relations (between Haddon and the duke).” The unnamed representative denied, however, that there was any child from the union.

The documents reveal that the duke wrote a number of letters to Haddon. A Special Branch report in July 1914 stated: “There were grounds for thinking Lewis and Lewis obtained those letters from her upon payment.”

It was agreed by Scotland Yard and senior courtiers that Haddon should be removed from the country. A ticket was bought for her by the political adviser to the secretary of state for India, clothes were purchased for her through a Scotland Yard account and she was given £5 spending money.

On February 20, 1915, she departed for India. There is no record of her returning to England and she was never heard of again.

It was, however, not the end of the affair. Clarence Haddon, who had spent most of his early adult life working abroad, started a campaign in the 1920s to be recognised as the son of the Duke of Clarence.

He wrote a book, My Uncle King George V, which was published in America. In the early 1930s his campaign intensified and he wrote to George V to complain of the “underhand”, “dirty” and “unjust” treatment he had received.

“I will not rest until the whole world will see these royal methods in their true colours,” he wrote.

It was hoped he might be dealt with in a similar fashion to his mother. A trip to America was paid for him out of police funds but he returned to England to pursue his claims.

In January 1934 he was bound over for three years by Mr Justice Charles at a hearing at the Old Bailey, on the condition that he made no claim that he was the Duke of Clarence’s son. He breached the conditions and was jailed the following year for 12 months.

Haddon became an increasingly sad character because any evidence of his mother’s relationship with the duke had long disappeared. He died a broken man, his repeated claims dismissed by the authorities as “ridiculous”.

Lacey said that even if Haddon’s claim had been proved, it would have made no difference to the royal line. He said the royals had had a number of illegitimate children over the centuries, but although many had been given money it was never argued they had any right to the throne.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “This is not something we would comment on.”
From Deccan.com, 12/10/2005
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The role of quislings

Itihaas by Akhilesh Mithal:

Grozny and Baghdad are the continuation of Dillie and Lucknow in 1857. The White powers continue to think of a world divided in terms of “we and they.” Asiatics figure as less than human and Muslims continue as a synonym for terrorists.

Perhaps it is time to suggest that the life and times of “Badshah,” “Fakhre Afghan,” “Frontier Gandhi” and “Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan” should be made compulsory reading in the chanceries of the world. This apostle of non-violence endured a lifetime of suffering for his principles along with his family. <b>The Khan’s son, Wali Khan spent some time in London studying the papers of British rulers of India such as Viceroys and Secretaries of State and wrote a book called Facts Are Facts in Pushto.

His wife Nasim transliterated it into Urdu and Saiyada Syed Hamid rendered it into English. It was published in 1987 and is now out of print. </b>Wali Khan writes, “….the Viceroy sent a weekly report to the Secretary of State and the Secretary responded…through a weekly courier..”

“What I discovered…was far beyond expectations…I found detailed analysis of the internal affairs of India.”

<b>“I had never really believed…my elders who accused the British of using the most underhand tactics to promote their policies...”

“But never could I imagine that their allegations were a pale reflection of the truth, the truth was much uglier.”

“Their mischief exceeded our wildest imaginations. Badshah Khan’s and the (Indian National) Congress’ allegations were far short of the truth.</b> If there was the slightest doubt earlier, it was removed because the documents preserved in the archives bore the official British seal…. signed by no less than the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India.” <b>Wali Khan cites the Partition of Bengal 1905, the Minto-Morley Reforms 1909 and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms as the devices used by the British to mire nascent India democracy in communalism. The ‘Reforms’ decreed that Muslim votes could only be cast for Muslims and Hindu votes for Hindus.

“In this manner,” records Wali Khan, “the British laid communalism as the foundation stone of Indian democracy.”

“By proposing a communal rather than a national base for politics, they forced the Hindus and Muslims into a position whereby if they wanted to enter municipal or community politics, their electioneering was limited to wooing their religious brethren, and fighting on religious rather than national issues.”</b>

Wali Khan uses the Khilafat movement records to show how the British used their Indian pawns to counter national moves for unity and freedom.

During the World War I (1914-1918) a prime British objective was to wipe out the Ottoman Empire and replace the Sultan of Turkey with puppets. This pattern had worked in India. Maulana Muhammad Ali and Mahatma Gandhi saw through this game and jointly started the Khilafat movement. The Khilafat Committee asked Hindus and Muslims to return all British titles and to resign from any official position they may hold in the police, the army or the civilian wing of the administration.  
The British responded by having their puppets amongst the Muslims allege that the above demands of the Khilafat Committee were a Hindu ploy to eliminate all chances of Muslim advancement by getting them out of scarce government jobs.</b>

On May 22, 1920 His Exalted Highness, the Nizam of Hyderabad issued a ‘firman,’ which declared that since the Khilafat movement was anti-Muslim it would henceforth be considered illegal!  Another ‘loyal’ Muslim, Sir Muhammad Shafi gave advice that special efforts needed to be made to lure away Muslims and this could be done by the British making peace with Turkey and organising an Anglo-Muhammadan Union to cater to the needs of the British Empire.

<b>By September 21, 1922, the Viceroy Reading could report to the secretary of state, “My telegram will show you how near we have been to a complete break between Muslims and Hindus.” “I have been giving the greatest attention to this possibility, and I have had the greatest assistance from Shafi on my council who is a highly respectable Muhammadan.”</b>

We shall, in future columns, show how “highly respectable” toadies Muslim, Hindu and Sikh behaved during the struggle for freedom.

Folks if you use game theory to see who the players were and how allies were made and how the game was won by the Brits, one understands that it was a variation of the repeated play of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Mahatma Gandhi always played the trust the other side against the Brits. However the otherside always took the Brits side as there was better incentive. Had INC known the solution to the repeated Prisoner's Dilemma is to play the same hand as the otherside's play things would have been quite different.
I had posted this in the Dharampal thread earlier. The first card refers to the muslim card while the second one was the SC/ST card.

<!--QuoteBegin-rajesh_g+Nov 27 2005, 06:15 PM-->QUOTE(rajesh_g @ Nov 27 2005, 06:15 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->11. India: The Transfer of Power, Vol III, No. 280 (16.12.1942) (HMSO, London). The expression one card and the second card is in the original file (in IOLR) on the Secretary of State’s draft on this subject. The draft also carries a marginal comment by the Secretary of State’s deputy, the under Secretary of State for India, stating that the second card, i.e. the card of the sched-uled castes was weak as it had already been cut by Gandhi. A few months later the Secretary of State seems to have had some after-thought. Writing to the British Viceroy in India he then said: ‘The fundamental weakness of the scheduled castes is that they are neither one thing nor the other’, and added: ‘If they had the courage to turn Christian or Muslim en bloc it would be much easier to legislate for them. But so long as they remain a part of the Hindu system, with no separate religion or basis of organisation as such, and continue to regard themselves as Hin-dus, it does look as if their only chance of betterment lay, not on the political side, but on gradually winning their way so-cially in the Hindu Community.’ This was on February 2, 1943 (India: The Transfer of Power).<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Foot Notes
1. An early exception is Aloys Michel’s The Indus Rivers (New Haven: Yale UP, 1967): 162-194. Alastair Lamb’s Incomplete Partition: The Genesis of the Kashmir Dispute 1947-1948 (Hertingfordbury: Roxford Books, 1997): 43-92, ISBN 0006550452Patrick French’s Liberty and Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division (London: HarperCollins, 1997): 321-338, and Tan Tai Yong’s "‘Sir Cyril Goes to India’: Partition, Boundary-Making and Disruptions in the Punjab," Punjab Studies 4:1 (1997): 1-20 also address elements of the border question. Joya Chatterji’s "The Fashioning of a Frontier: The Radcliffe Line and Bengal’s Border Landscape, 1947-52" (Modern Asian Studies 33:1 [1999]: 185-242), provides a Bengal-centered model for analysis of the Radcliffe Commission and its impact on local communities. Edmund Heward’s description of Radcliffe’s public service, The Great and the Good: A Life of Lord Radcliffe (Chichester: Barry Rose Publishers, 1994), touches sympathetically on Radcliffe’s work in India. The boundary issue has also attracted the attention of less careful writers, including Leonard Mosley, whose The Last Days of the British Raj (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962) includes fascinating information from interviews with participants in the transfer of power but is tainted by its strong anti-Mountbatten bias and poor documentation.

2. A separate boundary commission, also headed by Radcliffe, was responsible for drawing the Indo-Pakistani boundary in Bengal. My work focuses on Punjab; for the Bengal boundary, see Chatterji.

3. Heward 45.

4. To my knowledge, there are no surviving Indian participants in the boundary commission.

5. P.J. Cain and Anthony Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688-1914 and British Imperialism: Crisis and Deconstruction, 1914-1990 (London: Longman, 1993).

6. Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 223.

7. Metcalf 224-5.

8. Stanley Wolpert, A New History of India, 3rd ed. (New York; Oxford University Press, 1989): 329.

9. Wolpert 334.

10. Wolpert 335.

11. Lamb 23.

12. Wolpert 341-4.

13. Nicholas Mansergh, ed. The Transfer of Power, 1942-47 (hereafter TP) vol. XII, No. 488, Appendix 1.

14. See in particular Stephen B. Jones, Boundary-Making: A handbook for Statesmen, Treaty Editors and Boundary Commissioners (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1945).

15. Gyanesh Kudaisya, "From Displacement to ‘Development’: East Punjab Countryside after Partition, 1947-67" in Freedom, Trauma, Continuities, ed. D.A. Low and Howard Brasted (Walnut Creek, Alta Mira Press, 1998): 74.

16. A tehsil is the administrative unit below a district, somewhat analogous to a county.

17. Mian Muhammad Sadullah, ed., The Partition of the Punjab 1947: A Compilation of Official Documents, vol. 1. (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications): xvii.

18. Lord H.L. Ismay, The Memoirs of General Lord Ismay (New York: Viking Press, 1960) 442.

19. TP XII 489.

20. Simon Scott Plummer, "How Mountbatten Bent the Rules and the Indian Border," Daily Telegraph 24 Feb. 1992: 10.

21. Alistair Lamb, cited in French 322.

22. TP XII 488, Appendix I.

23. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Mountbatten and the Partition of India (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1983): 103.

24. Mountbatten insisted that later historians would vindicate all of his decisions and disprove his critics.

25. Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer delivered the insult. Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten (New York: Harper and Row: 1985): 528.

26. Mountbatten hastened to add that although the Governor of Bengal shared these economic concerns, he "had not expressed any view on this matter to Sir Cyril Radcliffe, so he could not be said to have influenced the decision." TP XII 487.

27. A thana was a local administrative division, centered on a police station.

28. TP XII 488, Appendix I, Annexure A.

29. Collins and Lapierre 69.

30. TP XII Appendix I, No. 6.

31. TP XII 488, Appendix I.

32. TP XII 488, Appendix II.

33. TP XII 488, Appendix I, Annexure A.

34. Michel 177.

35. TP XII 488, Appendix I.

36. TP XII 389.

37. TP XII 190.

38. French 347-49.

39. Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin, Borders and Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1998): 70. Official estimates were 50,000 Muslim women abducted in India, 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women abducted in Pakistan.

40. Lamb 111.

41.French 337.

42.ISBN: 1859848524 For a view of partition as an anachronistic approach to ethnic conflict that is bound to fail, see Radha Kumar, Divide and Fall? Bosnia in the Annals of Partition (London: Verso, 1997).

More information is available at www.bn.com on the following books refrenced in this article:

Ritu Menon, Kamla Bhasin. Borders and Boundaries: How Women Experienced the Partition of India. Rutgers University Press, 1998. ISBN: 0813525527

Stanley A. Wolpert. A New History of India. Oxford University Press, Inc. 1999. ISBN 019512877X.

Stephen Barr Jones, S. Whittemore. Boundary-Making: A handbook for Statesmen, treaty Editors and Boundary Commissioners William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 2000. ISBN 1575885654.

Lord Lionel Ismay. The Memoirs of General Lord Ismay Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. 1974. ISBN 0837162807.

Freedom, Trauma, Continuities, ed. D.A. Low and Howard Brasted (Walnut Creek, Alta Mira Press, 1998). ISBN 0761992251.

Philip Ziegler. Mountbatten. Phoenix Press, 2001. ISBN: 1842122967
ISBN 0006550452Patrick French. Liberty and Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division London: HarperCollins, 1997. ISBN 0006550452.

The author, a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, is a doctoral candidate in history at Yale University. Drawing from her dissertation, she considers here the background to timely questions associated with the Kashmir dispute. She raises the policy question of partition as a tool for crisis management or resolution, and she provides useful historical evidence for scholars wishing to draw contemporary lessons.—Ed.

The 1947 partition of South Asia has had lasting repercussions not only for the region, but also for the larger international community. Border tensions between India and Pakistan have taken on a new magnitude since both countries carried out nuclear tests in May 1998. Surprisingly, historians have paid little attention to the creation of the Indo-Pakistani boundary, a key element of the 1947 division.1 This article analyzes the problematic procedure and format of the body responsible for delineating that boundary through the province of Punjab, the Radcliffe Boundary Commission.2 It is part of a larger project that will examine links between the boundary-making process and the repercussions of partition, particularly mass violence. The commission takes its name from its chairman, Sir Cyril Radcliffe. In the end, his boundary-making effort was a failure in terms of boundary-making, but a striking success in terms of providing political cover to all sides. The British seized the opportunity to withdraw from their onerous Indian responsibilities as quickly as possible; the Indian National Congress, the avowedly secular but primarily Hindu party headed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, took control of India, as it had desired for so long. The Muslim League, which claimed to represent South Asia’s Muslims and was led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, won Pakistan, the sovereign Muslim state for which it had campaigned.

Jinnah, Patel, and Nehru

Although the British had, in 1946, considered leaving India piecemeal, transferring power to individual provences as they withdrew, they concluded that such an approach was impractical. without defining the entity or entities that would come into power, they concluded that such an approach was impractical. It would not be possible to hand over power without making it clear what international entity would take on that power; in order to define a new international entity, a new boundary was necessary. From a certain perspective, however, a rigorously and properly delineated boundary was not necessary to accomplish these political ends—any boundary line would do. Due to this fact and to a myriad of political pressures, the Radcliffe Commission failed to draw a geopolitically sound line delineated and demarcated in accordance with accepted international procedure. The Punjab's population distribution was such that there was no line that could neatly divide Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. Radcliffe's line was far from perfect, but it is important to note that alternative borders would not necessarily have provided a significant improvement. There is, in contrast, a great deal to be said about flaws in the boundary-making procedure—and why those flaws existed.

This territorial division is significant on multiple levels. As an episode in imperial history, it marked the beginning of a global trend towards decolonization. For South Asian history, it meant independence for India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, it also inaugurated Indo-Pakistani tension. Conflict between Hindus and Muslims had existed on the subcontinent, to a greater or lesser degree, for many centuries, but the partition brought that conflict to the international level—and exacerbated it. The results include three wars, in 1948, 1965, and 1971, as well as the Kargil conflict of 1999. The problem of Indo-Pakistani tension took on greater urgency when both India and Pakistan tested their nuclear weapons in May 1998, and current events in South Asia demonstrate the need for continued attention to and greater understanding of this vital region.

How did this division intensify the very conflict it was intended to resolve? Part of the answer lies in the drawing of the boundary. My primary goal is to clarify and analyze the boundary-making process, but having identified specific flaws in this division, I hope to lay them out in terms that might be useful for decision-makers considering partition as a tool to resolve conflict in other regions of the world.

Because this project focuses on a controversial episode, which reasonable historians describe differently according to their own national or political biases, my first research priority was balancing these varied perspectives. Accordingly, I gathered archival material and conducted interviews in England, Pakistan, and India. In all three countries, I focused on government documents, examining material relating to the work of the Radcliffe Commission and to the repercussions of the Radcliffe Line. I also examined private papers, mostly of British officials serving the raj, but also, where accessible, the papers of Indian and Pakistani leaders. Regrettably, Radcliffe destroyed all his papers before he left India—in keeping, his biographer claims, with a lifelong habit of discarding material he no longer needed.3 As a result, it may be impossible ever to clarify Radcliffe’s thinking completely. I have attempted to compensate through archival research and through interviews with Radcliffe’s stepson and executor, with his private secretary on the Boundary Commission, and with the last surviving Pakistani official associated with the Punjab Boundary Commission.4

This research explores the balance between structural influences and the role of individuals. My story centers on a small number of individuals: Radcliffe, the man who had responsibility for the boundary line; Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India; Nehru and Patel, leaders of the Indian National Congress; and Jinnah, head of the Muslim League. But my argument also has a great deal to do with the sweeping drives of British imperialism, Indian and Pakistani nationalism, and decolonization. My conclusions about the forces that shaped the Indo-Pakistani boundary would seem to support a structural approach, but the lessons of this particular division could be read another way. If at any point enough individuals had decided to take another path—for example, if Radcliffe had withdrawn his services once he reached India and was informed of the August 15 deadline—the outcome could have been dramatically different. Alternatively, if the key individuals had had different backgrounds—for example, if all the Indian leaders had not been lawyers, but rather businessmen or engineers—the outcome could again have been very different. The story of the Radcliffe Commission concerns individuals attempting to do what they saw as best, and as a result both bowing to and struggling against the pressures of larger structural forces.

Historical Context
The 1947 partition was shaped not only by decades of Indian nationalist pressure on the British Government and by the rise of civil unrest in the subcontinent after World War Two, but also by Britain’s precarious economic position in the aftermath of the war. After nearly two centuries as an economic asset, British India had become a liability at a time when Britain could least afford it. In addition, American pressure to decolonize the subcontinent influenced both international and British domestic opinion against the raj. British India became a political and symbolic liability as well as an economic problem. These factors, combined with domestic political considerations for the newly elected Labour Party, meant that ridding itself of its responsibilities in India suddenly became a priority to His Majesty’s Government (HMG).

However, Indian independence had not always been such an urgent goal for the British Government. The first half of the twentieth century saw a series of small steps towards self-government in South Asia. Traditional imperialist historiography holds that these ventures marked carefully incremented progress, part of the process of training Indians to govern themselves. Other interpretations, including but not confined to South Asian nationalist schools, argue that these steps were actually sops intended to keep nationalists satisfied enough to prevent a more serious threat to British rule.5 This view holds that HMG had no intention of letting go its "jewel in the crown"—until it had no choice.

Many historians, imperialist and nationalist alike, trace the roots of partition to the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909. These changes increased Indian participation in their own governance, anticipating an eventual move to self-rule.6 By creating separate electorates for different religious groups, however, these reforms also "embed[ded] deeply in Indian life the idea that its society consisted of groups set apart from each other. . . . The result was the flowering of a new communal rhetoric, and ultimately, of the Pakistan movement."7 Politicians found religious rhetoric useful for rallying support, with dangerous results. The elections of 1937 and 1945-46, in which both Congress and the Muslim League rhetoric played on communal themes, provided further evidence of a lack of political cooperation at the highest levels.

With the onset of the Second World War, the Government of India found itself in a difficult position. HMG declared war on India’s behalf, without even a pretense of consulting Indian leaders. Indian politicians and public opinion were outraged. The prospect of civil unrest loomed.8 In 1942, with the Allies in urgent need of a reliable Indian base, Churchill dispatched Sir Stafford Cripps to India at the head of a Cabinet delegation charged with exploring the possibility of self-government after the war. Cripps offered an implicit promise that if India fought in World War II it would be granted freedom; Congress rejected this offer with Gandhi’s memorable phrase that it was a "post-dated cheque on a bank that was failing."9 In the aftermath of Cripps’s failed mission, Gandhi launched the "Quit India" movement, which the British repressed violently. Most Indians subsided into more or less supportive attitudes.10

With the end of the war, Indian leaders and people alike expected to be repaid, with independence, for their wartime backing. In Britain, the Conservatives were voted out and the Labour Party took power, under Clement Attlee. Meanwhile, the India Office was losing patience with its viceroy, Lord Wavell. Relations between the India Office and Wavell had been steadily worsening throughout 1946. Wavell, a career military man whose stolid exterior concealed a bent for writing poetry, had been viceroy of India since 1943. Left with the difficult job of guiding India through treacherous post-war waters, he sent increasingly blunt warnings to London that their Indian policies were misguided and inadequate to the challenges ahead. Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Britain’s Secretary of State for India, resented these warnings and paid less attention to them as time went on. In particular, Wavell’s outline of potential partition boundaries, the first serious discussion of the issue, received little attention. However, Wavell’s "Breakdown Plan," calling for a withdrawal of all British presence in South Asia, alarmed HMG. Attlee sent another cabinet mission to India in hopes of negotiating a less drastic outcome.11 The resulting proposal, known as the "ABC Plan," called for a loose federation to consist of three groups of provinces, each of which had the option to "opt out" of the federation. This proposal met a curious reception. It was first accepted, then rejected, by Congress; the Muslim League initially announced that it would cooperate, but in the aftermath of the Congress decision it renounced constitutional methods and declared "Direct Action" Day on August 16, 1946. "Direct Action Day" became the "Great Calcutta Killing," and the next thirteen months saw rioting and violence across North India.12

By the beginning of 1947, Pethick-Lawrence and Attlee had lost all confidence in Wavell, regarding him as "frankly defeatist." In February 1947, they asked him to resign, appointing Lord Louis Mountbatten, a career naval officer and cousin to the king, in his place. Although Mountbatten was given a June 1948 deadline by which to disentangle Britain from India, he concluded shortly after his arrival in India that a rapprochement between the various parties was impossible. Within a few months he decided to move the decolonization deadline up, to August 15, 1947.

Boundary Commission Format and Procedure
It was not until the summer of 1947 that British and South Asian leaders began serious discussions about the format and procedure of a boundary commission. All in all, however, the central parties agreed on all aspects of the Boundary Commission arrangements with surprisingly little wrangling. There would be two commissions, one for Bengal, in northeast India, and one for Punjab, in the northwest. The same man, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, would chair both commissions. Radcliffe was widely respected for his intellectual abilities, but he had never been to India. Paradoxically, this fact made him a more attractive candidate, on the theory that ignorance of India would equal impartiality. Each commission would consist of four South Asian judges, two selected by Congress and two by the League. In the end, this two-versus-two format and the judges’ strong political biases produced deadlock, leaving Radcliffe the responsibility to make all the most difficult decisions himself. The commission’s terms of reference directed it to "demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. In doing so, it will also take into account other factors."13 These terms, with their vague reference to "other factors," allowed the Chairman enormous leeway. However, after the final boundary decision, known as the "Radcliffe Award," was announced, all sides complained that Radcliffe had not taken the right "other factors" into account.

This structure limited the commission’s effectiveness, but the most serious flaw was the extremely tight timetable that the British Government, Congress, and League imposed on the entire partition effort. Radcliffe arrived in India on July 8 and met with Mountbatten and the nationalist leaders soon thereafter. It was at this meeting that Radcliffe learned, apparently for the first time, that the boundary must be completed by August 15. He protested, but Mountbatten, Nehru, and Jinnah stood firm. Despite warnings that the time restriction could wreck the end result, they wanted the line finished by August 15.

Radcliffe’s efforts were further hampered by the fact that he was almost completely ignorant of the information and procedures necessary to draw a boundary, procedures that were well established by 1947.14 Moreover, he lacked any advisors versed in even the basics of boundary-making, and only his private secretary, Christopher Beaumont, was familiar with the realities of administration and everyday life in the Punjab. Radcliffe’s South Asian colleagues, all legal experts like himself, were as ignorant as their Chairman of boundary-making requirements.

However, Radcliffe was not as unbiased, nor as ignorant, as the Indian leaders assumed. On the contrary, his wartime experience as director-general of the British Ministry of Information, along with his sound Establishment background, left him intimately familiar with the goals and interests of His Majesty’s Government. There is no evidence that Radcliffe was biased against Hindus, Muslims, or Sikhs, but he was certainly biased in favor of preserving British interests. As far as its undeclared political ends were concerned, then, the Radcliffe Commission was well arranged. Unfortunately, the forces that shaped the commission to fulfill political needs also prevented it from following well-established boundary-making procedures.

The commission’s membership, composed entirely of legal experts, hampered its boundary-making effort but added a valuable veneer of justice and legitimacy to what was, in reality, a chaotic jumble of events. Its composition of equal numbers of Congress and League nominees paved the way to deadlock but created an appearance of political balance. The presence of these political nominees came at the expense of the use of the necessary geographical experts, but satisfied the demands of Congress, League, and of course the British Government to have their own men on the commission. The absence of outside participants—for example, from the United Nations—also satisfied the British Government’s urgent desire to save face by avoiding the appearance that it required outside help to govern—or stop governing—its own empire. The Commission’s extremely tight timetable made it impossible to gather the survey and other information vital to a well-informed decision, but speedily provided all parties with the international boundary that was a prerequisite for the transfer of power.

Analysis of the Boundary Decision
The Facts of the Award
The final boundary, known as the Radcliffe award, allotted some sixty-two percent of the area of undivided Punjab to India, with fifty-five percent of the population.15 The boundary ran from the border of Kashmir State south along the Ujh River, leaving one tehsil16 of Gurdaspur District to Pakistan and allotting the remainder to India. Where the Ujh met the Ravi River, the boundary followed the Ravi southwest, until it met the existing administrative line dividing Amritsar District from Lahore District. Radcliffe was careful to specify that the relevant administrative boundaries, not the course of the Ujh or the Ravi, constituted the new international boundary. The boundary then ran through Lahore District, along tehsil and village boundaries, leaving the district’s easternmost corner in India. When the Radcliffe boundary met the Ferozepore District line, it turned to follow the River Sutlej along the administrative boundary between Ferozepore and Montgomery Districts. The Radcliffe line ended where it met the border of Bahawalpur, a princely state whose ruler, like the Maharajah of Kashmir, had the choice of acceding to Pakistan or India.

The primary feature of this line was that it divided Amritsar, now in India, from Lahore, which went to Pakistan. By and large it followed major administrative divisions, although it did meander between villages in the Kasur region southeast of Lahore. The two most controversial elements of this line involved Gurdaspur and Ferozepore. Pakistani critics interpreted Radcliffe’s decision to grant most of Gurdaspur District to India as an attempt to provide India with a land link to Kashmir. As one element of the beginnings of the Kashmir conflict, this allegation remains controversial. It is worth noting that no all-weather road linked Kashmir and India in 1947; when the first Indo-Pakistani war began in late 1947, India airlifted troops and supplies into Kashmir rather than take an overland route. The other controversy was over Ferozepore’s allocation to India; this decision came as a surprise in the wake of early August leaks indicating that Radcliffe would allocate a section of Ferozepore to Pakistan.

In accordance with Mountbatten, Nehru, and Jinnah’s demands that he complete his work before August 15, Radcliffe submitted his award on August 12. By this time, Mountbatten had changed his mind (for reasons discussed below) and asked Radcliffe to delay the award until after August 15. Radcliffe refused, but Mountbatten had his way, choosing not to release the award until August 16, when he discussed it with the Indian and Pakistani leaders at a meeting in New Delhi. On August 17, the award was finally published.

Allegations of Bias
Throughout the difficult process of partition, accusations of official partiality towards one group or another were leveled on all sides, not only in the popular press but also by the leaders themselves. For example, Justice Munir of the Punjab Commission accused Radcliffe’s top aide, Christopher Beaumont, of pro-Hindus bias. Munir claimed that Beaumont intentionally misled Radcliffe in order to achieve a result favorable to India.17 Beaumont rejects these charges as ludicrous. The most contentious point was the Ferozepore border and the nearby headworks. On August 8, Mountbatten’s private secretary, George Abell, sent a letter with a preliminary description of the Punjab boundary to Evan Jenkins, the provincial governor. This draft showed the Ferozepore area and its headworks going to Pakistan. When the final award was released, Ferozepore was assigned to India. Infuriated Pakistanis were sure that Nehru and Mountbatten had pressured Radcliffe to change his line. After partition, each side leveled accusations in the vernacular press that their opponents had successfully bribed Radcliffe to take their part.18

Allegations of Bias
Throughout the difficult process of partition, accusations of official partiality towards one group or another were leveled on all sides, not only in the popular press but also by the leaders themselves. For example, Justice Munir of the Punjab Commission accused Radcliffe’s top aide, Christopher Beaumont, of pro-Hindus bias. Munir claimed that Beaumont intentionally misled Radcliffe in order to achieve a result favorable to India.17 Beaumont rejects these charges as ludicrous. The most contentious point was the Ferozepore border and the nearby headworks. On August 8, Mountbatten’s private secretary, George Abell, sent a letter with a preliminary description of the Punjab boundary to Evan Jenkins, the provincial governor. This draft showed the Ferozepore area and its headworks going to Pakistan. When the final award was released, Ferozepore was assigned to India. Infuriated Pakistanis were sure that Nehru and Mountbatten had pressured Radcliffe to change his line. After partition, each side leveled accusations in the vernacular press that their opponents had successfully bribed Radcliffe to take their part.18
Many were convinced that the Commissions were a sham and that Mountbatten himself had simply dictated the new divisions. In his final report as Viceroy, Mountbatten admitted, "I am afraid that there is still a large section of public opinion in this country which is firmly convinced that I will settle the matter finally."19 In 1992, Christopher Beaumont added his voice to the chorus of accusations against Mountbatten.20 This circumstantial evidence indicates that Mountbatten may well have influenced the final shape of the boundary award.

I argue, however, that these allegations and angry resentments miss the point. On the contrary, it would not be surprising if Mountbatten offered Radcliffe advice, nor if Radcliffe took it. As one historian has noted, "Radcliffe was a barrister following a brief"—and Mountbatten was his client.21 Those who object to Mountbatten’s interference are buying in to the myth that the partition was a rational, objective process.

The Problem of "Other Factors"
One of the most difficult questions facing the Commissions was the respective significance to assign to various "other factors." In his awards, Radcliffe himself noted that "differences of opinion as to the significance of the term ‘other factors’ and as to the weight and value to be attached to these factors, made it impossible to arrive at any agreed line."22 The Congress argued that the unreliability of the 1941 census figures meant that "other factors" must be given greater weight in the Punjab; the Muslim League maintained that the census figures were valid and thus "other factors" could be all but ignored. Over the years, observers have speculated on various factors that may have motivated Radcliffe, including communal bias, pressure from Mountbatten, economic considerations, prevailing administrative borders, defense needs, and existing infrastructure.


Years later, Mountbatten offered this curious appraisal of Radcliffe’s reasoning: "I’ll tell you something ghastly. The reasons behind his award weren’t very deep-seated at all. I am quite certain they were based on some rule of thumb about the proportion of population."23 Given the fact the Mountbatten’s government gave Radcliffe the mandate to focus on religious demographics, it seems odd that the former Viceroy thought it "ghastly" that Radcliffe had not come up with "deeper" reasons for drawing his lines. Mountbatten’s sentiment may indicate an awareness among British officials that the categories they themselves had set up were inadequate for the job at hand.

Even by Mountbatten’s standards, this statement about Radcliffe’s "rule of thumb" is rather peculiar. Perhaps by the time Mountbatten gave this interview, in the early 1970s, he had developed reservations about the partition process. Until his death, Mountbatten staunchly defended his actions in 1947, making it unlikely that he would openly question himself.24 However, Mountbatten had a great capacity for remembering history differently than other observers, invariably along lines most flattering to himself. Given Hodson’s statement that it was the viceroy himself who brought up the notion of "balance," one wonders whether Mountbatten subconsciously transferred responsibility for his own idea onto Radcliffe’s shoulders, before criticizing it. This speculation may seem rather convoluted, but Mountbatten was a notably twisty individual. A colleague famously told him, "Dickie, you’re so crooked that if you swallowed a nail you’d sh1t a corkscrew!" Mountbatten’s biographer records that this was "a remark which Mountbatten remembered and repeated, though characteristically changing the recipient of the insult.25

Some observers felt Radcliffe gave too much weight to economic considerations, neglecting his mandate to determine the "contiguous majority areas" of religious groups. For example, the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bengal were awarded to Pakistan despite the fact that the Muslim population amounted to only three per cent. When Nehru complained on August 16, Mountbatten explained Radcliffe’s decision, emphasizing "the economic ties that bound Chit-tagong District and the Hill Tracts together."26 Radcliffe apparently thought these economic necessities more important than the overwhelmingly non-Muslim population.

Whenever possible, Radcliffe used existing administrative borders. The commission’s terms of reference directed it to draw its lines within the two provinces of Bengal and Punjab, so the existing provincial administrative boundaries were not an option. Within provinces, however, Radcliffe seems to have preferred existing lines, using district, tehsil, thana,27 and even village boundaries. His textual description of the boundary relies very little on "natural" landmarks like crest or rivers. In the Punjab award, Radcliffe repeatedly notes that although nearby rivers present apparently logical natural boundaries, the new boundary must run along the existing district or tehsil borders.28

Mountbatten recalled later that he had counseled Radcliffe "not to take defence considerations under judgment in making the award."29 In a memo dated May 11, 1946, Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, discussed the repercussions of Partition for imperial and Indo-Pakistani defense. He concluded that without a united India, the British military position in South Asia would be irreparably damaged. Furthermore, although he considered the possibility of Indo-Pakistani conflict, he saw no way to define a defensible frontier.30 Radcliffe himself seems to have consistently operated on the assumption that India and Pakistan would have good relations after independence. Other decision-makers—and those impacted by the divisions—took this view as well. Radcliffe repeatedly expressed hope that India and Pakistan could work together to solve some of the most difficult infrastructure problems created by his boundary award. Mountbatten himself seemed optimistic that inclusion in the Commonwealth would keep India and Pakistan on mutually friendly terms, emphasizing that Dominion Status meant membership in a community of cooperative nations.

The Role of Infrastructure
Although the prominence of "other factors" in Radcliffe’s thinking remains unclear, his awards demonstrate the importance of infrastructure considerations. In both the Punjab and Bengal awards, Radcliffe discusses canals, headworks, roads, railways, and ports before turning to population factors. In the Punjab awards, he explicitly states that "there are factors such as the disruption of railway communications and water systems that ought in this instance to displace the primary claim of contiguous majorities."31 In the Bengal award, he demonstrates a similar concern with maintaining "railway communications and river systems," as well as preserving the relationship of the Nadia and Kulti river systems with the port of Calcutta.32

The irrigation systems and other infrastructure of Punjab and Bengal had been built under a single administration. They were never intended to be divided. No partition line Radcliffe could have concocted would have allowed Pakistan and India to operate their infrastructure separately, without cross-border interference. In the few weeks he had, Radcliffe seems to have tried to minimize infrastructure disruptions, but he was well aware that his proposal was flawed. In his attempt to draw the boundary near the Suleimanke headworks in Punjab, for example, he emphasized that his intention was to award this equipment to Pakistan and acknowledged that the reality of the terrain might necessitate that "the boundary shall be adjusted accordingly."33 Several months later, the Suleimanke headworks were "reallocated" in a clash between Indian and Pakistani soldiers.34 In an optimistic moment, Radcliffe expressed the hope that "a solution may be found by agreement between the two States for some joint control of what has hitherto been a valuable common service."35 Events soon proved this optimism unfounded.

The Boundary Announcement Delayed
Radcliffe had prepared his decision by August 12, as the various parties, including Mountbatten, had insisted. As the transfer of power approached, however, Mountbatten chose to delay the boundary announcement until after the independence ceremonies. In public statements, Mountbatten insisted that he simply wished to avoid spoiling the joyous celebration of independence by announcing news that would undoubtedly distress all parties. However, in private government communications and in the minutes of the Staff Meeting at which the decision was taken, it becomes clear that Mountbatten’s primary motivation was avoiding the appearance of British responsibility for the disorder that inevitably would follow the announcement.36

It is difficult to see how these concerns, either for Indian or Pakistani national joy or for the evasion of British national responsibility, could outweigh the potential benefit of making administrative, military, and constabulary arrangements before the actual transfer of power took place. Governor Jenkins of the Punjab had begged Mountbatten repeatedly for advance notice of the award. On July 30, Jenkins told the Viceroy that "even a few hours would be better than none."37 As it was, in some border regions whose destiny was uncertain, both Indian and Pakistani flags were raised. In some cases Pakistani officials set to work in territories that later became Indian. As August 15 drew closer, many administrators joined the last-minute flow of refugees themselves, disrupting administrative access across India by leaving their posts empty. In short, the Punjab found itself in administrative chaos, ill prepared to deal with the impact of partition.

When Mountbatten released the award to the Indian and Pakistani leaders on August 16, both sides objected furiously to various aspects of the boundary. In the end, they agreed to issue the decision as it stood, with no public statement of their disappointment. When the award was finally announced, on 17 August, the border forces in place were inadequate to stop the communal massacres. Violence was particularly severe along the new border areas, although there was serious bloodshed in Delhi as well. The first Indo-Pakistani war broke out in late 1947; both Pakistan and India sent troops into Kashmir, where they remain today. Subsequent wars in 1965 and 1971 made it clear that Radcliffe’s boundaries were not neat lines but raw and restless divisions.

The partition resulted in extreme violence and one of the largest migrations in history. Partition deaths throughout India and Pakistan numbered between 500,000 and one million, while some ten to twelve million migrants moved across the new borders in Punjab and Bengal.38 In addition, tens of thousands of girls and women were raped and/or abducted.39 Violence was the most dramatic repercussion of partition, but the boundary award contributed to other disruptions: long-term border tensions, infrastructure problems, and the lasting conflict over Kashmir.

First, the high casualties and tremendous population dislocation that burdened both India and Pakistan during and after partition proved awkward responsibilities for fledgling states. In Pakistan, the position of mohajirs, or migrants from India, remains a dangerous political problem.

Second, the boundaries that Radcliffe defined turned out to be restless divisions, and in both the 1965 and 1971 wars India and Pakistan battled over their Punjabi border.

Third, the Radcliffe Line also cut through the Punjab’s well-developed infrastructure systems, disrupting road, telephone, and telegraph communications, but most importantly, interfering with the region’s vital irrigation system. In a rare success story, the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty largely resolved Punjab’s water-related problems. However, those original water problems were related to the final and most serious issue plaguing current Indo-Pakistani relations: Kashmir.

In 1947, Kashmir was a princely state, whose ruler was entitled to choose for himself between India and Pakistan; Radcliffe had no direct responsibility for the Kashmir question. However, there are a number of interesting links between Kashmir and the Radcliffe award. Those links include the fact that the water feeding the Punjabi irrigation system originates in Kashmiri rivers, as well as allegations that Radcliffe awarded India certain areas of northern Punjab as a strategic corridor to Kashmir. One of the most intriguing connections between the Radcliffe award and the Kashmir problem involves not the substance of the award but the possibility that Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India, who delayed the announcement of the Radcliffe award until two days after independence, may have done so in an effort to coerce the Maharajah of Kashmir into acceding to India rather than Pakistan.40 The truth of these allegations remains uncertain; what is clear is that the political successes that the Radcliffe Commission enabled have been less lasting than its failures.

Although estimates of partition casualties remain controversial, it is clear that great suffering, on a scale rarely seen in human history, accompanied the partition. Violence, and the memory of violence, is therefore one of partition’s legacies to the South Asian region. It is not 1947’s only legacy, of course—that year also brought independence and great pride to many Indians and Pakistanis—but partition’s scars remain in the minds, if no longer on the bodies, of many South Asians. It is not only the actual survivors of partition who exhibit this damage; their descendents are also marked. Pakistani bitterness against India and Indians and Indian bitterness against Pakistan and Pakistani are facts of life in South Asia. Many other Indians and Pakistanis long for peace, feeling that the people across the border are their kinfolk, but government propaganda and certain streams of public discourse, including those generated by media and educational institutions, reinforce cross-border resentments.

In addition to providing a detailed analysis of the Radcliffe Boundary Commission’s composition and work, this project seeks to identify specific ways in which the 1947 partition failed. My hope is that describing these failures may assist policymakers considering partition in other regions to define the practical steps necessary to implement workable divisions.

In addition to the irregular boundary-making process detailed above, the larger South Asian partition was flawed in several major ways. The most significant error, for which all parties must share responsibility, was misguided reliance on a best-case result, combined with consistent refusal even to acknowledge the possibility of a worst-case outcome. Mountbatten and the rest of the interim Government of India ignored repeated warnings from Sir Evan Jenkins, the highly respected Governor of the Punjab, that the division would result in large-scale violence.

In addition, the architects of partition refused to provide a sufficiently prolonged timetable to allow for

1) the necessary geographic surveys and other information gathering, for
2) boundary demarcation (the process of fixing boundary markers on the ground), for
3) public announcement of the new line, and for
4) transfer of populations, if necessary.

If they had provided more time for government institutions and local communities to absorb and adapt to the implications of the Radcliffe award, the level of violence might have been lower—and the authorities’ abilities to impose law and order higher.

In their rush to achieve their own political goals, British India’s most powerful parties decided not to complete territorial partition before final political separation. This decision left Indian and Pakistani citizens in the peculiar predicament of not knowing which country they were in on August 15 or 16. Additionally, Mountbatten’s delay in announcing the Radcliffe Line meant effectively that India and Pakistan had no boundaries for the first two days of their existence. Even if the award had been announced a few days earlier, provincial and local officials would not have had enough time—particularly in the demanding circumstances they faced—to make the necessary administrative arrangements.

Finally, they did not define cooperative procedures for resource sharing or, failing that, clear and complete division of linked infrastructure systems. The result was severe infrastructure disruptions, with consequences not only for communications and transportation, but also for the food supply of millions of people. Future partitions must include these elements in order to avoid the failures that so tragically limited the effectiveness of the South Asian partition. The daunting nature of this task, particularly the intricate problem of linked infrastructures, makes it clear that partition must be a last resort. Further work on the conditions under which partition is likely to be more or less successful is also required to understand the full nature of this diplomatic option.

The story of the creation of the Indo-Pakistani boundary remains a neglected, yet crucial, element of partition history. Further research is required to place the boundary question within the larger historical context of partition and of British and South Asian politics in the 1940s. In addition, the precise nature of links between the boundary commission’s work and the violence of partition remains to be explored. Instead of resolving tension by clearly separating religious groups, the Boundary Commission may actually have contributed to the upheaval, albeit without malicious intent. The surge in violence that began shortly before the Radcliffe award was announced can be traced in part to rumors and uncertainty over where the Line would fall.41 A lengthier and more transparent boundary-making process might have averted this situation. The lack of a methodologically sound boundary-making process must be counted prominently among the failures of the South Asian division, and present-day policy-makers should consider this and the other flaws identified above when appraising the value of partition as a tool for conflict resolution.

Finally, this project challenges the notion that partition can be appraised in absolute terms, as a flawed approach that merely aggravates violence.42 In reality, it often both limits and exacerbates tension; one of the paradoxes of the 1947 partition is that it stimulated new violence even as it resolved political conflict on some levels. I hope this analysis will contribute to a more nuanced and practical understanding of the ways that partition can contribute to containing violence, the steps and conditions required for effective divisions, and the limits of this particular tool for peace.
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A painful period... Partition, one of history’s largest migrations, 1947.
December 25, 2004

Nostalgia of 'Desh', Memories of Partition

The riots that broke out in erstwhile East Bengal soon after Partition saw a steady inflow of refugees into West Bengal. In the more impersonal government accounts, refugees formed part of a vast logistical exercise. They had to be housed in camps, issued voter and ration cards and, in some cases, provided due compensation. But each individual refugee story is a tale of individual loss, of escape and survival in a new land; a narrative rendered especially poignant by the sudden whiff of nostalgia for a lost homeland or 'desh'. In the more jingoistic present, 'desh' has taken on a connotation similar to the patriotic fervour, 'nation' evokes. However, for refugees, as the personal narratives in this article reveal, 'desh' will forever remain in place as one's homeland, now only sustained by memories.
Anasua Basu Raychaudhury

The partition of India in 1947 was a cathartic event. The British India gave birth to two separate states – India and Pakistan – on the basis of the so-called two-nation theory. On the eve of and immediately after the creation of these two new states, communal tension and riots gripped the subcontinent. The communal frenzy not only killed thousands of people, it also uprooted and displaced millions from their traditional homeland, their ‘desh’. This displacement forced many to search for a new home away from home. Partition had made their homeland hostile and they started imagining that peace and security were on the other side of the border.

The partition was traumatic to those people who, having faced physical violence, humiliation and sexual assault, were compelled to leave their homeland. These uprooted people had to first sustain themselves in survival mode in a somewhat alien land. If the relatively well-off people could sometimes reconstruct their lives on the other side of the border in newer pastures with comparatively less struggle, for those belonging to the middle and lower middle classes, it was almost impossible. Many of them even had to spend several years in the refugee camps before they could imagine a better life. Many of them could not even return to their original occupations and, therefore, felt a sense of alienation and irreparable occupational loss even after partial rehabilitation.

Although the ‘past’ of these people remains in many ways, their present, their desh is nowhere in sight. The refugees, who have been surviving in camps for five decades and have not yet been rehabilitated, still remain the prisoners of the past. It seems that their lives and times have frozen within the boundaries of the camp. To some of them, it is even better to live the rest of their lives with memories of the past rather than de-freezing it. They live with their memories – the memories of happier days in their desh and unbearable agony of losing their friends and relatives during communal tensions and riots. Sometimes, these memories of happier times, memories of abundance can be somewhat imaginary. It is possible that some of these people actually never saw abundance. Similarly, sometimes without even witnessing violence with the their own eyes, they tend to live with the fear of communal holocaust. As the present has very little to offer them, the past seems to envelop their entire existence.

It is against this backdrop that this article intends to capture the dynamics of the tussle between the sentiment of nostalgia and the sense of trauma of some of these displaced Bengali Hindus from East Pakistan. In this tussle, shared memory could be a powerful mechanism through which the shelter-seekers acquired a specific identity. In fact, the reality of displacement from their desh due to the violence accompanying partition did not stop these people to work for the progress and prosperity of their adopted land. Although the refugees felt some kind of detachment in their new place of residence, that detachment did not come in their attempts to make the adopted land more livable for themselves.

A few narratives of these refugees may indicate that they have either gained or lost many things in material terms through their displacement. Sometimes they have been able to create a new ‘para’ or a locality of their own in this new land. Still the adopted land remains a distant caricature of their desh. Their desh may not be reinvented and remains only in their memory.

Memory indeed “is the engine and chassis of all narrations”.1 In fact, memories are objects that tumble out unexpectedly from the mind, linking the present with the past. From the narratives of past it becomes possible to understand how these displaced persons perceived their own victimisation and to what extent it came into conflict with the identity ‘imposed’ on them or the one they accepted. It has been argued that, “a traumatised memory has a narrative structure which works on a principle opposite to that of any historical narrative”.2 A historical narrative, after all, concentrates on an event explaining its causes and the timing, but what it perhaps cannot explain is whether the subjects belong to the ‘marginalia of history’ like ‘accidents’, ‘concurrences’ or not. This is why one sociologist has rightly pointed out that, “memory begins where history ends”.3

It is worth mentioning here that, the narratives are always related to some sense of the self and are told from someone’s own perspective “to take control of the frightening diversity and formlessness of the world”.4 Through the narrative, the self finds a home, or would perhaps, to use Sudipta Kaviraj’s words, “describe the process better if we say that around a particular home they try to paint a picture of some kind of an ordered, intelligible, humane and habitable world”.5 Here the self tells the story to an audience – in this case the author – and thereby creates a kind of relationship with the listener.6

It may be that, “the historical self configures memories differently from the way the ahistorical self does.”7 Therefore, although the memories of these refugees may be subjective in nature, these could act as a rich archive of the experience of displacement. Keeping this in mind, the present article would intend to capture the tone and nature of reminiscences of a few uprooted people – their childhood memories, their upbringing, as well as their sense of trauma. It also tries to discuss the contrary relationship between the sweet memories and the bitter memories against the backdrop of their shared past.

For the sake of our analysis of the nostalgia of desh, the present article would be divided into two parts. The first part would concentrate on the narratives of these displaced persons on the basis of interviews taken by the author during her visits to the districts of Hooghly, Nadia and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal. The second part of the article would intend to argue that desh and nation are two different categories. While the nation is largely an imagined category, desh is frequently revisited in memories. The nation, therefore, may be a product of imagination, but desh is a concrete but distant reality for the uprooted people as it remains encapsulated in their past. The nation may be placed against a time and space, but desh, for these refugees, existed at a certain moment and in a distinct space associated with their childhood and younger days, their friends and playing fields, their village and para, their riverside walk and natmandirs (where the worship of Hindu idols used to take place).

To illustrate these points, the present article would concentrate on three different narratives of the persons who had a common past. All three narrators had to flee from the newly created East Pakistan (earlier known as East Bengal) in 1947 due to communal riots and were compelled to take shelter on the other side of the border. All three protagonists happen to be from the same district; Barishal, situated in the south-western part of East Bengal, and which was soon to earn notoriety for the inhuman atrocities against Hindus during the partition riots. It is known that, after partition, following the riots of February 1950, large numbers of Bengali Hindus migrated from East Pakistan to West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. These three narrators belonged to that group. Initially riots broke out in the Khulna district of East Pakistan where Muslims attacked the Namashudra community. The stories of their brutality against Hindus spread like wildfire and had a spillover effect. Therefore, from Khulna, the riot soon spread over a wide region that included Rajshahi, Dhaka and Faridpur. But in those places, the riots were very sporadic in nature. The most organised and planned violence took place in the village called Muladi of Barishal district.8

Keeping this background in mind, this article intends to analyse the recalling and forgetting of a few displaced persons who escaped the ordeal of communal violence in their partitioned, and therefore, lost homeland. We also try to indicate how the nostalgia of desh left its imprint on major Bengali literary works and films of the immediate post-partition period.


Nostalgia (nostos+algos):9 yearning/pinning for the past, reminiscing, remembering
Hironprova Das and her golden days at Jalisa: I met Hironprova Das in front of the office of the refugee camp at Cooper’s Notified Area. She had come to collect her rations that she has been receiving from the government of India since she became a refugee. When I met her, she would have been about 70 or 75 years of age. She is tall, thin and fair wearing a white ‘than’. When I disclosed the purpose of my visit, she thought for a while before she agreed to talk to me. We sat on the bench behind the office gate. Our conversation began thus:

“Mashi tomar desh kothae go?” (Auntie, where is your desh?)
“Amra to purba bonger lok”. (We are from East Bengal.)
“Purba bonger kothakar?” (Which part of East Bengal?)
“Barishaler.” (From Barishal.)
“Gramer nam mone ache?” (Can you remember the name of your village?)
She nodded, “Jolisha gram, Bakharganj thana.” (Village Jolisha, police station Bakharganj.)
“Tumi kotodin ekhane achho?” (How long are you here?)
“Ayto ki ar mone achhe. Oi Muladite riot hoilo na, tar poreito amra desh chharlam. Tao to hoilo gia panchash – ekanna batsar.” (Is it easy to remember all these? We left our desh after that riot in Muladi. It must now be fifty-fifty-one years.)
“Tumi ki ekhane vote dao?” (Do you vote here?)
“Hyan.” (Yes.)
“Tumi etodin dhore ekhane achho, vote dao, tahole tomar ki ekhon etai desh hoe gyache?” (You are here for so many years; you have a voting right here; is it your desh now?)
She retorted:
“Na na, eta ki koira desh hoibo? Ekhane thaki, sharanarthee ami, amar desh to Barishale tomare koilamna gramer nam. Koto kishu chhilo amago oikhane. Jakhan desh barir katha, jomi jomar kotha mone pore, tokhon mone hoina je ar baicha thaki.”10 (No, no, how can it be my desh? I live here; I am a refugee; my desh is in Barishal; didn’t I tell you the name of my village? We had so many things there. When I remember my desh, our house, our landed property, I don’t feel like living any more.)

Hironprova Debi is from Barishal district of erstwhile East Bengal. Her father owned a grocery shop. She grew up in a more or less well-to-do traditional Bengali joint family. Her family possessed a small piece of land where the Muslim ‘projas’ (subjects) of her own village used to work. Still she can remember her ‘janmo-bhite’ (ancestral house), ‘desher bari’ (the original home), ‘khelar math’ (playground) where she used to play her favourite game, ‘daria-banda’ (a traditional sport of East Bengal, particularly popular among young girls) with her elder brother, sisters and younger cousins. She especially remembers the Durga Puja days when she used to receive new clothes and had fun with her cousins. She even remembered distinctly their ‘pujar ghor’ (room for worshipping) where her mother used to worship Radha-Madhav. She spent the happiest moments of her life in her village, Jolisha, when she was a kid. When she was only 13 years old, she was married to a farmer from Patuakhali in the same Barishal district. But, unfortunately she became a widow within two years of her marriage and came back to her natal home at Jolisha.

Cherishing the sweet memories of her childhood days, she paused. I asked her why she had to leave Jolisha, if she loved her desh so much. She stared at me for few moments, closed her eyes and said: ‘because of the riots’. In Jolisha, the riot took place a day after ‘Shib-chaturdashi’. In her own words:

Uri baba! Allah-o-Akbar koiya shob dheye ashtesilo. Rashtae tokhon kotto lok. Ami Bhubanre loiya shib mondIr jamu koiya raona hoichi. Bhuban hoilo amar bhaignar dyaor. O amago barite barayite aisilo. Chhoto. Amar sathe amar parar-i aro jona aat-dosh lok silo. Aymon somoy ora amago upor jhapaiya porlo. Oder hate khola talowar, lathi, ooff! Ki kopakupi hoilo. Amar chokher samnei. Amar kol theika Bhubanre taina niya kopailo. Rokte amar kapor bhijja gelo. Ami je palamu she shakti nai tokhon. Thik ei bhabe (she showed me the way how the rioters chopped Bhuban)… Kono rokome amar dadar nam dhoira chitkar korte silam ami. Tokhon ki hoilo janina – oder ekjon koilo ei o to Radhika Ranjan Duttar bon, e tora ki korli. Oder theikai amare naki bashae phiraiya dia gyase. Amar ar ki hoisilo mone nai. Oi rokte bheja kapore chilam kotokhhon tao mone nai. Er por to praye tin mash ami rate ghumaite pari nai, bhat khaite pari nai, bomi ashto… (Oh god! They were chanting Allah-ho-Akbar and were rushing towards us. Streams of people on the road! Bhuban and I left for Shib temple. Bhuban is my distant relative. He came to visit us for an outing. He was small. I had eight or ten other people from our locality with me. In such a situation they suddenly pounced upon us. They had open swords, sticks, my god! Oh! What a riot took place! In front of my eyes! They snatched Bhuban from me and stabbed him. My dress got drenched in blood. I didn’t have the strength to flee then. I was only screaming and calling for my elder brother. I don’t know what happened – one of them suddenly said, my god! She is the sister of Radhika Ranjan Dutta. What have you done? Ultimately, those people must have returned me home. I don’t really remember what happened. I can’t remember how long I was in that bloodstained dress. I could not sleep for next three months, could not eat also, I had a nauseating feeling…)

She told me that the riots continued for seven to ten days which made it clear to them that their desh, their homeland was no longer a safe place for them to live in. She blamed the musalmaans from outside their village for the riot. She said:

Amago dyasher mollahra to bhaloi silo. Amago proja silo. Oi bairer thika jara aisilo, taraito gondogol pakaise – ora to Bihari – na hoile pore Hindustan-Pakistan bhag hoibar poreo to amra amago dyash chhaira kothao jai nai. (The Muslims of our locality were nice enough. They were our subjects. The people, who came from outside, were behind the troubles – they were Biharis; after all, even after the partition, we did not have to leave our desh.)

Ultimately, the fear and insecurity forced Hironprova and her family to leave their home in 1951. With her younger brother, and niece she left for Barishal town. Her mother had already left with her second brother. Their traditional joint family was thus broken. After staying a few more days at Barishal town, Hironprova crossed the international border and reached Bongaon of India and took shelter at one of the transit camps there. She also got her refugee identity card from the Indian government. Since then, Hironprova Das has been a ‘refugee’ and began her new journey for searching a new home.

For the last 51 years, the Cooper’s Permanent Liability Camp in Ranaghat has been Hironprova’s ‘new home’. Having heard the traumatic experiences of her life, I asked her whether she wants to visit her homeland again or not. She answered with a smiling face, ‘yes’. Sometimes she is in favour of visiting her home, her birthplace and her desh again, but when the bitter memories of the riots pop up in her mind she loses her urge to go there. Despite her horrid experiences in her village, she still remembers Jolisha as her desh – the land of abundance, but a land of no return.
Marriage in the time of riot: Seventy-three-year-old Nonigopal Babu lives now in Birati in the northern suburbs of Kolkata. This place is essentially a refugee colony area, where the majority of the population are Bangals (people from East Bengal). Nonigopal Babu is a fair, short, fat and bald man. He was born in a place called Brahmandiya of Barishal district. He was in his village till Class VI. As his village did not have any high school at that time, his family decided to move him to another village named Deher Goti for further education. In the memories of his childhood in his nature village, he remembered everything – his home, family, the names of his schoolteachers, friends, neighbours, in fact, the memories of his upbringing.

He grew up in a traditional joint family. Nonigopal Babu’s father was a ‘nayeb’. Their house was big but ‘kuccha’, made of mud and a roof of tin. He could even remember the large baranda (balcony) surrounding his whole house. It was so large that they often used it as their bedroom. They had large grain cultivable lands which usually made available a huge amount of grain throughout the year. Probably because of this land, most of his elder brothers and cousins preferred to do some land-related job rather than pursuing higher studies. Their immediate neighbours were Hindus, while the Muslim habitations were quite far off. But the Muslims used to come to their house and work as labourers. They also maintained cordial relations with them. He recalls the days of the Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Dol Utsav and Nabanna. These were the special occasions when Musalmaan labourers used to come to their house and his mother used to give them food. Once in a while, he also went to their houses, but of course, his visits were on some specific purpose or the other.

He still cannot forget his friends – Biswanath, Paresh, Chandan and Rahman – who remain deeply associated with his childhood memories. When he was shifted from Brahmandiya to Deher Goti he used to live in a Hindu family as a paying guest. Life became quite monotonous then. He did not even know his neighbours enough, he was only busy with his studies. Every year, he impatiently looked forward to the days of the Durga Puja and Garamer Chhuti (summer vacation). A few days before the Durga Puja, he used to leave for his village and had real fun there during the vacation.

After passing his intermediate examination, Nonigopal Babu came to Kolkata in November 1948 for his graduation. He secured admission in Bangabashi College, and later became a commerce graduate from the same institution. He used to stay at his aunt’s place in Chetla during those two years. Just after the completion of his studies in college, his father arranged his marriage. He went back to Brahmandiya for his marriage in March 1950. In his own voice:

Amar kache biyer byaparta aykdike anander ar ayk dike dukhher. Biye korte giyei to ami rioter modhye porlam. Hindu-Musalmaaner modhye je ki bibhotsho maramari – nijer chokher samnei dekhlam. (To me, my marriage was a happy, and at the same time, a tragic experience. I was caught in the riots when I went for my marriage. I witnessed the worst kind of riots between the Hindus and Muslims.)

Gradually he was to give me vivid descriptions of the riot – how it started in his village, what happened to his family and ultimately how they survived. He told me that, though initially the riots had broken out due to the rumour that the son-in-law of Fazlul Haq, the former prime minister of undivided Bengal had been stabbed in Kolkata, it picked up momentum when local Muslims joined hands with ‘outsiders’ – the Bihari Muslims. When a large group of Muslims attacked their village, the fightened villagers approached the local Muslim leader, Altafuddin Mohammad for their safety and security. At last, for fear of death, they took shelter in a big house, which was guarded by Altaf with his gun. But Altaf was the only person who had a weapon there. Naturally he did not fight for long. The Muslim fanatics soon killed Altaf. According to Nonigopal Babu:

Ora Altafke jokhon kate, amar baba, bhagnipati – ora lukiye chhilo oi ayki ghore. Dadao chhilo to oi ghore. Ora Altafke marar pore amar bhagnipatir kachhe or hat gharita chailo. O dyae ni, tai oi rage ghari shuddhu hat ta kete nilo. Er por ar ekta ki jeno chhilo, otao dyae ni bole mathata nabie dilo. Ami chhilam pasher ghore. Tai beche gelam. Amar boner samne marlo tar shami ke. Baba badha dite galo. Babar ghareo kop marlo ora. Oto rokto charidike – se drisya ami ajo bhulte parina. Chokh bujlei sei drishya…11 (When they were chopping Altaf, my father and brother-in-law were hiding in the same room. My brother was also in that room. They asked for my brother-in-law’s wristwatch after killing Altaf. As he refused, they cut his hand with that watch. He had something else. He refused to hand it over also; so they beheaded him. I was saved as I was in the next room. They killed my sister’s husband in front of her. My father was trying to stop them; so they stabbed him on his neck also. So much blood everywhere! I can’t forget that scene still now. Whenever I close my eyes, I can see that scene…)

Within a few days, however, they were rescued by his relatives. They were shifted to another place called Shajira. Gradually, they proceeded towards Barishal town where Nonigopal Babu talked to the superintendent of police (SP) to help them return to Kolkata. With the SP’s help, they first went to Khulna by boat, and then to Sealdah station of Calcutta by the Khulna Express train. He could not bring all his family members with him at that time. But, by 1954, all the members of his family had shifted from Barishal to Calcutta. Their new life of searching peace and security began.

Narrating his traumatic experiences of the Hindu-Musalmaan riot exhausted, Nonigopal Babu while I, having heard of his experiences, became speechless for a while. When we resumed our conversation I asked him about his desh. In his response, he portrayed a picture of his desh and home in a manner, that combined the idea of sacredness and beauty. But, when I asked him whether he still considers Brahmandiya as his desh or not, he said with emotion:

Aykhon ami ar amar desh Barisal kokkhono boli na. Keu jadi jiggasha kore je desh kothae chhilo, tahole ami bolbo Barisal; na hole boli amar desh 24 Pargana. Amader kachhe desh badle gyache, karon je desh amader rakhlo na, pochhondo korlona, tariye dilo, meredhore tariye dilo, take ami desh bolbo? Ei to Bangadesh hobar pore amari relative koto gyalo oi dike. Ami jai ni. Rasta-ghat okhankar ekhono chokhe bhashe. Kintu ami jabo keno? (I never say that my desh is Barishal now. If someone asks me that where was your desh, then I would answer Barishal; otherwise I say that my desh is in 24 Parganas. Our desh has changed. After all, that country did not allow us to stay, drove us away, beat us away. How can I call that my desh? After the creation of Bangladesh, so many of my relatives went there. I never went. I can still visualise the streets and riversides. But why should I go?)

Nonigopal was emotional. According to him, communal violence had defiled the sanctity and beauty of his native village and home. Perhaps, and for the bitter memories of violence, he does not any longer want to recognise Barishal as his desh, but the nostalgia of desh in his mind still remains.
Renubala and her gold chain: Renubala Debi was also forced to leave her village due to the Hindu-Muslim riots. Like Nonigopal babu, she also thinks that Barisal was her earlier desh. This is because of two reasons – first, for the last 50 years she has been staying in Jirat of Hooghly district, and second, her own desh has been transformed to a Musalmaan’s desh. She is even reluctant to visit her own village again, where she was born.

Renubala Debnath was born in the year of 1936 at the village of Muladi of Barishal. She grew up in a joint family. Her father used to look after their land. When she was only four years old, her mother died. While narrating her ‘desher barir kotha’ (stories of her ancestral house) she told me their family had once owned many things – a huge piece of land, large orchards of mango, jackfruit, coconut and areca nut. Four families from her grandfather’s side lived there besides their own. Within a huge campus they had four houses, many times bigger than their present house. The Hindus including, kayasthas and brahmins used to live near their house. Her portrayal of her village and her house repeatedly indicated sense of abundance and vanity.

Renubala Debi had studied up to class III. She can still remember her school, which was built with the help of Kundu family in their village. She remembers her schoolteachers – Niranjon Seal and Jonardon Kundu, who were killed by the Musalmaans during the riot. She misses her childhood friends – Lila, Baby, Dipali and Anjali – who were lost during that turmoil. When she was 13 years old, she was married to a person from Nashipur village. Her husband did not have any dependents; his parents had died few years ago before their marriage. So, Renubala Debi used to live in her parental house at Muladi with her husband. She told me that she often shares her childhood memories with her sons and daughters.

Then quite suddenly she brought in the subject of riot. In her own words:

Panch din, panch rattir riot hoilo – bagane, bagane ghurlam – tarpor hater sankha bhainga, sindur muichya Musalmaan bari giya roilam”. (I did not interrupt her. She kept on saying) Babare jedin katlo, ekta sonar har diya dilam – bhablam harta dile jodi ora babare phirayia daye. Hoilo na – babare katlo ar amar hartao galo…(she started crying) Janen amar jyatha moshayreo katse – pukurpare gaser shonge baindha other katlo – ami, amar swami, amar dada, boudi ar other maiyata shokkole mila Musalmaan barite giya lukailam. Oi Majid Khan, Osman Khan, jago barite amra lookaiya silam, ora bhalo lok asilo koiyai amra baiccha galam.12 (We were hiding in different orchards for five days and five nights. Then I broke my sankha (sacred white bangle that a Hindu wife wears as a symbol of her marriage) and removed vermilion from my forehead and went to stay with a Muslim family. I gave them a gold chain the day they killed my father; I thought that they would spare my father after getting the chain. It didn’t work – they killed my father and I lost my chain also. Do you know, they killed my elder uncle also? He was tied to a tree on one side of the pond and then killed. My husband, elder brother, sister-in-law and their daughter – all of us went to a Muslim family for shelter. We took shelter in Mojid Khan and Osman Khan’s family. They were nice people. So we were saved.)

Renubala’s tragedy of losing her father as well as her gold chain provoked me to think more deeply about her trauma. Probably her trauma of violence and her sense of loss are so deep that she can hardly de-link her loss of ‘sonar har’ (gold chain) from her father’s death. She offered her precious gold chain to the perpetrators with the expectation that this could save her father. But that was not to be. In the process, she eventually lost both her father and her gold chain. She could neither get her father back, nor could she get back her chain. The tragic loss of her father in front of her eyes, in a way, made her loss of chain even more unbearable.

After some time, I asked her when the riot broke out in her village. She said that on a Friday morning, everybody had begun indicating that the riots might break out at any moment in their village, but ultimately it took place on the next day. During that communal tension, she heard that many villagers of Muladi took shelter in the police station on the riverbank. But unfortunately, most of these villagers were killed by the Musalmaans inside the police station itself and their bodies thrown into the river. Moreover, the rioters abducted many young girls and women during that time. She, however, confessed that she did not see them being abducted, they were busy saving their own lives. However, she saw Romoni Kundu and his wife, smeared with blood. Both had been stabbed by the Musalmaans, but were still alive and gasping. She knew Romoni Kundu very well because Romoni Babu belonged to the same Kundu family, which had helped set up her village school.

The riot continued for five days. When the tension lessened, they tried to return home. But there was nothing left. Their house had been partially burnt and completely looted by the Musalmaans. They did not have any other alternative but to somehow stay there at least for a few days. Meanwhile, they took the decision to leave their home, their desh.

Sudhu ekta dhuti-kapore oi desh chaira ei deshe ashchi, …tokhon amader bastuhara abostha…ki abostha chilo amago deshe, ar ekhon ami kopal doshe bhikhari. (We left that country and came to this one with hardly any belongings…then we were uprooted. We were so well off there, and here we are beggars due to our ill fate.)

Renubala and her family left Muladi and reached Chandpur of Barishal by boat. From Chandpur, they took a steamer to reach Khulna, from where they could catch a train to Kolkata.

As the influx of refugees continued interminably, the helpless and uprooted people reached the reception and interception centres at the Sealdah station. From these centres, the refugees were subsequently sent to transit camps and permanent relief camps. During that phase, the government of India decided not to send the refugees straight to the rehabilitation camps mainly due to the magnitude of influx. Moreover, many of these refugees were supposed to be sent to other parts of the country. But immediate arrangements could not be made possible for their travel. Therefore, the relief and transit camps were established in different parts of West Bengal to provide immediate help to these people.

Anyway, after reaching Sealdah station, Renubala and her family secured some relief from the Indian government. Renubala’s brother-in-law helped them secure shelter in one of those transit camps. From Sealdah station they were later shifted to the Chandmari camp located at Kalyani in Nadia district in West Bengal. They stayed there for one year. During their camp life, they tent, a ‘dry’ dole obtained a as well as some cash dole for their survival. Later on, a large number (rations) of refugees from the Chandmari camp was rehabilitated in several batches, and Renubala Debi’s family was one of them. Eventually, they secured 10 ‘cottahs’ (10 cottah – 16 acre) of land, a fixed amount of tin and some money for constructing their house in Jirat. Since then this has been their new home.

After listening to her traumatic experiences, I asked her whether she wanted to visit her native village again or not. She simply roared:

Na na ar kokkhono jabo na. Oi ottachareito choila ailam. Ar jabo na. Amar mamato bhai to ekhono okhane thake. Amar swami koisilo jabar jonya. Ami koisi jabo na. Konodino na. (No, I shall not ever go there. We left because of torture. Shall not go again. My cousin still stays there. My husband also told me to go. I said that I would not go. Never.)

Like Nonigopal Babu and Renubala Debi, thousands of other Bengalis were rendered refugees due to the riots that followed partition of 1947. They were displaced from their desh, from their ‘foundational home’ (that best conveys the feeling for one’s desh), where they could never return to. They lost everything they had – home, friends, relatives and all their material possessions – and had to start their lives afresh. In the way, their bitter memories of partition, riot and loss of near and dear ones have mostly overshadowed the sweet memories of childhood days. In the tussle between the sweet memories and bitter memories, their memories of desh have not evaporated. Thus, desh remains trapped in their past, in their nostalgia and in their memory.

Milan Kundera has said: “Nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return…Nostalgia seems something like the pain of ignorance, of not knowing.”13 Perhaps. One, who has lost his or her home and desh due to partition and riot, is perhaps be in an appropriate position to suffer from such nostalgia.


Desh (n): a country; a land; motherland; native land; a state; a province.
Nation (n): people or race organised as a state.

The Bengali word desh means one’s native land, one’s homeland. The idea of home is somehow tied with that of foundation signifying one’s habitual abode ‘Vastu bhite’. Vastu bhite is another Bengali word, which means exactly the same as the foundational home. In Sanskrit vastu means home and bhite, the Bengali word originating from the Sanskrit word bhitti, means foundation. The notion of foundation has a special connotation in Bengali language. It signifies one’s permanent place of residence, one’s ancestral place. This place is different from one’s temporary place of living. In common usage, the Bengali language has made a distinction between the permanent place of residence and the temporary one, using two different words – desh and basha. Basha is always a temporary place of residence and one’s sense of belonging to this place is momentary. On the other hand, desh has a concept of permanent dwellings associated with the idea of land. Probably that is why in English the corresponding word of desh would mean homeland, motherland. Desh is the place where one’s ancestors have lived for generations. Sometime it is argued that, the idea of foundation is closely related to the idea of ‘male ancestry’ and the word vastu bhite reinforces the association between ‘patriliny’ and the home.14 There may be other Bengali synonyms of desh and basha, but these two words are most popularly used among Bangals in common parlance.

The notion of desh is more culture-specific. One’s ancestral land desh has a strong cultural bond with one’s self. One’s birth, one’s childhood, one’s growing up – all these are culturally associated with the place where one belongs. To Hironprova Debi, it is Jolisha, her native village, with which she has been associated gradually since her birth. She still cherishes her childhood days at Jolisha. She remembers her janma bhitte, Radha Madhav’s pujor ghor, and the name of her favourite game ‘dariabanda’.

To Nonigopal babu, his home belongs to Brahmandiya, the place with which he has a close cultural affinity. He speaks of Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Dol Utsav and nabanna, when the Muslim projas used to come to their house and occasionally the female members of his family distributed food among those projas. His way of portraying his desh not only specifies the idea of sacredness, but also other secular cultural values. He perhaps deliberately says that their family used to maintain a close relationship with the Muslim projas in their ‘gramer bari’ (village home). Nanigopal Babu’s eager wait for ‘goromer chhutti’ and ‘pujor chhuti’ to return to his gram clearly indicates how close he was to his home and village. It was like a return to his roots from the world outside.

In case of Renubala Debi, her desh belongs to Muladi, where she lost her mother at an early age and where during childhood, she was mostly occupied with household activities. She remembers the childhood friends she lost during the Hindu-Muslim riot. As a whole, she portrays a picture of her desh with a abundance and vanity. The narratives of Hironprova, Nonigopal and Renubala perhaps make another thing clear that the concept of desh is also somehow linked with the idea of a geographical space. The notion of desh, in that way, helps establish a close relationship between the self and a particular geographical space. Due to the cultural and spatial specificities the concept of desh is associated with, persons from the same place tend to maintain close cultural links among themselves even after may years’ in ‘exile’. Moreover, to these uprooted people the word desh carries a special significance. Having been exiled from their foundation, these people willy-nilly try to maintain a close psychological connection with their home. Their idea of lost home generates a feeling of nostalgia. While searching for a new home away from home, the cultural bond of these hapless people with their foundations gets strengthened through their nostalgia and their memories.

In that sense, the narratives of these three displaced persons are basically collective memories, and are in the form of flashbacks, as envisioned by these people. This flashback relates to the idea of past, a nostalgic past, which is remembered as reality. Moreover, their visualisation of this flashback is in the form of a reconstruction. As they reconstruct their past, they idealise it. Their reconstructed past is based on both bitter and sweet memories. They remember their childhood days, their belongingness and their violent past – a past marked also by riots, homelessness and uprootedness. And while recollecting the sweet memories of childhood, they introduce their desh to others with an idea of beauty, sacredness and of enduring cultural values. In fact, it also indicates that the Bengali Hindu’s traditional cultural values has incurred a major blow due to the violence that accompanied partition.

On the other hand, their past, also marked by violence, and violence “is seen here as an act of sacrilege against everything that stands for sanctity and beauty in the Hindu Bengali understanding of what home is”.15 In their narratives, desh is everywhere. In one way, the desh is related to their happier times and in another, it is also associated with their sense of homelessness.

Hiranprava Debi and Renubala Debi left their home after the riots of 1950. Before these riots, female members in their families lived in a private space, the ‘andormahals’ of their respective houses, remained behind the veil, and were mostly ignorant of outside realities. Suddenly, they found themselves on the streets, in the public sphere. They, like many other women, who were accustomed to living in the private sphere, almost overnight they had to fend for themselves in the public spaces, due to the communal violence. Growing up in traditional Hindu families, as young girls, they had never socialised with any man other than the members of their own families. But Partition and the riots that followed suddenly brought them into contact with a whole host of men as part of their journey in search of a new home.

Hironprova Debi, was an widow when she left her home. Subsequently, she found shelter is the Cooper’s Camp and became a ‘permanent liability’ to the government of India. For the last five decades she has been staying in this camp. She is alone. Therefore, she did not get any chance of being rehabilitated permanently. Perhaps that is why in her loneliness, she looks back to her desh where she had everything. For her, the present only means a fixed amount of irregular cash dole and rations from the camp authorities. She not only lives with her past, she also lives in her past. Her nostalgia of desh is always with her.

But, for Renubala Debi, her desh Muladi has been occupied by the Musalmaans and she refuses to call it her desh. After her rehabilitation, she got 10 cottahs of land and some amount of money to set up her new home on the other side of the border. Slowly, it has generated a sense of belongingness for Renubala Debi. As time passed, a new relationship between her land and self developed. Nevertheless, she misses her desh. Therefore, to her, this present existence is like that of a beggar compared to what they had in their desh. Moreover, the burden of the trauma, which she carries from the days of riots, adds to her memories of desh.

Bramondiya frequently appears in the memories of Nanigopal Babu. It is the desh of his childhood days and at the same time the desh where he has lost his near and dear ones. This loss has left a permanent scar on his mind. So he does no longer want to acknowledge Brahmondiya as his desh. But close cultural ties still exist with that little-known village of East Bengal where he was born, where his ancestors lived for generations.


Over the years, numerous memoirs, literary pieces, books and scholarly articles depicting the refugees’ feelings of uprootedness from East Bengal have multiplied. The nostalgia for desh has been reflected in the poems of Jibonanda Das (especially in his Ruposhi Bangla)16 and Bishnu De (in his book Swandwiper Char).17 They have all portrayed their villages as idyllic haunts where happiness and peace went hand and hand. These writings and memoirs of the pre-partition days give us the impression that there was no major animosity between Hindus and Muslims in the rural areas of Bengal till the second half of the 1940s. Things, however, changed suddenly and took a violent turn after the Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946. The impact of the killings polluted the sacred and secular atmosphere of the villages and towns of East Bengal, which ultimately forced Hindus to flee from their beloved homeland, their desh.

Against this backdrop, the reminiscences of the uprooted are like a perpetually yearning for a ‘Paradise’ forever lost. Such feelings are prominent in a book called Chhere Asha Gram (The Abandoned Village)18 edited by Dakshinaranjan Basu. It is a collection of essays, serially published in the Bengali vernacular daily Jugantar around 1950. The authors of these essays recollect the memories of their native villages of East Bengal. They not only express their feelings of uprootedness in this book, but also describe their struggles for existence in an alien land, the over-crowded city of Kolkata.

Similarly, Birendra Chattopadhyay in his poem Udbastu (The Homeless),19 Sankar Basu in Shoishob (The Childhood),20 Prafulla Roy in Anupradesh (Infiltration),21 Narayan Gangopadhyay in his book Sroter Shonge (With the Tide),22 and above all, Atin Bandopadhyay in his famous novel Nilkantho Pakhir Khonje (In Search of A Bird Called Nilkantho)23 wanted to express the pain of losing one’s homeland. In his novel Purbo Paschim,24 Sunil Gangopadhyay tells the tale of two friends on either side of the borders. The narrator Pratap echoes his grandmother’s nostalgia for her desh Dhaka. The grandmother lives with her past memories of Dhaka and not of the son she has lost, nor of the son who has left for the US forever. The past, that grandmother reconstructs is a pre-partition past of her own, the past of her birthplace, her homeland.25 All these writings are, in a way, interesting compendiums of nostalgia of pre-partition days and trauma of the partition-induced violence.

Most of these uprooted people did not have any idea at the time of their departure that they would never be able to return to their desh. They expected to be back in their ancestral place in the near future. In fact, it took several years for them to realise that they could never return to their own land, to their desh. This failure to reconcile with the permanent loss of homeland becomes clear in the narratives of the victims, who were either personally victimised or witness to the catastrophe from a close proximity.

This sense of uprootedness has also been reflected in some of the Bengali feature films made in the immediate post-partition period. Filmmakers like Ritwik Ghatak and Nimai Ghosh were overwhelmed by the trauma of partition victims. Nemai Ghosh’s ‘Chinnomul’ (1951) was the first Bengali feature film on the partition. It tried to capture the dynamics of the relationship between the nostalgia and trauma of the uprooted people. The way the characters of these films narrate their feelings gives an impression of their tremendous anguish and raise of homelessness. To them, partition was an inexplicable event. Ritwik in his trilogy on partition, ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ (1960), ‘Komolgandhar’ (1961) and ‘Subarnarekha’ (1962) deals with the same sense of homelessness and agony of being detached from their traditional lifestyles, from relatives as well as from the familiar surroundings.

These publications and films indicate that the partition has left a permanent scar on the psyche of the uprooted. To them, the loss of home seems to be a loss of self and the acquirement of a new identity. The uprooted people have lost their established identities based on certain, shared ideas about ‘personhood’, ‘collectivity’ and ‘social struggle’, and were forced to accept identities imposed on them by others and by an imposing reality. In the process of acquiring a new identity, the memories of the displaced persons compel them to mourn their ‘irreplaceable’ loss. And these collective memories prevail through generations.

Let us consider Kalyani Sarkar of Bansberia Women’s Home (Bansberia Mahila Shibir). She is about 45. Kalyani’s mother Renuka Debi is the Permanent Liability member of the Home. Renuka Debi left her desh Bikrampur in Dhaka with her husband and one month-old daughter Kalyani. Although Kalyani was born in Bikrampur, she cannot have any memory of that place. Kalyani spent her childhood days in Jirat where their family stayed after displacement from desh.

When she was nine or ten years old, her father died. Her mother Renuka Debi shifted to this women’s home with her two children. Since then she had grown up within the boundaries of this home. When I asked about her desh, she was giggling and spontaneously responded,

Bikrampur, amader original desh. Desh barir golpo amar maer kach thekei to shob shona. Ar ekhon amra ekhane thaki – ei porjonto. (Bikrampur is our original desh. I came to know about my desh, our ancestral home from my mother. We now stay here. That’s all.)

The memories her mother Renuka Debi cherish, have been slowly passed on to Kalyani. After all, “often it is the next generation which ultimately makes the reverse journey to the place about which they possess memory of memories, the place they have never actually seen, yet which constitutes a part of their being the place about which they have only heard family reminiscences, tales and anecdotes as they grew up”.26 Kalyani’s is a classic example.

Where there are the memories of partition, there are the memories of desh. The idea of desh, which these hapless, displaced people have envisioned through their selective memories, is in some way different from the contemporary usage of the word desh, which has a nationalistic overtone.

Since the days of nationalist movement, the idea of desh has been associated with the idea of motherland. In the process of nation-building, the concept of desh has been used as an important tool for strengthening the idea of ‘national integration’ of India. The usage of the word desh in contemporary popular culture and politics wants to construct the idea of a nation. When Manoj Kumar, a matinee idol of India as a protagonist of a patriotic film, sings: “Mere desh ki dharti sona ughle, ughle hire moti…” (The soil of my nation generates gold, diamond and jewels), it carries nationalistic overtones. When the punch line of an Indian-made motorbike says, ‘Desh ki dhadkan’ (Heartbeat of the nation), desh implies nation.

In other words, the idea of desh, which the nation-makers perceive is quite different from that a displaced Bengali nurtures. To the displaced persons, the desh is their ancestral place, their sacred land of memories. To them, “worshipping of the land of the village was equivalent of worshipping one’s ancestors”. This desh was not an imaginary concept. It actually existed in the past, and currently exists in their memory and nostalgia. When nation is desh, it remains an ‘imagined community’.

As Benedict Anderson would argue, the nation had been imagined into existence. To him, the nation is an “imagined political community – imagined both inherently limited and sovereign”. It is imagined because “the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”.27 The nations are “fictions in a sense; but the process by which this fiction is created is real”.28 Sometimes, a nation has been described as ‘a soul, a spiritual principle’.29 Here the essence of nation is a psychological bond, which joins the people into one community.30 This community is not racial or tribal in its nature but it is historically constituted community of the people.

In that sense, the nation has a past, a constructed past with a vision for the future to be realised. In that discourse, some goal has to be achieved on the basis of that constructed past. But for the homeless, for the displaced people in Bengal, their desh does not seem to have a future. It only has past. Most of the uprooted Bengali Hindus do not even want to revisit their original desh. Their desh must have changed now, they apprehend. Their desh was some place else and now it is a place of no return. It can only be revisited in memories and nostalgia. It has lost its spatial existence.

Address for correspondence:


1 See Indrajit Hazra, ‘A Time To Remember’, The Hindustan Times, Kolkata, November 22, 2002.
2 Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Remembered Villages: Representation of Hindu-Bengali Memories in the Aftermath of the Partition’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 31, No 32, August 10, 1996, p 2143.
3 Pradip Kumar Bose, ‘Memory Begins Where History Ends’ in Ranabir Sammadar (ed), Reflections on Partition of the East, Vikas, New Delhi, 1997, p 85.
4 Sudipta Kaviraj, ‘The Imaginary Institution of India’, Subaltern Studies VII, OUP, New Delhi, 1993, p 13.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid, p 33.
7 Ashis Nandy, ‘State, History and Exile in South Asian Politics: Modernity and the Landscape of Clandestine and Incommunicable Selves’ in Ashis Nandy, The Romance of the State: And the Fate of Dissent in the Tropics, OUP, New Delhi, 2003, pp 117-18.
8 Prafulla K Chakrabarty, The Marginal Men: The Refugees and the Left Political Syndrome in West Bengal, Lumiere Books, Kalyani, 1990, p 26.
9 See Ranjan Bandhopadhaya, ‘Chaitanyamoyotai Tar Saratsar’ in Desh, February 4, 2003, pp 71-78.
10 Interview with the author in the Cooper’s Camp, Ranaghat in the Nadia district of West Bengal on December 13, 2001.
11 Interview with the author in Birati of Kolkata at the residence of Nonigopal Mukherjee on March 12, 2002.
12 Interview with the author in Jirat of Hooghly district at the residence of Renubala Debnath on November 29, 2001.
13 See Milan Kundera, Ignorance, Faber and Faber, London, 2002.
14 Dipesh Chakrabarty, Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies, Permanent Black, Delhi, 2002, p 120.
15 ibid, p 121.
16 See Jibonananda Das, Ruposhi Bangla, Signet Press, Kolkata, 1957.
17 See Bishnu Dey, Kabita Samagra,1st part, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1989.
18 See Dakshinaranjan Basu (ed), Chhere Asha Gram, The Abandoned Village, Jugantar, Kolkata, 1975.
19 See Birendra Chottopadhaya, Nirbachito Kabita, Bharabi, Kolkata, 1970, p 82.
20 See Sankar Basu, Shoishob, Dhrupodi, Kolkata, 1983.
21 Prafulla Roy, Anuprabesh, Dey’s Publication, Kolkata, 1996.
22 Narayan Gangyopadhaya, Sroter Shonge, Mitra O Ghosh, Kolkata, 1978.
23 Atin Bandopadhaya, Nilkantho Pakhir Khonje, Ruprekha, Kolkata, 1971.
24 Sunil Gangyopadhaya, Purbo Paschim, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1995.
25 In this context please see Nias Zaman, A Divided Legacy: The Partition in Selected Novels of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, The United Press, Dhaka, 1999; Subharanjan Dasgupta, ‘Life – Our Only Refuge’ in Ranabir Sammadar (ed), op cit, pp 162-75; Sandip Bandyopadhayay, Deshbhag, Deshtyag, Anushtup, Kolkata, 1994.
26 Pradip Kumar Bose, op cit, pp 80-83.
27 Please see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London, 1983; Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1983; Elie Kedourie, Nationalism, Hutchinson, London, 1960; Homi K Bhabha (ed), Nation and Narration, Routledge and Kegan Paul, New York, 1990; and Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, OUP, Delhi, 1993 for further details.
28 Sudipta Kaviraj, The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhaya and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India, OUP, Delhi, 1998, p 144.
29 Ernest Renan, ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?’ in John Hutchinson and Anthony D Smith (eds), Nationalism, OUP, Oxford, 1994, pp 17-18.
30 Joseph Stalin, ‘The Nation’ in John Hutchinson and Anthony D Smith (eds), op cit, pp 18-21.
Excellent post. Could you please give the source of this article? Also I suppose this should belong to the Partition thread. The threads are getting extremely confusing.
Two links:
1) Repository of e-books on British Occupation of India
link: http://www.questia.com/library/history/bri...on-of-india.jsp

2) An essay on the 1857 events
Link: http://www.geocities.com/genebrooks/sepoy.html

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