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A PROJECT REPORT
Tina Samuel (080169) Carolyne Muani (080395) Saya Augustin (080319) Nandita Dhingra (080471)
JESUS AND MARY COLLEGE
UNIVERSITY OF DELHI
Certified that this project report “ Missing women of partition ” is the bonafide work of “TINA SAMUEL, CAROLYNE MUANI, SAYA AUGUSTIN and NANDITA DHINGRA” who have carried out this project under my supervision.
SIGNATURE Mrs. Savita Rastogi HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT
SIGNATURE Ms. Sharon Pillai LECTURER
Through this acknowledgment, we express our sincere gratitude to all those people who have been associated with this project and have helped us with it and made it a worthwhile experience. As any attempt at any level cannot be satisfactory without the support and guidance of learned people we would like to express our immense gratitude to our English teacher Ms. Sharon Pillai whose constant support and motivation has made us come up with this project. We are also thankful to our friends and family members who have rendered their whole hearted support at all times for the successful completion of this project.
Table of Contents TITLE
1) PREFACE 2) PARTITION OF INDIA:1947 3) THE VICTIMISATION OF WOMEN DURING INDIA’S PARTION 4) THE CENTRAL RECOVERY OPERATION 5) ARTICLES ON REAL-LIFE CASES 6) LITERARY REVIEW on a) “TORN FROM THE ROOTS” by Kamla Patel b) “LAJWANTI” by Rajinder Singh Bedi 7) REFERENCES
14 17 21
26 28 30
THE weak, they say, have the purest sense of history because they know anything can happen. History has never been as silent as it has been on the subject of women. What did Independence mean to women who suffered its most violent consequences? What was nation to them? Homeland? Religion? Freedom itself? Where did they find their place in this land of redrawn boundaries? Widows from 1947 are still to be found in ashrams and permanent liability homes in Karnal, Delhi, Rohtak, Jalandhar and Amritsar. It is from them and from scores of others that we heard about much that has remained hidden from history. Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly-formed states in the months immediately following Partition. After the exchange of populations came the exchange of women. Having agreed to an apportioning of assets and a division of the armed forces, civil services and the CID, India and Pakistan entered into an interdominion agreement on December 6, 1947, to recover all women and girls who had been abducted in either country and restore them to their families: Hindu and Sikh women from Pakistan, Muslim women from India. In four years, 30,000 women were recovered. The job was assigned to the local police, assisted by one AIG, two DSPS, 5 inspectors, 10 SIs, 6 ASIS and social workers. How they were recovered is another story. In the turmoil of Partition and the confusion of migration and relocation, how were missing women to be traced? Some estimates put the number of women who had been picked up by all three communities at 10 times the official figure of 12,500 in 1948. Ads were placed in papers giving details of missing women. These were then taken up by social workers on both sides of the border in Punjab, and verifications made. Social workers used all sorts of ruses to find out where the abducted women were, sometimes disguising themselves as bangle-sellers, or fruitvendors. No captor was willing to give up his claims: we heard that women were spirited away, hidden in tandoors, disguised as sisters and mothers--but never voluntarily given up. One liaison officer, who worked in Lyallpur for nine months before formal treaties were drawn up by India and Pakistan, told us: "I would slap the women and tell them I'd shoot them if they didn't tell me whether there was a Hindu woman in the neighbourhood. They would tell me because they were helpless and because their men were not around at the time." He claimed to have 'recovered' 800-900 women from Lyallpur alone this way. Many women resisted being uprooted again. They hid, fasted, escaped in ingenious ways--and abused the social workers roundly. One of them shouted: "Is this the freedom Jawaharlal won? Shame on him!" They were afraid of being rejected by their families,
unwilling to leave their children behind as this is what the Indian government required of all children born of Muslim father--and in no frame of mind for another upheaval. But India and Pakistan had an agreement, and the women had to be reclaimed, regardless. Kamlaben Patel, a social worker told us: "Identification was done according to the countries they belonged to. This one is Indian, this one Pakistani." Partition was connected with Islam and the demand for a separate homeland. Since this label was attached, how could the women be free from it? In a curious twist, the governments themselves became abductors. The women were given no choice regarding where they wanted to live or with whom; and no right to decide the fate of their children. Worse, the Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Bill, was enacted, denying them their rights as citizens--it remained in force till 1956. "The policy of abduction as a part of the retaliatory programme has given a setback to the basic ideals of a secular state," said Mridula Sarabhai. Recovered women were seen as missing members of a community, not as adult citizens of a country. The State assumed the role of a parent patriarch and relocated the women where they 'rightfully belonged'. The only response to forcible abduction, it seemed, was forcible recovery. Since such marriages had been declared illegal, the only way to reconstitute the legitimate family was by dismembering the illegal one and removing the women from its offending embrace. Women thus became repositories not only of family and community honour, but of national honour as well. Pakistan, by extension, became the abducting nation that divided the country and violated India's women. As one MP put it: "As descendants of Ram we have to bring back every Sita that (sic) is alive." But what of the Sitas themselves? It is unlikely that we will ever know what abduction and recovery meant to them. For the society and history still insist upon silence. Yet, society and State--virtually to a man--placed upon these women the special burden of their own attempt to renegotiate their post-Partition identity, 'honourably'.
The Partition: 1947
The Partition of India (Hindustani, ہندوسسسستان کسسسی تقسسسسیمHindustān kī Taqsīm) was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation, on August 14, 1947 and August 15, 1947, respectively, of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan and People's Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). The partition was promulgated in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Indian Empire. The partition displaced up to 12.5 million people in the former British Indian Empire, with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million. The partition of India included the geographical division of the Bengal province of British India into East Pakistan and West Bengal (India), and the similar partition of the Punjab province into West Punjab (later Punjab (Pakistan) and Islamabad Capital Territory) and East Punjab (later Punjab (India), Haryana and Himachal Pradesh). The partition deal also included the division of state assets, including the British Indian Army, the Indian Civil Service and other administrative services, the Indian railways, and the central treasury. In the aftermath of Partition, the princely states of India, which had been left by the Indian Independence Act 1947 to choose whether to accede to India or Pakistan or to remain outside them, were all incorporated into one or other of the new dominions. The question of the choice to be made in this connection by Jammu and Kashmir led to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 and other wars and conflicts between India and Pakistan. Mountbatten Plan The actual division between the two new dominions was done according to what has come to be known as the 3 June Plan or Mountbatten Plan. The border between India and Pakistan was determined by a British Governmentcommissioned report usually referred to as the Radcliffe Line after the London lawyer, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who wrote it. Pakistan came into being with two non-contiguous enclaves, East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and West Pakistan, separated geographically by India. India was formed out of the majority Hindu regions of the colony, and Pakistan from the majority Muslim areas.
Countries of Modern Indian subcontinent
On July 18, 1947, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act that finalized the partition arrangement. The Government of India Act 1935 was adapted to provide a legal framework for the two new dominions. Following partition, Pakistan was added as a new member of the United Nations. The union formed from the combination of the Hindu states assumed the name India which automatically granted it the seat of British India (a UN member since 1945) as a successor state. The 625 Princely States were given a choice of which country to join. Geography of the partition: the Radcliffe Line The Punjab — the region of the five rivers east of Indus: Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej — consists of interfluvial doabs, or tracts of land lying between two confluent rivers. These are the Sind-Sagar doab (between Indus and Jhelum), the Jech doab (Jhelum/Chenab), the Rechna doab (Chenab/Ravi), the Bari doab (Ravi/Beas), and the Bist doab (Beas/Sutlej) (see map). In early 1947, in the months leading up to the deliberations of the Punjab Boundary Commission, the main disputed areas appeared to 8
be in the Bari and Bist doabs, although some areas in the Rechna doab were claimed by the Congress and Sikhs. In the Bari doab, the districts of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Lahore, and Montgomery (Sahiwal) were all disputed. All districts (other than Amritsar, which was 46.5% Muslim) had Muslim majorities; albeit, in Gurdaspur, the Muslim majority, at 51.1%, was slender. At a smaller area-scale, only three tehsils (sub-units of a district) in the Bari doab had non-Muslim majorities. These were: Pathankot (in the extreme north of Gurdaspur, which was not in dispute), and Amritsar and Tarn Taran in Amritsar district. In addition, there were four Muslimmajority tehsils east of Beas-Sutlej (with two where Muslims outnumbered Hindus and Sikhs together).
A map of the Punjab region, 1947
The claims (Congress/Sikh and Muslim) and the Boundary Commission Award in the Punjab in relation to Muslim percentage by Tehsils. The unshaded regions are the princely states.
Before the Boundary Commission began formal hearings, governments were set up for the East and the West Punjab regions. Their territories were provisionally divided by "notional division" based on simple district majorities. In both the Punjab and Bengal, the Boundary Commission consisted of two Muslim and two non-Muslim judges with Sir Cyril Radcliffe as a common chairman. The mission of the Punjab commission was worded generally as: "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 take into account other factors." Each side (the Muslims and the Congress/Sikhs) presented its claim through counsel with no liberty to bargain. The judges too had no mandate to compromise and on all major
issues they "divided two and two, leaving Sir Cyril Radcliffe the invidious task of making the actual decisions."
The communities in the disputed regions of the Upper Bari Doab in 1947.
Independence and population exchanges Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly-formed states in the months immediately following Partition. Once the lines were established, about 14.5 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the relative safety of religious majority. Based on 1951 Census of displaced persons, 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan from India while 7,249,000 Hindus and Sikhs moved to India from Pakistan immediately after partition. About 11.2 million or 78% of the population transfer took place in the west, with Punjab accounting for most of it; 5.3 million Muslims moved from India to West Punjab in Pakistan, 3.4 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to East Punjab in India; elsewhere in the west 1.2 million moved in each direction to and from Sind. 11
A crowd of Muslims at the Old Fort (Purana Qila) in Delhi, which had been converted into a vast camp for Muslim refugees waiting to be transported to Pakistan.Manchester Guardian, 27 September 1947.
The newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border. Estimates of the number of deaths range around roughly 500,000, with low estimates at 200,000 and high estimates at 1,000,000. Punjab The Indian state of Punjab was created in 1947, when the Partition of India split the former Raj province of Punjab between India and Pakistan. The mostly Muslim western part of the province became Pakistan's Punjab Province; the mostly Sikh and Hindu eastern part became India's Punjab state. Many Hindus and Sikhs lived in the west, and many Muslims lived in the east, and so the partition saw many people displaced and much intercommunal violence. Lahore and Amritsar were at the center of the problem, the British were not sure where to place them - make them part of India or Pakistan. The British decided to give Lahore to Pakistan, whilst Amritsar became part of India. Areas in west Punjab such as Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujart, had a large Sikh population and many of the residents were attacked or killed by radical Muslims. On the other side in East Punjab cities such as Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Gurdaspur had a majority Muslim population in which many of them were wiped out by Sikh guerrillas who launched an all out war against the Muslims. Bengal The province of Bengal was divided into the two separate entities of West Bengal belonging to India, and East Bengal belonging to Pakistan. East Bengal was
renamed East Pakistan in 1955, and later became the of Bangladesh after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
While Muslim majority districts of Murshidabad was given to India, Hindu majority district Khulna and the Buddhist majority Chittagong division was given to Pakistan by the award. Sindh Hindu Sindhis were expected to stay in Sindh following Partition, as there were good relations between Hindu and Muslim Sindhis. At the time of Partition there were 1,400,000 Hindu Sindhis, though most were concentrated in the cities such as Hyderabad, Karachi, Shikarpur, and Sukkur. However, because of an uncertain future in a Muslim country, a sense of better opportunities in India, and most of all a sudden influx of Muslim refugees from Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajputana(Rajasthan) and other parts of India, many Sindhi Hindus decided to leave for India. Problems were further aggravated when incidents of violence instigated by Indian Muslim refugees broke out in Karachi and Hyderabad. According to the census of India 1951, nearly 776,000 Sindhi Hindus moved into India. Unlike the Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs, Sindhi Hindus did not have to witness any massive scale rioting; however, their entire province had gone to Pakistan thus they felt like a homeless community. Despite this migration, a significant Sindhi Hindu population still resides in Pakistan's Sindh province where they number at around 2.28 million as per Pakistan's 1998 census while the Sindhi Hindus in India as per 2001 census of India were at 2.57 million. Kashmir conflict The Princely state of Kashmir and Jammu had a majority Muslim population in the Kashmir valley and a majority Hindu population in Jammu and sparse population elsewhere. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India at the outbreak of violence. This Kashmir conflict lead to the 1947 war between India and Pakistan in that region.
Victimization of Women During India’s Partition
Women constitute one half of the population of the world, and they play an important role in society. It will, therefore, be very significant to bring to focus the sufferings and sacrifices of women during the trauma of partition of Punjab in 1947. In order to better understand the victimization of women during partition, it is pertinent for the student of women’s studies to explore the gender’s position in a patriarchalcolonial society prior to the annexation of Pakistan. By examining both the vulnerability of Muslim and Hindu women in the British Raj’s Punjab in 1947, one can discern the gender roles for women in that era. The trouble for the non-Muslims in general and for the women in particular, started in March, 1947. Whatever may be the causes of the Rawalpindi and Multan riots, it is admitted that these were of terrific nature Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, after visiting district Rawalpindi reported to the British Government in England. The whole of the Hindu-Sikh part is an absolute wreck, as though it has been subjected to an air raid. Several Hindu and Sikh villages were wiped out. Justice Teja Singh, a member of the Punjab Boundary Commission, stated before the Commission that during the Rawalpindi riots, "A large number of people were forcibly converted, children were kidnapped, and young women abducted and openly raped. Though a separate number of female casualities are not available, the official figure of deaths in the district of Rawalpindi was 2,263 which were considered far below the actual number. The women were subjected to maximum humiliation and torture. Their agony can be judged by the fact that a number of women jumped into wells to save their honor. It is as unbelievable today as it was at that time. But fortunately Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the village on 14th March, 1947, and he was told about the incidents of ladies jumping into wells. His staff photographer took photographs of the bottom of the well with the help of a flashlight. These photographs showed the decomposed limbs of the bodies. The countless rapes and kidnappings of women and young girls are perhaps among the most sordid tales of partition. These females, some with children in their arms, were reportedly abducted, raped and molested, passed from one man to another, bartered and sold like cheap chattel. A young woman of twenty-two recounts her flight from Pakistan with a foot convoy from Lyallpur: When the convoy left Lyallpur we all joined it. The military had robbed us of everything before we left our house. First they took away our arms, then our valuables. On the way, I was separated from my people. I saw men being murdered and women being raped on the
wayside. If someone protested he was killed. One woman was raped by many men. I was also raped by three men in succession. A man, at last, took me to his house and kept me there for eight days....He subjected me to physical torture, forced cow bones into my mouth so that I should be converted to Islam...He put my hands under the charpoy legs and sat down on it to say prayers while I suffered agonies of pain. This young woman recounted the acts of violence perpetuated against her because of her religion. Her being forced to eat cow bones signifies an obvious mocking of her Hindu beliefs. Also, the rape itself represents a perverse form of conversion. By these actions alone, one can see that this undeclared civil war was rooted in religious hatred. Only when the British evacuated did Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs turn on each other and women’s bodies became the battleground on which these factions clashed. This woman’s account of the atrocities committed against her is quite similar to Ayah’s sordid tale. Ayah is also kidnapped and forced to marry Ice-Candy-Man, a Muslim, while she is Hindu. The fact that Ayah is forced to prostitute her body and coerced into having sex with Ice-Candy-Man indicates that women’s bodies have historically become territory in which men act out their aggression. Whatever love Ice- Candy-Man has for Ayah is smothered by his complete subjugation of her. He changes her name from Shanta to Mumtaz, a Muslim name. Also, Ice-Candy-Man and Ayah continue to live in a kotha (brothel) even after their marriage. She is adorned completely in the attire of a Muslim woman. Ice-Candy-Man successfully strips Ayah of her identity as a woman and as a Hindu. Although she eventually escapes her maniacal abductor and partially regains her identity and power as a woman, the reader is left with the idea that, even with her family in Amritsar, Ayah will be marked by her defilement during partition, if not physically then clearly emotionally. Perhaps Ice-Candy-Man’s abduction and defilement of Ayah may be seen as a gesture of contempt against India, Hindu men, and Hindu property. Menon and Bhasin suggest, The most predictable form of violence experienced by women, as women, is when the women of one community are sexually assaulted by the men of the other, in an overt assertion of their identity and a simultaneous humiliation of the Other by “dishonoring” their women. In this respect, the rape and molestation of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim women before and after Partition probably followed the familiar pattern of sexual violence, and of attack, retaliation and reprisal. By dishonoring another’s wife, daughter, or sister, one ridicules his religion, cultural, and personal honor. In many written accounts, women were forced to strip and parade naked through the marketplace. Other accounts tell of women being forced to dance naked in gurudwaras (Sikh hostels) and being raped in front of the men of their family.
One doctor at a refugee camp in Jhang testified: One of the cases that I treated was of a woman from village Chund Bharwana who was the wife of a railway porter. One of her hands was chopped off above her wrist and then she was thrown into the fire, as a result of which her lower portion got burnt. Perhaps one of the most gruesome injuries cited by doctors was the amputation of breasts of women. One doctor in particular said that “six such cases of chopped-off breasts were brought to the refugee camp and all of them proved fatal.” This macabre act of disfigurement is sordidly depicted in Cracking India. Ice-Candy-Man reports to his friends that a train from Gurdaspur has arrived in Lahore filled with murdered Muslims. Ice-Candy-Man shouts, “Everyone is dead. Butchered. They are all Muslim. There are no young women among the dead! Only two gunny-bags full of women’s breasts!” However, this act of violence against Islamic women only spurs him to perpetrate violence on Hindu and Sikh women. He exclaims, “I want to kill someone for each of the breasts they cut off the Muslim women”. And, of course, Ice-Candy-Man satiates his appetite for revenge by kidnapping Ayah and forcing her to marry him, while also prostituting her body. Perhaps, as he claims, Ice-Candy-Man truly loves Ayah, but his mercurial identity and con-artist habits suggest otherwise. His ability to change from popsicle salesman to prophet to poet persuades the reader to believe that truth is a very shifting quality for this character. Many women died trying to avoid sexual violation, preserve their chastity, and protect their religious and family honor. Scholars of India’s partition have noted numerous ways in which women took their lives. Some jumped into the nearest well or set themselves ablaze. Sometimes the act was accomplished alone, sometimes all the women in a family committed mass suicide. Menon and Bhasin assert, “many women and girls saved their honor by self-immolation. They collected their beddings and cots in a heap and when the heap caught fire they jumped onto it, raising cries of `Sat Sri Akal’!” There is also a story of ninety women of Thoa Khalsa who jumped into a well on March 15, 1947, in order to preserve their chastity and the religious honor of their families.
The Central Recovery Operation
In the violence that followed part of the partitioning of India, it is now known that more than 75000 women were abducted and raped, by men of religions different form their own, and sometimes by men of their own religion. This figure is usually seen as a conservative one, with other estimates being put at 100,000-120,000 because of the general confusion and chaos of the time, there are no real records that can be used to confirm these figures. But there is little doubt that the number was large. Immediately the state were made aware of the problem of missing women (through reports filed by their families) they swung into action and set up search committees made up of social workers (mostly women) and police, whose task was to go into each other’s countries (and they were given official permission for this) to find “rescue” and “recover” abducted women. On the Indian side, the operation to recover the abducted women was known as The Central Recovery Operation and it lasted for nearly 9 years after which it came to an end. By that time, it became increasingly difficult to track down missing women; many had now settled into other relationships, but the key problem that led to the “closing down” of the operation was that of the children. Several women had now children and were unwilling to leave them but equally their families (i.e. their original families to whom they were to be returned) were unwilling to take in children who they saw as being “polluted” because they were of mixed blood. During the time that Central Recovery Operation was fully functional, it became the subject of heated debates and discussions in the Constituent Assembly in India, and in journals and newspapers published at the time. The first cause of concern for the mostly male members of the Constituent Assembly was that of some women who were being recovered were unwilling to return. For the women, forcible recovery (for that is what it was: according to law promulgated especially for this purpose at the time, they did not have the right to refuse being recovered) was tantamount to another dislocation, another trauma. They did not want to be uprooted yet again, and many feared they would no longer be acceptable in their natal families. Their fears were borne out when they were recovered, often their families refused to take them back as they were seen to have become “polluted” after sexual contact with men of other religion. The law that was promulgated (the Abducted Persons Recovery and Restoration Ordinance which later became a law) to recover women did not allow woman a choice, and took as its basis a very questionable premise: recovered women were to be returned to their natural homeland which was defines as the country of their religion. Thus Hindu and Sikh women were to be brought back to India (the land of Hindus and Sikhs) and the Muslim
women were to be sent to Pakistan (the land of Muslims). It did not matter that they might actually be living in what became the other country-they had to be sent back to the proper nation, the proper community, the proper family. The loss of “their” women to the men of the other nation was of considerable concern to the state at the time of Partition, and perhaps no other issue raised such anxiety among Indian political leaders at that time. A major cause for concern was the numbers of women recovered. While no one disputed the fact that the Recovery Operation was a humanitarian one and had to be carried out, they were unhappy at the fact that more Muslim women were being recovered and sent back to Pakistan than the Hindu and Sikh women being recovered from what had become Pakistan to be sent back to India. This allowed them to pronounce on the character of Pakistan, and of its men, it was an uncivilized nation, made up of libidinous, rapacious men, whose primary purpose was pollution of Hindu race through the rape of its women. A number of “solutions” were suggested which would help Pakistan learn a lesson. Among this was the holding of Pakistan women-why should we give them more women than they are giving us- and “open war if need be”. Throughout this fraught and emotionally charged debate, there was predictably little concern for the women themselves. The fate of abducted women also formed the stuff of much writing of the media at that time, and in the journal of the Hindu Right wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) called the Organiser. Here the equating of the “pure” Hindu women with Mother India (and throughout the nationalist movement, the country had imaged in feminine terms, as Mother India) led to tremendous concern at the weakness of Hindu men in being unable to protect their women. Hindu men were exhorted to take a leaf out of the book of the violent, libidinous Muslim men and to treat the Muslim women in the same way. This problem was seen as a challenge to the “manhood”; and the nationalism (one was equated with the other) of Hindu men. It does not take much to see how women becomes, at Partition, the sign of the nation, her body the nation’s own, its violation, a violation of the nation’s body. It was this really that lay at the heart of the Central Recovery Operation. For men who were involved in the process of creating the nation, the loss of their women to the men of other religion represented a failure on their part to hold on to their own. This failure was exacerbated by their failure to have held on to the whole nation: so often at that time, India was represented and imaged in female terms, as Mother India, and partition as a severing of her body. If the body of the nation could not be recovered, at least that of its women could, and once recovered, the women had to be relocated within the fold of the family,
the community, the nation. But here, another problem arose: this was possible if the woman was alone, but if she had with her a child of a mixed union it became more difficult, indeed impossible. Women were therefore, to be separated from their children, told to give them up or “helped” to have abortions (which the state carried out on mass scale, calling them ‘safaya’, or cleansing) so that they could get rid of the symbols of impurity. But how much safety did the community and the family provide for the women? The locating of the honour of the nation within the bodies of women were mirrored in another sort of violence women faced; from their families. The figures of these kid of deaths are more hazy than those for abducted women, but it is clear that hundreds, if not thousands, of women were killed by their own families, forced or persuaded to take their own lives, often burnt to death in order to protect them from being raped or worse converted and made to bear the children of men of the other religion. These deaths are represented by the men as martyrdom where the swing of the sword that takes the woman’s lives becomes the call of the religion to save and preserve the honour of the nation, represented here by the religion. The kind of violence families brought upon their women has found little mention over the books of history or official documents. And in many ways it inhabits a rather different realm of honour: while in case of the abducted women the honour (their own and that of the nation) was lost through their rape and abduction, and again, through their non-recovery in the cases of family violence, the honour was preserved, even at the cost of the lives of the women. The involvement of women in the discourse on nation and nationality also worked at another level. A number of middle class women worked on behalf of the Central Recovery Operation charged by the state to recover abducted women, they accompanied police teams often into dangerous and hostile terrains, in search of raped and abducted women. Mridula Sarabhai, the daughter of a well-known industrialist family from Gujarat, was key in convincing J.L. Nehru and M.K. Gandhi that there needed to be a massive effort to rescue and recover abducted women. She drew in other women: Premvati Thapar, Damyanti Sehgal, Krishna Thapar, Kamlaben Patel, and several others while Gandhi too helped inspire several women such as Anis Kidwai, to come into doing social work. These women worked as if driven: they put in long hours and for the most part they believed in what they were doing. It was only when they came in contact with the individual women and began to understand and realize what they had lived through in their “previous lives” (and how that was not necessarily very different from what they were living through now), as well as what they feared if they were recovered that these women began to subvert the agenda of the state, while at the same time working for it.
Countless numbers of times they helped women to run away with men they loved, or had been living with; at other times they helped them to heal and learn to live with the grief of being rejected by their families and never was any one of them at all judgemental about the women they were “rescuing”. While Gandhi and Nehru had to exhort Indians- or rather Indian men- to receive abducted women back into the fold as if they were “pure”, the women who worked on behalf of the State at rescuing and recovering these women were not concerned with questions of purity, but rather with the aspirations and desires of the women. A quote below from Anis Kidwani: “There were some women who had been born into poor homes and had not seen anything other than poverty. A half-full stomach and rags on your body. And now they had fallen into the hands of men who bought them silken salwars and net dupattas, who taught them the pleasure of cold ice cream and hot coffee and who took them to cinema. Why should they leave such men and go back to covering their bodies with rags and slaving in the hot sun in the fields? They also had another fear. The people who wanted to take them away, were they friend or foe? How did they know they would not sell them to others? After all, she had been sold many times, how many more times would it happen? The same police uniforms, it was these that had, time and again, taken her from here to there. What was there to reassure her that she could believe in the authority of the turban, that the person who wore it came from her relatives and was not someone who had come yet again to buy and sell her? There remained religion. What did these girls know about that after all? Men can atleast read the Namazand and listen to the mullah. But the mullah has never allowed women to even stand there. The moment they see young women, their blood rises in their eyes. Be off with you, go away, what work do you have here? As if they were dogs, to be pushed out of every place.” Through the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation in India and its Women’s Section, under Rameshwari Nehru, between December 1947 and December 1949, from Pakistan 6,000 women were ‘recovered’ and 12,000 from India. Most ‘recoveries’ were made from East and West Punjab, followed by Jammu, Kashmir and Patiala. Approximately 30,000 Muslim and non-Muslim women were recovered by both countries over an eightyear period. The total number of Muslim women recovered was significantly higher – 20,728 as against 9,032 non-Muslims. While most ‘recoveries’ occurred between 194752, women were being returned as late as 1956.
Articles on Real –life Cases:
Sunday, Jul 16, 2006 The Untold Story Separated during the turbulence of Partition, women in PoK now look forward to seeking out their families.
REUNION: After an endless wait. PHOTO: NISSAR AHMED SEPARATED shortly after she was born, 60-year-old Ruksana Begum was able to locate her mother last month. Her mother, a Hindu named Inderjeet, lives in Kashmir. Ruksana Begum has lived in the Kotli area of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) as long as she can remember. Separation The story of their separation involves another separation. Ruksana Begum's mother was separated from her family during the riots that followed Partition. A young woman then, Inderjeet was married to a Muslim youth and the couple shortly had a baby: Ruksana. Inderjeet's family, who had fled to India, wanted her back. Following an agreement in 1947 between India and Pakistan on missing women, Inderjeet's family was able to bring her to India. Inderjeet was reunited with her family but left little Ruksana behind, as her family would not accept her daughter. Given the prevailing social climate and the attitude
of her family, Inderjeet had very little control of her own life. She chose to remain silent about the little girl she left behind in PoK. The matter would have rested there if it wasn't for an accidental visit. Under the more relaxed regulations that allow Kashmiris to visit the other side of the Line of Control, an Indian resident came calling at Kotli, once the native place of his family. Here, he bumped into Ruksana, who had a request: "Can you trace my mother who lives on your side of Kashmir?" He could and what's more he did. Inderjeet, now over 80 years old, was traced in Jammu city and Ruksana has applied for permission to meet her. It is likely to be granted shortly. "I am excited," she says, her eyes misting over. "It is true I do not know her at all. But then, she is still my mother." The story of Ruksana Begum and Inderjeet may sound unusual. But it is one of the many heart-rending stories of women who were caught in the turbulence that attended the Partition of the country. It is at once a story of vulnerability and strength — a story that remains largely untold and undocumented even six decades after the trauma of Partition. Waiting in hope Like Ruksana Begum, there are a number of women in the interiors of PoK who long to meet their relatives in India. Take Rabia Bibi for instance. A resident of Bhimber, a town that nestles in the plains of an otherwise hilly PoK, she was separated from her Sikh family in 1947, when they fled to India. Rabia, who has since converted to Islam, is waiting to meet her brothers, who live in Jalandhar in Punjab. "One of my sisters who was also left behind like me, died without meeting any of our relatives in India," says the 60-year old. "I don't want that to happen to me." There are similar stories on this side of the LoC. In the by lanes of Jammu city, Harvinder Kour, yearns to be reunited with her sister Itfa Bi. The siblings have never met, as Harvinder was born after her sister and parents were separated. "I grew up hearing about the sister who lived across the Line of Control. Luckily I have been able to locate her and, God willing, should meet her," says Harvinder optimistically. She has applied for a permit to visit her sister in Muzaffarabad. The introduction of the permit, intended to facilitate the movement of people of J&K on either side of Line of Control, has given people the hope of meeting their relatives.
Conservative attitudes, resistance from family members and the fear of raking up memories that are best forgotten are some of the reasons that prevent women on either side of the LoC from reuniting with their families. Take the case of the Muslim woman in PoK who requested me to contact her 82-year-old Sikh mother in Jammu. Having managed to trace her mother, I found myself having to deal with less-than-friendly family who did not want any reference to the elderly Sikh lady's "unsavoury" past. I could sense that the old lady wanted news of her daughter. But her family didn't want to hear anything about it. The tragedy can be traced back to the horrors of Partition. As in most savage conflicts, women were used as weapons to inflict humiliation on the other side. Partition tales of riots are contested on both sides. In PoK, some locals admit that some Hindu and Sikh women were abducted during the communal riots of 1947; a few blame this on the Pathans from the North West Frontier Province. Says Riaz Inqualibi, a 65-year-old lawyer in Mirpur: "Events have to be seen objectively. The relations between Muslims and Hindus of the belt remained cordial till the end. The tribal raid did cause havoc and the principal sufferers were women. But the involvement of the local Muslims was minimal." In fact, there are numerous stories of local Muslims sheltering Hindu and Sikh women when they were separated from their families. The India-Pakistan agreement to `recover' the lost women in each other's territory facilitated the return of many women to their original families. Efforts by activists such as Mridula Sarabhai (in India) and Fatima Jinnah (sister of Md. Ali Jinnah, in Pakistan) helped in the process of restoration. Red Cross workers on both sides fanned out to remote areas to recover missing women and hand them over to their original families. However, many women who chose to remain in PoK became cut off from their original families. Gulzari Begum, born in a Hindu family of Kotli, has not met her parental family after she decided to stay with her Muslim husband — though she knows their whereabouts. Similarly, 76-year-old Lekh Raj Sharma, living in Mendhar tehsil, on the Indian side of J&K, has not met his sister Leelo Devi, now Leelo Begum. Lekh Raj was forced to flee from Pamoch village in November 1947 and was separated from his sister. Leelo married a local Rajput Muslim landlord, Raja Gulbar Khan. The two families have never met. Leelo Begum lost her parents long ago and her brother Sita Ram died last year. "My last wish is to see my sister. I have not seen her for six decades," says Lekh Raj, his voice
trembling. Says 93-year-old freedom fighter Sant Singh Teg: "It is time the leadership of the two countries shows the will to lessen the pain of the women on either side of the LoC by facilitating the reunion of blood relations." Singh, himself a migrant from Muzaffarabad (PoK), witnessed the pain and suffering of women during the 1947 riots. He points out that it is time that people shed their conservatism and accept what had happened in the past. "It is the only way to reduce the pain of women on either side of the LoC," he says.
Date:28/08/2005 A brother finally speaks to his sister after 58 years The plight of divided families on either side of the Line of Control `I have not seen my sister for the last 58 years and was not able to recognise her voice at first when I spoke to her. Even she could not recognise my voice and I had to constantly assure her about my identity' ARI (MENDHAR): Softening of the Line of Control (LoC) in this belt is not only imperative for the divided families to be united but also important to heal the partition wounds which remain fresh even now. The partition of the State in 1947 not only led to the loss of lives on both sides of the LoC but also resulted in the severance of women and children from rest of the male members of the family, many of them remain untraced even today. There is finally a ray of hope for the Brahmin family of Lekh Raj Sharma living in this remote village after he was able to speak to his separated sister after a gap of 58 years. The events of 1947 had separated Leelo Devi, now Leelo Begum, sister of Lekh Raj from rest of the family when it was forced to flee from Pamoch village of Kotli tehsil (now in Pakistan occupied Kashmir) in November, 1947. Under the then prevailing circumstances, Leelo Begum married a local Rajput Muslim landlord, Raja Gulbar Khan, whereas the rest of her family migrated to Ari village of Mendhar tehsil this side of Line of Control. There was simply no communication with Leelo despite the fact that many acquaintances of the family on the other side of the LoC were contacted in this regard.
A miracle Now as in a miracle, Lekh Raj, now 75 years old, has not only got full information about his sister but also actually spoken to her. This was made possible by the efforts of Lekh Raj's nephew, Ashok Sharma, who located the present whereabouts of Leelo Begum. A few days ago, Leelo Begum was finally located and her brother Lekh Raj spoke to her on the phone for more than an hour. It was not an easy experience for Lekh Raj who fainted when he first listened to his sister's voice. He says, "This has been a new birth for me as we had almost forgotten this haunting chapter of our life. I have not seen my sister for the last 58 years of my life and was not able to recognise her voice at first when I spoke to her. Even she could not recognise my voice and I had to constantly assure her about my identity." The first question which Leelo Begum put to her brother was about their parents — Hari Sharma and Laxmi Devi who she did not know had expired more than 20 years ago. The second was about her other brothers and sister. One of brothers, Master Sita Ram, recently died while her sister Laxmi Devi, who became widow in 1947, and Thakur Dass are still living here. Lekh Raj hopes that he will one day meet his sister when the Line of Control opened for civilian traffic. Even now many families living here are awaiting similar miracles as it is this belt which had borne the brunt of the bulk of violence during Partition. Many women who were either left behind or abducted in Pakistan occupied Kashmir in 1947-48 were released and later united with their family members thanks to the heroic efforts of social activist Mridula Sarabai (sister of India's top scientist Vikram Sarabai) and Faitma Jinnah (sister of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, also known as Madar-ePakistan). But still a number of women remain untraced despite the best efforts of social activists and various relief organisations. Locals here feel that the opening of the Rawlakot-Poonch road would go a long way in re-establishing links and tracing of these missing women. No significant progress Strangely despite the huge potentialities of this particular road there seems to be no significant progress in that direction. The opening of the road was part of the joint declaration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf released in April 05.
a) TORN FROM THE ROOTS (by Jyoti Nair Belliappa)
Torn from the Roots: A Partition Memoir, Kamla Patel, translated by Uma Randeria, Women Unlimited, 2006, price not stated. THE Partition of 1947 confounded free India and Pakistan's destinies even as these new nations were being born. It left thousands homeless and created a permanent rift in the hearts of people borne of a similar culture. The work under review, Kamla Patel's memoir, Torn from the Roots, explores the double-sided power of destiny on the fate of women. Brecht said, "We have lived an easy generation in houses which we thought to be indestructible." Sadly enough, this proved true of the Partition of 1947. Who was responsible for this mass movement of humanity? Whose short-sightedness resulted in the fleeing of thousands, pregnant with fear, and distrusting the ones they loved? These questions are politically debatable and fall under the purview of the historian. However, the newly formed governments of India and Pakistan took up the issue of abducted women and children in November 1947 and decided to relocate them. Kamla Patel was one of the interlocutors and social workers involved in India in this complex process. Mindboggling The statistics still boggle the mind. 25,000 women from East Punjab and 12,000 women from west Punjab had to be "reunited" with their families. The book gives a vivid account 26
of the sordid camps, the movement of refugees, the senseless killings, the intensity of feeling derived from absolute prejudice and bewilderment. Under such circumstances, Kamlaben's dedication to her duty, ability to negotiate, build confidence, harbour secrets, make personal queries, and her capacity to rise to the occasion are indeed astonishing. Her flexibility of approach in certain cases where the boy or the girl chose to remain with each other is at a remove from earlier accounts of more intransigent social workers. Yet, Torn from the Roots is also steeped in Gandhian mores that could not thrive in the climate of 1947. Patel quotes Gandhi's disapproval of the marriages of Hindu abducted women to Muslims. He held that such "conversion to a different religion must not be regarded as genuine, and such marriages cannot be regarded as legal". The fact is that married women had been cruelly separated from their husbands, their homes mercilessly broken and the future of their children jeopardised. Hindu husbands or fathers were less willing to accept them in their family. The children were either sent to orphanages or left back in Pakistan with their natural fathers. The afterlife of this broken world continues to make itself felt. In "The untold story", published in The Hindu Magazine dated July16, 2006, Luv Puri tells the story of one such child, whose mother was forcibly taken away to India. Now 60 years old, Ruksana Begum from Pakistan hopes to meet her eighty-yearold mother Inderjit in India. Gross violations However, in this whole project of relocation of women, there were instances of gross violation of human rights, where the social worker stealthily and often forcibly "abducted" women back, often against their wishes. These stories recounted and analysed by Urvashi Butalia, Ritu Menon, Kamla Bhasin and Veena Das have captured the heartrending cries of Partition and endorsed the horror and distrust of forced separations. Yet, it has been impossible to completely undo a Lahori or a Delhi-ite from the days before Partition. Their accents and concerns have stemmed from a century of close contact with Punjabis of all religious communities and now been refracted through the bitterness produced by Partition. But that story will have to await its own chronicler. This book also includes Kamla's personal tribute to the resilience of Mridula Sarabai for having undertaken this herculean task.
b) LAJWANTI (by Thomas Palakeel) Rajinder Singh Bedi’s short story “Lajwanti” also offers, although the third person narrator is less certain about the resolution and the impossible redemption. In “Lajwanti,” a wife-beater turned social activist named Sunder Lal gets elected secretary of the newly formed Rehabilitation of Hearts Committee. The reason he won the eleven votes was that his own wife, Lajwanti, has been abducted, so Sunder Lal is in a better position to counter the likes of Narain Bawa, who opposes the rehabilitation of abducted women. Early in the story Bedi offers a tender portrait of Lajwanti, who loved the city boy Sunder Lal. After her marriage to him she quickly settled down to the fate of an abused wife, and subsequently, of course, also to her fate as the captive of a Muslim man who treated her well. When the news arrives that a group of abducted women is going to be exchanged between India and Pakistan, the conservatives oppose the move, for in their view such women ought to have died to save their honor! The whole place is in turmoil at such astonishing news. Lajwanti is not among the women who are returned, and the Rehabilitation of Hearts Committee continues its campaign. On one occasion Sunder Lal debates Narain Bawa who offers the rusty example of Ram ejecting Sita from his “ideal Kingdom,” causing Sunder Lal to burst out, declaring Sita’s innocence and placing the blame entirely on Ravan’s ten demonic heads; he even adds an eleventh head to Ravan, “the head of a donkey” responsible for foolish attitudes. Then a villager reports sighting Lajwanti at the border; at once Sunder Lal becomes gripped by an unknown fear. When husband and wife are reunited, the husband notices her dupatta is worn in the typical Muslim fashion, and before long every detail he notices about his wife somehow disorients him, not because of his jealousy but because of his goodwill and his baffling need to be right, to be even better than Sri Ram. Also, with his wife’s return Sunder Lal is shocked into yet another awareness about his wife and about himself: “He noticed that Lajwanti was fairer and healthier than before; indeed she looked plump. Whatever he had imagined about her turned out to be wrong. He had thought that grief would have emaciated her, that she’d be too weak even to speak. The thought that she had been happy in Pakistan wounded him….” (pg 26) The story fails when it largely evades Lajwanti’s suffering, for Bedi is still insistently focused on the eventual chastisement of Sunder Lal, who of course continues to work for the cause and starts calling his wife “Devi,” although what she really desires is a little genuine love as opposed to the worship that he proffers. On one occasion he works up
enough courage to inquire about her captor, and the first thing he asks is, “He didn’t beat you?” Her answer humbles him, and in some ways one can understand how a humbled husband can continue to ruin a woman who is only asking for a little understanding of “the secret locked in her breast”—as Khushwant Singh puts it in his own translation of “Lajwanti.” That the readers can guess the nature of her secret and her suffering is all the more reason for them to expect a greater engagement with Lajwanti as a character. In fact, once she returns from captivity, the story that started off with so much promise begins to selfdestruct, mainly because of the authorial straitjacketing of Lajwanti the character, whose name demands a certain symbolic ending for this story which is really about rape and silence and about a man’s inability to face up to a woman’s suffering. Even if the author’s aim is not to dramatize the lingering consequences of rape and large scale violence against women, what undercuts the power of this story is his insistence on explaining away such harsh realities as a rupture of the old harmony—in other words, a family life based on a wife-beating male whose peaceful domesticity is established at the expense of an uncomplaining female! At the end of the story Lajwanti is unnerved by Sunder Lal’s unsustainable, unknowable devotion to her, for she prefers the certainty of her husband’s old violence. Unforgivably, in the end, the author even goes on to conclude that “she was in fact a lajwanti, a glass object too fragile to withstand the barest touch” (pg 29) but the question remains whether she was suffering because of her peculiarly female experience of Partition or because of the naïvete of her husband whose private heroism does not match his public courage. Ultimately this story also fails in terms of revealing the dynamic of the post-captivity, post-Partition domestic story, although it starts off with such a precise moral authority and sense of irony. Even after faultlessly evoking the pre-Partition domesticity and its gendered brutality, the voice here begins to falter at the very moment the new Lajwanti emerges. It is as if the male voice is left shuddering, helpless before the bewildering image of his returned Sita, whom I believe even the author betrays at the end. Notwithstanding what the preface states about the difficulties translating this story, of all the selections in this collection what is unwritten here seems to have greater promise than what Rajinder Singh Bedi has managed to capture. Even the use of Boccaccio’s description of the Uzbek procurer, although it offers a revealing expression of a woman’s condition of bondage, feels out of place, giving us yet another hint about so much that is unachieved in “Lajwanti.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_India http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Manchester_guardian_purana-qila1947.jpg www.sikh-history.com/sikhhist/.../partition_and_women.html http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?203611 http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mag/2006/07/16/stories/2006071600140100.htm http://www.hindu.com/2005/08/28/stories/2005082803481000.htm http://www.thehindu.com/lr/2006/12/03/stories/2006120300090200.htm http://www.urdustudies.com/pdf/16/29_Palakeel.pdf From gender to nation By Rada Ivekovic, Julie Mostov pg 106-111 The other side of silence: voices from the partition of India By Urvashi Butalia Lajwanti - a short story by Rajinder Singh Bedi
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