As is often the case with the history of the sub-continent, where emphasis on recorded accounts is arguably not a natural part of the South Asian culture, it has remained a challenge for historians to collate information about the Partition, in particular for sources produced on a regional scale. Secondly, the wounds of the atrocities of Partition are so deep that for fear of reminiscing, the history of Partition has seldom been discussed, leaving a detrimental gap in the national histories of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Seventy years on, various projects have been set up to commemorate the years that changed the course of history and attempt to reunite lost family members. The Partition Museum was erected in Amritsar in memory of the horrors of Partition, collecting oral histories, documents and photographs with the purpose of re-mapping the events. Amongst the exhibits are letters sent across borders, images of early refugee camps and books that preserved the dreams of young children amidst the violence.
Through the word-of-mouth networks that define the subcontinent, Dharam Kaur who lost her family in the carnage in Punjab, was reunited with her daughter over 50 years later. Through the support of the Border Security Force and Pakistani Rangers siblings Shamli Bai, 75 and Veer Bhan, now Sheikh Imam Buksh were able to see each other after decades. “O, aa gaye hain” (They have arrived), Shamli exclaimed. While years had passed, religions had changed and they had their own families and lifestyles, Shamli and Veer living in Patiala and Bawalpur respectively were relieved of their long-wait at the Wagah border.
In Satkhira, now in modern-day Bangladesh, locals celebrate Durgashtami and Eid together by rowing into the middle of the river from each coast to rejoice and relive old customs. Peace projects both on a national, state level as well as acts of kindness by individuals remind us that despite its rampant destruction the Partition has not been able to destroy the love between different communities. During the auspicious Islamic month of Ramadan, the Sikh and Christian communities living in Peshawar provide food for Muslims to break their fasts. Similarly, parts of modern day Punjab, Pakistan and different parts of India ‘s commemoration of Hussain Day (a commemoration to mark the tragedy of Karbala) is a multi-faith event with each community paying homage to the grandson of the Holy Prophet.
70 years on, the values and traditions of the subcontinent are still prevalent in British society. The diaspora comes together in times of need, like the recent Grenfall Tower tragedy where all three faith communities came together in solidarity, to support those in need. Events hosted by The Grand Trunk Project and other organisations have allowed all affected parties to come together and share their stories, acknowledge their shared pasts and work together to move forward.