Just a day before the eve of India’s 70th Independence Day, a people-powered non-profit organization run by concerned global citizens from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, nationalities and professions, The 1947 Partition Archive hosted an event, “Voices of Partition” to bring together the victims and witnesses of the 1947 Partition. The event was hosted at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
It was a rare opportunity to hear the tragic experiences and stories from witnesses and survivors of the 1947 Partition, the world’s largest mass refugee crisis, which led to nearly 2 million communal deaths, and displacement of up to 25 million people or 1% of the world’s entire population at the time.
Founder of 1947 Partition Archive, Dr. Guneeta Singh Bhalla says, “Our aim through “Voices of Partition” is to bring together the victims and survivors of the Partition and to provide them a platform to tell their stories. It is important for the victims of the 1947 Partition to talk about what might be the most traumatic phase of their lives. Preserving these memories and sharing them is necessary so that society can learn a lesson from what has been the largest mass refugee crisis the world has ever seen.”
The Partition survivors that shared their stories included Sat Parkash Goel, who migrated from Rawalpindi to Haridwar and athlete Keerti Kunzru, who came from Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) among others. Author and publisher, Dr. Urvashi Butalia was also a distinguished moderator at the event. Having written books on the Partition, Butalia feels very strongly about the cause. A special movie screening of the witnesses and survivors was also showcased. The audience also had various Partition survivors who shared their memories of living through 1947. The powerful talks initiated various conversations and lifted the intergenerational silence that has crept around these personal experiences that lie at the core of India’s Independence and Partition.
Recounting her tragic story at the event, from the days of the Partition, athlete Keerti Kunzru said, “”I can still hear that sound. Those memories scarred me for life. For two months after coming to India, my father never slept on a mattress. He believed he will go back and only at his home in Lyallpur will he have a peaceful night of sleep.”
Partition survivor Sat Prakash Goel told the audience of his experience as well. “If a young boy from Danny’s High School can go to Harvard, with education and perseverance anyone can do anything”, he said.
He further added, “My father, a station master in Pakistan, chose to stay there, but the sudden attacks abruptly brought him to reality”.
“Voices of Partition” event was focused on the narratives recounted by witnesses and story collectors from diverse backgrounds. The stories take you back to a time of unique and fascinating cultural practices which are largely lost today.