Remembering Partition horrors and divisive agendas

Some seek to use such tragedies not for the cause of oneness, but to generate the poison of hatred that led to those horrors

Published: 30th August 2021 12:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2021 11:10 PM   |  A+A-

(Express Illustration: Amit Bandre)

The prime minister reminded us of the struggles and sacrifices of our people to usher in the freedoms we celebrate today. He also exhorted people to remember August 14 as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. This day also happens to coincide with Pakistan’s Independence Day. His message was loud and clear: That we cannot forget the mass sufferings at the time of Partition when millions were displaced and lakhs lost their lives to mindless acts of hatred and violence. He rightly reminded us all to remove the poison of social division and disharmony and to further strengthen the spirit of oneness, social harmony and human empowerment.

I am truly touched by the concern of Prime Minister Modi for propagating the values of oneness and social harmony. India is a cauldron of diversity. It is home to many races, religions, beliefs and traditions. Its kaleidoscopic cultures can thrive only when there is societal harmony. But what we have been witnessing of late is that both the government and BJP are espousing the rise of a hegemonic mindset instead of preserving our linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. This is demonstrated by the track record of the Modi regime since 2014. Vivid in our minds are the images of outrageous acts of communal persecution of common people forcing many to say and do things that no civilised culture would endorse. The marginalised were lynched in public view, their sin being their vocation. Rampant and senseless vandalism is openly perpetrated but seldom investigated. Information has it that, in a particular state in the last four years, there is one encounter every tenth day involving those facing trial in criminal cases. These are all matters of public record. The campaign against ‘love jihad’ instilled fear in the minds of young couples belonging to different religious faiths for having chosen to marry as an expression of their free will. What was allowed space to flourish in Modi’s India was not oneness but bigotry; not social harmony but intolerance. No turn of phrase can hide that reality. 

Migration of millions during Partition and the senseless violence that ensued is perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of the 20th century. Shattered lives and livelihoods left behind wounds that have not healed till date. The aftermath of lives lost in tragic circumstances, homes abandoned, millions displaced, not only numbed those who were victims of these tragedies but also the young and old who witnessed the unleashing of senseless violence. This monumental tragedy was suffered by those living on both sides of the divide. The hurt lives on from generation to generation.

Those living today with those memories choose to either carry with them the anger and hatred for having lost their loved ones or silently deal with it, internalising the pain. No rational human being can ever justify such inhuman acts of violence. I too lost my maternal grandparents during Partition, who I have never seen, since I was born in 1948. I can either carry in my mind that hatred for those unknown to me who committed such acts or leave it as a tragedy of which our family was a victim. If I seek to avenge that loss, who do I target? Not individuals but mindsets that pander to seeking revenge by violent acts. Reason informs me not to point a finger at those living in India today and seek revenge for an act of violence of which they have no knowledge and are in no way responsible for. If I do avenge that act of personal tragedy, I would be doing injustice to those who may be targeted by me for no fault of theirs. Then why should I remember the ‘horror’ that the prime minister talked about? Why would I seek to resurrect in my mind my personal tragedy and seek to hold the innocent guilty of acts of those not known to them? This logic equally applies to those living across the border, who too would have lost their loved ones in similar fashion. I cannot compound my tragedy by spreading the poison of hatred that in turn will have tragic consequences.

The cause of oneness will best be served if we are able to learn from that tragedy and embrace what the prime minister talked about. We need not do that by observing August 14 as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. We also need not remember those horrors and tragedies. We cannot forget that in the midst of the dance of senseless violence, the Mahatma was assassinated. That mindset still continues with some garlanding the statue of he who killed Gandhiji. Instead, we need to shun all attempts to cater to divisive agendas. Some seek to use such horrors and tragedies not for the cause of oneness, but to generate the poison of hatred that led to those horrors. That may be electorally convenient but subversive to the cause of oneness. We need to practice tolerance and treat each brother and sister living in India as one, who rightfully also belongs here. We don’t need to politicise tragedies. We need to internalise pain for the well-being of our people. We need to seek peace and learn from the past.

The Talibanisation of the mind is the enemy of both oneness and social harmony. We are seeing this in the takeover of Kabul and the tragedy unfolding before our eyes. The use of violence by the Taliban in targeting alleged collaborators of the erstwhile regime has spread fear amongst Afghans. This is to ensure that its diktats are obeyed. It is the regimentation of the mind that sows the seeds of disharmony. That is the real enemy.

It is in this context that I feel dismayed that the prime minister wants us, every year, to remember August 14 as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. I wish those of us who have lost their loved ones, remember them and resolve that oneness lies not in reliving the past but by embracing a future in which we live and let live.

Kapil Sibal
Senior lawyer, Congress leader and member of Rajya Sabha
(Tweets @KapilSibal)



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