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The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia

The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories

Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia
    Book Description:

    Nation-states often shape the boundaries of historical enquiry, and thus silence the very histories that have sutured nations to territorial states. "India" and "Pakistan" were drawn onto maps in the midst of Partition's genocidal violence and one of the largest displacements of people in the twentieth century. Yet this historical specificity of decolonization on the very making of a nationalized cartography of modern South Asia has largely gone unexamined.

    In this remarkable study based on more than two years of ethnographic and archival research, Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar argues that the combined interventions of the two postcolonial states were enormously important in shaping these massive displacements. She examines the long, contentious, and ambivalent process of drawing political boundaries and making distinct nation-states in the midst of this historic chaos.

    Zamindar crosses political and conceptual boundaries to bring together oral histories with north Indian Muslim families divided between the two cities of Delhi and Karachi with extensive archival research in previously unexamined Urdu newspapers and government records of India and Pakistan. She juxtaposes the experiences of ordinary people against the bureaucratic interventions of both postcolonial states to manage and control refugees and administer refugee property. As a result, she reveals the surprising history of the making of the western Indo-Pak border, one of the most highly surveillanced in the world, which came to be instituted in response to this refugee crisis, in order to construct national difference where it was the most blurred.

    In particular, Zamindar examines the "Muslim question" at the heart of Partition. From the margins and silences of national histories, she draws out the resistance, bewilderment, and marginalization of north Indian Muslims as they came to be pushed out and divided by both emergent nation-states. It is here that Zamindar asks us to stretch our understanding of "Partition violence" to include this long, and in some sense ongoing, bureaucratic violence of postcolonial nationhood, and to place Partition at the heart of a twentieth century of border-making and nation-state formation.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51101-8
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Translations/Transliterations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: The Place of Partition
    (pp. 1-16)

    In our maps of the world the bit of earth with no name simply disappears. It folds into a black, impenetrable line. Let me begin with Ghulam Ali’s story as a way of unfolding this history, drawing out lives from lines, untended margins from marked places.

    Ghulam Ali was a subaltern officer in the British Indian Army, an havildar, who had been sent to receive technical training in artificial-limb making in Britain during the closing years of the Second World War. When he returned, he was posted at the military workshops in Chaklala, near Rawalpindi. On June 3, 1947, a...

  7. The Making of Refugees, 1947

    • 1. Muslim Exodus from Delhi
      (pp. 19-44)

      Some of the most indelible images of Partition are those of the historic train and foot convoys, the old and the young huddled together, carrying few if any belongings, hoping to reach their destinations in safety. But this sheer fact of terror and mass displacement alone did not create the figure of the refugee. When people left their homes, when their “familiar way-of-being in the world”² was disrupted by violence, fear, or uncertainty, it was not necessarily with the prospect of permanent displacement. The making of refugees was not “a onetime set of events bounded in time and space,”³ but...

    • 2. Hindu Exodus from Karachi
      (pp. 45-76)

      As refugees from Purana Qila and other “Muslim refugee camps” in Delhi boarded trains to Pakistan, most of them made their way to Karachi, Pakistan’s new capital in the province of Sind. In Pakistan, Muslim refugees came to be officially called “muhajirs.”² Although the specific Urdu word for refugees is panaghir (the seeker of panah or refuge), the word muhajir, which means both migrant and refugee, invoked the migration of Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in a.d. 622. Naming Muslim refugees who came to Pakistan muhajirs has been interpreted as an attempt to ideologically reinforce Muslim...

  8. Moving People, Immovable Property

    • 3. Refugees, Boundaries, Citizens
      (pp. 79-119)

      In the previous chapters I attempted to open up the categorical closure that accompanies Partition’s indelible images, of Hindu and Sikh refugees moving to India and Muslim refugees to Pakistan, by examining the contingent and uncertain conditions in which they moved. Yet the power of these images in a national ordering has been such that I was surprised when I discovered that in 1948 the tide turned, and large numbers of north Indian Muslim refugees began to return to their homes in India. This return had enormous significance, for the first restrictions on movement in the region came in the...

    • 4. Economies of Displacement
      (pp. 120-158)

      The displaced of the Partition, both “Muslim refugees” and “non-Muslim refugees,” lost their homes. This loss cannot be underestimated in the making of Partition’s new nations. After people took flight they were unable to return to their homes because those houses had come to be occupied by others. The laws that came to govern the leaving and occupation of homes were the evacuee property legislations.

      As we have seen, the Custodian of Evacuee Property was initially set up to protect the properties of the displaced, the “evacuees,” until such time that they could return to them. Thus it is ironic...

  9. Imagined Limits, Unimaginable Nations

    • 5. Passports and Boundaries
      (pp. 161-189)

      If the permit system was meant to bring closure to Partition’s displacements, it was not an effective measure for the Pakistani state. The discursive claim of being a Muslim homeland meant that when an “illegal” border crossing emerged in the Sind desert, at Khokrapar, and thousands of Muslims from India, particularly from UP, began to pour through it, the state was unable to acquire the legitimacy to seal it. Thus, just as the permit system was instituted by the Indian government to stem the return of north Indian Muslims back to their homes, the passport system was introduced between the...

    • 6. The Phantasm of Passports
      (pp. 190-226)

      The shift from the technology of permits to that of passports for controlling the movement of people was an extraordinarily important one. If defining the nations of divided South Asia was to achieve categorical closure, the emergence of passports served to distinguish citizens from aliens, nationals from foreigners, in the midst of an historical mess and a landscape of shifting identities. However, as a successor to permits, the passport had to be made to function as a travel document and a certificate of citizenship. This relationship between passports and citizenship could not be taken for granted, for it had to...

  10. In Conclusion

    • 7. Moving Boundaries
      (pp. 229-240)

      In some sense we know much more about the ways in which colonial institutions and knowledge shaped “Hindu” and “Muslim” identities, and constructed communalism as an essentialized character of India. But what are the ways in which Partition drew the categories of “Hindu” and “Muslim” (and “Sikh”) into the vortex of nation-state formation? I have tried to track some of the institutional sites in which “Hindu and Sikh refugees” and “Muslim refugees” folded into the distinction of “India” and “Pakistan,” and the considerable labor of two postcolonial states to map identities, geographies, and histories into bounded nations. We cannot understand...

  11. Abbreviations in Notes
    (pp. 241-242)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 243-268)
  13. Selected Glossary
    (pp. 269-270)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-278)
  15. Index
    (pp. 279-288)