Partitions in South Asia

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2HS1104

Semester and Year Offered: Winter / IInd and IVth semesters

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Pallavi Chakravarty

Email of course coordinator: pallavi[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course takes the partition of the Indian subcontinent as the starting point and closely assesses the programme of nation-making in the case of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Beginning with situating ‘partitions’ in a global context, the course intends to focus on the South Asian context specifically by a study of the borders by which these states marked their territory, and then looking at the demarcation of its constituents (refugee/citizen/alien), and finally summarizing how the nation-state emerged herein.

Course Outcomes:

Upon completion of the course, it is expected that the student would be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast Partitions as a global phenomenon, especially in the post-WW2 and decolonisation years.
  2. Examine the immediate and long term consequences of partition of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia
  3. Discuss the continuing presence of the ‘spectre of partition/s’ and thereafter arrive at an argument in favour or against Partitions as a solution to ethnic conflict.
  4. Appreciate the use of alternate sources in historical research.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Partition as an ‘exit strategy’:This module will focus on partitions that took place across the world after the breakdown of the colonial empires. Partitions arising out of retreat of empires and also those emerging out of Cold War conditions or geopolitical factors will be assessed by looking at the following cases: Northern Ireland and Irish Republic, India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, Israel/Palestine, and the cases of Germany, Vietnam and Korea. The idea is to situate the partition of the Indian subcontinent in a global context, and show that whereas it was not uncommon to use partition as a means of decolonisation from the perspective of the coloniser, yet, it was never a final solution to the problems it wished to solve.
  2. Drawing the Borders and Consequences of Cartographic Calculations:This module will look at the discussions involved in the drawing of the border with a special focus on the Indian borders with West and East Pakistan. How the borders got the final shape, how they remain permeable and how they spelt devastation and disruption in the lives of the ‘borderlanders’ (Willem van Schendel’s description of people living in and around the borders) will be the main focus of this module.
  3. Beyond Independence and Partition:This module looks at the consequences of partition in political terms in the post-independent state of India and Pakistan. The focus is on the coming to terms with the event: the view from above ‘administrative consequences of partition’ and the view from below, i.e. displacement, migration, relief, and rehabilitation of refugees. Hence, looking beyond independence and partition as just an event that occurred on 15th August 1947, and instead, to take the story further, as to what happened after this date—to the two new states and its new citizens.
  4. The Legacy of Partition:This module looks at the legacies that partition left behind in social terms with a special focus on India and some reference to the situation in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Looking at India, the focus is on regions—the states bordering Pakistan and Bangladesh. The themes which will be taken up for analysis and further discussion will include—ideas of minority/majority (religion and region); assimilation and amnesia (cities and culture); hope and despair (refugees and new citizens); the margins (caste, gender and refugees).
  5. The Nation-States Emerge: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh This module looks at the final shape in which the three nation-states emerged. While the history of partition entails the study of political division, it also signified the birth of the new nation states. The making of East and West or ‘moth eaten’ Pakistan though reckoned as an achievement in 1947 became a malignant sore with the emergence of Bangladesh (1971). What role does ‘religion’ culture and ‘language’ play in the making of these ethnic states is a question which will be explored in this module. Here we will also look at how contemporary politics are still shaped by the spectre of Partition which has not lost its relevance to this day—communal riots, border disputes, and the ‘right to return’ for a certain group of migrants are themes which will be discussed herein.

Assessment Details with weights:

There are 4 assessment Situations:

  • Thought Piece 1 and 2 (500-1000 word essay to be written in class) (20% weightage)
  • Project Report (a project based on any of the themes from the above mentioned modules)(30% weightage)
  • End Semester Exam (30% weightage)

Reading List:

  • Smita Tewari Jassal and Eyal Ben-Ari (eds), The Partition Motif in Contemporary Conflicts, New Delhi: Sage Publications (2007). pp 19-54.
  • Roy Licklider and Maya Bloom (eds), Living Together After Ethnic Killing: Exploring the Chaim Kaufmann Argument, London: Routledge (2006). Chs 2,3,10.
  • G. G. Deschaumes and Rada Ivekovic (eds), Divided Countries, Separated Cities: The Modern Legacy of Partition. New Delhi: Oxford University (2003). (select case studies)
  • Willem van Schendel, The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia, London: Anthem Press (2005). chs 6,8,9 and 12.
  • Lucy P Chester, Borders And Conflict In South Asia: The Radcliffe Boundary Commission And The Partition Of Punjab, Manchester: Manchester University Press (2009). Chs 1 and 2.
  • Lucy P Chester, ‘Boundary commissions as tools to safeguard British interests at the end of empire’ in Journal of Historical Geography, Vol 34, Issue 3, July 2008, pp 494-515.
  • Joya Chatterji, ‘The Fashioning of a Frontier: The Radcliffe Line and Bengal's Border Landscape, 1947–52’ in Modern Asian Studies, Vol 33, No 1, 1999.
  • Sanjoy Hazarika, Rites of Passage: Border Crossing, Imagined Homelands, India's East and Bangladesh, New Delhi: Penguin (2000).
  • Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Decolonisation in South Asia: Meanings of Freedom in Post-independence West Bengal, 1947-52, London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Chs 1 and 2.
  • Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India New Delhi: Penguin (1998)
  • Joya Chatterji, The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-67, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2007) chs 3 and 4
  • Antara Dutta. Refugees and Borders in South Asia, The Great Exodus of 1971, Routledge, 2013. Chs 2,3,4
  • Taylor C Sherman, William Gould and Sarah Ansari, From Subjects to Citizens, Society and Everyday State in India and Pakistan, 1947-70, Modern Asian Studies special volume, vol 45, part1, January 2011. pp.81-108; 131-178.
  • Tai Yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya, The Aftermath of Partition, London: Routledge (2000) (case studies)
  • Vazira Zamindar, The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia. New York: Columbia University Press (2007) chs 2,3.
  • Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, London: Yale University Press (2007)
  • Jasodhara Bagchi and Subhoranjan Dasgupta (eds), The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India, 2 Vols, Kolkata: Stree (2003 and 2007)
  • Gargi Chakravartty, Coming Out of Partition: Refugee Women of Bengal New Delhi: Bluejay Books (2005)
  • Papiya Ghosh, Partition and South Asian Diaspora: Extending the Subcontinent, London: Routledge (2007)
  • Mushirul Hasan and Asim Roy (eds), Living Together Separately: Cultural India in History and Politics, New Delhi: Oxford University Press (2005)
  • Ravinder Kaur, Since 1947: Partition Narratives among Punjabi Migrants of Delhi, New Delhi: Oxford University Press (2007)
  • Ritu Menon, No Women’s Land: Women From Pakistan, India and Bangladesh Write on Partition of India.
  • Ranabir Samaddar (ed) Reflections on Partition in the East, New Delhi: Vikash Publications (1997)
  • Ian Talbot, Divided Cities: Lahore, Amritsar and the Partition of India, Karachi: Oxford University Press (2006).
  • Sarah Ansari, Life After Partition: Migration, Community and Strife in Sindh, 1947-62, Karachi: OUP (2005)
  • Stephen P Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, New York: Brookings Institution Press (2004) chs 1,2 3 and 6
  • Srinath Raghavan, 1971, A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh, 2013. Chs 1,2.
  • Ayesha Jalal, The Cambridge History of Pakistan, CUP, 2002.
  • Ian Talbot, Pakistan A New History, OUP, 2015
  • Yasmin Saikia, Women War and Making of Bangladesh, Remembering 1971, Duke, 2011.
  • Ranabir Samaddar,(ed). Refugees and the State: Practices of Asylum Care in India,
  • 1947-2000, Calcutta: Mahanirban Research Group, Oxford University Press (2003)
  • Sashank S. Banerjee, India, Mujhibur Rahman, Bangladesh, Liberation and Pakistan, A political treatise,2011.