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'A Contemporary Widening of Partition Studies'


Gyanesh Kudaisya

THE PARTITION OF INDIA
By Anita Inder Singh
National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 91, Rs. 35.00


By Amtul Hassan
2006, pp. 139, Rs. 260.00

THE BURDEN OF REFUGE: THE SINDHI HINDUS OF GUJARAT
By Rita Kothari
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2007, pp. 207, Rs. 675.00

DIVIDED CITIES: PARTITION AND ITS AFTERMATH IN LAHORE AND AMRITSAR 1947-57,
By Ian Talbot
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2006, pp. 224, Rs. 495.00

PARTITION AND THE SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA: EXTENDING THE SUBCONTINENT
By Papiya Ghosh
Routledge, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 286, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 2 February 2008

Scholars of modern South Asian history are familiar with Professor Anita Inder Singh’s pioneering work The Origins of India’s Partition, published in 1987. While the earlier work was aimed at the specialist, this short new book published by the National Book Trust is addressed to the general public. It provides a historical narrative which is readable and deals with several important questions which confound and confuse many about partition. It provides an accurate chronological account, anchored in critical understanding of the events that led to partition in 1947.   Singh begins by attempting to situate various 20th century ‘Partitions’ in their larger international contexts before leading us into the story of India’s partition. She highlights the ‘imperial’ nature of partition(s) as a form of decolonization by citing examples of Palestine, Cyprus and Ireland. In looking at the Indian case-story, she highlights ‘how and why the combination of British interests, and political division between Indian parties brought about the partition of British India, ostensibly on a religious basis’ (p. 4). In Chapter 2 she questions some of the descriptive categories associated with narratives of partition such as ‘minorities’ and ‘majorities’, ‘secularism’ and ‘communalism’, the ‘Hindu-Muslim problem’ and so on. She then clearly identifies some of these questions: Who bears ‘responsibility’ for partition? Was partition the inevitable result of the Hindu-Muslim divide or the result of the British policy of divide and rule? Why did agreement elude the Congress and the Muslim League to the brink of civil war? What alternatives existed to avoid the partition? Singh goes on in her narrative to try to provide answers to some of these questions.   This is done by providing a carefully constructed chronology of developments between 1937 and 1947 and focusing closely on high politics of the three parties involved, namely the British, the Congress and the Muslim League headed by Jinnah. Singh looks upon the elections of 1937 as a turning point, after which the Congress, having emerged as an all-India party, went on to compete with the Muslim League. She reveals the different approaches that the Congress and the League had towards the ‘communal problem’. For Nehru and the Congress it was a ‘side issue’, merely a hindrance in the struggle to secure Indian independence from the British, whereas for Jinnah, it represented the main political question of ‘securing political safeguards for the identity and culture of the Muslim minority which made it a separate entity ...


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