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Analysing Everyday Forms of the Past


Sudhanya Dasgupta Mukherjee

SINCE 1947: PARTITION NARRATIVES AMONG PUNJABI MIGRANTS OF DELHI
By Ravinder Kaur
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 277, Rs. 550.00

PERSPECTIVES OF THE PARTITION FICTION IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
Edited by Tejinder Kaur, Kulbhushan Kushal, N.K Neb
Nirman Publications, Jalandhar, 2007, pp. 352, Rs. 600.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 5 May 2007

The political partition of India in 1947, the violence and the upheaval following it, caused ‘one of the great human convulsions of history’ in Asia and the world and resulted in transnational migration in large proportions.   In the last two decades it has become an acknowledged concern in South Asian scholarship that anxieties of the partition continue to shape and threaten contemporary socio-political relations. New enquiry into partition has moved away from a nationalist account of the event and has tried to probe the ‘people’s history’, through the recall of their lived experiences. These voices have helped to question the monolithic structure of history and bring to the surface the gaps and silences and subtle nuances. Both the books have tried to explore this less charted territory, the first through a well-researched exploration of the phenomenon of migration and its aftermath in Delhi, and the second through an analysis of fictional works on partition that capture the voices of the marginalized.   Ravinder Kaur, a post-doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Society and Globalization, Roskilde University, Denmark, through an analysis of different class, caste and gender experience tries to capture the ‘unprecedented forced migration’ from The North West Frontier Province and West Punjab to Delhi and summarizes a nearly six decade-long efforts at reconstructing lives. ‘The field, substance, and source of this study are formed around the everyday life of the Punjabi migrants in Delhi’, their memories of personal and inherited experiences, interspersed by national histories of partition.   The book begins by examining a more recent conflict over demolition of unauthorized building extensions between the residents of a South Delhi resettlement colony and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 2002 and, through it offers ‘a synoptic glance’ at the study which probes partition migration as a phenomenon which is ‘layered by multiple levels of class, caste and gender experiences’ and a complex process rather than as ‘chaotic, disorderly and hurried’ as represented by the popular narratives. While analysing the personal and collective narratives which Kaur refers to as ‘living monuments’ she introduces interesting categories like ‘everyday forms of the past’ that helps to contextualize and make sense of the present. Terms like ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’, ‘narratives’, ‘discourse’ are discussed at length.   The book is in nine main chapters including the introduction covering the themes of ‘displacement, loss, resettlement and restoration’ over a period of half a century and focuses on how differeing experiences ...


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