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Enduring Interest in Partition

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

Edited by Ian Talbot
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2009, pp. xix + 523, Rs. 450.00

Edited by Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2009, 2009, pp. xvii + 206, Rs.695.00

Edited by Ira Pande
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2009, pp. x + 380, Rs. 495.00


Events and people around the partition of India continue to have an enduring interest and evoke strong reactions in India and Paki- stan. The furore around Jaswant Singh’s work on Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his subsequent expulsion from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier this year provides ample proof of how the subcontinent’s media, the general discourse in the public sphere and its entire politics sometimes revolves around events that happened more than 60 years ago. While the ‘event’ of partition took place in a fixed space in time—August 1947, the ‘process’ of partition is like an elaborate palimpsest, its multilayering providing febrile ground for social scientists, journalists, politicians, artists and myriad other people to continue attempting interpretations of fundamental questions. The three books under review add to the debate by asking new questions as well as reopening older debates. Two of the books, Pakistan: A Modern History and The Partition of India have been authored by Ian Talbot. The second one has been co-authored by Gurharpal Singh as well while the third, an edited collection called The Great Divide: India and Pakistan has been brought out by the India International Centre and edited by Ira Pande. While the first two books are serious academic works, the third is more of a general reading with short essays on a variety of topics.The partition has been the consistent concern of Ian Talbot who has published extensively on partition and has, in his past works, tried to extend the scope of partition studies in several directions moving beyond its traditional understandings. Talbot has also published on the Punjab earlier. In his voluminous work under review on the modern history of Pakistan, Talbot has extended his concern with partition and Punjab to write a first rate political history of Pakistan. The book under review is a third edition of his successful work on the political history of Pakistan. (The first edition of the book was published in 1998). Talbot’s Pakistan traces the history of that country from the time of its founding until the post-Musharraf period and argues consistently that Pakistan ‘for much of its history has been a state searching for a national identity’. He makes this statement right at the beginning of his book and argues that the various reasons that could have been responsible for keeping that nation together, including Islam, have failed. One of the primary reasons ...

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