The other partition

Some years ago, Jasodhara Bagchi of Jadavpur University and Subhoranjan Dasgupta of the Institute of Development Studies put together The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India. The book had a special "focus on what women experienced, felt and witnessed. Weaving together the voices of many women and incisive analysis, the book provides an invaluable discussion on displacement, rape, loss and why women pay the price, and it thus traces the strenuous triumph attained in the crucible of suffering.

The trauma of the partition in Eastern India is discussed explicitly in a way that has not happened before. Drawing upon interviews with women who were uprooted from old East Bengal in 1947, on diaries, memoirs and creative literature, the editors lift the 'veil of silence' that has surrounded partition. The book weaves together analysis, interviews, translations of creative work and documents to build up an accurate picture of the times. The lack of overt public discourse has meant that people outside Bengal have tended to believe that the impact was very much less on the people in the eastern region. In truth the sufferings, the loss of life and livelihoods and of shelter were very real but of a different nature from the fast-moving horror of the Punjab. It was more like an oozing wound that seemed not to heal than a one-time clear severance of a limb; indeed, an ongoing process, as the book reveals."

This year, Stree, Kolkata bring out The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India, Vol. 2, edited by Bagchi, Dasgupta, now with Subhasri Ghosh of Swayam.

This new book "continues the discussion on partition in the eastern region, focusing more fully on both East Bengal and West Bengal . The editors have been guided by the intention ‘to incorporate as much of the Muslim voices and experiences often taking place on the other side of the divide, that is, erstwhile East Pakistan or present-day Bangladesh.’ They have also called attention to the lives of some Muslim women residing in West Bengal.

Part I begins with short stories from both sides of the border, which share common themes of grief and conflict. Part II presents reminiscences that support the narrative of the short stories, offering stories of survival struggles, of a grandmother’s desperate flight to safety, of the reflections on space and identity, of a Hindu woman’s migration from Calcutta to East Pakistan, to Calcutta, and then to Canada. Two thought-provoking pieces are situated wholly in East Pakistan: on a Hindu professor and his family’s decision to remain in Dhaka , witness to the later War of Liberation. The second is an account of Kaloibibi, the remarkable woman leader of the Nankar rebellion, in Sylhet, 1949-50.

Part III, Interviews, capture the intricate nature of migration and of non-migration, covering Hindus who moved from East Bengal, Muslims of West Bengal who moved to and those who chose to remain. Part IV presents a screenplay of an elderly couple who return to their old home in Bangladesh. Part V takes the reader to interviews in the Permanent Liability camps that still hold the original refugees of partition, dwelling on the implications of the failures of state policy. Of special interest is the study from two villages where the voices of the women of the minority community can be clearly heard. Finally, Part VI offers extracts from state documents, 1946-57, on the themes of communal violence, of the abduction of women, and their rehabilitation."

In our Gender and Culture sections.
Vol 1, Rs. 350, 272 pages. Hardcover, ISBN: 9788185604558
Vol 2, Rs. 550, 298 pages. Hardcover, ISBN: 9788185604985

Comments