Unresolved Partition Story

India gained independence in 1947, with a division of India and Pakistan, the fallout of nearly two hundred years of Colonial Rule. Since then various issues cropped since partition time as it was done in haste by the British.  The border issue with neighbouring countries and the migration of people into each other territory is a perennial issue to the country. The most important creation by the colonial ruler is the division of Hindu and Muslims on religious faith thrashing the centuries-old harmony of peaceful existence.

The tragic story of India’s partition was the division of Bengal province. The Bengal region has a recorded history of four millennia with rich and cultural social moorings. Though Bengal was divided, the two sides have a conspicuous commonality of language, identity, and religion because of their shared pasts and inextricably entwined futures.  Just before the 1947 Partition that triggered the displacement of fifteen million people and took more than one million lives, the Boundary Commission, a consultative committee was created in July 1947 to recommend how the Punjab and Bengal regions of the Indian subcontinent were to be divided between India and Pakistan on the eve of their independence. Unfortunately, the commission did a perfunctory job. It never consulted local people of the demarcated area of went for any referendum in the new map-making process. Its short-sightedness gave rise to many unresolved issues that continue to plague after seventy-two years of the partition, snowballing into a menace to the survival of the affected people.

I’m a descendant of a refugee family from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) part of Bengal province during British rule, was a vast land of various creeds, cultures and a common language Bangla. The border changed the social fabric of the vast land with a new nationality with a strong sectarian belief. Since then the border denotes heavily guarded by paramilitary forces; human rights abuse and suspicions. My project is the exploration of borders and its impact on the lives of the border people, where one’s own national identity is debatable. It raises the critical questions about the idea of border is enforced, the complexities of history, culture and nationalists imaginary. With the project on the Partition stories to highlight the plight of the affected people of the Bengal region and tried to underscore the unresolved Partition policy concerning the Bloodiest Border and the Sons of the Soil and  The Enclaves that continue to afflict communities.

The Bloodiest Border

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Extrajudicial killings, torture, abduction are the main features of the international border are in the Bengal region. In the Bengal region, the border runs between the Bengal state in India and Bangladesh. It’s a daily affair by the Border Security Force of India (BSF) in this region even which extends inroads into Bangladesh. The security forces enjoy the impunity while the locals of the places cry foul of the injustice. As the security force enjoys a special power of impunity to be only prosecuted in the BSF court only. The Human Rights Watch ruefully commented on this “Trigger Happy excessive use of force” of the security persons. The killings and torture are not limited to Indians but Bangladeshis too. The border region is peopled, in the main, with an economically backwards agrarian community on both sides. Many locals are employed with cross border smuggling particularly of bovine. The reason for BSF firing and killing is to protect the country from the external intrusion of foreign nationals. This justifies the killings of Indian nationals as the security forces see them working for hand in glove with Bangladeshi nationals. Even BSF has an understanding with the local politicians and police in cross-border smuggling. The killing is of communal. Bangladesh is a Muslim country and a friendly neighbour while most of the locals on both sides of the border are Muslims. To thwart Muslim migration, the killing and torture continue. Historically, the Bengal region during the British rule was a single province, but the partition divided the region into two separate states. People have common looks and speak the same language Bangla of this region with the similarity of religion, culture and tradition, where familial relations are spread across this land. Here It’s impossible and inhuman to completely segregate the border people. With little understanding of the history of the region, BSF justifies their atrocities. Their agony is ignored and unnoticed as the approach of the security forces to the people in this area is always with deep suspicion and ruthlessness.

The Enclaves

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Centuries ago the Enclaves or Chitmohol in local language were used as stakes in a card or chess games between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Maharaja of Rangpur currently were in India and Bangladesh respectively. These are like islands of Indian and Bangladeshi territory surrounded by the other country’s land, clustered on either side of the international border.

In June 1947, the British India Government appointed Sir Cyril Radcliffe for the boundary demarcation of the two new sovereign states – India and Pakistan. But Radcliffe and other commission members lack the expert knowledge and information needed for the task of boundary demarcation. Soon after the independence, the problem arises of Enclaves placed in no man’s land.

Finally, on 1st August in 2015, the Enclaves were merged to India and Bangladesh where people get citizenship status of their chosen country. So it was the end of apathy and disownment.

Sons of the Soil

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At the end of July 2019, the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) declared that in the Assam state of India, nearly two million are ‘foreigners’ or illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Either they have to be deported or to be placed under detention camps in the state. Later in the same year, the Government of India had passed the Citizenship Act in Parliament to gain access to the citizens of various religions other than Muslims from the neighbouring countries. Both the issue is against the constitution of India, which proclaim secularism and rights to every individual irrespective of religion. The NRC and the Act, in Assam, are being targeted towards the Bengali community who are subjected to ‘illegal immigrants’ by the Assamese chauvinistic class.

The hatred policy of the Assaseme people and the state is the reason for apartheid that breaches the constitutional guarantee of the Bengali speaking people in India, who are not treated the same as other Indian citizens. The United Nations twice sought clarification on this issue from the Indian Government but nothing was reported.

Assam is a multi-ethnicity state where Bengali speaking people constitutes a large population. Since India’s independence, there is growing discontent in Assam over the Bengali-speaking people. There are incidents of state-sponsored killings, slaughter and torture on these people. Gradually various measures have been enforced to diminish the rights of the Bengali-speaking population. Currently, more than a hundred thousand people are taken off of the electoral roster and thousands of people are in detention centres without trial. The militant approach of the state and its officials are in gross violation of the human rights of its citizens. The Assam government already spent forty-five million US dollars on the largest detention centre in the country which is under construction. The situation is so bad that sixty-seven people have committed suicide to avoid unlawful detention and deportation, despite the fact that they are Indian citizens.

I’m an Indian citizen by birth, my parents migrated from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in fear of religious persecution to settle in Calcutta, India. The country has a history of migration over millennia. The British policy, India’s independence and political development in South East-Asia forced the Bengali speaking people to migrate in Assam. A century later it is xenophobic of Bengali speaking people. Only catastrophic incidents of the community are ever heard globally, such as the slaughter of three thousand Bengali-speaking people in 1983. I belong to the Bengali community and their suffering aggravates my pain. So the journalistic approach will be from my personal perspective as a descendant of a Bengali refugee family.