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Constructions of violence and recovery of alternatives: Partition and memory in the Indian subcontinent.

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CONSTRUCTIONS OF VIOLENCE AND RECOVERY OF ALTERNATIVES: PARTITION AND MEMORY IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT While we were able to initiate phase one of the research project (prepare a work plan for the field research and data collection from secondary sources as well as select a research assistant) we were unable to follow the timetable outlined in phase II due to two major international events: a. The bombing of Afghanistan as a result of the September 11, 2001 events; b. The India-Pakistan tensions that escalated in May 2002 to an almost war like situation. Given these two situations, it was next to impossible to get respondents to talk about partition when so much direct violence was afoot in their immediate present. This meant that conducting interviews and videotaping these was impossible and therefore the process of transcription and translation was automatically delayed. The interviews in the Punjab were finally completed in September 2002 after the cross-border firing had subsided, although our investigations were still hampered by the suspicious military presence in the area.1 We have had to shelve videotaping because Rehan Ansari has moved to New York and it became difficult to coordinate videotaping in such unpredictable circumstances. Our project examined two important questions and areas for further research in the context of conflict. The first pertains to the issue of shared and divided identities in the context of partition of India. ...read more.


Additionally, the school system also breeds a sense of alienation among the children who cannot relate to the syllabus when the latter denies them their history or denigrates their religion. In the Punjab context, the issue of communal difference and harmony also emerged as salient. The in-depth study of the village in Tehsil Shakargarh that was populated by Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians before partition revealed that people managed to live in harmony before the 1947 events despite a strict maintenance of religious boundaries. In this village, caste rather than religion was the hegemonic identity, whereby Muslims and Sikhs sharing the same Jat bloodline wielded the landed power in the village. All the interviewees claimed that no Muslim or Sikh of their own village and the neighboring 24 villages hurt any of their kinsfolk, regardless of their religion. The violence that triggered the exodus of the Sikhs from this village broke out when a group of young men from the village, of differing religious backgrounds, attacked a household in a neighboring Pathan village to abduct a young woman. The Pathans (who were Muslims but were identified by their ethnicity rather than their religion by our Muslim interviewees) retaliated. Despite the Muslims' successful attempt to save the lives of their Sikh relatives, the insecurity caused the Sikhs to cross the new border that was only a few kilometers away. ...read more.


The importance of interacting with such persons becomes critical as we have been discovering that much of the material that we need in the NWFP context has either been destroyed or not been archived in the Frontier province. To access more records, we would have to go the India Office Library in London. As that is impossible at the moment, the opportunity to discuss various issues that emerge from the qualitative interviews with knowledgeable persons is valuable. Within SDPI, this project has led other researchers to undertake similar research in other parts of the Punjab. We hope that all this will lead to more interesting research outcomes. In terms of tangible results, we produced the following: A data set of 30 interviews translated into English and in the original language of the interviews; Two papers (in progress) to be published as SDPI conflict and security working papers series and as part of the Sustainable Development Conference proceedings. Finally, we carried out two presentations based on the study were made at the Sustainable Development Conference, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2002, as well as another presentation at other regional and international conferences. Two articles are to be published in the University of Dhaka journal, Theoretical Perspectives 1 While there were no reports of loss of human lives, there have been reports of injury and loss of animals as well as crops and livelihoods in Tehsil Shakargarh, the region of our primary site in the Punjab. ...read more.

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