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Rewriting History: The History of Partition Revisited
By: SDPI

Partner: Heinrich Boll Foundation

Duration: 2008-09

Background:

It is commonly believed that three histories exist in our part of the world. The one that is told and taught in Pakistan, the second that is told and taught in India and Bangladesh, and the third which is neither told and taught here, nor across border. In order to highlight the third type of history, the SDPI team started a research project, ‘Rewriting History Project’ that was funded by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Pakistan.

Objective:

The project reflected the personal memories of a generation that witnessed the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the 1971 liberation War of Bangladesh. The Project addressed questions surrounding the massacre and migration after Partition; the establishment, nature and stability of Bangladesh, especially in regards to political and external agents and communities who were uprooted both in 1947 and 1971, such as the Bihari community, and the role of minorities in saving lives and promoting interfaith harmony. The aims of the project were to record and develop a more comprehensive knowledge base regarding these questions and to gain first hand understanding of the situation through oral history and ethnography. In Pakistan the emphasis was on the Mohajir community in Sindh and Punjabi refugees in Punjab; in Bangladesh it was on refugees from both West Bengal and Bihar who migrated from India to East Bengal in 1947, and then from Bangladesh to Pakistan after 1971.

Output:

Literature review and extensive field work in Pakistan was conducted in the first phase. The second phase of the project, included wider fieldwork across Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and expanded publications, including a series of video documentaries. Two publications were produced, ‘Reconstructing History Memories, Migrants and Minorities’, including an introduction from renowned Pakistan specialist, Dr. Ian Talbot of the University of Southampton, and ‘The Land of Two Partitions and Beyond’, which consisted of three working papers. Three video documentaries were produced, ‘1947: Through the Sixth River’, ‘1971: Violence, Voices and Silence’ and ‘Religious Minorities: They are not “others” (1947-2008)’. The research was also disseminated in two panels at SDPI’s Sustainable Development Conference 2008.