Declare an annual day to mark partition of India, MPs told
The Observer India Declare an annual day to mark partition of India, MPs told Event would celebrate contribution to British society made by south Asians
The television presenter Anita Rani will lead a delegation heading for the House of Commons this week to make the case for an annual day to commemorate the partition of India.
Dr Binita Kane, whose fatherâs harrowing story was among those highlighted in a documentary presented by Rani last year, My Family, P artition and Me, has called for the day to both âremember the cataclysmic events of partition and celebrate the contribution south Asians have made to British societyâ.
Kane, supported by Rani and Virendra Sharma, the Labour MP for Ealing Southall and chair of the Indo-British all-party parliamentary group, will make her case at the Westminster event on Wednesday.
âBefore I took part in the documentary I was a fairly typical second-generation British Asian in that I hadnât taken much notice of my roots,â Kane says. âI knew my fatherâs story but I hadnât considered the human cost or how enormous the consequences of partition were.â
Kaneâs father, Bim, and his family were the only Hindus in a predominantly Muslim village in what would later become Bangladesh. Forced into hiding, they were saved by a Muslim boy who risked his life to smuggle them to safety.
âMy hope is that a day of commemoration will stimulate a much-needed conver sation,â says Kane.
Partition has been described by the Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal as âthe central historical event in 20th-century south Asiaâ, and Rani, who won a 2018 Royal Television Society Award for My Family, Partition and Me, agrees that there is a desperate need to remember an event that saw more than 15 million people uprooted in one of the largest migrations in history, and which led to the deaths of between one and two million, most of them killed in shocking acts of sectaria n violence between the countryâs Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities.
âOne of the reasons I made the original film was because I was really shocked how few people knew about this period of history,â Rani says. âAfter partition, India was too busy celebrating independence, Pakistan was celebrating the birth of nation, Britain was relieved to have been able to cut and run, so no one talked about how theyâd got there and what had happened.
âItâs become this dark stain, but an event such as this could change that. Itâs a way of involving not just the south Asian community but everyone in Britain in a reflection on the past and a conversation about what happened and where we are now.â
And there is evidence of a growing desire throughout the country for such a debate.
âSince I first suggested the idea of a partition commemoration day Iâve been contacted by people from all kinds of backgrounds, young and old, Sikh, Punjabi, Pakistani, Hindu and white,â says Kane.India after partition: then and now â" in pictures Read more
âPeople have said âHow can we move this forward?â and offered their services and asked âCan I get involved?â Itâs really struck me how many people have a personal connection to the events of partition and want to discuss both what happened and what this means to those of us living in Britain now.â
For Kaneâs father, who describes the events of 71 years ago as âlike a raw wound covered with paperâ, an annual event would help people to not only come to terms with the past but also understand how easily the bloody events following partition could occur.
âWe lived in harmony and yet when the spark was lit the whole thing blew up and the hatred and division continues in bits and pieces to this day,â he says. âThis project will allow people to remember the horrible things that happened and to learn from that. It will remind people so that it doesnât happen again.âTopics
- The Observer
- South and Central Asia
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