CV BHUVANESWARI DIGS OUT URVASHI BUTALIAalt39S BOOK -THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE -THAT RECOUNTS AND DOCUMENTS THE HUMAN DRAMA BEHIND THE TRAGEDY OF PARTITION.
Partition was the dark side of Independence,” comments Urvashi Butalia.
The joy of the arrival of Independence for India was marred by the ugly Siamese twin, the Partition that accompanied it. Millions lost their lives; the violence and trauma thousands of women were subjected to were beyond the imagination of civilised society.
One of the most disturbing, painful chapters in the history of the nation, Independence for India came with a heavy price tag; these men and women paid it; with their lives. They are the true martyrs, the unsung heroes and heroines of independence.
Yet, observes Urvashi Butalia,”… there is no institutional memory of partition… There is nothing at the border that marks it as a place where millions of people crossed.” Urvashi Butalias oral narratives on Partition namely The Other Side of Silence, tries to capture and document the human drama behind the huge tragedy. Rereading it on the eve of Independence would be recalling the memories and remembering the sacrifices of those innocents, harmless, helpless people who made the country a reality with their lives. In most of the written historical accounts of partition, says the author, ” the people are just numbers, or mere sources of information.” History should highlight, ” How families were divided, how people cooped with the trauma, how they rebuilt their lives.” Womens humiliation in Partition was not confined to rape alone, but a series of other traumatic and agonising experiences. And in none of these matters the women had any say. They were simply objects transported, someone else holding the reigns of their movements.
A whole generation of women were destroyed by Partition.” Observes Butalia: A whole generation of women lived with the shining in their eyes disappeared.
Dayavanti, a middle class woman in Lahore, had to face an old age and death she didnalt39t deserve. She had nine children, but after partition was forced to live with a single son in Pakistan. He didnalt39t allow her to leave for India. She was converted to Islam; she had lost her memory, died in 1956, nine years after partition. Butalia asks, ” Did she think they had all abandoned her? When partition came, chances are that Dayavanti did not know what was happening… Will history be answerable for Dayavantis life and death?” Women had to face danger to their lives even from the men of their own community. Often men killed their own women; daughters, sisters, mothers, daughters in law, so that they would be alt39 safealt39 from the polluted touch of the alt39 otheralt39. And these women were given martyrdom. Mangal Singh, a Sikh carried on his hand the blood of seventeen women of his family when he crossed the border. He reports, “… women and children would not have been able to cross the water. So we killed seventeen of our family members, seventeen lives – our hearts were heavy with grief for them. We travelled, laden with sorrow, not a paisa to call our own, not a bite of food to eat.” Honour and faith would make a woman do anything. There are stories of women voluntarily committing mass suicide, jumping into wells. Basant Kaur was a survivor from such an act. She says, “… they decided to kill the girls. Everyone was given a bit of afim… Mata Lajjawanti had a well near her house… all of us jumped into that… the well filled up, and we could not drown.” One of the greatest consequences of partition was the splitting of families. The story of Rana, Dayavantis last son is poignant.
Reaching old age, he led a life torn, guilty, a picture of pity and remorse; in the end, an alien to his own family, a recluse in his own house. He converted to Islam, manipulated things so that he could occupy the big family house in Lahore. The same house later choked him. He lived in it like a trapped animal.
Yet there is hope and sunshine in some stories. Subhadra Butalia forg