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Guest-Editorial – India at 70: The Many Partitions

By Bhaswati Ghosh

India turns 70 this year. So does her fraught twin, Pakistan. The separation was painful. Its tumultuous aftermath continues to bear scars. Wars with outsiders have been won and lost while inside, several battles rage. Dalits make up more than a quarter of the country’s population, yet remain the most marginalized and oppressed of communities. Parts of the country remain in siege, under military control. Minorities live in a state of fear even as acts of public lynching are carried out with disturbing frequency.

In this special issue of Cafe Dissensus, we look at the many partitions – figurative and literal –that India continues to grapple with as it steps into its 70th year of freedom.

Partition wasn’t a one-time event. As Debjani Sengupta recalls in her memoir essay, it changed families and a whole city in the decades to follow.

Subhasri Ghosh speaks with East Bengali refugee women in West Bengal to understand the nostalgia and the trauma in their reminiscences.

Binayak Dutta and Suranjana Choudhury examine how the northeast, caught in the crossfire of the division of India’s eastern part, became a stepchild of Partition.

A close reading of Saadat Hasan Manto’s “The Dog of Tithwal” enables Susan Haris to sensitively question the largely anthropocentric lens through which Partition is viewed and projected…

…While Sohini Chakraborty turns her gaze to the objects and artefacts that got left behind or became the leftovers of Partition.

Nitasha Kaul’s photo-essay on the volatile situation in Kashmir is a searing ground-zero chronicling of a region where cries of “azaadi” keep getting louder as ordinary citizens are faced with brutal state repression.

Anindita Chakrabarty and Sahana Ghosh bring us closer to the on-the-edge existences of Bangladeshi migrants in West Bengal and those taking part in the India-Bangladesh exchange of enclaves, which began in 2015.

Ekata Bakshi’s critical reading of Dalit autobiographies brings to light not only the plight but the assertion of the Dalit voice in the socio-cultural and political landscape.

It’s a narrative that Vidya Bhushan Rawat sees in the rising assertion of Dalit forces to counter centuries of Brahminical dominance.

John Dayal takes a hard look at the increasing polarisation of the country since the BJP’s coming to power in 2014.

Nandini Ghosh questions the soundness of the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and argues against the patronizing nomenclature, “Divyang” for people with disabilities.

In a deeply felt personal essay, Sabiha Farhat cautions against the dangerous trend of dividing citizens based on superior notions of majoritarianism.

And yet, despite the cracks along the fault lines, hope endures.

Sana Khan revisits Manto’s works to find answers to some of the toughest questions – of narrow fanaticism and erosion of humanity – facing India today.

Jayshree Shukla’s empathetic eye leads her and her camera to the alleys and smiles that hide a Delhi within Delhi – a Delhi that celebrates plurality and differences.

As we look ahead to the next seven decades, our focus with this issue is to seek a closer understanding of what causes the many partitions within India and the forces that keep these differences in place for petty, short-term gains.

As one of the greatest poets of the subcontinent said in August 1947:

Abhi garaani-e-shab mein kami nahin aayi

Najaat-e-deedaa-o-dil ki ghadi nahin aayi

Chale chalo ki woh manzil abhi nahin aayi”

“Night weighs us down, it still weighs us down.

Friends, come away from this false light.  Come, we must

search for that promised Dawn.”

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Subh-e-Azaadi/The Dawn of Freedom (Translation: Agha Shahid Ali)

Photo-credit: Bhaswati Ghosh

Guest-Editor:
Bhaswati Ghosh
writes and translates fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She is the Editor-at-Large at Cafe Dissensus. Her website is: https://bhaswatighosh.com/

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For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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