Independence Days and Partition

British India Including Princely States
Indian and Pakistani Independence days are both being celebrated this weekend.  But the disillusion of the British empire in India is marked by more than just celebration.   During Partition, 64 years ago, 10 to 15 million people left their homes behind in India or Pakistan, fleeing to the opposite country.  In this massive upheaval 1 to 2 million people lost their lives.  Although one of the most significant events in 20th century world history, many Americans know little to nothing about it.

The number of people who witnessed Partition is dwindling, yet comparatively little has been done to record their stories in comparison to the work done to preserve the experiences of those who survived the events of WWII, including the Holocaust and Hiroshima.  One non-profit based in Berkeley, however, is trying to change this.  

Margaret Bourke-White Image of Partition
I stumbled on The 1947 Partition Archive in the midst of some internet research and was amazed at the work they're doing.  The 1947 Partition  Archive is working to take oral histories from survivors of Partition from across the South Asian American community in the Bay Area (as well as many countries around the world) and digitally archive them for use by historians and future generations.  Founded by Dr. Guneeta Singh Bhalla, who was moved after a trip to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial to preserve the history of Partition, this non-profit has collected 175 stories and expanded to 60 volunteers in the course of the past year.  I'm happy to say I'm now helping them with grant writing.  While I'm swayed by their mission, I'm particularly moved by their commitment to collecting balanced stories from all religious backgrounds.  Their work is creating greater understanding between groups with deep historical divisions.  And they're connecting younger generations in the South Asian American community to their elders by training them in taking oral histories and having them conducting interviews as volunteers.

Nehru and Jinnah
If you don't know about Partition, take a few minutes to learn something about it.  Pause for a moment and think about the impact this event has had on families now spread across the world.  If you or a family member has experienced Partition, consider giving an interview to the 1947 Partition Archive to preserve this history for future generations.  And if you're moved to help, consider volunteering or donating to the 1947 Partition Archive.  

Here's an interview posted on Bay Area Desi with Dr. Guneeta Singh Bhalla and Natasha Goldie, a founding board member, about the work they're doing.  And you can also read about their work in today's Oakland Tribune.