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Calls for annual day to mark India’s partition


An undated photograph circa 1947-1948 shows
Sikh people eating at a relief camp at Khalsa college in Amritsar
following unrest in the wake of the partition of India and Pakistan (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
An undated photograph circa 1947-1948 shows Sikh people eating at a relief camp at Khalsa college in Amritsar following unrest in the wake of the partition of India and Pakistan (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

by LAUREN CODLING

BRITISH politicians have backed calls for a national day to commemorate the partition of India.

The campaign is due to be launched in parliament this week, with the meeting expected to be led by television presenter Anita Rani, who fronted the BBC documentary My Family, Partition and Me last year.

The delegation, which is supported by Labour MP Virendra Sharma and Dr Binita Kane, whose father’s story was among those featured in the documentary, is hoping to persuade MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday (18) to declare a national day of remembrance annually on August 15.

The partition, which took place after independence in 1947, divided British India into two sovereign countries, India and Pakistan.

More than 15 million people relocated in one of the most widespread and violent migrations in history, with several thousand people killed.

Sharma told Eastern Eye he believed it was important that the UK remembered the role it played in partition, and that children were taught about it at school.

Virendra Sharma MP is supporting calls for a national day to mark Partition

“I don’t think enough effort is taken to ensure children know about Britain’s colonial history. This [partition] is part of that and important for millions of people in the UK today,” Sharma, who represents Ealing Southall and is the chair of the Indo-British All-Party Parliamentary Group, said.

He added that partition had influenced so many family stories within British Asian communities.

“We want a day where the memory of partition is not forgotten and events across the UK mark this important date,” he said.

Rani, who won the Editor’s Special Award at the Eastern Eye ACTA awards last month for her work on the documentary, revealed that the reason for making the film was her shock at discovering how few people knew about the history of partition.

Anita Rani recently won the Editor’s Special Award at the Eastern Eye ACTA awards for her work on a BBC Partition documentary

“After partition, India was busy celebrating independence, Pakistan was celebrating the birth of its nation, Britain was relieved to have been able to cut and run, so no one talked about how they had got there and what had happened,” Rani said.

“It’s [partition] become this dark stain, but an event [rememberance day] such as this could change that. It’s 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.”

Preet Gill, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and the first female British Sikh MP, believes an annual day would be “important” so partition could be remembered and reflected upon.

Preet Gill MP said her family were directed affected by Partition

“Our education system must teach our children about the British Empire, and that includes the divide it created between people and places,” she added.

Gill, whose father and grandparents were directly affected by partition, said she hoped it would not only be those affected who would learn more about the tragic events.

“[An annual day would] not only be for the millions of families affected,” she told Eastern Eye. “But also for future generations, so that we can ensure the mistakes of
the past are not repeated.”