Project marking 70-year partition anniversary seeks to unite communities

By Reena Kumar

INDIA’S partition evokes painful memories for many who were caught up-in the brutal division of the country and the largest mass migration in human history.

It was a turbulent period where bloody riots and violence resulted in the deaths of and displacement of millions of families.

Now, on the 70th anniversary of the event, a new project is hoping to bring together Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities pitted against each other when the British withdrew from the region.

Through a series of events, the Grand Trunk Road project aims to explore the impact of the partition and highlight the forgotten stories of altruism, bravery and courage.

Jasvir Singh OBE chair of the Faiths Forum for London told Eastern Eye: “The partition led to the displacement of 15 million people and about two million people were killed during that time.

Jasvir Singh OBE

“It’s because of the horror of what happened that it’s important to acknowledge the tragedy and the awful events and mark the event in a way that is non-judgmental.

“We’re trying to bring the various communities together by looking at the shared heritage but also acknowledging the loss.”

Before 1947, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs shared religious festivals and holy sites and in some communities people of one faith would donate money for the upkeep of places of worship of others.

However, following tensions between Muslim and Hindu political parties, the period exposed divisions in the culture of the subcontinent which led to a huge outbreak of sectarian violence.

Communities were uprooted as millions of people left their homes to seek safety, becoming refugees overnight.

Muslims went by foot to West and East Pakistan while Hindus travelled to India, leaving their homes and livelihoods behind.

Brutal violence ripped through the three territories, especially in the border regions of Punjab and Bengal.

Following the launch of the Grand Trunk Road in Guildhall, central London last Tuesday (4), several events will be held across England including a play written by young writers of different faiths exploring the story of the 1948 London Olympics where Pakistan and India met as competing nations.

The project takes its name from one of the oldest and longest roads (1,500 miles), which extends from Kabul in Afghanistan all the way through Lahore in Pakistan, Delhi, Kolkata in West Bengal, India to Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government, audiences will learn
about partition firsthand from those who lived through the violence and displacement.

Minister for faith, Lord Bourne said: “Just as the Grand Trunk Road has tied together India and Pakistan and their diverse cultures and faiths for millennia, this project will highlight the rich history that British Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus share.

“Events will be taking place up and down the country that will bring communities from the subcontinent together, foster new relationships and encourage friends and neighbours to document and share their memories of partition.”

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