Home, UprootedOral Histories of India’s Partition

Home, UprootedOral Histories of India’s Partition

Devika Chawla

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780823256433

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

The Indian Independence Act of 1947 granted India freedom from British rule, signaling the formal end of the British Raj in the subcontinent. This freedom, though, came at a price: Partition, the division of the country into India and Pakistan, and the communal riots that followed. These riots resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1 million Hindus and Muslims and the displacement of about 20 million persons on both sides of the border. This watershed socioeconomic-geopolitical moment cast an enduring shadow on India’s relationship with neighboring Pakistan. Presenting a perspective of the middle-class refugees who were forced from their homes, jobs, and lives with the withdrawal of British rule in India, this book delves into the lives of forty-five Partition refugees and their descendants to show how this event continues to shape their lives. The book melds oral histories with current literature to unravel the emergent conceptual nexus of home, travel, and identity in the stories of the participants. The author argues that the ways in which the participants imagine, recollect, memorialize, or “abandon” home in their everyday narratives give us unique insights into how refugee identities are constituted. These stories reveal how migrations are enacted and what home can mean for displaced populations. Blending biography, autobiography, essay, and performative writing, the book includes field narratives with the author’s own family history. This compilation of stories offers an iteration of how diasporic migrations might be enacted and what “home” means to displaced populations.