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Book focuses on women’s travails

January 15, 2018

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LAHORE: The book “From the ashes of 1947: Re-imagining Punjab” by Pippa Virdee has brought to light the sufferings the women from both sides had to face during Partition, says senior research fellow at NIHCR Quaid-i-Azam University and Editor of Pakistan Journal of History and Culture (PJHC), Dr Sajid Mehmood Awan.

Speaking to participants in a debate on the book at the second edition of the Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest at Alhamra on Sunday, Dr Awan said writer Pippa Virdee focussed on the tragedies of the women during Partition.

“Earlier Urvishi Batla had written on the brutalities faced by the women on the Indian side and not Pakistan’s side,” he said.

Dr Awan said the book revealed that women from both sides had gone through similar types of brutalities. “We have learnt the history of kings (elite class) but this book is revealing the sufferings of commoners.”

He said the book had also changed dynamics of Partition from national to regional and it focussed on the sufferings of the people from both sides of Punjab.

Dr Awan said it also drew a comparison between Lyallpur (Faisalabad) and Ludhiana and how the people were skilled and [how they] built their cities and brought about industrial revolution in their respective areas.

He said Pippa was of the view that “memories construct history” but the book and his (Awan’s) personal experience suggests that “history constructs memories of two nations.”

He said the rulers had consciously divided Punjab and given Lahore to Pakistan and Amritsar to India. Later, Punjab was further divided into states.

“We witnessed during India-Pakistan wars that only Punjab of both sides were fighting with each other,” he said while adding that only normal relation between Punjabs could normalise the relation between India and Pakistan.

Pippa Virdee said although the Partition had brought about many bad things, at the same time a princely state - Malerkotla - during the British era had not affected by Partition.

She said the princely state did not allow its residents especially Muslims to migrate to Pakistan. “The state had provided us an example of coexistence,” she said.

Virdee said after Partition, the Muslim population increased from 55 to 85 per cent in the state because it welcomed other Muslims and asked them to live there.

Moderator Afzal Saahir, a poet and Radio host, said one could also get some brutal accounts of the Partition from the poems and ghazals of different poets including Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Balrah Sani.

He said Saadat Hassan Manto’s writings had also highlighted scary events of the Partition.

“Mostly history writers focused on men’s condition and the Re-imagining Punjab showed what women faced during Partition,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2018