Spec­ta­cle blurs real­ity

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - All That Matters -

Sa­garika Ghose has made an ex­tremely valid point in ‘Howdy Modi: Spec­ta­cle diplo­macy can be a let­down with­out real gains’ (ATM, Septem­ber 29) by high­light­ing that spec­ta­cle diplo­macy hides real is­sues. The re­cent US visit of the PM hardly had any sub­stan­tial gains for the coun­try, but only sym­bol­ism. Not even the much an­tic­i­pated trade deal could be signed be­tween the two sides.

Fateh Na­ja­mud­din,

There are count­less fam­i­lies all over north­ern and west­ern In­dia who were once cat­e­gorised as refugees from what is now Pak­istan. Lakhs of in­di­vid­u­als left their an­ces­tral homes and made a new be­gin­ning in in­de­pen­dent In­dia. Their his­to­ries have been doc­u­mented, and there is even a mu­seum in Am­rit­sar that com­mem­o­rates the mi­gra­tion.

Over the decades, these erst­while refugees have not only been seam­lessly in­te­grated but many have risen spec­tac­u­larly. One former refugee — Dr Man­mo­han Singh — rose to be­come Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia and an­other — L K Ad­vani — be­came Deputy Prime Min­is­ter. What dis­tin­guishes the refugees from the rest to­day are fam­ily mem­o­ries and the oc­ca­sional sense of loss.

If to­day, some­one was to tell a Pun­jabi or Sindhi de­scen­dant of a refugee fam­ily that there is a like­li­hood of them be­ing de­ported to Pak­istan, t hey would be laughed out of court. Apart from the sheer ab­sur­dity of be­ing forcibly trans­ported to a Pak­istan that has changed un­recog­nis­ably, the In­dian-ness of yes­ter­day’s refugees from Pak­istan has never been doubted.

There is, how­ever, a de­tail that tends to be over­looked in the dis­course over the di­vi­sion of In­dia: there were two par­ti­tions, one of which was in the east. The tragedy of those who fled their homes in erst­while East Pak­istan has been mar­ginal to the pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive. The rea­sons for this ne­glect are worth re­stat­ing. Firstly, the ex­o­dus didn’t hap­pen all at once. The Hindu mi­gra­tion from East Pak­istan be­gan in 1947 and con­tin­ued in waves right un­til the for­ma­tion of Bangladesh in 1971. Sub­se­quently, it has be­come a trickle but still con­tin­ues.

Se­condly, the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grammes for refugees in north­ern In­dia wasn’t com­ple­mented by sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives in the east. Ben­gali Hindu refugees suf­fered from of­fi­cial ne­glect so much so that a ‘refugee prob­lem’ per­sists to this day in parts of West Ben­gal, As­sam and Tripura.

Thirdly, thanks to the mis­placed Nehru-Li­aquat Pact of 1950, New Delhi lived, at least un­til 1972, with the delu­sion that the ex­o­dus was one of tem­po­rary dis­place­ment and that the refugees would soon re­turn to their orig­i­nal homes. Syama Prasad Mook­er­jee had re­signed from the Nehru Cab­i­net in protest against

Getty Im­ages

NO FO­CUS ON THEM: The tragedy of those who fled their homes in erst­while East Pak­istan has been mar­ginal to the pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive

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