India’s partition happened in 1947 and since then the huge country has been divided into two separate countries with religious violence and waves of communal violence. The independence of the country could never be lived wholeheartedly because it was quickly accompanied by the partition of the Indian subcontinent into East and West Pakistan and India. What followed was communal hostility, erosion of social relations between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. The partition has been the departing blow from the British towards the Indian. The ethnic genocide that happened before and after independence has left millions of people dead, children abducted, people dying out of poverty and homelessness, and uncountable women being raped and victims of honor killing. Among all the violence that took place the worst were in the states filled with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Punjabi’s, In August of 1946, Calcutta, one of the important states of India filled with Hindus and Muslims only who once used to live like brothers, has seen three days of Hindu versus Muslims rioting which had left approximately 5000 dead and 10,000 injured this was the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ and the violence that happened with women among these riots and killings was the last thing that was spoken or given importance since the Independence and the Partition was the bigger picture here.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Women of all ages, ethnic groups, social classes, and from all regions were victims of torture, rape, and humiliation. Some of them were stripped naked and paraded down streets as a symbol of humiliation by one religious community to the other. In many tragic cases fathers, husbands, and other male members of the family fearing that their daughters would be raped or converted to another religion or be a victim of humiliation pressured, coerced the women to kill themselves as honor killing and also sometimes killing the women in their own house by their own hands. Stories about husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons killing their female relatives have been documented sometimes from some survivors themselves who have been a part of that history. The most predictable form of violence experienced by women is when the women of one community are sexually assaulted by the men of others, in an overt assertion of their identity and a simultaneous humiliation of the other be dishonoring their women.
What was remarkable was the exultation that followed it. Stories of women being stripped and roamed around the market place bearing symbols of religion and other markings portraying the power of one religion and dishonoring the other. A fact-finding team on the violence of the partition in Guru Nanakpura were given a testimony from a civil surgeon of Shikhapura who said that women and young girls in all forms of nakedness were brought in the hospital where he was working; even women from the most respectable families went through this terrible experience. Another doctor from the refugee camp in Jhang- Maghiana town mentioned one of his patients was a woman from the village of Chund Bharwana, one of her hand was chopped off her wrist, and then she was thrown into the fire. Her lower back portion was completely burned but she managed to escape and jump in a well. Among all kinds of injury inflicted on women, the doctor mentioned that the amputation of breasts of women topped all of them and all of them proved.
Large numbers of women were forced into death to avoid rape and humiliation, to preserve chastity and the honor of the community many women themselves attempted suicide. The means used to accomplish this varied. Some killed themselves stabbing and hanging while many would either jump into the nearest well or set themselves on fire alone or in groups. Even younger children jumped into fire with their mothers or older women of the family. An account of 90 women of Thoa Khalsa (Rawalpindi) committing suicide all at a time on 15th March 1947 has been recorded and many similar accounts have been gathered mainly from the east, west, and north side of the country. Some acts were simultaneous and continuous like raping and stripped and paraded naked. This kind of acts took place in market places, temples, gurudwaras, worst was that most of the women were raped in front of their own families made to witness or in the middle of a market filled with people. Women’s bodies were marked and tattooed with ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ or ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ which marked their bodies for life and eliminating any small possibility of forgetting her humiliation.
The violence that the women faced ranged from rape, gang rape, stripping, parading naked, mutilation, tattooing, and branding, cutting off breasts, tattooing genitalia with triumphal slogans, knifing open the womb with the unborn child inside. Such kind of horrific humiliation and crime towards women was shocking not only for its savagery but for what the history says about the status and condition of women in our society. Women were simply used as objects in male construction of their honor. Women’s sexuality symbolized manhood and their pride and their power. Each of the violence was some kind of specific symbol of power and the bodies of the women were simply uses ad territory to be conquered.
Two nations were born on August 14 and 15 in 1947 and it was believed that the issue of who belonged was and which part of the country belonged were was settled through after allot of bloodsheds but even 50 years later both the nations are fighting over the issue and many displaced people are now referred as permanent liability homes in India. And the violence that the women faced at that time is still horrifying and remains one of the most violent periods in the history of the country where women faced such mass humiliation and objectified so miserably. Many women who survived this cruel wave of violence stepped out of their house and joined the workforce after partition in a force of economic and circumstantial necessity and urgency to rebuild their homes. The condition resulted in delayed or no marriages. Many women were rehabilitated to enable them to educate themselves and find proper jobs. But all women had to stay quiet and accept them as victims of such horrific cruelty towards them without any scope of having justice or take away the memories of what they have faced. Many women committed suicide not being able to bear the pain and many survivors lived long to share such horrific tales to the generations to come being the bearer of the past and history of the violence that the women faced during the largest forced migration of the whole world.
Author(s) Name: Piyasha Das (Amity University, Kolkata)
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- Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin- Borders and Boundaries, Women in India’s partition.
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