Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that August 14 will be remembered as ‘Vibhajan Vibhishika Smriti Diwas’ or Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.
On August 14, 1947, India and Pakistan were partitioned. Pakistan celebrates August 14 as its Independence Day.
“The pain of Partition of the country can never be forgotten. Because of hatred and violence, lakhs of our sisters and brothers were displaced and even lost their lives. In memory of the struggle and sacrifice of those people, it has been decided to celebrate 14th August as the Vibhishika Memorial Day,” the PM said in a tweet.
“This day will not only inspire us to eliminate the poison of discrimination, animosity and ill-will, but it will also strengthen unity, social harmony and human sensibilities,” he added.
The apocalyptic days in the run-up to the birth of the two nations have been the leitmotif of many literary works. One of the seminal works is Train to Pakistan by writer Khushwant Singh, which was published in 1956. It is a historical novel that recounts the Partition of India through the perspective of Mano Majra, a fictional border village.
The borders between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan were reportedly kept secret until the very last minute. Punjab was split down the middle and many people did not know if they would be living in Pakistan or India.
According to an estimate, two million people died and 15 million were displaced as Muslims fled to Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction.
The suddenness, scale and ferocity of the violence that erupted in 1947 was shocking. As historians and writers such as Nisid Hajary and Saadat Hassan Manto have noted, it was a time when the normal mores of civilization were suspended and neighbours massacred each other without a thought.
Partition, as Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal has observed, was “the central historical event in 20th-century south Asia”. It scarred those who lived through it and permanently soured relations between the two countries. “It is impossible to understand relations between India and Pakistan without looking back to the Partition,” says Alex von Tunzelmann, a historian and the author of Indian Summer, a history of partition. “The wounds have never healed,” the author noted.
As a remembrance, the ‘Partition Memorial’ was inaugurated in Punjab’s Amritsar on August 25, 2017. The collection in the museum consists of the objects the refugees brought from Pakistan. These include the things they had attached their feelings with and also things of their practical use such as utensils, trunks and clothes, a wedding sari, a jewelry box and a tin box, a selection of photographs, original artifacts donated by refugees, newspapers, magazines, ‘Resettlement Cards’ with stamps of arrival in India, a watch carried across the border and a water pitcher.