During the event, a panel discussion was organized, where Tarlochan Singh (Former Member of Parliament), Ajit Cour (Renowned Author) and Dr. Yunus Jafferey narrated their unique and fascinating stories of their experiences and cultural practices. The panel was moderated by Urvashi Butalia, the renowned author and publisher and a historian, with a deep interest in oral histories and Partition. Sromon Sircar, a Citizen Historian and Butalia talked about their experiences collecting oral histories.
Prakhar Joshi, the India office coordinator of 1947 Partition Archive, underlined the urgency of recording these memories. “Ours is a race against time. The survivors of Partition might not be with us for a very long time. We feel every story is important and sheds light on a new dimension. Each story takes us to a unique and fascinating time before the Partition. Preserving these powerful memories and sharing them with the global community is imperative so that the world can harness the lessons that a divide like this teaches us.”
Former MP and Partition witness, Tarlochan Singh shared his story about his escape from the mob. He said, “After 1947, first time I’m in a gathering of people where they want to talk about our memories.”
“How could a country be cut like a cake?” asked Ajit Cour, winner of the Sahitya Academy award. She was about thirteen at the time of Partition. “We left Lahore in May because riots had started and it was no longer safe. We stood on our terrace every evening and saw buildings going up in flames. We thought it was going to be temporary and we will be back home soon. We came to Shimla.”
Dr. Urvashi Butalia, author of “The Other Side of Silence”, shared her experiences about working on oral histories. “When I was researching for my book, years ago, I met a lot of women who had experienced sexual abuse during the Partition, and who begged that their story should not be known.” The world at large would never have learnt about these atrocities had those voices gone unrecorded.
Dr. Yunus Jafferey, born in 1930, shared his story with a spellbound audience. Dr. Jaffery’s ancestors travelled from Padarshah, now in Afghanistan, back then in Persia. His family crossed borders with Shahjahan, stopped at Lahore and finally settled in Shahjahanabad, Hindustan which is present day Old Delhi, India. He has seen how dramatically Delhi has changed because of the Partition and the moving populations.
Sromon Sircar, a Citizen Historian with the Archive, also shared his opinion, and the way recording stories has shaped his opinion about India and its evolution in last seven decades.
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