April 22, 2024

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In Rimli Sengupta’s A Lost People’s Archive, a book that insistently segues between fact and fiction, the unnamed narrator describes the Partition of India, on the west and the east, as two separate wounds, with very different outcomes. Punjab bled in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the Radcliffe line and subsequent to the violence, the massive population exchange, and upheaval that it entailed, rehabilitation and reparations were attempted. Bengal, on the other hand experienced a delayed response. While many families from what now is Bangladesh, moved to India in the early months of 1948, the massacres of 1950 in East Pakistan forced hordes of those who had chosen to stay to flee across the border as refugees.

“These millions, brutalised and dispossessed like the west-gash refugees two years before, now arrived in India with its sympathy capital over spent. No crisp camps for them, no planned cities. Delhi insisted they had to go back, even though it was obvious that they could not. Trains disgorged them daily at Sealdah by the thousands. They swarmed Calcutta streets and its outskirts. (…) Retaliatory violence broke out against West Bengal’s Muslims and they began fleeing to East Pakistan.”

This reportage of events is perhaps not new to…

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