Society & Culture
'Spirit of India'
the-south-asian.com March 2001
MEMORIAL AT WAGAH
-TO THE VICTIMS OF THE 1947 PARTITION
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed
The Partition of British India in 1947, which created the two independent states of Pakistan and India, was followed by one of the bloodiest migrations in history and resulted in the forced transfer of an estimated 14 to 18 million people between the two countries. The ensuing religious animosity and communal strife caused the deaths of some two million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and abduction, rape and killing of countless women and children. It was indeed one of the most inhuman manifestations of religious and communal intolerance with few parallels in history.
Those who survived were brutalized and traumatized and still carry the scars of their suffering which, in so many ways, have continued to dictate the relations between the two countries for more than half a century. The pain and suffering of the time have been the subject of many a poignant work of prose and poetry in South Asian literature and more recently of some touching and sensitive films.
Committee Members of Pakistanis for Peace and Alternative Development (PPAD) sincerely feel that ways ought to be found to ensure that the suffering and humiliation of that period are not allowed to occur ever again. Rather than the Partition leaving a legacy of perpetual animosity and conflict between Pakistan and India and between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others, it ought to be assigned a wholly different meaning and significance. It should instead represent the pain and agony of common humanity.
We propose therefore that, as a permanent symbol of the common suffering, an appropriate Memorial is built along the road in the no man's land between Pakistan and India at Wagah, with suitable provision for those crossing the two countries to make a brief stop and, in their own way, honour the dead and remember the surviving victims of the Partition.
We also suggest that a similar memorial be built at a suitable location along the border between Bangladesh and India.
It is our sincere wish and hope that these Memorials will help begin a new chapter in the history of the Subcontinent - one based on a better understanding of the past and on mutual trust and respect in the future.
We urge all peace-loving people of the Subcontinent and of the world to join us in persuading the governments of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to acknowledge the collective responsibility of their recent history and facilitate the erection of these Memorials to mark the human tragedy of their peoples.
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