I’ll just get straight to the point, I don’t understand how across the world there are cheers of joy and fireworks celebrating Pakistan/India Independence Day. This may be very controversial, but how can we celebrate a time where we lost over a million people and displaced so many people there are no actual official figures. With some reports of 10 million and others of 15, whether we will ever truly know true figures I have no idea. Independence was declared for Pakistan on 14th August and India on 15th August yet officially the line where the two countries would split wasn’t declared until 17th August 1947. Nonetheless Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs took to the streets to express their happiness on their chosen independence day not realising how much they would lose in the days to come on the 17th.
I also find it disgusting that there are people in the UK walking around with no idea what the British Raj was all about, I once met someone who assumed it was the name of a restaurant. Seriously Dave? Although I admit I am not the most patriotic person, I do like a lot of the culture. Growing up I was not too fussed about wearing traditional clothes or going to South Asian events, as I grew older I became fiercely protective over the negative views many had over why my family was living in the UK. I live in a country that played such a terrible part in the end of what was a beautiful country and hear comments such as ‘why are there so many foreigners here looting our jobs??’ Mate you just used a Hindi word there, who is stealing what from who?
It truly frustrates me how our British curriculum does not teach youngsters the part other countries played to help during the world war, the part of history that educates them about all the countries Britain ever colonised (and ruined). I wonder if things would be different, if racism wouldn’t be so alive in this century if ignorant people knew why ‘brown’ people like me were born in this country. I was at an event today where a police officer stood up and told a Pakistani audience how grateful he was to Pakistanis for their help during the war and in the same breath how more could be done for Pakistanis to integrate into society else it would risk isolation. Oh ok then?
There are so many words in the British language that belong to other languages that I feel we have always been a melting pot before the rise of immigration. These words roll off the tongue and seem as British as fish and chips to those who have no idea they actually know a few Hindi words, I’m pretty sure even the most racist dumbass in the world has no idea the word pyjamas is an Indian term for loose fitting clothes. The term punch also derives from the word panj where you had five ingredients to make up a drink, the term bungalow again, a Hindi word. I can’t help but laugh each time I hear such stupidity from people, last week I heard a man say ‘I don’t know how someone from Chinese knew about this food place before I did and I’m British’. Seriously, how stupid are you pal?
Had Britain granted India independence when they initially promised in 1930 and not continued to live out this glorified British Raj that truly only benefitted the British whilst Indians were still paid in Indian currency to serve the British in their big mansions and parties, would my family even be here in the UK? Would I have to endure having to explain where I am from to people who feel it necessary to ask ‘but where are you really from love?’ In a sense I guess I do have some resentment towards the British in India at the time, could it have been handled better? Of course, I’m incredibly biased being British Pakistani and surrounded by partition survivors.
In 5 weeks a country was torn apart by a man who had no idea what he was doing, should never have been given such a huge responsibility and didn’t quite know the extent of the turmoil it would and still continues to cause this very day. This beautiful India is not something I was brought up to know, all I ever heard growing up was how violent the partition was and how the beauty that was there seems a million centuries ago. The stories of how Eid and Diwali was celebrated amongst all religions out of joy and love seems unthinkable for me as a granddaughter of a partition survivor. American Pakistani historian and writer Ayesha Jalal describes it as “a defining moment that is neither beginning nor end, partition continues to influence how the peoples and states of postcolonial South Asia envisage their past, present and future.”
Growing up I remember schoolkids hating another child because he or she was Indian and the Indians hating Pakistanis. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the very same children couldn’t comprehend how you could be Indian and Muslim or Pakistani and a Christian. I dread to think how disappointed their great grandparents would have been at seeing such hatred for who someone who would have been seen as their brother or sister before the ugliness the partition brought upon people. I am grateful that this isn’t as common now and people around me are less inclined to treat someone different due to them being Indian or Pakistani. However one cannot simple ignore the deep rooted hatred that still exists in regards to politics, the animosity between politicians even affect the film industry and the relationship that so many are trying to forge again with our old friends next door.
This hatred caused so much animosity that we forget how many similarities the now two different yet the bloody same countries have, we eat curries, we love sweets and Bollywood is still the best albeit incredibly dramatic genre loved by both. I hope the future generations of this society seek more education on the partition, work to minimise the divide between the communities and get together to have a good curry and some jalebi.
As usual I have no answers and nothing I am saying makes much sense apart from the fact that Independence Day is a dark day for me. A day where millions died, many had their hearts broken from having to leave their homes and lose their friends, family and everything they had ever known up till that point. This isn’t something I could ever celebrate, stories I have heard from people in my community such as families having to hide in basements for days, have their families murdered by soldiers and having to walk for weeks to seek safety. India wanted independence away from the British, instead it caused hatred amongst communities who weeks before shared happiness in their neighbours happiness and left people refugees in their own country. Women were raped, disfigured and dismembered. Pregnant women had their breasts cut off, tummies sliced and babies hacked out. Young men were killed and families burnt in the streets. This was a mere 70 years ago, when you speak to a child of the partition you are faced with tears of sadness of their loss that feels like it was yesterday. Those very same children then came to Britain years later and were told to go home, the very home the British played a part in destroying through their weak and naive leadership. The irony is unreal and yet here we are living in this reality, sometimes it feels we are living a not so hilarious nightmare.
Ps we want the Kohinoor back.