Nisid Hajari on partition
The session titled “Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition” with journalist Nisid Hajari and editor Mahrukh Mohiuddin is exactly what it sounds like. The two discussed Hajari’s book about partition titled, Midnight’s Furies. Hajari, an Indian-American journalist, is on the editorial board for Bloomberg News, Asia.
“I’m not an academic historian, I’m a journalist” he stressed, saying that he focused on narrating the facts, but that he could not write about the feelings and emotions the people were experiencing when these events had occurred. His research included poring over official government documents, papers and memoirs. “I found that there were shelves of books written on the subject already, but they were mostly written by South Asian authors from their own personal points of view,” said Hajari. He felt that it was “almost as if it happened in their own geopolitical vacuum”.
Hajari was of the opinion that his book was different from the other books on the subject since he had never lived in India and his parents had not been personally affected by the violence. According to Hajari, “the fixed idea that these two countries are natural enemies was constructed in the new months between 1946 and 1947.”
Midnight’s Furies, taking place primarily on the Punjab side of partition, deals with the two key political players during the months leading up to partition: Jinnah and Nehru. Hajari believes that partition itself could have been avoided if the two did not mistrust each other as much as they did, and that this mistrust led to them taking opposite sides on the issue. The two also did not comprehend the extent of the impact their words would have on their followers, which escalated the situation further.
The session concluded by discussing the differences in the official history of partition in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and how one side has always blamed the other for the way things ended so disastrously.