William Henry Jackson, Junction of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, Photographic Print, 1895, Library of Congress (Wikimedia Commons)
The story of India’s Partition has been told, and retold, mostly with a focus on Punjab and Bengal. An analysis of these narratives reveals that these Partition stories curiously complete the spectrum, and northeast India remains an unexplored region.
The multifocal nature of Partition has not found enough attention in the context of the northeast, nor has the complexity of factors that led to the Sylhet Referendum in Assam been discussed or written widely. It is important to note that the dynamics that affected the Partition of northeast India was more manifold than either Punjab or Bengal. Here ethnicity and linguistic antagonism also played a dominant role along with religion in determining the directions and dimensions of Partition.
Nation states that came to be carved in the wake of Partition went alternating on a path of unrest and temporary unquiet peace, often bleeding the communities in contention through a thousand cuts, for decades after. This process culminated in the Bangladesh genocide of 1971 and the travails of the refugees who survived such horror is an experience that began in the build-up to Partition and continues till the present, ensuing in intergenerational grief. It has not yet ended in many cases. Partition continues to fester in this region in the form of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the debate over the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a subject of heated discussion.
In West Bengal, the ruling regime’s conflict with the incumbent Trinamool Congress is pitching the politics of religious identity against the politics of linguistic identity. Bangladesh, which has largely left Partition behind in its national memory after 1971, has a similar struggle between its dominant religious and linguistic nationalisms. To understand what is happening in all these places now, we believe that a slightly longer view of Partition history is needed, to trace the origins of current borders and divisions.
Partition Studies Quarterly (PSQ) will engage with the Partition narratives of northeast India within the larger discourse of the Partition of India. This international peer-reviewed journal will provide a platform for scholarship through an interdisciplinary model to explore historical and contemporary accounts of nationalisms, displacement and ongoing experiences that Partition really brings. Submitted research papers/essays may be thoroughly academic or journalistic in style, and will have to meet the standards of rigour of our editorial board. The journal will also perceive the visual culture of colonialism and the Partition through archival documents, photographs, artworks, and curatorial projects, and will endorse collaboration with artists and cultural practitioners.