Campaign for Partition Commemoration
Tuesday 21st August 2018 11:47 News Tameside Posted by Lee Wild

A campaign to declare an annual day to commemorate the Partition of India plus put the subject on the national curriculum was officially launched in Manchester on Friday.

An impressive panel of speakers backing the initiative included Gorton MP Afzal Khan and Chair of Healthwatch Tameside, Dr Kailash Chand, OBE.

Dr Binita Kane is the driving force behind the campaign and organised Friday’s inaugural commemoration event, held at the Manchester Library in St Peter’s Square.

Hundreds from across the region attended with Binita declaring: “It has never been more relevant to educate people about the past than now.

“Partition was a defining moment not only in world history, but British history.

“It has been called the holocaust for Indians, yet it is not acknowledged, spoken about or taught. We are hoping to change that with this campaign.”

This year marks the 71st anniversary of Partition in 1947, which created the separate states of India and Pakistan with the dissolution of the British Raj.

But the immediate consequences were catastrophic, with up to 15 million people displaced and becoming refugees (the biggest mass migration in history) and the resulting violence claiming the lives of up to two million people – many women and children – as those who had lived previously as neighbours turned on each other.

Crisis

Parallels with today’s refugee crisis in Syria and the middle east, the hardening of ‘national’ borders in some European countries to that crisis, not to mention Brexit itself, were never far away, if not referred to often.

While Binita’s personal story has been documented, Friday’s gathering also heard many harrowing and highly emotional stories from panel members, performers and members of the audience, their own parents or grandparents caught up in the horrors of the time.

Heart-wrenching videos were played to the audience too, including an extract from the BBC documentary into Binita’s journey to Bangladesh, retracing her own father’s footsteps through the cataclysmic events, including a highly emotional meeting with one of her own father’s rescuers – now an elderly man.

“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t exist,” said Binita. “I still cry every time I watch that film footage.” 

The BBC 1 documentary, ‘My Family, Partition and Me’ presented by Anita Rani, and her journey has inspired Binita to lead the campaign to Parliament recently, calling for an official declaration of ‘Partition Commemoration Day’ and for the subject to be taught in schools.

Binita explained: “I was the first member of my family in 70 years to go back to the place where my father’s family fled. It was an incredible story of survival and they survived effectively a genocide – and they were a Hindu family helped to escape by a Muslim family. They were stories that I sort of knew but didn’t know about in detail.

“Walking in my family’s shoes was incredibly emotional and I met people who remembered them and had the opportunity to thank the person for whom my existence really depends on. It had a profound effect.

“There was a huge response to the programme from people about why they hadn’t heard about this and why isn’t it taught in schools. In response to that public reaction I really felt there was more to do.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support for this campaign.

“Taking the campaign to Parliament we were asking for two things, one an annual commemoration day for this huge, pivotal and defining event in history and also to ask for this to be on the school curriculum.

“This is the first inaugural event in making this happen and there is a huge national appetite to make this happen.”

Binita is appealing for more support as ideas are explored in the teaching profession and more and to get in touch with her you can find her on twitter @BinitaKane.

MP Afzal Khan is fully behind the campaign.

“History is important and our young people, who are going to be more and more inter connected with each other, need to understand this.

“To understand where modern Britain is you have to understand the history – all of these things connect us and it’s also important from a citizenship point of view and helps us economically and culturally looking forward.”

While Dr Chand spoke of his support for the proposal, declaring Partition should never have happened, reciting a hard hitting poem explaining how all involved were ultimately responsible.

Dr Chand’s own family were displaced and lost everything in the aftermath of the Partition before he was even born.