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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
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A revelatory account shows how, in the years after Independence, India and Pakistan tried to thrash out all outstanding issues—from minorities and refugees, Indus waters and a possible guard against conflict

Our Talking Heads
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Our Talking Heads
outlookindia.com
2020-07-10T18:19:29+05:30

It is nearly 75 years since Partition--some three generations. The first generation, from the ’40s to the ’60s, was brought up in the shadow of the horrors of Partition and the ‘animosity’ that brought about the vivisection. The second generation, from the ’60s to the ’80s, was brought up in the period that witnessed the second Partition of the sub-continent, with the liberation of Bangladesh, the attempted reconciliation with rump Pakistan through the Simla Agreement and the unravelling of bilateralism. The third generation runs roughly from Kargil (1999) to the present.

Pallavi Raghavan belongs to the third generation and, through this little gem of a book, has returned us to the all-but-forgotten first generation period when, notwithstanding all the hatred and vicious violence that caused and accompanied Partition, the relationship between the two Dominions was characterised by a “dense set of bilateral negotiations” (p.17) that that are difficult to credit in the present age of bitter stand-off.

That was because the principal personalities—politicians or bureaucrats—knew and had worked with each other. Thus, both H.M. Patel and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, who were representatives of their respective countries on the Steering Committee of the Partition Council, functioned in relative cordiality “against the backdrop of savage rioting and bitter political animosity” (p.24). Again, Sri Prakasa, the first Indian High Commissioner to Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan, and Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, the first Minister for Minority Welfare in Pakistan, “had many commonalities. Both were from the United Provinces and had cut their teeth in the agitations of the 1920s and ’30s…and could assert a reasonable degree of proximity to Nehru and Jinnah...

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