Women in the Partition

Kamalaben Patel




Editor's Note: This article is in Gujarati. It has been scanned from વીસમી સદીનું ગુજરાતી નારીલેખન ("Vees-mi Sadee-nun Gujarati Nari-lekhan", 20th Century women's writing in Gujarati). Nikhil Desai has provided this brief description of the article.

This untitled essay by Kamalaben Patel (1912- ) is excerpted from her writings in 1977 and 1985 under મૂળ સોતાં ઉખડેલા ("Mool sotan ukhadela", pulled from the roots). The story is about one of the most painful aspects - recovery and repatriation of women left behind - of the Partition of India and Pakistan.

She was with the Indian government on the Punjab border at the time, guiding the women social workers who were recruited to work with the police in repatriation of women, and occasionally went back and forth, working with the Pakistani authorities as well.

Sisters, daughters, wives, and mothers were lost, kidnapped, or simply fell behind when families ran from one side to the other. The author mentions an incident where a village well was filled with bodies of dead women who had jumped in to avoid assault and rape. She also mentions how in the midst of then ongoing war in Kashmir, tensions were high on both sides and made the repatriation work more difficult.

Some related articles selected by Nikhil Desai:

Gireesh J., "Gendered Violence, Nationalism and the Hegemonic Projects of Modern Nation States: A Reading of Kamalaben Patel's Partition Memoir Torn from the Roots". Samyukta, July 2009.

Aparna Basu (1996) Rebel with a cause: Mridula Sarabhai. Oxford University Press. Excerpt at http://www.rediff.com/freedom/1111mig3.htm.

"Narratives of Pain: Fiction and autobiographies as ‘psychotestimonies' to the Partition", Chapter 3 in Sukeshi Kamra (2002) Bearing witness: partition, independence, end of the Raj. University of Calgary Press.

Menon, Ritu and Kamla Bhasin. "Recovery, Rupture, Resistance: Indian State and Abduction of Women during Partition." Economic and Political Weekly 24 April, 1993: WS2-WS12.

The story in Gujarati, scanned from the original, is available by clicking here in pdf format.

Story in Gujarati © Kamlaben Patel 1985

Synopsis in English © Nikhil Desai 2011

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