Partition of Lahore - the Greed Perspective

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  • Topic: Pakistan, Punjab region, Punjab
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  • Published : November 24, 2008
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Partition – The Greed Perspective

History of the Lahore has seen hundreds of turns and twists, some of which changed its contour and brought new definitions to it. One such incident was the partition of the subcontinent, leading to the century’s biggest population transfer. Lahore being one of the cities adjacent to the new drawn boundary was drastically affected by the massive migration on both sides. Apart from the issue of refugee inflow, partition brought a radical change in the socio-cultural dynamics of the city. Hindus and Sikhs, who formed a majority of the population of city for years and were socially, spiritually, economically and culturally deep rooted into it , were forced to leave the city. It wasn’t an easy relocation, as it implicated large scale population transfer. Such a change split the compact and firm social fabric of the city. This paper focuses on the departure of Hindus and Sikhs from the city that they once had ruled, and its relationship with the revolutionary change in the economic setup of the city.

I had conducted more then 30 interviews of partition survivors for this course consisting of different tales and experiences. One thing which I found synonymous in all the interviews was that there was religion harmony in pre-partition era and there was social integration among different sects to varying degrees. But when one sees the eruption of violence, gory tales and bloodshed in the post partition time, the question which immediately arises in ones mind is that why this violence erupted. The popular reasoning behind this violence is based on religious phenomenon and formation of identities on the basis of religion.

This paper claims that it wasn’t only the Muslim identity and its distinction from the Hindus and Sikhs, rather it was a hope for an upward social mobility that led to the forced migration or the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs from Lahore as supported by the loot and plunder carried out in and after the turmoil, and the post partition socio economic settlement of the city. The blame game and tool of religion was used to exploit the fragile situation to attain the “desired outcome” .

Humans search for a scapegoat to escape from all their “evil” and blame the “other” for all of their wrongdoings. We can observe the same in the case of partition violence. Muslims observed an opportunity for a social and economic uplift by eliminating the Hindus out of the city of Lahore but they need a reason for doing this. So the made religion the prime reason for the violence in 1947 and other factors became insignificant. My paper highlights these other factors which in my opinion were more important then religion which just becomes a tool for expelling Hindus out of town of Lahore. The concept of blame runs consistently in the discourse of partition and even in the interviews we conducted. Blame over the course of history is of two kinds, one for causing a problem and second is for failing to rectify it. In our case, the former holds valid. We will consider how blame in the context of partition theoretically facilitated collective action against the ‘other’. It is interesting to note how the context of the blame is the same whereas the victim and the perpetuator are the only factors which change as the religion and nationality of the person changes.

Rene Girard, formulated a theory on the mimetic nature of human beings and held that human beings are naturally mimetic creatures. They work towards creation of an ‘other’ to make up for the ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ in their own group or community. This is based on looking and viewing ‘us’ as perfect citadels of virtue and morality and all the ‘trouble’ being created by the ‘them.’ This instinct invariably directs the violence of one community against another. Destruction and violence is viewed as divine, communities identify with it, and so renounce what is destroyed, purifying while bringing meaning to destruction. Girard sees sacred...
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