Neeti Nair

The Problem of Return for Partition’s Punjabi Hindu Refugees

Recent scholarship on the Partition of India has engaged with one of the largest migrations of the twentieth century mostly by focusing on particular forms of violence inflicted between religiously informed communities, and against women. These narratives of trauma tell one kind of story. In my forthcoming book ‘Changing Homelands and the Partition of India’, I explore several different life histories of Punjabi Hindus who moved from west Punjab to Delhi in 1947. Although every life history is scarred by Partition violence, life since 1947 has shaped these refugees’ memories in very different ways. In my talk, I will examine two different sets of interviews. One tells the presumably typical story of loss, nostalgia, and the desire to return ‘home’ while the other speaks more openly of settling down and not wishing to return to what has now become Pakistan. I argue that these different experiences are a testimony to the work of time over the last six decades. These life histories also complicate the way we tend to conceive of the Partition generation and the longer term consequences of Partition.