The Long Partition and the Many Faces of Violence

Prachi Ratra, Anjali Gera Roy


Paul Ricoeur, in Memory, History, Forgetting (2004), argues that “higher powers” control narratives in history, thereby “stripping the social actors of their original power to recount their actions themselves” (448). He demonstrates that dominant groups erase certain events from history to remember others that creates a gap between facts and their documentation. Nationalist histories exhibit a complete erasure or repression of events in a nation’s past that might be antithetical to its professed ideological agendas. These gaps, described as the ‘silences’ of history, influence what is remembered and what is forgotten in a nation’s collective memory. The purpose of nationalist history is to consolidate the national identity, which is formulated on the basis of ethnicity, religion, ideology, and land even though the basis of the formation of the national identity might vary from one nation to another (Varshney 233).
If the narratives of indigeneity, purity and authenticity invoked in the production of Hindu identity in Hindu religious nationalist discourses at the turn of the 20th century display an amnesia to the boundary crossings that have marked the history of the Indian subcontinent, the Indian nationalist discourse elides the violence in the construction of national borders and boundaries through its advocacy of the principle of non-violence. This paper aims to show how Amitav Ghosh fills up the gaps in nationalist histories through recovering untold, forgotten, repressed stories of ordinary people in small localities and neighborhoods, or peoples’ histories, in his non-fiction and fiction to revise official histories of the Indian nation. It argues that he revises official histories through revealing frequencies of boundary crossing, mixing, hybridity and violence that interrogate the reiteration of the rhetoric of purity, authenticity and indigeneity in Hindu nationalist and non-violence in nationalist discourses.


Ghosh, Hindu, history, memory, nationalism, violence

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