Remembering Injustice

Issue 4 - the contest to remember Partition and British involvement as more than just a blip in the past

Welcome to today's issue of the Curiosity Journal. Each week, I share a preview of my research for the articles I publish monthly over on The Curiosity Concept. Subscribe here if you haven’t already to get behind-the-scenes peeks into what I'm reading, watching and listening to delivered straight to your inbox.

Last week, in issue 2 of this newsletter, I listed a New Yorker article by William Dalrymple as one of the resources I've been using for my research on the India-Pakistan Partition and Warwick SU's #RenameRadcliffe campaign.

It’s been a useful long-form introduction to the history of Partition and it illuminates how the complex roots of today’s political tensions between India and Pakistan, and Bangladesh, are embedded in this history. It also gives a view of the role of prominent religious leaders and British Imperial figures in the devastating story.

The relationship between British Imperialism, the Radcliffe line and Partition is not one of simple causality. As Dalrymple notes,

Partition, far from emerging inevitably out of a policy of divide-and-rule, was largely a contingent development.

The article traces the intertwining influences of politics, religion and colonial government, as well the frustrations of clashing personalities, on manifesting the deep divisions that culminated in millions of violent displacements and deaths.

(Image: Refugees en route to Pakistan [Public Domain])

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dalrymple's depiction of British involvement in Partition. Before the moment Radcliffe’s line crystallised into a material boundary, the fires of animosity between Hindu and Muslim communities in British-ruled India was already being stoked. But the speed with which the British literally swooped in with their 'solution', under the orders of Lord Mountbatten, made things worse. Radcliffe had "barely forty days" to draw the new border separating India and Pakistan; a solution that was forced on the disputing communities and their leaders. Once the border was drawn, Britain's exit from India was "messy, hasty, and clumsily improvised". It was a "rush [that] only exacerbated the chaos".

Britain played a grave role in Partition but its army "march[ed] out of the country with barely a shot fired and only seven casualties". Leaving devastation in their wake, the British left as if their role was relegated to just a blip in the past. The fact that a building on Warwick's campus now stands in the name of Cyril Radcliffe magnifies the perception that Partition was this one moment of difficulty in his life but ultimately doesn't need mentioning or recognition.

I see the campaign to rename the building as a public call to remember that Partition, and the involvement of the British and Radcliffe himself, was not just a historical blip. The aim of #RenameRadcliffe draws out that the entire story is one of persistent injustice and that it should be remembered that way.

Going back to the questions I listed in issue 2, this campaign is a contest over remembering and memorialising. To unpack this theme some more, I'm revisiting some of the papers on remembering injustice I studied as part of my masters. They're linked below.

Here's some of what I've been reading/watching/listening to:

"Collective trauma, apologies, and the politics of memory" by Ridwan Laher Nytagodien and Arthur G. Neal

"Remembering to Prevent: The Preventive Capacity of Public Memory" by Kerry E Whigham

Leave a comment

I know, this isn't your typical late Friday night reading, assuming that anyone does do any type of reading on a late Friday night. I was actually aiming to publish this issue yesterday, but haven't yet gotten into the swing of a writing routine that fits around my other commitments. I probably need to spend more time planning effective time blocks. But that discussion is reserved for Monday issues of the Curiosity Journal.

On that note, I'll see you on Monday.


If you enjoyed this issue, share it with a friend or two.

If a friend shared this with you and you like what you read, you can find old issues here, and subscribe to get new ones delivered straight to your inbox every week 💌