Christopher Beaumont was a British official who played a large part in Punjab’s tragic partition. He later wrote:
The Punjab partition was a disaster. Geography, canals, railways and roads all argued against dismemberment…it was impossible to make a frontier without widespread dislocation. [Hundreds of] thousands of people died or were uprooted from their homes in what was in effect a civil war.
Beginning an article about Indian Independence with a quote from a British guy is probably a post-colonial faux pas, but there’s good reason to it. After all, if the oppressor himself isn’t afraid to admit the truth, it’s rather silly that so many Punjabi folk are celebrating azadi da din today. It begs the question: What are we so dang happy about and what exactly did we get azadi from?
Rajinder Singh was an Indian freedom fighter in the 1940s, however, he soon saw the country’s agenda for what it was. This nation-state called India wanted the same thing all the power brokers of South Asia have desired — the slow and inevitable destruction of the Punjabi-Sikh identity. Through the ensuing decades he gritted his teeth as leaders in India tried to dismantle the Punjabi language and Sikh motherland. Then came the government sponsored Sikh genocide in the 1980s. He sacrificed his life for Independence from the Colonial rulers, but when innocent Sikhs began having their heads shot off and turbans trod upon in 1984, Rajinder Singh renounced the country all together.
It’s not really independence if at every step of the way someone has got another ploy to get rid of you. It’s not really freedom if there’s a deliberate attempt to choke the lifeline and water from your homeland. This isn’t a lesson on what a disaster the partition of Punjab was. This isn’t a lecture on South Asian history. This is just a reminder that hundreds of Sikhs died over the past six and half decades. We are simply survivors. Perhaps the 19th century Native American leader Tecumseh said it best – the Master of Life has appointed this place for us to light our fires, and here we shall remain.
So today, smile not because the British left South Asia, but because you survived when all tables were turned against you.
Keeping it real. PenduPrincess