“Borders and Boundaries” is one of the best books of partition Literature, written by two Indian writers and activists – Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin. This book describes – Women’s experiences who lived during the partition, the country’s bloodiest event. The Independence of a secular India and the establishment of an Islamic Pakistan in 1947 triggered a wave of violence along the border areas. Statistically over eight million people have fled their homes as a result of the crisis and approximately one million have died as a result of it. The women were widowed, Kidnapped and murdered, or forced to marry men as revenge.
“Borders and Boundaries”, full title “Borders and Boundaries Women in India’s Partition” describes the events that occurred by showing the perspective of two groups of women: firstly the survivors of domestic violence and secondly, the workers or NGOs who helped them get them on their feet.
The book is divided into four parts.
- The first part provides an overview of the historical context of Partition.
- The second part examines the violence against women during partition, such as communal riots, mass suicides, and abductions.
- The third part looks at the recovery of women after Partition, such as their repatriation, resettlement, remarriage, or rejection.
- The fourth part analyses the impact of Partition on women’s identity and citizenship, such as their sense of nationhood, religion culture, and feminism.
The Suffering of Women During Partition
In order to better understand the struggle faced by the women in India during the partition, it is first best to understand the historical context of the region and the cause of the partition.
The partition of India is considered to be one of the greatest tragedies in history. The partition resulted in the division of both Hindus and Muslims who had resided together for hundreds of years. This led to immense territorial conflicts such as – boundary disputes three wars between both India and Pakistan, a nuclear arms race and cross-border terrorism, and the Kashmir conflict remaining unresolved.
During five decades, they have fought four wars. Three of those wars were over the disputed region of Kashmir. Thousands of women, both Hindu and Muslim, were abducted by men of the other community during the communal riots. That the states of India and Pakistan intervened to recover a total of over 30,000 abducted women from each other’s territories until 1957, and later the Abducted Persons Recovery and Restoration Act 1949.
The Novel “Borders and Boundaries” begins by emphasizing how women were instructed or forced to mass Suicide, had their body parts such as their feet, hands, and breasts cut off, and were kidnapped and raped, in the midst of the regional conflict between different religious groups such as – The Hindu, Muslims, and Sikhs. The authors try to target a different aspect and in specifically explain the recovery of women, the Hindu and Sikh women of India, and the Muslim women in Pakistan in the aftermath of the partition.
The Novel talks about a series of events that explores the histories as recounted by authors. In the book, the women during the partition who were sent back to the country and the women who organized for these women to be sent back are defined to be the protagonists.
Once, a group of Muslim girls who are forced to go to Pakistan bitterly ask the woman who arranged their repatriation, “Who are you to decide for us?”. But “Mridula Sarabhai”, who spearheaded the bill for the return of Kidnapped and abducted women, argues that repatriation is a citizen’s right.
So, partition forced women to become victims of the riot situation. They felt dislocation and lost their respect and dignity because of abduction and sexual abuse. Women were tied down by cultural obstacles within their respective communities through a patriarchal system. Men come back heroes from the war, while after the riots and the war, women’s existents seem to hold no meaning at all and they remain in the calamity all the time.
Thus, Borders and Boundaries Women In India’s Partition is a book that explores the impact of Partition on women’s lives, identities, and citizenship.
Analyse of The Preface written by Ritu Menon
In the preface, Menon writes that she was born in 1951, four years after India’s partition. She says that she grew up with a sense of pride in being a part of a new nation that had won its freedom through a non-violent movement led by “Mahatma Gandhi”. She also says that she was aware of the trauma and violence of Partition, but only as a distant event that had little impact on her life.
She admits that she knew very little about the experiences of women who had suffered during the partition. Menon realized that there were millions of women like her who had been silenced and marginalized by history. She also realized that partition was not a one-time event, but a continuing process that shaped the lives of women across borders and generations.
So, Ritu Menon’s writing reflects a sense of pride and celebration of the freedom achieved through non-violent means in India. The phrase “glorying in the Freedom gained through non-violence” suggests the author views the method of non-violence, as a noble and honorable way to achieve freedom.
Furthermore, the author’s use of the phrase “Our gift to liberation Struggle everywhere” implies that the success of India’s non-violent struggle for independence served as an inspiration to other liberation movements around the world.
The Author’s use of the phrase “Safely between the covers of our History book” suggests that these events were viewed as something to be learned from and remembered but not necessarily directly relevant to contemporary times. This reflects that, after gaining independence, India was looking forward to a new era of Freedom and Progress.
Thus, the book “Borders and Boundaries” by Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin is a feminist history of the partition of India in 1947, which resulted in the creation of two nations, India and Pakistan, and the displacement of millions of people. The book focuses on the experiences of women who faced violence, abduction, rape, widowhood, and loss of identity during the Partition. The Authors argue that Partition was not only a political event, but also a social and cultural one, that affected women differently than men.