SEVEN years into his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Saturday that August 14 would now be observed as “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day” to commemorate the “struggles and sacrifices” of millions who were displaced and who lost their lives during Partition.
“Partition’s pains can never be forgotten,” the Prime Minister tweeted, “Millions of our sisters and brothers were displaced and many lost their lives due to mindless hate and violence…May the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day keep reminding us of the need to remove the poison of social divisions, disharmony and further strengthen the spirit of oneness, social harmony and human empowerment.”
Shortly after this, the Union Home Ministry issued a notification to this effect. “While at the stroke of midnight of 14th-15th August, 2021, the entire nation will be celebrating the 75th Independence Day, the pain and violence of Partition has remained deeply etched in the nation’s memory,” the Information & Broadcasting Ministry said. “While the country has moved on, to become the largest democracy and the third-largest economy of the world, the pain of Partition suffered by the nation can never be forgotten.”
The date chosen for this, the Independence Day of Pakistan, a nation which emerged as a political entity after Partition, sought to mark the historical reason. But tweets of members of the ruling establishment framed the immediate political context: to target what the BJP calls “appeasement politics” of Opposition parties and publicly put Nehruvian politics in the dock.
“Partition and the circumstances that led to it – such as appeasement politics, allowing divisive forces to dominate discourse and standing by while people are being harmed – such a situation should never ever come to pass again,” said a highly placed official explaining the rationale behind the move.
The official drew a parallel with how other countries mark dark chapters of their history: Holocaust, Slave Trade, and Bangladesh’s March 25 as Genocide Day to mark the brutal Pak crackdown.
“Vibhajan se utpann paristhitiyon ne tushtikaran ki rajneeti aur nakaratmak shaktiyon ko haavi hone ka mauka diya,” BJP President J P Nadda cheered the announcement on Twitter claiming that “appeasement” politics and the forces of negativity took roots because of Partition.
Nadda’s words found an echo across the party. While Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called it a “sensitive” (samvendansheel) move by the Prime Minister, others took a swipe at the Congress and the legacy of Nehru.
Welcoming the PM’s decision, BJP leader and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Partition remains a “gaping hole” in the soul of India and the announcement is a “rightful tribute to the struggles and sacrifices of our people who were a casualty of the Congress’s ambition and tunnel vision.”
While BJP General Secretary (Organisation) and RSS pracharak B L Santhosh suggested that the move was an attempt to call out the alleged attempt to whitewash the trauma of Partition, Union Minister Hardeep Puri underlined the day as a “reminder” of “wrong policies” of “the then Government”.
“More than 2 cr people lost their life. Country lost a significant portion of its territory. Nehruvian legacy & its proponents tried to whitewash the tragedy fearing accountability. Country will always remember the tragedy & millions of sacrifices,” Santhosh said on Twitter.
Puri cautioned against the politics of “appeasement” in these times. “This will forever be a reminder of the human misery caused by wrong policies of the then Govt,” he said invoking “the struggles & sacrifices of my parents, grandparents & millions of others like them.”
Puri added that “Partition should serve as a lesson” so that India “must not repeat the mistakes of the past” and that the country doesn’t take the path of “appeasement, particularly when volatility in our neighbourhood only seems to have escalated more than ever before”.
This holds significance in the backdrop of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the steady advance of the Taliban raising old spectres in the region.
“India was partitioned to fulfil the political dreams of two Incompetents. Ten lakh innocents were sacrificed so that these two Incompetents could become Prime Ministers in 1947,” BJP national general secretary CT Ravi said in a veiled attack on Nehru adding that “the sins of those responsible for India’s worst genocide should be exposed”.