Middle East

75 Years of the Partition of India: How Technology Opens a Window into the Past | India-Pakistan Partition News

Gunita Singh Bala asked her grandmother how she moved with her young children to India, which had just gained independence from Pakistan in 1947.

Those stories were not in Singh Bala’s school textbooks, so she decided to create an online history – The 1947 partition archivecontaining about 10,500 oral histories, is the largest collection of partitioned memories in South Asia.

Singh Bala, who immigrated to the United States from India when she was 10, said, “I didn’t want my grandmother’s story, or the stories of others who had experienced division, to be forgotten.

“Despite its shortcomings, Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool. Archives are built from people finding us on Facebook and sharing our posts, allowing more It has brought recognition,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

of division of colonial india The birth of two states, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, and the end of British rule resulted in the largest mass migration in history.

Some 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs have switched countries in the midst of political turmoil, marred by violence and bloodshed, and nearly two million dead.

Since then, India and Pakistan have fought three wars and relations remain strained. We rarely issue visas to each other’s citizens and are nearly impossible to visit, but social media helps connect people on both sides of the border.

There are dozens of groups on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels that tell stories of survivors of division, occasionally visit their ancestral homes, and amass millions of shares, views, and emotional comments. I’m here.

“Initiatives like this that help chronicle the experience of the division act as an antidote to the two states’ condemned political narrative,” said Ayesha Jalal, professor of South Asian history at Tufts University in the United States. said.

“They help ease tensions between the two sides and open up channels for much-needed person-to-person dialogue.”

virtual reality

As the number of displaced people surges around the world, digital archives preserve cultural heritage, while technology helps monitor abandoned homes from a distance and document human rights violations.

Project Dustan – which means story in Urdu – uses virtual reality (VR) to record descriptions of partition survivors, allowing them to revisit the places they came from.

“VR is not like cinema. There is a level of immersion and engagement that creates empathy and creates powerful impact,” said founder Sparsh Ahuja.

“People really feel transported to the place.”

A project that uses volunteers from India and Pakistan to find and photograph places that have changed dramatically over the decades, Dastan aims to connect 75 partition survivors to their ancestral homes by this year’s 75th anniversary. I aimed.

However, due to pandemic restrictions, only 30 interviews have been completed since filming began in 2019.

“When visa policies were more friendly, people could actually go and see places and people,” he said. “Today, these connections are not possible without technology, and VR has brought a whole new audience to the partition experience.”

Partition’s most popular YouTube channel is Punjabi Lehar (or Punjabi wave) with about 600,000 subscribers.

Founder Lovely Singh, 30, is part of Pakistan’s minority Sikh community and estimates the channel has helped 200 to 300 individuals reunite with family and friends.

Earlier this year, Punjabi Lehar’s video of a touching reunion of two older brothers separated during the split went viral and garnered widespread acclaim.

“If we can bring more people together, it may ease tensions between the two countries,” Singh said.

“This is how my kids are learning about partitions.”

Tensions in the digital world

According to research firms Global Media Insight and Statista, India and Pakistan are among the world’s largest social media markets, with over 500 million YouTube users and nearly 300 million Facebook users.

Professor of History Jalal noted that misinformation can also be posted in these online spaces, adding caution about the limitations of social media projects.

“While very useful, these initiatives surrounding the split should not be viewed as superseding a historical understanding of the causes of the split,” she said.

Political tensions between India and Pakistan frequently spill over to social media.

Last year, an Indian state said people who celebrated Pakistan’s victory over India in a cricket match on social media could be charged with sedition and could face up to life in prison. said.

Indians, especially Muslims, who criticize the government online are often told to ‘go to Pakistan’.

But for 90-year-old Reena Varma, social media isn’t just about making virtual connections. She was able to visit her old home in Rawalpindi 75 years after she left her home.

When her Pakistan visa application was rejected earlier this year, the news spread quickly on Facebook. Pakistani authorities stepped in to give Varma a visa, who had moved to India as a teenager weeks before the split.

When Varma visited Pakistan last month, she was greeted by Imran William, founder of the Facebook group India Pakistan Heritage.

Residents played drums, danced in the streets while showering flowers, and looked around old houses.

“It was very emotional, but I am so happy that I was able to fulfill my dream of visiting my home,” said Varma.

“People have very painful memories of the division, but thanks to Facebook and other social media, people want to interact and see each other. It brings people from both countries together.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/12/75-years-of-india-partition-how-tech-is-opening-window-into-past 75 Years of the Partition of India: How Technology Opens a Window into the Past | India-Pakistan Partition News

Show More
Back to top button