August 09 , 2017
Rare Partition archive to be made public on 10th
* Largest ever collection of interviews from partition witnesses can be accessed through Stanford University library website
Lahore: The 1947 Partition Archive's collection of over 4,300 witness interviews compiled in collaboration with a consortium of research universities from around the world is set to be released for the public on August 10 (tomorrow).
A press release issued on the occasion stated that the content in the collection was expected to challenge current understanding of South Asian history and identity of people living in the region. "A portion of the complete oral history interviews will be released beginning August 10, 2017, and will become available via live streaming from Stanford University Library's Digital repository. It will be accessible to anyone with an Internet collection. The remaining collection, deemed too delicate or sensitive for open accessibility, will be available to researchers and interested parties at libraries of Ashoka University, University of Delhi, and Guru Nanak Dev University in India and Lahore University of Management Sciences and Habib University in Pakistan. Talks are under way with universities in the United Kingdom and Bangladesh as well," the statement said.
It added that the oral histories in the collection provided previously unavailable glimpses into the vastly disruptive Partition of Punjab and Bengal provinces of British India in 1947. "The 1947 Partition Archive is the world's first and currently the largest attempt at documenting the people's history of Partition," it said.
Guneeta Singh Bhalla, The 1947 Partition Archive founder, was quoted in the statement as saying, "We receive requests on a daily basis from artists, researchers, media persons, students and others, wanting access to oral history videos in The Archive. The stories have already informed Bollywood films, theatrical works, music, books and much more. These stories are changing the way we see ourselves and our history."
The statement cited LUMS vice chancellor Dr. Sohail Naqvi as saying, "we grew up hearing stories about partition whose endings would leave us with tears in our eyes. It is time to tell the story of the Partition in full."
Stanford University Library's Digital Repository includes a strong video preservation programme that will ensure access to interviews in perpetuity. A pilot adoption of the collection into three Indian university libraries is being supported by Tata Trusts. "The Arts and Culture portfolio at the Tata Trusts has worked on preserving archives, through digitisation, paper conservation and dissemination techniques.
The 1947 Partition Archives of oral histories is of particular interest to us because with time the number of partition witnesses and their testimonies is declining," Deepika Sorabjee, Arts and Culture head at Tata Trusts was quoted as saying in the statement.
A citizen historian, Raqhav Sagar, mentioned in the statement said he had never heard about the Hur movement in Sindh province til he interviewed a man who lost his brother in it. "The Hur movement led by the fallen prince Pir Pagaro emanated from the Sindhi heartland. The movement remains forgotten in public memory. At one point during the independence struggle the ranks of those participating in the movement swelled to a hundred thousand people.
The 1947 Partition Archive's collection of witness oral histories has been recorded through crowdsourcing since 2010. Besides the 4,300 oral history interviews, the collection contains over 30,000 digital documents and photographs collected from 12 countries in 22 languages. The end goal is to record at least 10,000 oral history interviews from surviving witnesses, said the statement.
It said the vast collection of oral histories rivaled any such collection in South Asia, and was one of the largest video-based archives in the world. "It's such a unique collection that opens a window not only on Partition itself but onto historical anthropology of culture, politics and identity. Finally we have an opportunity to get away from high-political narrative of the partition.
Oral histories can let us get a sense of what happened on the ground, how it affected people and how those effects changed over time," the statement cited Stanford University historian Priya Satia as saying.
It further quoted her saying that for the past 70 years the story of Partition had been told through the lens of politics of nationalist figures like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mohandas Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru, and colonial administrators like Lord Mountbatten. "None of these members of the political elite foresaw the shape that Partition eventually took as it led to mass migration of 15 million people and death of untold others.
So, the political negotiations of the nationalist and colonial elite cannot help us understand how and why that population exchange transpired in its entirety. We will now have a chance to understand the incremental way in which history happened. We can only understand the shape that Partition actually took by looking at the stories of the people who gave it that shape."
The statement said that The 1947 Partition Archive (www.1947partitionarchive.org) continued to record oral history interviews from witnesses across the world.
Stories in the Archive can be accessed via Stanford's Digital Repository, beginning August 10 at the following website: http://exhibits.stanford.edu/1947-partition.