As we celebrate nearly 70 years of India’s independence, I find myself transported back to those momentous days which were, sadly, as much about division as freedom.
I was only ten years old at the time and of course I did not understand the full import of the events of 1947. But I remember too well the suffering caused by Partition: the sense of turmoil and panic, the cries of those who were wrenched from their homes and families, violated and murdered. Those cries still ring in my ears today.
Moving forward 16 years, I witnessed another independence movement, this time in Kenya. Both experiences had a profound impact on me, but by then I was a grown man, able to question things in a way my childhood self could not.
Why, I wondered, had so much blood been spilled in India at the time of its independence, yet not in Kenya? Why, despite the desire of some to break up the country, had Kenya remained intact, while India was fractured in a way that still resonates so painfully today?
Although I am not sure I found the answers, those experiences stayed with me and, however simplistic it may sound, I can’t help but think: if human beings keep their minds open and hold on to that instinct of humanity I hope resides in all of us, surely we can resolve our differences amicably, or at least without violence.
A lot has changed in India since Independence, much of it for the better. Yet in some ways the subcontinent seem to be veering off-track. As one of the many who knows the horrors of Partition, all I can ask is that these neighbours who once lived together sit down and talk as one family, for the sake of their people.
Asian Affairs is ready to play its own role, however small, in helping to end violence and discord, and encourage peace and unity. This Independence Day, let’s celebrate out common humanity.