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Communal Harmony And Friendship During Partition Of India

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India has always been a culture-rich place. People of different ethnicities and religion have lived together in the Indian Sub-continent. Speaking of communal harmony and friendship between Hindu-Muslim, it can be dated back to the reign of Akbar. Akbar was one of the many pioneers who encouraged Hindu-Muslim solidarity. Akbar wanted to strengthen the ties between Hindu-Muslim, he married a Rajput princess. He was one of the few Muslim person who listened to Hindu saints and also encouraged building of temples. Hindu and Muslim shared a composite culture. 'The social relationships between these two communities were co-operatives without any severe constraint or conflict despite religious distinctions' (Singh 8). Before the British colonizers settled in India, both Islamic and Hinduism were represented in the government. The incoming of British colonizers was one of the leading factors destroying the Hindu-Muslim solidarity.

Hindu-Muslim solidarity was also seen in the independence struggle of India. The hanging ground of Lahore Jail and Khooni Darwaza of Red Fort, both are witness of joint struggle of Hindus and Muslims. One of the first instances of Hindu-Muslim solidarity is seen in The Khilafat Movement in 1919. It was an agitation by the by the Indian Muslims, allied by Indian Nationalists. A pan-islamist political campaign to restore the caliph of the Ottoman . it was a protest against the humiliating sanctions placed on the caliph and the Ottoman empire after the first world war by the Treaty of Sevres.

The Aristotelian view of friendship is based on emotional bond between human being. He explains the concept of friendship with word “philia” which means emotional bond between two individuals. This forms the basis for all forms of the social organizations, the common efforts and the interpersonal relationships. Aristotle has categorised friendship into three categories, first is friendship based on utility, second is friendship of utility and the third is friendship based on mutual pleasure. The first one is short lived, coincidental and easily formed and easily dissolved when abilities or needs of both the people in friendship changes. In the second one, people are interested only in what they can do for themselves or can gain from each other. And in the third one, it only lasts as long as there is pleasure. In Aristotle’s view, the friendship in the primary and the real sense is that of between the good people, in so far as they are good, while the other kinds of friendships by being like the complete friendship. Aristotle’s understanding of friendship is completely based on the idea of good will, by this he means that a friend wishes only good for the other.

Derrida observes that in Aristotle, the complete friendship is a self’s creativity, who knows well what he acts. By this he means, a person knows what is good for him and what is not. Derrida begins his critical analysis with the Aristotelian idea of friendship by pointing out that, a friend takes up its position as a friend in the complete friendship by loving the other. According to Derrida, knowledge. About the complex structure of the complete friendship in the Aristotelian understanding, Derrida writes: this structure is both acknowledged and unrecognized by Aristotle, the truth of friendship, if there is one, is found in darkness.

In Navtej Singh’s short story ‘An Evening in Lahore’, it is a story about two friends, Hamid who is a Muslim and lives in post-partition Lahore, Pakistan and the narrator who is a Sikh and lives in post-partition Punjab, India. The narrator goes to Lahore, to visit the gurudwara and he tells his friend Hamid that he could only come to meet him only when he comes to visit the gurudwaras. There is a sense of loss of friendship among the two friends. These two friends went to the same college in Bombay, before 1947, they shared the same room and also participated in protests and rallies against the British colonizers.

“Hamid, what did we know that the evening by the sea was the beginning of a storm that would end in such a way that two people who shared a room would be no longer be able to share even a country’. Here we see, the narrator’s mourning of separation. Lahore was his birth place, it was his home. When he went to visit his friend, Hamid his sadness in leaving Lahore because of the Partition of India is quite evident.

The breaking of unity of Hindu-Muslim began when the Muslim League began they wanted a separate state for Muslims. Hence, Pakistan was created. The Muslim league had no agenda but to divide India, and they were successful in doing so. The creation pf Pakistan was purely based on religion. Millions of people, Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs were displacement. This division between Hindu-Muslim land was a forced and violent division, which displaced millions of people from their homeland. The concept of home got distorted. And during this period, Hindu-Muslim riots began, which lead to mass murder, brutal assaults, raping of women of both the communities and of course the communal harmony and friendship, which these two communities shared was destroyed. In “An Evening in Lahore’, Navtej Singh also mentions “Our thoughts turned to that evening in Bombay in 1946. Hamid and I were living there, sharing a room. The day the Hindu–Muslim riots broke out we were walking down the embankment by the sea on our way to our room. That evening by the sea was enchanting but fear lurked all around. Even the knives of the hawkers selling fresh coconuts were scary. Neither of us knew the faith of the coconut sellers but at least one of us could have been killed by such a knife.” The “knife” here becomes a metaphor for the riots. But despite, all this, the two friends remained loyal to each other and maybe helped each other to stay safe. In this evening in Bombay 1946, both, Hamid and the narrator were fearing the mankind. The fear was because of the communal riots but, these two friends are shown as a symbol of friendship during the time of darkness, as Derrida quotes “the truth of friendship, if there is one, is found in darkness”. Here the Aristotelian understanding of ‘complete friendship’ also holds true, which is, ‘complete friendship’ is based on when a friend wishes ‘good will’ for the other. Hamid and the narrator fear the riots, these two friends only wish good for each other. Hamid and the narrator are deeply affected by the Partition of India. The only good enough excuse the narrator can find to visit his friend in Lahore is, visiting the gurudwara. The narrator’s feeling of homelessness is quite evident in the story: “Our eyes were saying much more than our words. We used to go down this street every day to the badminton court. On this very street we had together received lathi blows during a students’ demonstration against the British rule…..”

There is also mention of communal riots in the story. How the displacement of people from Pakistan to India, and India to Pakistan lead to mass killing: “And there was the bridge on the Ravi, the very mention of which would send my wife into a swoon. After Independence a caravan of refugees was crossing this bridge and my wife’s parents were part of it. Both of them were stabbed in the back. There were many such bridges in my part of the Punjab where caravans of people moving this side had been stabbed in the back. Dusk was falling and we turned back.”

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In the story, there is mention of the Ravi river and it is compared to a woman: “toward the Ravi river, the river of which a poet had said the women of Lahore with reddened lips were going to the Ravi to set it aflame.”

By reddened lips, Navtej Singh’s means the bloodshed that had to take place in order to set India free from the British rule. It was on the Ravi river Bhagvati Verma (a comrade of Bhagat Singh) died in an accidental blast, while making a bomb to destroy British imperialism. Nehru took a vow by the Ravi river to India free from the British Colonizers. Here ‘Ravi River’ becomes a metaphor of Hindu-Muslim solidarity.

Visiting the gurudwara plays and important role in the story “An Evening in Lahore”. Due to the tension between Hindus and the Muslims, the Sikhs of India could not go to the Gurudwaras located in Pakistan. The riots between Hindus and Muslims came at a cost of the Sikhs’ pilgrimage. However, the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor has made pilgrimage to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur visa-free. It is located near Pakistan-India border. It is one of the holiest sites in Sikhism. It is believed that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died at that very spot in 16th century where Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is located now.

'Since Pakistan was created our community has wanted this, two families,¬ Indians and Pakistanis,¬ are meeting again.' (From the interview of Gurcharan Singh, a 75 year old Sikh man. He was just a child when his family moved to Sialkot, India after the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan). The Gurudwara is located approximately, at a distance of 2.5 miles from the Indian border. Often, people had to view it from the binoculars, because of the tension between the two countries. The ‘Kartarpur corridor’ will lead from the Indian border straight to the Gurudwara with the sides fenced off. The construction of the ‘Kartarpur Corridor’ is appreciated and encouraged by the Sikh community of India, and it is being seen has a rare instance of co-operation between India and Pakistan, these two countries have fought three wars against each other after the Partition of 1947.

In Intizar Husain’s exquisite novel “Basti”, the Hindu-Muslim harmonious relationship is shown from the beginning of the novel itself. In the opening section of the novel, the narrator talks about his childhool experiences, the ideal social community he lived in, before the Partition of India. The narrator also talks about his experience of talking and being with Hindus, who were there in large numbers in his childhood. The novels shows how the two communities respected each other’s religious belief, they celebrated ‘Dushera’(a Hindu festival) and ‘Muharram’(a Muslim festival) together. In brief, Hindu-Muslim relationship was cordial and co-operative as said by Intizar Husain. Zakir remember the time spent in Rupnagar, Lahore. He turns back to pre-partition India nostalgically. Rupnagar was a place of communal harmony and “an imaginative realm of tolerance” (Bhalla 22). Rupnagr is an imaginative place created by the author, as the name suggest, it is a place of beauty, crafted by the imagination of the divine. It is also a ‘basti’ in the sense that, each of its religious communities came into being at the same time. Like “An Evening in Lahore”, the mourning of separation is also evident in ‘Basti’. It is evident when the narrator looks back and Rupnagar nostalgically and remembers his childhood. There is a sense of displacement and the concept of home is destroyed for the narrator when he is forced to shift after partion of 1947. Zakir and the narrator’s alienation from the homeland is the brutal outcome of Partition.

“How peacefully both communities lived” (Intizar Husain)

“And what the old forms love most of all is a story of benighted love. If there is an anchor in this novel which so often floats free of expectation it is the story of Zakir and Sabirah, the cousin he once dreamed of marrying. On the other side of the border, in India, she is glimpsed, with longing, from the corner of his eye—and it is entirely in his hands to turn and face her directly. In any conventional story, the ending would be precisely that moment of turning—a moment in which the novelist chooses if the story is romance or tragedy.” (Kamila Shamsie)

“Basti” does not have a closure, it leaves the reader thinking with questions of emptiness within human existence. There is a melancholic approach towards the Partition of India.

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Communal Harmony And Friendship During Partition Of India. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“Communal Harmony And Friendship During Partition Of India.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
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