We weep but never fear – Paris

Recently the new Canadian Liberal government had announced the plan of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees. On Saturday, the Prime Minister’s office vowed that despite the attacks on Friday night in Paris, the government still has full intentions in keeping its promise of resettling Syrian refugees. In addition, the Prime Minister’s office reassured Canadians that the refugees coming into Canada will be selected in a safe and responsible method to deal with any potential security threats.

Friday nights attack on Paris has everyone on edge, and this has created a backlash against many of the soon to be Syrian refugees coming into Canada. Many of the concerns regarding the Syrian refugees that have been ‘heightened’ surround issues of security and financials. However, we as a community and citizens of Canada must not fall into the trap of fear mongering nor give into these terrorists. This is our country and we should not dictate our beliefs and morality on the grounds of fear.

In the wise words of Nelson Mandela “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We must remind of ourselves, what happened in Paris is an everyday situation for these Syrian refugees and many others around the world. Just last week alone, ISIS attacked many parts around the world, including Paris. In Lebanon, Beirut 43 Shia Muslims were killed in an ISIS attack. On Wednesday, a nine year old Persian-speaking Shia girl was beheaded by ISIS militants in Kabul, Afghanistan.

There are many people around the world who have the same fears as the West had on Friday night. The Syrian refugees are trying to survive, and if we close our borders to them we lose humanity, and we lose to ISIS. More specifically, accepting Syrian refugees does not mean increased expectancy of potential terrorists attacks. If we compare France and Germany’s Syrian refugee policies, we will see there is no correlation to Syrian refugees with in-country terrorism. France has a fairly closed door policy to Syrian refugees, with an acceptance of approximately 500 Syrian refugees. On the other hand, Germany has had a very open door policy, with an intake of approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees and has had no attacks. Accepting these refugees is not the issue. This is a political power play by all those in the game, and Canada is not in that game.

I understand that it is difficult to not be in fear, as I had three friends who were in Paris on Friday (all of whom are fine), the Paris attacks were a reminder of 9-11 and hit a little too close to home for many Westerners. I’m currently living in London U.K. and since Friday there has been heightened security. I noticed as I was walking around the busy Waterloo tube station lots of MI5 and police presence, which definitely added to my fear. One cannot help be suspicious of everyone around them, and feel at unease. In fact I was even debating if I wanted to take the tube at all. But then I realized I would be giving into ISIS and there is no way I was willing to live in fear. So I put on my trainers and hustled to the station. Since Friday I also have had a few conversations with different people, regarding the Paris attacks, including a gentleman from Syria (my uber taxi driver) last night. I hesitantly brought up Paris, and he said he was glad I brought it up. As a British citizen from Syria, he said every ounce of him despised ISIS and wished he could do something to “wipe them out.” In addition, he stated that the despicable behavior of ISIS was affecting his life in the U.K. He had come to the U.K. when he was 13 years old, he was an engineer by trade and that being a Muslim presently was not easy. He was afraid that after the attacks in Paris many Muslims will now be ostracized even more so than before. Our conversation carried on to the lack of integration of some minorities in the U.K. Which he argued stemmed partially from the lack of “acceptance.” He gave the Syrian refugees as an example and asked “what can we do?” and “Where should we go?” By the end of the forty minute taxi ride, I thanked him for the conversation and the drive home. As I stepped out of the taxi I turned to him and said “All you can do is keeping talking, don’t seclude yourself. Let the people know that you too are scared. They will come around.”

My point is ISIS makes up an extremely small fraction of the Islamic population; we need to not paint all followers of Islam with the same brush. We need to believe in humanity, and above all else we need to unify as one global community. We need to set aside religious beliefs, and come together as humans of one race. ISIS is not an Islamic religious organization as they claim, they are political terrorist and they do not have the right to dictate our morality.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

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Will the Sikh community ever receive closure for the 1984 Sikh massacre in India?

Today, June 1st, 2017 marks the 33 year anniversary of operation bluestar, which led to the attempted genocide of the Sikh people of India.

Over a three day period, October 31 – November 3 1984, approximately 3000 Sikhs were brutally murdered, Sikh women and girls were raped and the homes and businesses of the Sikh community were burned down in India. Yet, the Indian government to date still fails to acknowledge and pursue justice for the victims of the massacre. According to Graff & Galonnier, the massacre followed after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by her two Sikh bodyguards. On the other hand, according to Singh (2009) the Delhi massacre was caused by Operation Bluestar that took place five months before the killing of the PM Gandhi. Operation Bluestar was comprised of the Indian army attacking the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar Punjab. The attack consisted of over 150,000 Indian army soldiers being sent to find a single man that was hiding within the confines of the Sikh Temple. Suggesting, Operation Bluestar was not about this lone man, but an attempt to terminate the sanctuary of the Sikh community.

What is interesting to note is the silence behind this massacre is not something new for the state of India. Rajeshwari (2004) lists over 100 communal ‘riots’ from 1947 to 2003, with deaths reaching far above 10,000 in addition to over thousands of gender-based violence victims. Scholars such as Butalia (2000) and others believe the violence that had arisen during the partition of India has manifested itself within other communal ‘riots’ in Indian history. D’Costa (2011) argues the partition of India, created the initial base of trauma in India. This trauma has led to the reconstruction of Indian identity that has played a pivotal role in the communal violence that exists today. The unanswered communal tension from partition has developed a profound infused anger within the Indian identity. Yet, silence is how the government of India chooses to deal with these communal ‘riots.’ In many of these massacres the government authorities, were culpable in either participating themselves, or turning a blind eye or minimizing the massacres to mere communal ‘riots.’

On a larger-scale breaking the silence behind the Sikh massacre of 1984, and the others will give the nation and its citizens’ closure from the trauma of war and rape. In turn, may assist in re-constructing the divide between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities. The attacks against the Sikhs in 1984, the Muslims in Bihar 1989, later the Ayodhya riots and the attacks against the Muslims in Gujarat in 2001 and so on indicates that partition, most certainly is not over.

However, is it really an issue between religious ideologies? Our worlds are socially constructed through the discourse of our state, community and family. Thus, when particular groups are marginalized within society and their voices are silenced, this changes the collective history. D’Costa (2011) argues failing to acknowledge historical injustices, such as the 1984 Sikh massacre or other communal violence, results in the silencing of its citizens. Thus, by neglecting to recognise the broader effects of muting certain citizens of a state, have detrimental effects on nation building.

In short, communalism is not a product of religion but is a by-product of politics. Through political exploitation, religion [as religion has a powerful emotional appeal] is used to incite violence and marginalize certain groups within society. Thus, communal ‘riots’ are not about Hindu, Sikh and Muslims learning to co-exist, but are about power and domination. This is about acknowledging the current and historical injustices people have faced based on their religion, ethnicity, gender, caste, and class or combination of them all.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

Are we really raising a generation of entitled brats?

A few days ago a South Carolina officer was captured on video yanking a 16 – year old female student from her desk in a classroom, slamming her to the floor and then dragging her to the front of the classroom where she was then arrested.

Her crime – she was being disruptive in class, by using her cell phone to text message.

More specifically, her teacher and a second administrator attempted to discipline her before calling the school resource officer.

Since then the police officer, Ben Fields has been fired from his position.

I have been seeing a post by Christy Lee Parker on facebook and other social media sites being re-posted, shared, liked and supported. Her stance on this incident is firm and simplistic, in which she states the following:

“We are raising a generation of entitled brats who think they are above all authority and the law. What are we teaching “children” and young adults when a 17- or 18-year-old can disrupt a class, ignore 3 adult authority figures, and STRIKE an officer, and the officer gets fired for handling the situation?”

“If you are applauding the termination of Officer Fields and defending that brat, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. It’s this mindset that’s breeding disrespectful punks and causing them to get shot. Stop making kids think they are above the law and authority. You’re not doing them or society any favors.”

“There are THREE videos. Watch them in slow motion. If you’ve never had to attempt to restrain or remove someone who is resisting and flailing violently, then you really shouldn’t weigh in. The “violent throw” was caused by her own momentum as she bucked against the officer. I don’t care how big or tough he is, he couldn’t have “thrown” her in such a way by his own power with where his hands were. She bucked, straightened her body, lost balance, tumbling HERSELF backwards.”

Here are my concerns, with this blog.

Firstly I want to provide additional context for this incident, so we can have a better understanding of the situation. After, reading up on the story, the young girl and the officer here is what I have found. The young girl who was yanked and body slammed by this officer, was recently orphaned as her mother had just died and she was now living in a foster home. More specifically, this young girl, who was ‘disruptive’ in class, was not being loud, or talking to other students, however she was texting on her phone. Now before, anyone jumps in here and says she should not have been on her phone. I 100% agree with you, in fact I don’t think cell phones even belong in classrooms, let alone in schools. But that is another debate all together.

In addition, the school is centered in a lower socio-economic area, with over 27% of the students eligible for school lunches due to low-income. Student population is 59% black, 26% white and 15% other. The fear of drugs, gangs and the columbine shooting is what had sparked the initiation of the school resource officer program. In terms of state numbers of the use of law enforcement within the state, Spring Valley High school was slightly below than national average. However, the state’s numbers did reveal patterns of disproportionate referrals of black students.

Whether, this specific incident was an issue of race is uncertain. The research I have found is mixed, thus I will not comment on this specific issue. With that said, I believe the U.S.A. in terms of statistics and the cases we have seen throughout history illustrates there is an issue with race and police.

My concern here is not the fact that the student was black or female, but that she was a child. More specifically, she came from a marginalized background and was recently orphaned. To put it in simple terms, this child was failed by the system. The system failed her from the moment she walked into school that day and perhaps the days before. Perhaps, someone should have paid more attention to this grieving child, whether that was someone at the school, a relative or even the state. However, let’s say for arguments sake, she was receiving adequate attention and care for her loss. Let’s remind ourselves of what it is like to be a sixteen year old. When I was in high-school no one had cell phones, mainly pagers, but I do remember getting that ‘911 emergency’ page, and no it wasn’t the police. I also do remember how important it was to figure out how I could respond to this ‘so-called emergency’ page quickly. Better yet, I’m sure many of us have used our cell phone (secretly) when we shouldn’t have, or maybe that’s just me. However, I do not believe that warrants anyone being yanked out of a desk, body slammed and then dragged to the front of a room. This officer clearly had lost control and it is simple as that.

Perhaps, he too was having a bad and took it out on this student. We all have had bad days and sometimes do things that are out of character, but that is where accountability comes in. If you want to hold the youth of today responsible for their actions, then us adults must be held accountable for our actions as well. This officer deserves to be held accountable for his behavior, as he is the responsible adult and should be held to higher standards. Whether, he should be fired is up for debate. In addition, I will point out, some of these so-called ‘generation of ‘self-entitled’ brats,’ have started to protest the firing of Officer Ben Fields. So perhaps, they are not as ‘self-entitled’ as Christy thinks. A student by the name of John Cassibry, who was part of the protest against the firing of Officer Fields, stated the following to the The Huffington Post “that while he did not agree with Fields’ conduct in arresting the student, he also did not believe the officer deserved to be fired.”

I’m the first to support law enforcement officials as they are the first responders to protect us. However, I do not think it is right to support unacceptable behavior. The reason is simple, the moment you accept the misbehavior of an officer, then you disrespect all those officers who work ethically and for the greater good of the community. I am also careful not to paint all officers with the same brush. Contrarily to Christy Lee Parker who has painted all of today’s youth as ‘entitled brats.’

As for Christy’s argument “The “violent throw” was caused by her own momentum as she bucked against the officer. She bucked, straightened her body, lost balance, tumbling HERSELF backwards” lacks logic. Unless Christy is a forensic analysis, which from her website it states she is an internet journalist, business owner and worked in health care for several years, I would take her argument with a grain of salt. Whether, this child ‘bucked’ against the officer or not, his actions from the minute he put his hands on her were wrong. This young girl was clearly lacking something, perhaps she was missing her mom or her home at that moment, or perhaps she wasn’t. But in this case the action should have been simply to wait until the end of class and have a discussion with her. She was not actually disrupting the class vocally or physically. In fact, I don’t think the police should have been involved in this situation in the first place. This was a complete waste of police resources; this should have been handled by the teacher. Take the cell phone away; did not anyone consider that as an option? The point is the teacher and administrator should have been able to de-escalate the situation without having to call the school police officer. Alternatively, the bigger picture would be to perhaps ban cell phones in class rooms’ period.

My point is, for those of you who are you sharing and supporting Christy Lee Parker’s blog, think about the bigger picture. If we want the youth of today to be independent, strong leaders then we need to provide them with examples of strong leaders and we need to provide them with the tools to be leaders. We especially need to teach them accountability, and that is not done only through disciplining them but ourselves as well. Above all else, give our youth more credit; they are a lot smarter than we think.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

The great niqab debate

The great niqab debate

Over the last couple of weeks we have seen countless reports, articles, and political debates over a woman wearing a niqab to the Canadian citizenship ceremony. A young woman by the name of Zunera Ishaq challenged the government ban on preventing her from wearing the niqab to the citizenship ceremony. Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and the conservative government have made their voices clear on their stance of the niqab. Earlier this year Harper stated, “It is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family.” However, what the Prime Minister fails to recognize is for many Muslim women part of their identity lies within the niqab. The conservative government and some others have chosen to use identity politics to allure the masses, by using scare tactics. This is a common political strategy that is used – to divide and conquer. The best way to allure the masses is to divide them, to create internal conflict within society. This is done by using fear tactics and propaganda to create a common enemy.

By focusing on this issue of the ‘niqab’, we lose site of the more important issues. I have read countless articles and responses by the public, so I am going to make an attempt at addressing each of the concerns for those who oppose the niqab during the ceremony.

Firstly, the very fact the niqab has become a central debate amongst the political parties is quite concerning. By focusing on the niqab we are losing focus on the more important issues such as economics, mental health, education and environmental issues. I have repeatedly read that wearing the niqab during the citizenship ceremony is a security risk. My question is how is wearing a niqab a security risk? Becoming a Canadian citizen is a lengthy process and countless security checks are done prior to the ceremony. In fact, prior entry into the ceremony an identity check would have also commenced. What I propose to those who are concerned of a security risk [if that really is the concern] perhaps is to increase government funding towards CSIS, border services and the police. After all it is CSIS, border services and the police that are hired to protect us from terrorism. With that said, I personally believe our intelligence is one of the best in the world, our border guards and police are extremely diligent. I have faith in the men and women who serve and protect our country.

However, if you are really concerned about security and protection then perhaps you should have our government invest more bodies and funding into mental health.

If my memory serves me correct in 2013, Canadian born, John Stewart Nuttall, 38, and Amanda Korody, 29 of Newton, BC Canada were apprehended in a bomb plot that targeted Victoria, BC on Canada Day. Police had stated the couple were recovering drug addicts, and were inspired by al-Qaida ideology. Then in 2014, was 32 year old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, also Canadian born, who was known to have mental health issues and was a drug addict, shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian solider on ceremonial duty. He later entered the parliament building, where active members of parliament were attending caucuses. Both cases involved Canadian born individuals who had issues with mental health, and addiction and turned to al-Qaida ideology because our system failed them. Often we will see the media, highlighting their conversion to Islam as the problem – but these people didn’t convert to Islam. They turned to al-Qaida propaganda that uses religion to lure in the vulnerable, no different than Western politics has during this election. We need to focus on our youth, the ones who have been lost in the system and are easily influenced by political Islamist groups and other groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, or more specifically address the gang problem within our country – whose aim is to exploit the vulnerable. Mental health is a vital issue that is being overlooked, and being lost to words such as religion, terrorism, and security. So those of you who are concerned with security, we need to concentrate our efforts on mental health, which is really affecting our citizens and our country.

The fact we have spent countless hours, days and weeks over a woman who has clearly passed the test of security, is already a lost battle. We have lost focus on what is important. Dividing citizens does not make Canada or any other country safer, it does the exact opposite. PM Harper uses the words “Canadian values,” these values are not summed up by what one wears to the citizenship ceremony. These values are reflected in how we are able to accept others for who they are, because with acceptance comes gratitude and with gratitude comes the want to make Canada [home] a better place.

I have also read countless arguments the ‘niqab’ is not a religious symbol, and it is a repressive instrument for women. This stands correct; the niqab was introduced as a requirement for many women in the Middle East by law not religion. In fact, I think it was in the 1980’s during the Khomeini regime when it was implemented [This is another debate all together]. However, let’s say for arguments sake that is the truth. Does this really change anything? The same women who were forced to wear a niqab for the last 33 years, we are now forcing them out of one? Many young women only know how to live within the confines of their niqab when in public, and to strip them of it is no different than those who enforced it upon them in the first place.

I will share a couple of stories that I hope will offer some insight, if not expand your knowledge or at least give you some perspective.

I moved to London, England about two years ago from Vancouver, Canada. When I moved here I was psyched and excited to meet new people and of course I was in London! Well, I moved to East London, and I will tell you within my first few weeks I was surprised and shocked. I thought Canada was multicultural, but let me tell you London is the essence of multiculturalism. I met people from different places – places that I didn’t even know existed. In East London, there was also a very large Muslim population. It was here when I for the first time saw women wearing the niqab [in person], and not just the odd woman here and there but everywhere. I mean to the point where I would see them walking in groups, going to the grocery store, on the bus and at school etc. However, I didn’t realize my own bias until I had an older women come up to me on the bus and tell me not to be scared of them. I was heading to meet some friends, and I jumped on the bus wearing a long skirt and a crop top in the summer. When I got on the bus, I realized it was filled with a group of Muslim women who were all wearing a niqab or a hijab. I carefully waddled towards the back of the bus, feeling extremely uncomfortable in my crop top. I went to reach for my sweater and I couldn’t wrap it around me fast enough. Then, I hesitantly sat down next to this woman [wearing a niqab] and as soon as I did her cell phone went off ringing ‘Allah Akbar.’ I automatically jumped up and took that as a sign that I shouldn’t sit beside her. The fear and discomfort on my face must have been so plain to see, and that is when this older woman [wearing a niqab] tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘please sit, don’t be afraid.’ I quickly mumbled thank-you, but that I was getting off at the next stop. I was so embarrassed and actually ashamed of the way I behaved and more so on how I had thought. I questioned where my fear came from, and realized it was me not them. I felt I was being judged by them, they were completely covered, and I was there with my crop top and skirt. However, I soon realized they weren’t the ones judging me – I was judging myself.

Later that month I had started university, and I met a young Muslim woman who wore a hijab. [To clarify, I know there is a difference between wearing a niqab and a hijab, but even the hijab for me was still relatively a newer experience.] To be honest when I first met her I was careful in what I said around her, because I didn’t want to offend her. I even curtailed my stories to be more feminine and I spoke a little softer around her, but I never did that with my Muslim friends who did not wear a niqab or hijab. However, after getting to know this young woman, I realized she was the complete opposite of what I thought. She loved sports, she loved politics and she was far from shy and most certainly did not require any ‘saving.’ I started asking myself why I initially changed my behavior around her. The only conclusion I could come up with was that my perception of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab or niqab equated to vulnerability and repression. Over the years I have come to the understanding, our perception and our knowledge is based on what our experiences have limited us to. Our knowledge of life comes from the dominant discourse in our everyday life, through personal and shared experiences, education and politics. We all have biases, that we may not even be aware of, but it up to us to self-reflect and understand where they stem from.

Our leaders and educators control our knowledge narrative through the daily discourse. Thus, it is absolutely imperative how our leaders deliver their messages to the public. By banning the niqab at a citizenship ceremony with religious propaganda is destroying the very fabric of community. Using religion to separate the cohesiveness of a community ceases unification. They say there is strength in numbers, and that holds true. However, if Canadians divide themselves then we become weak as a whole. We can collectively fight against terrorism better together, than as a divided nation.

So then the only question left to ask yourself is, what is the real reason behind this debate?

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny

Her voice – Post-partition India 1947

Two new nations were conceived on the 14th & 15th of August 1947. India was instantaneously released from the British and divided at the same time. The division is one in which cost the lives of over one million people, and the displacement of over ten million people.

More often than not, women’s voices go unheard when we recall history. The Partition of India and Pakistan was also a time where the voices of women were absent. Historically, and some would argue even presently, women become the objects of study opposed to the subject.

This piece does not intend to determine who was right and who was wrong during the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition. This piece intends to provide a voice to the countless women, who gave their lives and their identity in the name of honour. This piece is a reflection of voices from Hindu, Sikh and Muslim women.

According to Menon & Bhasin (1998) [who conducted an oral history of the experiences of women during the Partition] “In the villages of Head Junnu, Hindus threw their young daughters into wells, dug trenches and buried them alive. Some were burnt to death; some were made to touch electric wires to prevent the Muslims from touching them. We saw many who had been raped and disfigured, their faces and breasts scarred, and then abandoned…. Their families said, “How can we keep them now? Better that they are dead.

What we often fail to see is that women are frequently put into very conflicting positions during war. Women are expected to safeguard their bodies and protect the nation by doing so. The type of violence that is enacted upon women during wartime is often in the form of sexual assault. It is argued that men rape the ‘enemies’ women to assert their identity and concurrently humiliate the ‘enemy’ by dishonouring their women.

Moreover, Pandey (1994) describes the story of the mass suicides of 90 women from Thoa Khalsa; who jumped into a well on 15th of March 1947. This specific incident is an example of the conflicting positions women were up against, and ultimately left them to their demise. However, Menon & Bhasin state that many women during Partition, were in fact forced to commit suicide to avoid sexual violence (to preserve their chastity, individual, family and national honour.) While interviewing men (whose female family members had claimed their lives during partition), they observed that the men would recount with pride how their women “preferred to commit suicide, than be raped by the enemy.” However, many women they interviewed also recounted the vials of poison, kerosene doused quilts being ignited for them to jump into, or wells being pointed out for them to drown in – Can this hardly be claimed as suicide?

Even in present day, women are expected to go to great lengths to protect these concepts of honour and shame, to the brink of death.

After the Partition violence had settled, both newly independent governments of India and Pakistan were bombarded with missing women’s reports. Given the immensity of the complaints, the two governments entered into an agreement in November 1947 to recover women from both countries and reunite them with their families. Officially it has been stated that approximately 50,000 Muslim women were abducted in India, and 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women in Pakistan. It was estimated that by December 1949, there was 12,552 recovered women in India and 6,272 in Pakistan. However, unofficially it is argued that the numbers are ten times the official recovered figures provided in 1949.

During Menon & Bhasin (1998) fieldwork they had come across an Ashram in Karnal Mahila, which fifty years later still had seven widows who had lived together after Partition. Below is an excerpt of the interview with Gyan Devi, 1997, [one of the seven widows] “I have been in the Ashram for 32 years now. In my village…We all lived so peacefully, god knows how the differences (between Hindus and Muslims) came. Now look at the problems between Hindus and Sikhs – we all practiced Sikhism although we were Hindu. It was all one. Now they are saying, these are Hindus, these are Sikhs…

Menon & Bhasin (1998) also spoke with social workers who worked in the rehabilitation and recovery of women in India. Krishna Thapar [who worked at the Gandhi Vanita Ashram for 18 years and then later worked for the Punjab Government.] Thapar discusses her perspective on the violence that had ensued during partition “You see, we didn’t do less to the Muslims – we had also become such brutes. Everyone was trying to be crueler to the other. Someone slapped first, someone else did in response, but all of them slapped. There was no difference. We all lost our humanity.” She goes on to say “Eighty percent of the motivation was political according to me; about 20 per cent was economic. To say it was due to religion is not correct; it is an uneducated way of thinking.”

Bibi Inder Kaur gives her position on how the Partition affected men and women differently. She states “You see…men…either they were killed or they escaped. Both ways they were…spared. If they died the problems died with them; if they survived they were resettled, they earned their daily bread and carried on. But the women were left behind and treated like outcastes, often raped and brutalised – I mean if she came, she came with a guilty conscience, with the stigma of having been ‘soiled.’ When the Pakistani’s did send some young girls back they were never able to resettle here. Many were sent back forcibly, they didn’t want to come, they had married there, they had children…Many young Muslim boys had married Hindu girls, honourably – there was no future for them here.  Then the government arranged mass marriages for many of the women who did return – well that’s also like being raped, isn’t it?

I have spent several months immersed in readings, documents, biographies, and writings of the women who lived and survived partition. I was deeply saddened to hear what they had gone through, but also at the very thought of their voices going unheard. This reminded me of my grandmother, who never spoke of Partition. I vaguely recall a time; when I was in my teens and we were visiting India. We were driving through Sirhand, Punjab and we decided to stop off at a Masjid. I remember my grandmother pleading with us to not get out of the car, as we would be harmed. We did so anyway. I recall the Imam and his wife greeting us as we got out of the car, showing us around, and offering us lunch and tea. He noticed my grandmother refusing to leave the car, so he sent lunch and tea over to her. Which, I recall she promptly refused. My mother apologized on her behalf, and I recall him saying “It is ok, I understand.” The Imam seemed to have understood her pain and was not angered by her refusal to enter the Masjid. There were no other words spoken of that day, or why my grandmother reacted the way she did.  In fact, my grandmother, nor my mother or my grandfather ever spoke of the brutality behind Partition.

This silence could be due to many reasons; my lack of understanding at that age or perhaps they wanted me to be free from the thought of such inhumane violence; they wanted me to keep love in my heart opposed to hate, or perhaps because my grandmother did not want to be reminded of that period of time. Sadly, by the time I was at an age to understand the world and ask her questions my grandmother suffered from dementia and recently passed. One of my greatest regrets is never having the maturity or the understanding of offering to hear her voice. Whether, she would have taken me up on that offer is another story. But I never gave her the option.

All I can offer now is my regret, and I hope that those of you who do have your grandparents in your life that you lend your ear and hear their story.

I dedicate this piece to my grandmother Surjit Kaur Grewal, and all the other women whose voices may go unheard.

“Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still slave in both these countries – slave of prejudice…slave of religious fantacism…slave of barbarity and inhumanity.” – Saadat Hasan Manto

Sunny Mangat

Twitter: @mangat_sunny