Amritsar’s Partition museum to relive a generation’s sacrifices

The Trust will hold a series of exhibitions and seminars on Partition in India and the U.K. in the run-up to the inauguration of the museum.

December 03, 2015 04:44 am | Updated March 24, 2016 01:39 pm IST - LONDON:

Partition museum. Photo: Special Arrnagement

Partition museum. Photo: Special Arrnagement

A permanent museum dedicated to the Partition of India in 1947 – to be called Yadgar-e-Taqseem or Memories of Partition – will be opened in Amritsar in early 2017, to coincide with the 70th year of India’s Independence. The brainchild of Kishwar Desai, a writer and former media professional, the Partition Museum will be a collaborative effort that will draw on individuals, institutions and resources in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom.

The Trust that will run the museum, the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, is registered in India.

“We would like to commemorate Partition and the sacrifices made by people on both sides of the border. It is time we lift the veil of silence around Partition and really understand it,” said Ms. Ahluwalia at a consultation held in London yesterday of academics from the London School of Economics and School of Oriental and African Studies, representatives from the British Library, supporters from the Indian diaspora, and historians.

“We would also like it to be a museum, which like other sites of conscience, helps us understand and heal the wounds. People must come out with a sense of hope and not despair, and feel it must never happen again.”

The Trust is currently in negotiations with the Punjab Government, which has offered the Trust an old colonial building near the Golden Temple to house the museum. The Trust hopes that the museum will attract the pilgrim traffic to the Golden Temple.

The “syncretic culture of the entire region” Ms. Ahluwalia said will contexualise the Museum’s offerings, which will include documents, oral histories, photographs, films, partition art, literature and film, and other sources relating to Partition. It will have a digitized section and also a resource website, and the Trust hopes it will come a research and documentation centre in time. In India, the Trust is in touch with the heritage group INTACH, but will be approaching the National Archives, Teen Murti Library, All India Radio Archives, and the archives of newspapers. It is also hoping to attract oral accounts from the fast disappearing Partition generation.

In Pakistan, the Trust is tying up with citizen’s archives and historians working on the area. In the UK, the Trust hopes to establish a formal collaboration with the British Library and National Archives at Kew, which together hold a great part of the official documents relating to the period.

The Trust will hold a series of exhibitions and seminars on Partition in India and the United Kingdom in the run up to the inauguration of the museum. An exhibition of 3000 pieces of Partition art is to be held in Mumbai in the middle of next year.

The Trust aims to raise £ 1 million through donations, Ms. Ahluwalia says, to get the museum up and running for the first year. The first donation to the Trust has come from the family of Shakuntala Lal, a former journalist whose own family was displaced through the Partition. A second donation was made at the consultation by Samir Jassal a third generation British Indian Sikh.

The Trust has made a public appeal for partition material – especially letters, photographs and oral histories lying in personal and family collections. The museum project website is > http://www.thepartition museumproject.com.

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