Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

5 - Cultural and Language Identity Formations in Post-Partition South Asia: A Special Case of Bahawalpuri Hindus

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Amaltas, Lower Ground Floor

This paper critically plots the post-partition experiences of Bahawalpuri Hindus, an ethno- linguistic community that migrated during partition from the province of Bahawalpur in Pakistan to India. A study of cultural and linguistic transitions within this community in the post-partition period indicates the loss of their connection with their ancient language (Lahnda) and script (Landa) as a cost of assimilation in the ‘Hindu’ nation. The narrators in my oral interviews during field study establish that the lack of knowledge of Hindi in India left them incompetent in the social and economic spheres of their new ‘homelands’ after partition. This ultimately crystalized community’s attempt at assimilation in the Indian nation
by eliminating the past towards gaining an Indian (non-Muslim) identity (cultural and linguistic). In this paper, I argue how partition not only crystalized several binding identity formations but also prompted the loss of a significant cultural and linguistic history of South Asia. In the corpus of partition scholarship including the official accounts, a focused study of the ethno-linguistic community of Bahawalpuri Hindus is absent as the community is often documented as part of the population from Punjab that migrated to the Indian side of the border. The reason for such invisibility, as I argue, is largely due to their unique partition experiences where the predominant narrative is not that of physical violence and bloodshed but of loss of cultural and linguistic heritage. 

Shaifali Arora

Indian Institute of Technology, India

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