Promoting people's history in South Asia
Anam provides a deeper lens into people's lived history in the South-Asian sub-continent. She focuses on learning the real-life experiences of ordinary people to process past events, such as the partition, that define the sentiments and political realities of the sub-continent. Her work isn't focused on whether Partition should or shouldn't have happened. Instead, it looks at the ways in which it impacted people; at the human dimension of the larger meta events of that time. The Independence from the British, Partition itself, and the violence of Partition are viewed by Zakaria as distinct events and she thinks that, while the three have metamorphosed into one over time, they are quite different when examined from a sociological lens.
15MM people displaced
+1MM people died
The partition resulted in one of the largest mass-migrations in human history accompanied by orgies of violence and eruptions of horrific savagery between competing communities.
"Unfortunately, the birth of Pakistan was attended by a holocaust unprecedented in history. Hundreds of thousands of defenseless people have been mercilessly butchered and millions have been displaced for their hearths and homes... The disorders in the Punjab have brought in their wake the colossal problem of the rehabilitation of millions of displaced persons. This is going to tax our energies and resources to the utmost extent. It has made the difficulties inherent in the building of a new state, I referred to earlier, manifold. Are we going to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the immensity of the task that is confronting us?" - Mr. Jinnah
Outside the cold statistics of the partition, Anam Zakaria tells us the stories of the people who lived through the experience of a violent mass-migration by curating and conducting sensitive conversations, sifting through long suppressed memories and presenting us a people's narrative that erodes bi-national prejudices and fosters greater empathy for each other.
Some Excerpts from "Footprints of of Partition"
THE BUS THAT DID NOT STOP
‘Daughter, if you were kicked out of your home for fifty or sixty years and then you returned but were unable to see it, how would you feel? When I saw Putlighar, I began to cry. I had grown up there, I had lived there but I couldn’t get out for a minute and roam around. The bus couldn’t stop and even if it had, I couldn’t have stepped out . . .’ This was the first time after 1947 that Muhammad Rauf (the name has been changed to protect his identity), now seventy-four, saw the city he was born and raised in, one that he had left behind at the tender age of nine. The well that he drank water from as a child, the grounds where he played flashed across behind the tinted windows of the bus.
TEA AT NO-MAN'S-LAND
"I was standing right across from him. I could see my father wave at me while he pleaded with the Pakistani officials to talk to the Indians, to let me come just a little forward. But they wouldn’t allow it. That was the last time I saw him, from behind the Indian gate at Wagah."
"It had been years since I had seen my family . . . I was desperate to catch a glimpse of them, to hug my mother and father, to sit with them for just a little while. We had tried for six or seven years to get a visa, for them to come to India or me to go to Pakistan, but nothing had worked out. Meeting at the border was our last resort."
"While everyone dealt with the mixed emotions—the happiness of attaining their own country meshed with feelings of loss, nostalgia and anguish—Roshan Ara and her friends decided to volunteer at a refugee camp based in Forman Christian College. They did not want to sit around helplessly. They wanted to salvage whatever little was left of their Lahore, of the people that had poured in from across the border in appalling conditions. ‘We were thirteen-fourteen-year-old girls with no training but we did the best we could. There were just one or two trained nurses and a handful of doctors. The rest were all volunteers like us, young students and housewives. We would pick out maggots from the wounds of refugee families, cleaning and bandaging them . . . it was horrible. People were dying everywhere, families were refusing to take back abducted women, there was no food, clothing. Lahore was in a state of utter despair. It looked nothing like it used to."
The Journey of Partition itself -- after Partition.
"Anam’s effort in writing this book has been painstaking, sensitive, realistic, constructive and necessary. She has performed a distinct service."
- Rajmohan Gandhi, biographer and journalist
"A moving, inspiring and thoughtful first-person account of a young woman’s process of “unlearning” about “the enemy” and learning to embrace and accept the “other” as fellow human beings. The process involves a rich and varied series of experiences that Anam Zakaria shares openly with readers, lightly interspersed with historical context and her own insightful analyses."
- Beena Sarwar, writer and documentary filmmaker
This book is dedicated to Muhammad Rauf and the countless other Indians and Pakistanis who have died with the aching desire to cross the border and reconnect with the homes and lives they left behind in 1947.
In a first book of its kind, award-winning Pakistani writer Anam Zakaria travels through Pakistan-administered Kashmir to hear its people - their sufferings, hopes and aspirations. She talks to women and children living near the Line of Control and in the process, Zakaria breaks the silence surrounding a people who are often ignored in discussions on the present and future of Jammu & Kashmir even though they are important stakeholders in what happens in the region. What she unearths during her deeply empathetic journeys is critical to understanding the Kashmir conflict and will surprise and enlighten Indians and Pakistanis alike.
The year 1971 exists everywhere in Bangladesh-on its roads, in sculptures, in its museums and oral history projects, in its curriculum, in people's homes and their stories, and in political discourse. It marks the birth of the nation, it's liberation. Navigating the widely varied terrain that is 1971 across Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Anam Zakaria sifts through three distinct state narratives, and studies the institutionalization of the memory of the year and its events. Through a personal journey, she juxtaposes state narratives with people's history on the ground, bringing forth the nuanced experiences of those who lived through the war.
Anam Zakaria is doing the essential work of documenting and collecting people's history from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. The path to porous borders, economic connectivity and strengthening of cross-culture ties between India and Pakistan can start with humanizing each others experiences via story-telling.
Jinnah's Pakistan believes in an honorable and real friendship with India and is proud to announce a partnership with Anam Zakaria and work together to promote her work across Pakistan.