India got it’s freedom for a huge price! The price was – the partition which transformed lives and places forever. Recently, I had a good fortune of attending the Know Your Neighbour walk in the Selimpur – a neighbourhood which is still under the dark shadow of partition. It was a muslim neighbourhood before partition but many muslims had to flee the place and move to safer suburbs as hindu refugees from East Bengal sought safe haven after losing their home and land in Bangladesh. The land exchange between two religions and the nations which were created was totally unplanned and least monitored. The muslims from Selimpur did not go back to Bangladesh. My mother-in-law in her memoirs has mentioned that most muslims who claimed hindu lands in Bangladesh were from Bihar.
The Partition of India led to multiple migration of people – directly between India and Bangladesh/Pakistan. The other of the local population who became threatened religious minorities overnight and got pushed out of the margins of the city. Hindus living in Pakistan and Bangladesh and Muslims in India moved into interiors to escape atrocities and mayhem. Thus a large section of them got pushed out of their businesses, homes and became poor. Selimpur is one such neighbourhood in south Kolkata. It had a couple of rich patrons who built mosques (one dates back to 1898) and a graveyard but what remains is not even noticeable now. Only a small corner plot of the graveyard remains – which bears testimony of the desperate times when even grave-yards were encroached by refugees!
Certain chapters of history are difficult to read and deal with. But they have left behind large population whose lives transformed completely along with that of the nation. Here are the few photographs of the Selimpur walk.
I would like to express my gratitude to Know your Neighbour team for inviting me for the walk and the enriching presentations about the muslim communities, their culture and the locality. This discussion was highly academic and the session was attended by students and teachers of Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata.