22 June, 2021

Our Talking Heads

A revelatory account shows how, in the years after Independence, India and Pakistan tried to thrash out all outstanding issues—from minorities and refugees, Indus waters and a possible guard against conflict

Leading lights
Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali sign the pact in 1950
Our Talking Heads

It is nearly 75 years since Partition--some three generations. The first generation, from the ’40s to the ’60s, was brought up in the shadow of the horrors of Partition and the ‘animosity’ that brought about the vivisection. The second generation, from the ’60s to the ’80s, was brought up in the period that witnessed the second Partition of the sub-continent, with the liberation of Bangladesh, the attempted reconciliation with rump Pakistan through the Simla Agreement and the unravelling of bilateralism. The third generation runs roughly from Kargil (1999) to the present.

Pallavi Raghavan belongs to the third generation and, through this little gem of a book, has returned us to the all-but-forgotten first generation period when, notwithstanding all the hatred and vicious violence that caused and accompanied Partition, the relationship between the two Dominions was characterised by a “dense set of bilateral negotiations” (p.17) that that are difficult to credit in the present age of bitter stand-off.

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