Migration and Exclusion

Refugees to India after 1947

Deepra Dandekar (project concluded 03/2020)

The independence of India and Pakistan from Britain in 1947 was accompanied by the two-way migration of more than 10 million Hindus and Muslims across the newly formed political boundaries. While the partition between the two countries was generally viewed as a product of the nationalist struggle that was then complicated by mass participation in the ensuing violence during the population exchange, the newly formed states of India and Pakistan were instrumental in sharpening emotional communities based on religious differences between Hindus and Muslims. This project focuses on exclusion and explores the various perspectives on the meaning of home and nation that defined emotional communities based on religious identities in India.

Working with archival records and documentary evidence, it will analyze the formation of multiple contested identities and emotional communities among refugees after the partition, as the latter fled their old homes and hoped to build new ones. The project will study the ways in which refugees engaged with transitory emotional communities in camps while they as migrants struggled to construct an imagined ideal community, home, and nation. The idea of a home, however, was not always uniform among refugees, as women and men, divided according to castes, professions, regions, religions, and languages had differing perceptions of their status and the places where they found themselves. Their participation in constructing new and plural emotional groups remained intensely debated and ultimately came to exert an impact on postcolonial conflicts in India.

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