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The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India Paperback – June 16, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0822324942 ISBN-10: 0822324946

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (June 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822324946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822324942
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1947, British-ruled India was split into predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan, in what Butalia calls "one of the great human convulsions of history." Within a few months of this division, one million people had died, 12 million had migrated and 75,000 women were abducted and raped by men of religions different from their own. Although these facts are recorded in history, Butalia points out that the particular experiences of individuals are harder to discover. To fill the gap, Butalia, the cofounder of India's first feminist press, has spent 10 years gathering oral histories from those whose voices were often obscured by politics: women, lower castes and children who were separated from their families. She particularly focuses on the "double dislocation" endured by women, whose fates were often decided by the men of their religious communities. For example, many women were "rescued" from interfaith marriages and forced to return to their families; many had to leave children behind or were forced to have abortions. Others committed suicide to avoid forced conversions or rape; one woman describes her attempt to participate in a mass suicide of 90 women who drowned themselves in a well. By including official documents along with personal stories, Butalia shows that in political circles the need to protect women's religious "purity" gave legitimacy to PartitionAthough women suffered much violence at the hands of their own communities. Butalia's book is remarkable for the author's critical analysis of her own experiences as well as of the existing literature, and for her skillful demonstration of how the memory of Partition continues to affect India today. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

The Other Side of Silence is without a doubt one of the most important books ever to be written about the Partition of the Indian subcontinent. More than a history, more than a memoir, it is also an extended reflection on narrative form. Official history has always flinched from acknowledging the full extent of the human cost of Partition. Urvashi Butalia shows us why we cannot afford to forget the suffering, the grief, the pain, and the bewilderment that resulted from the division of the subcontinent. [This] is an extraordinary achievement.”—Amitav Ghosh


“Selective amnesia and memory are at the root of the relationship between human beings and their history. This book pierces that amnesia, elicits buried memories, and lays the foundations for a more evolved relationship between human beings on this subcontinent and their histories of gendered and communal violence.”—Kavita Punjabi, Telegraph (Calcutta)


“This is a magnificent and necessary book, rigorous and compassionate, thought-provoking and moving. Oral history at its best.”—Salman Rushdie

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Terence on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Having researched the whys and wherefores of the India/Pakistan Partition quite a bit, I have been surprised by how little has been heard from the people who lived through it (compared to other historical cataclysms such as the Holocaust, World Wars, etc.). Most books on Partition tend to concentrate on the "big picture", with a few anecdotes thrown in as an afterthought. This book provided by far the best account of how the Partition affected real people and real lives. The sections on the impact of Partition on women, children and the untouchables are especially powerful. Highly recommended, even for people who may not be familiar with this monstrous tragedy. You can't help but be moved by the first-hand accounts of such intense pain and suffering. Those interested in the human aspect of Partition should also watch "Earth", a great Indian movie on this subject.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Customer on January 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Urvashi Butalia is citizen and activist in India, the world's largest democracy. This book is a "must read" for those interested in the intersection of faith, ethnicity and identity in the Indian subcontinent in particular and in the world at large.
It is one of the few outstanding books on recent Indian history which integrates gender into the narrative to provide witness to the horror and pain of the subcontient's partition into India and Pakistan from the standpoint of one family, Butalia's own.
Part family biography, part oral history, this remarkably even-handed book deserves to be made into an epic movie.
Besides loss of property and loss of life, two of the subcontinent's many ethnic groups, more than all the others, underwent a sort of psychic dismemberment with partition that they have never really got over.
The Punjabis in the north, who lost west Punjab to Pakistan (and it is fair to say, west Punjab lost east Punjab to India) and the Bengalis of the east who saw east Bengal become East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, and West Bengal become a major state of the new Indian Union.
Urvashi, or someone with her exceptional gifts, needs to round out this narrative by doing a sequel on what happened in Bengal at Partition.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sjsd on September 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
a lot of the criticism regarding repetition is fair, yes. But it misses the point. Ms. Butalia has done something that really no other author has: record first-person accounts of the partition violence, from a population that is rapidly dwindling due to age. It is regrettable that more of such work has not been done. Of course she has her own agenda-- she is angry, and especially towards the violence visited on women-- but at no point does she make an attempt to HIDE this bias. You've got to be blind not to know that there is a personal pain and anger driving all this, and what is the matter with that. Stop criticizing her for tangential stuff and focus on the unique scholarship here.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Is a very good read if you have interest in the Partition of India. Related to personal accounts and eye witness stories of the affected people, this book gives a great insight to the unseen brutal reality of the partition of the sub continent experienced by both sides.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It tells us a heart moving reality of the partition of India. It leaves us with the message that it was not only a partition of two countries but partition of families, ties, friends, and the people themselves.
It is an excellent read, a page turner which will not let you put the book down. It is written so beautifully that the readers feel a part of the whole scene
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By runim on October 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an important book on a subject few have addressed, even marginally. Urvashi Butalia has tackled it head on. Few Indians or Pakistanis, let alone the rest of the world know or even recognize the fundamental ways in which the women and children on both sides of the religious divide paid the price of Partition, literally, with their lives. Sexual violence has always been a weapon of war. Indeed, 'to the victor goes the spoils' has been a war cry for millennia, and women are classed as part of those spoils. This fact is not in and of itself new. However, the scale and magnitude with which the rape, abandonment, and ritual sacrifice of women and children occurred during Partition, and the horrifying extent to which these acts were 'justified' by religious belief and cultural practice, is devastating.

The word holocaust, as used in the Biblical sense of 'burnt sacrifice', is actually relevant here. So many women and children were sacrificed, very literally, on the altar of 'honor' as defined by religion and culture during that awful period in our history. The sheer volume of research done by Ms. Butalia's team could easily have allowed the reader to distance themselves, protected by the objectivity of data...an issue that Ms. Butalia addresses at the very outset, at some length. However, she manages to have the voices of those people, the sacrifier as well as the sacrificed, speak out of the silence with aching clarity. She connects the threads of action (and paralyzing inaction) of Governmental agencies British, Indian and of the newly formed Pakistan with an acute historical perception.

There are a couple of places where the editors could have had a firmer hand, but in all, a book that needed to be written, and now should be required reading for anyone who wishes to know or understand the events of Partition.
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