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)
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“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