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Partition Museum thrown open in Amritsar, CM calls for lessons from ‘sad history’

A minute’s silence was observed after a single toll of the bell at the historic British-era Town Hall, where the museum has been built.

punjab Updated: Aug 17, 2017 22:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
1/8

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday inaugurated the Partition Museum in Amritsar in a tribute to millions of people who lost their lives when Pakistan was carved out of India and called for learning lessons from history to ensure such sad events do not occur again. (Sameer sehgal/HT)

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday inaugurated the Partition Museum in Amritsar in a tribute to millions of people who lost their lives when Pakistan was carved out of India and called for learning lessons from history to ensure such sad events do not occur again.

It was a sombre moment when the CM unveiled the museum’s plaque at the historic Town Hall at a special commemoration ceremony in which it was decided to observe August 17 as the Partition Remembrance Day.

A minute-long silence was observed after the ringing of a bell. The museum is an initiative of The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust (TAACHT).

Capt lauds efforts of Meghnad Desai

In his speech, Amarinder lauded the efforts of UK-based economist and Labour politician Lord Meghnad Desai in giving shape to the first-of-its-kind museum which had “recreated a very sad chapter of our history.”

He said the museum along with the Azadi Memorial in Jalandhar and similar initiatives would help the younger generation understand the past and learn from it, adding that no country can do well without learning lessons from their history.

The CM recalled his own memories of the Partition. “I was returning home from my boarding school in Shimla in a train and removed the window curtain only to see bodies lying at a railway station. The incident is still etched in my mind,” he said.

What the museum showcases
  • Partition-related memorabilia such as official documents, newspaper clippings, mementos, rare photos, literature, artefacts and films.
  • An antique pocket watch of someone killed in mob violence in Pakistan, woven fabrics from craftsmen of the time, a traditional rope cot carried by a refugee across the border and black-and-white family photographs.
  • Screens showing recorded interviews of Partition survivors.
  • Hall of Freedom Struggle plays songs of resistance with Amrita Pritam’s poem addressed to Waris Shah being played in the background.
  • Galleries on two floors, an archival room and a shop and an area for recording people’s stories.
  • At Gallery of Hope, visitors are invited to scribble messages of love and peace on leaf-shaped papers before hanging them on a barbed-wire tree.

Recalls his mother’s work for refugees

He also recalled the work done by his mother, Mohinder Kaur, who passed away recently, to help refugee girls return to their homes. He recalled how her memory of those days was that many of the girls forcibly sent back home were happily settled in their new homes across the border and did not want to leave their children and families but were forced to do so following an agreement by the governments of India and Pakistan.

Amarinder later walked around the museum in what he described as a memorable experience which brought many memories to mind.

Earlier, addressing the gathering, minister of local bodies, tourism and cultural affairs, archives and museums, Navjot Singh Sidhu said, “The museum is a story of resilience and an indomitable human spirit. It has revived history which is getting lost in the sands of time. Captain Amarinder has created history by opening the museum.”

Book launch, panel discussion mark event

The occasion was marked by a series of events, including a poetry recital by eminent poet and lyricist Gulzar, panel discussions by publisher Urvashi Butalia and poet Surjit Patar, a short play on Partition by Kahaniwala and Sufi music recital by Hashmat Sultana sisters.

Gulzar also launched his newly translated book ‘Footprints on Zero Line: Writings on the Partition’, on the occasion.

“Many people have painful memories of the Partition. But with this museum, all memories have got a place. I appeal to people in both countries to bring here anything related to the Partition,” Gulzar said.

Addressing the gathering, Partition Museum Trust chair Kishwar Desai thanked the state government for its support for the cause.

The museum is inspired by the stories of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, who belonged to Amritsar and whose family home at Gali Vakilan was destroyed in communal violence during the Partition.

Museum CEO Mallika Ahluwalia said the memorabilia tells the story of how the region’s struggle for freedom from the colonial rule turned into one of its most violent episodes, as communal clashes left hundreds of thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs dead and another 15 million displaced.

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 19:06 IST