Happy/Unhappy Independence Day...

Please forgive me if I don't rush to get my firecrackers...

Yesterday was Indian Independence Day. In 1947, India gained independence from Great Britain. Great. America also gained independence from the British too, so I get it. It's exciting!

But when America gained independence, people of various religions didn't have to leave their homes and go to a new designated "land" for their religion. States were not divided based on language. Yes, we had a few kinks to work out (civil war, abolish slavery, women's rights, etc etc) but hey, I think we've done a pretty good job so far. . . . .

One thing about Indian history that dumbfounds me till today is this: when the British left, why was each religion awarded their own land? Why did India need to get divided so much? Why did the Muslims have to go to Pakistan? Why did the Hindus have to go to India? The Sikhs were given an option of getting their own piece of land too but we refused. (Unfortunately a huge mistake that would hurt us severely for decades to come. . . ) Half a million people died in riots during the transition. Why??? If everyone was living together before, why couldn't they all have lived together  afterwards?

Why couldn't a new government have been formed with equal representation from each faith? To this very day, there is still Hindu/Muslim rioting happening in India, supposed "terrorism" from Pakistan for what I don't know. Oh, and let's not forget how the Indian Government tried to blow up the Golden Temple (one of the holiest Gurudwaras of the Sikh faith). And then people got surprised and angry when Indira Gandhi's two Sikh bodyguards took revenge and killed her. Really????

Punjab (the land of 5 rivers) was divided amongst India and Pakistan and now it should really be called the land of two rivers. The water of those rivers also have to go to the neighboring state of Haryana so now India's breadbasket is suffering so much that it's farmers are committing suicide on a daily basis.

Okay, so quick recap here: August 15, 1947: The country of India gets divided. The state of Punjab gets divided. Half a million people die. Problems don't get fixed. They get worse. In fact, problems from that day escalate to more division amongst all religions and more deathly monstrosities.

Please forgive me if I don't rush to get my firecrackers. . . . . .

I wrote and published the above piece about 2 years ago. I am currently here in the U.K. on vacation and gosh there is a bit more I'd like to expand on. I recently went to an event in London which was about "Decolonization" and the aftermath of partition on the Desi diaspora now 70 years later. It was incredibly interesting because there were and are so many layers to partition that continue to haunt us till today. One of the most troublesome layers being: Rape.

When the Indian partition happened, 15 million people were displaced from their homes, and thousands were killed. (Somewhere between 250,000 and 1 million people, but who's counting?) During this time and to be honest, during any war or riot or mass chaotic frenzy that occurs between people, men fight and men die. Women on the other hand get raped. If a man survives battle, he comes home and his scars and battle wounds are celebrated and honored (as they should be). However, when a woman is raped, she is shunned and she is shamed. She cannot be proud or victorious for surviving. Her life is now worthless and filled with disgrace.

Back in those days (and I'm pretty sure this applies today too) women were the "honor bearers" and shame bearers" of their families. So, when 15 million people were forced to leave their homes, when the opposite side was coming to kick them out, they went after the women. And what I'm about to explain next just kills me. Instead of giving the women arms to defend themselves, women were given poison to take so that they could commit suicide before the atrocity happened. Women were pushed into wells. Women were beheaded by their own fathers so that shame and dishonour of them being raped would not be bestowed upon their family.


This is me speaking as an American Sikh in the year of 2017, but gosh, if I was in an environment like that, you better believe I'd have a pitbull to my right, a German shepherd to my left, a kirpan on my one side and a rifle on my other side (Why a rifle and not a hand gun or an AK47 you ask? Less recoil and more accurate precision ;)  As a Sikh I cannot believe that the solution back then was to commit suicide. I don't believe that is the solution that our Gurus would have wanted. Even now in 2017 in India rape takes place at an alarming rate. I know that women over there are learning self defence which is great but gosh that's the only country where kirpans are literally allowed EVERYWHERE. Why not take advantage of that?The holy holiday of Raksha Bandhan just passed a few days ago in which women tie rakris around "brothers" to protect them and honor them. But where are these brothers?

Sorry I got off topic a bit. Anyways, back to 1947. Indians take so much pride in the fact that Gandhi influenced and achieved Independence peacefully and non violently. But what was so peaceful about 15 million people losing their homes? What was so peaceful about riots nationwide and trains arriving at their destinations full of dead passengers? What was so peaceful about women getting raped or pushed into wells or beheaded?

Peaceful my ass, India. Peaceful my ass.

Christine Kaur

Christine Kaur started blogging as an outlet to express the trials of relationships of second generation western born Sikhs like herself.

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