Narrative Absence: The 'Untouchable' Account of Partition Migration

Ravinder Kaur

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The core of symbolic communities, like the community of Partition migrants, is formed through the discursive ownership of historical experiences-for instance, the loss of human lives, personal property and dismemberment of national territory; followed by the restoration of that loss through examples of successful refugee resettlement and national self-assertion. Within the master narrative of Partition migration history, however, the experiences of forced movement and resettlement suffered by the ‘Untouchables' are obscured. Popular accounts of violence, forced movement and suffering are largely built around the narratives produced by upper caste and upper middle-class migrants and exclude the experiences of Untouchable migrants. This narrative absence becomes a gauge of both the discursive and physical exclusion of ‘Untouchable' refugees from the legitimate community of Partition migrants. Such a meta-version of Partition history constitutes the realm of the normal outside which ‘Untouchable' narratives exist as an aberration in the theme of modern citizen-making in post-colonial India. In this article, I examine these ‘aberrations' to provide an alternate reading that helps us challenge the master narrative of Partition migration history
Original languageEnglish
JournalContributions to Indian Sociology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)281-306
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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