Page 10



trauma that allow it to survive that trauma. As David Gilmartin has suggested, the problems with narrating Partition should encourage historians to “place the tension between multiple realities and the production of shared moral meaning at the very heart of the partition story” (Gilmartin 1998, 1070). To explore these tensions and to look for historical continuities in what has been characterized as a moment of rupture is to complicate a view of history that has become codified in official and collective memory. I suggest that Partition is more than a moment, and that if, as historians, we can treat it as ongoing then we can in fact address the multiple realities of the Partition story. By expanding the chronology of partition, the event itself can incorporate the narratives of community and change that are excluded by a more limited historical approach. This move creates space for a long- term understanding of Partition as it exists in narrative today. To me, Partition is a process of unhitching communities from their pasts, the physical, spiritual and emotional ties that bind them to space and to chronology. The stories told by the several narrators I have interviewed have shown me how their community reconnected those ties to build (they actually said, “reestablish” or “recreate”) their future in a new space: Pakistan. A natural entry point for me into the rich traditions of North Indian Muslims is the powerful educational institution of the Aligarh Muslim University and the vision of its founder, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, whose vocabulary and priorities occupied a prominent place in the drive for Muslim statehood in the twentieth-century. Sir Sayyid certainly recognized the importance of institutional continuity as he sought to restore status to the Muslim community in North India. Emerging out of another national crisis of enormous importance, the rebellion of 1857— what Pakistanis today call the First War of Independence— Sir Sayyid embarked on a mission “to restore continuity to the social realm” of Muslims by defining them as a “moral community” (Neal 1998, 21 & 33). Disruptions to everyday life, such as the events of 1857, and of course Partition, become points of coherence in the collective memory of that community. As people understand and narrate the history of their community, they use these moments to anchor their narrative in the community and to describe how the community has experienced and survived trauma. These provide “a close link between self-identity and national identity”(Neal 1998, 37). In this case, as long as Muslims could look to the nominal leader of the Mughal Empire, Bahadur Shah, being Muslim entailed a special relationship to power. With the demise of that institution (symbolic as it was) the Muslim community lost its institutional focus. Sir Sayyid sought to relocate this focus through his educational movement. With the intention of creating a specialized education tailored to the needs of his community and their aspirations to be eligible for government service, to

Sagar XVII — 2007  
Sagar XVII — 2007