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THINKING THROUGH PARTITION

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Aligarh boys took this to heart and now in Pakistan speak passionately about the solidarity of Muslims, the inevitability of the partition and the establishment of the Pakistani state. The family-like grouping of Aligarh students facilitated a powerful collective experience in which Aligarh memories are localized. Maurice Halbwachs, in his work On Collective Memory describes how our memories help us to perpetuate identity (Halbwachs 1992, 52-53). The identity of these narrators is based on their centrality in a teleological narrative of statehood. Yet, their stories reveal slippages in their efforts to sustain a sense of nationhood and to use it to create a continuous narrative for Pakistan that links the intellectual and cultural history of Muslims in India with the narrative of the nation-state. They are representative of that class of Muslims that Sir Sayyid sought to reach; their fathers were, to a man, employed as servants to the Raj and most were also graduates of Aligarh and had been raised on Sir Sayyid’s loyalism and spirit of Muslim revival. They speak with pride of their association with the university and tell of the disruption that Partition caused in their community, as General Wajahat, an Aligarh native and “day scholar” recalls: All the people in Aligarh knew us. So this was the feeling which one naturally missed. No one knew us [in Pakistan]. But, after eight to ten years we settled down in Lahore, got to know the people, got round and established some sort of—I wouldn’t say roots—but some kind of establishment… [In Aligarh] there was the University, the relationship we had with the University… Then the cultural and educational association with the University, with [the] professors… So these things one missed a lot, one still does, I suppose. We were very proud of our association and our cultural heritage, family heritage and the way we were brought up. (personal interview, June 27, 2005, Lahore) We can hear in General Wajahat’s remembrance that he and his family suffered a deeply felt loss when they abandoned the community that had nurtured them and that they had supported for generations. In this narrative we hear the first hint that Pakistan, filled with Indian Muslims, did not have the same sense of community as the one that existed in Aligarh. Pakistan was not a place that an old family could establish “roots.” The fulfillment of the Pakistan Demand meant that Aligarh, its “emotional center,” would have to be abandoned (Mirza 1989, preface). Perhaps more than any city in North India, Aligarh embodied the critical aspects of Sir Sayyid’s qaum and it was his intellectual legacy that strengthened Muslim institutions there. Although Sir

Sagar XVII — 2007  
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