Are you looking for books on the Indian partition? Have you found many books on the subject but want to know the good ones?
In this article, list 8 books that are must-reads to understand the partition of India and Pakistan. The partition of India and Pakistan is one of the most sensitive subjects in the history of modern South Asia. A lot of research has been done on the subject and it has been critically analyzed by many historians – both from South Asia and the world over.
Consequently, many books have been written on the subject of partition.
15th August 1947. This was the day when India got separated from Pakistan. When it comes to such a topic, a lot has been written and discussed. There are many first-hand accounts of people who actually saw it. There are many secondary accounts too in the form of books, letters, journals, etc.
They depict moments of happiness, sadness, anger, hatred, and varied emotions. It is through these books and accounts that partition is still living in our memories. Almost 70 years have passed since that day, yet we still feel it’s so vivid.
So, to explore that yesteryear era, here are a bunch of books one can read. They all are chosen and have varied themes and ideas.
Here’s a list of best books based on Indian Partition:
- The Great Partition by Yasmin Khan
- Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
- Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
- India Divided by Rajendra Prasad
- The Broken Mirror by Krishna BaldevVaid
- Ice Candy Man by BapsiSidhwa
- Mottled Dawn by Saadat Hasan Manto
- Tamas by Bhisham Sahni
- The Great Partition by Yasmin Khan – The Partition of India in 1947 promised its people both political and religious freedom―through the liberation of India from British rule, and the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan. Instead, the geographical divide brought displacement and death, and it benefited the few at the expense of the very many. Thousands of women were raped, at least one million people were killed, and ten to fifteen million were forced to leave their homes as refugees. One of the first events of decolonization in the twentieth century, Partition was also one of the most bloody. In this book Yasmin Khan examines the context, execution, and aftermath of Partition, weaving together local politics and ordinary lives with the larger political forces at play. She exposes the widespread obliviousness to what Partition would entail in practice and how it would affect the populace. Drawing together fresh information from an array of sources, Khan underscores the catastrophic human cost and shows why the repercussions of Partition resound even now, some sixty years later. The book is an intelligent and timely analysis of Partition, the haste and recklessness with which it was completed, and the damaging legacy left in its wake.
- Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh – The partition of India was one of the most dreadful times in recent Indian history. Since the 1950s, it has time and again been depicted in various media. However, while most of those focussed mainly on the socio-political causes and effects, the Train to Pakistan is a novel that has captured the essential human trauma and suffering in the face of such a terror and crisis. The novel commences with a description of Mano Majra, a little village with a Muslim and Sikh population that suddenly becomes a part of the border between India and Pakistan. An idyllic and peaceful village, Mano Majra resorted to love and harmony even in the face of all odds till external forces come and disrupted all the harmony. The odds start when a train filled with dead bodies of Sikhs and Hindus arrives in Mano Majra. Riots and strikes reached a high with the Sikhs and Hindus be one side and the Muslims on the other. Torn between them and their vested interests are two people—Juggut and Iqbal, the former being a criminal and the latter being a western educated fellow on a mission to reform society. Also underlying it is a love story that transcends all religion and odds. Regarded as one of the most heart-rending testimonials of the partition of 1947, the Train to Pakistan is an ideal novel for those who wish to learn more about India’s past and is looking for more than the socio-political scenario behind the partition. served as the editor of the Hindustan Times, the National Herald, and the Illustrated Weekly of India. He was also awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 but returned it as a protest against the atrocities of the Indian Army on the Golden Temple in 1984.
- Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai – While their parents went to parties at Delhi’s Roshanara Club, the children of the Das family brought themselves up, reading Byron, listening to the gramophone, and watching over sad, alcoholic Mira masi. Many years later, the youngest, Tara now a mother of two has returned from America to the scene of her unusual, lonesome childhood. Here, as always, is her sister Bim, doggedly single college lecturer and caretaker of all. In her presence, Tara sinks into the blissful torpor of home, at once her dreamy old self but careful as ever around her older sister. At the heart of this reunion are numerous tensions: Tara feels the persistent guilt of having, like the others, abandoned Bim, their autistic brother Baba is increasingly unquiet and Bim has not spoken to their other brother, Raja, for years and refuses to go to his daughter’s wedding. Clear Light of Day is vintage Anita Desai, a novel as wonderfully contemplative as a cup of afternoon tea.
- India Divided by Rajendra Prasad – The question of the partition of India into Muslim and Hindu zones assumed importance after the All-India Muslim League passed a resolution in its favor in March 1940 in Lahore. Most of India Divided was written in prison and it was published in 1946, a year before India was divided. The book specifically examines the theory that the Hindus and Muslims of India were two nations and concludes that the solution to the Hindu–Muslim issue should be sought in the formation of a secular state, with cultural autonomy for the different groups that make up the nation. It traces the origins and growth of the Hindu–Muslim conflict, gives a summary of the several schemes for the partition of India which were put forth, and points out the essential ambiguity of the Lahore Resolution. Finally, it deals with the resources of the Muslim-majority states and shows how the suggested scheme of Partition was impracticable and proposes a new solution to the Hindu–Muslim question.
- The Broken Mirror by Krishna BaldevVaid – The question of the partition of India into Muslim and Hindu zones assumed importance after the All-India Muslim League passed a resolution in its favor in March 1940 in Lahore. Most of India Divided was written in prison and it was published in 1946, a year before India was divided. The book specifically examines the theory that the Hindus and Muslims of India were two nations and concludes that the solution to the Hindu–Muslim issue should be sought in the formation of a secular state, with cultural autonomy for the different groups that make up the nation. It traces the origins and growth of the Hindu–Muslim conflict, gives a summary of the several schemes for the partition of India which were put forth, and points out the essential ambiguity of the Lahore Resolution. Finally, it deals with the resources of the Muslim-majority states and shows how the suggested scheme of Partition was impracticable and proposes a new solution to the Hindu–Muslim question.
- Ice Candy Man by BapsiSidhwa – BapsiSidhwa has tried to unleash the horrors caused by the partition of India through the eyes of a young girl Lenny in Lahore (the cultural hub of India then), from a minority (Parsee) background, as a spectator to this scenario and through her experiences with those (Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims) directly dealing with the social and violent traumas, at the crux. Sidhwa has provided the audience a very simplified lens to view the partition of India through a child’s point of view, yet touching upon the various social and cultural complexities that existed at that time, questioning concepts of conflict, power, possession, revenge, humanity and the basis for one’s identity.
- Mottled Dawn by Saadat Hasan Manto – Sadat Hasan Manto needs no introduction, the translator has done a great job in retaining the essence of every character in the book. If one is intrigued by the intricacies associated with the day-to-day lives of people in both parts of the country at the time of Partition, this is a must-read. Most of these simple yet complex stories will make you pause for a second and look back. You’re most likely to fill chills running down your spine multiple times.
- Tamas by BhishamSahni – Tamas drove the point home that ordinary people want to live in peace —The Guardian Set in a small-town frontier province in 1947, just before Partition, Tamas tells the story of a sweeper named Nathu who is bribed and deceived by a local Muslim politician to kill a pig, ostensibly for a veterinarian. The following morning, the carcass is discovered on the steps of the mosque, and the town, already tension-ridden erupts. Enraged Muslims massacre scores of Hindus and Sikhs, who, in turn, kill every Muslim they can find. Finally, the area’s British administrators call out for the army to prevent further violence. The killings stop but nothing can not erase the awful memories from the minds of the survivors, nor will the various communities ever trust one another again. The events described in Tamas are based on true accounts of the riots of 1947 that Sahni was a witness to in Rawalpindi, and this new and sensitive translation by the author himself resurrects chilling memories of the consequences of communalism which are of immense relevance even today.