Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India

04/08/20176:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tariq Rafi Lecture Theater, Habib University


Habib University, Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI), The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, and Aman Foundation welcome you to a roundtable discussion on its Partition Project, “The 1947 Partition of British India: Looking Back, Informing the Future.” Participants will share their research on an event that forever has reshaped the relationships and politics in South Asia.

The discussion will explore fertile ground for building scholarship not only on the Partition but also more generally on mass migrations, forced population displacement, and other emerging research areas relating to involuntary population movement.


6:00 – 6:15 pm Welcome
Dr. Asif Farrukhi, Interim Dean & Associate Professor, School of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, Habib University.

6:15 – 7:30 pm Roundtable Discussion:
“Implications of Mass Dislocation Across Geographies”
Facilitated by Professor Jennifer Leaning, T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University.

Moderator and Discussant: Dr. Asif Farrukhi, Habib University.


Yaqoob Bangash, Assistant Professor, History, Information Technology University, Pakistan.
Nabil Khan, Research Associate, South Asia Institute, Harvard University.
Nadhra Khan, Assistant Professor, Art Historian, Lahore University of Management Sciences.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and activist.
Ali Raza, Research Fellow, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard/South Asia Institute, Harvard University.

The research focus is on the immediate and wide-ranging humanitarian consequences of the Partition of British India, a forced movement of millions of people across what suddenly became international borders. The aim of the research is to focus on the relief efforts and rehabilitation of refugees by all level of government and by local and national organizations. A burgeoning facet of the project seeks to understand the multiplex links between narratives, history, memory and geopolitical mobilization.

Through the oral narrative, we seek to learn how people suffered, how they survived, who helped them along the way, their contacts with religious orders, the medical establishment, charities, the government, military and police, the railway official, and ordinary people living near the roads or in villages.

Finally, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy will share information on the work of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan.

7:30 – 8:00 pm Reception


Yaqoob Bangash
Grounded in the government reports on refugee influx and resettlement and rehabilitation, this presentation will focus on the generation, importance and impact of ‘statistics’ in West Punjab following partition. How the government treated the issue of refugees as a statistical and/or humanitarian issue, and how far did the statistics collected actually reflected the reality of the situation, will be topics discussed in the presentation.

Dr. Asif Farrukhi
is the interim Dean & Associate Professor, School of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at Habi University. He is also the Director for the Arzu Center for Regional Languages and Humanities and the Co-Director for the Arzu Program for Languages and Literature. He is a fiction-writer, critic and translator, whose academic and research interests are in literature and language. Known for his short stories and essays, seven collections of his short fiction and two collections of critical essays have been published. He has published translations of prose and poetry from modern and classical writers. His recent publications include a collection of new critical essays on Manto and Look At The City From Here, an anthology of writings about Karachi, published by OUP. Dr. Farrukhi contributes regularly to the English- language press. Two of his adaptations have been staged in Karachi. He is the editor of Duniyazad, a literary journal of new writing and contemporary issues in Urdu.

Nabil Khan
is a Research Fellow, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard/South Asia Institute, Harvard University. He is interested in issues of medical, humanitarian and bio-ethics; mental health and public health policy; community health and administration; and the history of public health and medicine.

Nadhra Khan
Khan’s research explores Lahore’s pre-Partition architectural spaces in the private sphere that offer narratives of resistance, defiance and endurance. These buildings played multiple roles – they raised families, housed revolutionaries and offered space to voices of dissent in a politically charged atmosphere where they could find the perfect pitch in unison before echoing in the colonial echelons. Most of these buildings now stand forgotten and weary but not spent as they still exude strength and spirit that set them apart from countless blank architectural structures around them. These places and spaces need to be read, revised and revived as markers of people who spearhead several anti-colonial movements that resulted in Independence of Pakistan and India.

Jennifer Leaning
is the François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. Dr. Leaning’s research and policy interests include issues of public health, medical ethics, and early warning in response to war and disaster, human rights and international humanitarian law in crisis settings, and problems of human security in the context of forced migration and conflict.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
is a Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and activist. She is particularly known for her work in films that highlights the inequality with women. She is the recipient of several awards, including two Academy Awards, six Emmy Awards and one Lux Style Award. In 2012, the Government of Pakistan honoured her with the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian honour of the country, and Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Ali Raza
The presentation will focus on the question of organized violence in the Punjab during Partition. My work seeks to move away from some of the dominant ways in which Partition violence has been understood by historians. I will be exploring the nature of organized violence through an overview of the source materials I have collected over the course of my project.