Partition is a trauma that continues to haunt the people who had borne the brunt of the biggest man-made tragedy in the subcontinent, mainly residents of Punjab and Bengal. People in both these states, who had to migrate leaving not only their homes, but their dialects, culture, and above all the bitter sweet memories of their childhood and youth, suffered on a similar scale.

But Bengal stands out as it had first witnessed a Partition in 1905, but that was undone in 1911 after fierce resistance from the people. Then it underwent a Partition defined by the two commissions under Cyril Radcliffe. Bengal relived the trauma once again in early 70s, around the creation of Bangladesh when hordes of refugees were once again compelled to cross over in order to save their precious lives.

The scars of the last two are there to see in Kolkata, even at this point in time. The trauma has returned often as a reminder of what divisive anti-people decisions achieve.

This was pointed out by many to this writer as he visited the city on the sidelines of Durga Puja, the biggest festival in the state that sees involvement of people from all communities and walks of life no matter whatever propaganda is peddled by the right wing aiming to achieve petty political goals in the rest of the country on the name of Bengal.

The people residing in the congested bylanes of the city pointed out how the entire urban planning went haywire with refugees arriving in 1947 and thereafter as they settled down in unplanned shanties on the then outskirts of the city.

These hamlets were provided basic amenities by the administration and gradually became the new ‘paras’ or localities of the city that continued to burst at the seams. But the beauty of Kolkata is that it has adopted everyone in its fold.

Not only the people coming from across the border but the city became home to rich Marwaris as well as the poorest of the poor from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and even the North East who have continuously migrated here in search of livelihood. No wonder it is referred to as the City of Joy. Perhaps it is the joy one derives in witnessing human resilience, bonding, overcoming differences or letting life flow at its own pace along the Ganges till it enters the delta.

A youngster selling books at a CPM book stall at a Puja Pandal in the busy Gariahat area said, “This is an area that has always witnessed a high level of communal brotherhood and also communal politics.” the young man said.

This writer visited Naktala where a Pandal had been set up to depict the Partition of Bengal. The curators had showcased what people had been through at that point of time. This Pandal that had been named ‘Hridaypur’ depicted a disaster that had been stabbed into the heart of the state. Its eastern part became East Pakistan while the other became West Bengal in India.

These parts are said to have a majority population above 70 % of Muslims and Hindus respectively at that point of time, the basis of division of the country. This Pandal had a roof of a disaster hit facility and the colour all around was dark, depicting the darkness of those days.

It showcased affidavits submitted by the migrants who had come from across the border. They had recorded the loss of land and property along with the family members that had accompanied them on account of ‘communal disturbance’. Reading these affidavits gave goose bumps to the visitors.

Then there were pictures of those who had arrived and settled in this area, the first refugee colony in South Calcutta, depicting their daily lives and struggles. Then there was a section dedicated to the name plates that their humble dwellings had. Many of these nameplates mentioned their professions or vocations like hospitality, catering etc.

There was a section that contained vials of water mentioning names of the rivers that now flow in Bangladesh but carry memories for those who had to flee in those dark bloody times. The Pandal also had tin almirahs and other similar paraphernalia strewn about as a reminder of how people over the years had struggled to gather their lives and put them back on track again.

The curators had put up a stand at the entrance that said, “Similarly as a witness of innumerable ‘insignificant histories’ exists Naktala between Calcutta and Kolkata. Our work ‘Hridaypur’ (heartland) will unearth the unknown memories embedded in the heart of Naktala-700047 and portray their various retellings that blur the line between Golpo (factual incidents) and Kolpo (imagination).

Today’s colonies in Kolkata were some of the first plots of land that the people of East Bengal migrated to and settled: sometimes with the help of the government, and primarily by force (as there was no other option) creating their colonies for habitation known as ‘jabardokhol’ colony.

Naktala, the first government recognised (in 1949) refugee colony in South Calcutta, still has stories to tell, stories that mostly remain in the shadows of ‘national’ history. The memories of Naktala residents, their fight for a new identity, the pangs of leaving their motherland and the collective spirit of creating their ‘home’ in West Bengal (of transforming a refugee colony into their own para (locality)) are still felt at Hridaypur.

“Is it easy to leave one’s country and set up their ‘home’ in a distant land? How did they come to terms with being uprooted from their motherland?” read the message adding, “The celebration of Durga Puja played a significant role in transforming the ‘colonies’ into ‘paras’. For the residents, Devi Durga acts as a strong thread binding the hearts of people from two Bengals.

“From a broader perspective ‘Hridaypur’ is not just a history of Naktala, but a multifaceted narrative encompassing the regional histories of infinite people, families and colonies affected by the partition of India. Our work is a diverse and harmonious panorama of feelings.”

“Partition cannot be forgotten and should not be forgotten. People have to learn from it. People visiting this Pandal have been leaving with an emotional baggage,” Dina Nath, one of the curators said. He displayed front pages of prominent newspapers announcing the creation of two dominions of India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947, the birth of two countries that later became three in the shadow of madness marked by killings and uprooting of millions.