Those of us who are fond of Indian history owe gratitude to Prabhat Prakashan for publishing, or should I say re-publishing in e- book form a book which virtually disappeared from India. This book is titled, “Now It Can Be Told”by Professor A N Bali and is about the Partition of Punjab in 1947. What makes the book more interesting is that it is based on the personal experience and observations of the author who was then a Professor in the Punjab University at Lahore in the undivided India. From reading the book, we gather it was first published a few years after the events of Partition and the Independence of India took place, hence the title of the book. I would guess it may have been published around 1949-50 or so.
It appears the book was controversial at the time of its publication as it was considered to be critical of the powers that be. These included the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and many of his colleagues in the Indian National Congress. I find from the website of Indian Kanoon that in September 1950 this book featured in a case that came up for hearing in the Punjab High Court. The Court overruled the order of the Chief Commissioner of Delhi that all copies of the book written by Prof Bali and published by Akaslivani Prakashan, Jullundar, should be “forfeited’.
So much has been written about the Partition and the horrors that followed it. I have read a fair number of books on the subject but I still found Prof Bali’s book of great interest as he writes from his personal experience. From Prof Bali’s book, it is clear that in many cases the departing British, or at least a fair number of them, supported the Muslims rather than the Hindus and the Sikhs. This happened in particular in Lahore and surrounding areas. Muslim refugees heading to Pakistan found it relatively easier than Hindus and Sikhs seeking refuge in india. Cases of blatant partiality are described. Refugees from India to Pakistan were given shorter amd more convenient routes while the refugees from Pakistan heading to Indian were given much longer and more dangerous routes.
I must say the book leaves you sad that the politicians of that time including Mahatma Gandhi ( described as being both a Mahatma and a politician in some senses) did not foresee the enormous hardship the Partition would cost the millions affected. The horrors of refugees being murdered, raped, and maimed are already well-documented. This books adds to the list of gory stories of how bad things were in those tumultuous times.
What is shocking is how those who fled Lahore genuinely believed that they could return one day to their homes and property. We see how the Governments of india and Pakistan differed in their treatment of property left behind by those who fled. In Pakistan, it became a free for all. Thousands grabbed land and property they would never have dreamt of possessing in their lives. On the contrary in India, the property of those who fled the country were guarded carefully – in some cases for decades- while the refugees from Lahore lived in pitiable conditions in the hastily created dreadful refugee camps.
I think this book must be read by every student of Indian history. Don’t they say we should learn from mistakes made in the past? If we don’t know about the mistakes how will we ever avoid them?? Here lies the importance of books like this by Prof Amar Nath Bali.