In August 1947 a cataclysmic event rocked the foothold of Indian populations - India was decolonized and subsequently partitioned to create a separate homeland for Muslims i.e. Pakistan. This cartographic rupture was followed by one of the largest migration movements in the world as Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs undertook long and arduous journeys to cross borders and reach their new homelands.
My grandparents were a part of this historic migration; and I grew up listening to profoundly moving narratives of partition that left around 1.5 million dead and an even greater number injured and homeless. The history of the birth of the two nations is thus both bloody and powerful. Yet 69 years later, its historiography continues to be problematic. With an MSt. in Modern South Asian Studies, I will be looking at the migration movement in its later stage i.e. when migrants had crossed borders and entered their new ‘homelands’. Specifically, my research aims to question the new dynamics that were developing between refugees, locals and the nascent state in Punjab, Pakistan; and what implications it had for rehabilitation and the making of Pakistani citizens.
My first academic encounter with this topic was while I was collecting oral histories from partition survivors during my undergraduate program from the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan. With a joint major in Economics and Political Science, and a minor in History, I explored a host of different subjects before effectively deciding that studying Humanities was my raison d’etre! I focused my minor on South Asian history and upon graduation, worked for a time with a research organisation - Gallup Pakistan - through which I also led a nationwide research exploring public sentiments and perceptions regarding partition.
My reasons for studying Pakistan’s history outside of it are contingent upon my desire to decontextualise myself by being in a different environment thereby forcing myself to ask different questions. In this sense, I am deeply humbled that the Ertegun Scholarship Programme made this a possibility for me. Its unique concept of combining academic, social and financial support within a vibrant inter-cultural community is the best gift an Oxford student could receive.
In my free time I like to indulge my imagination and virtually encompass different regions of the world through reading their works of fiction. I am also very excited about attending all the extra-curricular events and trips planned by Ertegun House community.