There is a common critical consensus that the 1947 Partition of South Asia correspondingly affected two regions in particular—Punjab and Bengal. However, the recent scholarship on the 1947 Partition explicates that the waves of refugee migration and the ensuing rehabilitation of individuals and families have had an enduring impact on other regions in India. For instance, in Citizen Refugee, Uditi Sen probes into the nature of settlements built for the Bengali refugees in Andaman Islands, and Anjali Gera Roy, in her latest book, records the changing contours of Lucknow following the construction of refugee colonies in the city. In Refugees, Borders and Identities, Anindita Ghoshal further advances this scholarship to showcase the multifarious consequences of the bifurcation in eastern India, detailing at the same time the causes and effects of the radical politicization of East Pakistani refugees in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. As Ghoshal argues, the refugees mostly preferred coming to West Bengal after migrating from East Pakistan. But the novelty of her work lies in the judicious incorporation of Assam and Tripura—two dominions that witnessed refugee influx—within the discourses surrounding the historical event. She focuses on regions that have so far received scant attention in studies related to the division in 1947, and it acts as an intervention that marks a distinct shift in our general understanding of the repercussions of Partition.
In the ‘Introduction’ to her book, Ghoshal maps the rise of communal politics in undivided Bengal. The initial segments of the chapter copiously refer to secondary sources to underscore the changing dynamics of politics during the colonial era. The categorization of people on the grounds of caste, community and religion created certain fissures in the civil society. It reified the idea that India was inhabited by two religiously defined communities, patently dissimilar to one another in terms of culture, tradition and practices. The foundation of the Muslim League in Dhaka in 1906 and the pro-Hindu policies of the Congress bear testimony to the point. Some groups also challenged the gradual rise of the politics of representation, like the Muslim Sahitya Samaj (founded in 1926) and Buddhir Mukti Andolon (movement for the emancipation of the intellect). They strove to bridge the widening schism between the two communities. Such attempts, however, proved futile for the zeitgeist of the 1930s and 1940s engendered the notion of separate homelands for the Hindus and the Muslims, eventually culminating in the horrific riots in Calcutta and Noakhali. Against this backdrop, the decision to carry out the Partition plan initiated the restructuring of the borders of East Pakistan and India.
With the support of ample archival documents, Ghoshal explains the confusion shrouding the cartographic division and divulges the haphazard management of the entire situation. She notes that there were disputes over areas like Khulna, Malda, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri. Her meticulous assessment of the referendum held in Sylhet highlights the psychological duress of individuals who could not make sense of the arbitrariness of the newly-drawn international boundaries. While the politicians dictated the terms and conditions of the Partition, ordinary people had to leave their hearth and home. In the process, they were classified as refugees overnight. What complicated the matter was that the refugees were also entitled to citizenship in the country they had migrated to. The legal complication of accommodating the refugees within the folds of the nation aggravated the situational crisis insomuch that the residents of the host country abominated the presence of the refugees in their vicinity. Some words—bangal (a term used to identify a refugee in West Bengal), bhogonia (a direct reference to the Bengali refugees in Assam), bhindeshi (alien), bhatias (specifically used in North Bengal to refer to East Pakistani refugees), bohiragoto (outsider)—that were uncommon in popular parlance gained currency during this period. Rather than alleviating the plight of the refugees, bureaucratic papers like the border slip and refugee certificate, passport and visa became means of controlling the movement of people across the borders.
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 .Hereafter referred to as the Partition
 .Sen, U. (2018). Exiles or Settlers? Caste, Governance and Identity in the Andaman Islands. In Citizen Refugee: Forging the Indian Nation After Partition (pp. 115–160). Cambridge University Press.
 . Gera Roy, A. (2020). Resettled Home. In Memories and Postmemories of the Partition of India (pp. 153–178). Routledge.