Reconstructing the Bengal Partition: The Psyche Under a Different Violence
A psychological study of the Bengal Partition, a traumatic time that continues to resonate. Why has it been so hard for Bengal to recover from this catastrophe, shared with the people of Punjab, who faced much more brutal and horrendous violence over a short period? Was it due to very different historical circumstances? The refugees were targets of soft violence', an extreme form of mental assault that chilled them with fear' till they fled. They could not tell whether old friends had become new foes'. Were they imagining this or perhaps it was a true reading of the situation? Departures were spread over many years, preventing a sharper break with the past, prolonging their confusion over identity, the grief of being uprooted, of feeling unwelcome in the truncated state of West Bengal. The author interviews a number of respondents who were young children or adolescents from the bhadralok, the educated section of society, to gauge their understanding of Partition and how it affects their lives. She uses the insights of psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology. Alan Roland, the distinguished psychoanalyst, talks of how the depth of these interviews and Basu's psychological understanding of each person give a new understanding of memory and the reconstruction of Partition in people's mind.