The British government has launched a new project titled the ‘Grand Trunk Road’ to mark the 70th anniversary of India’s partition in August 1947 with volunteers from the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities in the UK coming together to stage special events. The UK-wide project was launched this week to bring British Asians of all faiths and backgrounds together to reflect on their shared history through 11 special events funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The aim is for the participants to remember lives lost and learn about the history of partition first-hand from those who lived through the violence, displacement and ultimately the birth of India, Pakistan and eventually Bangladesh in 1971. “Partition and its aftermath is part of who we are, whether we call ourselves Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian,” said UK communities secretary Sajid Javid.
“I hope this brave project will encourage British Asians of all three faiths to reflect on the divisions that ripped us apart in the past, thereby bringing us closer together in the future,” he said. Volunteers from Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities will get together to stage events, including a play written, produced and performed by a group of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs to tell the story of the 1948 London Olympics, the first time India and Pakistan met as competing nations in the country from which they had just gained independence.
An exhibition in Leicester tracing the history of migration from the subcontinent to East Africa will explore the impact of partition from a different perspective. It will explore the relationships formed, as Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims of South Asian background were forced to flee to the UK in the wake of Idi Amin’s upheaval in 1972. The exhibition will allow visitors to listen to the testimony of local residents.
UK minister for faith Lord Bourne said, “Just as the Grand Trunk Road has tied together India and Pakistan and their diverse cultures and faiths for millennia, this project will highlight the rich history that British Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus share. Events will be taking place up and down the country that will bring communities from the subcontinent together, foster new relationships and encourage friends and neighbours to document and share their memories of Partition.”
A women’s group in Slough in southeast England for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh women of all ages will also be set up to talk about the impact of partition on their own families. The UK government said it hoped that the conversation will lead to a more formal event for the whole community. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the aim of all the events is to bring people together from the three main faiths of the Indian subcontinent to hold events that can explore a range of different experiences around the history of partition and its aftermath. A focus on lived experience and testimony will help to put in context the impact of this division in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and in Britain itself.