ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Ghosts We Carry

Partition Horrors and Hauntology

Jacques Derrida’s hauntology invites us to confront the enduring presence of the absent in understanding the legacy of the India–Pakistan partition.

The India–Pakistan partition of 1947, a haunting tale of division, displacement, and untold suffering, stands as an epochal rupture that reshaped the subcontinent’s landscape and scarred its collective memory forever. Several writers, from Saadat Hasan Manto and Khushwant Singh to contemporary oral historian Aanchal Malhotra, highlight the horrors of the past by bringing forth the untold stories from different spheres of life during the partition. While their writings give us diverse accounts of the partition, it is also imperative to make sense of the lingering implications of them. It is through Jacques Derrida’s idea of “hauntology” that we delve into the enduring impact of this turbulent period.

Derrida, a luminary of continental philosophy, introduced the concept of hauntology as a counterpoint to ontology, challenging the traditional understanding of presence and absence. Hauntology suggests that the absent—the ghostly remnants of the past—continues to shape the present, disrupting linear notions of time. Hauntology invites us to confront the traces of the past that linger, casting a shadow on the present and influencing our decisions and interpretations of reality. The India–Pakistan partition’s horrors—the forced displacement, communal violence, and ruptured identities on both sides of the border—have left an indelible mark on the subcontinent’s psyche. The absent presence of those who suffered, the ghostly echoes of lost homes and fractured communities continue to haunt the present, defying attempts to relegate them to the past. Derrida’s hauntology challenges the notion of closure, emphasising that the process of mourning is never fully complete. The partition’s traumatic legacy defies easy closure, as its scars remain etched on the collective memory of India and Pakistan. The haunting presence of the partition’s absence is evident in the narratives of the survivors, the cultural artefacts that bear witness to the tragedy, and the ongoing tensions between the two nations.

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