By Veena Das

This booklet identifies serious moments in modern Indian historical past, akin to the Partition of India, the Bhopal business catastrophe, and up to date widow deaths. It describes the consequences of those occasions for India and analyzes, via them, the character of Indian modernity.

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Example text

The minister stated that they were 'exhibited in batches and raiders were asked to choose whom they wanted. ' This move from the individual to the nation was made explicit in a speech by Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, who said: 68 the ink was not dry [on the agreement] when the Pakistan Government along with the Azad Kashmir Government raided parts of Kashmir and took away our women. I can understand lapses on the part of a private individual. There may have been lapses on the part of Hindus and Sikhs on this side and on the part of Muslims on the other side.

Khosla reported that refugees in distress made loud and frantic appeals to all departments of the Indian government. Pandit Nehru received letters in the months of August, September and October, seeking his personal intervention to save a relative left behind, or to recover a piece of property, or to get back a precio~ls possession still in Pakistan. People also wrote to him accusingly, saying he was enjoying a victory won at the expense of the Hindus of West Punjab. Khosla quotes a letter by a retired schoolmaster: 'What has compelled me to write this to you is the fact that in casting about my eyes I fail to find anyone in the world except you who can help me in my calamity' (Khosla 1989: 234).

Rather than a mutual complementarity of interest, it is easier to conceptualize these relations in terms of a series of lines crisscrossing each other, connecting the points lying on these two planes through diagonal connections. Both state and family spoke about these women in the language of honour, but their conceptualizations of honour were very different indeed. T h e Question of National Honour For the new nation states of India and Pakistan, the recovery of abducted women and children was a matter of national honour.

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