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Partition and women in politics: A sneak preview of Times Litfest

By November 20, 2017No Comments

Source : Times of India

The Partition, that cataclysmic event that gave India freedom and birthed Pakistan, continues to preoccupy the minds of many. The topic was one of those under discussion at the Gurgaon preview of the Times Litfest Delhi, which was held at the city’s DLF Club5 on Saturday evening.


Aanchal Malhotra, multidisciplinary artist and oral historian, provided insights into her eloquent book, “Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory”, a work of narrative non-fiction. It is the first material study of Partition, taking into consideration objects the refugees brought with them when they migrated across the border. “No NCERT book will ever tell you about such stories,” she claimed.

Yet, when it comes to the partition of Bengal, there is a void in literature, lamented Malhotra, who also shared how a majority of the men and women who lived through those terrible days in 1947 are reluctant to open up about their experiences. “It took me a long time to convince my grandfather to speak about Partition,” she revealed.

Also at the Gurgaon preview was Jaya Jaitly, discussing her latest book, “Life Among the Scorpions: Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics”. Jaitly led a colourful life in politics and this is reflected in her autobiography, a frank account of the challenges Indian woman politicians often come up against in a male-dominated profession.

In the book, she accuses Congress of having a hand in ‘Operation West End’, the Tehelka sting operation that led to the resignation of then defence minister George Fernandes. Jaitly admitted it was tough working with Fernandes, but insisted he was not the manipulator people made him out to be. “He was honest and willing to give up anything for the people.”

Meanwhile, at another preview event of the Times Litfest last week in Chandigarh, Jairam Ramesh described Indira Gandhi as India’s first and only “environment PM”. Ramesh, who himself held the environment portfolio in the Manmohan Singh regime, made the remark during a discussion on his book, ‘Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature’, and credited Indira Gandhi’s vision for the fame Bharatpur and Silent Valley have achieved as world-famous sanctuaries, and Indians being able to enjoy tigers outside of zoos in protected wilderness zones.

Thousands of miles away, on India’s east coast, in Kolkata, discussions centred around Kasturba Gandhi as Neelima Adar, writer of ‘The Secret Diary of Kasturba Gandhi’ spoke about Mahatma Gandhi’s wife in yet another preview event of the Times Litfest. Adar said it wasn’t easy to write about a woman perceived to be just a shadow of the Mahatma, especially when very little had been documented about her. So she took recourse to not only a re-reading of history, but also fiction.

(The third edition of the Times Litfest Delhi will be held at India Habitat Centre on November 25 and 26. Entry is free.)


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