Compassion v/s Communalism: Reading Bhisham Sahni's Tamas and Neelu, Neelima, Neelofer

Charu Sharma
2010 unpublished
Where the world has not been broken up by narrow domestic walls Into that heaven of freedom, my father let my country awake. -Tagore Creation, Country, Community, Culture, Customs are composed of Compassion. Compassion is a synonym for affection, kindness, humane, merciful, considerate, sympathetic, tolerant and motherly. It is an antonym of hatred, violence, destruction, despotism, ruthlessness, exploitation, annihilation, barbarism, cruelty, murderous, riotous and wild. The very words reflect
more » ... their positivity and negativity. The polarities voice the power equations and expose an uneven power structure which divides a society, a nation; Communalism belongs to the latter species of words as it breeds hostility, intolerance, scorn and resentment. The divide is not just love/hate; positive/negative; bonding/separation but also woman/man and personal/public. Frederic Jameson's claim that "all third world texts are necessarily to be read as ... national allegories" 1 and "private experience is represented as allegorical of the public and national destiny" 2 might have created a considerable discussion and criticism, but historically generated realities cannot be exorcised. To elaborate my point I'll take up Bhisham Sahni's Tamas (1974) and Neelu, Neelima, Neelofer (2000) as representative texts from the Indian Literature which depict the national allegory of secularism from the time span of Tamas is partition, then Neelu, Neelima, Neelofer is set fifty years after partition; if one is an overtly political text, the other is essentially a narrative of personal relationships; if Tamas is male centred, Neelu, Neelima, Neelofer is a woman centred novel; but the two factors that compel us to read them as a sequel to each other is the Hindu-Muslim divide and women who become signifiers of national culture. The novels present a powerful allegory of underlying colonial ideology in post colonial India and gender remains at the core of all discourse. Though there are no defined compartments in the paper, yet one aspect of the paper dwells on the political aspect of religion and the second aspect reads the lives of women, their sharing and bonding and their compassion. Religion being used as a divisive tool, religion being misinterpreted, and the power of religion being used negatively is juxtaposed with essence of religion i.e. love and compassion; kindness and humanity reputed through the women who transcend all barriers to preach the gospel of tolerance, and became the torch bearers. On 15th August 1947 a nation was divided on religious lines; overnight borders were drawn and people were separated. ... our Independence too was peculiar: it came together with the Partition of our country, the biggest and possibly the most miserably migration in human history, the worst blood bath in the memory of the subcontinent: the gigantic fratricide conducted by Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communalists. Our 'nationalism' at this juncture was a nationalism of mourning, a form of valediction, for what we witnessed was not just the British policy of divide and rule, which surely was there, but our own willingness to break up our civilizational unity, to kill our neighbours, to forgo that civic ethos, that moral bond with each other, without which human community is impossible. 3 The very word 'partition' brings to our mind the gruesome pictures of a nation and it narrates a harrowing tale of deteriorating relationships, communal discord, dislocation, sense of loss on all fronts -home, personal, professional and emotional. A tragedy like partition cannot be relegated to the sphere of statistics alone. The effects of carnage, the corollaries of division inclusive of riots, looting, arson, bloodshed and rape are uncountable. Let us not forget that partition was not a natural calamity but a deliberate one. Freeing ourselves from colonial rule but imprisoning ourselves within the barriers of nations and enslaving ourselves to communal hatred is the irony of situation. Partition shocked the conscience of civilized people, destroyed human attitudes and transformed people into wild beasts who perpetrated extremely barbaric cruelties against their fellow beings. Partition was not division of nations but of communities, values, memories and dreams. It is a phase in history when Hindus won,