Just a week ago India celebrated its 75th year of independence, but what people often miss is the fact that independence and division coincided, they are two faces of the same coin. The breakdown deeply affected hundreds and thousands of people, an impact that resonates to this day.
And to commemorate the horrors of the partition, Kolkata will witness the arrival of the world’s first virtual partition museum on August 24.
The Virtual Kolkata Partition Museum (V-KPM) is a collaborative project between Kolkata Partition Museum Trust and Architecture Urbanism Research (AUR), an architectural firm. Both KPMT and AUR recognize the 1947 Separation Museum by Dr. Rituparna Roy and Aurgho Jyoti together through this online event.
dr. Rituparna Roy, the managing trustee of KPMT and a literary scholar of partitioning, first thought about archiving the memories of partition in 2007 when she visited the Holocaust Memorial designed by Peter Eisenman in Berlin.
She says: “While walking through and past those installations, I noticed that there is no public commemoration of the dividing wall. But in 2016, after another decade had passed, I felt a strong urge to do it and first brought up the idea in Kolkata at a seminar to an academic audience.”
Historians and literati have always felt a strong bias in Punjab when it comes to partition studies and quite a few people tend to associate the horrors of partition more with Punjab than with Bengal but with time that kind of thought process slowly evolves. What should not be forgotten, however, is that Bengal had a different trajectory from Punjab in terms of division and the aftermath was also quite diverse.
The Kolkata Partition Museum Trust alongside AUR will try to focus primarily on the Bengal side of the story, shedding light on the experiences of partition and its aftermath, while highlighting the similarities between West Bengal and Bangladesh with regard to to known living heritage.
About how the process went for the team, Dr. Roy: “It was challenging and exciting, challenging because the work of the museum was done virtually by a team because we were placed in different cities and continents, work could only be done at a long distance.”
The August team working behind this project also includes historian Anindita Ghoshal, scenographer and architect Sayantan Maitra, scientists like Asmita Ray, Swagatalakshmi Saha and a few others. Professor Ananya Jahanara Kabir and oral historian and author of “The Footprints Of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians,” Anam Zakaria, have acted as content advisors to the team.
“During the pandemic, we had to think about virtual assets, we didn’t know when we would get out and even if we would if we had land or money or space for a physical museum. We want a physical museum, but that takes time because we are a citizens’ initiative and we grow organically,” says Rituparna.
She added: “We are very encouraged and happy with the response we have received. People were very intrigued by this idea of a virtual museum.”
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