‘The Other Side Of Silence’ Made Me Reflect On Women’s Plight During Partition & Afghan Women Now!

Last weekend I read Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side Of Silence. I realized that state of women in war & conflict is the same then & now!  

Last weekend I read Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side Of Silence. I realized that state of women in war & conflict is the same then & now!    

This book made me reflect on various things. How was the life of people affected? What was the trauma of the abducted and raped women? What about the misery of women killed by their family members? Did they succumb to it voluntarily or were forced? What are the similarities between the lives of women in partition and Afghan women today?

These are some among the many questions that are left unaddressed by the historians of the past but are graphically approached by Urvashi Butalia as the ‘Underside’ of history.

In patriarchy, a seizure of land is the seizure of its women too!

A section in ‘The Other Side Of Silence’ called ‘Women’ that explores their plight and silence in the freedom struggle made me reflect on the situation of women in Afghanistan today. The invasion of the Taliban in the Afghan capital has led to the collapse of its earlier regime.

Capturing a territory involves a seizure of its land, property, and government. But in patriarchy, it is a seizure of its women too. Women are treated as properties vulnerable to attack, rape, and violence.

Be it the mythological battles, the Indian freedom struggle, Partition, or the present-day capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban, sexual harassment and assault on women in such war zones is known to be brazen and blatant.

As stated by Elinor Raikes, the vice-president of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) “We know that during times of crisis, violence against women and girls increases.”

Any Indian viewing the situation in Afghanistan would be reminded of the atrocities of the 1947 Partition

Keeping the context of Partition and the war of Afghanistan aside, their violence has a stark similarity, especially concerning women and children.

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Similar to the mass abductions and rapes during Partition, women in Afghanistan are trapped under the governance of the Taliban. They are abducted and enslaved, left amid political and economic insecurity, educational inequality, sexual violence, and poor health. 

Women’s education is once again becoming history in Afghanistan. The Taliban is shutting schools for young girls on their ridiculous assertion that ‘teenage girls should be at home helping their mothers.’

Any Indian viewing the violence and terror in Afghanistan would be reminded of the atrocities of the 1947 Partition.

Refugee camps are also a reminder of partition time!

The fear and anxiety of the Taliban rule led to the mass movement of Afghans to neighboring countries like Tajikistan, Iran, and Pakistan. With the setting up of the refugee camps on the borders of these countries, shortage of food, and homelessness, it appeared as if the scene shifted back to the days of Partition.

It is terrifying to see the plight of women in Afghanistan today, and even more shocking is its similarity with the violence unleashed during Partition. Does this then not nullify the progress that we have made as feminists?

Have we not failed in altering the ideologies of people who continue to treat women as properties? Where do the women of Afghanistan stand in our idea of a ‘free’ woman, when they have even lost their rights to education and work?

Today we have social media & we should make our voice heard!

News journalists are constantly reporting a ‘silence’ in Afghanistan that is ripe with fear. Just as Urvashi Butalia uses silence as a gateway to interpret and explore the lives of women during Partition, Afghanistan is also leaving us with a hush, a mute, an engulfing silence from which someone has to demystify the truth.

Sitting in India, amid the comfort of my home, I get terrified to imagine what the women in Afghanistan would be going through at the moment. This definitely is a tragic reversal of times, but we can not just sit and brood over its helplessness, right?

In contrast to the times of Partition, we today have a speaking platform that is social media. Such mediums provide us an opportunity to speak, rebel, and not wait for another fifty years for someone to come and write a chronicle for the struggles of today, the miseries that demand instant attention. 

So, speak up, use the power of your voice, for if it even reaches and alters the mindset of just one person, it is worth it!!

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About the Author

Muskan Sharma

Muskan is an undergraduate literature student, an avid reader and a writer. Her areas of interest include gender, sexuality and psychology. She feels strongly for the things around and does not shy away from voicing read more...

12 Posts | 30,571 Views

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