[W]hat historians might call a 'fragment'--a weaver's diary, a collection of poems by an unknown poet (and to these we might add all those literatures of India that Macaulay condemned, creation myths and women's songs, family genealogies and local traditions of history)--is of central importance in challenging the state's construction of history, in thinking other histories and marking those contested spaces through which particular unities are sought to be constituted and others broken up. (Gyanendra Pandey, "Defence of a Fragment" 571)
[t]he novelist's art is subjective by its very nature. All literary sources must therefore be treated circumspectly by historians. It must be remembered that they have been produced by tiny élites in 'traditional' societies [!]. The great writers can of course transcend their own experience and echo the feelings of other classes and communities. But lesser novelists lack this empathy and produce merely stereotypes and stylized emotional responses. (38n11)In the works he includes in his own discussion, however, he collapses the distinction between the autobiographical and the fictional; presumably, these texts demonstrate the qualities he associates with "great" literature. It appears that the texts Talbot selects to support his argument are considered more 'reliable' Historical documents (and therefore somehow more objective?) based on the empirical verifiability of the writer's 'personal experience. For example, he prefaces the inclusion of excerpts from Kartar Singh Duggal's novel, Twice Born Twice-Dead(1979), with the information that Duggal came from Rawalpindi, a site of one of the most tragic incidents connected with the Partition. Where Duggal's novel includes a representation of a refugee camp, Talbot informs us that Duggal had "first hand material to depict the refugees' plight" (48) and that his "Muslim wife Ayesha worked among the refugees in Jullundar" (53). Talbot thus reduces the imaginative capacity of the writer to represent the 'everyday' to his/her ability to recycle his/her 'personal (or spouse's?) experiences.' The power relations invested in a representation of any experience are negated and the way language mediates experience is ignored. Talbot gives narratives of experience or 'the everyday' the status of a document of 'reality' (albeit, emotional), and a reading practice that situates the perspectives through which texts are written and read is never considered.
take the existence of individuals [in their narratives] for granted (experience is something people have) rather than to ask how conceptions of selves (of subjects and identities) are produced. It [experience] operates within an ideological construction that not only makes individuals the starting point of knowledge, but that also naturalizes categories such as man, woman, [or Hindu and Muslim] ... by treating them as given characteristics of individuals. (782)These assumptions are evident in Talbot's untheorized conflation of literature with 'personal experience'; the literary texts that he favors in his analysis are the ones he sees as representing their characters' psychological trials. The focus is on the 'Indian subject's consciousness' represented as a natural, homogeneous category that becomes the object of inquiry in an investigation of the internal impact of Partition. As Scott elaborates, the subject's knowledge of the events "reflecting as it does something apart from him, is legitimated and presented as universal, accessible to all. There is no power or politics in these notions of knowledge and experience" (783). Ironically, though Talbot claims that [t]he authors will be allowed to speak for themselves"(40), in this kind of Historical analysis, ". . . the authority of the subject of knowledge [is measured] by the elimination of everything [particular] concerning the speaker" (de Certeau 256).
I present this fragment here not as another piece, or even kind of 'evidence.' I propose it, instead, as the articulation of another subject position arising from a certain experience (and understanding) of sectarian strife, which may say something about the parameters of our own subject-position and understanding. In addition, this articulation provides a commentary on the limits of the form of the historiographical discourse and its search for omniscience. (1991 569)In contrast to Talbot's totalizing methodology, therefore, Pandey's fragmentary perspective stresses the "provisional and changeable character of the objects of our historical analysis" (1991 560) and attempts to negotiate this provisionality in the way historical narratives are written.
The narrator/father of the poem represents the identity of his daughter as a possession to be looted. His rhetorical question, "How many have looted her" is embedded with a patriarchal ideology that marks women's identities and bodies as symbols of community honor and 'tradition' and makes them targets of violence during sectarian conflicts. Pandey's analysis, however, is silent about these things. There is no discussion of the narrator's subject position, his figuration of his daughter, the power relations it expresses and the way language produces all these effects. My reading, on the other hand, attends to the literariness of the poem, allows for a dialogic relation between the event and the text and thus defers the production of the omniscient perspective that Pandey sets out to question.Aur yeh beti jise tum saath mere kankthiyon se dekhte ho Beshumar haathon ne loota hai ise.(And this daughter, whom you observe out of the corner of your eyes, sitting by my side--How many have looted her.) (Harganvi in Pandey 1991 569) 
Today she sits by my side, silent, a question-mark. Her terrified, startled eyes ask me and call out to every human being to tell her who [what] she is? . . . She has lost all hope, agility, . . . youthfulness, . . . beauty. Will readers be able to tell us whether we acted criminally in bringing them [sic] back? Or whether it would have been a [greater] sin not to have brought them?" (Qidwai in Pandey 217) Qidwai's comments underscore her uncertainty about the stated purpose of the Recovery Operation (i.e., humanitarian). She isolates a serious contradiction in its activities; the Recovery Operation has attempted to write the girl's identity as 'recovered,' and yet she remains as a ''"silent" "question-mark" who continues to "call out" for answers. Pandey, however, glosses over this ambivalence and characterizes Qidwai's convictions as "swinging from one position to another," according to no particular logic (219). I argue that Qidwai's shifting response to the 'reality' of the women's experiences at the hands of the Recovery Operation hints at many contested spaces where Pandey might begin to track her resistance to the patriarchal logic of the nation-state. Instead, he forecloses this process; he comments:
The tragedy of Anees Qidwai's recounting of the pain of Partition, of which the suffering involved in the exchange of abducted women is but on [sic] example, is that no resolution at all is possible. How is one to say, on the question of the 'forcible' recovery and exchange of abducted Hindu, Muslim and Sikh women left on the 'wrong' side of the border, what would be the viewpoint of Reason, what was 'right' and what was 'wrong', what 'moral' and 'immoral', what 'sane' and what 'insane'? [my emphasis] (219)Pandey's conclusion that "no resolution at all is possible" with regards to the question of whether or not the Indian state was justfied in the forcible 'recovery' of women after Partition suggests that women can be viewed only as passive victims of History. 
any male child under the age of 16 years or female whatever age who is, or immediately before the 1st day of March 1947, was a Muslim and who, on or after that day and before the 1st day of January, 1949, [that is, during the time of the migration and violence that accompanied Partition] had become separated from his or her family and is found to be living with or under the control of any other individual or family, and in the latter case includes a child born to any such female after the said date. [my emphasis] (in Menon and Bhasin WS-4)The bill sanctioned the authority of the state to detain 'persons' who are suspected of being abducted, to determine their nationality by means of a tribunal established by the Central Government, and to use police powers to enforce this decision. As this excerpt from the bill also sets out, adult women were disqualified from designating their national identity themselves, and the state placed a special burden on women who identified themselves as Muslim to legitimate their 'right' to citizenship in India. Adult men, on the other hand, were under no special obligation to do the same because the powers of the tribunal only applied to males under the age of 16. Even though some members of parliament objected to these very issues and questioned the bill's legitimacy under the Constitution which would come into effect only one month later (January 1950), it was passed unaltered (Menon and Bhasin WS-5).
For men, who in more 'normal' times would have seen themselves as protectors of 'their' women, the fact that many of their women had been abducted (no matter that some women may have chosen to go, they had to be seen as being forcibly abducted), meant a kind of collapse almost and emasculation of their own agency. Unable to be equal to this task they now had to hand it over to the state, the new patriarch, the new super, the new national, family. As the central patriarch, the state now provided coercive backing for restoring and reinforcing patriarchy within the family. (WS-19)Enrolling the coercive arm of the state as their ally provided the patriarchal community with the means of ensuring the triumph of its interests. As Dipesh Chakrabarty argues, "repression and violence " are as "instrumental in the victory of the modern as is the persuasive power of its rhetorical strategies" (1992 31). To this end, ambiguous responses to the recovery of abducted women often deflected by a rhetoric of idealism allied with the activities of the Recovery Operation.  This impulse can be seen in the testimonies of social workers involved in the project. Social worker Damyanti Sahgal, for example, is recorded as saying: "Of course we felt for the women we were flushing out--sometimes we had to use the police to bring them out. But what we were doing had to be done" (Butalia WS-20). The idealism she associates with the Recovery Operation's supposed humanitarian goals is used to justify its violent tactics and elide women's resistance to being 'recovered.' 
A committee was formed to campaign for the implementation of the programme [for the 'rehabilitation' of women who had been 'abducted and raped'].... Babu Sunderlal was elected its secretary by a majority of eleven votes. According to Sardar Sahib, the lawyer, the old petitioner of Chauki Kalan and the other well respected people of the locality, no one could be trusted to do the job with greater zeal and commitment than Sunderlal, because his own wife had been abducted. Her name was Lajo-Lajwanti. (55)The details Bedi's narrative provides about the committee's formation in the context of post-Partition India suggest that the technologies of the self that produce the identity of the modern citizen-subject are in full bloom in Sunderlal's community. Not only is the mutually constitutive relation between the civil and domestic spheres in the life of the individual citizen normalized in this community--it is celebrated; public confidence is expressed in Sunderlal's dedication to his job as committee secretary because of the crisis in his own domestic life.
[H]e would swear to himself, "If I ever find her again, if I ever again do . . . I shall honour her and give her a place in my heart . . . I shall tell everyone that the women who were abducted are innocent . They are victims of the brutality and the rapacdty of the rioters. . . . A society which refuses to take them back, which does not rehabilitate them . . . is a rotten, a foul society, which should be destroyed." [my emphasis] (57)Sunderlal's self-remonstrations disclose a discursive intersection between his sense of emasculation and his view of 'abducted' women as passive victims of the Other. He is figured as afraid that Lajwanti may not want to return to him--even if the Central Recovery Operation is successful in locating her--because of his previous treatment of her. The figuration of this anxiety can be linked to the larger context of the narrative where male citizens like Sunderlal are becoming aware of how the modern nation-state both requires and circumscribes their power as 'husband' in the extended family. The enforced separation of civil and domestic concerns in the identity of the (male) citizen-subject relies on women's acceptance of the limited options available to them as subordinates in patriarchal institutions such as the family and the state as well as on the sanction of the community to allow women to return to those positions.  When, however, this separation is challenged by the exercise of individual agency by women (such as Lajwanti) at the same time that the title of 'citizen' (in the form of universal franchise) is being extended to all members of Indian society, new technologies of the self must be performed to recoup women's participation. The rehabilitation committee in Bedi's narrative can thus be read as a 'matrix of transformation' where "the techniques of power and the procedures of discourse" normalize the 'abducted' female subject as an object of innocence and purity who requires the constant protection of the family (Foucault 98).
Slowly, happiness was replaced by suspicion. This was not because Sunderlal had begun to mistreat her once again, but because he continued to treat her with excessive kindness. Lajo didn't expect him to be so gentle...She wanted to be Lajo again, the woman who could quarrel with her husband over something trivial and then be caressed. These days the question of a fight didn't even arise. (66) In postcolonial India, where bourgeois conventions produce the domestic sphere as a supplement of the civil sphere, the conditions of possibility no longer exist for the agency Lajwanti exercised prior to the Partition. Instead, Lajwanti likens her new identity as 'Devi' to the fragility of glass--capable of shattering at the slightest patriarchal tremor. 
* * *
I use the term 'History' with a capital 'H' to indicate when I am referring to the practice of writing a historical narrative that is not self-reflexive about the silences it is producing and instead naturalizes the perspective it constructs as objective and universal. Back
'Literariness' is a term used by Paul de Man to signify the unmotivated relationship between words and things that is paramount in fictional accounts of the world. De Man argues that "[w]henever this autonomous potential of language can be revealed by analysis, we are dealing with literariness and, in fact with literature as the place where this negative knowledge about the reliability of linguistic utterance is made available."(10). "Literature," de Man writes, "is fiction not because it somehow refuses to acknowledge 'reality,' but because it is not a priori certain that language functions according to principles which are those, or which are like those, of the phenomenal world. . . . This does not mean that fictional narratives are not part of the world and of reality; their impact upon the world may well be all too strong for comfort. What we call ideology is precisely the confusion of linguistic with natural reality, of reference with phenomenalism"(11). This view of language, literature, autobiography and narrative in general underpins my analysis throughout the paper. Back
In this paper I am referencing an English translation of "Lajwanti" from Urdu by Alok Bhalla in Stories About the Partition of India. At least two other English translations of this story are available; Jai Rattan has published one in Orphans of the Storm: Stories on the Partition of India and Khushwant Singh has published another in Writings on India's Partition. Back
I take the concept of 'the national imaginary' from Benedict Anderson's work in Imagined Communities. In this work, Anderson defines the concept of the nation as a "cultural artifact"(13) and an "imagined political community--imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign"(15). While Anderson universalizes about 'the national imagination,' I have tried to situate and historicize my use of the term while retaining the self-reflexive and language-centered aspect of his conceptual framework. Back
My sense of this is reinforced by Talbot's decision to place the word, "representation," in scare quotes when he writes about the qualities of the literature he will discuss (see pages 40 and 41). Back
This novel was subsequently published under the title Cracking India in 1991. My references are from the 1991 publication. Back
The literariness of language implies that mimesis is only "one trope among others, language choosing to imitate a non-verbal entity just as paronomasis 'imitates' a sound without any claim to identity (or reflection on difference) between the verbal and non-verbal elements" (de Man 10). Back
Donna Haraway's characterization of the diffracted rather than reflected relation between 'the real' and discourse is particularly appropriate to emphasize the necessarily fragmentary and partial relation between the individual's perception of a historical event and the event itself. "Diffraction," Haraway argues, "does not produce 'the same' displaced as reflection and refraction do. Diffraction is mapp ng of interference, not of replication, reflection, or reproduction. A diffraction pattern does not map where difference appears, but rather maps where the effects of difference appear"(300). Back
The translation here is Pandey's. Back
My interpretation of the historical details concerning the Recovery Operation follows from the research of Ritu Menon, Kamla Bhasin and Urvashi Butalia. Back
This is Pandey's translation. Urvashi Butalia's discussion of Qidwai's memoir cites similarly ambivalent passages; see especially WS20. Back
To be fair, Pandey is alert to the ambivalence Qidwai's text expresses; he states: "The writer refers to many examples of women who were extremely reluctant to return--for fear of ostracism, because they felt they had been 'soiled', because they could not bear the thought of being uprooted again and exposed (possibly) to new levels of poverty and uncertainty, or simply because they were grateful to their new husbands and families for having rescued them from (further?) assault and afforded them protection"(216). Nevertheless, Pandey gives very little consideration to how the literariness of Qidwai's narrative makes visible the Recovery Operation's patriarchal assumptions or the potential to resist them. Back
The 'snowball effect' this has in Pandey's analysis is apparent later in the same essay when he uses his totalizing conclusion about Qidwai's narrative to reinforce his similarly reductive reading of Sadat Manto's short story, "Toba Tek Singh." The ambiguous response that Qidwai develops toward the activities of the Central Recovery Operation is interpreted as a clear response to its 'insanity.' Pandey juxtaposes this interpretation with what he derives as the 'essential' Meaning in Manto's text (i.e. "the insane decision to exchange 'insane' Indians and Pakistanis") (217). After a lengthy paraphrase of Manto's story concluding with a quote from the final paragraph where Toba Tek Singh is represented as throwing himself on the border between India and Pakistan, Pandey authoritatively concludes: "Thus, it seems, Manto offers a resolution of the paradox that he set out at the beginning of his story through the suggestion that, in this time of 'madness', it is only the 'insane' who retain any sanity" (219). Once again, though Pandey sets out to map some of the ambiguities and contradictions within the formation of national identities at the time of India's Partition, he ends up occluding just those things in his discussion. Back
I am indebted to Dipesh Chakrabarty's essay "Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for "Indian Pasts?" for my understanding of the relationship between violence and idealism in nationalist accounts of History; see especially pages 21 and 22. Back
In this light, statements like Aijaz Ahmad's, which celebrate the implementation of universal adult franchise in India at the time of Partition, when "nowhere in Europe or North America did women get the vote in the founding moment of electoral democracy" (1995 4), sound a bit hollow. When I read this statement against the background of the treatment of 'abducted' women, I can only be cynical about references to the 'good intentions' of nationalists and suspect about the motives of scholars who see the need to rehearse unproblematically the same rhetoric that was used to silence women's ambiguous responses at the time. Back
Chakrabarty traces the gendered genealogy of freedom in readings of difference in bhadralok constructions of the domestic sphere during the 19th and early 20th centuries in Bengal. He explains that: "Lakshmi, regarded as Vishnu's wife by c. AD 400, has long been upheld in puranic Hinduism as the model Hindu wife, united in complete harmony with her husband in a spirit that combined submission with loyalty, devotion and fidelity" (1994 58). Her antithesis, Alakshmi, becomes synonymous with inauspiciousness and domestic unhappiness. Most significantly, texts contemporary with this period of history in bhadralok society associate Alakshmi with "individual assertiveness on the part of women [like that demonstrated by European memsahibs] and its undesirability" (Chakrabarty 1994 64). Difference in this reformist-nationalist (re)construction of the domestic, therefore, focuses on the interpretation of the modernist notion of 'freedom' within a patriarchal discourse that privileges the security of the extended family over the individual desires of the wife. Back
See Menon, Bhasin and Butalia. Back
Khushwant Singh's and Jai Rattan's translations of "Lajwanti" also note a loss of equity in the couple's relationship. In identical translations of the final section of this same passage they write: "She wanted him to be the same old Sunder Lal with whom she quarreled over a carrot and who appeased her with a radish. Now there was no chance of a quarrel" (135 and 78 respectively). Back
In a review of the edited collection that this particular translation comes from, Veena Das comments how the "loss of normality [catalyzed by the events of Partition] is rendered with consummate skill as in the figure of Lajwanti whose very elevation as the icon of a near goddess subsequent to her abduction and return, constitutes her sorrow" (58). While Das reads Bedi's text in and through the discourse of psychoanalysis, her comment is particularly relevant to my argument in the way it constructs the source of her unhappiness in relation to her experiences after her recovery. Back
Talbot, Ian. "Literature and the Human Drama of the 1947 Partition." South Asia 18 (1995): 37-56.