Recovered and Restored? Abducted Women in 1947 Partition Narratives
Keywords:1947 Partition, bare life, political life, trauma, abducted women, Recovery and Restoration Act
During the Partition of India in 1947, communal riots triggered unspeakable acts of horror against women of rival communities. A large number of women were abducted; some were later recovered and returned to their families. The trauma suffered by these abducted women and survivors extends all proportions. This paper analyses the dislocation, pain and trauma of abducted women, as depicted in two short stories: The Lost Ribbon by Shobha Rao (2016) and Banished (1998) by Jamila Hashmi originally published in Urdu as Banbas (exile) in Aap-Beeti, Jag-Beeti (1969). I consider the abducted women’s plight in view of the distinction Giorgio Agamben made of zoè (bare life) and bios (political life as a citizen) in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998) and The Use of Bodies (2015). I analyse how Partition reduced women to bare life, despite offering them hopes of life as a citizen of their respective independent countries. In this regard, I discuss their sufferings and trauma due to double dislocation, first stemming from rape, abduction and captivity in the wake of communal violence, and second due to the nature of the states’ intervention in their recovery and rehabilitation. My analysis also shows that recovery of abducted women should not be taken as synonymous with restoration because restoration of a traumatised human being to her pre-abduction state of mind and life is not possible.