LAHORE/NEW DELHI: Growing up Gunita Singh Bhalla heard her grandma describe how she moved to newly independent India from Pakistan in 1947 with her young children watching terrifying scenes of the carnage and violence that haunted her for rest of her life.
These stories were not in school textbooks by Singh Bhalla, so she decided to create online history — Section archive 1947which contains about 10,500 oral histories, the largest collection of Memory section in South Asia.
“I don’t want my grandmother story to be forgotten, no history of other who experienced section,” said Singh Bhalla, who moved to the United States from India at the age of 10.
“For all its shortcomings, Facebook is incredibly powerful tool: archive was built off of people find us on Facebook and the distribution of our posts, which brought a lot more awareness,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Chapter of colonial India into two states, Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, at the end of British rule triggered one of the most massive migrations in history.
Nearly 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs swapped places countries in political upheaval marred by violence and bloodshed, cost more than a million lives.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since then, and relations remain tense. They rarely issue visas to each other’s citizens, making visits nearly impossible, but social media helped people on or side of border connects.
There are dozens of groups on Facebook and Instagram and YouTube channels that tell stories of Separation of survivors and their occasional visits to ancestral homes, this rack up millions of shares and views, and emotional comments.
“Initiatives that help document experience of Section serves as an antidote to charged political narratives of two states,” said Ayesha Jalal, a South Asian. history professor at Tufts University in United States.
“They are help reduce tensions between the two sides and open up channels for much needed people-to-people dialogue”.
VIRTUAL REALITY TAKS SURVIVORS HOME
Like a number of persons displaced from their homes spread all over the world technology helps control abandoned homes from afar and captures human rights violations, while digital archives preserve cultural heritage.
Project Dastan – meaning story in Urdu – uses virtual reality (VR) for documenting invoices of Separate the survivors and let them return to their own place of birth.
“VR is not like film – there is a level of immersion and engagement that create empathy and have powerful impact,” said founder Sparsh Ahuja, whose grandfather emigrated to India at the age of seven.year-old at the time of partition.
“People really feel like they are transported to place”.
Use of volunteers in India and Pakistan to find and film places that are often changed dramatically over decades – The Dastan Project aimed to connect the 75 survivors of the Separation. with their ancestors homes to the 75th anniversary of this year.
But restrictions due to the pandemic meant they had only done 30 interviews since filming began. in 2019, Ahuja said.
When the visa policy more friendly, people could physically go and see places and people,” he said. “Now, these connections would not have happened without technology, and VR has brought a whole new section audience experience”.
Among the most popular YouTube channels on Section is the Punjabi Lehar – or Punjabi wave – with about 600,000 subscribers.
Founder Lovely Singh, 30 years old, part of Sikh minority community in Pakistan, the channel is estimated to have helped reconnect between 200 and 300 people. with family and friends.
Earlier this yearPunjabi Legar video of emotional reunion of two elderly brothers separated during partition quickly went viral, drawing widespread praise.
“If we can help unite more peoplemaybe there will be less tension between them countriesSingh said.
“It how my children learn about the Section.
TENSIONS IN THE DIGITAL WORLD
Pakistan and India are among the largest social media markets in in world, with more over 500 million YouTube users and nearly 300 million Facebook users. research firms Global Media Insight and Statista.
Story professor Jalal noted that these online spaces can also host misinformation and added a note of limitation warning of social media projects.
“Despite the fact that these initiatives related to the section should not be seen as a substitute for historical understandings of in causes of section,” she said.
Political tensions between India and Pakistan often spill over over on to social media.
Last year, one Indian state said people who celebrated win over India in a cricket match on social media may be charged with rebellionwhich bears penalty of up to life in prison.
Indians, especially Muslims, who criticize government online it is often said “to go to Pakistan”.
But for 90-year-old Rina Varma, social media made more than to do virtual connections – it allowed her visit her old home in Rawalpindi 75 years after her left It.
When her Pakistani visa application was rejected earlier by this year, news went viral on Facebook. Islamabad intervened in give visa to Varma, who migrated to India as a teenager a few weeks before partition.
When Varma visited Pakistan last month, Imran William, founder of facebook group The legacy of India and Pakistan has been on hand to greet her.
The villagers beat drums and poured water over her with flowers when she danced on in the street then looked around at her old home.
“It was very emotional, but I am so happy that I was able to fulfill my dream of visiting me homeVarma said.
“People have very painful memories of Section, but thanks to Facebook and others social media, people interact and seek to meet each other. This gives people of both countries together.”