"Divided Families and the Making of Nationhood in India and Pakistan, 1947–1965" by Vazira Zamindar
This dissertation is an historical ethnography that examines how north Indian Muslim families came to be divided between India and Pakistan, to become Indian Muslims on one side and muhajirs on the other. I argue here that these families came to be divided not simply because members of these families ‘chose’ to live in two different countries, but because of the specific nature of border-making that took place between the two states in the years following 15 August 1947. Further, I argue that these border-making practices played a critical role in establishing a post-Partition national order in South Asia.
It has been largely presumed that the dispute over Kashmir resulted in the emergence of a highly surveillanced border between India and Pakistan. Instead, I suggest that despite protracted negotiations that preceded Partition, much of the making of two nation-states was left unresolved. Importantly, the belonging of religious minorities, and in particular Muslims left outside the territorial limits of Pakistan, remained indeterminate. Thus, border-making practices, part of an imbricated Indo-Pak history, emerged largely to discipline Muslim political imaginaries into a two-state order, and in the process helped to secure critical relationships between nation, state, territory, and citizenship.
Methodologically, the thesis combines both ethnographic research which tracked north Indian Muslim families divided between Delhi and Karachi, with substantial archival research on both sides of the divide. It opens onto the horrific conditions of Partition as a significant experience of decolonization, its large-scale violence and the unprecedented movements of people, to examine three subsequent border-making practices—the permit system, the institution of the Custodian of Evacuee Property and the passport system. Finally, I suggest that it was the discourse of Rehabilitation, the assertion of new national order in the aftermath, that provided much of the legitimacy to these border-making practices—borders which left north Indian Muslims outside both the proclaimed Muslim homeland and the new Indian nation-state.