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Paul Brass: The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946–47

6 September 2007

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This article focuses on the great massacres that occurred in the huge territory of the Punjab which, in the time before the partition of India, encompassed the present-day federal states of Pakistan Punjab and Indian Punjab, as well as a number of then semi-autonomous princely states. As the violence extended more and more broadly and viciously in this site of political partition, the outgoing British authorities themselves, as will be shown below, struggled to define what was happening, what label to place upon it. Was what was happening simply a series of riots or massacres or a “communal war of secession?” The word genocide did not come to the minds of any observers at the time. Yet, there were substantial genocidal aspects to what finally developed. Rather than attempt to define and label these great killings precisely, it is more helpful to think of forms of collective violence as placed along a continuum of overlapping categories that range from riots to pogroms, massacres to genocides. Not only do these categories overlap, but they masquerade for each other, hide behind each other. Pogroms planned and directed by states or political organiza- tions are made to appear as spontaneous riots. [. . .]

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The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946–47: means, methods, and purposes
by PAUL R. BRASS
Journal of Genocide Research (2003), 5(1), 71–101
[Full text PDF]

P.S.

The abobe article by professor Paul Brass is reproduced here in public interest and educational purposes and is intended for non commercial use