Resources on Bengal Partition

Resources main page © Goethe-Institut Kolkata & Bangladesh/Design:Sharanya Chattopadhyay

Partition of Bengal gave rise to a huge body of work — in text and audio-visual — both in West Bengal in India and in East Pakistan, later Bangladesh. Here is a list of recommended books, fiction and non-fiction research, and films from India and Bangladesh that have dealt with the subject. 

Listing Books on Partition (non-fiction)

​Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-1947

Joya Chatterji
Whereas previous studies of the end of British rule in India have concentrated on the negotiations of the transfer of power at the all-India level or have considered the emergence of separatist politics amongst India's Muslim minorities, this study provides a re-evaluation of the history of Bengal focusing on the political and social processes that led to the demand for partition in Bengal and tracing the rise of Hindu communalism.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002

The Sickle and the Crescent. Communists, the Muslim League and India's Partition.

Sunanda Sanyal, Soumya Basu
‘The Sickle and the Crescent: Communists, Muslim League and India’s Partition’ makes an in-depth study of the role played by the communists in India during India’s Partition in 1947. While Indian National Congress and Muslim League are primarily blamed for vivisection of the country, the communists support to the Muslim League between 1942 and 1947 only accelerated the birth of the two nations: India and Pakistan.
New Delhi: Front Page Publications, 2011

The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-67

Joya Chatterji
This remarkable book by an acknowledged expert on the subject assesses the social, economic and political consequences of partition. Using new and previously unexplored sources, the book shows how and why the borders were redrawn, how the creation of new nation states led to unprecedented upheavals, massive shifts in population and wholly unexpected transformations of the political landscape in both Bengal and India.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011

Bengal Partition Stories: An Unclosed Chapter

Bashabi Fraser
Through oral histories, interviews and fictional retellings, 'Bengal Partition Stories' unearths and articulates the collective memories of a people traumatized by the brutal division of their homeland.
Anthem Press, 2006

No Woman's Land: Women from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh Write on the Partition of India

Ritu Menon
Features Ismat Chughati, Sara Suleri, Anis Kidwai, Phulrenu Guha, Meghna Guhathakurta, Shehla Shibli, Manikuntala Sen, Kamlaben Patel and others, speaking and writing about communalism and literature, what they learnt from refugees and what Partition means to them more than 50 years later.
New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2004

Coming out of Partition – Refugee Women of Bengal

Gargi Chakravarty
An excellent study of the ways in which Partition broke down the traditional family structure for many refugees in Calcutta, enabling women to work outside the home and become politically active.
Delhi: Bluejay Books, 2005

Settling the Unsettled: A Study of Partition Refugees in West Bengal

Monika Mandal
This work, while attempting to document and analyze the relief and rehabilitation measures undertaken by the central and state governments in India in response to the massive influx of refugees from the then East Pakistan into West Bengal, also reviews the assimilation and integration of the erstwhile refugees with the host state and community. The research has involved situating experience of the victims of Partition and also those who were forced to seek refuge in West Bengal due to communal clashes and persecution afterwards.
Delhi: Manohar, 2015

The Unfinished Memoirs

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
When Sheikh Mujibur Rahmans diaries came to light in 2004, it was an indisputably historic event. Written during Sheikh Mujibur Rahmans sojourns in jail as a state prisoner between 1967 and 1969, they begin with his recollections of his days as a student activist in the run-up to the movement for Pakistan in the early 1940s. They cover the Bengali language movement, the first stirrings of the movement for Bangladesh’s independence and self-rule, and powerfully convey the great uncertainties as well as the great hopes that dominated the time.
Dhaka: UPL, 2012

The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim migration

Claire Alexander, Joya Chatterji, Annu Jalais
Using a creative interdisciplinary approach combining historical, sociological and anthropological approaches to migration and diaspora, this book explores the experiences of Bengali Muslim migrants through this period of upheaval and transformation. It draws on over 200 interviews conducted in Britain, India, and Bangladesh, tracing migration and settlement within, and from, the Bengal delta region in the period after 1947. Focusing on migration and diaspora ‘from below’, it teases out fascinating ‘hidden’ migrant stories, including those of women, refugees, and displaced people.
Routledge, 2015

The Partition of Bengal and Assam, 1932-1947: Contour of Freedom

Bidyut Chakrabarty
The fragmentation of Bengal and Assam in 1947 was a crucial moment in India's socio-political history as a nation state. Both the British Indian provinces were divided as much through the actions of the Muslim League as by those of Congress and the British colonial power. Attributing partition largely to Hindu communalists is, therefore, historically inaccurate and factually misleading. The Partition of Bengal and Assam provides a review of constitutional and party politics as well as of popular attitudes and perceptions.
Routledge Curzon, 2004

A Fighting Spirit: Selected Writings of Ashoka Gupta

Narayani Gupta
Suitable for scholars of history, sociology and women's studies, for those working on Mahatma Gandhi, on communitarian relations, particularly the All-India Women's Conference, this title conveys the ethos of the times — the terrible 1940s through war, famine, riots, and Partition-situations, when actions spoke more strongly than words.
New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2013

Partition of Bengal and After. The Great Tragedy of India

Kali Prasad Mukhopadhyay
This book is a comprehensive history of the Partition and its impact in the life and property of the minorities, especially in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. ‘Partition, Bengal and After’ examines the horrific atrocities committed against innocent unarmed persons. The book offers eyewitness accounts of the genocide, pangs, and pathos of the minorities, which is still continuing in Bangladesh.
Indiana University: Reference Press, 2007

The Partition of Bengal: Fragile Borders and New Identities

Debjani Sengupta
This study looks at the rich literature that has been spawned through the historical imagination of Bengali-speaking writers in West Bengal and Bangladesh through issues of homelessness, migration and exile to see how the Partition of Bengal in 1947 has thrown a long shadow over memories and cultural practices. Through a rich trove of literary and other materials, the book lays bare how the Partition has been remembered or how it has been forgotten.
Cambridge University Press, 2015

From Plassey to Partition and After: A History of Modern India

Sekhar Bandopadhyay
More than a survey, and much more than a thematically arranged narrative, this book is an eminently readable account of the emergence of India as a nation. It maps a wide and often complicated terrain of historical happenings, their main players in groups and as individuals, and contexts that enable us to see the formation of a nation through documents of resistance and struggle, assimilation and rejection.
New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2014

Bengal Divided: The Unmaking of a Nation (1905-1971)

Nitish K. Sengupta
In 1905, all of Bengal rose in uproar because the British had partitioned the state. Yet in 1947, the same people insisted on a partition along communal lines. Why did this happen? Nitish Sengupta peels of the layers of events in this pivotal period in Bengal's history, casting new light on the roles of figures such as Chittaranjan Das, Subhas Chandra Bose, Nazrul Islam, Fazlul Haq, H.S. Suhrawardy and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.
Penguin Books, 2012

Deshvag: Smriti ar Stobdhot (Partition: Memories and Silence)

Semanti Ghosh (Ed.)
Kolkata: Gangchil, 2008

The Trauma and the Triumph

Jasodhara Bagchi & Subhoranjan Dasgupta (Eds.)
Vols I-II
Contributed articles on the sufferings of women during the partition of Bengal in 1947; includes personal narratives.
Kolkata: Stree, 2003

The Tragic Partition of Bengal

Suniti Kr. Ghosh
Kolkata: Radical Impression, 2017

Deshbhag: Binash o Binirman (Partition: Destruction and Deconstruction)

Madhumay Pal (Ed.)
Kolkata: Gangchil

Bengal Partition: Battered Background and Broken Minds

Sandipa Bandyopadhyaya
This book, originally written in Bengali in the early 1990s, dwells on the bizarre circumstances that led to the partition of India in 1947. The focus however is on the traumatic experiences of those who fell victim to the consequent violence.
Radical Impression, 2013

The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India.

Urvashi Butalia
Through interviews conducted over a ten-year period and an examination of diaries, letters, memoirs, and parliamentary documents, Butalia asks how people on the margins of history—children, women, ordinary people, the lower castes, the untouchables—have been affected by this upheaval. To understand how and why certain events become shrouded in silence, she traces facets of her own poignant and partition-scarred family history before investigating the stories of other people and their experiences of the effects of this violent disruption.
Penguin India, Delhi, 1998.

Partition of India and its Impact on the Scheduled Castes of Bengal

Rupkumar Barman
Studies on partition of India in 1947 and its effects like migration of refugees and their rehabilitation, post-independent nation building processes in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and other issues related to the partition are increasing day by day. Although in the recent years some scholars have paid attention to the plights of the Scheduled Caste refugees, many aspects of the impact of partition on the Scheduled Castes are yet to be properly reconstructed. In this paper an attempt has been made to review the historical studies on the partition of India especially on the partition of Bengal in 1947; in this study the location of the East Bengali Scheduled Caste refugees in the historiography of the partition of Bengal are also highlighted.
Abhijeet Publications, New Delhi, 2012

Literature, Gender, and the Trauma of Partition: The Paradox of Independence

Debali Mookerjea-Leonard
Partition occurring simultaneously with British decolonization of the Indian subcontinent led to the formation of independent India and Pakistan. While the political and communal aspects of the Partition have received some attention, its enormous personal and psychological costs have been mostly glossed over, particularly when it comes to the splitting of Bengal. The memory of this historical ordeal has been preserved in literary archives, and these archives are still being excavated.
This book examines neglected narratives of the Partition of India in 1947 to study the traces left by this foundational trauma on the national- and regional-cultural imaginaries in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. To arrive at a more complex understanding of how Partition experiences of violence, migration, and displacement shaped postcolonial societies and subjectivities in South Asia, the author analyses, through novels and short stories, multiple cartographies of disorientation and anxiety in the post-Partition period. The book illuminates how contingencies of political geography cut across personal and collective histories, and how these intersections are variously marked and mediated by literature. Examining works composed in Bengali and other South Asian languages, this book seeks to broaden and complicate existing conceptions of what constitutes the Partition literary archive. A valuable addition to the growing field of Partition studies, this book will be of interest to scholars of South Asian history, gender studies, and literature. (English)
Routledge Research on Gender in Asia Series - 1st Edition 2017

Partition of Contingency? Public Discourse in Bengal, 1946-47

Haimanti Roy
This essay offers a counter narrative to the ‘inevitability’ of the Partition by focusing on Bengali public discourse in the months leading up to the Partition. The possibility of a division generated a large-scale debate amongst the educated in Bengal and they articulated their views by sending numerous letters to leading newspapers, district political and civic organizations and sometimes published pamphlets for local consumption. A critical examination of this public debate for and against Partition reveals the countdown to August 1947 as a period of multiple possibilities.
Modern Asian Studies, 2009

Bangla upanyase desabhaga o desatyaga (Partition and exile in Bengali novel)

Taraka Sarakara
A Study on the partition of Bengal in 1947, and the resultant migration as reflected in Bengali fiction published since then. (Bengali)
Kolkata: Aruna Prakasana, 2009

Kathasahityer Kathakata (Narratives of Bengali fiction)

Hasan Azizul Haque
Jatiyo Sahitya Prakashani, Dhaka, 1981

Chhatra-Bhanger Purbapar (Before and after the debacle)

Sirajul Islam Chaudhuri
Bidyaprakash, Dhaka, 2012

Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panshash Bachhor (50 years of politics, as I saw it)

Abul Mansur Ahmed
Dhaka: Khosroz Kitab Mahal, 2013

Chhere Asha Gram (The Abandoned Village)

Dakshinaranjan Basu (Ed.)
Kolkata: Jigyasa, 1975

Listing Books on Partition (fiction)

East-West (Purbo-Paschim) Part One

Sunil Gangopadhyay
This novel is a record of the tumultuous times in East Pakistan as well as in Indian Bengal. But their problems were vastly different. The story, revolving around two college friends, both Bengali, though one Hindu and the other Muslim, soon takes into its expanding orbit other characters, families, issues. The two friends drift apart, separated by the political division. Under the deceptively simple surface are hidden deeper and more complex human issues.
New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2000

A Golden Age

Tahmima Anam
Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, ‘A Golden Age’ is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith and unexpected heroism. The first volume in a planned trilogy.
London: John Murray, 2007

Agun Pakhi (The Phoenix)

Hasan Azizul Huq
Agunpakhi is set in rural Rarh, now in West Bengal, of early twentieth century. It chronicles a rural family's ups and downs. The story is told by a country housewife in first person narrative. The story begins a few years before the Partition of India. The protagonist makes a powerful observation of herself and people around her. Through her eyes, we see the way of life of the then Rarh region.
Dhaka: Sandhani, 2006

A Life Long Ago

Sunanda Sikdar
Anchita Ghatak

A stirring memoir that opens the floodgates of one woman’s memories of a land, and a life, previously forgotten. In the 1950s, ten-year-old Dayamoyee watches with bewilderment and curiosity as her whole world changes before her eyes. The people she knows and loves start to pack their belongings and move away. India has been partitioned, and her village of Dighpait has now become part of a new country, (East) Pakistan.
New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2012

An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Anuradha Roy
On the outskirts of a small town in Bengal, a family lives in solitude in their vast new house. Here, lives intertwine and unravel. A widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad; her husband searches for its cause as he shapes and reshapes his garden. As Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else, and Mukunda is banished to Calcutta. He prospers in the turbulent years after Partition, but his thoughts stay with his home, with Bakul, with all that he has lost—and he knows that he must return.
New York: Free Press, 2011

Ekti Tulsi Gachher Kahini (The Tale of a Tulsi Plant)

Syed Waliullah
The partition of British India in 1947 saw massive migration of Bengali Hindus from what was then East Pakistan to India, and a flow of Muslims in the opposite direction. Many of these migrants found refuge in the homes abandoned by those who had left – places that still retained vestiges of the lives of the original inhabitants. Syed Waliullah’s Ekti Tulsi Gachher Kahini (A Tulsi Plant’s Tale) is a story of one such house in a corner of what is now Bangladesh, and one in which the absence of what once was is equally powerful as what is now.
Short story collection “Dui Teer o Onyanyo Golpo”, Dhaka: 1964

The Shadow Lines

Amitav Ghosh
Opening in Calcutta in the 1960s, Amitav Ghosh's radiant second novel follows two families—one English, one Bengali—as their lives intertwine in tragic and comic ways. The narrator, Indian born and English educated, traces events back and forth in time, from the outbreak of World War II to the late twentieth century, through years of Bengali partition and violence, observing the ways in which political events invade private lives.
Boston: Mariner Books, 2005 (first published: Ravi Dayal Publisher, Delhi, 1988)

Sat Ashman (Seven Heavens)

Shamim Ahmed
The protagonist, German, has decided to travel to Murshidabad. His reasons are twofold: There is a famous mazar in Murshidabad where he hopes to be cured of his dream-sickness. He also knows Murshidabad will become part of Pakistan.
When the state of Pakistan is born, Murshidabad becomes a part of the new country. But in three days, following Radcliffe line recommendations, the district is returned to India.
Kolkata: Gangchil, 2012

Nilkantha Pakhir Khonje (In Search of Nilkantha Bird)

Atin Bandyopadhyay’s novel ‘Nilkantha Pakhir Khoje’ is considered as one of the most powerful pieces on Partition in Bengali literature.
Kolkata: Karuna Prakashani, 2008

Khoabnama (Tale of Dreams)

Akhtaruzzaman Iliyas
Khoabnama depicts the socio-political scene in rural pre-partition Bangladesh.
Dhaka: Mowla Brothers, 1996

Bishaad Brikkho (Tree of Sorrow)

Mihir Sengupta
Bishaad Brikkho is regarded as an important literary document of the 1947 partition and won the ‘Ananda Puroshkar’- literary prize

Dayamoyeer Katha (The Tale of Dayamoyee)

Sunanda Shikdar
Kolkata: Gangchil, 2010

Supuri Bon-er Sari (Rows of Betel-nut Trees)

Sankha Ghosh
Kolkata: Aruna

Sroter Sange (Go with the stream)

Narayan Gangopadhyay

Khanditaa (The Broken Up)

Samaresh Basu
Kolkata: Ananda, 1987

Sakalbelar Alo (The Morning Light)

Sankha Ghosh
Kolkata: Aruna

Dhansiddhir Parankotha (The Story of the Soul of Dhansiddhi)

Mihir Sengupta
Kolkata: Dey’s, 2008

Eka Kumbha (The Potter, on His Own Way Alone)

Sadananda Paul
Kolkata: CAMP

Short stories ‘Ahalya’ (Ahalya) or ‘Janmabhumi’ (The Birthplace)

Nani Bhowmik

Short story ‘Path-er kanta’ (The Thorn of the Road)

Rameshchandra Sen

Short story ‘Palanka’ (The Bed)

Narendranath Mitra

Short story ‘Adaab’ (Salute)

Samaresh Basu

Short story ‘Gayatri-Sandhya’ (The Evening Prayer)

Selina Hossain

Listing Films on Partition

In Search of the Root

A film by Nemai Ghosh/Black and white/117 mins./1950/Bengali
(The Uprooted) was a 1950 Bengali film directed by Nemai Ghosh.This was the first Indian film that dealt with the partition of India. The story revolved around a group of farmers from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) who were forced to migrate to Calcutta because of the partition of Bengal in 1947. Russian film director Vsevolod Pudovkin came to Kolkata at that time, watched this film, and being inspired, he bought the print of this film to release in Russia. The film was shown in 188 theaters in Russia.
The film is based on a story of Swarnakamal Bhattacharya. Depicting the physical pain and crisis, the film is about the partition of Bengal and the flow of refugees from East Pakistan (present Bangladesh) into India. The story of the film begins in a village of East Bengal where people (Hindus and Muslims) leave peacefully. Govinda and Sumati are husband and wife and they are about to have a child. But the partition forces Hindu people to leave their ancestral village. So, they become refugees. They don't find any location or shelter in Calcutta and eke out their daily lives in temporary shelters in and around Sealdah railway station. Along with millions of refugees, the family has to face untold misery in the big city.

Matir Moina

A film by Tareque Masud/Colour/95 mins./2002/Bengali
Matir Moina (The Clay Bird) is a Bengali film directed by Tareque Masud, a Bangladeshi film director. The film was released in 2002. It was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize in section Directors' Fortnight outside competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, and became Bangladesh's first film to compete for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Matir Moina deals with Masud's own experiences studying at a madrasah against the increasing tensions in East Pakistan culminating in the Bangladesh War of Liberation. Throughout the film there are references to historical occurrences in agitated times, and the film portrays these episodes through the human experiences of the young protagonist, his family, and his teachers and peers at the madrasah. Matir Moina won a number of awards internationally but was initially banned in Bangladesh on the grounds that it dealt with issues sensitive to the religious. The ban was repealed and the DVD version was released on April 16, 2005.

Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star)

A film by Ritwik Ghatak/Black and white/1960/126 mins./Bengali
Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) is a 1960 film written and directed by Ritwik Ghatak, based on a social novel by Shaktipada Rajguru with the same title. It stars Supriya Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Gita Dey, Bijan Bhattacharya, Niranjan Roy, and Gyanesh Mukherjee. It was part of a trilogy consisting of Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Komal Gandhar (1961), and Subarnarekha (1962), all dealing with the aftermath of the Partition of Bengal during the Partition of India in 1947 and the refugees coping with it. The film revolves around Neeta (played by Supriya Choudhury), a beautiful young girl who lives with her family, refugees from East Pakistan, in the suburbs of Calcutta. Neeta is a self-sacrificing person who is constantly exploited by everyone around her, even her own family, who take her goodness for granted. Her elder brother (played by Anil Chatterjee) does not care for the family as he wants to be a singer, so she needs to take the burden. Her life is ridden with personal tragedy: she loses first her fiancé, then her job and finally her health by contracting tuberculosis. Her mostly absent would-be singer brother is the only person who cares about her in the end. At the end of the film, she screams out her agony, throwing herself into her brother's arms. She utters her last words: "Brother, I want to survive."

Jukti Takka Goppo

A film by Ritwik Ghatak/Black and white/120mins./1977/Bengali
In this film Ghatak plays the role of Nilkantha Bagchi, an alcoholic, disillusioned broken intellectual, in the character's own words "a humbug". His wife leaves him because of his insufferable alcoholism. After losing his wife and being forced from his home, he wanders through the countryside and meets unusual folks along the way. Nilkantha meets Bongobala, who was driven away from Bangladesh and does not have any shelter in Kolkata; he gives her shelter. He meets Jagannath Bhattacharjee, a village school teacher of Sanskrit. Jagannath's school was closed after political killings and he came to Kolkata in search of a job. Nilkantha meets Naxalites whom he describes as the "frame of Bengal", but misguided, successful and unsuccessful at the same time. The film, adventurous and revolutionary, is an exceptional mix of images that challenge the limits of narrative storytelling.

Komol Gandhar

A film by Ritwik Ghatak/Black and white/134mins./1961/Bengali
It was part of the trilogy, Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Komal Gandhar, and Subarnarekha (1962), all dealing with the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 and the refugees coping with it, though this was the most optimistic film of his oeuvre. The film explores three themes juxtaposed in the narrative: the dilemma of Anusuya, the lead character, the divided leadership of IPTA, and the fallout from the partition of India.


A film by Ritwik Ghatak/Black and white/143mins./1965/Bengali
A man opposes the love between his sister and the orphan they adopted years earlier.


A film by Ritwik Ghatak/Black and white/125mins./1977/Bengali
Ramu, eldest son in a family of migrants to Calcutta, is a fresh graduate searching for a job like many others in post-partition Calcutta.

Titas Ekti Nadir Naam

A film by Ritwik Ghatak/Black and white/159 mins./1973/Bengali
A 1973 Bangladeshi film that describes the life of the fishermen on the bank of the Titas River in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh.

Ora Thake Odhare

A film by Sukumar Dasgupta/Black and white/1954/Bengali
This story revolves around the contemporary fights between the Bangal and Ghoti in 50's West Bengal. Just after the partition, refugees were coming from East Pakistan — they are bangal. The old residents of West bengal are ghatis. Both are Bangali but there are some differences in pronounciations, in culture and also in rituales. Two families start to stay as neighbours. The movie shows the various conflicts that arise between them.

Jibon Theke Neoya

A film by Zahir Raihan/Black and white/114mins./1970/Bengali
The film is a political satire based on the Bengali Language Movement under the rule of Pakistan metaphorically, where an autocratic woman in one family symbolizes the political dictatorship of Ayub Khan in East Pakistan, and stars Shaukat Akbar, Anwar Hossain, Khan Ataur Rahman and Rosy Samad. ‘Jeebon Theke Neya’ has been described as an example of "national cinema", using discrete local traditions to build a representation of the Bangladeshi national identity.

Shyamol Chaya

A film by Humayun Ahmed/Colour/110mins./2004/Bengali
Twelve people are passengers on board of a boat.The boatmen are taking them to safety, far away from the fierce clutches of war. All the people on board are devastated by the horrors of war. As the story advances, different events unravel.

Rajkahini (A Tale of the Raj)

A Film by Srijit Mukherji/Colour/160 mins./2015/Bengali
In August 1947, the British passed a bill regarding the partition of Bengal. Delving into the grim history of the Partition, Srijit's movie Rajkahini is weaved around a border between the two nations that runs through a brothel housing eleven women.
The narrative follows the erection of the Radcliffe Line as the boundary between the newly formed nations of India and East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh).


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