When one daughter of Punjab (Heer) cried

You shot a barrage of word-arrows

Today, million daughters cry

And they beseech you, Waris Shah

–Amrita Pritam on the Partition


Amrita Pritam was born in Gujranwala in 1919. She migrated from Lahore to New Delhi after the Partition. Frustrated by the violence of the Partition, Amrita wrote her famous poem, Ajj akhan Waris Shah nu, invoking the great Punjabi Poet, Waris Shah, to come and witness the violence on the land and women of his beloved Punjab. Similarly, her famous novel Pinjar also deals with the cross communal violence on women during the partition. The protagonist of the novel, Pooro, was converted and forcibly married into a Muslim Family. Amrita also openly expressed her love for the poet Sahir Ludhianvi which could not be materialized. She then started living with another artist, Imroz, until her death in 2005.

The life and work of Amrita indicates what we are missing out on in our celebrations of the Partition today; the voices of millions of women who were abducted and violated, irrespective of the religion they belonged to, during the partition. There is no recognition of this violence either in India or in Pakistan today since it can bring shame to our lofty, patriarchal nationalist claims. Perhaps, there is a need to create a space for all such suppressed voices to create a more just idea of nationalism.