Press releases

January 24, 2014 | Thousands of citizens rally to preserve lost chapter in world history: South Asia's violent Partition

For Immediate Release  

The 1947 Partition Archive launches it's first crowdfunding campaign in order to collect thousands more stories in 2014. 

Berkeley, CA. January 24, 2012-- “I feel like a bottled plant,” relates Z. Ansari, on becoming homeless overnight in the wake of riots that engulfed his homeland during Great Britain’s accession from India. “I have no roots. I can be put anywhere.”

As a Muslim, he found himself on the wrong side of an artificially and hastily carved out border between newly created India and Pakistan, known as the Partition of 1947. Communal violence engulfed his homeland and his family was forced to flee, not knowing where they were going or why. Having lost all material property, he migrated with his family to Pakistan along with millions of other Muslim families, during what’s known as the world’s largest forced mass migration. Ox-cart caravans stretched nearly 15 miles in length and trains were overloaded and packed beyond capacity.

“I looked up to see the same sky, the same stars, but this was India,” explains J. Hemrajani upon arriving in Delhi from a small town in Sindh, Pakistan.

The year 1947 marked the end of the British Rule in South Asia, as well as the birth of India and Pakistan. During the transfer of power, law and order broke down. Chaos unfolded as India and Pakistan were divided along religious lines. An estimated 15 million people became homeless and over a million lost their lives. As many as 100,000 women were abducted and countless children were orphaned. Many of the eye-witnesses, now in their 70s and 80s, still remain deeply emotionally wounded. Moreover the global legacy of Partition lives on today in the form of the disputed Line of Control between India and Pakistan, the world’s second most heavily militarized border.

Yet, little has been done to capture and memorialize the victims’ voices. This is what a small team of volunteers based out of the University of California in Berkeley have set out to change, through their newly founded organization, The 1947 Partition Archive. The group uses web based “crowdsourcing” to record and preserve witness oral histories. Via free online workshops anyone, anywhere can learn the basic techniques for recording witness accounts in their family and community, which are then submitted to The 1947 Partition Archive for preservation into perpetuity. Over the last year nearly 500 individuals trained as Citizen Historians from over 20 countries. Nearly 1000 video interviews ranging in length from 1 to 9 hours were submitted for preservation.

There’s a great urgency to record the oral histories as witnesses who remember are now in their 80’s, 90’s and beyond. To reach as many Partition witnesses as possible, before it is too late, the group has launched a campaign on the international crowdfunding site IndieGoGo, to expand the organizations equipment and digital systems used for story collection. The IndieGoGo campaign will last through the end of January and over 150 individuals have already contributed $14,000 of the $35,000 goal.

“Because we are huge believers in grassroots and crowdsourcing, we wanted to take that route. This way, anybody from anywhere can contribute,” says the founder, Guneeta Singh Bhalla.

Through their grassroots effort, The 1947 Partition Archive hopes to train up to 1000 Citizen Historians and preserve 3000 witness accounts in 2014. The crowdsourced funds raised from their IndieGoGo campaign will enable all the tools needed to reach this goal.

“I feel like I was forced into exile,” recalls refugee and witness G. S. Sekhon. “Except I did nothing wrong to deserve that.”


April 13, 2012 | Indus Heritage Day

For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Neha Kothari

The first annual Indus Heritage Day aims to educate the public on the intriguing ancient civilizations of South Asia.

Milpitas, CA. April 13, 2012-- On April 29th, three organizations, India Community Center along with the Pakistani American Culture Center and The 1947 Partition Archive are teaming up to debut a Silicon Valley first: the Indus Heritage Day. Indus Heritage Day aims to celebrate shared South Asian histories. During this first debut, the focus is the ancient Indus Valley, a highly advanced but little known South Asian civilization that was at its height 5000 years ago. Children and adults alike will be educated about the Indus Valley through a series of craft activities, a walk through, a documentary film screening and keynote lecture by world renowned Indus Valley archaeologist Professor Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. The educational event is completely free to the public. The day will unfold with breakfast at 10am. Through hands on activities that include Indus hat, jewelry and seal making, children will learn about the undeciphered ancient Indus script, intriguing details about the ancient Indus trade routes with Mesopotamia and Egypt, along with technology and fashion of that time. The event will also feature an ‘ancient photo booth’ and an ancient city ‘model-home’ walk through. Local henna artist, Tisha, will feature Indus Valley themed henna designs. At 11:30, budding Pakistani documentary filmmaker Saqib Mausoof will screen his upcoming documentary film “In Search of Meluhha: Untold story of the Indus Civilization.” The film screening will be followed by a lecture at noon entitled “Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley” by Professor Kenoyer. This talk will present an overview of the major cities of the Indus civilization in Pakistan and India, along with a discussion of smaller settlements and distant resource areas. The important features that distinguish this civilization will be examined including settlement organization, technology, writing, art and religion. The talk will also discuss the evidence for contacts and trade between the Indus region and other adjacent areas, such as peninsular India, Central Asia, the Arabian gulf, Iran and Mesopotamia. Additional areas of discussion will include the decline and transformation of this civilization and its major contributions to later cultural traditions of South Asia. The event will close with children from Xpressions dance company performing Indus regional folk dances including Chalo Mela Ma, a regional dance from Rajasthan and Gujarat that is linked to the unique rituals and prayers of these geographies. A second dance, Dandiya Raas is derived from Ras Leela, performed by Lord Krishna and Gokul and Vrindavan with the Gopies (cowgirls). The distinguishing feature of the Raas is the short sticks (dandiya) representing the sword of Durga carried by the dancers, which they strike in rhythm. Raas is danced by men and women, sometimes together. Majority of the Raas songs are in praise of Krishna and it builds in tempo as it progresses, leading to an exciting finish. Indus Heritage Day is expected to educate children (and adults alike) on South Asian history and inspire study and preservation by the current and future generations. The event is sponsored by a number of local businesses and individuals, as well as art and culture organizations including the Global Heritage Fund and Society for Art & Cultural Heritage of India (SACHI).

About the The Pakistani American Culture Center The Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) is first of its kind Pakistani center in the United States located in the heart of Silicon Valley. PACC organizes 5 major events throughout the Bay Area. PACC is a non-religious, non-political and non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization founded in 2007 with a mission to educate and promote Pakistani languages, literature, history, and culture to all Americans irrespective of country of origin, with a specific emphasis to Americans of Pakistani descent.

About the 1947 Partition Archive The 1947 Partition archive is a citizen-powered organization dedicated to preserving the people's history of Partition and bringing knowledge of Partition into widespread public consciousness through creative and scholarly expression. The archive achieves this by providing a platform for our fellow citizens to collect, archive and sharing eye witness accounts from all ethnic, religious and economic communities affected by the Partition of British India in 1947.

About the India Community Center The ICC is making a difference – just ask the 350 seniors who call the ICC a second home, or the community members who take advantage of free services from the ICC medical, legal, and tax clinics. With more than 1,900 active members and 1,500 children enrolled in our summer camps every year, and our various Indian cultural programs, we are doing our part in providing a cultural link for generations to come. Become a member and join the vibrant ICC Community today. To learn more, visit us.soon