BBC Radio 4 has today confirmed special commissions to mark the 70 years since the Partition of India in 1947, including an ambitious dramatisation of Salman Rushdie’s multi-award winning ‘Midnight’s Children’ to be broadcast on the anniversary itself and a three part factual series with remarkable first-hand accounts of British Asians and the British who lived through the Partition.
A brand new dramatisation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children forms the centrepiece to Radio 4’s programming marking the 70 years since Partition. Awarded the ‘Booker of Bookers’ prize in both 1993 and 2008, this is the first time that Rushdie’s seminal work has appeared as a radio drama. Listeners will follow the story of Saleem Sinai, born at the stroke of midnight on the day of Partition. The first episode will be aired just before midnight on the eve of the anniversary. On Tuesday 15th August the adaptation will dominate the Radio 4 schedule with seven episodes of differing lengths.
Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight’s Children said, “My generation is a radio generation. Indeed, Saleem refers to himself as a radio – All India Radio – due to his ability to talk to people telepathically, so radio seems like a very appropriate medium for this dramatisation of Midnight’s Children. I’m also very happy to have the originality of different length episodes in the drama, it feels radical and exciting and I look forward to hearing it go out on the radio.”
Midnight’s Children stars Nikesh Patel (Indian Summers) as Saleem, with a 31-part cast including Aysha Kala (Indian Summers, Obsession), Meera Syal (Goodness Gracious Me), Anneika Rose (The Archers) and Preeya Kalidas (EastEnders).
Midnight’s Children on Monday 14th August at 23:45, Tuesday 15th August at 09:00, 10:45 (repeat), 14:15, 16:45, 19:15, 21:00 and 23:00
Also on Radio 4 from Monday 31st July is a three-part series: Partition Voices. Kavita Puri hears the remarkable first-hand accounts of those living in the UK now, who witnessed one of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. The series – which explores the shared history between the Indian sub-continent and Britain – focuses on the bloody aftermath of Partition and its legacy for subsequent generations living in Britain today.
When British India was divided along religious lines into Pakistan and India it sparked one of the largest forced migrations in history. Over ten million people left their homes, and up to a million were killed. The interviews – from across the United Kingdom – tell stories of the human impact of Partition. These accounts are deeply personal and emotional. Many South Asians who migrated to Britain after Independence in 1947 were from places affected by Partition. Their children and grandchildren also speak to us about the reverberations of Partition on their lives today. The British Library is archiving all the testimonies.
Kavita Puri said, “70 years after Partition people in Britain are only just beginning to tell their story of this traumatic time. It is imperative to record these voices – of British Asians and Colonial British – before it is too late. And we are delighted that the British Library will be archiving all the interviews. We travelled from Dundee to Dorset and heard extraordinary accounts of the lived experience of Partition: of co-existence shattered; epic journeys; the horror and kindness. The testimonies paint a vivid picture of the dying days of Empire, loss of homeland, and the continuing legacy of Partition for British Asians and their descendants in Britain today. It is a shared history between South Asians and Britain, one that surprisingly little is known about in the UK.”
Partition Voices on Monday 31st July, Monday 7th August, Monday 14th August at 09:00. Repeated at 21:30
The Man Who Drew The Line
This programme focuses on the human dimension of arbitrary and hasty decisions taken in 1947 that have had profound consequences which remain with us today. Britain bears an important share of responsibility for the way in which independence was achieved by the nations of the former Raj. As this feature reveals, one of those most acutely aware of that was the man with whom the closely associated issue of partition is indelibly linked: Cyril Radcliffe. The Man Who Drew The Line focuses on the tension between the administrative task Radcliffe was asked to perform and the human cost of his labours for both the peoples affected and himself.
The most important element of Radcliffe’s partition map, when it was published shortly before Pakistan’s and India’s independence on 14/15 August 1947, was its proposed division of the Muslim-majority Bengal and Punjab. About 14 million people—seven million from each side—are thought to have been displaced after the formalisation of the Line of Partition placed them on the opposite side of the border to the one they wanted to be on. At least another half-a-million people are estimated to have lost their lives in the violence that immediately ensued after independence, with a very much larger number being injured.
This programme asks why Radcliffe decided to pursue the course that he did with the Line of Partition given the consequences that ensued and the warnings given to him in South Asia at the time of the decision. But it also considers the pressures placed upon him―not least the almost absurdly abbreviated timetable for drawing the national frontiers and the problems caused by his tense relationship with Mountbatten. Using a variety of archive sources, the programme reveals the reasons for Radcliffe’s concerns and how he sought to deal with them after the event. Finally it examines how much Whitehall learnt from the episode and put into practice as the wider process of decolonisation took hold in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Man Who Drew The Line on Friday 11th August at 11:00
Throwing Out Nehru
When modern India took political and geographical shape 70 years ago Jawaharlal Nehru was both the first Prime Minister and the head of a family that was to have a lasting impact on the nation’s governance. But, as with so much else besides, there’s a huge change sweeping India and Zareer Masani argues that it’s also sweeping away the Nehru legacy, for good or ill.
Zareer hears what’s been told of the Nehru story today and examines the performance of his dynastic heirs, the rejection of his secular values and the dismantling of his socialist economic policies. The ruling BJP is even trying to expunge Nehru’s name from history text-books. Was the Nehru era a period of wasted opportunities and false starts, or did he lay lasting foundations for Indian democracy, science and technology?
Zareer wrote a biography of Nehru’s daughter Indira and his father was a close confidante of Nehru before setting up in opposition in the 1950’s and 60’s. His analysis of the Nehru dynasty is laced with personal anecdote and insight as well as interviews with some of India’s leading cultural and political commentators and operators. Zareer talks to senior political figures in India as well as to students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and India’s leading political commentators about the shift in the reputation of a man whose name still dominates the literal and metaphorical skyline of India. The attitude to Nehru and his legacy is key to understanding the direction of Indian politics and culture today.
Throwing Out Nehru on Tuesday 15th August at 20:00