Berkeley proclaims Partition Remembrance Day


The City Council of Berkeley in California has proclaimed June 3 as annual ‘Partition Remembrance Day’, in recognition of one of the world’s largest mass refugee crises that unfolded during India and Pakistan’s independence in 1947. Despite its immense scale and historical significance, Partition as an event has hardly been recognized by official governing bodies globally.

June 3, 1947, is when the Viceroy published his ‘Mountbatten Plan’ that created Pakistan eventually in an immense political reorganization after Britain’s exit from South Asia that August.

Giving recognition to the day was the brainchild of ‘The 1947 Partition Archive’, an organization that documents the community oral histories of partition since 2011 when it came up in Berkeley. In an online meeting late Tuesday, Mayor Jesse Arreguin and council member Kesarwani approved the recommendation for the Berkeley city council to adopt the Partition Remembrance Day proclamation.

Despite being exactly half a world away, Berkeley has century-old ties to India and its independence movement in the early 20th century. Students at the University of California in Berkeley were members of the Ghadar Party formed in 1913, which conspired with the Berlin Committee in Germany to start a mutiny in the British Indian Army, an attempt that failed.

A decade ago from today, the 1947 Partition Archive incubated at UC Berkeley’s Skydeck accelerator began using a unique crowdsourcing protocol to empower citizens anywhere to record the nearly forgotten people’s history of Partition before the generation of witnesses was gone.

With nearly 10,000 oral histories documented on digital video a decade later, from 18 countries and over 700 cities and villages, the archive gave a new life to the public memory of Partition, says Guneeta Singh Bhalla, the 1947 Partition Archive’s founder.