To mark the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India, a major season of programmes across BBC One and BBC Two – presented by Anita Rani, Gurinder Chadha, Adnan Sarwar and Babita Sharma – brings to life some of the forgotten voices of Partition, explores the hidden history of what happened in August 1947 and reveals the legacy Partition leaves us with today.
In August 1947, after nearly 200 years, British colonial rule in India came to an end and the country was partitioned into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. The result was the largest forced migration ever recorded, as millions of Muslims journeyed to West and East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction. Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for a thousand years succumbed to a bloody eruption of sectarian violence.
The season will shine a light on the human side of Partition, looking at personal, often harrowing accounts and uncovering the unique stories of the people who did not make it into the history books – the parents, the best friends and shopkeepers – as well as revealing what life is like for those living today on either side of the Indo-Pakistan border.
BBC One – My Family, Partition And Me: India 1947
Anita Rani explores the human impact of the Partition of India through the intimate stories of four British families, including her own, in a new two-part landmark BBC One series. Using compelling first-hand testimony from British Partition survivors, their children and grandchildren retrace the dramatic journeys they were forced to make during Partition.
Representing the different communities caught up in the violence – Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and British colonial – they travel for the first time to the homes in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh that their families fled in terror. Their journeys include emotional meetings with long-lost family friends, encounters with neighbours of other religions who shielded their family at huge personal risk, and extraordinary stories of courage and fortitude among the horrors of the communal violence that had erupted.
Anita Rani and her mother become the first members of their family to return to the small village in Pakistan where her grandfather lived until 1947. Anita investigates the shocking and distressing events that happened there when her grandfather’s first wife, children and her great grandfather lost their lives.
Anita Rani says: “This is a deeply personal project. I realised there’s a generation growing up in Britain who know very little about their own history. Partition seems to be a forgotten moment in time, a shameful stain that no one wants to talk about. However 70 years on, it’s almost the last chance to hear from the Partition survivors. There are millions of stories but the simplest way of trying to understand what happened is to look at four different experiences, representing the communities caught up in the horror. Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and British.”
My Family, Partition And Me: India 1947 (2×60) was commissioned by Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual. The Commissioning Editor is Fatima Salaria and it is being produced by Wall To Wall (a Warner Bros Television Production UK company) in association with Pickle Pictures. Colette Flight is the Executive Producer, Leo Burley is the Series Producer and Director, and Paula Nightingale is the Producer.
BBC Two – India’s Partition: The Forgotten Story
British film-maker Gurinder Chadha (pictured), director of Bend It Like Beckham and The Viceroy’s House, travels from Southall to Delhi to find out about the Partition of India – one of the most seismic and violent events of the 20th century. To find out why and how it happened Gurinder crosses India, meeting people whose lives were torn apart by Partition, as well as historians who explain the complex motives behind the split. Along the way she discovers the political and social pressures that led to Partition, and uncovers evidence that some members of the British establishment supported the divide.
India’s Partition: The Forgotten Story (1 x 60) was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual. The Commissioning Editor is Fatima Salaria and it is being made by Bent It TV, where the Executive Producer is Ricardo Pollack and Producer/Director is Robin Dashwood.
BBC Two – World’s Most Dangerous Border
Journalists and presenting talent Adnan Sarwar and Babita Sharma travel either side of the contentious Indo-Pakistan border. From Gujarat and Sindh to the volatile and fiercely-contested Kashmir and Northern Territories, they cross landscapes of extraordinary variety and often staggering beauty. On their journey the pair discover enduring traditions, surprising religious diversity and unexpected flashes of modernity in the countries of their respective parents’ birth. The shadow of Partition hangs over both, but where do these two mighty nations stand in the 21st century?
World’s Most Dangerous Border (3x 60) was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual. The Commissioning Editor is Fatima Salaria and it is being made by October Films, where the Executive Producer is Jane Merkin. The directors are Ruhi Hamid and Alex Nott. The programme is produced in partnership with The Open University.
BBC Two – One Week In Summer
Set over the dramatic seven days leading up to partition of India and Pakistan, this innovative film will give a unique blow-by-blow account of that tumultuous week, as day by day, chaos consumed the Indian sub-continent during the last days of British Rule.
From the flashpoints of the Punjab and Ghandi’s base in Calcutta to the burning streets of Lahore and beyond, the film tells the powerful and moving story of some of the millions of people affected by this unique historical event. Told from the perspective of ordinary villagers and townspeople caught up in events, the film reveals how the joys of Independence Day in India and Pakistan were overshadowed by misery in the summer of 1947 and explores just why the violence was so intense.
The programme features a novel blend of original first-hand testimony voiced by actors, powerful archive footage and a cast of insightful experts who will guide us through those dramatic and confusing days.
One Week in Summer (1×60) was commissioned by Patrick Holland and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual. The Commissioning Editor is Fatima Salaria and it is being made by Voltage TV, where the Executive Producers are Sanjay Singhal and Jon Alwen and the Director is Paul Berczeller.
Click here to visit the My Family, Partition And Me: India 1947 website.