Localizing Human Rights

Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India and the Lacuna in International Justice

Authored by: Audrey J. Golden

The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415736411
eBook ISBN: 9781315778372
Adobe ISBN: 9781317696285


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The injuries resulting from the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947 exist largely outside the bounds of international law. The language of human rights produced in the post–World War II moment fails to account for the harms of decolonization and, in particular, Partition of the subcontinent. From the mid-1940s to the early 1990s, the world witnessed a salient stasis in international justice during which neither international efforts to punish perpetrators of serious human rights abuses nor attempts to repair those afflicted by these crimes emerged. During this time, India and Pakistan’s “divorce,” as Tanya Basu (2014) describes it, became an historical turning point for the subcontinent. Indeed, nearly seven decades after Partition, the tension between the countries remains palpable, yet grievances arising from this immense spatial wound(s) remain noticeably untethered from the language of human rights in juridical contexts (see Ganguly 2002). This chapter asks whether reading postcolonial literature about 1947 can reinscribe this lacuna with the retributive and restorative aims of international human rights law.

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