ISPaD: The Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project’s 2021 Annual Forum & Journal Release at The Partition Center on Saturday, October 16, 2021
Shuvo G Dastidar & Sachi G. Dastidar
In the post-Covid pandemic, Partition Center organized a hybrid annual meeting with limited in person presence and on-line participation. We were able to bring American, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladesh and peoples of other nations, religions, regions, and languages together.
This year out theme was “Connecting Indian Subcontinent on Women’s Social & Cultural Progress,” and with requests from India and Bangladesh commemorating the centenary of a young girl Nihar Kana Ghosh standing first in Dacca Circle, today’s Bangladesh, standing first in school exam from Madaripur city’s Donovan Girls’ School in 1919 winning a H.E. Ronald Shay Gold Medal from B.C. Chattabji, Bar-At-Law and accolade from the British Governor General’s Office. She could have been the first girl to achieve that height.
Shuvo G. Dastidar
The forum opened with Board Member Dr. Shefali S. Dastidar welcoming guests and speakers, with a brief introduction of ISPaD. This was followed by Project Coordinator Shuvo presenting the annual report with an update of work done and difficulties faced during Covid pandemic, followed by an in-person panel on Women’s Narrative: Progress and Struggle with two pioneering individuals: Mrs. Swapna Mukherji, of Long Island, and one of the first Electrical Engineering graduates of India graduating in 1960s from the Bengal Engineering College of Calcutta University, West Bengal State of India. She highlighted how her family was in full support of the new path while there were other skeptics. Mrs. Mukherjee mentioned that when she went to B. E. College, there were barely a dozen girls and 4,000+ boys attending the residential engineering college. After briefly working in India she moved to New York in early 1970s with her husband Prabal, a graduate of the same college.
The next speaker Hon. Victoria Gumbs Moore, a pioneering lawyer and an elected African-American judge on Long Island told her story of moving up the ladder rising from a family with modest background to the current high profile position. She explained how her hard working parents encouraged her to overcome obstacles, as they struggled with their own lives, but sent their kids to higher education. She mentioned that it is not surprising that even in tolerant and diverse New York State that there could be a single minority judge among a dozen judges in some local areas. That surprised her and her colleagues.
After their presentation there were brief question and answer session.
Next was on-line session, Connecting Indian Subcontinent on Women’s, Social & Cultural Progress, with in-person moderation by Dr. Alireza Ebrahimi, a professor at the State University of New York. In this session speakers came from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Technology allowed ISPaD to bring people in one place. The first speaker was Mrs. Pratima RoyChowdhury of Kolkata, India, with her daughter Anindita Ghosh Dastidar of Toronto, Canada presented the story of her grandma Nihar Kana Ghosh standing first in 1919 in the huge Dhaka Circle of today’s Bangladesh from Donovan Girls’ School of Madaripur City of east Bengal Province of British India. Anindita mentioned that her family is trying to establish Nihar Kana Ghosh Centenary Scholarships at Donovan Girls’ , with celebration in Madaripur City. Ms. Ghosh was possibly the first girl to stand first receiving accolade from the British Governor General and a H.E. Ronald Shay Gold Medal from B. C. Chattabji, Bar-At-Law of east Bengal, now Bangladesh.
Dr. Alireza Ebrahimi
Ms. Anindita Ghosh Dastidar of Canada representing Pratima RoyChowdhury of India
Ms, Nihar Kaha Ghosh's Gold Medal for Standing First in 1919
Mr. Debabrata Mazumdar of Kolkata, India spoke next. Mr. Mazumdar, a Bangladeshi-Indian-Hindu refugee explained his struggle to survive in East Pakistan, later called Bangladesh, as a minority Hindu in a Muslim-majority post-partition era. He mentioned that ke lost family members during post-partition pogrom against minorities. Struggle for a highly educated family was not easy. At times his son Debotosh joined from Virginia for translation.
Mr. Debrata Mazumdar of India
Next speaker was Prof. Dr. Pervaiz Hoodbhoy of Pakistan and a noted scholar, and a secularist Muslim. Dr. Hoodbhoy explained how he sees failure of a two-nations Muslim-Non-Muslim partition of India, especially after the breakup of majority East Pakistan, and struggle to bring a diverse Muslim population of Pakistan together. (Earlier at ISPaD interview of him me mentioned how his Muslim cousin moved to “Hindu” India from Islamic Pakistan after partition of India.) Dr. Hoodbhoy mentioned that secularist struggle in Pakistan is not easy.