How one law journal survived partition

Today–August 15, 2019–marks the 72nd anniversary of the independence and partition of India and Pakistan. Thousands of survivors’ stories are preserved in the remarkable 1947 Archive and elsewhere. I want to share one more. This time, the survivor was a law journal.  The Criminal Law Journal of India was based in Lahore, a powerhouse of legal publishing in late colonial India. Its editors, writers, and staff were a cosmopolitan group, including Hindu and Muslim lawyers. During the chaos of partition, the journal’s management moved its headquarters from Lahore, then in Pakistan, to Nagpur, in independent India.

If you look on the shelf at the spine labels of this journal during the 1940s, you’ll notice nothing unusual around 1947. The journal’s editors didn’t miss a volume, despite being part of the mass migration of millions of refugees suffering terrible violence. If you flip to the front page of volume 49 (1948), though, you’ll catch a rare view of the journal’s struggles. There, editor V. M. Kulkarni wrote about how the journal had been moved and saved, and how religious difference should not divide lawyers. It’s an unusual and poignant statement in the pages of a journal that usually kept things tight and “professional.” Reading this now with Kashmir in lockdown and Indo-Pakistani tensions rising, Kulkarni’s message remains just as important today as when it was written.

Here is the full text:

VOLUME 49–1948

OURSELVES

On the 15th of August 1947, non-violent battle for freedom of India was won. On that day another free nation was born. It was Pakistan, till then a part of India. The immediate consequence of this is known to us. With the dawn of freedom, the people had let loose their subdued communal feelings. The mass riotings, killing of human beings, abductions of women and children, burning and destruction of property had taken place. Lakhs of people had fled across the border to save their lives. The division of the country resulted in untold misery to thousands of families.

In this, like individuals, many a business concern suffered. We were not an exception. Our Press had stopped from working. There were no men to work there. Some had left the city and many were in evacuee camps. Our directors themselves were out of touch with the office. But in spite of this, our zeal to serve our patrons was unshaken. When the first onslaught of this human killing was over, we immediately started to take stock of the situation. Lahore had not yet then returned to normal. No one knew when it would. We were determined to resume our services to our patrons.

So we decided to shift our office to another place. We changed our venue to Nagpur and from here we have resumed our services to our patrons. Some minor adjustments have yet to be made.

We confess, we could not have survived this calamity, but for our patrons, who come from all the communities. Their goodwill enabled us to successfully tide over the difficult times of the two Great World Wars. The same goodwill saw us through this national calamity and enabled us to serve them, with greater confidence, capacity and zeal. For this our sincerest thanks are due to them. If they continue to extend this goodwill for yet more difficult times to come, we are confident to serve them as before. In fact it would not amount to vanity on our part, if we say that by virtue of our past performance we claim this goodwill.

To those of our patrons who have suffered in this nationwide unhappy turmoil, we extend our sincere sorrow and pray that He may give them strength to bear the suffering.

Once more we thank our patrons, both for India and Pakistan for the goodwill they have bestowed on us till yesterday and respectfully pray that the same be continued to be extended to us in days to come. We with them a happy, bright and prosperous New Year.

-Editor

The journal continued to have staff members reporting from Lahore, Karachi, and Dacca (Dhaka) until 1950, at least–even though these places were no longer part of India. I have not yet identified the date when this practice ended.

I’m working on an article on the history of legal publishing that will explore this journal’s story and others.