Recording Untold Stories of Partition Through Citizen Journalism

This Entry has been submitted.

Recording Untold Stories of Partition Through Citizen Journalism

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We crowdsource the collection of survivor testimonies, embedding submissions on an interactive map revealing shared histories.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The 1947 Partition of British India along religious lines devastated millions of lives. Mass violence broke out as an unprecedented population exchange took place. Nearly 15 million people were displaced as Muslims migrated to Pakistan and Sikhs and Hindus to India. Up to two million lost their lives while over 100,000 women were abducted. Younger generations across the world remain largely unaware of Partition, and history continues to repeat itself as similar crises have since occurred in placed such as Bosnia and Rwanda. We believe that learning from those who have direct experience is a critical step in moving humanity beyond communal strife. There is however no publicly accessible archive of survivor testimonies for educating future generations, or a memorial honoring the victims. Given that 64 years have passed, there is a great urgency to record survivors’ stories before they are lost forever, leaving unfilled gaps in our collective human history. Our solution to address this need can be expanded to applications as diverse as linguistic preservation of disappearing languages, indigenous cultural preservation or documenting similar crises in history.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The 1947 Partition Archive is providing a platform for divided communities to come together in building an archive of video testimonies from Partition survivors to educate future generations. In order to quickly gather oral histories from thousands of survivors worldwide, we are developing infrastructure for crowdsourcing story collection. Younger generations are being empowered to harness widely available communications technology to interview their elders and educate the world. Our solution addresses the challenge of reaching a global diaspora of aging Partition survivors quickly and cost effectively, while engaging and educating younger generations in the process. By giving voice to those who were most affected by the Partition, global citizens are coming together to rewrite the history of Partition--a story often told with a focus on political leaders and nation states. In California, a pilot of our model operates successfully. A team of nearly 30 volunteer interviewers have already collected and submitted over 170 stories in several languages. Thirty additional stories have been submitted from around the world. Interviews submitted to the archive are reviewed and posted on an interactive map of South Asia on our website. Survivor stories on our site are supplemented with an online Partition learning library and People Finder service aiming to connect long lost friends and loved ones. Our long term goal is to create momentum for building a memorial to honor victims of Partition and house a copy of the collection of Partition testimonies.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Mr. Adams , born in pre-Partition India and now living in Australia, contacted us after watching the video of Major Singh, one of the first from our collection to be posted online. Major Singh describes how in 1947 he witnessed a train to Pakistan get derailed by a mob at the Amritsar city train station. He describes the British guards on the train being fatally attacked by a hand grenade at which point the mob swarmed the train. Sixty-four years later and thousands of miles away, Mr. Adams watched as Major Singh described this scene and was able to make a personal connection: one of the train guards was his cousin, Lt. Reid. This intersection of Major Singh’s and Mr. Adam's life history is one small example of the potential for human connection possible within a democratic approach to collecting oral histories. The interactive experience of collecting and preserving history strengthens the voices of survivors, forging connections over thousands of miles and years of history. Such interactions and connections are made possible by the following process: 1- Live workshops are broadcast online to train citizens across the world in interviewing survivors within their communities. Self-paced online training videos will soon replace monthly workshops. 2- The interviews cover pre-Partition life and culture, eye-witness accounts of Partition and post-Partition resettlement. 3- Submitted stories are reviewed to ensure ethical standards developed by expert oral historians. 4- Approved videos are embedded on an interactive map of South Asia on our website.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The 1947 Partition Archive is the only grassroots organization we’re aware of that is preserving and sharing these stories on video, a powerful format, in a democratic manner from all affected communities. Oral histories of Partition have been conducted in written format and for the purposes of writing books or conducting scholarly research, but they are generally limited to certain groups affected by Partition. No scholars or organizations are systematically engaging communities to collect interviews from all cultural and religious groups affected by Partition. In general, rather than challenges, we envision opportunities for collaboration with the scholars and individuals who have conducted previous research based on Partition testimonies.
About You
The 1947 Partition Archive
About You
First Name


Last Name

Singh Bhalla

Twitter URL
About Your Organization
Organization Name

The 1947 Partition Archive

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

In 2008, while on a research trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to spend time scrolling through the oral testimony archives at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It was very powerful to watch survivors describe their ordeal... more so than reading a book or watching a movie.

That is when it clicked. The same needed to be done for the Partition.

Growing up in India, I had heard stories of Partition within my family. My grandmother described the violent conditions under which they were forced to leave their ancestral homeland. In 1989 my family migrated to the US, where in high school we learned about the horrifying details of the Holocaust. I was perplexed that there was no mention of Partition, an event of similar scale that occurred in South Asia.

In 2010 the last elder from my father’s family with memories of Partition passed on without having his story recorded. Suddenly I became acutely aware of the urgency to preserve oral histories from survivors of Partition. Inspired by what I saw in Hiroshima, I began collecting stories and recruiting volunteers in late 2010.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

In 1947, Mr. Ali was six and lived peacefully with his family in a tiny village called Kasubegu in Punjab. He shared with us a story he had not yet shared with anyone, of how he was orphaned during Partition-related violence. Following the interview, he expressed a feeling of empowerment in sharing his story, especially with his children. Like Mr. Ali, many survivors who have shared their Partition experience express both a sense of confidence in continuing to share their story, and immense gratitude at having the opportunity for being heard and knowing that their story will remain alive for future generations.

Furthermore, our volunteers’ blog is a testament to the profound experience the interviews can be for the interviewers, who often come away forming a deep connection with elders and their shared history.

Through today, 78 volunteers from eight countries have joined hands in collecting over 200 interviews. Over 1000 individuals--the volunteers, the interviewees and their families, have directly been impacted. Local newspaper and radio coverage of our work has raised awareness on Partition and impacted an unknown number of other individuals.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

The successful implementation of our model has already impacted thousands of individuals in California. Requests from individuals around the world who want to share or watch stories, as well as prospective interviewers, have begun pouring in.

With our expanding volunteer base over the next year and enhanced capacity to crowdsource story collection, our expected impact is over 10,000 individuals within a year with the potential to reach millions in five years.

Our system-changing solution can easily be replicated by communities in need of protecting oral histories on topics that vary from cultural preservation to linguistics or memories of historical events.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Complete development of (1) interactive map and (2) infrastructure for crowdsourcing Partition stories. Collect 500 stories.

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Finalize development of maps, of self-paced online interviewer training videos, and method for online story submissions.

Task 2

Work with media and other partner organizations to spread the word about this work globally and encourage story submissions.

Task 3

Secure production space for accelerating the video processing of submissions to be placed on our map.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Collect 1000 stories. Support/promote worldwide Partition education. Build support for a museum/memorial honoring victims.

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Continue building capacity for reaching a wider base of volunteers and Partition survivors, and enhance overall story collection

Task 2

Develop partnerships and a plan with organizations who share our goal of building a memorial to honor the victims of Partition.

Task 3

Host vigils to honor victims of Partition on 65th anniversary. Begin promoting Partition education with K-12 education boards.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001 - 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

The biggest barrier we face is the potential failure to maintain a non-partisan approach to a politically divisive topic and the potential for political misuse and misrepresentation of the stories being collected. To overcome this challenge we are working with a team of experienced advisers with backgrounds in academia, ethics, law and history. We are carefully developing guiding principles and interview techniques to avoid controversy, ensuring that the content provided on our website makes our non-political and grassroots approach clear, and ensuring that stories are collected from diverse geographical, ethnic and cultural communities.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

We foresee a grassroots shift in the way individuals acquire knowledge with increasing Internet accessibility and user-generated content. A more democratic use of media will give voice to the people rather than the powerful few who usually grab headlines, bringing greater understanding, inclusiveness and equality among all people. We are demonstrating a method for using information technology to engage the public in a collaborative manner for documenting oral histories.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

While we have already proven successful in engaging a large base of volunteers and survivors locally, It is possible that global crowd sourcing at the rate we envision may not be possible. If this is the case, we will continue with the slower approach of engaging volunteers on a local level by establishing centers in cities with South Asian populations across the world.

If political forces hinder the development of a physical memorial, a number of globally recognized libraries have already expressed interest in hosting copies of the collection. A combination of traveling exhibitions and educational programs worldwide will also provide an alternative to building a memorial.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Dozens of individuals have already come forward as financial supporters of this work. The donor community for this project is being engaged through a multi-channel marketing and public relations campaign as well as volunteer and advisory board associations.

For at least the first three years, The 1947 Partition Archive envisions being funded by grants from private and public foundations as well as individual and corporate contributions. We are working to develop partnerships via grants applications with several foundations.

In one to two years, the sale of merchandise and educational materials on Partition will also be considered. Finally, once the museum and memorial are realized, financial sustainability will be established through sales of tickets and educational materials.

Tell us about your partnerships

A number of well established organizations have partnered with us by providing both a voice in the media and equipment support. Mera Sangeet Radio and are broadcasting our stories. We have worked with the performing arts group, Naatak, in developing a panel discussion for survivors. The Hume Behavioral Health Center is providing counseling services to survivors. At UC Berkeley, the ASUC computer lab provides space for editing videos while the Center for South Asian Studies provides camera equipment to volunteers collecting stories.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

Our team includes 78 volunteers residing in 8 countries. Five coordinators oversee interviews, video production, outreach, web development and the library project. The board comprises three directors and six advisers who are established professions, including tenured academics, historians, psychologists, social entrepreneurs, legal advisers, film makers, scientists and business leaders.

Within the next year, the coordinators are expected to begin transitioning into part time and full time paid positions. Over 2 years we anticipate 5 payed postitions.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

We seek financial investments in scaling our model globally, media partners in spreading the word, experienced mentors who can guide us in developing our organizational structure for maximum effectiveness, and talented as well as passionate individuals with expertise in media relations, fundraising, video production, website maintenance and more (see our website for a complete list).

We are offering information to researchers of Partition and history in general, collaboration to organizations with similar missions, and help with developing ideas to carry out similar work in collecting oral histories, linguistic preservation, cultural history to other interested organizations and individuals.

Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

We collect, preserve and showcase untold stories from the largest human displacement, the 1947 Partition of British India.