ArticlePDF Available


A letter to the editor describing the 'partitioning' of Lahore mental hospital.
july 21, 2012 vol xlviI no 29 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
Ever sinc e the fi rst is sue in 1966,
EPW has been I ndia’s prem ier journal for
comment o n curre nt affairs
and rese arch in the soc ial scie nces.
It succeed ed Economic Weekly (1949 -1965),
which wa s launched and shep herded
by Sachin Chaudhuri,
who was al so the founder-edit or of EPW.
As edito r for thi rty-fi ve years (1969 -2004)
Krishna Raj
gave EPW the reputation i t now enjoys.
C Ra mma noha r Reddy
Deputy Editor
Berna rd D’Mel lo
web Editor
subha sh rai
Senior Assistant Edi tors
Lina Mathias
aniket Alam
Srini vasan r ama ni
ashima sood
Bhar ati Bhargava
copy editors
Prabha Pillai
jyoti shetty
Assistant editor
P S Leel a
u raghun atha n
s lesline c orera
suneeth i nair
Gauraang Pradhan Manager
B S Shar ma
Adverti sement M anager
Kam al G Fa niba nda
Gener al Man ager & Publishe r
K Vijayak uma r
Economic and Pol itica l Wee kly
320-321, A to Z Indust ria l Estate
Ganpatrao Kadam M arg, Lowe r Parel
Mumbai 400 013
Phone: (022) 4063 8282
FAX: (022) 2493 4515
EPW Rese arch Foundat ion
EPW Research Foundation, established in 1993, conducts
research on fi nancial and macro-economic issues in India.
k kan agasa bapath y
C 212, Akur li Industr ial Es tate
Kandi vali (East), Mumbai 400 101
Phones: (022) 2887 3038/41
Fax: (022) 2887 3038
Printed by K Vijayakumar at Modern Arts and Industries,
151, A-Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013 and
published by him on behalf of Sameeksha Trust
from 320-321, A-Z Industrial Estate,
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013.
Editor: C Rammanohar Reddy.
Issn 0012-9976
Partition and the Mentally Ill
This is in response to the letter by
P R Chari entitled “Siachen in the
Time of Manto” (EPW, 9 June 2012) on the
continuing relevance of Manto and the
use of the story “Toba Tek Singh” where-
in the protagonist’s madness is taken as
a metaphor for contemporar y geopoli-
tics. However, the reality behind the
metaphor is equally, if not more tragic.
On 31 July 1947, Earl Mountbatten
notes in his daily diary (Mountbatten
India Offi ce Records L/PO/6/123 p a r t 3/
p 222, Para 56):
One of the few institutions that will not be
partitioned immediately is t he Punjab Men-
tal Hospital. It will continue to be shared
for some years. Some Hindu inmates of the
asylum have protested against being left in
Pakistan. They have been assured that their
fears are imaginary (italics added).
This process of Partition of the mental
hospital was dragged over several years,
as the interprovincial hospital in Ranchi
(which erstwhile undivided Punjab con-
tributed to) was too far, the one at Agra
was under the United Provinces, and there
were no other asylums in the (Indian)
Punjab as Delhi and Amritsar mental
hospitals did not exist. The asylum at
Amritsar was thus hastily constructed in
1949, but was essentially inadequate and
pati ents and famili es we re ac commodate d
in tents and looked after by the staff. This
incongruous but apparently successful
arrangement and the personal charisma
of Dr Vidyasagar eventually provided a
model for greater family engagement for
the care of the menta lly il l in Indi a.
However, the process of Partition
remorselessly ground ahead, and patients
from the mental hospital at Lahore, and
various hospitals in India, were eventually
exchanged. As the doctors in Amritsar
noted, 450 non-Muslim mental patients
were received in 1950, of which 282
Punjabis were retained at Amritsar, and
the rest sent on to Ranchi (the erstwhile
mental hospital for Europeans and Anglo-
Indians). As many as 233 Muslim patients
from various mental hospitals in India,
from as far away as Ranch i, were sent i n
the opposite direction to Lahore. The
reason for these hospitals being chosen
was probably administrative convenience,
rather than an effort to unite patients
with their families.
As the Director of Health Services,
Punjab notes in 1950 (Annual report of
Punjab Mental Hospital, Amritsar, 1950):
[O]f the 600-700 non-Muslim patients in
Lahore asylum at partition, only 317 were
exchang ed, is a tragic fact which sadly bet rays
the treat ment meted out to those unfor tu-
nate victims who could not be retr ieved ear-
lier fr om the Lah ore Ho spit al .
Although some of the patients were
transferred to Ranchi, contributions from
the Punjab government became erratic
and the central government had to step
in and make good the shortage, till it
became designated as a central institute
and not an interprovincial one.
In all this, the fates of the families and
the patients, who were transported across
hundreds of miles, often deluded or con-
fused, remain one of the unspoken trage-
di es of t he Pa rt it ion , u sed as met aph or and
farce, but hiding a very disturbing reality
of unwillingness to care for “the other”,
even when “the other” is unwell and
incapable of articulating distress. These
hundreds of real life “Toba Tek Singhs”,
like the original protagonist in Manto’s
story, lost their very real identities and
were now classifi ed as Hindu and Mus-
lim, Punjabi and non-Punjabi, and other
categories, probably on the basis of who
would pay the bills rather than any other
humanitarian, clinical or medical concern.
The mentally ill continue to be the
classic apocryphal “other”, and both pol-
iticians and society continue to use the
terms “mad” and “insane” to disparage
and insult, and almost never express the
honest concern and graciousness, which
may have helped provide balm to the
horrors of the Partition then, and to the
care of the mentally ill now. In this the
centenary year of Manto’s birth, we may
want to commemorate that acerbic and
insightfu l aut hor by re ecting on this.
Sanjeev Jain, Alok Sarin
Kitchen ‘Sati
read with interest “Anti-Dowry Law
Viewed from the Prison Cell” (EPW, 28
January 2012). One cannot factually and
emotively disagree with many of the con-
cerns that need to be addressed. Much is
Economic & Political Weekly EPW july 21, 2012 vol xlviI no 29 5
said about the misuse of the section on
marital harassment – 498A of the Indian
Penal Code. On the other hand, t here exist
many cases deserving registration as dowry
deaths or suicides due to harassment in
marriage (Sections 304B and 498A/306).
But they do not see the light of day. No
breath is wasted on di scussing thes e.
The National Crime Records Bureau
notes that in 2010, there were 8,391 cas-
es of dowry deaths in the country. But
behind every reported or written statis-
tic is a world of lost, disempowered and
silent, suppressed and manipulated sta-
tistics. Many do not have a voice, let
alone raise it. Other voices dry up before
gaining recognition as formal gures.
Many young girls, recently mar ried, die
of ulti-dast (a euphemism for poisoning),
as in Bihar, andkitchen accidents”, as
in Madhya Pradesh. A lot of these inci-
dents do not have their tryst with justice.
When such a burns case gets initially
reported, it is largely a medico-legal case
report from the hospital. Police interven-
tion stays confi ned to recording the girl’s
statement. At this stage, no emphasis is
laid on visiting the crime scene. Often,
the girl is referred to a higher medical
centre. Hence, there is a greater lapse of
time in recording her statement and vis-
iting the crime scene. Usually the visit to
the crime scene takes place when the
“unnatural death case is registered. By
this time the crime scene is a well-swept,
cleaned area with scant evidence.
The statement of the girl itself can be
a separate scholarship in gender dis-
course. Here is a woman dying, writhing
in pain, fi nding it diffi cult to speak, maybe
regretful of the rash step she took. To the
recorder of the statement, she is a dis g-
ured, offensively smelling (of burnt skin,
pus, sweat) fi gure telling you the same
story through different mouths over and
over again. That it was an accident. So
the kerosene stove burst (while a gas
cy lind er m ay be used f or c ook in g, o r as if
fo od is cook ed i n t he b edro om) or a dibbi
(little kerosene lamp) fell on her when
in the event of power cut it was lighted.
And the recorder of the statement
records these white lies.
Trut h sit s up on t he l ips of d ying men ”
(Mathew Arnold), but not women, in these
cases. Surrounded by in-laws and begged
by them and her husband to forgive them
before the statement is recorded, she takes
the soft course. If children are involved
in the situation, then thinking about their
future and the future caretakers, she
forgives all. With limited options in case
she survives, she “un-words” her plight.
Burns, it may be noted, are not cases of
gradual recovery but sharp deterioration.
Initially the girl and her family may be
deceived into believing that the girl will
survive. In the light of future options,
the statement is engineered.
Moreover, the relationships she has
been involved in are complex. Also a
girl, who would have hid her predicament
from family and friends, would scarcely
elaborate it before a stranger who comes
hurrying to get over with another rou-
tine chore of recording a statement.
The attitude of the girl’s family varies
from case to case. Many wait to see what
the daughter will say and usually echo the
same. In most cases the girl does not say
anything so the family sews its lips. If
the girl dies and the grandchildren are
involved, who will, in most cases, stay
with the in-laws, the parents do not
pursue the case. In some, it so happens
that the parents may bargain for the
items of dowry to be returned. Once this
blood money” is received in part, or in
full, the issue stands am icably resolved
between the two families.
Deepika Suri
Bhagana Dalits
Fifty dalit men have been sitting on
dharna in New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar
from 2 July. They are here for an indefi -
nite period till they get justice. They
have marched to Delhi on foot in the hot
summer, having left Hisar town in Haryana
on 27 June. These men are part of the same
70 dalit families whose exodus from
village Bhagana had been reported by
the national media in the last week of
May and who have camped outside the
mini-Secretariat in Hisar since 23 May.
They have been protesting against their
vicious social boycott by the Jats in their
village as well as the unauthorised take over
of common lands in the village by the
Jats, and the non-implementation of the
Mahatma Gandhi Basti Vikas Yojana. The
refusal of Bhagana’s dalit and backward
communities to passively accept the take-
over of their use and ownership land rights
resulted in their social boycott. When a
team of the People’s Union for Democratic
Rights (PUDR) and the Association for
Demo cratic Rights met them in Hisar on 21
June, they were concentrating their ener-
gies on resisting the pressure being brought
to bear on them to end their protest.
PUDR is shocked and angered to fi nd they
have now been forced to resort to under-
taking the padyatra as a heightened form
of protest and the dharna at Delhi as no
action against the guilty Jats has been
undertaken either by the state adminis-
tration, the Haryana government or the
local police. On the contrary, the protesting
dalits have been charged under Sections
332, 353, 186, 506 and 124A of the Indian
Penal Code. All attempts at mediation have
also failed as it has now become a matter
of izzat for the Jats. No case has been reg-
istered against them under the Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention
of Atrocities) Act that the dalits have been
demanding from the beginning. The pro-
test in Hisar is still continuing.
The protest of the dalits of Bhagana
village provides yet another example of
the caste oppression of dalits in Haryana
and the biased nature of the state admini-
stration working in alliance with the
upper castes to maintain the same.
Paramjeet Singh , Preeti Chauhan
Secretaries, PUDR,
Web E xclusives
The following articles have been uploaded in the past week in the Web Exclusives
section of the EPW website. These articles have not been published in the print edition.
Read t hem at ht tp://
1) “Laxmipeta: Deadly Combination of Caste and Political Power” – Bojja Tharakam
2) “Unstable Rupee, Floundering Economy” – Surajit Mazumdar
Ar ticles posted before 29 Ju ne rema in av ailable in t he Web Exclusives se ction
july 21, 2012 vol xlviI no 29 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
Contributors are requested to follow EPW's style
sheet while preparing their articles. The style
sheet is posted on EPW's website at It will
help immensely for faster processing and error-free
editing if writers follow the recommended style
sheet, especially with regard to citation and
preparation of the bibliography.
Special Articles
EPW welcomes original research papers in any of the
social sciences.
Articles must be no more than 8,000 words,
including notes and references. Longer articles will
not be processed.
Contributions should be sent preferably by email.
Special articles should be accompanied by an
abstract of a maximum of 150-200 words.
Papers should not have been simultaneously
submitted for publication to another journal or
newspaper. If the paper has appeared earlier in a
different version, we would appreciate a copy of
this along with the submitted paper.
Graphs and charts need to be prepared
in MS Office (Word/Excel) and not in jpeg or
other formats.
Receipt of articles will be immediately
acknowledged by email.
Every effort is taken to complete early processing
of the papers we receive. However, we receive 70
articles ever y week and adequate time has to be
provided for internal reading and external refereeing.
It can therefore take up to four months for a final
decision on whether the paper for the Special Article
section is accepted for publication.
Articles accepted for publication can take up to
six to eight months from date of acceptance to
appear in the EPW. Papers with immediate relevance
for policy would be considered for early publication.
Please note that this is a matter of editorial judgment.
EPW invites short contributions to the ‘Commentary’
section on topical social, economic and political
developments. These should ideally be between 1,000
and 2,500 words.
A decision on Commentary-length articles will be
communicated within 6-8 weeks, or earlier.
Authors are requested to list six to eight keywords
for their articles.
Book Reviews
EPW sends out book s for review. It does not normally
accept unsolicited reviews. However, all reviews that
are received are read with interest and unsolicited
review on occasion is considered for publication.
EPW encourages researchers to comment on
articles published in EPW. Submissions should be 800
to 1,600 words.
Readers of EPW are encouraged to comment
(300 words) on published articles.
All letters should have the writer’s full
name and postal address.
General Guidelines
Writers are requested to provide full details for
correspondence: postal address, day-time phone
numbers and email address.
EPW requests writers not to send revised versions
based on stylistic changes/additions, deletions of
references, minor changes, etc, as this poses
challenges in processing. Revised versions will not be
processed. When there are major developments in
the field of study after the first submission, authors
can send a revised version.
EPW posts all published articles on its website
and may reproduce them on CDs.
EPW also posts all published articles on select
Copyright of all articles published in the Journal
belongs to the author or to the organisation where
the author is employed as determined by the
author’s terms of employment.
Permission for Reproduction
No published article or part thereof should be
reproduced in any form without prior permission of
the author(s).
A soft/hard copy of the author(s)’s approval should
be sent to EPW.
Address for communication:
Economic & Political Weekly
320-321, A to Z Industrial Est ate
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013, India
Notes for Contributors
Types of Web Access to t he Digital Archi ves
Individual subscribers can access the site by a username and a password, while
institu tional subscri bers get access by specifyi ng IP ranges.
To know more abou t online access to the arc hives and how to access th e archives se nd
us an email at circ and we w ill be pleased to explain the proce ss.
How to Subsc ribe:
Payment can be made by either sending a demand draft/cheque in favour of
Economic and Political Weekly or by ma king onli ne pa ymen t wit h a cre dit c ard /net
banking on our secure site at (For Inland subscriptions if making
payment by cheque, please add Rs 35 to cheques drawn on banks out side Mumbai,
when collection is not at par).
Address for communication:
Economic & Political Weekly
320-321, A to Z Industrial Est ate
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013, India
Subscription Rates
Print Edit ion – For India Web Edition /Digital Arch ives
The full con tent of the EPW and t he entire archi ves are also avail able to those wh o do not wish to
subscribe to the print edition.
India (in Rs) SAARC (in US $) Rest of the Wo rld (in US $)
Category Number of Number of Number of
Concurrent Users Concurrent Users Concurrent Users
Institutions Up to Five 2,500 Up to Five 200
Six to 10 4,000 Six to 10 320
More than 10 6,000 More than 10 50 More than 10 410
Individuals Single User 1,000 Single User 20 Single User 40
Rates for S ix Months (in Rs)
Category Print (Plus free web access to issues of previous two years) Print + Digital Archives
Individuals 800 1,100
Rates for O ne Year (in Rs)
Category Print (Plus free web access Print + Digital Archives
to issues of previous two years) (According to Number of Concurrent Users)
Up to 5 6 to 10 More than 10 Single User
Institutions 3,000 5,000 6,000 7,500
Individuals 1,500 1,800
Teachers/Researchers 1,200 1,400
Students 750 900
Rates for Three Years (in Rs)
Category Print (Plus free web access to Print + Digital Archives
issues of previous two years) Single User
Individuals 4,200 5,100
Teachers/Researchers 3,300 4,000
Concessiona l rates are res tricted to students, teachers and research ers in India. To subs cribe
at co nce ssio nal r ates , ple ase subm it pr oof o f eli gib ilit y fr om an inst itu tion .
Print Edition: All su bscribers to the pr int edition can dow nload from t he web, without ma king
any extr a payment, ar ticles publish ed in the previo us two calend ar years.
Print plus Digi tal Archives: Subsc riber recei ves the print copy a nd has access to the enti re archives
on the EPW web si te.
Print Editi on — For SAARC and Rest of the Worl d (Air Mail)
Airmai l Subscri ption for O ne Year (in US $)
Print (Plus free web access to issues Print + Digital Archives
of previous two years) (According to Number of Concurrent Users)
Institutions Up to 5 6 to 10 More than 10 Single User
SAARC 130 150
Rest of the World 250 300 400 500
SAARC 100 110
Rest of the World 170 200
... The main character, Bishan Singh, in his painful struggle for identity, is symbolic of the displacement suffered by millions of partition refugees. Although the story is fictional, an actual exchange of psychiatric patients between mental hospitals in Lahore and Amritsar took place in 1950 (Jain and Sarin 2012). Despite extensive studies of Manto's life and work, as well as selected articles on his psychology and mental health, few attempts have been made to integrate both aspects. ...
... Two hundred thirty-three Muslim patients, meanwhile, were sent to Lahore from various Indian hospitals. Patients were largely classified based on who would pay the bills (Jain and Sarin 2012). This almost complete disregard for identity and individuality, where the mentally ill were treated as merely an administrative burden, was typical of the time. ...
Full-text available
“Toba Tek Singh,” which describes the exchange of mental asylum inmates between India and Pakistan in the wake of partition, was perhaps Saadat Hasan Manto’s most well-known short story. Manto’s work was coloured by his experience of mental illness, including alcohol addiction and possible depressive disorder. This essay attempts to use “Toba Tek Singh” as a lens through which to shine an integrative light on the role of mental illness in Manto’s work and life, by discussing his personal experiences, themes of mental illness in the story, and the implications of his writing in the historical context of post-partition South Asia.
... While an exploration of these may be beyond the scope of this chapter, it is certainly an issue that needs greater attention. An interesting substory is the partitioning of the mental hospitals, with Muslim patients in Indian hospitals being sent to Pakistan, and Hindu patients from Pakistan being sent to India (Jain and Sarin 2012). ...
Full-text available
The authors provide an overview of the development of psychiatric services in India. They track the early developments in ancient and medieval periods, and after Western medicine made its appearance. Lunatic Asylums were established in India by the East India Company, and extended to various parts of the country, under British rule. The spread of medical education and services was quite slow, and there were very few psychiatrists, and a small number of beds by mid-twentieth century. Publicly funded universal health care, planned on similar lines as the NHS at the eve of Independence, did not develop sufficiently in subsequent decades. Economic and social disruption, and low priority to spending on health care thwarted efforts at extending the services. The development of pharmacological treatments in the 1950s raised the possibility of general hospital-based psychiatric services, at least of severe mental illness. Importantly, efforts to understand the psychosocial causes and correlates of both common and severe mental disorders were slow to develop. There was unease expressed with ‘Western’ models of psychopathology and intervention, and there were attempts at incorporating indigenous ideas and philosophical traditions. These remained sporadic, however, and did not give rise to any pan-Indian approach to understanding psychiatric illness or its cure. Although epidemiologic rates for psychiatric disorders are lower than in high-income countries, the rates in India are higher compared to other average Asian prevalence rates. However, there have been few concerted efforts at understanding these differences and the local psychosocial factors producing psychiatric illness. Further, inadequate human resources to deal with the existing problems and serious operational problems with the National Mental Health Programme are ground realities. The growing number of private for-profit and not-for-profit mental health facilities is welcome as some have innovative mental health care reach-out strategies. However, they also remain a cause for concern due to their poor regulation and sometimes human rights violations. The new mental health policy hopefully provides a framework for better partnership, quantity and quality of care. With the re-emerging interest in global mental health and ‘universal’ treatment guidelines, it is an appropriate time for serious reflection on the way forward and to examine the relevance of local and sociocultural contexts in understanding and treating psychiatric illnesses.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.