Aside from the devastation that ensued, however, the partition of India also left women in a continuous process of definition and redefinition, which made the events even worse than it already is for them. Thus, in the context of 1947 India and the years thereafter, together with the multitude of conflicting relationships surrounding it, this essay will argue that the partition plays a focal point in the development of women's identity as defined by the State, society and religion where a woman's viewpoint was given little attention as portrayed in their private lives within the backdrop of a national tragedy.
As illustrated in the film Earth, the atrocities that resulted from the partition of India cannot be narrowed down to a single causal factor. In this respect, while the British colonial government should, in large part, be accountable for leaving its colony in such haste and without due preparation for an orderly transfer of power; one cannot deny that India, prior to the partition was plagued by a number of brewing conflicts. On one hand, there exists the evident regional imbalance where an established Hindu middle class struggles to prevent the rise of an emergent Muslim middle class (Markovits 239). Within this struggle for class dominance is also the struggle for economic dominance between the Hindu and Muslim businessmen, as well as the British and Parsee entrepreneurs. In addition, there also exists the struggle for political power and control fueled by a budding Indian nationalism against its colonial government. Lastly, one cannot ignore the religious conflict between the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindu, among others. As Claude Markovits claims, "the underlying causes of partition are to be sought in long-term trends and policies which, after a certain point in time were beyond the control of any of the actors involved" (Markovits 236). Thus, as a result of all these factors, like cracks on a plate, the answer to Lenny's question in the opening scene of Earth, would be yes, one could break a country.
In the midst of all the forces that lead to a broken India, however are women, such that as a result of the partition, they were not only continuously "destituted (sic) in one way or another by the event" (Menon & Bhasin 209); but they were also left in a state of constant definition and redefinition by all sectors of the society. This process of definition and redefinition of women are founded in the unique roles that Indian society and consequently Pakistani society as well, accorded to women - a member of a community and a symbol of honor.
As illustrated in Earth, Ayah Shanta's character, which represented the figure o womanhood, was portrayed as a young and beautiful Hindu woman admired by a number of suitors from different religious backgrounds. Constantly wooed by men, she was envisioned as a trophy not in a derogatory term, but as a symbol of prestige. This symbolism, in turn can be attributed in tribute to her religious affinity as a Hindu. Hence, as a Hindu woman, her abduction after the partition according to Menon & Bhasin "as a retaliatory measure, it was simultaneously an assertion of identity" for Muslims and "a humiliation of the rival community through the appropriation of its women" (212). It is therefore no surprise that in a society where women are given such worth and conflicts are raging between differing factions, women were made to suffer