Partitioned memory | White & Case LLP International Law Firm, Global Law Practice
Pro Bono Partitioned memory hero

Partitioned memory

Projects as diverse as a memory archive, a reality TV show and legal education programs share the common goal of building bridges between India and Pakistan.

The partition of India in 1947 caused one of the most massive human displacements in history. Amid ethnic, religious and political violence that would kill between 200,000 and one million people, nearly 15 million people crossed the newly created borders of Pakistan, East Pakistan (renamed Bangladesh in 1971) and India, seeking security from persecution in their communities. These difficult times yielded countless stories of brutality as well as life-saving kindness. But voice by voice the oral history of the partition is being lost as the number of survivors, now in their 70s and older, dwindles.

We are delighted to partner with White & Case on this dynamic initiative, which we hope will help interconnect the startup ecosystems in India and Pakistan and build cross-border business connections among the next generation of entrepreneurs in both countries.
David Kirk, Director, Atlantic Council's Young Atlanticist Program

Enter the 1947 Partition Archive, a nonprofit organization founded at the University of California in 2011 to collect the stories of those who lived through the partition. It uses modern technology, crowd-sourcing techniques and a large pool of volunteers to interview Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews and others in any language they choose. Many have never before spoken about what they witnessed. So far, the Archive has collected more than 600 oral histories.

As a fast-growing organization covering enormous geographical and emotional territory, and funded entirely with individual donations, the Archive faced a host of legal questions that we have taken on pro bono. Led by partners Bijal Vakil in Silicon Valley and Chris Glancy, Stefan Mentzer and associate Jayashree Mitra in New York, the Firm has provided guidance and local references for registering the Archive in India and drafted template employment and volunteer contracts for the Archive to use with its expanding team.

Reality TV as a tool for peace

The scars of the past continue to fuel tensions between India and Pakistan. Some groups are working to promote peace and respect by bringing the next generation from both countries together to face a common challenge.

We are giving pro bono legal support to such an effort. Startup Dosti (which means "friendship" in both Hindi and Urdu) is a reality TV show designed to build cross-border relationships among ten startup entrepreneurs and investors from both countries. The young entrepreneurs will be paired as roommates (one Indian, one Pakistani) by random draw and will spend a week together on neutral territory in Thailand developing and pitching their ideas to a cross-border panel of investors.

The competition will be broadcast widely, airing on GEO TV (Pakistan's largest cable network) and CNBC India (India's premier English-language business channel) to an anticipated audience of millions. In addition to focusing on the business challenges and competition for funding, there will be coverage of the entrepreneurs' developing relationships and participation in joint activities such as cooking classes, cricket matches and obstacle courses.

Through our partnership with JGLS, we are hoping to be part of the effort to strengthen and internationalize legal education and the legal community in India.
Nandan Nelivigi, Partner, New York

Startup Dosti's sponsor is the Atlantic Council, a Washington, DC–based think tank. New York partner Monica Arora and associate Jayashree Mitra are providing legal advice on the project's contracts with its media partners and participants, and guidance on indemnification and liability issues arising from the project.

"We are delighted to partner with White & Case on this dynamic initiative," said David Kirk, Director of the Atlantic Council's Young Atlanticist Program, "which we hope will help interconnect the startup ecosystems in India and Pakistan and build cross-border business connections among the next generation of entrepreneurs in both countries."

Legal education projects in India and Pakistan

We have also expanded our global legal education programs to India and Pakistan. In India, we are collaborating with Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) to develop executive and continuing legal education programs. In the first agreement of its type between a major US law firm and an Indian law school, White & Case provides visiting faculty and adjunct professors who bring a practitioner's point of view to Indian legal education. Joint conferences, seminars and internships for JGLS students are also contemplated.

"Through our partnership with JGLS, we are hoping to be part of the effort to strengthen and internationalize legal education and the legal community in India," said Nandan Nelivigi, New York partner and head of the Firm's India practice.

London associate Aditya Singh has lectured at JGLS and has been invited to teach two international law courses at the Center for Law and Policy in Lahore, Pakistan. He also serves on the Editorial Board of the Center for Law and Policy's Review.

Given the central role of legal education in promoting the rule of law and good governance, Aditya believes that practitioners should actively collaborate with law schools. For Aditya, working to increase dialogue between the people of India and Pakistan is critical. "Historical differences between the two nations and the current political situation should not hinder engagement—people-to-people interactions can build bridges like nothing else can."


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