Ms Marvel True Story: What Is The Partition & Why It’s So Important

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Ms. Marvel episode 4, “Seeing Red.”

Ms. Marvel episode 4 sheds further light on how Kamala’s family was impacted by 1947’s devastating Partition of India, a real-world historical event that is hugely important to the MCU show’s story. Following her vision of a train in Ms. Marvel episode 3, Kamala (Iman Vellani) and her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), travel to Pakistan to find out more about the vision and her mysterious bangle. After landing in Karachi and making a fashion faux-pas at the local boat club, Kamala learns more about her heritage, her great-grandmother Aisha, and her Djinn heritage.

Visiting Karachi’s historic railway station for more information about the meaning of her train vision, Kamala comes face to face with the Red Dagger (Aramis Knight), who helps her discover more about the bangle’s history. Kareem takes Kamala to Waleed (Farhan Akhtar), who explains the devastating consequences if the ClanDestine succeeds in returning to their home dimension. While these consequences recall the multiversal incursions in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the separation of the Djinn’s home dimension and Earth-616 is also a metaphor for the Partition of India.

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In one of Ms. Marvel episode 4’s best scenes, Kamala and her grandmother, Sana (Samina Ahmed), talk about Partition and its lasting effects of it on the collective psyche of the Pakistani people. In a moving conversation about identity, Sana says, “My passport is Pakistani, my roots are in India. And in between all of this, there is a border. There is a border marked with blood and pain.” This refers to the Partition of India, and Ms. Marvel episode 4’s cliffhanger finds Kamala seemingly transported 75 years into the past to experience this devastating historical event first-hand. The roots of the Partition of India reach back across centuries of imperial rule, religious conflict, and nationalist protests, culminating at the end of World War II with a decision made by Britain’s post-war government.

Prior to World War II, India was part of the British Empire and had been ruled by the Raj since 1858, following the end of the first war for Indian independence. World War II had been hugely controversial in India, as the thenV-iceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, took the country into the conflict without prior consultation with its national leaders. India’s National Congress opposed involvement in the war, and tens of thousands of its members were imprisoned in 1942, the same year as Ms. Marvel episode 3’s blue arm flashback takes place. It’s likely these heightened tensions between the British troops and Indian nationals are what made the Djinn’s temple excavations more difficult.

Following the end of World War II, Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a Cabinet Mission to India to begin negotiations for an independent India, which brought burgeoning religious tensions between Congress and the All-India Muslim League to a head. Negotiations were deadlocked over the issue of the League’s Pakistan resolution, which called for the creation of separate states for Indian Muslims. In the face of country-wide violence between Hindus and Muslims, and in an effort to hasten the process of Indian independence, India’s last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, brought this deadline forward to June of 1947. Mountbatten’s ultimatum was a short-sighted political move that continues to have wide-reaching consequences, as Kamala’s mother observes in Ms. Marvel episode 2: “The British left us with a mess…”

Left with no alternatives and a shortened timeframe, all parties agreed to partition India along religious lines, leading to the creation of Pakistan on August 14 and an independent India on August 17, 1947. Rather than quell the religious violence, Partition exacerbated it by splitting the Punjab and Bengal provinces in two. Hindus and Sikhs were violently driven out of Western Punjab, while refugees of all religions and regions were forced to seek safety by trekking across these new borders, drawn up by “some old English man” working from outdated maps and census data. The turmoil caused by Partition is responsible for an estimated death toll of between 200,000 and two million people, and a lasting generational trauma that heavily influences Ms. Marvel‘s origin story.

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The Partition of India understandably casts a long shadow across Ms. Marvel. Sana’s speech about how she’s also still figuring out her identity in her old age beautifully mirrors Kamala’s own coming-of-age story. Like her mother before her, Kamala is a bit of a rebel who is attempting to make a life for herself, crafting a unique identity divorced from the religious borders of Partition. Ms. Marvel episode 4 casts more light on Muneeba and how she left Pakistan to do the same thing, and one scene makes it clear that she’s not been home for a considerable amount of time. Through this lens, the bangle that’s key to Kamala’s Ms. Marvel powers becomes a metaphor for the generational trauma caused by the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. The bangle’s connection to Sana’s survival during the aftermath of Partition is what unnerves Muneeba in Ms. Marvel episode 1, rather than the powers it holds.

Another Partition metaphor is in the division between the real world and the home dimension of the Djinn. Waleed explains that both realities co-exist, sharing a space, separated by the veil of Noor energy. He also reveals the devastating consequences for Kamala’s world if the ClanDestines get their hands on her bangle and break through the veil: “They’ll unleash their world onto ours. Until there’s nothing left of it.” The fragile border between Ms. Marvel‘s Djinn dimension and its real world is effectively a sci-fi allegory for the border between India and Pakistan. As Kamala inadvertently time travels, she’s afforded the opportunity to bear witness to the horrific aftermath of the Partition of India. As Ms. Marvel builds to its finale in the next episode, Kamala’s experiences in 1947 can provide insight and provide an alternative solution that allows Djinn and Humanity to live together peacefully without bloodshed.

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Ms. Marvel releases new episodes on Wednesdays on Disney+.

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Author: Mark Donaldson