Dynamics of the Refugee Movement During and After the Partition

Several themes have been identified in the film “Khamosh Pani”, all speaking about the society and politics of Pakistan and the influence of the partition on the two. The concept goes from discussing the refugee movements to Zia’s Islamization and the religious intolerance to position of women in our culture. In my paper, I’ll be talking mostly about the dynamics of the refugee movement during and after 1947.
India was divided on the 14th and 15th of August, 1947 into the sovereign states of the union of India (latter republic of India) and the dominion of Pakistan (latter renamed as Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Peoples Republic of Bangladesh). The partition was broadcasted in the Indian Independence act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Indian Empire. Punjab was divided into two, the west side for Punjab of Pakistan and the east side for Punjab of India.
The major districts affected were jallunder, Gurdespur and Hoslipur. Sadly the people of this area knew not until almost the last minute whether they were to put as part of India or Pakistan. Apart from this, Bengal province was divided into East Pakistan (Bangladesh after 1971), far from the rest of the country (West Pakistan). The Partition resulted in the relocation of around eight million Muslims, and some what the same numbers of Sikhs and Hindus, across the Indo-Pakistan borders in the in 1947.

This has been recorded as the largest refugee movement of the 20th century, and was accompanied by communal violence and atrocities committed on all sides of the religious spectrum, with a death toll calculated at approximately 1 million. People were moving from east Punjab to west Punjab and vice versa, west Bengal to east and people from the mainland India, United Province /Central Province/Delhi mainly migrated to urban area of Pakistan especially Karachi and Hyderabad. Over all some 14 million people left everything behind and set out to move across the newly formed border by train, bus, lorry, bull arts and foot, all to seek refuge with “their own kind”. Many were slaughtered by the opposing side, many starved or exhausted to death. Also, a large number of those who made it across died from diseases like cholera dysentery. People were left behind as well, families were broken apart. This is shown in “Khamosh Pani” too. The refugees had to face many problems, this accounts for both sides of the border. Their problems can mainly be classified into social, economical and emotional/psychological. Social problems are normally that of adjusting with the new language and new culture.
However, in this case, although communication and culture may not have been the major problem, there were other social problems such as having to leave their community and neighbours, people with such strong family ties from centuries. The social displacement was so huge, in India they lived in villages, in mohallahs, in cities within net cohesive societies. And then coming to a new land, trying to embrace it and hoping to be embraced back by it. When they came here, they had to disperse all over Pakistan where ever they could settle or get their hold over property.
Secondly the economic problems meant having to leave all their assets/ property/ belongings behind when they shifted to the new area. They had no shelter, no food, and no money. Although some land was allotted on proof of property possession in India but most people did not have property documents. This also links with the administrative problem that the system and the government faced because of these refugees. It had nothing to feed them; the country itself was just learning to stand on its own feet.
There was massive insecurity and threat. The funds it had, it wanted to pump into defence for the long term interest and safekeeping of the country. However, the already residing Muslims welcomed them and backed them up, the government put up relief camps for the refugee wellbeing but this too only mean further movement and disarticulation for them. Still with no business, no job, no property, the life of the refugees took a new start from scratch. Thirdly, the refugees were over come with stress, mental exhaustion and psychological denial.
Having to leave their assets behind and struggling for life in a new piece of land was one thing; these people had seen so much blood shed that is was nearly impossible to continue life in its normal state. The thought your loved ones killed, slaughtered, shot, burned gives one the chills, and these people had to witness such horror through their own eyes. The opposing side killed mercilessly. They looted. They molested and captured and killed females. Such images aren’t easily forgotten and stories still run in many families of the hardships faced by our ancestors.
Relatives left behind had it worse, and their families lived in the trauma of knowing their loved was alive and there was no way of getting to them, as shown in the film “Khamosh Pani”. The difficulties these refugees faced no doubt caused incurable pain and discomfort. But did they get an advantage out of all this? Did they and their generations live better now then had they not migrated? Certainly yes. The migration to a Muslim homeland opened doors for opportunities they would have never seen otherwise.
Same goes for the Sikh and Hindus that migrated to the east. They got a better economic environment, new jobs, and new business. Many got better properties. In united India, very few Muslims could get good jobs and favourable livelihood, due to the British favourism towards the Hindus/non Muslims. The new civil sector, government sector, the military, proper colleges and universities, all opened up new branches to life for these refugees. They could now enjoy a life that would otherwise not have been possible for many decades to come.

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