The Largest Human Migration
The year 1947 was a watershed year in the history of the Indian subcontinent. It is estimated that around 12 million people moved across the border of India and Pakistan after the declaration of partition in 1947. In addition, around 3.4 million people were reported missing or unaccounted for. The breaking up of the nation was a gruesome event. Stories of communal violence at that time are common knowledge in both countries. However, not many people know that the railways were at the forefront of all the action, with historians having described it as ‘the largest and most rapid human migration in history’. Railway stations across the country became sites of widespread migration and violence.
Punjab was the most adversely affected region and suffered the highest number of casualities. Lahore, on the other hand, was the worst affected railway station that saw pools of blood on the tracks and staff clearing away heaps of bodies shortly after communal riots broke out in 1947.
Ironically enough, the first train to Pakistan that ran from Delhi to Lahore was flagged off in an ambience of warmth and goodwill, but that was only a minor part of the actual story. The above image shows a train of refugees going from Amritsar to Lahore in an event that eventually became a voyage unto hatred and death in public memory