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Pictures of Indian Partition

The hasty reformer
who does not remember the past
will find himself condemned to
repeat it.

- Sir John Buchan

Introduction to Govind Nihalani's year 1986-87 television film Tamas based on a Hindi novel of the same name and two other short stories ('Chief ki dawat' and 'Amritsar aa gaya hai'?) by acclaimed Hindi writer Bhisham Sahni (1974).

The cover of Time magazine, October 27, 1947 (It has been available online for quite sometime as the magazine already has an online gallery of all its cover)

The cover of this American magazine read:
Liberty and death
Writer-Historian Patrick French, in the final words of introduction to his book Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division, tells us about Patrick Henry's phrase from American War of Independence, 'Give me liberty, or give me death,' that was reworked into the slogan, 'Liberty or death' by Indian freedom fighters. Later, Muslim League politician Liaquat Ali Khan transformed the same slogan by proclaiming: 'Pakistan or death.'

The death and destruction that followed has been documented in books, in films and in pictures. Of these, pictures were least available in public domain.

Thanks to Google and Life Magazine a lot of previously unseen photographs are now available online.

Here are some of the photographs of partition taken by Margaret Bourke-White in 1947 for Time Magazine [ courtesy Life magazine and Google ]

Sikhs migrating to Hindu section of Punjab after the partitioning of India.

Convoy of Muslims streaming past the dead of a previous caravan and the whitened bones of their buffaloes.

Mulsim man carrying his hookah in one hand while balancing pole holding his 5-yr. old son in convoy to West Punjab to escape anti-muslim Sikhs.

Sikh and his family in convoy migrating to East Punjab after the division of India

You can check out rest of the photographs here at Google images

Patrick French writes in the chapter titled Death: "Once the reciprocal genocide had attained critical momentum, it continued until a previously communally diverse provinces had been purged. By 1950, the Muslim population of Indian Punjab was just above 1 per cent, and the Hindu and Sikh population of Pakistani Punjab just below 1 per cent."

famous Henri Cartier-Bresson, photograph titled "Kurukshetra", Punjab (India) 1948. It was also the cover of a later edition of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. Interestingly, the scene does not actually depict (like it is often assumed) two sides of refugees fighting. In fact, it depicts dancing "refugees at the Kurukshetra camp performing simple exercises to drive away lethargy and despair."

Related post: My pick of Photographs of Life Magazine on Kashmir of that era.

More pictures of partition at BBC

Interestingly, that John Buchan quote can be found in a book from year 1947 called Modern Quotations for Ready Reference
By Arthur Richmond, Dover Publications.


  1. Our politicians

    are so engrossed with playing dirty politics that they leave no stone unturned. They play this game even on the grave matters like someone’s death and their burial.


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