Today, August 14th, marks Pakistan’s 67th Independence Day as well as the formal Partition of India (1947). In these rare photos, we see stark images of the vast fatality that arose out of the ghastly two-century-long British colonization of India. Amounting to a gargantuan number of 1.8 million people, the enormity of the “Indian Holocaust” wasn’t appropriately revealed as most of history was written by non-scientists. These heart-wrenching photos capture the essence of the hard-bitten reality of the time, painting a vivid picture of the physical and emotional consequences of the people living under oppression, forced wedges being driven between civilians as the leaders took a step that continues to impact the relationship between both countries today.
While scouring the internet, we chanced upon hundreds of incredible stories, LIFE magazine’s photo essay on the topic and of course, Margaret Bourke-White’s incredible visual documentation of ‘The Great Migration’ for both the magazine, as well as her own book on the subject. Her work, which includes on of the most iconic images of Mahatma Gandhi just hours before he was assassinated, took her into the seat of some of the worst violence that this region of the world has ever witnessed and she produced a book of these images as a way to digest the horrors she was exposed to, including painful captures of rotting corpses in the street.
We also came across this incredible blog which is rife with first-hand accounts and stories from the period. We included short excerpts and links to many of the ones we found particularly riveting so scroll through the images and revisit this ghost of our past. It should be duly noted, however, that the blog’s perspective is skewed towards a Sikh perspective and Muslim accounts have not been thoroughly documented which is telling of another story altogether so we encourage you to do some of your own research before drawing rigid conclusions. Either way, perhaps reliving this historic incident to any degree is the only way we can prevent such a travesty from reoccurring. Happy Independence Day to our brothers & sisters in Pakistan, we hope the future holds more harmony for all of us.
90 women jump into a well to avoid capture by a Muslim communal army 3,000 strong, armed with sticks, tommy guns and hand grenades.
“You have full liberty to go the limit. Take revenge as you like, but if there is one Hindu or Sikh left alive in my district after you are through, I swear to kill them myself.” - Deputy Commissioner of a Western Punjab District in Pakistan, in a chilling statement to young Muslims.
The death toll during the Partition mounted to about one million people, with Punjab suffering the worst losses. Only 1,500 known survivors from a community of 120,000 Sikhs remained.
Words: Mandovi Menon
Images Courtesy: Margaret Bourke-White’s documentation for Life magazine and from her book Halfway To Freedom.