Photograph showing children from the East Punjab in the unclaimed children's refugee camp in Lahore

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The Black and white photograph displays child refugees of India and Pakistan, Lahore, East of Punjab in an unclaimed children’s refugee camp in 1948 during the Partition of India.

The Partition of British India in August 1947 caused one of the largest population movements in modern history; over 10 million people were displaced during the partition and many died due to violence, or difficult conditions during their displacement.

Starvation and disease caused thousands of refugees to die during their migration. The weather also affected refugee populations when a cyclone brought severe flooding, killing many refugees, drowning livestock and destroying crops. Partition was accompanied by brutal violence and mass bloodshed with extreme disputes over the territory of Kashmir.

The British Red Cross’ response was remarkable, having earmarked £100,000 of funds in the form of ‘field hospitals’ which were staffed with British personnel. Emergency aid included supplies for blood plasma and sulpha drugs, combating diseases like cholera and dysentery epidemics, as well as penicillin for septic conditions and vitamins for malnutrition.

During December of 1948, a severe outbreak of malaria led to hospitals being filled to capacity. Mobile and camp dispensaries were taken to villages and camps treating over 1,000 patients a week.

I was particularly drawn to this black and white photograph of children during the Partition of British India, as I have often spoken to older relatives and researched Partition since this piece of history was not taught in school. My Nan never really spoke about it, being a taboo subject and all, but remembered running away at some point during or before the violence. She was just 10 years of age, and has a faint memory of it now in her early 80s. Ever since she told me this, I’ve been fascinated with Partition and especially the BBC’s recent coverage of it and the various personal stories emerging across the UK and India.

Audio recording by Robinder Gill (Volunteer), Birmingham.
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