‘A Sikh soldier pulled me out of the rubble’: survivors recall India’s violent partition – and reflect on its legacy

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, 11/08/2022, 9:00 am

Seventy-five years ago, India was carved up in a matter of months and the new states of East and West Pakistan were formed by lines drawn on a map by a man who had never visited the country. Here, three people who witnessed the huge upheaval and terrible sectarian violence tell their stories

The story of India’s bloody partition in August 1947, that led to the deaths of at least 1 million Indians and the displacement of around 15 million, is a very British one. In what was to become the British Raj’s swan song after two centuries of colonial rule, Cyril Radcliffe, a British judge who had never visited colonial India before, was appointed in July 1947 to carve through the ancient land within weeks. The borders for two independent states were drawn on religious lines: Hindu-majority India, and Muslim-majority West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

In just a few months, thousands of years of cultural exchange and co-existence between India’s Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities, nightmarishly unravelled into panic, then terror, with millions rushing for the hastily established new borders as violence erupted.

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