The displacement of over 15 million people in 1947 after the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, seen here through the lens of the only known local Pakistani photographer, F.E. Chaudhry.
A makeshift refugee camp on the route to Lahore, Pakistan. The set up in the background was typical for those who travelled on foot for all or some part of their journey. They set up camp using the little belongings they had set off with, mostly on bullock carts.
Charpoys (South Asian jute beds) were covered with fabric and fortified with hay. There were no proper arrangements for toilets or washing areas. Hence diseases like cholera and typhus spread rapidly, claiming many lives.
A typical set up at a refugee camp. Refugees were given tents and they would use various materials including fabric to construct a shelter for themselves. Their possessions were limited and scattered.
Here the tent is set up whilst the few possessions which the refugees had brought with themselves lie around. Among these are steel trunks, bedding, a charpoy and pots. Firewood is seen lying on the ground. Many people spent winters in these tents.
Behind one of the trunks in the background, a refugee is busy with chores.
A group of refugees amongst a large pile of bricks and rubble. It appears that these people are sitting among the ruins of an older structure. It is unclear what that could have been. They could have been houses vacated recently by their inhabitants or an historic site. The refugees are looking for useful materials among the rubble to aid them during their stay at their makeshift camps.
A group of refugees sitting on charpoys with their few belongings that they had managed to bring from India. With very few means to set up shelter, any kind of reinforcement was a luxury. Hence the foundations of the ruined structure would have been a great asset and comfort during this challenging phase of their lives.
Batches of chapatis (flat bread) being made for refugees settled in the camps. Food was scarce and diseases like cholera were rampant.
The chapatis were rationed. Each member of the household was entitled to two per day. Each household was given a ration card. Often families who lost loved ones at the camp did not declare their demise fearing a cut in ration. Usually volunteers were drawn from those who could read and write from amongst the refugees to assist with the rationing.
The suffering of a mother: a young mother in a destitute state after being unable to feed her child in Boli Camp, Lahore.
Although the reason for the loss is unknown, it was not uncommon for parents to lose their children to disease, violence or abduction. Young children also often lost their parents and loved ones.
A woman among the refugees exposing her body to show the bruises she has endured.
These women were in a setting where the societal norms looked down upon them exposing their bodies. Thus, these women showing their body parts is suggestive of the pain they went through: they were in a state where those norms ceased to matter.
Citizens Archive of Pakistan had the privilege of interviewing F.E. Chaudhry during his later years. This image is a still from the interview.
Here F.E. Chaudhry is showing the Citizens Archive of Pakistan's team his selection of photographs.
In this particular image he is talking about one of the many statues that once stood in Karachi.
Initial Design, Concept and Layout:
Primary Data collection:
CAP Oral History Project Lahore Team 2011
- Haroon Khalid
- Muhammad Owais Rana
Anum Zahid (Photo Editing and Technical Assistance)
Ariba Zaidi (Photo Editing)
Aleena Mashhood (Text and Layout)
Saba Halepota (Text and Layout)
General Editing, Technical Support and Final Design:
The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to cultural and historic preservation, operating in Karachi and Lahore. We seek to educate the community, foster an awareness of our nation’s history and instil pride in Pakistani citizens about their heritage.
Copyright © 2017 by Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP).
All rights reserved. No part of this Exhibit may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including copying, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP).
All the images shown here pertaining to the refugees of 1947 Partition were donated to CAP by F.E. Chaudhry.