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India’s Partition Trauma: Healing the Human Impact

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In August 1947 the world map changed forever.

Britain’s once mighty Empire, then beleaguered and exhausted by the suffering and fallout from World War II, was facing its greatest colonial and political crisis.

Regarded as the jewel in Queen Victoria’s crown, India had been actively campaigning to end 250 years of imperial domination. Knowing that independence was inevitable and to reduce mounting violence and chaos, in June 1947 home rule was finally granted by Labour PM Clement Atlee, but with one momentous condition; India would become partitioned according to religious population majorities. Establishing new national boundaries created new countries: East and West Pakistan for Muslims, and the remainder of India would be home to Hindus and Sikhs.

There was no planned British exit strategy and implementation of this long-disputed political “solution” came at a huge cost in human lives.  Regarded as the greatest mass migration of people in world history, over 15 million people became displaced as refugees in their own former country, and over 1 million people died.

For the last seventy years, little has been understood in the West about the psycho-social impact of this tragedy. For those affected – by shock, fear, ill-health and trauma – their focus centred on survival, and their principal way of coping was to “forget” the horror of their experience. The consequences of such a coping strategy inevitably leads to multiple complications further down the line

I am in the process of writing a book – watch this space.

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