The problem of refugees in India started after the partition and was followed by a series of issues, ranging from basic needs such as food, shelter, medicine, sanitation and to the emotional turmoil of losing one’s homeland. This also created a feeling of animosity among the refugees on both sides of the borders, who considered the people of the other nation being responsible for their loss.
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Refugees in India from Pakistan mainly settled in the northwestern, western and the eastern parts of India. Being homeless, initially they had to settle on the roadsides, in the camps set up by the government, for example – in Kurukshetra, and rehabilitation centres, in Jalandhar. Here the basic needs of the refugees were taken care of by the Government of India.
Refugees in the North-Western and Western Region
Since most of them were farmers, they wanted land to till in India. There were lands which were left by the Muslims who had migrated to Pakistan. Hence some land was available. These tracts of land were divided among the refugees, after working out a compromise, in accordance to the extent of their claimed land in Pakistan. This can be mostly seen in the northern part of India, especially Delhi.
However, the struggle of refugees in the western part of India was more. The refugees were majorly Sindhi who were culturally very different from the Marathi and Gujarati cultures already residing in the region, unlike in the regions in and around Delhi, where the refugee Punjabis could mould in easily. Along with this, the refugees in the western part of India couldn’t get any land due to the fact that they were traders. However, with the passage of time, they regained their dignity of life by their efficient skills of trade.
Refugees in the Eastern Region
Refugees here came from the erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). However, the problems faced here were of a different nature.
Since, there was only a one-sided migration in this part i.e. from East Pakistan into India, there arose a problem of settlement of the refugees. Also, the absence of cities apart from Calcutta (Kolkata) and then Asansol (to some extent in Assam and Tripura) in East India made it difficult for relocation. Due to lack of education, skills and no major support from the Government, the refugees had to live in miserable conditions, wherever it was possible.
Slowly, it led to the ‘immiseration of West Bengal’. This also created hostilities among people as the refugees were seen as an extra burden by the locals of the east, however, fortunately, they were absorbed in the mainstream of the nation and the hostilities could not continue till long.
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