This article explores the conditions and treatment of the ordinary refugees—survivors of the 1947 partition violence—in the Pakistan Punjab relief camps, in particular the circumstances of women, children and those who arrived with terrible wounds, yet received at best rudimentary medical assistance when the emergent Pakistan state was still working out its responsibilities in the process of transition. A large number of them succumbed to the epidemics which swept refugee camps. The impact of cholera on the camp population will be addressed in a discussion of the episode in Hanfia School Camp. This created the circumstances for the second major theme of this article—the adoption of children. Little if anything has previously been written about the extent of adoption following partition, or on its mixed motivations and social implications. Finally, the article considers the governmental responses to the camp population and state provision to the orphan refugee children. Much of the previously un-used material in this article is both harrowing in its character and disturbing for sanitised nationalist historiography. It is necessary however to address it in order to provide a full appreciation of the ‘lived experience’ of the partition.
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