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‘I Am Not a Refugee’: Rethinking Partition Migration

  • Md. Mahbubar Rahman (a1) and Willem Van Schendel (a1) (a2)

In the wake of Partition—the break-up of British India in 1947—millions of people moved across the new borders between Pakistan and India. Although much has been written about these ‘Partition refugees,’ a comprehensive picture remains elusive. This paper advocates a rethinking of the study of cross-border migration in South Asia. It argues especially for looking at categories of cross-border migrants that have so far been ignored, and for employing a more comparative approach. In the first section, we look at conventions that have shaped the literature on Partition refugees. The second section explores some patterns of post-Partition migration to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and the third uses oral evidence from cross-border migrants to present a number of case studies. The concluding section underlines that these cases demonstrate the need for re-examining historiographical conventions regarding Partition migration; it also makes a plea for linking South Asia's partition to broader debates about partition as a political ‘solution’ to ethnic strife.

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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