Migration from India and Pakistan
Partition of India and End of British Rule
How did the end of the British Raj affect the Grand Trunk Road?
1947 signalled the end of British rule when British India was divided into two states, India and Pakistan. The Punjab and Bengal were split between the two countries. This meant that millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who had shared neighbourhoods for generations, suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the newly created borders.
As many celebrated independence, over 14 million people attempted to cross hastily drawn borders in what became the largest migration in history. Hindus and Sikhs fled to India, and Muslims to Pakistan. The Grand Trunk Road and the railway built alongside it, became the major routes along which millions of refugees travelled. They were also the scenes of some of the worst violence - in the Punjab alone, hundreds of thousands of people were murdered. Vast refugee camps sprung up along the road as people gathered together for protection, or found themselves homeless in a new country.
Relations between India and Pakistan have remained tense ever since. At the border crossing at Wagah, where troops face each other across a heavily fortified border, the Grand Trunk Road is now cut in two. Despite a very recent thaw in relations it remains very difficult for Indians and Pakistanis to make the journey and vehicles are denied passage. For the time being, the Grand Trunk Road’s ancient role as the conduit for people and everything they carry with them, has come to a halt.
Download the Word documents below to read first-hand oral history accounts of the ordinary people who were caught up in the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.
The map below shows the route of the Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta in India, to Kabul in Afghanistan.