by M. Abdullah Khalid
At midnight of August 15, 1947, the largest recorded forced migration in modern history began. Millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were forced to journey hundreds of miles and experience brutal violence as the Indian subcontinent was divided into two independent nation states following the dissolution of the British crown rule on the part of the United Kingdom. The partition involved the division of two provinces, Bengal and Punjab, based on district-wise non-Muslim or Muslim majorities. The self-governing countries of Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan came into existence. The partition also saw the division of the British Indian Army, the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Civil Service, the railways, and the central treasury. As a person from this region, I am closely related to this event, and in this blog I will tell a different and lesser known story about the impacts of partition on the mighty Indus river system that connects the Indian Subcontinent.
The affluent waters of the Indus system of rivers begin primarily in Tibet and the Himalayan mountains in the states of Himachal Pradesh in India and the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir. They flow through the states of Haryana and Rajasthan in India, Punjab that is shared by both countries, and then Sindh in Pakistan before emptying into the Arabian Sea south of Karachi and Kori Creek in Gujarat. As the river moves downstream it carves out a valley. People have settled here for thousands of years and laid the foundation for the Indus Valley Civilization. The first farmers settled near the river because it kept the land fertile for growing crops. These farmers lived together in villages which grew over time into large ancient cities, like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan. The Indus people needed river water to drink, wash, and to irrigate their fields. They may also have used water in religious ceremonies. The Indus people referred to the river as ‘The King River’.