The decision to carve Pakistan from India in 1947 led to the migration of around 15 million people across the newly-formed border. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs fled south while many of India’s Muslims headed to Pakistan, a migration that was fraught with religious violence. This dampened the jubilation that came with independence from British rule on Aug. 15, 1947.
Many of the refugees who left Pakistan found a new home in Delhi. Between 1941 and 1951, the city’s population nearly doubled to around 1.7 million people.
This influx of people redefined the city’s topography and its commercial life. New neighborhoods were built to house them, giving rise to most of what is present-day south and west Delhi. Having left their jobs and most of their belongings behind, the refugees who came to Delhi had to start from scratch. Many went on to build thriving businesses.
As part of our series on 100 years of New Delhi, India Real Time brings you the stories of two refugees-turned-entrepreneurs.
The first is Balraj Bahri Malhotra, the founder and owner of Bahrisons Bookshop in Khan Market, one of Delhi’s best-stocked bookshops. Mr. Malhotra, who is now 84, moved to Delhi from a small Pakistani town when he was a teenager. Now Bahrisons Bookshop has three branches and his son Anuj runs the shop. Here is his story. Edited excerpts.
My family came from a small town in Pakistan called Malakwal. I was 19 years old when we moved to Delhi after Partition.
Partition was painful and we witnessed the worst atrocities. We had to leave our ancestral home before Aug. 15, 1947. Riots began, forcing us to take refuge in a local police station for a few days. A cotton factory had been set up as a temporary camp for the fleeing Hindus. We stayed there for almost 10 days. (More…)
My favourite Delhi bookstore! Ask the staff for Indian lesbian stuff and they’ll produce in minutes!!!