New York Times Magazine

August 01 1971

Why They Fled Pakistan -And Won't Go Back

By Khushwant Singh

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Khushwant Singh, editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, is author of a novel about the partition of India, "Train to Pakistan"

“It is going to be hell for us.”


THIS is my third visit to the India‐Pakistan border 60 miles east of Calcutta. The country side has not changed. It is the same lush, emerald green of the paddy and the darker green of the jute, the stretches of swamp with snow‐white egrets hunting for frogs and the limpid ponds encircled with hyacinth or bright with pink water lilies. It is the same avenue, flanked on either side by massive banyan and rain trees loud with the chatter of mynas and the dulcet notes of magpie robins. The only evidence of conflict on this peaceful, drowsy landscape is slogans painted on tree trunks: “Long Live Mao,” read some, and “Long Live Indira,” the others.

Then there Is the almost unbroken succession of thatched huts, tents and shelters made of bricks and can vas that line the road on either side. Every town and village I pass through is crammed with people. Schools, colleges and other public buildings have been turned into reception offices, ration depots, clinics or homes for large number of the seven million refugees from East Pakistan who have streamed into the country in the last four months. The monsoon season normally brings material benefits to India. This year it brings tides of hungry newcomers—and with them the threat of epidemics, communal violence and war.

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