our Horsemen ride the trains


There’s no picture more traumatic to the Indian imagination than that of thousands of people crammed into trains, fleeing for their lives. Flash back to 1947, when trains crossing between West Pakistan and north India steamed out of their stations filled with refugees and arrived at their destinations filled with corpses. The migrating dead were Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who—stranded on the wrong side of the religious partition of British India, learning that it was now open season on their community and property—took flight for the border. About a million never made it. So (sixty-five years ago to the day), as India awoke to sovereignty and democracy, the sight before its eyes was a snarl of minority terror, slaughter, and trains. This was the image that much of India had to suppress, and a few provocateurs predictably stoked, on August 15 this year. It should have been another drowsy Independence Day, a mid-week chance to sleep in while the monsoon shook the last drops out of its watering-can. Instead, at Bangalore’s City Station, thousands of people pressed into emergency trains leaving for distant Guwahati, the latter a transport hub for the seven small states in India’s out-flung northeastern limb.

more from Raghu Karnad at n+1 here.