After 1947 Partition of India, why did Sikhs and Hindus (escaping newly created Pakistan) not stay in a nearby city such as Amritsar, but instead migrate another 400 miles away to Delhi?

According to the 1951 Census of India, 2% of India's population were refugees (1.3% from West Pakistan and 0.7% from East Pakistan). Delhi received the largest number of refugees for a single city – the population of Delhi grew rapidly in 1947 from under 1 million (917,939) to a little less than 2 million (1,744,072) during the period 1941–1951.

I am unable to find anything on google, please guide.

  • 3
    The first thing I'd look for is evidence that Sikhs & Hindu's fled to Delhi. Are there any estimates of the number of refugees and where they wound up? What was the population of Sikh's & Hindu's in these two cities? Might they have been fleeing to communities that could support them? Just a couple of hypothesis to test.
    – MCW
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 16:07
  • 3
    Hypothesis 1: "The bulk of these newcomers — 470,386 of the total 495,391 — were urban refugees from West Pakistan who naturally chose Delhi for better job prospects. " HindustaniTimes
    – MCW
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 16:21
  • 2
    Hypothesis 2: Delhi was probably Muslim minority area Wikipedia (even with the displacements described, the ethnic makeup would probably have been attractive) while Amritsar was closer to a Muslim majority "All districts (other than Amritsar, which was 46.5% Muslim)" Wikipedia
    – MCW
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 16:24
  • 2
    This article mentions that 40% of the housing in Amritsar was destroyed in the riots.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 17:05
  • 1
    Refuges as a rule seek safety, therefore they didn't want to stay in areas that could possibly be disputed and scene of another conflict. Instead they went to Delhi which was and is heart of newly created Indian state.
    – rs.29
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


Not a complete answer.

According to Prof. Ramchandra Guha

Many of the Hindus and Sikhs fleeing West Punjab were directed by government of India to a refuge camp in Kurukshetra. A vast city of tents had grown up on the plain, to house waves of migrants, sometimes up to 20,000 a day. The camp was initially planned for 100,000 refugees, but it came to accommodate three times that number. [...] Kurukshetra was the largest of the nearly 200 camps set up to house the refugees from West Punjab.

India after Gandhi; Ch. 6: Refugees and the republic

Also, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_India#Resettlement_in_India

Delhi received the largest number of refugees for a single city - the population of Delhi grew rapidly in 1947 from under 1 million (917.939) to a little less than 2 million (1.744.072) between the period 1941-1951. The refugees were housed in various historical and military locations such as the Old Fort (Purana Qila), Red Fort (Lal Qila), and military barracks in Kingsway Ref 1 (around the present Delhi university). The latter became the site of one of the largest refugee camps in northern India with more than 35,000 refugees at any given time besides Kurukshetra camp near Panipat.

The camp sites were later converted into permanent housing through extensive building projects undertaken by the Government of India from 1948 onwards. A number of housing colonies in Delhi came up around this period like Lajpat Nagar, Rajinder Nagar, Nizamuddin, Punjabi Bagh, Rehgar Pura, Jungpura and Kingsway.

A number of schemes such as the provision of education, employment opportunities, easy loans to start businesses, were provided for the refugees at all-India level. The Delhi refugees, however, were able to make use of these facilities much better than their counterparts elsewhere.

Ref 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingsway_Camp

Here is an excerpt from a news article from The Hindu

Partition refugee colonies can finally get building plans cleared

Damini Nath

NEW DELHI:, JULY 11, 2014 08:29 IST

Lakhs of residents in the city’s refugee colonies, which were set up after Independence, can now get building plans sanctioned by the local civic body, municipal officials said on Thursday.

The Capital’s municipal corporations can clear plans for construction in the 46 refugee colonies, making way for new buildings to replace the 60-year-old quarters. Between 1955 and 1965, the flats were given on lease to families who arrived in Delhi after Partition. Two separate units, on the ground and first floors, were made on plots of 107 to 120 yards.

Now these flats are being converted to freehold by the Land and Development Office and the civic bodies are allowing new buildings of up to five floors (four floors plus stilt parking) to come up on the plots.

These refugees were from West Punjab (in Pakistan), there were farmers among them. They had left their land, farm lands. They wanted lands. Everyone had different sizes of land. They were allotted land later in East Punjab, which is certainly not a easy process. Professor Guha's book has lots of information regarding those (comparison of lands of East and West Punjab, how lands were allotted, some schemes for these farmers, etc)

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