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Bengal Partition Refugees at Sealdah Railway Station, 1950–60

Anwesha Sengupta
Sage Pub
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This article focuses on the Sealdah railway station in Calcutta, West Bengal, as a site of refugee ‘settlement’ in the aftermath of British India’s partition. From 1946 to the late 1960s, the platforms of Sealdah remained crowded with Bengali Hindu refugees from East Pakistan. Some refugees stayed a few days, but many stayed for months, even years. Relying on newspaper reports, autobiographical accounts and official archives, this article elaborates how a busy railway station uniquely shaped the experiences of partition refugees. Despite severe infrastructural limitations, the railway platforms of Sealdah provided these refugee residents with certain opportunities. Many preferred to stay at Sealdah instead of moving to any government facility. However, even for the most long-term residents of Sealdah, it remained a temporary home, from where they were either shifted to government camps or themselves found accommodation in and around Calcutta. The article argues that by allowing the refugees to squat on a busy railway platform for months and years, the state recognised a unique right of these refugees, their right to wait, involving at least some agency in the process of resettling. journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/02627280211054807