Young people (warning: age appropriate content)

Following Partition of the Indian sub-continent, many children and young people became lost or were left behind as an estimated 12 million people migrated between newly formed India and Pakistan.



To help look after the lost and abandoned children, the Indian government set up orphanages and education facilities. The government also helped find new homes for young children whose mothers had been abducted during partition. To do this, some children were transported by the air service in small baskets with accompanying letters giving their details and history. One route children were sent on was from Amritsar to Allahabad via Delhi, where upon arrival they would be collected by social workers. Adoption advertisements were organised for some children that were left-behind. Their information was shared on All-India radio in the hope that the children could be placed with new families. However, a lot of the children abandoned during Partition were girls and most adoption interest was for boys. If a person was interested in adopting a girl, it was often difficult to determine whether they were not simply looking for free domestic help.

India 1944: A Bengali boy seated at his spinning wheel, his thread catching the sunlight © IWM (IB 1793)

Many charities also helped the relief effort for the lost children of Partition. There were also private individuals who sought to help such as Mridula Sarabhai who set up a home for children lost or abandoned during Partition. Despite support from the government, charities and private individuals, many children were less fortunate. Some children were picked up by gangs and cartels and sent to beg. Other children are believed to have been taken away by religious missionaries.

Following the violence of Partition, Dharam Kaur could not find her daughter Mohinder Kaur. Unknown to Dharam, her daughter was placed in an orphanage by a nurse called Grace, where Mohinder was renamed Anwar Sadeeqa. Years later as an adult, Sadeeqa was on a bus and sat next to a Sikh man. Sadeeqa told the Sikh man, named Niranjan Singh, her story and he promised to help retrace her family.

On Niranjan’s return to India, he learnt that Lubanwala (where Sadeeqa’s family was from) had settled in Kurukshetra. Niranjan would travel on a bus every morning and announce to the passengers that a woman was looking to be reunited with her family and asked if any Lubanwala Sikhs were on the bus who could offer information. Through word-of-mouth Niranjan learnt that Sadeeqa’s parents had survived the Partition violence and settled in Dhera Dhupsadi. Niranjan arrived one night to Dhara Kaur’s house with a note ‘I, Mohinder Kau, daughter of Javind Singh, am alive’ and some years later Sadeeqa was able to come to Dhupsadi and meet her mother. 



In some very lucky instances, children were able to be reunited with their parents through putting in applications, filing reports and sending out messages by word of mouth.