Quick facts

  • The partition of India took effect on August 14, 1947, leading to the creation of Pakistan as a separate country.
  • About 14 million people were displaced in the aftermath of the partition.
  • An estimated one million people were killed in the violence that accompanied the mass migration.

"Before I die, I want to go back to where I was born." 

Krishan Kumar Khanna grew up just outside Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city. After a childhood he remembers fondly, his life changed dramatically in August 1947. 

As Britain left the Indian subcontinent, colonial planners hastily split it into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Khanna was forced to join one of the largest migrations in human history, as sectarian violence erupted and millions fled in both directions to save their lives.

He has dreamed of going back ever since and, after trying for several years, Khanna finally obtained a visa to return to Pakistan.

Despite deep tensions, he's determined to show that people in the neighbouring nations still have much more in common than that which divides them.

READ: Remembering the 'poison' of partition

Mr Khanna in Iqbal Park, Lahore. He grew up not far from the city in eastern Pakistan, but was forced to flee to India after the country's partition [Al Jazeera]


By Clement Gargoullaud

I first met Mr Khanna at Pakistan's High Commission in India. He had been trying for years to get a visa to travel to Pakistan. He wanted to visit his place of birth, now not just in a foreign country but in an enemy nation. 

The hatred isn't between people, it's between governments.

Mr Khanna

At first, I was astonished by the man. Aged 91, he was alert, active and articulate. Once I got to know him better, I was convinced of the importance of his quest and thought it was worthy of a documentary. I thought his razor-sharp memory would make him a reliable narrator to tell his story of the partition of India. 

India and Pakistan are currently marking their 70th year of independence from the British empire.

The people of both countries share a linguistic, cultural, social, geographic, and economic background. But the relationship between the two has been far from cordial: a perpetual state of hostility exists between India and Pakistan and each views the other full of suspicion, wary of every move the other makes. 

Through Mr Khanna's journey, I wanted to reiterate a sentiment repeated frequently by people on both sides of the border - that Indians and Pakistanis are the same, and that people on both sides have this undying hope that the quarrel between their nations will end one day.

Mr Khanna in front of a poster that depicts Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan [Al Jazeera]

I had travelled extensively in both countries before I made this film, and during my travels I saw and witnessed things that were drastically different from the prevailing narrative pushed by the media in both countries. Newspapers and broadcasters in India and Pakistan often push a hostile narrative, which makes it look as though the people of these nations are sworn enemies.

WATCH Partition: Borders of Blood

The reality could not be more different. With each trip, I met people who challenged that narrative and who expressed warm, often loving, feelings for their brethren on the other side. 

No one could have put it more succinctly than Mr Khanna himself when he told a classroom full of Pakistani students: "The hatred isn't between people, it's between governments."

As the last remaining witnesses of partition pass away, taking their stories with them, I believe and hope this film will encourage a conversation about an event in history which profoundly affected the lives of those who experienced it - experiences which are at risk of being forgotten.

Source: Al Jazeera