Virtual Exhibition - SF 2000

Sunil Janah: Inside India, 1940-1975


Subsection 1.2:   Famine, Riots and Refugees

Part A:   Section Text & Famine Panels

Photographs, panels & text:   Sunil Janah 1939-2000
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Index, Introduction,
Entrance Panel
History in
the Making
Building India's
The Land and
the People
Dance and Temple

Subsections of Section 1 (History in the Making)
1.1:   Independence Movement
1.2:   Famine, Riots & Refugees Part A:   Section Text & "Famine" Panels
Part B:   "Riots & Refugees" Panels
1.3:   Political Leaders & Others


Index to Section 1.2

Section 1.2 text


1.2   Famine, Riots and Refugees

During the last years of World War II, the Japanese had occupied Burma (now Myanmar), which bordered India on the east. The needs of the war diverted whatever attention the British administration had paid to the wants of the Indian people. The country's trains, deployed to transport troops and war supplies, were unavailable to carry food from areas where it was in surplus to areas where it was needed. Stockpiles of grain were commandeered by the British in anticipation of the needs of the troops in the Eastern Front. Black marketeers, expecting large profits from the rising prices of the wartime economy, hoarded food, creating one of the most terrible man-made famines ever, in which millions died.

In 1947, the British granted independence to their largest, most-prized colony, the jewel in the crown. But communal distrust and rivalry led to the partitioning of the land along religious lines, into secular India and Islamic Pakistan. Murderous riots broke out, followed by the mass migration of terrified refugees across the newly defined borders of India and the two wings of Pakistan. The impoverished economies of these new states did not make the task of rehabilitating these homeless millions easy. The populations of the overcrowded big cities, where the poor lived in conditions such as those shown in some of these photographs, multiplied several times within months. The refugees built shacks in parks and pavements, in any space they could find. In cities like Calcutta, many live on the streets even now.

These famines, riots and the uprooting of millions from their homes had already darkened the dawn of India's freedom. Then came the culminating disaster: the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in October 1948 by a Hindu fanatic named Nathuram Godse.

  - Sunil Janah

All photographs, and text:   © Sunil Janah 1939-2000

Panel 4:
Famine, eastern India, 1943-44

Top Row:
Women lining up at Calcutta store that was selling grain, just before Bengal famine, 1943.   sf.024

Dog eating a corpse, Orissa, famine 1944.   sf.025

Second Row:
Elderly woman in a village, Bengal famine, eastern India, 1943-44.   sf.026

Mother and child on a pavement in Calcutta, Bengal famine, 1943-44.   sf.027

Third Row:

A Muslim family leaving their village near Chittagong--now in Bangladesh--during Bengal famine, 1943-44.   sf.028

Bottom Row:
A field strewn with skeletons, Orissa, 1944. No resources were available to cremate the bodies.   sf.029

Orphans waiting for food at a famine-relief center, Orissa, 1944.   sf.030

Photographs © Sunil Janah

Panel 4: Famine in Bengal and Orissa, 1943-44. 
© Sunil Janah

Panel 5:
Famine, southern India, 1945

Groups of women leaving their villages for the famine-relief centers in the town, Andhra Pradesh, southern India, 1945.   sf.031

Middle Row:
Groups of men leaving their villages for the famine-relief centers, Andhra Pradesh, 1945.   sf.032

Woman with her grandchild and empty cooking pot, Andhra famine, 1945.   sf.033

Bottom Row:
A famished mother in a crowd waiting for food, Andhra Pradesh, 1945.   sf.034

A woman by the roadside near a famine relief center, Andhra Pradesh.   sf.035

Photographs © Sunil Janah

Panel 5: Famine in Andhra and Karnataka, 1945. 
© Sunil Janah

This is section 1 (HISTORY IN THE MAKING), subsection 1.2 (Famine, Riots, Refugees),
part A (Section Text and "Famine" panels.)

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Virtual Exhibition (SF 2000)
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with Introduction, Entrance Panel...

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Independence Movement
- Simla Conference & Elections

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Famine, Riots, Refugees
- Part B
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Photographs, panels & text © Sunil Janah 1939-2000
This is an online virtual approximation to the exhibition
"Sunil Janah, Inside India 1940-1975",
curated by Sunil, Monua & Sobha Janah, and held in San Francisco, 2000.

Image quality and size are much poorer and smaller here than they were in the real exhibition.

Website design and coding: Arjun Janah, 2000