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Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India

Cities and Settlements: Impacts of Partition on Urbanization in the Subcontinent

Rahul Mehrotra, Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and John T. Dunlop Professor in Housing and Urbanization, Graduate School of Design, leads this project exploring the impact of Partition on cities across South Asia and the temporary settlements that developed as millions migrated across the subcontinent.

Mehrotra and his research team are interested in analyzing the changing face of the cities of the subcontinent and the impact of Partition on their development. Their research studies the maps and urban plans of major cities in India affected by the Partition such as Bombay and Delhi, and in Pakistan, Lahore and Karachi. It examines the mechanisms used by the governments in these cities to ensure the safety of both citizens and refugees (such as the rehabilitation programs, unconventional planning efforts, public private partnerships, and new notions/appropriations of property rights). Of particular interest, and pertinent to today’s global flux of refugees, is that some of these precedents morphed into more permanent solutions, while others were ephemeral, in that they served as temporary and transitional solutions for perceived short-term problems.

Temporary and ephemeral cities are of ongoing interest to Professor Mehrotra and will build on the scholarship generated in the university-wise study, Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral City, spearheaded by Mehrotra and Professor Diana Eck, that looked at the construction and deconstruction of a temporary city on the banks of the holy waters of Ganga and Yamuna.