The government had to stretch itself to the maximum to give relief to and resettle and rehabilitate the nearly six million refugees from Pakistan who had lost their all there and whose world had been turned upside down. The task took some time but it was accomplished. By 1951, the problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees from West Pakistan had been fully tackled.
The task of rehabilitating and resettling refugees from East Bengal was made more difficult by the fact that the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal continued for years. While nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan had migrated in one go in 1947, a large number of Hindus in East Bengal had stayed on there in the initial years of 1947 and 1948. However, as violence against Hindus broke out periodically in East Bengal, there was a steady stream of refugees from there year after year until 1971. Providing them with work and shelter and psychological assurance, therefore became a continuous and hence a difficult task. Unlike in Bengal, most of the refugees from West Punjab could occupy the large lands and property left by the Muslim migrants to Pakistan from Punjab, U.P. and Rajasthan and could therefore be resettled on land.
This was not the case in West Bengal. In addition, because of linguistic affinity, it was easier for Punjabi and Sindhi refugees to settle in today’s Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and western U.P., Rajasthan and Delhi. The resettlement of the refugees from East Bengal could take place only in Bengal and to a lesser extent in Assam and Tripura. As a result, a very large number of people who had been engaged in agricultural occupations before their displacement were forced to seek survival in semi-urban and urban contexts as the underclass.
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