Traditional routes to the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia have all crossed the Punjab region. Strung along the old Mughal highway, named the Grand Trunk Rd (GT Rd) by the British, are a number of historically significant centres, including Lahore. This region has long been a focus for great kingdoms. The Mughals even made Lahore their capital for some years and played a significant part in making it the cultural and intellectual centre of the region.
In 1947 Partition ripped through the heart of the original Indian Punjab, with the new border slicing between Punjab’s two major cities – Amritsar (in present-day India) and Lahore (in Pakistan). It was clear that Punjab contained all the ingredients for an epic disaster, but the resulting bloodshed was far worse than anticipated. Massive exchanges of population took place. Trains crammed with Muslims fleeing westward were intercepted and passengers were killed by Hindu and Sikh mobs. Hindus and Sikhs rushing to the east suffered the same gruesome fate at the hands of Muslims. By the time the Punjab chaos had run its course, more than 10 million people had changed sides and even the most conservative estimates calculate that 250, 000 people had been slaughtered. The true figure may well be more than half a million.