15 August 1947, the day we got freedom from The British. But it was also a day that left a bloody stain on the robes of time and a scar on the map of South Asia. A scar left from the amputation of a land. It divided not only the land, but the people, neighbours, friends and families. Three wars have been fought between the two countries and now there is a nuclear arms race. And some claim that the third world war, if it happens, will start in the Subcontinent.

The picture on the cover of TIME magazine, 1947. It depicts the Godess Kali, ripping herself.

The Reason

People say that the British used the tactics of divide and rule. Yes they did, but it was successful because we never were one people. We were divided then and the situation is not much different now. No foreign power could have ruled over us if we were united. But we allowed ourselves to be conquered by an Island that is as big as our smaller states.

Similarly it was during the fight to freedom. The Muslim League led by Jinnah wanted a separate state. A Muslim country. Some say it was also because of the battle for power between Nehru and Jinnah. But, the main point is that there was a demand, a strong demand for a separate Muslim region. The English played the game to ensure that the people were never united.

In the words of Michael Wood, historian who made the documentary series titled, Story of India:

Nehru and Gandhi saw themselves as the great idealists but in the end failed to grasp the biggest prize, Jinnah was a convinced secular nationalist who only at the very end took an independent Pakistan. And as for the British, they were tried and found wanting.

According to Dr. Crispin Bates article, The Hidden Story of Partition and Its Legacies:

The agreement to divide colonial India into two separate states – one with a Muslim majority (Pakistan) and the other with a Hindu majority (India) is commonly seen as the outcome of conflict between the nations’ elites. This explanation, however, renders the mass violence that accompanied partition difficult to explain.

If Pakistan were indeed created as a homeland for Muslims, it is hard to understand why far more were left behind in India than were incorporated into the new state of Pakistan – a state created in two halves, one in the east (formerly East Bengal, now Bangladesh) and the other 1,700 kilometres away on the western side of the subcontinent.

It is possible that Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, simply wished to use the demand for a separate state as a bargaining chip to win greater power for Muslims within a loosely federated India. Certainly, the idea of ‘Pakistan’ was not thought of until the late 1930s

The Horrors

While the areas of Sindh and Baluchistan went to Pakistan, Punjab and Bengal were divided into two parts. The line was created on the drawing boards of the British Civil Servants in a month. It was hurriedly drawn up by a British lawyer, Cyril Radcliffe, who had little knowledge of Indian conditions and with the use of out-of-date maps and census materials. It was the largest migration in the history of the world. More than 15 million people were displaced. And about 2 million dead in the violence that followed.

Communities, families and farms were cut in two, but by delaying the announcement the British managed to avoid responsibility for the worst fighting and the mass migration that had followed.

My Grandparents migrated from the Pakistan side of Punjab into India. The place where they had grown up as children. I haven’t experienced it but heard stories. It was the worst of times, when man became a monster. The Muslims killed the Hindus and Sikhs and sent truck loads of dead bodies. The Hindus and Sikhs killed the Muslims. Friends and neighbours suddenly became mortal enemies. It was worse in my home state of Punjab, where maximum of the killings took place. It left a deep mark. Even today while Bengal has a sizeable Muslim population, in Punjab it is negligible.

One explanation for the chaotic manner in which the two independent nations came into being is the hurried nature of the British withdrawal.

What is it that sometimes makes humans worse than the Devil? When man becomes rabid and loses sight of good and bad. These pages of history are stained with blood and ripped by madness.

For ABC Wednesday

10 Responses to “Partition”
  1. Roger Green says:

    I never understood the partition of Pakistan in that way; seemed nuts, even as a schoolboy.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. Pzes says:

    Very very well written Post! 🙂

  3. Purbaray says:

    Did you know, when Clement Attlee, introduced the Indian Independence Act in the British Parliament, Winston Churchill had argued:-

    “———-Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues & silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power & India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water… would be taxed in India.”

    He may have been a racist, opinionated statesman, but he was so right!

  4. It was a matter screwed up by both Indians as well as the British Raj. No Indian leader,except Gandhi. had any sense of national pride and he had his own style in doing things.

  5. What people can figure out to do to each other. It’s awful.
    A very provocative post for ABC Wednesday.

  6. jabblog uk says:

    There is always conflict when ruling powers depart a country – it can be seen in Afghanistan now.

  7. omus says:

    Having researched on this ..what do you think is the solution? Especialy someting like Kashmir…
    In my opinion only solution is “Reunion”. and as far as i know, only two people in this country have this opinion: Me and Jug Suraiya…
    I know people laugh at me, when i tell this…but same will remember when we will still be facing problem of terrorism, Kashmir, communalism in 100th year of our independence.
    In my opinion reunion is the only permanent & natural solution.
    If we take opinion, keeping aside our illological anger beside, people from both sides of border will vote for reunion.

  8. om says:

    it wil never become stable unless re-united..

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