PARTITION OF INDIA
In the August of 1947, two nations were born from an undivided India, a new Islamic Republic known as Pakistan and a free secular India. The British left India after 350 years of rule leaving a nation divided into two not just physically but emotionally too. Whether partition could have been avoided is a debate that continues to disturb us even today after more than five decades has gone by.
During the colonial rule in India, the British, in pursuit of their interests, made a lot of investment in transportation and communication within the country. However, despite their positive contribution to certain aspects of nation building, they remained highly insensitive to the Indians and their sentiments. This led to alienation between the British and the Indian.
The British viewed India very categorically, dividing its people into Muslims and Hindus during the conduct of its census. Though India had great diversity in religion and castes they always lived in harmony until the British came and put everything in a different perspective. They followed the divide and rule policy to strengthen their hold in the country.
The British initially feared the strength of the Muslims, as they were the former rulers of the sub continent for more than 300 years. In order to appease them, the English helped establish the M.A.O College at Aligarh and supported the All India Muslim Conference. These encouraged the emergence of the Muslim League and the idea of a separate state for the Muslims.
The bias shown toward the Muslims by the English rulers inflamed the Hindus who now began to see their Muslim friends as foreigners who had come to rule India through the Mughal Dynasty. They resented their way of life and sought to ban the slaughtering of cows and prevent the use of the Persian script. The Congress too added to this great divide between the two religious groups by following certain policies like instituting ‘Vande Mataram’ as the national anthem, which some Muslims thought to be anti Muslim.
On the other hand, Muslims worried with the rising power of the Hindus who were better educated, spoke English and worked in large numbers with the British government. The Muslims tried to bring themselves more power by extending better co operation with the British.
During the Second World War while the Congress did not want to extend any support to the British, the Muslim League pledged its Muslim army to the British. This put them in the good books of the British. The Civil Disobedience Movement further strengthened the Muslim League as they formed strong ministries in provinces with large Muslim populations.
Initially, the Muslim League’s objective was to get more power and support for the Muslims in India but during the course of events, the idea of a separate Muslim state began to take shape. Though many leaders both in the Congress and the League were inclined to an undivided India, lack of consensus on an interim government ultimately led to the partition of the country.
Even as political ambitions were fulfilled with partition, the ordinary people of undivided India suffered immensely as they were made to uproot from their villages and towns and forced to settle in alien cities and provinces. They felt a great loss of identity and with thousands dead in the riots that followed, the two country witnessed great upheaval and devastation.
Soon after partition, not only did the two nations have to cope up with broken economies but also with an inexperienced system of government. Many of the established leaders did not live long after the partition. The two countries were still divided over the state of Kashmir.
Pakistan witnessed a second partition in 1971 with the separation of Bangladesh. India and Pakistan fought two major wars since partition over the possession of Kashmir and till date issues of boundary and terrorism in Kashmir continue to dominate all relations between the two countries.