Partition of India

Concept: Partition of India
Topic: History
Category: Museum on Partition
Related News: Hindu, June 3
CNA mentions: 1(June 4)

On 14th August, 1947, India was partitioned off into India (comprising of the Hindu-majority areas) and Pakistan (comprising of the Muslim-majority areas).

British India was divided on communal lines into the dominions of India and Pakistan.

The Dominion of India became the Republic of India while the Dominion of Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (in 1975). India chose to become a secular country. The partition was enacted by the Indian Independence Act 1947 which led to the end of the British Raj. Pakistan became an independent country on 14th August 1947 whereas India got independence a day later.

The idea that the Muslims in the subcontinent need a separate nation because their aspirations would be crushed in a Hindu-dominated India was first echoed in the Two Nation Theory. The term ‘Pakistan’ was first coined by Choudhry Rahmat Ali in 1933. It was later taken up by Muhammad Ali Jinnah who became a fierce fighter for the creation of Pakistan.

The Indian National Congress and the Muslim League were unable to come to an agreement on how to go about independence. While the League wanted a separate homeland, the INC was opposed to the idea of partitioning the country. To reach a consensus on the issue, Britain sent the Cabinet Mission to India. This broke down and Jinnah proclaimed “Direct Action Day” on 16th August 1946. As there was no clarity on the partition, people were on their nerves, especially those who were living in a community where the majority religion did not match with theirs. Violence broke out in many parts of Bengal, Bihar, the United Provinces and Punjab. There was large-scale killing, rape and torture. Even children and the elderly were not spared. To stop the tide of brutality and prevent an all-out civil war in the country, the Congress, headed by Vallabhai Patel on this issue, approved of the partition plan.

Jinnah had originally demanded even the Hindu-dominated areas of Bengal and Punjab as part of Pakistan. But Patel was fiercely against this and obtained the partition of those provinces which ensured that the Hindu majority areas in those provinces areas were included in India. But, neither the Indian leaders nor the British were prepared for or anticipated the massive scale of the partition. Families were uprooted from the soil of their ancestors. People had to leave all their unmovable property and move to the other side. Millions of people were displaced and refugee camps were overflowing with people. Apart from the violence, diseases due to unhygienic conditions also killed many people. Riots were rampant during the partition. Some people blame the British government of not doing enough to stem the violence.

The actual geographic demarcation of the areas was entrusted upon Sir Cyril Radcliffe. He divided the roughly 450000 sq. km of territory between the two dominions. The international boundary between India and Pakistan, and between India and Bangladesh is even today the Radcliffe Line.

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