1217 words essay on the partition of India. August 14th, 1947 saw the birth of the new Islamic Republic known as Pakistan. At midnight the next day India won its freedom from colonial rule, ending nearly 350 years of British presence in India, the British left India divided, into two nations.
The two countries were founded on religion, with Pakistan as an Islamic state and India as a secular one. Whether the partition of these countries was wise and whether it was done too soon is still under debate. Even the imposition of an official boundary has not stopped conflict between them. Boundary issues, left unresolved by the British, have caused two wars and continuing strife between India and Pakistan.
The partition of India and its freedom from colonial rule set a precedent for nations such as Israel, which demanded a separate homeland because of the irreconcilable differences between the Arabs and the Jews. The British left Israel inMay 1948, handing the question of division over to theUN.
Un-enforced UN Resolutions to map out boundaries between Israel and Palestine has led to several Arab-Israeli wars and the conflict still continues.
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Reasons for partition
By the end of the 19th century, several nationalistic movements had started in India. Indian nationalism had grown largely since British policies of education and the advances made by the British in India in the fields of transportation and communication. However, their complete insensitivity to and distance from the peoples of India and their customs created such disillusionment with them in their subjects that the end of British rule became necessary and inevitable.
However, while the Indian National Congress was calling for Britain to Quit India, the Muslim League, in 1943, passed a resolution for them to Divide and Quit. There were several reasons for the birth of a separate Muslim homeland in the subcontinent, and all three parties-the British, the Congress and the Muslim League-were responsible.
The British had followed a divide-and-rule policy in Even in the census they categorised people according to religion, and viewed and treated them as separate from each other. They had based their knowledge of the peoples of India on the basic religious texts and the intrinsic differences they found in diem instead of on the way they coexisted in the present. The British were also still fearful of the potential threat from the Muslims, who were the former rulers of the subcontinent, ruling India for over 300 years under the Mughal Empire. In order to win them over to their side, the British helped establish the M.A.O College at Aligarh and supported the All-India Muslim Conference, both of which were institutions from which leaders of the Muslim League and the ideology of Pakistan emerged. As soon as the League was formed, they were placed on a separate electorate. Thus, the idea of the separateness of Muslims in India was built into the electoral process of India.
There was also an ideological division between the Muslims and the Hindus of India. While there were strong feelings of nationalism in India, by the late 19th century there were also communal conflicts and movements in the country that were based on religious communities rather than class or regional ones. Some people felt that the very nature of Islam called for a communal Muslim society. Added to this were the memories of power over the Indian subcontinent that the Muslims held on to, especially those in the old centres of Mughal rule. These memories might have made it exceptionally difficult for Muslims to accept the imposition of colonial power and culture. They refused to learn English and to associate with the British.
This was a severe drawback for them as they found that the Hindus were now in better positions in government than they were and thus felt that the British favoured Hindus. The social reformer and educator, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who founded M.A.O. College, taught the Muslims that cooperation with the British was vital for their survival in the society. Tied to all the movements of Muslim revival was the opposition to assimilation and submergence in Hindu society. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was also the first to conceive of a separate Muslim homeland.
Hindu rivals also deepened the chasm between the two nations. They resented the Muslims for their former rule over India. Hindu revivalists rallied for a ban on the slaughter of cows, a cheap source of meat for the Muslims. They also wanted to change the official script form the Persian to the Hindu Devanagri script, effectively making Hindi rather than Urdu the main language for the nation.
Congress made several mistakes in their policies that further convinced the League that it was impossible to live in an undivided India after freedom from colonial rule because their interests would be completely suppressed. One such policy was the institution of the’ Vande Matram,’ as national anthem that expressed anti-Muslim sentiments, in the schools of India where Muslim children were forced to sing it- the Partition of India .
The Muslim League gained power also due to the Congress. The Congress banned any support for the British during the Second World War. However the Muslim League pledged its full support, which found favour from the British, who also needed the help of the largely Muslim army. The Civil Disobedience Movement and the consequent withdrawal of the Congress party from politics also helped the league gain power, as they formed strong ministries in the provinces that had large Muslim populations. At the same time, the League actively campaigned to gain more support from the Muslims in India, especially under the guidance of dynamic leaders like Jinnah.
There had been some hope of an undivided India, with a government consisting of three tiers along basically the same lines as the borders of India and Pakistan at the time of Partition. However, Congress’ rejection of the interim government set up under this Cabinet Mission Plan in 1942 convinced the leaders of the Muslim League that compromise was impossible and partition was the only course to take.
Impact and aftermath of partition
The partition of India left both India and Pakistan devastated. The process of partition had claimed many lives in the riots.15 million refugees poured across the borders, to the regions completely foreign to them, for though they were Hindu or Muslim, their identity had been embedded in the regions where their ancestors were from. Not only was the country divided, but also were the provinces of Punjab and Bengal divisions that caused catastrophic riots and claimed the lives of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike.
Many years after the partition, the two nations are still trying to heal the wounds left behind. Many are still in search of an identity and a history left behind beyond an impenetrable boundary. The two countries started of with ruined economies and lands, without an established and experienced system of government. They lost many of their most dynamic leaders, such as Gandhi, Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, soon after the partition. Pakistan had to face the separation of Bangladesh in 1971. India and Pakistan have been to war twice since the partition and they are still deadlocked over the issue of possession of Kashmir. The same issues of boundaries and divisions, Hindu and Muslim majorities and differences, still persist in Kashmir.
In August 1947, Great Britain relinquished its grip on 1.8 million square miles of the Indian subcontinent. For 400 million newly independent Indians, the twilight of British rule was both liberating and painful: British and Indian politicians had decreed the creation of India and a new nation, Pakistan, based on the notion that Hindus and Muslims were fundamentally incompatible. The result was the division of the subcontinent into two rivals and the largest transfer of population in history. What came to be known as “partition” forced an estimated 15 million people to leave their homes and left as many as 1 million dead.
In The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, Yasmin Khan, a politics lecturer at the University of London, powerfully captures how this decision affected the lives of ordinary people. Across India and Pakistan, religious cleansing forced people to migrate to the other side. Khan relates one eyewitness account in which a group of Punjabi Muslims who had resisted pressure to go to Pakistan were removed by the military. But many Indians believed that partition would be a temporary measure. Some buried their jewels near their ancestral homes, expecting to return to them once the violence died down. Ultimately, many refugees ended up losing not only their homes and property but loved ones as well. When Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had supported partition, visited a squalid refugee camp, an anguished young man slapped his face and yelled, “Give my mother back to me! Bring my sisters to me!” Fikr Taunsvi, a writer in Lahore, witnessed a washerman’s baby progressively sicken from hunger because local shops and hospitals were inaccessible due to communal tensions and a curfew. Angrily, he remarked that politicians should ask “great brains like Jawaharlal Nehru” to put themselves in this illiterate washerman’s shoes and imagine the real effects of partition; once they understood this, he wrote, then they could “request the British to give you freedom” and “demand Pakistan and Hindustan.”
Women in particular became targets of nationalist and religious vendettas. According to official estimates, 83,000 women were abducted by men of other faiths. Around one-third of those “recovered” were girls less than 12 years old. Some had their genitals mutilated and their breasts were often scarred with slogans such as “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live Pakistan) and “J’ai Hind” (Victory to India). Some committed suicide to avoid rape and forced conversion. Yet amidst the spectacular atrocities that accompanied partition, there were also moments of extraordinary altruism as people of different faiths hid their neighbors to save them from murderous mobs, often putting their own lives at risk.
Khan argues that partition was not inevitable. The decision to split India is often attributed to the broken relationship between the anti-imperialist Indian National Congress and its former ally, the Muslim League. Initially, the League called for an arrangement that would have allowed Muslims to exercise some autonomy within a federal but united India. But after that proposal failed in 1946, riots broke out in Calcutta. At least 4,000 people died within three days. Khan writes that these killings “reinforced, in a graphic way, the idea that Hindus and Muslims were incompatible, and planted this seed in the minds of the British and Indian policymakers.” Eager to withdraw, the British signed off on a plan to divide the nation.
Khan’s book also illuminates how vague and amorphous the ideas of “India” and “Pakistan” were. Even at the dawn of independence, there was no map showing where the borders of the new states fell. Confusion about citizenship—were all Muslims supposed to be Pakistani, and all Hindus and Sikhs Indian?—further fueled the precariousness of partition.
Partition has been revisited countless times by academics, historians, and politicians without delving into its human side; that’s been largely left to films, literature, and poems. Partition brought into question issues of citizenship, nationalism, religion, and identity and how they can be manipulated by imperial powers and ambitious local politicians. For those who think about breaking up Iraq based on the apparently irreconcilable differences between its sects and ethnic groups, this book provides a moving look at what the balkanization of a nation really means for the people whose lives are uprooted by shifting the lines on a map.