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Partition of India

Geographical region in ancient India is divided into multiple countries now. Sri Lanka (Ceylon) was part of the South Indian kingdoms and part of the Madras presidency of British India. In 1798 it become a separate crown colony and granted independence on February 4, 1948. Myanmar (old Burma) was annexed by the British in 1826 and governed as part of the British Indian administration until 1937. There after directly administrated by the British until it granted independence on January 4, 1948. The countries Nepal and Bhutan had singed treaties with the British designating them as independent states and they were never a part of British India.

End of British Raj led to the creation of Dominion of Pakistan (now Islamic Republic of Pakistan) on August 14, 1947 and Union of India (now Republic of India) on August 15, 1947. The actual division between the two new dominions was done according to what has come to be known as the Mountbatten Plan. The border between India and Pakistan was determined by a British Government-commission led by Sir Radcliffe, a London lawyer. Pakistan came into being with two non-contiguous enclaves, East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated geographically by India. As a result the Bengal province of British India into the Pakistani state of East Bengal and the Indian state of West Bengal and the Punjab region of British India into the Punjab province of West Pakistan and the Indian state of Punjab. India was formed out of the majority Hindu regions of the colony, and Pakistan from the majority Muslim areas.

On July 18, 1947, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act that finalized the partition arrangement. The Government of India Act 1935 was adapted to provide a legal framework for the two new dominions. Following partition, Pakistan was added as a new member of the United Nations, while the Republic of India assumed the seat of British India as a successor state. The 565 Princely States were given a choice of which country to join. Those states whose princes failed to accede to either country or chose a country at odds with their majority religion, such as Junagadh, Hyderabad, and especially Kashmir, became the subject of much dispute. All three were eventually annexed by India.

The secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan in the 1971 was the result of the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was an armed conflict between West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) that lasted about nine months and ended on December 16, 1971. As a result of the war Dominion of Pakistan divided again and East Pakistan become an independent nation named Bangladesh.

Although all these division takes place in the Indian Subcontinent, the term ‘The Partition of India refers to the creation Dominion of Pakistan on August 14, 1947 and Union of India on August 15, 1947. The ceremonies for the transfer of power were held a day earlier to allow the last British Viceroy Louis Mountbatten to attend both the ceremony in India and Pakistan. So Pakistan celebrates Independence Day on August 14, while India celebrates it on August 15.

The seeds of partition were sown long before independence. Muslims had ruled the subcontinent for over 300 years under the Mughal Empire before the British gained the power. Organization of citizens into religious communities was a feature of Mughal rule. Conversion of Hindu temples into Muslim mosques and additional taxes for Hindu’s are happened during some Mughal rules. British under divide and rule policy exploited this sentiment and keep Muslims threatened by the Hindu majority. Indian Muslims were encouraged, initially by the British, to forge a distinct political and cultural identity.

Most of the Congress leaders were secularists and resolutely opposed the division of India on the lines of religion. Mohandas Gandhi was believing that Hindus and Muslims could and should live in amity. He said, “My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonistic cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is for me a denial of God.” But the All India Muslim League was formed in Dhaka in 1906 by Muslims who were suspicious of the mainstream secular but Hindu-majority Indian National Congress.

Among the first to make the demand for a separate state was Allama Iqbal in his presidential address to the 1930 convention of the Muslim League said that he felt a separate nation for Muslims was essential in an otherwise Hindu-dominated subcontinent. The Sindh Assembly passed a resolution making it a demand in 1935. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had till then worked for Hindu-Muslim unity, come to lead the movement for this new nation and begun to despair of the fate of minority communities in a united India and had begun to argue that mainstream parties such as the Congress were insensitive to Muslim interests. At the 1940 Muslim League conference in Lahore, Jinnah made clear his commitment to two separate states and said, “The Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religions, philosophies, social customs and literature… To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state.”

The Hindu organizations such as the Hindu Mahasabha were against the division of the country but see the cultural differences. In 1937 at the 19th session of the Hindu Mahasabha held at Ahmedabad, Veer Savarkar in his presidential address said, “India cannot be assumed today to be Unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main — the Hindus and the Muslims.”

For years, Gandhi and his adherents struggled to keep Muslims in the Congress Party in the process enraging both Hindu Nationalists and Indian Muslim Nationalists. Gandhi was assassinated soon after Partition by Hindu Nationalist Nathuram Godse, who believed that Gandhi was appeasing Muslims at the cost of Hindus.

Before the Boundary Commission began formal hearings, governments were set up for the East and the West Punjab regions. Their territories were provisionally divided by "notional division" based on simple district majorities. In both the Punjab and Bengal, the Boundary Commission consisted of two Muslim and two non-Muslim judges with Sir Cyril Radcliffe as a common chairman. The mission of the Punjab commission was worded generally as: "To demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab, on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. In doing so, it will take into account other factors." Each side presented its claim through counsel with no liberty to bargain. The judges too had no mandate to compromise and on all major issues they divided two and two, leaving Radcliffe the difficult task of making the actual decisions.

Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly-formed nations in the months immediately following Partition. Once the lines were established, about 14.5 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the relative safety of religious majority. Based on 1951 Census of displaced persons, 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan from India while 7,249,000 Hindus and Sikhs moved to India from Pakistan immediately after partition. About 11.2 million or 78% of the population transfer took place in the west, with Punjab accounting for most of it.

The newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border. There are various estimates about the causality related to the partition. The common belief is that at least half a million people perished and twelve million become homeless. But no one can count the pain of separation and human suffering. The anger and suspicion causes the partition still flames in the region and resulting in communal violence and riots.

Many Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis settled in the Indian parts of Punjab and Delhi. Hindus migrating from East Pakistan settled across Eastern India and Northeastern India, many ending up in close-by states like West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura. Some migrants were sent to the Andaman Islands. Hindu Sindhis found themselves without a homeland. The responsibility of rehabilitating Hindu Sindhis was borne by all the states in Indian Union, but most Sindhis settled in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Refugee camps were set up for Hindu Sindhis. Many refugees did consider returning to Sindh once the violence settled down, but it was found that this was not possible, as they found their

Refugees or Muhajirs in Pakistan came from various parts of India. There was a large influx of Punjabi Muslims from East Punjab fleeing the riots. Despite severe physical and economic hardships, East Punjabi refugees to Pakistan did not face problems of cultural and linguistic assimilation after partition. However, there were many Muslim refugees who migrated to Pakistan from other Indian states. The descendants of these non-Punjabi refugees in Pakistan often refer to themselves as Muhajir whereas the assimilated Punjabi refugees no longer make that political distinction. Large numbers of non-Punjabi refugees settled in Sindh, particularly in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad. They are united by their refugee status and their native Urdu language and are a strong political force in Sindh.

The events leading up to the partition, the ideology of communalism and the consequences of partition are discussed in films, literature, memoirs and commentaries even today. The consequences of partition are still there to be seen. India and Pakistan continue to be embroiled in conflict, and Kashmir remains a point of contention between them. Will the people ever leave behind the pain and suffering caused by the partition? Will the separated bother nations can be trusted neighbors?