The Partition of India – Indian History
The diversity of India’s unique languages, religions, and culture makes it a unique and unparalleled country, but, there have been times in Indian history that has left the sub continent scarred with wounds that have sparked disillusionment, hope, and false truth. The 1947 Partition of India left millions dead and many uprooted by cause of ethnic violence. Ethnic groups who coexisted for almost 1,000 years besieged each other in a sudden outburst of dissident violence, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. The callousness to which the India-Pakistan border was drawn disturbed this coexistence of ethnic communities and as a result caused one of the largest human mass migrations in history.
The Partition of India is known as one of the most devastating events in Indian history. Religious violence increased throughout the subcontinent as Muslims were made to feel that only Hindus were welcome in India. Jinnah was known as the Creator of Pakistan, educated in Cambridge and someone who relied on the British to make his dream of a Muslim state (Pakistan) a reality. The country was divided to supply the power hungry leaders, Jinnah and Nehru. Thousands were left homeless and few had food to eat. Hindus blamed Muslims and the Muslims blamed the Hindus.
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In quenching the thirst for power of Jinnah and Nehru, religious violence increased throughout the subcontinent. As both religious groups killed each other in civil uprising out of rage and hunger, leaders like Gandhi tried to prevent the separation of the states and calm tensions. The Partition of India cannot be blamed on a single individual. Almost everyone in this story made a decision that had a greater effect on the ultimate catastrophe. Jinnah was not solely to blame for the repercussions of the Indian Partition, the British Empire and Nehru — were equally, if not more, complicit.
At the heart of most controversies surrounding the Indian Partition lies the identity of Jinnah, the man considered most responsible for the country that is now known as Pakistan. Jinnah’s main role in the Indian Partition was to be a political figure that could serve as a distraction for the British Empire and Nehru to follow through on plans for the Partition. The principal players for the creation of the Partition in the British Empire were Winston Churchill, The Last Viceroy of England: Lord Mountbatten, and Mr. Attlee. Working with them was Nehru and the Indian National Congress (INC). Lord Mountbatten acted as the main figure in separating India, but Churchill provided the brains. Winston Churchill always had a deep-seated hatred for Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. In fact, Churchill caused the 1943 famine in India in which three million Indians died just because he thought Indians were, “rats and didn’t deserve to eat”. In short, due to Churchill’s prejudice, he didn’t actually care about India’s well-being or Pakistan’s well-being. Winston Churchill was in favor of India’s separation because he believed that Pakistan would prove a faithful friend to the West and serve as a parting between the Soviet Union and a socialist India.
Churchill never warmed to Russia, he hated the idea of a communist society. As long as Churchill remained leader of the British Empire, it posed a threat to India as Russia and India had very close relations. Both Nehru the incoming prime minister of India and Lord Mountbatten: the last Viceroy of England were oblivious to the exact scale of the coming starvation, economic crisis and violence. Mr. Nehru had told a journalist in 1946 that said, “when the British go, there will be no more communal trouble in India. ” This of course was not the case, when the British left, problems only became worse. Mr. Jinnah had only pushed for the Partition to create Pakistan, a homeland for Muslims, who would otherwise be a minority in a Hindu-dominated country. He was backed by British imperialist, Churchill for reasons that would benefit Britain only.
Jinnah and Nehru’s role in the Partition was to help solidify to the British why their plan was right, and why, “it would be the only solution to India’s constitutional problems”. It was not completely necessary for the indian congress to vote in agreement to the Partition but they did because of their greed for power. Jinnah was not very religious, he defied most Muslim norms, and Nehru only wanted more power. The only way he could get power was to get the British out of India and to do this, the Partition had to happen first. In an attempt to prevent the British Empire from separating India, Gandhi went on a fast having several positive impacts on the outbreak of religious violence. Riots had been erupting throughout the subcontinent, many in Calcutta and many in Kashmir.
By late in the afternoon the situation changed and the persons involved on both sides were wallahs, rickshaw pullers, teashop wallahs, pan Berri wallahs, cart pullers, cartman, and goondas of the worst type.At midnight on the 16/17th, gangs fought out the most desperate battles, murder and butchery of the worst type were carried on in the side lanes and byways of North Calcutta. Gangs like those who fought in the North of Calcutta during the Indian Partition posed threats to several innocent citizens. Thousands were killed ruthlessly in fights like these. Although the British army tried to calm tensions, their presence only worsened conflicts. The only figure who had the power to calm religious tensions was Mahatma Gandhi.
When Gandhi went anywhere he had a magical presence and effect on everyone in India no matter if they were Hindu or Muslim. Gandhi, unlike Nehru, Jinnah, or any members of the Indian Congress understood the drastic effects that splitting the country would have. By June 3, the plan to separate India into two different states had been set but before anything was to actually happen, Jinnah, Nehru and the members of the Indian Congress had to say yes to the plan of the Partition. Religious violence got to a point, however, in which military presence was required to just barely calm tensions throughout several union territories. Gandhi would never be content with a peace upheld by the police and the military; he wanted all kind of violence to be purged from the hearts of both Hindus and Muslims. It was an uphill task.
So, in order to achieve what Gandhi wanted, he fasted. After almost a month of fasting, all fighting throughout the subcontinent stopped so that Gandhi could eat. Overall, Gandhi’s power during the Partition was untouchable as both sides of religious groups listened to him. If he didn’t agree with the Partition the British knew nothing was going to happen which is why the British took initiative to make a political friendly relationship with Gandhi. No matter how hard Gandhi pushed for no separation of the states his efforts failed, and the British prevailed. So, the official separation of India was put into place on August 15th, 1947 creating two independent nations: Pakistan and India. In an instance, Gandhi’s predictions and nightmares came true. The date of Indian independence was brought forward by widespread rioting through India and the threat of the first civil wars as soon as the decision to create two countries was announced.
The Indian Partition caused one of the largest mass migrations in human history; by 1948, as the great migration drew to a close, more than fifteen million people had been uprooted, and between one and two million were dead. After the borders had been announced millions attempted to rejoin their country, convinced that different ethnic groups could no longer live together. Nine million Hindus left Pakistan and six million Muslims left India. A million refugees crossed on foot creating columns of human bodies trailing for miles. Children, parents, and grandparents trekked on foot in rags, exhausted, starved, and crushed with sorrows. Along with millions of saddened civilians that lost their homes, families, and livelihoods, the economic situation in India continued to deteriorate. This was because the two major political factions, Indian National Congress (INC) and the Muslim League, were fighting with Mountbatten for what had happened to India. Millions of civilians around the sub-continent were starving and this fueled even more civil disobedience. This is the moment during the partition that thousands of individuals lost their lives. “Death trains” were used to carry thousands of dead bodies to be dealt with as the British couldn’t keep up with the number of people that died. It was unfortunate that Indian and British leaders’ greed for power was the cause of death for over two million people.
Tensions created during the Indian Partition are still felt today. The Indian-Pakistan border is one of the most fortified borders in the world and India and Pakistan have fought over five wars since the Partition was put into place. Pakistan suffers from the economic consequences of separating from an economic superpower like India to this day, and India struggles with the need for more land. Kashmir, a northern region, continues to be a sensitive subject between India and Pakistan. The tense border, the wars fought, and never-ending debates over land between Pakistan and India are all examples of why Gandhi was trying to prevent the Partition. Unfortunately, not a single political leader at this time listened to him. Leaders like Jinnah, Lord Mountbatten, and Nehru were too busy looking for power instead of what would benefit the people most. Yet, like most genocides, wars, or economic crises, power ruined it all.