The period between 1945 to 1947 was that of an intense struggle in the Indian subcontinent. It has been described variously as the birth pangs that led to the twin countries being formed.
For us, to put this period in perspective, it makes sense to start with the role of the British. The position of the colonialists was somewhat shaken post the 1945-1947 political developments with respect to the world. No longer the imperial power that it once was, Britain was now more open to “allowing” Independence or some form of home rule.
Meanwhile, the political climate in India had radically changed as well. There was now a growing urgency in notions of self rule, the transfer of power from the colonialists into Indian hands. The majority of Indian National Congress leaders thus found themselves released from jail, and various forms of political custody.
Besides, there was large-scale mobilisation of the people as well, There were massive demonstrations, uprisings, etc. There was an increased level of awareness that freedom was nearer and that high-level negotiations were taking place.
The period from 1900-1940 had been about national liberation. This was however made more complex by a separate call for Muslim self-government. The demand for a new separate country was underway as well and this new county was to be named Pakistan.
This idea of Pakistan did not, according to critic Gyanendra Pandey, have a very long history. It was part of the two-nation theory though. It was only in the March of 1940 that the Muslim League proposed the establishment of separate states for Muslim majority regions.
The summer of 1946 witnessed a momentary agreement between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. This was regarding the Cabinet Mission plan to set up a loose federal state – Hindu and Muslim, with an idea to review it every decade.
The Muslim League, however, favoured what it called “direct action.” This period was marked by extreme riots between Hindus and Muslims. While starting in Calcutta, they spread to Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, North West Frontier Province, what are now the two Punjabs, etc.
Some of the most haunting and blood curling images of the Partition come from this period – much before the drawing of the Radcliffe line. While talking about the history of India, we tend often to forget that what is now Pakistan and what is now India were actually one land. We forget the brutalities that split the two countries, much like the pains associated with the separation of Siamese twins.