The background of the Partition of India:
The first official meeting of the Indian National Congress (INC) was held in 1885. The Muslim League had been formed as a result of the British Government efforts to divide the province of Bengal along religious lines, which had collapsed in the face of the vehement opposition led by the INC. The Muslim League had been formed to safeguard the rights of the Muslims in any case of such divisive actions of the British. Originally formed as an opposition to the INC, the Muslim league had generally agreed with the INC in their mutual motive of expelling the British from the country. The British, however, had always attempted to pit the INC and the Muslim League against each other.
With the onset of the First World War, India had provided the British with the service of one million Indian soldiers on the assumption that such helpful actions might finally translate into political leniency on the part of the British, which may even result in independence of the nation. While such moves were consented by both the INC and the Muslim League, they had been severely wrong. Following the atrocities committed by the British in Amritsar in 1919, where the British had opened fire on an unarmed assemblage protesting against the British Regime in India, which had claimed more than thousand lives, the political scenario had changed drastically. The 1930s had witnessed millions of people without previous political inclinations signing up with INC and the Muslim League. Mohandas Gandhi, who had become a prominent and leading personality in the INC, had always upheld the cause of a united India with no discriminations between the Hindus and the Muslims. However, other members of the INC had demurred to join the Muslim League in a political fight to purge the British from India. Such alienation had initiated the Muslim League to think in terms of a separate nation for the Muslims.
The apartheid between the Hindus and the Muslims:
During the British regime in India, the Muslims comprised of approximately 25% of the total population of the country. However, the racial discrimination between the Hindus and Muslims were getting more pronounced. The Muslims, though differing in ethnic traits and language were spread across the country, especially in the erstwhile Bengal and Punjab regions where they had formed a majority of the population. The Muslims also varied in their societal and economic status ranging from solvent businessmen to urban and the rural poor class. However, the religious differences between the Hindus and Muslims, despite their coexistence, had been marked. The Muslims were strict adherers to the doctrine of one God (Monotheists), as dictated by their religious text Quoran, while the Hindus were polytheists and idolaters with their religious text – the Bhagavad Gita.
Such religious differences also translated into sharp social differences. Despite being neighbors, they refrained from eating or studying together. Even separate waters were allocated to the Hindus and Muslims while travelling, for instance, on train journeys. Intermarriage was strictly prohibited. While cows were preached by the Hindus, beef happened to be the staple meat for the Muslims. India was at the eve of its freedom from the British rule and all set to create its own government and constitution. The Muslims were apprehensive of the fact that, through the implementation of such governance and constitution, the Hindus were actually attempting to constrain the lives of the Muslims. They were afraid that the Hindu Majority will severely interfere with the Muslim ways of living as dictated by the Quoran. In other words, they were almost sure that the Hindus will take away their social and religious freedom.
In congruence with such intense racial feelings, Muslim League Leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah, an exceptionally bright and competent lawyer, had embarked upon a campaign advocating a completely separate Muslim State. Jinnah had made himself the forerunner of the Muslim cause and the demand of the Muslims was power, not only demarcated by geographical boundaries as specified under normal democratic conditions, but also involving religious appropriations. Moreover, emphasizing the purity of the Muslim religion, their demand was a separate nation designated ‘Pak – i – stan’, (Pak meaning purity and stan meaning place). To inspire and gather further Muslim support for his exclusive Muslim political party, Jinnah had advocated that an all round integral development of the Muslim community was impossible without the existence of the proposed Pakistan. Emphasizing the impossibility of the coexistence of the Hindus and Muslims under a Congress regime, he had added, “to live under the Congress authority on account of acts of injustices”. He had also posted a warning that under such a system the dignity of the Muslims would eventually be degraded to that of the ‘Shudras’ (lower castes). He had further added that he would, “….never allow Muslims to be the slaves of Hindus”. As described by Jinnah his ultimate goal was a consistent betterment of the Muslims, marked by developments in all the spheres of life, “……our spiritual, cultural and economic life in consonance with our own ideals, and according to the genius of our own people”.
However, the Hindu dominated INC, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, was in favor of a united India. This was, of course, a very plausible political claim on the part of Nehru, because under such circumstances, following the impending independence of the country from the British regime, the government formed, of whatever democratic nature may it be, would have an overwhelming majority of Hindus. Given the fact that the Muslims were scattered all over the country, the British Government was in a tough situation trying to decide how sovereignty could be granted to the Muslims, keeping in mind the demands of the Muslim League and Jinnah. Especially, Punjab proved to be a difficult proposition where the Muslims were a prominent majority and the Hindus a minority. In an attempt to form a truce between the INC and the Muslim League, the British Government after months of pushing a hard bargain had arrived at the blueprints of allocation of power to both the Hindus and the Muslims. It was a complicated political arrangement under which the minority Muslims in the different states of India would be granted sovereignty and autonomic functions. The arrangement had been agreed upon by Jinnah.
However, Punjab with its population of 6 million Sikhs had continued to be a problem. The Sikhs, a very upright class of Hindus, have the origins of their religion in the basic doctrines of Hinduism. However, they are monotheists, non believers of a divisive caste system and believers in an equality of all religions. They are very orthodox when it comes to guarding their heritage and they did not really agree with the proposed Muslim sovereignty in the Muslim minority states. Punjab had a large concentration of Muslims and agreeing to such a proposal would have meant the Sikhs living in a Muslim autonomy with practically non – existent political powers for them. So, refusing to be subjects of a Muslim sovereignty, the Sikhs had refused to agree to such proposals of the British Government. The INC had initially acquiesced to such proposals but Nehru, after rethinking the entire proposition, had found it politically unsound and had been showing signs of retracting from the agreement. Such actions of Nehru had left the Muslim League and Jinnah with a general feeling of distrust and breach of faith. Jinnah had alleged Nehru of thwarting all probabilities of framing a constitution based on arbitration and accommodation of the Muslims.
The Hindu – Muslim riots of 1946:
India by this time, unnoticed by everyone, had been sitting on a bed of gunpowder of communal violence and the recipe for disaster had already been brewing. The Hindu Muslim conflict had reached a flashpoint and the fire in the hole had come on the fateful day of August 16th, 1946. The Muslims had dubbed this day as the ‘Direct Action Day’. What had started as a protest rally on the streets by Jinnah and his Muslim League to step up political pressure actually had been the premeditated preparations of a grisly communal violence. The riots had first erupted in the city of Calcutta (Kolkata), when the Muslims had led the attack on the Hindus. On that very day the police force in the city had been given a special leave. So, in no time the city had succumbed to the control of the mob and the ensuing gruesome violence had claimed the lives of nearly 4000 Hindus and Sikhs. The joint retaliation of the Hindus and Sikhs had been even more violent and the Muslim front had soon disintegrated in the face of such retaliation. The violence had spread like wildfire from Calcutta to the cities of Dacca, Bihar, Bombay, Ahmedabad and Lahore. The communal violence triggered by the ‘Direct Action Day’ had claimed the lives of 5000 people with 20, 000 mortally injured and another 100,000 had been left homeless. The Military under the British Government had finally been able to contain the violence after three days of mass slaughter on both the Hindu and the Muslim sides. The air had been pervaded with the putrid stench of rotting human bodies that had been stuffed down in the sewerages or piled in dumps on the road that had blocked the traffic.
Meanwhile, the Winston Churchill Government in England had suffered a crushing defeat in the elections and had been replaced by the Labor Party. The Labor Party had been in favor of immediate independence of India and accordingly, as of February 20, 1947, the new Prime Minister of Britain Clement Atlee had announced that the British Government would grant complete independence to India no later than June 1948 by surrendering the power in ‘responsible Indian hands’. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the then Viceroy of India, had appealed to the Hindus and the Muslims for a united India. Mahatma Gandhi had been the only person to support the stand of Mountbatten. However, such pleas of Gandhi and Mountbatten had fallen upon the deaf ears of the communally blind Hindu and Muslim leaderships. In the light of the anarchy reigning over the country, Mountbatten had been compelled to acquiesce to the concept of two different nations and the date of independence had been declared as August 15th, 1947.
The Partition of India and the Independence:
The geographical locations of the Muslims had made the partitioning of India an even more complex procedure. In northern India the Muslims were concentrated in two major areas situated on the opposite sides of the country with a Hindu majority in between. Also almost the entire of north India was an intermixture of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other minorities. In the midst of all these, the Sikhs had also advocated for a nation of their own, but such claims had been brushed off by the British. Punjab with its almost equal ratios of Muslims and Sikhs had now developed into an extreme problem. Neither the Sikhs nor the Muslims had wanted to part with the wealthy and the fertile lands of the province and the feeling of apartheid was intense. As a result, the province had been partitioned right across the middle between Lahore and Amritsar. What had followed was an indescribable melee in which people had wanted to get on the preferred sides of the partition as dictated by their religious affiliations. People were ousted from their homes by their past neighbors that had resulted in millions of refugees. The partition had caused an absolutely chaotic and unwanted displacement of at least ten million people while 500, 000 lives were claimed in the affray.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was established on August 14th, 1947. A day later on August 15th, 1947, history witnessed the foundation of the independent Sovereign Republic of India.
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