June 15 1947 – All-India Congress Accepts British Plan for Partition of India in New Delhi

On June 15th 1947, the All-India Congress accepted the British plan for the partition of India in New Delhi. The plan for the Partition, also known as the Mountbatten Plan was declared by the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten.

The partition of India in August 1947 is no doubt one of the most tragic and violent events the subcontinent has witnessed in recent history. British India was partitioned on the basis of religious demographics which went on to create the Sovereign Sates of the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India (later the Republic of India). The Dominion of Pakistan (which was created as a homeland for Indian Muslims) was later further divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

The creation of Pakistan was advocated by the All India Muslim League (which was founded in Dhaka in 1906) by Muslims who were of the opinion that Muslim members of the Indian National Congress did not enjoy the same rights as Hindu members did. The first person to make a demand for a separate state for Muslims was Allama Iqbal in 1930, who thought that a separate Muslim state was important in a Hindu-dominated India.

Allama Iqbal, along with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other members of the All India Muslim League drafted a resolution for the formation of a new Muslim state. By 1930, Jinnah, who had long striven for Hindu-Muslim unity, had begun to feel unsure about the condition of minorities in India and blamed the Congress (of which he was once a member) of being unfair to Muslims. In 1932, the Communal Award given by the then British Prime Minister and under which separate representation was to be provided for minority communities, including Muslims, threatened the position of Muslims further in India. This in turn led to the revival of the All India Muslim League with Jinnah as its leader.

At the Lahore Conference in 1940, Jinnah made a statement calling for a separate Muslim state. All Muslim political parties at that time, like the Khaksar Tehrik and Allama Mashriqui were not in favour of the partition of India on religious grounds. Most Congress leaders were secular and opposed the division of the country as well. Mahatma Gandhi was against the division of India against religious lines and believed that Hindus and Muslims should live together peacefully in one country. Gandhi also struggled to keep Muslims in the Congress, many of whom had begun to leave the party as early as the 1930’s.

Vicious communal violence between Hindus and Muslims had also broken out in large parts of northern India and Bengal because of which Muslims had begun to feel targeted and unsafe. It was then that Partition began to look like an option that could prevent a massive civil war from breaking out in India.

The definition of Pakistan was rather vague right up to 1940 and could have been interpreted in two ways: as a sovereign nation or as a member of confederated India. In 1946, a cabinet mission tried to reach a compromise between the Congress and the Muslim League by suggesting a decentralized state in which substantial power would be given to local governments. Nehru refused to agree to a decentralized state and Jinnah maintained rooted to his desire for a separate nation of Pakistan.

The division of British India into two separate states was completed according to the Mountbatten Plan (also known as the 3 June plan). This plan was announced on June 3rd 1947 by Lord Mountbatten, along with the date for independence, August 15th 1947. The main points of the plan were that Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in the Punjab and Bengal legislative assemblies would vote for Partition. If a majority of either group voted in favour of Partition, the provinces would be split. Apart from this, the plan also required Sindh to take its own decision and the destiny of North West Frontier Province and Sylhet district of Bengal would be decided by a referendum. The plan ruled out the separate independence of Bengal and in case Partition was voted as a viable option, a boundary commission was to be set up.

On June 15th 1947, the Mountbatten Plan was passed and the decision of partition was accepted by members of the All India Congress. The states of Punjab and Bengal were divided. The largely Muslim part of West Punjab became part of Pakistan and while West Bengal with its Hindu majority remained in India, the primarily Muslim East Bengal became part of Pakistan (later becoming Bangladesh).

The independence of India and the partition of the country into two by the Radcliffe Line would lead to massive migration across the border: Indian Muslims leaving for their newly created home of Pakistan, while Hindus and Sikhs who were in what is now Pakistan moving to India. Partition left millions uprooted. People left behind their homes and all that they owned in fear of communal violence. The Partition of India also led to large-scale brutal riots among Hindus and Muslims, resulting in endless killings, rapes and abductions. In what is known as the largest human migration in the recent history of the Indian subcontinent, around ten million people travelled miles on foot, bullock cart and train, onwards to their newly promised homeland.

Also on this day:

1908 - Stock Exchange of Calcutta is opened by Baldeodas Daduawala and Overened.

1950 - Lakshmi Mittal, Indian businessman and industrialist, is born

1960 - Bardwan University is established in West Bengal

1979 - Uloor S. Parmeswara Iyer, famous poet, writer, and editor dies at 72.

1981 - Supreme Court rules that all children are entitled to public education regardless of citizenship.


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