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Partition of India



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    On the 18, July 1947 India declared it’s independence from the British Empire after almost 200 years of being rule over the country. But independence was short lived after a day; the country was split up into 2 different countries which became Pakistan. Later the Pakistani province of East Pakistan will declare it’s independence from Pakistan which became the country Bangladesh. India was split up on the bases of religion which has created bitter relations between the populations of these three countries.

    Majority of India during British rule were made up of Hindus, with the Sikhs and the Muslims making up the minority. The majority of the Muslim population of India didn’t want to be ruled under a Hindu majority and declared its intentions to create their own state. With this common thought shared among the Muslim population came idea the partition which the country of India will be split into to two, with the Muslim receive the control of the Muslim dominated areas, while the Sikhs and the Hindu will remained in control of India.

    The Impact of partition led to the biggest mass migration in history with an estimate of 15 million people moving between the borders of India and Pakistan, displacement of 12. 5 million people, brutal riots and massacres between the Muslim, Sikhs and Hindus with an estimate death toll of a million people and the provinces of Punjab in the North West of the Country and the Bengal in the East being cut in half which has created a hostile relationship between the two countries.

    The hostile relations between the 2 countries have lead the two countries into 4 major wars with The Indo – Pakistani civil war of 1947 and 1971 with the war of 1971 resulted in the Pakistani province of East Pakistan breaking away from Pakistani rule becoming the independent state Bangladesh. Today relations between both countries have been hostile with both contesting each in a nuclear arms race which in recent times has threatened to lead into a nuclear war.

    In British India as seen below, a map which outline where the major religious groups of British India lived, The Hindus seen in yellow on the map were the majority in British India with an estimated population of 255 million followed with the Muslim with an estimated population of 92 million people and mainly reside in the north east and north west of the country, while the Sikhs were the smallest out of the 3 groups with a population of 6 million and mainly Sikhs lived in the small area of the Punjab province which was a richest province in British India.

    Through out history Muslim, Hindus and Sikhs often had major feud with each on social differences, still British India remained peaceful with Muslim, Hindus and Sikhs population living side by side with one and another. But In everyday Indian society the Muslim population where seen by the Hindu and Sikh population as inferior. Muslim generally had lower class jobs and poor education in comparison the Hindus and Sikhs who were highly educated and the well off jobs in India. In 1600 Britain came to India to establish a trading company called the East India Company. The Company grew rapidly resulted in full control of India.

    In 1858 the British government decided to take direct control over the whole of India from the company. During these times the Indian society became more modern in its thinking and had changing traditional ideas. With the modernization of Indian society and western ideals being engrained in the mindset of the Indian population, nationalistic view begins to arise. The Indian started to call for an Independent self – governing India. In the late 19th century, there was growing support from the Indian population for Independence from Britain which resulted in many nationalist parties to be formed.

    In 1885 the Indian National Congress (INC) a group calling for independence from Britain was establish. Majority of the Members of the INC where Hindu. Within a few years of being establish the party became more radical and was now the major part of the growing independence movement all over India. Though the party was made up with a Hindu majority, it was the only party in India to provide harmony to all the religious groups of India. Although Muslim members were active in the INC, most Muslim leaders did not trust the INC with its Hindu dominance and many Muslims were reluctant to join the party.

    In 1905 when the British planned to split up Bengal on religious lines the Indian National Congress organized a huge protest against the plan. When the British plans failed the All India Muslim League was establishing on 1906 in Dhaka to call for better right for the Muslim population of India and promote plans for an Independent Islamic state. In April 1919 a protest which called for independence from the British in the city of Amritsar, a unit of the British army was sent in to control and silence the protesters in the city.

    When British army got there, a huge crowd of 20,000 people were causing havoc for the British. Brigadier-General Reginald E. H. Dyer who was commanding the unit on the day ordered his men to fire on the unarmed protesters which consisted of men, women and children. After 10 minutes of continuous firing the crowed scuttled away leaving an estimate of between 1,000 – 1,500 bodies on the street. When news of the Amritsar massacre spread across India, hundreds of thousands of people started to join and supporters of the INC and the AIML cause. The calls for Independence begin to create momentum.

    In the 1930 the INC spokesman and figure head of Indian nationalism Mohandas Gandhi called for a non non-violent approach to protest for an independent India. Gandhi was strongly opposed of the idea of a separate Muslim state and vigorously advocated for a unified India which both Hindus and Muslim living side by side by saying, “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. ” These ideas were shared by a lawyer turn Politician and leader to of the INC Jawaharlal Nehru.

    The Muslim population were wary of the power the Hindu majority held in the INC. When the call for an independent India grew stronger, the Muslim felt that if an Independent India was formed, the majority of the leaders will be of Hindu background which will benefit the Hindu and leave the Muslim population as one of the lowest class. The league kept on pressing to the British for a separate state which was essential for the Muslim population to escape a Hindu dominated India. The leader of the cause was an English educated lawyer named Muhammad Ali Jinnah who will become the figure head for the call of a sperate Muslim state.

    Post-world war II, the British Empire was bankrupt after 6 years of brutal bloodshed across the world. The power of the British Empire started to wane and there was growing amount of pressure by the population of India for its independence. People started to protest all across India but they were crush with brute force by the English army and police. Public opinion from the British public swung against the distraction and the expense of empire. Winston Churchill party was voted out of office and a new Labour government was put. The Labour advocated an independent India and more rights and freedoms for all British colonies at the time.

    With new approach by the Labour party both Jinnah and Nehru started furiously promoting their plans of Indian Independence to the population. Jinnah called for a separate Islamic state while Nehru called for a united India. When the Idea of an Independent India began to take shape, India was spiralling into a sectarian war between the vast ethnic and religious groups across India. Even though Ghandi continuously advocated to the Indian population for peacefully protest, almost every protest for independence lead to brutal violence.

    On March 1946 a cabinet mission was called to figure out how the British were going to transfer powers to the Indian government and to strike a deal leading to an Independent India. Talks were held between the British government and the INC and AIML. During the talks Jinnah the head of the Muslim League surprisingly agree with a plan of a united India even though he was a huge advocate with a separate Muslim state. But Jinnah was only going to accept the deal if India had weak central powers. The problem was Nehru was a socialist and a believer of a strong central state did not agree with Jinnah deal.

    With this the conference ended in failure with both sides not getting what they wanted. With the failure of the cabinet mission, on the 16th of August 1946 the Muslim League lead by Muhammad Ali Jinnah called for a major strike in the city of Calcutta which was a strong hold for the Muslim population. The Aim was to protest against the British plans for the Independence of India with the Muslims calling for a separate state of Pakistan. Thousands of Muslim gathered into the centre of the city to demand for a separate Muslim state.

    The protest was supposed to be peaceful but when the crowed disperse from the centre of the city the more hard lines radical Muslim started to head towards the Hindu part of the city. The mob was armed with clubs, guns and knifes and started to slaughter the Hindu population of Calcutta. The Hindus retaliated slaughtering the Muslim population and firing on their mosque. After 3 days of rioting, up to 5,000 people were killed including women and children. Picture bellow shows the brutality of the killings as the authorities were clearing the bodies from the street.

    The massacre in Calcutta was to be known as the Great Calcutta killings. The Calcutta killings had now convinced most of the Indian and British public that partition was inevitable. The hope and dream of a united India was now crushed. This incident lead to full scale massacres across the country between Hindus and Muslim which lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and leaving millions homeless. Mahatma Ghandi was stilling hoping for a united Indian with all religious groups living in harmony with one and another. To spread his message, Ghandi travelled from one village to another to spread his word of a united India.

    But Ghandi dream started to slip away with many of his supporters started abandoning him in his quest for a United India. Slowly Ghandi influence on the Indian population started to wane In February 1946, The British government announce that they will be defiantly leaving India and handing power over by June 1948. Still the government had its headache on how to sort out India which was in the state of anarchy and there was still no deal on how to hand over power. To help resolve this problem the British government appointed a new Viceroy (representative of the British Empire) to help solve this dilemma.

    In doing so they hired Lord Mountbatten of Burma to be installed as Viceroy of India for a brief time of just over a year. The Punjab the richest province in India was the worst affected region with sectarian violence breaking out on a day to day basis. The Sikhs, who saw Punjab as their holy land, were fearing, with a Muslim majority in Punjab that their region would end up in Pakistani hands. For the Sikh population it was unthinkable that the Muslim would be able to rule over them, historically their mortal enemies.

    In the villages around the Punjab community harmony between the 3 major religious groups begin to crumble with sectarian violence beginning to breakout between the between Hindu Sikhs and Muslims population. Local politician started to stere up division between the groups for their own ends. The Sikh communities started to form their own arm bandits with many Sikhs served for the British Army during the Second World War. Many Sikhs still had their weapons. The ex Sikh soldiers begin to train young Sikh men in arm combat to stop what was called the Muslim take over of the Punjab region.

    India in 1947 was in all out Anarchy with sectarian violence between the major religious groups was at an all time high. A deal need to be struck to end the violence between the major religious groups. With a threat of all out conflict across the country a deal was finally agree which Nehru who had to compromise his plan of a United India and to give land to the Muslim population for an Independent state. On the 3rd of June 1947 the Lord Mountbatten’s plan of partition was announce to the Indian population. This brought a sigh relief to with the majority of population who couldn’t bare living with one and another anymore.

    Plans were started to separate the two states as best as they can to give the provinces with Muslim majority to Pakistan and the Hindu majority to India. Both Jinnah and Nehru agreed that both the Punjab and Bengal was needed to be divided because of its religious diversity. The next morning after partition was announce the date of Independence was brought back from June 1948 to August 1947 by the British government. This gave Lord Mountbatten a short space of time to divide up India. There was one crucial matter which was where was the border going to lie. A new border had to be urgently drawn up.

    The task was enormous to equally divide 450,000 km2 of territory with 88 million people with many regions made up equally of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Lord Mountbatten was given only 5 weeks to draw the border up. In the picture below Lord Mountbatten had a calendar which shows the days left till the British government hands India over in his office. On the 8th July 1947 the British government sent a barrister Cyril Redcliffe to help Mountbatten to draw up the border. With the border still being decided, Muslim, Sikhs and Hindus from all regions of India began clear out their neighbourhoods of anyone who was not part of their community.

    When Cyril Radcliff was drawing up the border, Cyril Redcliffe was having trouble with areas which had a balance between the Muslim, Hindus and Sikhs population; on hearing this many groups started to massacres the minorities in order to claim the balance of power. Many villages were attack with the whole population completely massacred. There were a small contingent of British soldiers patrolling the countryside but they were too few to stop the violence between the Hindus and Muslims.

    On August the 14th 1947, Jinnah long dream of Independent Muslim state had been finally realise when Pakistan was declared with Jinnah being named its first prime minister. A day India finally realise its dream when it was handed back from Britain with Nehru being named the1st prime minister of India. The whole of India and Pakistan was celebrating. On the 17th of August 1947 the Redcliffe line was realise to the population of India and Pakistan. These two maps above show how India was divided up after Independence of India.

    Religious minorities who found themselves on the wrong side of the border started to pack what they can carry and headed of to the right side of the border by any means from trains, air, roads, cars and lorries, buses. Seen in the picture below most refugees travelled on foot or on bullock carts which carried their family members or whatever valuables they could grab. The people who decided to leave for the border will leave behind there homes their familles have live for centuries. This exodus lead to the biggest mass migration in history with an estimated 14 million people moved between the 2 countries.

    Many people were attack by armed bandits who were waiting for them on the roads leading to the border. Some refugees manage to get on special refugee trains which took them over the border. As seen in the picture below of a refugee train the trains were packed with people trying to get to the right side of the border. The amount of people on the train made the speed of the train slow which made the refugees easy targets for the arm bandit’s from rival religious groups who waiting for them on railway leading to the border or at the stations.

    Some trains were luck enough to have military escorts but most went alone and was met with inevitable consequences. Many were killed by the arm bandits from rival religious groups who were either waiting for them at the station or had ambush them on the road. It is estimated that 1 million to 2 and a quarter million people died on the road trying to travelling between India and Pakistan. The cause of deaths range from starvation, disease such as cholera, dysentery or were slaughtered by rival religious groups in sectarian violence.

    In the Aftermath of Partition, there have been many riots and killings between the major religious groups in both India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan since have strained religious ties with both unable to maintain normal relations. There have been disputes about the border placement between the two countries especially in the area of Kashmir in the North of India. In total there have been four wars fought between the two countries: • Indo – Pakistani War of 1947: On October the 21st 1947, Pakistani forces supported by local militia groups invaded the Kashmir which was handed to India.

    The United Nation offered a ceasefire between the two countries and the war was ended on December the 31st 1948. • Indo – Pakistani War of 1965: On August the 5th 1965, Local militia groups backed by the Pakistani army invaded Kashmir again. Like the war in 1947 the United Nation offered a ceasefire between the 2 countries and the war ended on September the 23rd 1965. • Indo – Pakistani War of 1971: On December 3rd 1971, The Bengalis in East Pakistan wanted was calling for Independence from Pakistan. The Bengalis were supported by India.

    The Pakistani army in retaliation launched air strikes on villages and towns in India. 13 days later on the 16th the Indian army later captured 13,000 km2 of Pakistani territory which was later returned to Pakistan on the condition that East Pakistan was given its Independence. East broke away from India and was renamed the Bangladesh. • Kargil Conflict of 1999: For the 3rd time on May 3rd 1999, Pakistani troops supported by militants invaded Indian control Kashmir. July 26th 1999 the war ended when the Indian army regain all territory it lost to the Pakistani army.

    Both India and Pakistan are also engaged in a nuclear arms race with both countries having several types Nuclear weapons. In recent times tensions between have reason at some point that both countries which threaten to erupt into a nuclear war. Partition has deepened religious hatred. This hatred has been further engrained in both societies through education and family. Before partition, Hindus had made up 20% of the population of Pakistan. Since Partition ethnic cleansing in Pakistani cities and towns resulted in the rapid decrees of the Hindu population to the point that there are hardly any Hindus in Pakistan.

    The Hindus who remained in Pakistan have been persecuted since. Although a Muslim state was set up many Muslims still stayed in India. Muslims in India have been persecuted and discriminated ever since. There is still on going violence and massacres between the Hindus and Muslims in India. Picture below shows the Mumbai riots of 1993 when a riot broke out between the Muslim and Hindu population. Some believe that one day there will be peace between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.

    Partition of India. (2016, Nov 07). Retrieved from

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