Indian Independence Day: everything you need to know about Partition between India and Pakistan 70 years on

Source: Telegraph

Indian Muslim boys

Indian Muslim children carry Indian flags as they celebrate on the eve of India’s Independence Day in old Delhi city area, New Delhi, 14 August 2017 Credit: EPA

By Barney Henderson, and agencies

70 years ago, Partition came into effect, dividing British India into two new, independent countries: India and Pakistan.

At midnight on August 14 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, gave a famous speech which hailed the country’s decades-long, non-violent campaign against British rule:

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

However, it soon dawned on the leaders of both countries that the hope and optimism of that night would quickly turn to the harsh realities of how to handle one of the largest mass migrations in modern history and the ensuing communal violence.

As India and Pakistan celebrate 70 years of independence, we look back at how two nations were formed – and the years of bloodshed that followed.

How did Indian and Pakistani independence come about?

The Indian independence movement began in 1857. The early proponents led militant uprisings against British rule, but the leaders of the Indian National Congress, which was founded in 1885, pushed for more rights for Indians in terms of the vast civil service and land ownership.

From the 1920s onwards, Mahatma Gandhi was established as the leader of the Indian independence movement. His belief in civil rights and non-violent struggle inspired a generation. Many inspirational activists came to the fore, such as B. R. Ambedkar, who championed greater rights for the lower castes, that had been treated despicably under British colonial rule.

In 1942, Congress launched the “Quit India” movement. Britain, leading the fight against Nazism in the Second World War alongside 2.5 million Indian troops, promised to grant India independence after the war. Following the Battle of Britain, Gandhi said he would not push for India’s self-rule out of the ashes of a destroyed Britain.

Mahatma Gandhi in 1947 Credit: Royston Leonard / mediadrumworld
However, by the end of the war and with its empire weakened, Britain was unable to resist the overwhelming demand for independence. Both Congress and the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, dominated elections. Further, Clement Attlee, by now Britain’s prime minister, was a supporter of independence.

In a climate of growing communal tensions and pressure from Jinnah, who argued that Muslims should have their own state, the Mountbatten Plan was hastily conceived. It divided British India along broad religious lines. The problem being that there were millions of Muslims living in what would become Hindu-majority India and huge numbers of Hindus and Sikhs living in what would be Muslim-majority Pakistan.

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Categories: Asia, India, The Muslim Times

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1 reply

  1. Dear Mr. Shah
    This article is very superficial and one sided. You of all the people should know that.
    I have never read a more one sided description of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Anyone who wishes to read a non-biased account of Mr. Jinnah should read Professor Stanley Wolpert’s Jinnah of Pakistan. It is a scholarly analysis of Jinnah’ career and achievements and why he gave up his dream of Indian Unity and insisted for a separate homeland for Muslims of India. For years, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was called; “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity”. The title was given by Sarojini Naidu, after the lucknow pact. At that time Jinnah was member of both congress and Muslim league and he greatly helped in mediation between the two parties to come on a common ground.
    Gandhi was in South Africa for 20 years and returned to India in 1915 and was in no hurry to plunge into politics. Gokhale advised him that since Gandhi had been away from the country for long, he must travel across India to understand the country. It was Gandhi’s injection of Hindu nationalism that Jinnah opposed and was the major cause of his leaving the Congress to concentrate his energies on Muslim’s cause. Thanks to Nehru and Gandhi’s refusal to accept an equal partnership in one Federal System that convinced Jinnah that Hindus were not sincere and a separate homeland was the only solution.
    Today’s revival of Hindu nationalism in India, killing of Muslims on the name of Gai Mata – Cow mother, very low class status and terrible socio-economic situation of 250 million Muslims in India is a proof that Jinnah was right to ask for Pakistan.

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