India, in many people’s opinion is a very beautiful, culturally rich, and traditionally country. It is a place with gorgeous grand architecture, fashionable attire, and wonderful people. India is a country in South Asia, with a population of roughly about 1,210,193,422. This is the place where many religions were born, religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism. It is also a place with a very dark history, a tragic experience for hundreds and thousands of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims who were killed in the communal slaughter which accompanied the process and the nearly fifteen million that were made refugees. The partition of India at independence in 1947 into the sovereign states of India and Pakistan is one of the more important events of twentieth-century world history (Robinson, Francis). The partition to date is one of the largest migrations in modern history. It is now acceptable to say that the death toll due to the sectarian division and creation of two separate states, mostly due to religious purposes, is at an astounding 1 million people, with some arguing that it was a million more than that. Why so many deaths? Could this have been prevented? There are a lot of questions that will never find answers, and some that have only been taken at face-value. In this research paper I will attempt to make decent arguments to the effect that by the British dividing the subcontinent into Pakistan and India and separating people by religion, they have ultimately set fire to the fuse of the ticking time bomb that was and still is India. By pitting Muslims against Hindus and eventually getting Sikhs into the mess, the partition has caused numerous deaths, from malnutrition, rape, to even Murder. I will prove that through these circumstances of ‘partition’ countless lives were lost in vain. Everything has a beginning so let us go back in time to the very start.
In 1885, the Indian National Congress (INC) met for the first time. That is the time when the British tried to slit up the state of Bengal because of religion in 1905, the INC lead huge protests against the proposal. That is what started the group of the Muslim League because they wanted to make sure that the rights all Muslims were thought of for their independence in the future. Although the Muslim League started their league to go be against to the INC, and the British government tried to make the INC and Muslim League go against each other, they both came together in the common goal of getting rid of the British hold on India. The INC and the Muslim League at the time thought it was a good idea to send support in the form of over 1 million Indian soldiers to fight in World War I for the British in hope that that would lead them to their independence. After the war there were no talks of independence. In April of 1919, a part of the British Army went to Amritsar, in Punjab, to silence pro-independence discontent. The commander of that unit’s army ordered his men to open fire on the crowd who was not armed; they killed an upward of 1,000 of the independence protesters. When the people of India found out about the massacre a lot of them not wanting to be involved with them politically became supporters of the INC and Muslim League. Sometime in the 1930s, Mohandas Gandhi became one of the leading figures in the INC. Although he encouraged the unification of the Hindus and Muslims in India, to all have equal rights, other INC supporters did not wish to come together as one with the Muslims against the British. Due to that fact the Muslim League started to separate themselves with talks of their own Muslim state.
The Fresh Start of Partition and Independence
World War II sparked a crisis in relations among the British, the INC and the Muslim League. The British expected India once again to provide much-needed soldiers and materiel for the war effort, but the INC opposed sending Indians to fight and die in Britain's war. After the betrayal following World War I, the INC saw no benefit for India in such a sacrifice. The Muslim League, however, decided to back Britain's call for volunteers, in an effort to curry British favor in support of a Muslim nation in post-independence northern India (Szczepanski, Kallie).Even before the war was well over, Britain’s public opinion had swung against the distraction and expense of empire. The then party of Winston Churchill was elected out of office, and the Labour Party, who all for independence was voted in during 1945. The Labour party, after being put into power almost immediately demanded that India be free as well as Britain’s other capital holdings. The Muslim League's leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, started a movement talking of the separation they wanted by having their own Muslim state, while Jawaharlal Nehru, the leader for INC wanted the unification of all of India, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs alike, together as one . With the independence of India close at hand the whole country started toward a civil war. Gandhi pleaded to his people to become united with the Muslims in a sign of peaceful opposition against the British but, the Muslim League held a "Direct Action Day", it was their way of rejecting what was happening and demanding their rights for their own Muslim homeland, which was on August 16, 1946, which was the cause of more than 4,000 deaths of Hindus and Sikhs in Calcutta (Kolkata). This started the “Week of the Long Knives”, violence on a massive scale across many cities in the country where hundreds died on both sides of the groups.
In 1947, the British proclaimed that India would get its independence by June of the next year. Viceroy for India Lord Louis Mountbatten really wanted for the Hindu and Muslims to stop the squabbling and find unity together, he even went as far as to talk with both party leaders but it simply could not be done. The only other person that wanted the same thing as Mountbatten was Gandhi and no one else supported his position. With the people of India, both Muslim and Hindu killing and murdering each other Mountbatten finally supported their decision for the separation and moved the independence date up to August of that year other than next year. The decision about the partition being made and now separation being immanent, the parties now had to decide where the borders for the new states would be, but that was a dauntless mission all on its own. The Muslims lived in two main areas in the north on opposite sides of the country, separated by a mainly Hindu section of country. Also in the north were other smaller religions that were living there as well, like the Sikhs and Christians. The Sikhs protested for a homeland of their own, but their petition was rejected. In the state Punjab there was a huge problem boiling away under the skins of the equally occupied land by the Muslims and Hindus. For they did not want to give up this amazing piece of land, the hatred was evidently growing between the two. The border was laid smack dab in the middle of Punjab, between Lahore and Amritsar. Both sides of people were in a state of panic trying to be on the correct side of the state while others were being driven out of their homes by their neighbors. Millions of people were then forced from their households with the choices of either north or south to go while at least 1 million people were killed in a practical free-for-all. Trains upon trains were filled with many people who were set upon by the military from both sides and all passengers were undiscriminately killed. Women of all years, ethnic groups and societal classes were victimized, tortured and raped; some even were stripped naked and paraded down streets to intensify their trauma and humiliation. In many even more tragic cases, fathers, fearing that their daughters would soon be raped (and converted to another faith), pressured and coerced the girls to commit suicide lest such an event “taint” their family's “honor” and standing in the community -- or they killed their own female relatives themselves (Ghosh, Palash).
On August 14, 1947, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded. The following day, the Republic of India was established to the south. Life after Partition
Since the partition Pakistan and India have fought each other in big three wars, the first of three wars being called the ‘Kashmir’ war in 1947. Due to the fact that Maharaja wanting to side with India. The second war happened in 1965, followed by 1971, Pakistan was dismembered, its eastern part becoming Bangladesh in 1971. Lastly, India and Pakistan’s wars ended with the undeclared war of 1999 known as the Kargil war. With both India and Pakistan still at odds with each other they now both have nuclear weapons that in the future could be used against one another.
My Final Thoughts
As you read in the above, the Muslims were already in cohabitation with the Hindus for quite some time when the British came along. The British Raj took command over India while the Hindus formed the INC (Indian National Congress), while the Muslims started the Muslim League because the British tried to divide Bengal. Thinking that lending their soldiers to the British for World War I was going to get them independence they were afterward disappointed. The then leader of the INC, Gandhi wanted to unify all of India together, was denied that dream when the Muslim League instituted their ‘Day of Action’ where they got into it with the Hindu and even killed Sikhs. The Independence Day came where they created Pakistan and millions of people were forced to go on the largest migration the world has ever seen, also where arguably 1 million people were killed, including the 75-80,000 women who were raped and killed. So until this very day people in Pakistan and India carry on this ancient grudge from the partition days of 1947, with already three wars and one undeclared war under their belts some one would think that with all the things that they went through this would be the time for rest, reconciliation, or at least a chance to leave each other be. But this is far from the truth. Those people who came up with the ‘partition’ idea really messed up by instituting this separation. By making this division they have probably pinned these two set of people against each other for a very long time. When the Hindus think about the partition they will only think about the fact that it was the Muslims fault and vice versa due to the fact that they were the reason for the partition at least in each other’s eyes. In this right you can see why so many people were killed and murdered for no good reason at all. This separation made them see that their differences were so huge, it played on how big their religion is because that is how they were separated and most of the poor Sikhs as you
read were pulled into the mess also for no good reason as well just because they were thought to be on a certain ‘side’. The loss of life due to this horrible decision is just so staggering and astounding that it shocks many until this day. Meaningless violence that took many lives, which they still argue about the number of the people that died because I feel maybe they either don’t want it to look so bad or maybe they don’t even know how many individuals lost their lives, or their loved ones. A great number of the death also came from suicides of people who couldn’t handle what had happened to them. For women who their families worried about them getting violated, the women who did get raped and tortured who could no longer take the unspeakable acts that happened to them. For both India and Pakistan, the greatest skirmish unsettled since partition has troubled the previous Princely State of Kashmir, whose destiny was left undecided at the time the British left. Lying on the border, Kashmir was claimed by both countries, which have been to war over this area on many instances. This struggle has squandered millions of lives and dollars, but is closer to an answer now than at any time since their liberation. What can be done right now? Honestly there is so much bad blood between these two groups I do not think that anything can be done. Nothing can make it right, and nothing can bring back all the lives lost. It is kind of absurd that 66 years have passed and they continue to fight. With all the people that live in India, they are still having wars and now they have nuclear weapons which I believe should not be put in their hands. It will be a huge disaster if they decide that one day they want to use these weapons against each other. Pakistan and India might never find peace but I would hope that other places can learn from the decisions made, from the casualties lost, and from the still, lifelong feud going on. Lastly, the way the loss of life could have been prevented or even hugely reduced, would have been to not have the partition but to maybe make some kind of
legislation or laws against those to retaliate with violence against each other. They possibly come up with some kind of committee that would have members from both the Hindu side and the Muslim side that could work together and enforce the new legislation. Maybe if they had something like this in the beginning it would have not been taken to this extent. In the end lots have lost their lives in vain, yes they have, for how long, no one can tell, all I can say is I hope everyone can learn from the partition, learn that they should look past religion and just remember that we are all human beings.
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