The Partition of India: Was a dissolution or an inevitable solution for the people?
The partition of India was one of the hinge events in the history of South Asia. Eventually, came the year 1947, which had given independence to two new nations. People were finally unshackled from the despotic ruling of imperialists, after almost 200 years of British colonial period. After the partition, some nationalists raised questions about the decision of the British pointing that there probably was a better solution than the partition. Many scholars of this generation believe, if partition did not take place, many problems would have emerged, and the existing ones would have aggravated. The pain of migration, current issues like- border conflicts, the refugee crisis, discrimination against the minority, oppressive political ideologies, unauthorized power showdown would not have happened, for instance, would have dictated the territory. Many leaders were not in support of partition. The partition of India and the creation of Pakistan have been the subject of fierce but lively historical debate. Various theories have been invoked to explain why in the process of dismantling their raj, the British partitioned India along ostensibly religious lines (bose & Jalal, 2004). Many scholars still argue about the conspiracy of the British Raj. There was no other option as two basic strands emerged from the maze of events during the last two years of British rule which increased communal violence and culminated in freedom, so it led tortuous negotiations between British, Congress, and League statesmen (Sarker , 2014). Sabriya Sayeed, a scholar from Somerville College, argued that the partition that brought freedom was undefined and hazy (Saeed, 2018). Moreover, Prof Rajmohan Gandhi also considers the partition as a matter of regret, believes that there were other doors than partition to reach independence. According to him, the partition, on the other hand, caused pain and continues to cause pain (Gandhi , 2018). But most of the people of India, Pakistan, and East Pakistan (currently Bangladesh) favored the decision of Partition being exhausted by the recurring communal riots. However, from the late 1980s, historical inquiry on the Partition shifted its focus from the ‘national’ to the ‘provincial’ arena of high politics (Roy, 2012). The Daily Star has published an article in this regard explaining the overview of partition and the inevitability of partition (Huda, 2020). The Economic Times also published an article regarding why partition was a good thing and explains: Had the British left without Partition, Hindu-Muslim antagonism would have escalated into civil war, leading ultimately to an even bloodier Partition. The civil war would have converted India into a hotbed of Hindu communalism and violence, with secularists sidelined as traitors or worse. Partition, warts, and all have been a better outcome (Aiyar, 2012).This research represents the perspectives, thoughts, and the reactions of the historians about the division of the Indian Subcontinent. The study argues that the prevalence of unity between Hindu and Muslim was not possible. It also represents that the consequences like – civil war, more ‘Direct action day’, several riots and massacres would have happened if the partition did not take place. This study provides a re-evaluation of the events taking place between 1946 and 47, focusing on the political and social process that led to the demand for partition, claiming that the partition was not only inevitable but also desirable for many people.
The curated pieces of information were retrieved from articles, books, and reliable websites. In this research paper, extensive and detailed data have been provided to clarify the historical context of partition. Ergo, the data and information will depend on the historical sources
On 14-15 August 1947, people finally got to freely voice the long-aspired slogans: ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and ‘Jay Hind’. It was as if the most desirable day for countless people, which came at the expense of millions of lives. The first aspect to be highlighted about Partition is the fact that it not only factorized the losing of many lives but also the many people’s migrating from one country to another. On 23 April 1947, the Amrita Bazar Patrika published a poll about the partition of Bengal in Calcutta. The poll asked: “Do you want a separate homeland for Bengali Hindus?” The responses from 99.6% Bengali Hindus were for the partition, whereas the responses from only 0.6% were against the division of Bengal province. Also, 0.4% of Muslims had voted in favor of the division of Bengal. The result of the poll was the collective reflection of the masses’ opinions. Based on that, it claimed that the people of the Indian Subcontinent wanted a separate land.
The Congress became an important part of India, the Muslim started to fear of Hindu domination, and they started demanding an independent state of their community. The Muslims were concerned that they would be vulnerable in a post-colonial Hindu majority country. The remarkable political unity of early 1946 quickly degenerated into serious division and conflict. By late 1946s, the emerging question was that how power would be shared among Indians once the British quit (bose & Jalal, 2004). Nationalism shifted within years, political and social movements began. Gradually, the movements changed into riots, violations, and mass killings. The great Culcutta killing and Punjab Genocide, for instance, are remarkable incidents portraying the destruction that took place just a year before the partition. Thousands of Muslims gathered in the center of Culcutta with the demand of a separate territory. A witness of ‘Direct Action Day’, Golok B. Majumdar, shared his experience of that day. How the situation became worse, saw his neighbor’s head was cracked and he was bleeding. The only word he could listen ‘Narya Taqbir, Allah Akbar’. The Muslim and Hindu slaughtered people from the other’s community. Thus, the whole city erupted unforgettable communal violence (BBC, 2013). Bengal was the only province where Jinnah was in power. Because 54% of Muslims represented the majority, whereas only 44% of the entire population was Hindu. In October 1946, the Muslim peasants attacked the Hindu landlords in Noakhali and Tripura district. The Hindus perpetrated violence against the Muslim minority in Bihar to take revenge (bose & Jalal, 2004, p. 150) However, after that, the Hindus did not want to stay under the Muslim majority. Joya Chatterji attributes a central role to elite Bengali Hindus in spearheading the campaign that led to the fateful division of the province in 1947. She argues, the public demands for partition and a separate “homeland for Bengali Hindus” (Chatterji , p. 168).The Bengal province had to be divided, thus it later divided the whole nation. Moreover, Congress thought the problem might be solved after independence. Being blind or adamant, leaders were not taking the Muslims’ demand seriously. But the rising issues and popular action made the continuance of British rule untenable and the Congress leaders clung to the path of negotiation and compromise, and eventually even accept Partition as a necessary price; and the limits of popular anti-imperialist movements made the truncated settlement of August 1947 possible (Sarker , 2014, p. 372)
The topics surrounding partition remain controversial to date, as many people opposed the ideology of partition and raised questions about it. Even Mahatma Gandhi did not enthusiastically react to independence, since he was against the notions of partition. Sabriyah Sayeed, a scholar at the university of oxford, regrets the partition. She argues, the borders are still disputed and Radcliff did not account for the Muslim majority areas of India that were far away from Pakistan. Also, Punjab witnessed an ethnic cleansing identity distorted because of the partition (Saeed, 2018) The research opposed the fact that partition is the cause of ethnic cleansing. However, it was the only way to stop communal riots all over India. Professor Rajmohan Gandhi claimed that demanding partition was linked to India’s diversity, which implies that people with different backgrounds and bloodlines cannot live together under one state. According to him, there might have been doors other than partition to reach independence (Gandhi , 2018). According to Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent Pakistani lawyer, and politician, partition was a “primordial divide”—a divide that is 50 years young and 5,000 years old”. But as opposed to this, the Indian Hindus blamed Jinnah and the Muslim league for the unfortunate but unavoidable vivisection of the subcontinent (Huda, 2020).
What if the British left India without partition? What would have happened? As the tension of conflict between two different religious communities had increased before partition, there was a chance that the antagonism would escalate and, eventually, turn into a civil war. Communal violence between Hindu and Muslim would have still continued, regardless of the British rulers dividing India or leaving it unpartitioned. The civil war would have created more partitions, dozens of new countries instead of two states (India and Pakistan). The partition avoided civil war (Aiyar, 2012) For many people it was desirable, but at the cost of mass killing, communal riots, painful migration, and many other sacrifices that the partition made people make. The partition of the Indian subcontinent can never be a matter of regret.
Partition was mainly the last moment compromise the state authority could make. Presumably, the state was finally done exploring other options. Since many riots and mass killings happened, the leaders, who initially wanted a united India, changed their perspective and accepted that it would never be possible to live in a nation with different religious communities. That being considered, making partition happen was the only viable option. Currently, India and Pakistan are arguably the worst enemies. Look at the Kashmir issue. Predictably, the situation would have been much more difficult if they lived under the same nation. Most importantly, three independent countries – India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – would have never emerged without partition
Aiyar, S. S. (2012). Independence Day: Why Partition was a good thing for India. The Economic Times.
BBC. (2013). India Pakistan Partition Documentary BBC. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZS40U5yFpc
bose, S., & Jalal, A. (2004). Modern South Asia History, Culture, Political Economy. New York: Routledge.
Chatterji , J. (n.d.). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition. Cambridge University Press.
Gandhi , P. (2018). Partition of India Debate. Retrieved from OxfordUnion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2uiKzFLxnE
Hindu Shamhati. (2013). Retrieved from http://hindusamhati.net/news/details/445
Huda, M. N. (2020). Was the Partition of 1947 inevitable? Retrieved from https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/was-the-partition-1947-inevitable-1907993
Partition, I. F. (n.d.). Home Grown . Retrieved from https://homegrown.co.in/article/33836/relive-indias-vote-for-partition-through-its-first-female-photojournalists-lens%20J
Roy, H. (2012). Partitioned Lives: Migrants, Refugees, Citizens in India and Pakistan, 1947-65. Oxford University Press.
Saeed, S. (2018). OxfordUnion. Retrieved from OxfordUnion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0BEhS2FkVE&t=74s
Sarker , S. (2014). FREEdOM ANd PARTITION: 1945–1947. In Modern India 1885-1947 (p. 372). Dorling Kindersley .