India divided and thus, birth of Pakistan

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“Partition is bad. But whatever is past is past. We have to look to the future.”So said the Mahatma in his profound wisdom, practicality and strict adherence to ahimsa and non-violence. He was against partition from the very start of negotiations for an independent State for the Muslims carved out of India. He was totally against dividing the country and believed, yes, in his naivety, somewhat, that eventually the Muslims and Hindus would live as brothers, all Indian in India. He was judging man by his standards of universal love and peace among people. Ali Jinnah who demanded a separate nation for his people and the last Governor of India – Lord Louis Mountbatten – pressured perhaps by the Foreign Office in London to draw to a close British Rule in the subcontinent, acceded to Jinnah and convinced Jawaharlal Nehru there was no other way. Mountbatten directed  Clive  Radcliffe to draw the line of partition which was meant to separate primarily Muslim States to the new nation to be created and areas where the populations were more Hindu to remain as Bharatha. The hastily drawn line to meet the deadline of 15 August was a failure and thus the immense bloodshed as Indian attacked Indian: Muslims killed Hindus and Hindus butchered Muslims. Jinnah oversaw the creation of Pakistan but died just a year later on 11 September 1948.

“The partition, outlined in the Indian Independence Act of 1947, saw the establishment of two dominions – the Dominion of India now the Republic of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, now the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which legally came into existence at midnight on August 15, 1947.” Pakistan was in two sections, separated by India: West Pakistan, principally Punjab, where the government and all else important was, and East Pakistan of Bengal and other areas.  In1971, after a war of secession, East Pakistan broke away from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to becomethe People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The name Bangladesh was first used by Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister at the time. India assisted the breakaway; so also to a much lesser degree Sri Lanka under the premiership of Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

“The partition displaced between 10 and 20 million people along religious lines, creating overwhelming calamity in the newly constituted dominions. It is often described as one of the largest refugee crises in history. There was large scale violence, with estimates of the loss of life accompanying or preceding partition, disputed and varying between several hundred thousand and two million. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that affects their relationship to this day.”   Border tension and crossfire occurs and in October 1947 –January 1948 war broke out between the two countries over the princely States of Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter three more armed conflicts occurred: Kargill  1999, 2001-2002, and in 1971.  None were allowed to escalate.

Wonderful cities like Lahore, to name but one, where Muslims and Hindus lived in amity, saw the tearing away of Hindus since Lahore was to be part of Pakistan. There occurred heart breaking separation of families, when certain Hindus opted not to leave their ancestral homes.

The continuing enmity is evidenced in the world of cricket. I remember one series being worked out in India or Pakistan very recently. Otherwise India vs Pakistan matches are always played on foreign grounds, yet the heat is felt in the home countries: high jubilation in the winning country and woe betide the losers. Also booed is a Muslim playing in the Indian team, for instance.

The problem of Kashmir and Jammu, whether a part of Pakistan or India or severely independent, continues with flashes of trouble erupting. Can we blame it all on Jinnah or do the British, represented by the last Viceroy of India – Lord Louis Mountbatten – share the blame?

– Kumari