History

The Partition of India and Pakistan – How it happened

“This soiled morning, A morning wounded the night before, What we were waiting for; This isn’t the awaited morning.” Written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz in his famous poem. He was talking about the morning of Independence. Where on one hand, Independence Day was a day to be celebrated in India, on the other hand, the country was ruthlessly partitioned. Between India and Pakistan. “Between August 1947 and March 1948, 4 and a half million Hindus and Sikhs are forced to migrate from Pakistan to India. 6 million Muslims must move in the opposite direction. 10 million people are displaced in the partition of India. 1 million are dead.” But why did this Partition happen? What were the reasons behind it? Come, let’s try to understand this article. If you ask people about the Partition, some people have very exciting stories to tell. A very famous story includes Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Edwina Mountbatten. The three of them studied in the same college in London. The Harris College.

The story goes like this. They were in a supposed love triangle. That’s why Edwina Mountbatten requested her husband, Louis Mountbatten to Partition India into two countries so that both Nehru and Jinnah could be Prime Ministers. An exciting story to be sure. But it’s as authentic as a WhatsApp forward. Because if you think about it even a little bit you’d realise how stupid this story is. Jinnah began studying law in Lincoln’s Inn in 1892. Jawaharlal Nehru was only 3 years old then. And Edwina wasn’t even born. Edwina was born in 1901. And Jawaharlal Nehru began his studies from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1907. And Edwina did not attend college. There are many rumours to be debunked, but let’s keep those stories aside, and let’s talk about documented history. What actually happened? The country was Partitioned on 14th August 1947. But the decision to partition was made months before this. Like on 18th July, the King of Britain approved the plan of Partition when he approved the Indian Independence Act. Before this, on 5th July, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act. But even before this, on 3rd June 1947, Louis Mountbatten announced the plan to partition over the radio. It was known as the Mountbatten Plan. “My first course in all my discussions was, therefore, to urge the political leaders to accept unreservedly the Cabinet Mission Plan of May the 16th, 1946. To my great regret, it has been impossible to obtain an agreement. To live against their will, under a government in which another community has an authority, And the only alternative to coercion is Partition.” Until the very end, there remained only two famous leaders that were completely against the Partition.


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One of them was Mahatma Gandhi, and the other was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Other Congress leaders like Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru had accepted this plan of partition on 3rd June. “Of the British government’s final decision as to how power was to be transferred from British to Indian hands. With reservations, of course, the plan has had a good reception. From Nehru for the Hindus, from Jinnah for the Muslims, and from Sardar Baldev Singh for the Sikhs.” The situation that Sardar Patel was talking about was actually brewing for years at that point. This was the reason why on 1st April 1947, Gandhi met Mountbatten. Desperately trying to avoid the Partition. Gandhi was so desperate to avoid a Partition that he offered the position of Prime Minister to Jinnah. Mountbatten approached Nehru. Nehru said that he did not have any problems with it. And that it was offered to Jinnah before. And Jinnah had already rejected it. And when it was offered to Jinnah again, Jinnah rejected the offer yet again. Jinnah said, To understand Gandhi’s ideas better. For Louis Mountbatten, the entire situation was too new to understand. Because he had become the Viceroy in March 1947. When he came to India for the first time, the then Prime Minister of the UK, Clement Atlee had advised him to try to avoid the Partition. The Viceroy before Mountbatten was Archibald Wavell. He was the Viceroy of India from 1943 to March 1947. You’d be surprised to know, friends, Wavell was actually among the people that were trying to avoid the partition. He didn’t actually want the Partition of India. His Simla Conference and Wavell Plan of June 1945, shows his efforts. Our problem actually began with the Viceroy before Wavell. He was the person that created the problems. Instead of telling you the entire story in reverse, allow me to begin from the start. Many people think that the cause of partition, was that Hindus and Muslims couldn’t coexist. That the cultures of Hindus and Muslims were so different that they, historically, couldn’t remain united. The people that believe this, also believe that the Muslim rulers were all evil. And the Hindu rulers were, historically, all just. Against the Muslims, The wars fought in the Indian subcontinent for centuries were based on religion. But none of these is true, friends. However, it is true indeed that some Muslim invaders were cruel rulers like, But it is equally true, friends, that most of the battles between rulers of that time, weren’t because of religion, instead, they stemmed from greed for power. The kings and emperors fought amongst themselves for their greed for power. There’s more than enough evidence to prove this. Muslim rulers were fighting other Muslim rulers. Like the First Battle of Panipat between Babur and Ibrahim Lodhi. Both were Muslims. Similarly, the Battle of Patan of 1790. Fought between the Marathas and the Rajputs. Similarly, 1576’s famous Battle of Haldighati. Fought between the Mughals and Rajputs, prima facie this seems like a religious battle between Hindus and Muslims, But Akbar’s Army General was Raja Man Singh, a Hindu. On the other hand, one of Maharana Pratap’s Army General was Hakim Khan Suri, a descendant of Sher Shah Suri. While we witnessed religious fanatic rulers like Aurangzeb, On the other hand, we also witnessed several secular rulers like Let’s put aside the talk of erstwhile rulers, what about the common people of the time? There’s a Sufi poet, Amir Khusraw. (a Muslim) He was born in the 1200s. Around 800 years ago. He wrote this about Holi. (Hindu festival celebrated with colours.) Oh, mother, there’s so much beauty and colour today, Oh, Allah, you are everywhere. My beloved’s home is filled with colours. It’s so colourful today. Today, if a poet dares to write something similar, some people’s sentiments will ‘get hurt.’ On the other hand, in the 1400s, there were people like Kabir (a Hindu). Who was equally against extremist Hindus and extremist Muslims. Some worship Rahim (one of Allah’s names) Some worship Ram (a Hindu deity) I, humble Kabir, am a worshipper of love. And I worship them both. And Guru Nanak always stressed about unity among all religions. In the time of Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, in the courts of Mughals, not only Eid, Holi was also celebrated. They referred to Holi as Eid-e-Gulabi. (Festival of Colours) And everyone could take part in Holi celebrations. There used to be a huge fair behind Red Fort. They called Diwali as Jashn-e-Charanga. (Festival of Lights) Think about Tulisdas for a moment. He wrote the Ram Charit Manas. One of the major texts of Hinduism. He did so in the rule of Akbar. Akbar had Ramayan and Mahabharat translated into Persian. Apart from this, the Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, learned Kathak. (An Indian dance form) And he is famously known for staging Krishnaleela. Once, Holi and Muharram (a Muslim festival) happened to be on the same day. And because Muharram is a day of mourning for the Muslims, the Hindus, as a form of respect, said that they wouldn’t celebrate Holi that day. When Wajid Ali Shah came to know about this, he went out and openly celebrated Holi. You’ll find countless examples of Hindu-Muslim unity in our history, friends. But you’re not told about those because a specific section of media and some political parties have based their whole business-models on spreading hatred between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Anyway, let’s move forward with our story. It’ll take hours to list all the examples. So we’ll jump to the Revolt of 1857. It was yet another example of Hindu-Muslim unity. Many Hindu rulers and Muslim rulers fought together against the Company rule. all of them accepted Bahadur Shah Zafar as their commander. After the Revolt of 1857, they Company’s rule over India ended, and British Raj (Rule) was established. But this revolt had scared the British a lot. They were afraid that if more such revolutions took place then their rule would soon be over. That’s why the British Raj adopted their famous policy of Divide and Rule. Remember that this was the time when Advaita Vedānta “Aham Brahmasmi” That everyone’s equal. This feeling of equality was very prevalent among the Indians. To better understand the Divide and Rule policy of the British, we will need to understand the foundation of the Indian National Congress as well. Congress was established with the help of British officer A. O. Hume. He was a very spiritual person. He had written a very daring report on the Revolt of 1857. He had written that because of British atrocities, the Revolt of 1857 actually took place. Because the British were ill-treating the Indians. This British officer had openly criticised the Viceroy. That’s why he was demoted from his rank. Later, he resigned from his job. He wrote his famous poem, Old Man’s Hope. Wherein he was trying to rouse the Indians to demand of a country of their own. To demand an Independent nation. Indian National Congress became a central organisation for Indian Nationalism. Congress demanded that Indians, educated Indians, should be given a greater share in the Government. The Viceroy then was Dufferin. He gave his approval for the first session of Congress. Initially, he wasn’t bothered by Congress. But soon, he realised that the activities that Congress was up to was a threat to the British Raj. So he became wary. He requested Congress to focus their sessions and meetings on non-political social reforms. But the Congress did not give in. So Viceroy Dufferin adopted other techniques to smother the influence of Congress. He approached the rich to ask them to withdraw their patronage from the INC. He made a rule that no government employee could participate in the meetings of Congress. He also considered taking the help of the loyal, pro-British people. One of them was the educationalist, Syed Ahmad Khan. And the other was linguist Shiv Prasad. Both of them were told to start an anti-Congress movement in the country. So around 1887, Syed Ahmad Khan started giving speeches. Then, Congress was demanding that the ICS exams be conducted in India. Indians have a say in the budget made by the British Government. That the Indians could influence the budget, at least to an extent. Syed Ahmad Khan completely opposed all these demands. And advised people to stay away from Congress. Not a big deal. But what matters the most is that this is where he started talking about the Two-Nation theory. He told people that Muslims were in danger. Claiming that the Hindus would start to agonize the Muslims once the British leave. Apart from this, French, Portuguese and German invaders would come to India and abuse the Indians. That’s why, he claimed, it would be better for the Muslims that the Muslims support the British and the British Rule. Though Syed Ahmad Khan had pushed for the modern education of Muslims, in 1875 he established a college that is now known as the Aligarh Muslim University. But his instigating speeches and anti-Congress movement had a severe result. By the early 1900s, a section of elite Muslims in the country believed in this Two-Nation theory very strongly. Because of this, in 1906, All India Muslim League was founded. Obviously, the British wanted to fan the Divide and Rule policy, so the British supported this All India Muslim League as well. All India Muslim League demanded separate electorates for the Muslims from Viceroy Minto. Congress was strictly opposing it. Then, the Congress leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was opposing it too. The same Jinnah that later supported the Partition. But till this point in time, Jinnah was completely against separate electorates. He believed that this will lead to the country being divided into two. By this point in time, people like Sarojini Naidu, considered Jinnah an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. But the British saw another opportunity of using Divide and Rule here. And they approved separate electorates. Giving separate electorates to Muslims meant that there would be some reserved seats for which only Muslim candidates could contest elections And only Muslim voters could vote in that election. The British Raj approved this by the Indian Council Act, 1909. This is also known as the Morley-Minto reforms. But the British didn’t stop here. The Indian Council Act, 1919 was passed later wherein similar representation was given to the Sikhs, Europeans and Anglo-Indians. Their Divide and Rule policy was prospering. More cracks started to form. Among the various religions in the country.


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This led to a small section of Hindus starting to feel paranoid. They started feeling that nothing was being done for them. That their interests are being overlooked. That’s why, similar to the All India Muslim League, a Hindu League was formed. It was named the Akil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha. It was founded by Madan Mohan Malaviya. After this, in 1925, a person named Keshav Baliram established another Hindu organisation. It was named the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The RSS. Where on one hand, some Muslims were believing the ‘Muslims are in danger’ narrative on the other hand, some Hindus started fearing that the ‘Hindus are in danger.’ Another reason behind it was that the history taught in the schools by the British, the history presented to the people, was a distorted version of history. The British showed how the Hindus were resisting the Muslim rulers in history. In 1909, an Indian Medical Service officer, Lieutenant Colonel U. N. Mukherjee wrote some letters in a Kolkata based newspaper. He titled the letters, “Hindus: A Dying Race!” In these letters, he spoke of his fears, about how Hindus were in danger. That the Muslim population was increasing rapidly and that after some years, the Hindu population will dwindle. Same things that we still get to hear from some people even after 100 years. He was afraid that the Muslims would take over the whole country. On the other hand, some Muslims were scared that the Hindus would take over the country. This was the reason, friends, Fear. That in the next few years turned into riots. In the 1920s religious riots started happening between the Hindus and Muslims. These riots weren’t very common initially, The 1920s was the time when the riots started coming to the forefront. What role do Savarkar and Hindutva play here? Why and how does Jinnah take a U-turn later? That finally leads to the Partition. Friends, let’s talk about it in some future episode. I think this is enough for today. Today, you’ve got to know the foundational reasons that led to the Partition. From where did these cracks start forming.