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India - Overview


Though partition of India broke into history suddenly and ruthlessly, it had been in the making for a long time. Its roots were visible in the Hindu-Muslims riots which started as early as 1881 and the British encouraged the religious conflicts.The formation of the All India Muslim League at Dacca (now Dhaka) in December, 1906, provided a focal point for Muslim political aspirations. In 1937, when the Congress and the Muslim League started working provincial ministries, the rivalry between the two organizations came into the open.

While the Indian National Congress was calling for Britain to Quit India, the Muslim League, in 1943, passed a resolution for them to Divide and Quit. So, when freedom was granted after a protracted freedom struggle under the leadership of Gandhiji, the leader of the Muslim League, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, insisted on claiming a separate state for the Muslim minority.

This demand was preceded by an election in 1937, in which Jinnah's Muslim League could not obtain enough majority to come to power and so he needed another strategy by which to get a loud enough voice in India for the Muslims. It is notable that he had previously supported Hindu-Muslim unity, but after the election his thinking changed and he started to be in favour of a separate Muslim state. In 1947, the Indian subcontinent became the independent nations of India and Pakistan. Pakistan was made up of West Pakistan (along the Indus River plain) and East Pakistan (which is now Bangladesh). Gandhiji was deeply distressed by the partition and said “ My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonistic cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is for me a denial of God.

The Partition of India is one of the biggest catastrophies in the history of South Asia. It led to a massive loss of lives and forced many to evacuate their lands. East and West Punjab, North West Frontier Province, North India and Sind were engulfed in an orgy of violence for months. Mammoth migrations of Muslims from India and Hindus from Pakistan took place, shattering both communities down to their core. Nearly, 5,00,000 people died in the holocaust and 55,00,000 people were forced to migrate from their abodes.

What did the partition lead to ? The ‘communal politics' which was meant to be buried by the partition only assumed more menacing proportions in all the three countries (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). The breakup of erstwhile Pakistan into Pakistan and Bangladesh buried the ‘Two Nation Theory'. Relations with Bangladesh, which was born with help and support from India, are not particularly friendly. Lohia's idea of ‘India-Pakistan' federation stands rejected by the people of both the countries.

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