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India-Pakistan Partition 1947

The Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 into two postcolonial states of India and Pakistan was a cataclysmic event, accompanied by unprecedented genocidal violence and one of the largest displacements of people in the twentieth century. Lord Mountbatten had told the Congress that Pakistan was not viable and would collapse within six months. To ensure that outcome, As Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck has testi?ed [John Connell, Auchinleck, London, Cassell, 1959, pp. 920, 921], the India’s Cabinet was doing everything in its power to prevent the establishment of Pakistan on a ?rm basis. Had India not withheld the strategic and ?nancial assets of Pakistan, relations would have been based on cooperation.

The Partition was a climax within a pattern of recurrent violence in the name of Hindus and Muslims for several generations before 1947, a pattern that recurs at lower intensity continually. The sense of difference between the religiously defined social categories began in the medieval period -- though the Mughal period saw wide-ranging cooperative activity too. The colonial period saw a major change of phase, with heightened insecurities amidst large changes in polity, economy, and society, and the rise of influential institutions for religious revival on both sides.

Some saw the War of Independence in 1857 as an open manifestation of the Muslim spirit of revolt against the domination of the British Government and its stooges in India. Frustration and lack of direction, however, pervaded the rank of Muslims after the unfortunate failure in the War. The decades following the Sepoy Rebellion were a period of growing political awareness, manifestation of Indian public opinion, and emergence of Indian leadership at national and provincial levels.

At this critical moment Sir Syed Ahmed Khan came to the rescue of the Muslims and served as a beacon light for the Muslims in distress and disarray. He equated education with power and declared that the Muslims could improve their political, social and economic condition only through the medium of modern and scientific education. He cultivated the concept of a separate Muslim Nation on the basis of religion, culture and history. He inspired the Muslims of the sub-continent to demand a separate homeland where they could arrange their lives and affairs of the State according to the dictates of Holy Ouran and Sunnah.

Inspired by the suggestion made by A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant, seventy-three Indian delegates met in Bombay in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress. By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization, its achievement was undermined by its singular failure to attract Muslims, who had by then begun to realize their inadequate education and underrepresentation in government service. The All-India Muslim League was founded in 1906 to promote loyalty to the British and to advance Muslim political rights. Maulana Hasrat Mohani presented a plan to the Government for the country envisaging two separate states for the Hindus and Muslims.

In August 1917, Edwin Montagu, the secretary of state for India, made the historic announcement in Parliament that the British policy for India was "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." The means of achieving the proposed measure were later enshrined in the Government of India Act of 1919, which introduced the principle of a dual mode of administration, or dyarchy, in which both elected Indian legislators and appointed British officials shared power.

Sikhs played so important a role in the British Indian Army that many of their leaders hoped that the British would reward them at the war's end with special assistance in carving out their own nation from the rich heart of Punjab's fertile canal-colony lands, where, in the "kingdom" once ruled by Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), most Sikhs lived. Since World War I, Sikhs had been equally fierce in opposing the British raj, and, though never more than 2 percent of India's population, they had as highly disproportionate a number of nationalist "martyrs" as of army officers. A Sikh Akali Dal ("Party of Immortals"), which was started in 1920, led militant marches to liberate gurdwaras ("doorways to the Guru"; the Sikh places of worship) from corrupt Hindu managers. Tara Singh (1885-1967), the most important leader of this vigorous Sikh political movement, first raised the demand for a separate Azad ("Free") Punjab in 1942. By March 1946, Singh demanded a Sikh nation-state, alternately called "Sikhistan" or "Khalistan" ("Land of the Sikhs" or "Land of the Pure").

The concept of a separate Muslim "nation" or "people," qaum, is inherent in Islam, but this concept bears no resemblance to a territorial entity. At the 1928 session of the Indian Congress, Jinnah proposed the creation of three “designated Islamic states” - Sind, Baluchistan, and the Northwest Frontier Province - within a future independent Indian federation. The proposal for a Muslim state in India was first enunciated in 1930 by the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, who suggested that the four northwestern provinces (Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, and the North-West Frontier Province) should be joined in such a state. Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal proposed the ‘two-nation theory’ for the first time in a meeting at Allahabad on 29 December 1930. He clearly said that the Punjab, NWFP, Sindh , Balochistan and kashmir should be amalgamated into a single state which will bring to India an internal balance of power. “The creation of autonomous states is the only possible way to secure a stable constitutional structure for India”, he had said.

The idea proposed initially by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Cambridge student, was published in a pamphlet in 1933. This pamphlet was published by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as Founder of Pakistan National Movement and circulated from 3, Humberstone Road, Cambridge, England on January, 28, 1933 to the members of Round Table Conference. Choudhary Rahmat Ali coined the name Pakstan (later Pakistan), on behalf of those Muslims living in Punjab, Afghan (North-West Frontier Province), Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan. Alternatively the name was said to mean "Land of the Pure." The text of the letter and pamphlet “Now or Never” was reproduced by Mr. G. Allana in his compilation titled “Pakistan Movement: Historic Documents”. In this document, a map of India has also been published showing the subcontinent split into different states, named as Pakistan, Guruistan, Usmanistan, Bangsamistan, Hindoostan comprising of Rajistan, Khathiwar, Maharashtra, Rajistan and Dravidia.

By the time the Government of India Act of 1935 was enacted, the rift between the Congress and the Muslim League had become unbridgeable as each pointed the finger at the other acrimoniously. The Muslim League disputed the claim by the Congress to represent all people of India, while the Congress disputed the Muslim League's claim to voice the aspirations of all Muslims.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Western-educated Muslim lawyer, persuaded the participants at the annual Muslim League session in Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu. Although the idea of Pakistan had been introduced as early as 1930 at Allahabad, very few had responded to it. However, the volatile political climate, the personal hostilities between the leaders, and the opportunism of Jinnah transformed the idea of Pakistan into a popular demand. On December 5, 1938, The Times of London carried an article entitled ‘Federation in India’ in which Muslims were said to be ‘again toying’ with the creation of a ‘Pakistan’ in the Muslim-majority provinces.

On 22 March 1940, one day before the Lahore Resolution was moved at the Muslim League session, and when the session had already begun its deliberations, the Supreme Council of the Pakistan National Movement assembled in Karachi. Rehmat Ali’s address to the Council was later published as a pamphlet by the movement, with the title of The Millat of Islam and the Menace of ‘Indianism’. The pamphlet bears no date, but the covering letter with which it was circulated has ‘August 15, 1941’. Bengal, with its hinterland of Assam, was to the Muslims the ‘Bang-i-Islam’. Like Pakistan, it, too, had a Muslim majority. Usmanistan (Hyderabad, Deccan) was a princely state, not a part of British India. Yet it was ‘a part of our patrimony’, and its future was inseparably bound up with that of the millat. Pakistan, a Muslim Bengal and a sovereign Hyderabad would form three independent Muslim nations in South Asia. Chaudhry Rahmat Ali would not only create the three independent states of Pakistan, Bangistan, and Usmanistan but would also have seven Muslim Nations settled in the Hindu region in their own territory which would be proportionate to their population and all these would constitute the Pak Commonwealth. Chaudhry Rehmat Ali called for the integration of Muslims into ten countries, Pakistan, Bangistan, Osmanistan, Siddiqistan, Faruqistan, Haideristan, Muistan, Maplistan, Saristan, Nasarastan and then to be coordinated into a Pak Commonwealth of Nations.

In August 1942, Gandhiji started the 'Quit India Movement' and decided to launch a mass civil disobedience movement 'Do or Die' call to force the British to leave India. The movement was followed, nonetheless, by large-scale violence directed at railway stations, telegraph offices, government buildings, and other emblems and institutions of colonial rule. There were widespread acts of sabotage, and the government held Gandhi responsible for these acts of violence, suggesting that they were a deliberate act of Congress policy. However, all the prominent leaders were arrested, the Congress was banned and the police and army were brought out to suppress the movement.

Unlike the uncooperative and belligerent Congress, the Muslim League supported the British during World War II. While the British reaction to the Pakistan demand came in the form of the Cripps offer of April 1942, which conceded the principle of self-determination to provinces on a territorial basis, the Rajaji Formula (called after the eminent Congress leader C.Rajagopalacharia, which became the basis of prolonged Jinnah-Gandhi talks in September 1944), represented the Congress alternative to Pakistan. The Cripps offer was rejected because it did not concede the Muslim demand the whole way, while the Rajaji Formula was found unacceptable since it offered a "moth-eaten, mutilated" Pakistan and the too appended with a plethora of pre-conditions which made its emergence in any shape remote, if not altogether impossible.

These belated but perhaps sincere British attempts to accommodate the demands of the two rival parties, while preserving the unitary state in India, seemed unacceptable to both as they alternately rejected whatever proposal was put forward during the war years. As a result, a three-way impasse settled in: the Congress and the Muslim League doubted British motives in handing over power to Indians, while the British struggled to retain some hold on India while offering to give greater autonomy.

At the conclusion of the Second World War, the Labour Party, under Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee, came to power in Britain. The British state, devastated by war, could not afford to hold on to its over-extended empire. The Labour Party was largely sympathetic towards Indian people for freedom. The most delicate as well as the most tortuous negotiations took place during 1946-47, after the elections which showed that India was sharply and somewhat evenly divided between two parties - the Congress and the League - and that the central issue in Indian politics was Pakistan. These negotiations began with the arrival, in March 1946, of a three-member British Cabinet Mission. Because the Congress-League gulf could not be bridged, despite the Mission's (and the Viceroy's) prolonged efforts, the Mission had to make its own proposals in May 1946. Known as the Cabinet Mission Plan, these proposals stipulated a limited center, supreme only in foreign affairs, defense and communications and three autonomous Groups of provinces. Two of these groups were to have Muslim majorities in the north-west and the north-east of the subcontinent, while the third one, comprising the Indian mainland, was to have a Hindu majority.

Page last modified: 16-11-2021 11:44:50 Zulu