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Partition of India

India received independence at midnight on 14 of August 1947, as the British Raj came to an end. On the same day, an islamic state Pakistan was born, which was carved out of Punjab and Bengal. The division of India into two parts, in spite of the unwillingness of Mahatma Gandhi, is known as the Parition of India. Sir Cyril Radcliffe did the carving in five weeks, and the demarcation on the map came to be known as Radcliffe Boundary Award. The partition of India led to an unprecedented transfer of a large number of people and rendered ten million homeless. Such a scale of migration of population is not known until now in history. An estimated twenty million Hindus left West Punjab and East Bengal, and eighteen million Muslims went to Pakistan. As a result of this mass movement, over half a million people lost their lives in Hindu-Muslim conflicts during migration; there were 22,000 reported cases of rape and kidnapping of women; 220,000 people were declared missing. The data given here is official, and it is difficult to reckon the actual numbers for these inhumane acts.

As a result of the partition of India, two self governing countries legally came into existence at the stroke of midnight on 14-15 August 1947. The ceremonies for the transfer of power were held a day earlier in Karachi, which was the capital of Pakistan during that time. The reason for an earlier ceremony in Karachi was to allow the last British Viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, to attend both the ceremony in Karachi as well as the ceremony in Delhi. Pakistan celebrates Independence Day on 14 August, while India celebrates it on 15 August.

Mountbatten Plan

The actual partition of India into two new dominions was done according to what is known as the 3rd June Plan or Mountbatten Plan.

The border between India and Pakistan was determined by a British government official. The commissioned report for the partition of India was referred to as the Radcliffe Award. It was named after the London lawyer, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who wrote it. An islamic state, Pakistan came into existence with two non-contiguous enclaves. The first being East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and the second being West Pakistan. Both the enclaves were separated geographically by India. India was carved from the majority Hindu regions of the colony, and Pakistan was carved from the majority Muslim areas.

On July 18, 1947, the Indian Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament that finalized the partition of India. The Government of India Act 1935 was adapted to provide a legal framework for the two new dominions. Following the partition of India, Pakistan was added as a new member state in the United Nations. The union formed from the fusion of the Hindu states assumed the name India, which was automatically granted a seat as a successor of British India. There were 565 Princely States which were not directly governed by British rule, but rather a ruler. After the partition of India, these states were given a choice to join either India or Pakistan.

Perspectives

The Partition of India was a highly controversial arrangement, and still remains a cause of much tension on the subcontinent. British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten has often been accused of rushing the process through, and is alleged to have influenced the Radcliffe Awards in India's favor. Everyone agreed that India being a secular nation would be a more desirable country, as compared to Pakistan, an islamic state. The commission took so long to decide on a final boundary that the two nations were granted their independence even before there was a defined boundary between them. Even then, the members were so upset at their work and its results that they refused compensation for their efforts on the commission.

A large number of critics allege that unprofessional management and haste led to the cruelties during the Partition of India. Independence was declared prior to the actual Partition of India, therefore it was up to the new governments of India and Pakistan to keep public order during the mass exodus from both the regions. No proper plans were implemented for population migration. It was an impossible task to efficiently handle a large movement of people for the newly formed governments on both sides, at which both the states failed. There was a complete breakdown of law and order; leading to many deaths in riots, massacre, or just from the hardships of their flight to safety. What ensued was one of the largest population movements in recorded history. According to Richard Symonds "at the lowest estimate, half a million people perished and twelve million became homeless."

However, some argue that the Britishers were forced to expedite the partition of India by events on the ground. Law and order had broken down many times with much bloodshed on both sides, before the partition of India. A massive civil war was looming in the country by the time Mountbatten became Viceroy. During World War II Britain had suffered, and had only limited resources. The limited resources perhaps were insufficient for the task of maintaining law and order. Probably, Mountbatten had no real options left and he tried to achieve the best he could under difficult circumstances. Historian Lawrence James concurs that in 1947 Louis Mounbatten was left with no option but to cut and run from India. The alternative being getting involved in a potentially bloody civil war which was looming in the country, from which it would have been difficult to get out. Some historians have argued that much of the blame for the massacres lies with the nationalists such as Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi.


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