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History of Pakistan Partition of India

Toward Partition

The first proposal for a totally separate Muslim homeland was made in 1930 by the Punjabi philosopher-poet Dr Alama Mohammad Iqbal. Simultaneously a group of Muslim exiles at Cambridge University led by Chaudhri Rahmat Ali coined the name Pakistan, meaning ‘Land of the Pure, and supposedly an acronym of Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, Sind and –Stan meaning ‘land’.

Britain in 1935 declared that provincial governments should be chosen by Indian voters, and Congress (headed by Jawaharlal Nehru) did well in the elections. By the time WW II ended India independence looked inevitable, though Muslims, ignored by the Congress, began to wonder if they could possibly get a fair deal, British proposal for autonomous Muslim regions were rejected by Jinnah, who persuaded the League in 1940 to pass the so-called Lahore or Pakistan Resolution, in essence demanding a separate Muslim State.

Subsequent elections showed the Country  splitting along religious line. Dialogue grew strident and Hindu-Muslim violence began to escalate. The League called a Direct Action Day on 16 August 1946. but a massive show of Muslim solidarity degenerated in Calcutta into riots in which some 4000 people died. Britain, unable to bring the two side together and desperate to avoid a slid into civil war, Proposed an interim non-British government but Jinnah refused to serve alongside Nehru. And the killings spread. In February 1947 the British appointed a new viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and announced that independence would come by June 1948.

Mountbatten, reluctantly concluding that a separate Muslim state was unavoidable,  secured agreement for a patchwork of elections and legislative agreements in which all provinces and princely states would choose to join India or Pakistan. The Punjab and Bengal, with large population of both Muslims and Hindus, also had to decide whether to split in two (which they did). Mountbatten also moved the hand-over date forward  14 August 1947, leaving just 10 weeks. Events went into overdrive.


The Radcliffe Line

An urgent problem was defining a boundary through the thoroughly mixed Muslim- Hindu areas of the Punjab and Bengal. Clearly no line would leave Muslims on one side and all Hindus on the other. A commission was formed, consisting of the English jurist Sir Cyril Radcliffe and judges from both countries-to-be, the latter’s claims were so outrageous that Radcliffe had to do it all himself – in about seven weeks. Though he did his best, the result was a disaster.

The subcontinent was carved into a central, mainly Hindu region retaining the name India, and a two-part Pakistan. The main problem was the Punjab, which included Muslim Lahore and the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, and was about 30% Hindu. When Radcliffe’s line was announced, Muslims fled one way across it and it and Hindus and Sikhs the other, some six million in each direction, probably the biggest population transfer in history, in riots and hideous massacres on both sides, some where between 200,000 and a million people were killed.

Ironically, 60 million Muslims remained in India and over 10 million Hindus staved in east Pakistan, and even today India has one of the world’s biggest Muslim populations. The bulk of Pakistan’s Mohajirs or refugee-immigrants settled around Karachi.


An awkward problem was the existence of hundreds of old princely states with direct allegiance to Britain, who theoretically stood to regain their sovereignty. Most were coaxed one way or the other but a few, including Hari Singh, Hindu Maharajah mainly Muslim Kashmir ,(properly Jammu & Kashmir) delayed for months after the hand-over date, hoping to remain free of both.

At the end of October 1947, with negotiations underway between Kashmir Muslim leaders and the state’s Prime Minister, sheikh Abdullah, a band of Pashtun Afridi tribesmen invaded Kashmir proclaiming jihad or holy war. Having heard (some say from Jinnah himself) that the maharajah was about to do a deal with India. This he promptly help. Mountbatten accepted Hari Singh’s decision, provided the Kashmiri people were eventually consulted in a popular referendum. Had they voted then, it’s likely they’d have chosen Pakistan.

Nehru (himself a Hindu Kashmiri) flew troops into Kashmir, Pakistan sent its own, and the two countries went to war. Muslim soldiers arrested the Kashmiri governor of Gilgit and demanded to join Pakistan. A United nations cease-fire in January 1949 gave ach country a Piece of Kashmir to administer, pending a popular vote; Pakistan got the Gilgit Agency, Baltistan and the western rim of the Vale of Kashmir. India got the rest, including Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley. More than four decades later that temporary arrangement looks fairly permanent.

India, in 1953, toppled and jailed Sheikh Abdullah, and has since then evaded the matter of the referendum. The unresolved question of whom, if anyone, Kashmir belongs to continues to drown out all other aspects of India-Pakistan relations. The UN’s strong actions against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait stands in contrast to its inaction over Kashmir, and this ia a source of great resentment in Pakistan today.

History of Pakistan
British Times
Pakistan After Independence


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