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The Cost of Independence

by Natasha Matloob 19 days ago in travel / vintage / quotes / literature / humanity / history / fact or fiction / book reviews
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All About the Indo-Pak Partition and the Migration of 1947

A photograph of the migrations of 1947.

Establishment of British Rule in the Indian Subcontinent

British entered the subcontinent in the 15th century as traders. They established the East India Company to facilitate their trade in the subcontinent. At that time, the magnificent Mughal Empire (a prominent Muslim Empire) was ruling India and the majority of the population was Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. After the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir in 1707, Mughal Empire started weakening due to internal and external issues. English men gradually started interfering in politics and exploiting the resources of India in the name of trade and economic development. In 1857, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs fought a war of independence against the British but due to an untrained army, lack of coordination, and funds, they lost the war. The British became the sole owners of India in 1858 and occupied all the Indian provinces after killing the entire royal family during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was sent into exile.

East India Company was dissolved and the subcontinent came under the direct control of the British Empire. The Indian Government was made answerable before British Parliament. Viceroys were appointed to act as heads of the British government in India. Queen Victoria announced all these sanctions by the Government of India Act 1858. After assuming power, English men took revenge against the local population especially against Muslims because Hindus and Sikhs had presented Muslims as responsible for the war and tensions before the English.

The Exploitation of Resources of the Indian Subcontinent by the British Empire

The British empire unjustly ruled the Indian subjects both Hindus and Muslims, depriving them of their rights, increasing prohibitions on their religious activities, and trying to make them Christians. The educational policies of English were particularly embarrassing for the local population.

The British Empire was ruthlessly exploiting the natural resources of India as well. Raw materials were taken from the Indian colony (like other European colonies) at lower cost and finished products made in the industries of England were sold at higher prices to the native population. In addition, local populations were given no representation in government affairs and policies that directly influenced them. All these factors brought resentment among the local Indian subjects and they started demanding representation and eventually independence from their English rulers.

Awakening in the Local Population

Students from India studying in European universities were influenced by western concepts such as nationalism, democracy, representation, and liberty. Moreover, the Universities of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay were also teaching such radical ideas. These universities were made by the English in 1856.

The local population made their first political party _ the Indian National Congress in 1885 as the representative of the Indian population but in fact, this political party was mainly fighting for the Hindu cause.

On the other hand, Muslim leader Sir Syed Ahmed Khan started his Aligarh Movement to educate Muslims and to create reconciliation between Muslims and English. He made many prestigious institutes for the education of Muslims such as Aligarh College, Scientific Society, Educational Conference, and schools in different cities.

Future leaders such as Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Jinnah, Mr. Allama Iqbal, Mr. Muhammad Ali Johar, and Mr. Jawahar Laal Nehru, etc had completed their higher education in England. All these figures later played a key role in the Independence movement against the British.

Independence Movement

Thus, the native Indian population once again started an independent movement against them.

First, Muslims and Hindus fought together under the flag of the Indian National Congress but later Muslims realized that Hindus are demanding independence on the ideas of European democracy i.e. the ruling majority and if such independence would be given, Muslims will only experience a change of rulers. Thus, they must demand a separate homeland for themselves. Muslims made a separate political party i.e. All India Muslim League in 1906.

The tensions between Hindus and Muslims became increasing. Issues like the Urdu-Hindi Problem (1867), the Division of Bengal(1905 ), and the Cancellation of the Division of Bengal (1911) expanded their differences. British were mainly on the Hindu side because they viewed Muslims as their biggest enemies and had not yet forgotten their defeats in the Crusades of the Middle Ages.

The involvement of England in the World War I and World War II drained its resources. The British Empire was no more capable to rule its colonies. So they decided to give independence to the Indian subcontinent. But, the declaration of independence could not solve the problems of all Indian subjects as the region was divided into two major nations that were poles apart in their religious, social, cultural, economic, and political views.

Division of Subcontinent

The concept of the Two-Nation Theory started getting popular. Muslims were struggling based on the Two-Nation Theory, but Hindus simply denied this fact and were stubborn in not accepting Muslims as a separate Nation. Muslims started the demand for a separate state i.e. Pakistan. They started their separate movement led by Mr. Jinnah for independent Pakistan. A resolution for the creation of Pakistan was passed by Muslims in 1940 which Hindus and the British ridiculed as the “Pakistan Resolution”. Muslims adopted this new term, and the struggle for an independent Muslim state _Pakistan_ increased.

After World War 2, the British suffered major losses, thus they lacked resources to run India. Revolts and tensions were also on increase. Hindus were struggling under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi and their party was Congress Party while Muslims were united under the flag of the Muslim League. Congress, the British, and Sikhs opposed the idea of Pakistan as much as possible but Muslims made no compromise. They were not willing to agree on anything less than an independent state. At last elections of 1945–46 were announced as a plebiscite for the creation of Pakistan. In these elections, Muslims voted Muslim league and the idea of the creation of Pakistan became self-evident.

Boundary Commission

Finally, the British announced to leave India in June 1948 and divide the Indian subcontinent into two independent states i.e. India and Pakistan but some people were still in denial that would they be able to get independence and separated on religious lines. The happiness of getting independence was there but the sorrow of leaving their houses, their assets, and most importantly their sweet memories was also there. In the meantime, sudden news shocked them i.e. the independence was declared nine months earlier i.e. August 1947. This was a terrible blow for the local population as they had made no decisions and preparations for migration as yet. English men gave some very lame excuses for this early partition. Whatever the reasons were, English men wrote the fate of millions of people very hurriedly and the destinies of nations should not be written like that because it could be the matter of life and death for millions. This early declaration caused many problems for Pakistan because they had no time to make a new administrative structure for their new state. As for India, they were inheriting the already existing British administration structure.

Viceroy Lord Mountbatten came to India as the last viceroy to meet with the leaders of different parties. He discussed independence and partition plans with them which came to be known as Mountbatten Plan or the 3 June 1947 Plan. He offered himself to become the Governor-General of both countries. This idea was accepted by Mr. Nehru and Congress Party agreed to make him the Governor-General of India but Mr. Jinnah of the Muslim league disagreed because he was making a state based on the ideology of Islam and according to which the head of an Islamic state must be a Muslim. This and many other reasons caused differences between Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Mountbatten that contributed to the unjust partition of British India.

Map depicting Partition Plan

Punjab and Bengal were the largest provinces of India and both of them had equal numbers of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, thus these provinces had to be divided between India and Pakistan. Now the question arose, who would divide it? A Boundary Commission was made whose head was a British Barrister, Sir Radcliffe. In other words, a person who had never been to India and knew nothing about its history or geography was assigned to draw maps for two states who had struggled for two to three centuries for their independence. Punjab and Bengal were the most agricultural provinces and had a vast system of irrigation and transportation. A single wrong decision could put the economy and development of many people at stake.

Mr. Radcliffe in his Redcliffe award gave the districts of Bengal Murshidabad and Malda (Muslim majority districts) to India and Khulna and Chittagong Areas ( Hindus and Buddhist majority areas) to Pakistan.

Similarly, in Punjab, he made the most important districts like Gurdaspur, Lahore, Amritsar, and Montgomery the most disputed ones.

The Time of Independence

A train carrying migrants in 1947

The summer of 1947 in India was different than usual Indian summers. Perhaps, it had forecast the near future and was giving signals to people to be prepared and ready because something really serious was going to happen. World War II ended 2 years ago. Muslims in the subcontinent had not properly come out of the grief of losing their Caliphate i.e. the Ottoman Empire. People were surprised by the losses and casualties of that war but probably they were unaware that the same chaos was ready to come into their lives too due to early independence and unjust partition. Partition was carried out in such a way that the lives of millions of people were put at stake. The independence for which they had struggled for more than a century was now ready to descend in their lives but unfortunately, they had been demanded a huge price for it. As they all knew that freedom has a price but the price for their independence was set very high far more than their expectations — so large that a large amount is still in debt.

Riots in Punjab and Bengal

Punjab and Bengal were divided into religious lines. West Punjab and East Bengal came under Pakistan’s control. East Punjab and West Bengal were in the Indian Territory. But, there were millions of Hindus and Sikhs in West Punjab so they migrated to East Punjab. Similarly, millions of Muslims from East Punjab migrated to West Punjab. An estimated 14 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims found them in the wrong territories and they had no option left except to migrate.

The long struggle for Independence bore its fruit, but who could enjoy it when the trains full of dead bodies reached the independent states, broken arms, and limbs were scattered here and there in fields and roads. Innocent children were butchered, women were raped, the breasts of pregnant women were cut, their deliveries were carried out in trains, and even newborn was murdered. Thousands of women committed suicide to save their honor; dozens of parents killed their daughters with their hands. The people who survived became psychological patients for the rest of their lives. They were not even able to enjoy the independence for which they had struggled a lot. Surely, they had to pay a very high price for freedom.

The basic right of partition was carried out in such a way that a permanent enmity, hostility, and suspicion still arose between the two states i.e. India and Pakistan. The people who had not migrated at that time are still facing serious problems in India and Pakistan.

Muslims blame Sikhs and Hindus for riots, loot, murders, and rapes. Hindus and Sikhs believe that Muslims were responsible for all that. But the fact is that both sides murdered, both sides raped, and both sides looted. However, facts and figures show that more injustice and massacres were carried out against Muslims before partition and during partition.

As the renowned Urdu Poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz expressed his sentiments about partition and migration in his poem, “Subh e Azaadi".

ﯾﮧ ﺩﺍﻍ ﺩﺍﻍ ﺍُﺟﺎﻻ، ﯾﮧ ﺷﺐ ﮔﺰﯾﺪﮦ


ﻭﮦ ﺍﻧﺘﻈﺎﺭ ﺗﮭﺎ ﺟﺲ ﮐﺎ، ﯾﮧ ﻭﮦ ﺳﺤﺮ

ﺗﻮ ﻧﮩﯿﮟ

ﯾﮧ ﻭﮦ ﺳﺤﺮ ﺗﻮ ﻧﮩﯿﮟ ﺟﺲ ﮐﯽ

ﺁﺭﺯﻭ ﻟﮯ ﮐﺮ

ﭼﻠﮯ ﺗﮭﮯ ﯾﺎﺭ ﮐﮧ ﻣﻞ ﺟﺎﺋﮯ ﮔﯽ

ﮐﮩﯿﮟ ﻧﮧ ﮐﮩﯿﮟ

This stain-covered daybreak, this night-bitten dawn,

This is not that dawn of which there was expectation;

This is not that dawn with longing for which;

The friends set out, (convinced) that somewhere

there would be met with.

The Bloody Migration

A convoy of helpless migrants

The most ironic thing about the partition was that maps and borders were disclosed on 17 August 1947, i.e two days after the independence. People were unaware till the very last minute as to which country they belonged i.e India or Pakistan. And if they were not in the right country, they had the time of only a few hours to pack up and go to their country. One of the largest migrations in human history took place in a such pathetic way.

According to a BBC report,

About 15 million people were displaced during the Indo-Pak migration of 1947.

Unjust Assets Division

Uttar Pradesh(UP) which was the center of the Pakistan movement was also not included in Pakistan.

According to a BBC report,

90% of the subcontinent’s industry, and assets remained in India, including the largest cities of Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta even though there were many holy places of Muslims in Delhi while Pakistan won a poor share of the financial reserves - with 23% of the undivided landmass, it inherited only 17.5% of the former government’s financial assets. Once the army had been paid, nothing was left over for economic development and the economy was dependent only on agriculture.

The Origin of Kashmir Dispute

Giving Pathankot to India, bitter differences were made between India and Pakistan which still have no chances to be recovered, because Pathankot gave way to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India. The conflict in Kashmir is still one of the most important matters of the UN for which unfortunately the UN and all superpowers failed to find any solution. Kashmiri people want to be a part of Pakistan while the Indian army has occupied all of Kashmir unjustly and has been killing millions of Muslims there since 1947. Three wars were fought between India and Pakistan on this issue in 1948, 1965, and 1999 and thousands of civilians and military personnel have been killed on the Line of Control (LoC ).

Recently in 2020, about 474 Muslims were killed by the Indian army in Kashmir according to a report.

Gujrat Massacres

Gujrat came under Indian control. Although, at the time of partition, massacres and riots in Gujrat were lower as compared to Bengal and Punjab. But after the partition, many riots took place in Gujrat,

Massacres and anti-Muslim riots of Muslims were staged here in 1992 and then in 2002 by the largest democracy in the world i.e. India.

According to the New York Times Magazine, Hindus destroyed Babari Masjid in 1992 in the city of Ayodhya. 1000 Muslims were killed in those Massacres and then Chief Minister of Gujrat Mr. Modi (now the Prime Minister of India) is still so unapologetic about those Massacres that he claimed in his interview with the New York Times that his biggest flaw in that crisis was that he was not able to handle media properly.

Muslims are still 15 percent of India’s population. Although there are many disputes between India and Pakistan due to the partition for a better future, these countries need to resolve these issues. Only in this way, peace in the subcontinent in general, and between India and Pakistan, in particular, would be possible.

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Natasha Matloob

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