Pakistan and India celebrated Independence Day last week. It was a time of pride and remembrance including flag-hoisting ceremonies and cultural events, but what was the true cost of Independence from Britain?
In August 1947, two new countries were formed following a non-violent struggle which lasted nearly three decades.
Pakistanis celebrate Independence Day on 14 August and Indians on the following day, 15 August. The reason for the staggered Independence days was so that the British Viceroy at the time, Lord Mountbatten could attend the Independence ceremonies in both newly formed dominions.
The long-awaited agreement in 1947 ended British presence in the subcontinent. Exactly what happened after the Indian Independence Bill?
Partition involved the division of two Indian provinces, Bengal in the East and Punjab in the West displacing between 10–12 million (figures are disputed) people along religious lines and causing the deaths of between one to two million people.
It came to be known as one of the greatest migrations in history as millions of Muslims travelled to West and East Pakistan while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed towards India.
“Rather than being a time of joy and happiness, this time should be used to mourn and grieve the casualties of partition.”
Partition occurred partly due to the two-nation theory formulated by Choudhary Rahmat Ali who was a nationalist and an early advocate for the creation of the Muslim majority state of Pakistan. The name Pakistan comprises of the five Northern units of India. Punjab, Afghan province Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. It should be noted that Bengal was not part of his vision.
Pakistan became a Muslim majority country and India became a majority Hindu but secular country. Pakistan was comprised of two wings, West Pakistan and East Pakistan separated by 1,700 kilometres of Indian territory. After a bloody civil war, East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971.
Rather than being a time of joy and happiness, this time should be used to mourn and grieve the casualties of partition. There were horrendous atrocities carried out by Muslims on the one hand and the Hindus and Sikhs on the other. Including massacres, arson, forced conversions and up to 100,000 women were raped or abducted.
Nuclear Armed Neighbours
India and Pakistan are now nuclear armed neighbours who have gone to war four times. They are still resentful about what happened during partition and over the issue of Kashmir, a princely state which both countries claimed at Independence.
Partition and the Kashmir issue is a reminder of the bloody colonial legacy of the UK. Just like the issue of Palestine it has been a cause of hostility and unresolved animosity for the past 73 years.
So we should remember the victims of partition and mourn rather than celebrate. Everyone has heard of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust but most people are unaware of the comparable Indian subcontinent tragedy.