1947 India/Pakistan Gain Independence

Lord Mountbatten

In 1942, Indian Nationalists had spurned the British offer of autonomy within the British Empire. They demanded complete independence. After the Second World War, the British agreed to independence. However, no agreement could be reached between the Hindus and Moslems. Large scale rioting ensued in which thousands died. An accord was finally reached to establish two states: Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan. On August 15th the two new states achieved independence. Millions of refugees were created in both countries..

British India's path to independence was a long and turbulent journey, punctuated by various nationalist movements and a growing demand for self-rule. The Indian National Congress (INC) and the All India Muslim League were two pivotal political forces that emerged during the freedom struggle. While the INC sought a united India post-independence, the Muslim League, under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, advocated for a separate nation for Muslims, expressing fears of marginalization in a Hindu-majority India.

In the early 1940s, communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims intensified, fueled by divergent political aspirations, social frictions, and the divide-and-rule policies of the British. The situation worsened in 1946 following the failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan, which was devised to form a united India with a considerable degree of autonomy for Muslim-majority provinces.

In this volatile context, Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, proposed the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. His plan was accepted by the major political parties and was formally announced on June 3, 1947. This hastily implemented decision led to the drawing of the Radcliffe Line, a boundary demarcation line dividing the provinces of Punjab and Bengal almost arbitrarily, dividing communities, and even homes.

August 14, 1947, marked the birth of Pakistan, with Jinnah as its first Governor-General. India gained its independence a day later, on August 15, 1947, with Jawaharlal Nehru as its first Prime Minister. The joy of independence was marred by the brutal reality of partition, which triggered one of the largest human migrations in history, with an estimated 14-18 million people displaced.

The partition unleashed a wave of communal violence across both sides of the newly drawn borders. Tragic accounts of violence, death, and massive displacement of populations dominate this historical period. An estimated one million lives were lost in the ensuing chaos.

The geopolitical consequences of the partition continue to be felt today, with India and Pakistan often locked in disputes, particularly over the region of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite shared cultural, historical, and social bonds, their relationship has been marked by conflict and suspicion.

The independence of India in 1947 signaled the end of over two centuries of British colonial rule and the emergence of the world's largest democracy. However, the partition that created India and Pakistan remains a painful memory.