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Four opinions about the partition of India

Independence for India and Pakistan in 1947 marked a decisive turning point in modem history, the first stage in the decolonisation of Asia and Africa over the next decades. Today, 38 years on, historians, ex-civil servants and politicians of the period are still vigorously debating how and why partition of British India came about. Independence is a highly sensitive topic, rousing emotions of anger, sorrow, patriotism, pride, guilt. The interpretation of events preceding the establishment of two separate Dominions of India and Pakistan has often been strained by special pleading, by the repetition of fixed ideas, or attempts to justify or condemn decisions and policies of the past. Hindsight has sometimes been a substitute for original enquiry. Independence brought keen disappointment, as well as fulfilment for the political leaders. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, were typical of Congress leaders in believing passionately in India's unity. For them, partition was a bitter blow, a tragedy. For Jinnah and other Muslim League leaders, the creation of Pakistan was hardly what had been envisaged when they, demanded a state for the Muslims of India. It was a 'moth-eaten' Pakistan because the two major provinces, Bengal and Punjab, were divided between Pakistan and India on the basis of religion'{— instead of falling to Pakistan. Moreover, tens of millions of Muslims remained in India. Dreadful massacres in the Punjab and Bengal hastened the process of exchange of population, of Hindus and Sikhs out of Pakistan, and of Muslims out of India. Partition left a legacy of bitterness and hatred which goes far to explain the bad relations between the successor states — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Peter Hardy
Mumtaz Hasan
Nirad Chaudhuri
Humayun Kabir
Sage Publications