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Separating Sindh, Connecting Partitions: Territorializing Minority Representation before Partition

The 1947 partition of India is inadequately understood within the context of earlier partitions in the British Indian empire. Sindh, an understudied province in the historiography on partition, provides a particularly important angle of vision through which to view the history of partitioning. The key committees that recommended the shape of constitutional reform in the lead up to the Government of India Act 1935 justified the creation of the new province of Sindh (separated from Bombay) on the basis of religious majority as well as ‘racial’ difference. The debates on the subject of ‘provincial autonomy’ that dominated discussions on the future of constitutional reform at this time threw into sharp focus the question of the territorialization of minority rights and representation. Constitutional deliberations on establishing Sindh as a ‘communally’ defined province were embedded in wider considerations not only of the ‘internal’ redistribution of boundaries on linguistic lines but also the geographical and political severance of certain territories from British India by reason of racial and ethnic difference. Eventually, The Government of India Act 1935 separated Sindh from the Bombay Presidency and established Odisha and Bihar as separate provinces, in addition to enabling a wider process of boundary formation that included the separation of Burma and Aden from British India. The separation of Sindh itself informed nascent ideas of Pakistan and what partitioning Palestine might mean.

Uttara Shahani
Cornell University