About Us  :  Online Enquiry


Shaping the Newly Independent India

Introduction [Shaping the Newly Independent India ]

  • “Partition” – the division of British India into the two separate states of India and Pakistan on August 14-15, 1947 – was the “last-minute” mechanism by which the British were able to secure agreement over how independence would take place.
  • At the time, few people understood what Partition would entail or what its results would be, and the migration on the enormous scale that followed took the vast majority of contemporaries by surprise.
  • The main vehicle for nationalist activity was the Indian National Congress, whose best-known leaders included Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
  •  Even before the 1940s, it had long argued for a unitary state with a strong centre; even though Congress was ostensibly secular in its objectives, organisations representing minority interests increasingly viewed this idea with suspicion, believing that it would entrench the political dominance of Hindus, who made up about 80% of the population.

Partition and its aftermath [Shaping the Newly Independent India ]

  • The initial few years of independent India were full of daunting challenges and concerns regarding national unity and territorial integrity of India.
  • Freedom came with Partition, which resulted in large scale communal violence and displacement and unprecedented violence challenged the very idea of a secular India.
  • Independent India faced three kinds of challenges:
    • The first and immediate challenge was to shape a nation that was united, yet accommodative of the diversity in our society. Due to the large landscape, different cultures with different regions and religions, variety of spoken languages, many people widely believed that a country with such amount of diversity could not remain together for long.
    • The second challenge was to establish democracy. India adopted representative democracy based on the parliamentary form of government. These features strived to ensure that the political competition would take place in a democratic framework. The challenge was to develop democratic practices in accordance with the constitution.   (Shaping the Newly Independent India )
    • The third challenge was to ensure inclusive development and well-being of the entire society. Due to the widespread poverty, the real challenge now was to evolve effective polices for economic development and eradication of poverty.

Mountbatten Plan [Shaping the Newly Independent India ]

  • Lord Mountbatten (India’s last viceroy) proposed a plan in May 1947 according to which provinces were to be declared independent successor states with the power to choose whether to join the constituent assembly or not.
  • On 20 February l947, Prime Minister Atlee announced in the House of Commons the definite intention
  • To affect the transference of that power Atlee decided to send Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy to India.
  • Lord Mountbatten armed with vast powers became India’s Viceroy on 24 March 1947.
  • Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan appeared inevitable to him.
  • After extensive consultation Lord Mountbatten put forth the plan of partition of India on 3 June 1947.
  • The Congress and the Muslim League ultimately approved the Mountbatten Plan.

Demarcation Of Boundaries

  • A very important task at hand was demarcation of boundaries. After 3rd June plan of Mountbatten a British jurist Radcliff was invited to fix the problem and to form two boundary commissions one for Bengal and one for Punjab. Four other members were also there in commission but there was a deadlock between Congress and Muslim league. On 17th August, 1947 he announced his award.
  • Limitation of this award:
  • Justice Radcliff had no prior knowledge about India.
  • He had no specialized knowledge needed for the task also.
  • He had no advisors and experts.    (Shaping the Newly Independent India
  • 6 week deadline that Radcliff had was also a limitation of this award.
  • It was decided to follow the principle of religious majorities which means that areas where the Muslims were in majority would make up the territory of Pakistan. The remaining was to stay with India.

Consequences Of Partition

  • Partition triggered riots, mass casualties, and a colossal wave of migration. Millions of people moved to what they hoped would be safer territory, with Muslims heading towards Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs in the direction of India. As many as 14-16m people may have been eventually displaced, travelling on foot, in bullock carts and by train.
  • The government of India was successful in providing relief and in resettlement and rehabilitation of nearly six million refugees from Pakistan. A department of rehabilitation was created. Various refugee camps were set up some notable being camp at Kurukshetra and Kolwada camp at Bombay. Many of the Hindus and Sikhs fleeing West Punjab were directed by the government of India to refugee camp in Kurukshetra. A vast city of tents had grown up on the plain, to house waves of migrants, sometimes up to 20,000 a day. Kurukshetra was the largest of the nearly 200 camps set up to house refugees from West Punjab. While there were five refugee camps in Mumbai for refugees from Sindh region.
  • Estimates of the death toll post-Partition range from 200,000 to two million. Many were killed by members of other communities and sometimes their own families, as well as by the contagious diseases which swept through refugee camps. Women were often targeted as symbols of community honour, with up to 100,000 raped or abducted.   (Shaping the Newly Independent India )
  • Another unforeseen consequence of Partition was that Pakistan’s population ended up more religiously homogeneous than originally anticipated. The Muslim League’s leaders had assumed that Pakistan would contain a sizeable non-Muslim population, whose presence would safeguard the position of Muslims remaining in India – but in West Pakistan, non-Muslim minorities comprised only 1.6% of the population by 1951, compared with 22% in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Interesting Facts About Partition Of India

  • The Indian Government had estimated that about 14.5 million people would be displaced during the partition.The partition caused the largest mass migration in human history.
  • In 1941, Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan had a 46.7 per cent Hindu population, who fled the city during and immediately after the partition.
  • Around the same time, Delhi’s entire population included one-third Muslims, most of whom were displaced in 1947.   (Shaping the Newly Independent India )
  • The borders of Pakistan were drawn up two days after partition, on August 17th of 1947.
  • As of August, 1947, the subcontinent was divided into parts lying in 4 different countries, some of which are still under dispute after 70 years, most notably the state of Kashmir.
  • During the iconic pre-independence speech by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of free India, in Delhi, the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, was watching the Bob Hope movie ‘My Favourite Brunette’ with his wife.
  • Kingsway Camp, Delhi’s largest refugee camp at the time, was home to about 300,000 people, when at its maximum.
  • Disney films were screened in some of the refugee camps, with as many as 15,000 people watching.
  • As Hindu, Muslim and Sikh vigilantes hurt all sides killing and maiming at all sides, British soldiers were confined to their barracks. They had been ordered by Mountbatten to save only British lives.
  • The Father of the Nation, Gandhi was not present in Delhi during the partition. Instead, he was in Calcutta, on August 15, 1947, where he prayed, confronted rioters and worked with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy to stop the communal killing.
  • Ever wonder why Pakistan got Independence on the 14th and India on the 15th of August? Mountbatten wanted to personally attend both Pakistan’s and India’s Independence ceremony.
  • Astrologers were consulted to take out an appropriate date for the event. Unfortunately, they could not decide on an auspicious date and thus the midnight of August 15th was decided.
  • After the partition, Pakistan got 1/3rd of the Indian Army, 2 out of major 6 metropolitan cities and 40% of the Indian Railways lines.


Mussoorie Times

Send this to a friend