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Partition of British India

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Colonial India in 1947, before the partition, covering the territory of modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Partition of British India divided British Indian Empire into the sovereign countries of India and Pakistan (East and West Pakistan) in 1947. That was part of the end of British Raj, British rule in the Indian subcontinent. One reason for partition was the two-nation theory, which was presented by Syed Ahmed Khan and stated that Muslims and Hindus were too different to be in one country. Pakistan became a Muslim country. India became a majority Hindu country and became a nominally secular country in 1974 when the word "secular" was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.

The main supporter for partition was Muhammad Ali Jinnah; he became the first Governor-General of Pakistan.

Map of Pre-Partition Days of India in 1947.

Millions of people moved across the new Radcliffe Line between the two newly formed states. The population of British India in 1947 was about 570 million. After partition, there were 370 million people in India, 170 million in West Pakistan and 30 million people in East Pakistan.

Once the lines had been established, about 14.5 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the safety of their religious majority. The 1951 Pakistani Census showed the number of displaced there at 7,226,600. They were presumably Muslims who had entered Pakistan from India. Similarly, the 1951 Indian Census showed 7,295,870 displaced people, apparently Hindus and Sikhs who had moved to India from Pakistan. Both numbers add up to 14.5 million. Other people came from China to take advantage of the open border.[citation needed]

The newly formed governments were unable to deal with the forced migration of such huge numbers. Massive violence occurred on both sides of the new border.[1][2][3] Hundreds of thousands died; some estimates are in the millions. The Boundary commission was formed by the former British Raj to oversee the Division of British India; its’ duty was to protect the immigrants, and for that matter, they had created temporary camps for the whole population. But, the commission could not cope with this task, and the Muslims who were arriving in the camps were attacked by Hindu and Sikhs; many of them were killed before reaching the camps. Some of the people, including women and children, were burnt alive. The trains were attacked, and the Muslim women and young girls were kidnapped and raped. Some of these girls had to jump into the wells and canals in order to save their Honour and Dignity. In response to these massacres in West Punjab, which was part of Pakistan, riots broke out there, and Hindus and Sikhs who were migrating to East Punjab from Pakistan were avenged. But, the number of lives lost was greater in East Punjab. According to estimates, over 1 million people lost their lives on both sides of the border. In addition to Punjab, the riots also took place in the Muslim neighborhoods of New Delhi; many Muslims were slaughtered. The financial loss of the people on both sides was enormous. The people who had fought for the creation of Pakistan were not only from the Pakistani side but also from Hindu India proper herself. They came mainly from United Provinces, Behar, Central Provinces, Assam, and Dravidian South India. The Muslims in these areas knew that their provinces would not be included in Pakistan; in spite of that knowledge, they sacrificed for the creation of a Muslim homeland. As mentioned earlier, Muslim students from the educational institutions in India particularly from the Aligarh Muslim University contributed a lot along with the Muslim student Federation and the Muslim League guards for the creation of Pakistan. Many times, the students clashed with their opponents.

The partition caused a lot of uncertainty in many parts of the new nations, especially in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of which went to both countries, which led to war several times to try to take the whole region from the other.

Further reading[edit]

  • "If The British Had Never Ruled Our Country, This Would Be India Today". Souvik Ray. India Times. 30 July 2015.


  1. D'Costa, Bina (2011). Nationbuilding, gender and war crimes in South Asia. Routledge. pp. 53. ISBN 9780415565660. Search this book on
  2. Butalia, Urvashi (2000). The other side of silence: voices from the Partition of India. Duke University Press. Search this book on
  3. Sikand, Yoginder (2004). Muslims in India Since 1947: Islamic perspectives on inter-faith relations. Routledge. p. 5. ISBN 9781134378258. Search this book on