PARTITION OF INDIA
The Partition of India is one of the most important events in the history of India, and especially in the history of India during the time frame of British imperial rule. In general, the partition of India, was when India was divided into two main part: India and Pakistan. This partition took place in 1947 following the lengthy campaign by the Indian National Congress and other Indian nationalists to achieve India’s independence from British rule.
BEFORE THE PARTITION OF INDIA (BRITISH IMPERIALISM IN INDIA)
As stated above, before the partition of India in 1947, the country had been experiencing a great deal of tensions due to British imperial rule. This occurred over a period a several centuries, and included the time of the British East India Company and the British Raj.
The British East India Company played a significant role in the in the history of India and British imperialism in India. The British East India Company was first established on December 31st, 1600 as a company that aimed at promoting British trade in the Far East, which included India, China and Japan. In order to aid in its expansion throughout India, the British East India Company began to establish its own private armies. For instance, a common practise by the European nations in India was to recruit and employ Indian men into their own armies. These Indian soldiers who fought for European companies were referred to as ‘sepoys’. This was vitally important to the expansion of the British East India Company in the 18th century and allowed it to gain control over huge sections of the Indian subcontinent, which expanded its wealth and influence.
Throughout the late 1700s, the British East India Company expanded its control over large sections of eastern India from its main base in Bengal. For example, by the mid-1800s, the company had come to control all of the Indian subcontinent and ruled over the country through direct administration. This transformed the British East India Company from having a focus on trade to directly ruling and controlling India as a possession. It did this by expanding its military strength in the region. In fact, by 1857, the British East India Company had several armies that totaled as much as 267,000 soldiers.
However, control over India shifted in 1858 from the British East India Company to the British government, due to the events of the Sepoy Rebellion. Also called the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’, it saw Indian sepoy soldiers for the British East India Company from north and central India, rebel against the company.
The term ‘British Raj’ refers to the time period in which Britain ruled over India as a colony of the British Empire. This is generally considered to have occurred from 1858 until 1947. As stated above, the British government did not take over India until 1858 when it assumed control from the British East India Company. At its height, the British Raj controlled almost all of modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Furthermore, under direct British control, India was divided into approximate thirteen different provinces that were controlled through British administrative officers.
British control over India faced several struggles in the late part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. This was due to several factors including the emergence of the Indian Independence Movement. Historians consider the Indian Independence Movement to have occurred over a period of about 90 years from 1857 until 1947. This time period mirrors the period of the British Raj, which is when the British government ruled over India as a colony of the British Empire. In fact, the Sepoy Rebellion of 1858 is considered to be one of the earliest examples of Indian revolt against British rule in India. With that said, the Indian Independence Movement gained steam throughout the 1880s and beyond due to the establishment of the Indian National Congress.
The Indian National Congress was founded on December 23rd, 1885 in Bombay, India. In general, the Indian National Congress emerged out of a growing sense of Indian nationalism in the late 1800s. At the time, the British (first the British East India Company and later the British Government) had controlled India for almost two centuries. However, during the second half of the 1800s, a large groups of educated Indians began to express nationalistic feelings centered around Indian independence. As such, this Indian Independence Movement led to the eventual creation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. The initial goal of the Indian National Congress was to promote Indian nationalism and give a voice to the independence movement that was aimed at British imperialism in India. In fact, the early actions of the Indian National Congress focused on promoting self-government for Indian people. The concept of self-government in India is referred to as ‘swaraj’. The term swaraj became particularly important to Mahatma Gandhi in the 20th century, as he and the Indian National Congress tried to achieve independence for India from British imperial rule.
Eventually, the Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi pushed the Indian Independence Movement to a point that the British began to lose its grip on India. With this independence also came the partition of India into two halves: India and Pakistan.
WHY DID INDIA DIVIDE?
As stated previously, the partition of India took place in 1947, which is when India gained its independence from British imperial rule. While, this was a celebrated event at the time, the partition of India was also a disappointment for many in the Indian National Congress, including Gandhi. This is because, they had hoped to maintain the country and not have it divided. However, the country was struggling with major tensions that eventually led to its partition.
At this point in history, India was facing an internal crisis based on religious divisions. Many people were calling for India to be divided along religious lines. For instance, some wanted a part of India that was only for Hindus, while others wanted a section that was only for Muslims. Gandhi had battled against the division of India since his return in 1915, however, the political climate had shifted and the tensions between the different religious groups was high. As a result, with British approval, India was partitioned in 1947. In fact, the country was divided into Pakistan (for Muslims) and India (for Hindus and Sikhs). With this act, British imperial rule in India had ended and India had gained its independence.
While the Indian National Congress was the dominant political force in India during the late 19th century and early 20th century, another important organization was the All-India Muslim League (which is commonly known as just the ‘Muslim League’). The Muslim League of India was founded in 1906 and lasted until 1947 with the partition of India. Understanding the basic history of the Muslim League is important because it was a significant to the partition of India. For instance, while the Indian National Congress was protesting British involvement in India, the Muslim League had begun the explore and promote the idea of a ‘two-nation’ theory in India. It did this by mobilizing and inspiring Muslim people throughout India into supporting the idea of dividing India along religion lines. As such, the two-nation theory supported by the Muslim League became an important factor in the eventual creation of Pakistan for Muslim’s living in India.
OVERVIEW OF THE PARTITION OF INDIA
The partition of India took place in 1947, and the plan to divide it was know as the ‘Mountbatten Plan’. The plan gained this name after Lord Mountbatten, then the British Viceroy of India. Since Mountbatten oversaw the partition of India and the British withdrawal from India, he was the last Viceroy of India. The Mountbatten Plan called for August 15th, 1947 to be the date of India’s independence from Britain, which included the partition of India. Furthermore, he organized a vote in regards to partition between the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh representatives in India. The majority of the representatives voted in favor of the partition, which set in motion the division of the country. The British government defined the lines of division between the new states and on July 18th, the British parliament passed the Indian Independence Act which formally agreed to India’s independence and partition.
Although India had gained the independence that Gandhi had long sought, he did not celebrate, as he was strongly opposed to the partitioning of the country along religious lines. In fact, the partitioning of India led to the deaths of many people in India. For example, the creation of Pakistan forced many Hindus and Sikhs to migrate out of the new state and towards India. While, on the other side, Muslims in India were forced to migrate out of Indian and into Pakistan. This migration process saw much violence, rioting and the deaths of thousands. At the time, Gandhi did his best to calm both sides and promote tolerance. As a Hindu himself, Gandhi tried to reach out to Muslim leaders in order to promote peace between the two sides. Historians estimate that as many as 14 million people were displaced in India after its partition.
Gandhi died on January 30th, 1948 in India. While walking to a prayer meeting, he was shot in the chest three times by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse. Godse criticized Gandhi for his handling of the partition, and for working with Muslim leaders.
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