“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” These were the famous words of independent India’s first PM – Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech ‘A tryst with Destiny’ delivered in August 14th 1947. But it’s not just India that awoke to life and freedom, but Pakistan too. “Partition” – the division of British India into the two separate states of India and Pakistan on August 14-15, 1947 – was the “last-minute” solution by the British empire wherein, Lord Mountbatten presented politicians the proposal of the creation of two separate states.
While Hindus were the majority in British India, Muslims were the largest religious minority. Under imperial rule, they had grown accustomed to having their minority status protected. But, the prospect of losing this protection as independence drew closer worried the Muslims. There were talks all over the nation about the “Two Nation” Theory led by Mohammed Jinnah, who eventually became the first PM of independent Pakistan.
The partition of the two countries, meant mass migration, that resulted in riots and mass casualties. Muslims migrated towards Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs in the direction of India. People were travelling on foot, in bullock carts and by train. There were 14 million refugees who were at the end of the partition living in camps. The death toll post partition migration is estimated to be about 2 million.
Today, the two countries’ relationship is far from healthy. Kashmir remains a point of threat; both countries are nuclear-armed. As the former Bureau chief of BBC, New Delhi, Mark Tully said ‘’ In Kashmir today, Pakistani and Indian politicians are provoking nationalism instead of promoting peace. The armies of the two nuclear nations are firing at each other across the line dividing the state. The casualties mount relentlessly. The legacy of partition lives on’’