Monday, August 13, 2007

The mayhem of India's partition

Pakistan celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence today, followed by India tomorrow.

It is impossible to approach this anniversary without great sadness for the hurried way in which Britain withdrew from India, with partition causing the biggest mass movement of people in history - some 10 million involved - plus a million dying in accompanying riots and local fighting.

It was an ignoble end to our Empire in India. If any reminder is needed of the human misery which partition caused, one need only look at Coopers Camp, West Bengal where 7,000 people still live in "temporary" accomodation, set up for the partition 60 years ago!

There is an interesting article here on the memoirs of one of the two men charged with drawing up the new boundaries in the Indian sub-continent in 1947.

On a more positive note, the BBC have surpassed themselves with their coverage of this major anniversary. They have a particularly excellent web portal here entitled "India & Paskistan 07".


  1. Paul, it is all too easy and popular these days for British people to feel it is "all our fault", but in this case it is wrong to do so.

    I studied European decolonisation as part of my degree and it was clear to me that britain had no choice but to withdraw, and with some haste, from India.

    After the war, we were broke, there were fears of a war with Russia and a real feeling in Inda that if we hung around for to long we would be kicked out. the British no longer had the power to control or rule India after 1945/46 and the Indians knew this.

    in Pakistan, Jinnah had stood by the British during the war and he expected a quickj repayment of the debt he and pakistan was owed. Again, britain was in no position to resist.

    Yes, partition and the deaths were terrible, but don't for one moment think we really had any power to stop it or do it in any better way.

  2. THank you for that insight, Nich

  3. There was a fascinating programme on BBC2 about the violence of partitition. Basically imagine iraq and Bosnia and double it. Mass organised rape, mass organised murder and gangs of hoodlums looting and making as much from it as they could.

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