Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Divison: India and Pakistan

Recently Google made a series of videos describing close relations between commoners of India and Pakistan. The second chapter of India After Gandhi opens with very valid question:

Did India have to be partitioned?

The nostalgia of undivided India has been mostly manifest among the people on Indian side of the border. But there has sometimes been a sense of loss displayed in what has become Pakistan too. There are three main explanations behind the above stated question:

  1. Congress Leadership underestimated Jinnah and the Muslim 
Nehru and Gandhi made major errors of judgement in their dealings with the Muslim League. In the 1920s, Gandhi ignored Jinnah and tried to make common cause with the mullahs. In the 1930s, Nehru arrogantly and what later elections showed, falsely, claimed that the Muslim masses would rather follow his socialist stands than a party based on faith.Meanwhile, the Muslims steadily moved over from the Congress to the League. In the 1930s, when Jinnah was willing to make a deal, he was ignored. In 1940s, when Muslims were solidly behind Jinnah, he had absolutely no incentive to cut a deal. The onset of modern electoral politics encouraged the creation of community vote banks. Muslims were increasingly persuaded to think themselves as "Muslims" . This is supported by the fact that Muslim League had a mere 1300 members by 1927 which shot up to more than a half a million in Bengal alone and 200,000 in Punjab. Muslims of all classes joined League and rallied against prospect of 'Brahmin-Bania' Raj in United India. 

2. Jinnah pursued his goal of separate country

It is also true that some of the Jinnah's political turns defy  any explanation other than that of personal ambition. He was once known as "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity" and a practitioner of constitutional politics. Even after he re branded himself  as defender of Islam and Muslims, he liked his whisky. He started stirring religious passion and he concluded with his calling of "Direct Action Day", the day which started long chain of violence and counter-violence that made partition inevitable.

3Divide and Rule policy of British

In March, 1925; secretary of state for India wrote to the viceroy:

"I have always placed my highest and most permanent hopes upon the eternity of the communal situation."
Most British officials were predisposed to prefer Muslims, for compared with Hindus, their forms of worship and the ways of life were less alien. Overall, colonial policy deepened religious divisons, which consolidated British rule in India.

Now, we have explored the explanations which pertain to the division of India. In early 1940s, it was almost certain that United Independent India would not be a reality. Let's explore a little about the division itself.

The Divison

After second war, Labour Party came into power in England. They regarded themselves morally committed to cause of  Indian Independence. In the beginning of 1946, a three member Cabinet Mision was sent to India to negotiate the terms of Indian Independence. Sir Stafford Cripps was a part of the mission and had close ties with Indian Congress Leaders. A note prepared by a member of Indian Civil Service, Penderel Moon summed up the situation in the country:

"There is more likelihood of obtaining Hindu consent to Divison than Muslim consent to Union."
Early in 1946, elections were held to the various provincial assemblies. These were conducted on the basis of franchise restricted by education and property. About 28% of the adult population was eligible to vote which amounted to about 41 million people. Congress asked for mandate on the agenda comprising land reforms, worker's right and such. Muslim League on the other hand, asked Muslims to vote for them. For if they don't, they would not get a homeland of their own and they will be crushed by the more numerous Hindus in a united India. The election results brought embarrassment to Congress. Across India province after province, Congress did exceedingly well in general category, but the Muslim seats were swept by the Muslim League.

ProvinceCongressMuslim LeagueOther partiesIndependentsTotal
Assam5831Europeans 9
Others 3
7108
Bengal86113Europeans 25
Others 12
14250
Bihar9834812152
Bombay12530218175
Central Provinces92137112
Madras16579Communist Party 2[9]19215
North West Frontier Province30172150
Orissa474960
Punjab5173Akalis 22
Unionist Party 20
9175
Sind182710460
United Provinces15354714228
Total9234251231141585
The mandate bestowed upon Muslim League was more than enough for Jinnah to call a meeting for 425 legislators of Muslim League on 10 April 1946 and reiterated the call for independent Pakistan. Jinnah met Cabinet Mission in Shimla where attempts were being made by Cabinet Mission to find unitary solution. By the end of June 1946, it was clear that no settlement could be reached. The leaders of League again met on 29th July and called for Direct Action. Two weeks later was Direct Action Day and a train of violence and rioting started ending the dream of United India.

Labour government in Britain announced that British would quit India by July 1948. The viceroy, Lord Wavell was replaced by a new Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. After talking to congress leaders, Lord Mountbatten found them accepting the reality of Pakistan. Gandhi made one last effort by asking Jinnah to head the first government of free united India. But Gandhi's offer did not have backing of Congress, and Jinnah did not accept it in any case.After several redraft, plan of partition was sent to London. At one point Jinnah even asked for a 800 miles road through India connecting eastern and western Pakistan.  On 3 June 1947, Viceroy announced the partition plan and next morning he announced that British would leave by middle of August. Lord Mountbatten's biographer justified his decision as follow:
"Once the principal of partition had been accepted, it was inevitable that communalism would rage freely. The longer the period before the transfer of power, the worse the tension and the greater the threat that violence would spread." 
 However many journalists as well as British officials accused Mountbatten of being unwilling to crackdown
 effectively on communal violence, and understaffing Punjab Boundary force and not supplying them with air cover. Many were convinced that hasty withdrawal led to more death. Governor of undivided Punjab Sir Evan Jenkins asked for more troops and for a Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. But there were too few troop available as most of them were busy protecting white people. Protection of British was top policy of state as they were convinced that British civilians will be attacked as soon as decision to leave was made public.

Lord Mountbatten instinct of self preservation was evident by his decision to postpone Punjab Boundary award after 15 August as he said:
"Without question, the earlier Punjab Boundary Awards are published, the more the British would have to bear responsibility for the disturbances which would undoubtedly result."
                     
To conclude the Division, One Punjab official told a social worker from Oxford:

'You British believe in fair play. You have left India in the same condition of chaos as you found it.'



Read first part of the essay series. Click here.

This essay is based on the second chapter of the book "India After Gandhi" titled "The Logic of Division" by Ramchandra Guha.
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