There are three players on the Indian side Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah who played deciding role in the partition of India, all of them studied law in Britain and came back to serve India. Gandhi left his suits and became Mahatma preaching his non-violent method for fighting British rule, Nehru was the charming man close to Gandhi and Jinnah a rational and intellectual man. Important actors on the British side were Churchill, Atlee, Wavell and Mountbatten.
The clamor to independent India has been raising in its intensity for a while now. Congress, India’s biggest political party was at the helm of all this. When second world war was declared Congress boycotted the British and did not support the British rule. In 1942, Congress launched Quit India Movement and British government sent all top congress leaders to Jail. Jinnah and Muslim League Party supported the British in Second World War.
A separate Muslim state of Pakistan was first propounded by a young man Rehmat Ali Khan who was studying in Cambridge and in 1933 release a pamphlet “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever”. This idea of separate state was a fringe idea for a long time before Jinnah took this and became adamant about it.
During the provincial election of 1937, Congress won 8 of the 11 states. The Muslim League performed badly and was sidelined by the Congress bolstered by election results. Jinnah felt betrayed as he wanted equal representation of Muslim League irrespective of election results. This cemented his view that in a Hindu Majority nation, Muslim will not be treated equally and hence a separate nation where their rights will be protected. Generally Jinnah never liked the idea of prayers in Gandhi’s meeting that he believed was bring Hinduism in the realm of politics and hence there was a fallout between Jinnah and Gandhi
After the Second World War, British government released all Congress leaders and Lord Wavell called for a conference to be held in Simla (summer retreat of British Raj) in June 1945. All leaders Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and others attended the conference but Jinnah remained adamant about the idea of Pakistan as a separate Muslim state. The conference was used by Jinnah to bring the idea of Pakistan to center stage. Meanwhile back in Britain Labour Party won the elections and Clement Atlee declared that Britain will come out of India by June 1948. This was well received in India but how this independence will end up nobody was sure of. There was one last attempt done by British to bring everyone and find an amicable solution between Congress and Muslim league. A Cabinet Mission was set and with a push to save India’s unity there were set of idea put forward. Jinnah with everyone’s surprise accepted the mission’s proposal of dividing Indian states between Muslim majority states and Hindu Majority states with a central rule in Delhi. Jinnah wanted to make sure the representation of Muslim people without getting sidelined by majority. It was Nehru who did not agree to the conditions fearing that this arrangement would lead to weak government at the center. Once the cabinet mission attempt was agreeable to Congress, there was no other option but to go for the partition.
All this confusion and domination of Constituent Assembly by Congress, led Jinnah to call for Direct Action Day which led to killing of 5000 people in Kolkata. The enmity between Hindu and Muslim became so bad that partition seemed to be the best possible option.
Atlee seeing all this appointed Mountbatten as Viceroy of India who belonged to British Royalty. Mountbatten analysed the situation talking to different leaders. He brought forward the date of Indian independence to 15th August 1947 from June 1948. He brought Radcliffe to draw the line of partition based on the whatever data existed. This line was made public only on 17th August 1947, after independence where a huge population found themselves on the wrong side of the border. This led to unprecedented human movement of 17 million people and killing of 1 million. Nobody was ready for it, neither Nehru or Jinnah.
This fate of India is so complicated that is almost difficult to decipher what went wrong. How partition became mainline in 10-15 years where it was only talked about by fringe elements. Nehru liked the Socialist USSR a lot and was thinking of taking independent India into that direction. British realized that if India is united they will not have much say in Indian politics and hence they needed a carved out area. They kept on to their Divide and Rule policy and did nothing to stop the spreading violence. Pakistan has been a close partner of Allied nations for a while, hence the British has been able to push their agenda.
When British Government was burdened by World War, they did not want to drain their resources in setting things right for India. We already have so much of enmity that it was really easy for people to manipulate which has not stopped even today. Politics is all about cast, creed and corruption.
There is so much that happened during the days that it is difficult to remember it all and hence it is easy to take people on a ride.
This article may have some error or omissions. Please comment and I would be happy to correct. This article is inspired by India’s Partition: The Forgotten Story