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Partition of India
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Partition of India

Very shortly after award of Dominion status from the British Empire (independence), on August 15, 1947, the colony of British India was divided into two independent nations, India and Pakistan, the border determined by the Radcliffe Award devised by London lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliffe. Pakistan came into being as two separate wings, East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and West Pakistan. India was formed out of the majority Hindu regions of the colony, and Pakistan from the majority Muslim areas. The 565 Princely States where given a choice of which country to join.

Those states that chose a country at odds with their majority religion, such as Junnagadh, Hyderabad, and especially Kashmir, became the subject of much dispute. The Partition was a highly controversial arrangement, and is responsible for much of the tension on the Indian subcontinent in the present day. British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten not only rushed the process through but also is alleged to have influenced the Radcliffe awards in India's favour. The result of this expediting of proceedings - and crucially of declaring independence prior to partition, leaving the new governments reeling - was a complete breakdown of law and order which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands on both sides of the border.

Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly-formed nations in the months immediately following Partition. Once the lines were established, roughly 12 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the relative safety of religious majority. Massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border as the newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude.

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See also

Further Reading

Butalia, Urvashi (1998).The Other Side of Silence (2nd U.S. printing). Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-2494-6