Partitions of India: History in Pictures

Polarized by religion, friends and neighbors turned against each other. Hundreds of thousands of people died and millions were displaced. The The brutal act is terrible – pregnant women and infants are not spared.

It was the unexpected result of Britain’s chaotic plan to leave the subcontinent in 1947 after nearly three centuries and divide it into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, itself divided into two areas more than 1,000 miles apart. Partition, as the division is known, triggered one of the largest migrations in history.

It will forever change the face and geopolitics of South Asia; For example, almost 25 years later, Bangladesh was born out of East Pakistan.

Some historians argue that partition will not be needed Britain granted autonomy earlier to India, where Hindus and Muslims have lived side by side for centuries. But the idea of ​​a separate state for Muslims in British India gained traction in the 1930s, although it was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi. A decade later, Britain was reeling from World War II and preparing to hand over power.

The demand for Pakistan, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the All India Muslim League, has contributed to one of the The biggest riot of Hindu-Muslims in India in August 1946, when at least 2,000 people were killed in 5 days in Calcutta (now Kolkata), then the capital of the province of Bengal. Over the next few months, communal skirmishes followed, particularly in Bengal and Punjab, another area with a large mixed population including Sikhs.

As India and Pakistan prepare for independence, Jinnah, becoming the president of the Muslim-majority nation, declare a free Pakistan. And on August 15, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, famously celebrated his nation’s independence and “struggled with destiny”. But trouble happened.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, the recently appointed last viceroy of British India, has yet to reveal where the new border, which creates East and West Pakistan with India between the two nations, will be located. That will come in two days, on August 17.

Muslims left India for Pakistan, mainly going West, while Hindus and Sikhs went the opposite way. Up to 20 million people fled. Both sides left havoc after awakening them. Documentation is scarce, but hundreds of thousands, and at most two million, have been killed. There is no indication of how many people were raped.

Guneeta Singh Bhalla, founder of Partition archives 1947, a decades-old oral history project. “It has really defined where we are culturally, socially and politically,” she said of South Asia.

Most of the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis today are born from generation to generation. But its consequences persist. India and Pakistan have fought three wars, often clashing over claims to Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority country. Liberal ideals espoused by the founders both countries now seems to be forgotten in history.

What follows is a photographic record of the period surrounding the division of British India.

Above, a protest in London calling for the creation of Pakistan, in 1946. Below, police in Calcutta use tear gas to destroy the crowd. The Hindu-Muslim community riot lasted five days, with more than 2,000 people killed and 4,000 injured.

Destruction in Amritsar, a city in Punjab, following general riots in March 1947. Amritsar’s Muslims, who make up about half of the population, left en masse during partitioning, this has located the city in India. The other inhabitants are mainly Sikhs and Hindus.

Two child victims of the Amritsar riots with a nurse in March 1947. They were rescued by British soldiers after their mother was stabbed to death.

Picking up the body of a victim of a fight in Delhi.

Negotiating the terms of zoning in June 1947. In the foreground from left to right is Jawaharlal Nehru, then vice president of the provisional government of India; Lord Louis Mountbatten, viceroy; and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League.

Lord Mountbatten, in a photograph taken from the Indian army, salutes the Indian flag hoisted at the India Gate with his wife, Lady Edwina, and Nehru, then India’s first prime minister, at his side during his independence celebrations in New Delhi on August 15, 1947.

Crowds of people gathered at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi to celebrate the founding of the new country.

Jinnah addressed the Constituent Assembly, attended by Lord Mountbatten, in August 1947.

Drinking water from a single tap at a camp for some 20,000 Muslim refugees in New Delhi, September 1947. Refugees had to wait three hours for water.

Sikh migrants en route from Pakistan to their new homeland, India, in October 1947.

People crammed onto trains as the division of British India caused one of the largest migrations in history. Muslims run from India to Pakistan, while Hindus and Sikhs go in the opposite direction.

A caravan of Muslims passes by the remains of an earlier caravan, both people and livestock.

A couple who had been separated for 10 months were reunited at a women’s camp in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1948.

A refugee camp in Kurukshetra, Punjab, India, where 300,000 people sought refuge, late 1947.

Gandhi observed the aftermath of the partition riots in India.

India’s Sikh army stationed near Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, in November 1947. India and Pakistan fought a year-long war over Kashmir that ended with a UN ceasefire. mediate. This area continues to threaten the two countries to this day.

Muslim women pray on the slopes of Hari Parbat, a hill in Srinagar, also known as Koh-i-Maran and with nearby Hindu and Sikh temples, in 1948.

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