Freedom and Fear: India and Pakistan at 70

© 2014 Pippa Virdee

In the midst of the monsoon of August 1947, British India ceased to be and gave way to two independent nations. The logic of this Partition being religious and regional, the older and larger India was reinforced as a Hindu majoritarian society, while the newer and smaller Pakistan emerged as an Islamic country. No Partitions are total and absolute but this one was especially terrible and ambiguous and left a little less-or-more than 20% religious minority population on both sides. Moreover, it created two wings of Pakistan with a hostile Indian body-politic in the midst.

This event was not entirely of sub-continental making. The British Empire in Asia had begun to crack at the hands of the Japanese army during World War Two, most spectacularly with the fall of Singapore in February 1942, and crumbled in South Asia afterwards. Along with India and Pakistan, the-then Burma and Ceylon (both 1948) too emerged independent at this time. All this was to bring about many changes, both internally in India and internationally. Europe, the ravaged battlefield of the World Wars, ceased to be the centre of the Western world, with political and economic power shifting decisively to the former Soviet Union and the United States, representing two contrasting and conflicting ideological visions for the post-1945 world.

The end of the British rule in South Asia happened alongside the emergence of this conflict, christened the Cold War. The road to freedom and partition of India and creation of Pakistan was a long one and accompanied with fundamental social, economic and political changes. From the mutiny of 1857 from Calcutta to Delhi to the massacre of 1919 in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, from the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 to the establishment of the All-India Muslim League in 1906, from fighting for King and country in two World Wars to seeking self-rule in the inter-war years, and, from the development of an elaborate civil and military bureaucratic and infrastructural apparatus and a space for provincial politics, all these were to completely transform Indian society.

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on BAGICHA and commented:

    ‘The role of any democratic country, with a well-defined rule of law, is to protect ALL its citizens, ensuring that their rights and freedoms are safeguarded. It is in fact difficult to imagine these lands without the heterogeneity that forms the essence of being South Asian. It is this vibrancy and diversity that gives it character and strength. To move toward a homogenous culture is not only problematic but also dangerous because it is based on exclusivity.’


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