At the hour of midnight on 14-15th August 1947, India attained Independence from its colonial rulers. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, addressed a special session of the Constituent Assembly that night. This was the famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech.
There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. -Jawaharlal Nehru
This was the moment every Indian was waiting for, the values that Mahatma Gandhi fought for.
There were two goals almost everyone agreed upon in new India: after Independence, a democratic government should rule our country; second, the government will be run for the good of all, particularly the poor and the socially disadvantaged.
This was not going to be easy. India was born in very different circumstances. Back in 1947, it almost felt like no other country was born with such a difficult situation.
Freedom came with the partition of the country. What was earlier ‘India’ under the British, now came to be separated into ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’. The British, The Muslim League and the Indian National Congress planned for this unplanned chaos. This idea was fought for by the Muslim League political party, led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who demanded a Muslim State.
The year 1947 was the year of one of the most abrupt and largest unplanned and tragic transfer of population that human history has known. There were killings and atrocities on both side of the border. In the name of religion, people of one community ruthlessly killed and maimed people of the other community. Pakistan declared itself to be a Muslim nation while India declared to be a secular nation, but that didn’t spare minorities from being attacked on either sides of the border. It didn’t help that most people were unaware of what exactly constituted as ‘Indian’ or ‘Pakistani’ territory. The border was after all drawn by an Englishman, Cyril Radcliffe, who arrived in India for the first time 36 days before the partition and was unaware of key territories. Forced to abandon their homes and move across borders, people went through immense sufferings. The partition wasn’t just a mere division of property, liabilities and assets, or a political division of the country and the administrative apparatus. It was a division of hearts. The colonial Indian army which earlier fought together was now divided between the two countries and forced to fight against each other. This lead to four official wars and several daily conflicts and tension between the two countries for years to come.
There were competing political interests behind these conflicts. The Indian National Congress wanted equality of religion and democracy in new India; Gandhi ji wanted one nation and so dropped out of active politics when India and Pakistan were born. The Muslim League was formed to protect the interests of the Muslim in colonial India. It was the forefront of the demand for a separate Muslim State. The problem was that there was no single stretch of Muslim territory. This gave birth to West and East Pakistan, which were divided by Indian territory. East Pakistan was liberated, with India’s help, to form Bangladesh in 1971 through a full-fledged war.
Additionally, British India was divided into what were called British Indian Provinces (which were directly controlled by the colonials) and Princely States (which followed suzerainty/paramountcy of the British, kings were allowed some control over internal affairs as long as the accepted British supremacy). Princely States covered one-third of land area and one out of four people lived there. Just before Independence, it was announced that the rule of paramountcy would elapse when the British would leave India. This meant that all 565 states would be independent and the Princely States could choose whether they’d like to be a part of India, Pakistan or be independent nations. This lead to a whole new level of politics where Pakistani and Indian leaders persuaded the rulers to join their sides. Thus leading to more conflicts,
The joy of Independence was soon overshadowed by the pain of the badly planned two state solution.
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