Partition of the British Indian Empire 1946-1947

[ 1946 - 1947 ]

Belated but perhaps sincere British attempts to accommodate the demands of the two rival parties, while preserving the unitary state in India, seemed unacceptable to both as they alternately rejected whatever proposal was put forward during the war years. As a result, a three-way impasse settled in: the Congress and the Muslim League doubted British motives in handing over power to Indians, while the British struggled to retain some hold on India while offering to give greater autonomy.

The Congress wasted precious time denouncing the British rather than allaying Muslim fears during the highly charged election campaign of 1946. Even the more mature Congress leaders, especially Gandhi and Nehru, failed to see how genuinely afraid the Muslims were and how exhausted and weak the British had become in the aftermath of the war. When it appeared that the Congress had no desire to share power with the Muslim League at the center, Jinnah declared August 16, 1946, Direct Action Day, which brought communal rioting and massacre in many places in the north. Partition seemed preferable to civil war. On June 3, 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the viceroy (1947) and governor-general (1947-48), announced plans for partition of the British Indian Empire into the nations of India and Pakistan, which itself was divided into east and west wings on either side of India (see fig. 4). At midnight, on August 15, 1947, India strode to freedom amidst ecstatic shouting of "Jai Hind" (roughly, Long Live India), when Nehru delivered a memorable and moving speech on India's "tryst with destiny."

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Above all other concerns were the violence and the refugee problem: Muslims were fleeing India; Hindus and Sikhs were fleeing Pakistan. Jinnah's plea to regard religion as a personal matter, not a state matter, was ignored. No one was prepared for the communal rioting and the mass movements of population that followed the June 3, 1947, London announcement of imminent independence and partition. The most conservative estimates of the casualties were 250,000 dead and 12 million to 24 million refugees. The actual boundaries of the two new states were not even known until August 17, when they were announced by a commission headed by a British judge. The boundaries-- unacceptable to both India and Pakistan--have remained.

Total Casualties 250000 Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 250000 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
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Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts