The tragedy of the partition of India

Seventy years ago this month, the British rushed through the partition of India to create new two states: India and Pakistan (which is now Pakistan and Bangladesh). In the resultant ethnic violence and migration, perhaps a million people died and up to 15 million people were displaced.

Why did this happen and where does partition leave us today? In today’s “Observer” newspaper, Yasmin Khan addresses these issues in an illuminating article which includes a map and a timeline.

She concludes her piece:

“This world of more fluid identities and cultures was gradually dismantled throughout the 19th century under British rule and then smashed by partition. It becomes ever harder, today, to imagine the pre-partitioned Indian subcontinent.┬áIn the south Asian case, the historical conflict is now acted out on a different, international stage. India and Pakistan stand frozen in a cold war, with nuclear missiles pointed at each other.

At least one billion people living in the region today were not even born when partition took place and south Asia has many more immediate and far more pressing problems: water supply, environmental crisis and adaptation to climate change. Nonetheless, a sense of shared history, and a more multidimensional understanding of what happened in 1947 is also vital for the future of the region.”


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