A Bitter Divide of ‘Divide and Rule’

A Bitter Divide of ‘Divide and Rule’

The Wagah Border
The India- Pakistan Border (Wagah Border).

-Jeevesh Garg

70 years of Independence after 200 years of oppression has been full of negativity, hatred and in a constant state of conflict from both countries. A country which was economically and culturally rich was first exploited for false riches and then polluted. Polluted with the ideology that would displace 15 million people, kill about a million and create an everlasting conflict that would infest hatred in generations on the basis of religion and ethnicity. Communities that lived together for centuries without any conflict suddenly became a hub of violence and turmoil. The relations of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs before the Movement of Independence is described as peaceful coexistence although I believe that due to the drastic difference in lifestyle, ideology, and culture they never really liked each other. They coexisted because they had no reason and no incentive to move out or force the other to move out of their regions. Although political motif consumed the mindset of communities wherein they believed that coexistence that was present for thousands of years was now suddenly improbable as one nation was divided into countries.

288 million Hindus dominated most of the central, southern and eastern India whereas 98 million Muslims along with 6 million Sikhs lived in the northern and the western (now Bengal) part of India. Muslims rationally argued that a Hindu majority country will be highly discriminatory and that Muslims will serve the Hindus much like they served under the British. The basis of their argument was also not false. Hindus due to their religious mindset ill-treated the Muslims on many occasions, wherein they weren’t allowed to drink water from the same tap or enter a Hindu’s house. In a BBC documentary, a Muslim stated that they were treated as more “untouchable than the untouchables.” It was often considered that Hindus got better jobs, education, and opportunities whereas Muslims were financially struggling. All this led to a thought that a separate state will guarantee all the rights and respect that the community deserves. I personally think that the separation wasn’t wrong, people might call me anti-national but it is clearly evident the Indian government would not be able to sustain a large country and constant internal conflicts, post-independence. I believe that the process of separation caused the War that we did not choose.

Post-World War 2, it was clear that the British could not sustain the uprising of the Independence Movement and they were in a huge financial struggle hence wanted to move out as quickly as possible. In 1946, a new Viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, was appointed to make sure that the British move out of India in the most orderly fashion. The Viceroy was a goal-oriented man and he decided that the British will leave India in July 1948. After constant talks and negotiations with the Indian Congress leaders and the Muslim League leaders, they came to a consensus that the northern and the eastern part of India will be the new Pakistan. Although Nehru laid out one condition that part of the north and the east will be given to India in the form of Punjab and Calcutta. Jinnah (Pakistani President) had to agree to the same. After the consensus, the viceroy came with a sudden decision that they would leave India earlier in precisely 3 months (by 15th August 1947), and both countries would gain their independence. The Indians and Pakistanis were quite content with the decision yet little did they know that it’s almost impractical to divide a country with a population of 350 million people in 3 months. This according to me is the root cause of turmoil and war between the two countries. The country’s borders were not discussed and laid out but enforced by the British which lead to one of the most dissatisfactory decisions in the century and stimulated 4 wars, one just after independence, then in 1965, 1971 and 1999 respectively. All of these were fought on the basis of borders that were drawn without consensus and discussion. The other conclusion that we can draw is that because the process was so sudden, it led to massive unrest in the minds of all communities. There was a constant fear of losing identity, there were riots, mass murders and women and children were raped and brutally executed which increased tensions between the two religious groups. I believe if British stayed for another year, employed peacekeeping forces along with Indian and Pakistani troops to complete movements, the situation would’ve been a lot different. People often mistake the war between India and Pakistan due to Kashmir and the territorial conflicts but I believe that we Indians or Pakistanis did not choose this war as we did live in peace for centuries as two religious groups, I believe that the war was inspired by the lack of supervision by the British, the incorporation of the divide and rule strategy and the haphazard partition.

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