In august 1947,India gained independence after 200 years of British rule. What followed was on of the largest and bloodiest forced migration in History. About one million people lost their lives. Before British colonization, the Indian subcontinent was a patch work of regional kingdoms populated by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, Christians, Parsis and Jews. Each princely state had its own traditions, cast backgrounds, and leadership.
In 1500s, series of European powers colonized India with coastal trading settlements. By the mid 18th century the English east India company emerged as the primary colonial power in India. The British ruled some provinces directly and ruled the princely state indirectly. Under indirect rule, the princely state remained sovereign and made political and financial concession to the British.
In the 19th century, the British began to categorize Indians by religious identity a gross simplification of the communities in India. They called Hindus as “majorities”. And all other religious communities as “minorities”. With Muslims being the largest minority, Sikhs were considered part of the Hindu community by everyone but themselves.
In elections people could only vote for candidates of their own religious identification. These practices exaggerated differences, sowing distrust between communities that had previously co-existed.
The 20th century began with decades of anti-colonial movements, were Indians fought for independence from Britain. Indians political leaders had deferring views on what an independent India should look like. Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru represented the Hindu majority and wanted one united India. Mohamad ali Jinnah lead the Muslim majority thought the rifts created by colonization were too deep to repair. Jinnah argues for a 2 nation division were Muslims could have a homeland called Pakistan.
Following riots in 1946 and 1947, the British expedited their retreat planning Indian independence behind closed doors
In June 1947, the British viceroy announced that India would gain independence by august and be partitioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan but gave little explanation of how exactly this would happen. Using outdated maps in accurate census number and minimal knowledge of the land in a mere 5 weeks The boundary committee drew a border dividing three provinces under direct British rule Bengal, Punjab and Assam. The border took into account were Hindus and Muslims majorities and but also factors like location and population percentages. Princely states on the border had to choose which of the new nations to join loosing there sovereignty in the process.
While the boundary committee worked on the new map, Hindus and Muslim began to moving areas were they thought they’d be a part of religious majorities but they couldn’t be sure.
The two days after independence the provinces of Punjab and Bengal became geographically separates east and west Pakistan. The rest became Hindu majority India. In a period of 2 years, Millions and Hindus and Sikhs living in Pakistan left for India while Muslims living in India fled villages were their families had lived for centuries.
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