India independence day: what was the partition of India?

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With growing resentment against colonial rule, plans were developed to partition India into independent states



<p>Soldiers from India’s Border Security Force take part in a motorcycle rally along a border fence bearing India’s national flags as part of celebrations ahead of the country’s 75th anniversary of independence at an India-Pakistan border post (Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)</p><div data-ad-id=
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Indian Border Security Force soldiers take part in a motorcycle rally along a border fence bearing India’s national flags as part of celebrations ahead of the country’s 75th anniversary of independence at an India-Pakistan border post (Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

Today (15 August) marks the 75th anniversary of the Partition of India, a historic event for the country that saw its break with years of British colonial rule.

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But what exactly happened and how can you learn more about the topic?

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

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What was the partition of India?

In 1947 India consisted of the present-day states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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Until August 1947 this area was largely under the political control of the United Kingdom, a legacy of the British Empire which had ruled the region for almost 200 years.

As part of the British Raj, the Queen was the head of state.

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With growing resentment against colonial rule in India, plans were developed to split India into two separate states that would be independent of both Britain and each other.

These countries were India and Pakistan, and the two self-governing independent states were legally incorporated at midnight on August 15, 1947.

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Pakistan was divided into two parts: West Pakistan and East Pakistan, the latter of which gained its own independence in 1971 to become Bangladesh.

Why did it trigger violence?

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At the New Delhi conference where Lord Mountbatten announced Britain’s partition plan for India (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Due to religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India, his overseers roughly drew the new areas along historical religious lines.

India had a larger Hindu population while Pakistan was mostly Muslim and the partition split the two provinces of Bengal and Punjab based on district-wide non-Muslim or Muslim majorities.

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However, since the dividing lines of the countries did not exactly coincide with the locations of this religious population, millions of refugees fled to one state or another.

There was also much violence as religious groups stranded in the ‘wrong’ area were targeted by local people.

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The conflict claimed an estimated one million lives.

The aftermath of partition is still being felt today, as India and Pakistan enjoy poor diplomatic ties and disagreements over the region of Kashmir, which both governments in Islamabad and New Delhi claim to control.

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Where can I find out more?

The partition is a popular subject in film, and since the late 1990s more films have been made on the subject, including several mainstream films.

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Independence and division are also significant events in the scripts of the biographical films Gandhi (1982), Jinnah (1998), Sardar (1993) and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013).

India 1947: Partition in Color describes the events leading up to the official declarations of India and Pakistan’s independence from Britain and each other.

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The two-parter shows many of the events in color for the first time in almost 75 years.

The first episode focuses on Lord Mountbatten’s appointment as Viceroy of India in February 1947, while part two depicts India’s descent into violence and chaos. It is available to stream via Channel 4’s All4 on-demand service.

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