Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies The Partition of India, 1947

At midnight on August 15th, 1947, Pakistan was created. With the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the release of control by the British would also split what was known as British India into two distinct countries whose borders were determined by the religious groups that most densely populated the areas. The Union of India (later Republic of India) would be secular but with a Hindu majority and Muslims would control the Dominion of Pakistan (later divided further still into Pakistan and Bangladesh.) The states of Bengal and Punjab were also sliced in two along the Radcliffe Line, as well as the Army, Treasury, Navy, and Railway industry.

Growing tensions between Hindus and Muslims throughout the 1940s precipitated the desire for a Muslim state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who is regarded as the father of Pakistan, believed that a unified nation would only lead to marginalization of Muslims and, eventually, violence and civil war. An independent state seemed a solution to this danger.

However, the division of the country led to the displacement of millions of people. Hindus and Muslims who suddenly found themselves in different countries on August 15th fled their home in fear of violence. The refugees were housed in military barracks. The population of cities like Delhi swelled with the influx of Hindus. Suddenly people had to choose how to define themselves - by their homeland or their religion. Uprooted from their homes, refugees were forced to make a new life in a fledgling country. Many became homeless overnight.

Several conflicts and wars have followed Partition and tensions between the countries seem to escalate every year. Explosions of violence happen periodically, as they have in the more than 50 years since Partition, including the orchestrated attacks in Mumbai in November of 2008. Pakistani extremists claimed responsibility for the attack, targeting a railway station and hotels and cafes frequented by foreigners. Nearly 300 people were killed.

Conceived to prevent sectarian violence, Partition instead stoked flames between Hindus and Muslims by forcing a division between them.

"My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonistic cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is for me a denial of God."

- Mohandas Gandhi's reaction to the proposal of a separate Muslim state.