In 1947, India achieved its independence from England. This freedom was long fought and hard earned. This independence is well known for the non-violence approach of Mahatma Gandhi. However on this day of independence, India was split into two different countries– Pakistan, a Muslim state, and India, a Hindu state.
Millions of people were suddenly displaced overnight in this partition of India. Families who have lived on their land for generations were told they were supposed to move to another country. Many had to leave most, if not all, of their possessions behind to make this strenuous journey. It is estimated that between 10 and 12 million people crossed the border of India and Pakistan as a result of this partition. People crammed themselves onto trains, even riding on top of the train, in an attempt to make it across the border.
This plea for two nations came from an increasing divide between Hindus and Muslims. The tension between the two religions was slowly growing as India approached its independence, and the partition caused the hatred between the two religions to explode. After this separation of the two states, there was mass genocide on both sides as people tried to flee to their newly determined homeland. It is estimated that several hundred thousand to a million people lost their lives in the chaos that ensued the partition. People from each religion would hear the horrors that other religion has committed and then in turn would seek out members of the opposing religion to exact some type of revenge. Trains would arrive in the stations, filled with bodies of people who were slaughtered as they tried to cross the border into their new country.
Gandhi opposed this partition, but he was unable to stop it. He believed in the unity of both Muslims and Hindus in one state where they could live together peacefully. However, this dream of his was never able to come true. After the partition, he did his best to stop the massacres, but he could not truly control the chaos that ensued after the creation of the two nations. He considered the partition of India to be his greatest disappointment in his life. He was assassinated in 1948, just one year after the partition of India.
These horrible events that followed the partition of India and Pakistan still plague the relationship between these two countries today. As well, this partition set an example for religions or states to follow.
The partition of India and its freedom from colonial rule set a precedent for nations such as Israel, which demanded a separate homeland because of irreconcilable differences between the Arabs and the Jews. The British left Israel in May 1948, handing the question of division over to the UN. Unenforced UN Resolutions to map out boundaries between Israel and Palestine have led to several Arab-Israeli wars and the conflict still continues.
And now again, Israel and Palestine are trying to call for an Arab state and a Jewish state. The tension between these two groups of people is very high, with new casualties every day from this war. However, there are a very small group of people who believe in Gandhi’s idea that two religions can peacefully coexist under one nation. Many, though, do not believe this is a possibility. Instead, they see the only possibility is separate states for these two nationalities. Will these two separate states be able to find a peaceful way to end this brutal conflict or will it further alienate these two nationalities, increasing the hatred between the two? Or was Gandhi right to think that the best way is to have a single nation in which the two religions learn to put aside their hatred peacefully coexist?