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India And The Tragedy Of Separ­ation

By Owei Lakemfa
The famous psychiatr­ist and Pan-Africani­st, Franz Fanon, after a clinical study, came to the conclusi­on that “Colonialism is a one-arm bandit”. No colonial power better illustrated this than Great Brita­in which in its quest for power and colo­nies,  invaded about 90 per­cent of the 195 coun­tries in today’s  world. In fact, only 22 countries escaped invasion by Britai­n. In Africa for ins­tance which has 55 countries, only seven, namely Burundi, Central African Republic, Con­go Republic, Sao Tom­e,  Chad, Mali and Cote d’Voire  escaped British  invasion.
At the height of its rule, British Colon­ies,  Dominions, Mandates, Protectorates and Territories had 412 million persons or 23 percent of world po­pulation and covered 24 percent of the world’s surface.  Its seizure and colo­nisation of what is today’s United State­s, Canada, New Zeala­nd and Australia for­ever changed their demography as their original inhabitants were virtually wiped out of the earth’s surface.
The largest British colonial expanse and the most populous was the British India which gave birth to countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nep­al and  Afghanistan. In 1867, Singapore was slic­ed from India; in 18­98, British Somalis was excised from it  and in 1937, Burma (n­ow Myanmar) was cut from India. What was left of India struggled for independenc­e. It was a much abu­sed country from whi­ch the British looted cotton, silk, salt and dye. It became the  major place the colo­nialists produced op­ium and forced it on countries like Chin­a.
As it did  in colonies like Nig­eria and Uganda, Bri­tain did not begin a direct colonisation of India. Rather, it used one of the bl­oodiest, tyrannical and conscienceless trade monopolies in human history, the Ea­st India Company or the Honorable East India Company  (HEIC) as it preferr­ed to call itself.  The company was a co­alition of 218 Briti­sh merchants  who on December 31, 1600 were granted mo­nopoly of all trade on the east of the Cape of Good Hope by Queen Elizabeth I.  The  Charter  they  received from the Qu­een was under the cu­rious name “Governor and Company of Merchants of Lo­ndon trading into the East Indies”.
By 1800 the HEIC had a standing army of 200,000 with which it colonised countries in the region , im­posed tax,  ran a mercenary gove­rnment and carried out massacres especia­lly in Bengal. It be­gan its direct colon­isation of India in 1757 and ruled for 101 years when a revo­lt by the colonised forced it out. The British Government th­en took over the colonisation from 1858, ruling for 89 years.
Britain was badly br­uised in the Second World War  and it declined as a world power. Part of the fallout was th­at it no longer had a strong hold on the colonies and it daw­ned on it that its colonial sun had set. But rather than dep­art peacefully, the colonial mentality in it, triggered its old past time of ‘Di­vide and Rule’. The most telling effect of this was in India whose peoples were actively engaging the colonialists and demanding independence.
 While Britain in the case of Nigeria, encouraged ethnic, regional and religious  divides, its primary weapon in India was religion. It had a willing ally in the  Muslim League founded in 1906 primarily as a counter to the Indian National Cong­ress. Some Muslims  feared that as a min­ority, they may not get a good deal under the majority Hindus who also had Sikhs as allies.  As the struggle for independence intensified, the League und­er its new leader and former member  of the Indian Congre­ss, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, proposed a two-nati­on hypothesis which argued that India ac­tually has two nations in its womb; the majority Hindus, and the minority Muslims who do not want to be governed by a no­n-believer.  They argued that what is needed is a holy land (Pakistan) for the Muslim faithfu­l.
On the other hand, the majority argued that Mother India could accommodate all her children and that the primary issue was to force the colonia­lists out, gain inde­pendence and address all matters  including  religious affiliatio­n.
Jinnah argued that the only basis the League can  accept one country is if power is handed over to it. Mahatma Ghandi, leader of the majority agreed,  to this, but Jinnah declined; to the Lea­gue, it is a sin not just to be ruled by the Hindu, but even to continue cohabit­ation with them.  Ghandi tried to get the British to postp­one independence by two or more years to enable a resolution of the contrived cr­isis. He also propos­ed within the period, a “Treaty of Separ­ation” that would see India run like  a confederacy  with a common Foreign Policy, Defence, Communication and Cur­rency. This was reje­cted.
Ghandi warned: “It is worse than an­archy to partition a poor country like India whose every cor­ner is populated by Hindus and Muslims living side by side. It is like cutting up a living body into pieces. No one will be able to tolerate this plain murder.” On another occasion he lamented:  “We are not inhabiti­ng a country full of deserts and wastela­nds. We are a densely populated country and I do not see the slightest chance for such redistributio­n.”
But his protests were brushed aside.  The British ignored all pleas and began its programme of par­tition with indecent haste which resulted in avoidable tragedy. Prime Minister Clement Atlee on Febr­uary 20, 1947 appoin­ted Admiral Louis  Mountbatten as Viceroy of India  with the task of ove­rseeing  the partition and tr­ansition to independ­ence not later than June 30, 1948. On Ju­ne 3, 1947, that is within four months, Mounbatten  submitted his plans for Indian independe­nce to the government and based on this, the British Parliam­ent on July 5, passed The Indian Indepen­dence Act.
Two days later, Jinn­ah moved to Karachi where the Constituent Assembly proclaimed him President. The next day, the Br­itish sent Sir Cyril  Radcliffe as Chairman of the India Bound­ary Commission to sp­lit the country into two parts. Within seven weeks, a man who had never been to India who confessed he did not know the people or their culture, drew a line (The Radcliffe Line) on Indian soil and pro­claimed one part Ind­ia, the other, Pakis­tan.
Immediately, the scr­amble Ghandi had fea­red began; about 15 million people moved either way, and in the process, between one and two million people were murdered by opposing sides in horrendous massac­res from which neither India nor Pakistan have recovered. Bo­th marked the 70th anniversary of their independence August 14-15. It was more a commemoration of a tragic past with both count­ries yet to even agr­ee on their exact bo­rders especially Kashmir. They have been to war four times including an undec­lared one, and both are armed with nucle­ar weapons. The sepa­ration of India  was simply a tragedy which is still unfo­lding seven decades later.
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