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|Migration Histories > South Asian > Origins|
By the end of 1946 communal violence was escalating and the British began to fear that India would descend into civil war. The British government's representative, Lord Wavell, put forward a breakdown plan as a safeguard in the event of political deadlock.
Wavell, however, believed that once the disadvantages of the Pakistan scheme were exposed, Jinnah would see the advantages of working for the best possible terms inside a united India. He wrote:
'Unfortunately the fact that Pakistan, when soberly and realistically examined, is found to be a very unattractive proposition, will place the Moslems in a very disadvantageous position for making satisfactory terms with India for a Federal Union.'
This view was based on a report, which claimed that a future Pakistan would have no manufacturing or industrial areas of importance: no ports, except Karachi, or rail centres. It was also argued that the connection between East and West Pakistan would be difficult to defend and maintain. The report concluded:
'It is hard to resist the conclusion that taking all considerations into account the splitting up of India will be the reverse of beneficial as far as the livelihood of its people is concerned'.
Lord Mountbatten replaced Lord Wavell as Viceroy of India in 1947. Read a letter of instructions from the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, to Lord Mountbatten written in March 1947.
Mountbatten's first proposed solution for the Indian subcontinent, known as the 'May Plan', was rejected by Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru on the grounds it would cause the 'balkanisation of India'. The following month the 'May Plan' was substituted for the 'June Plan', in which provinces would have to choose between India and Pakistan. Bengal and Punjab both voted for partition.
The subcontinent was partitioned on 15 August 1947 and Pakistan came into existence, even though several princely states had still to decide which of the two new countries to join. The two new boundaries drawn up by the Radcliffe Commission, cut through Bengal and the Punjab.
The partition of India into two successor states, India and Pakistan, resulted in the transfer of approximately eight million Muslims, and equivalent numbers of Sikhs and Hindus, across the Indo-Pakistan borders in the north-west and north-east of the subcontinent in 1947. The largest single refugee movement of the 20th century was accompanied by communal violence and atrocities committed on all sides of the religious spectrum, with a death toll calculated at approximately 1 million. In South Asia it has been referred to as a holocaust.
Apart from the psychological scars, which have yet to heal, there were the practical problems of the fragmentation of refugee populations and loss of family land holdings, particularly in the Punjab, an area from which many migrants to Britain emigrated. It is no coincidence then that the vast majority (possibly as much as 75%) of post-war immigrants to Britain, prior to the 1970s, came from regions directly affected by partition.
Creators: Dr. Shompa Lahiri
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