70 Years After the Great Migration of India They’re Still Fighting
The savage fighting that started on August 16th, the day after British India’s partition, still rages between India and Pakistan.
Partition of British India, something not often studied in U.S. classrooms, was when the British Crown restored autonomy to occupied territory of India, carving two new nations, India and Pakistan.
One region of British India, Cashmere, remains in dispute. While the two countries have otherwise sorted out their internal fighting, since 1947 they’ve only constructed bigger stones to hurl at each other; nukes and other bombs.
Some compare today’s standoff to the cold war. If that’s true, then what happened in the wake of partition was akin to the German Holocaust.
The British brought a mixture of civilization and oppression, more on the oppression end, to the area for three centuries. First, it was government sanctioned private enterprise, then government imperialism.
The religious infighting in that region predates the Brits, but the Crown’s solution to divide the people only served to create xenophobic sides from which to fight each other better.
It was the wrong move.
The Portuguese Started It
When Mom’s favorite vase smashes on the ground, it matters who started it. Usually, there are at least two fingers in the air, depending on how many siblings.
In the case of breaking British India, there was a handful of siblings, Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, English, and French.
The Portuguese were the first to set up trade settlements on the west coast. It didn’t take long for other colonial enterprises (in the form of corporate endeavors) to take note of the opportunities in the region and follow Portugal.
The Dutch, the Danes, and the British were next. The French followed seven decades later. It was the British who perfected the practice of imperialism. (They were so well practiced by that point.)
By 1858, the Brits controlled much of present day India and Pakistan, where they ruled until partition in 1947.
The Portuguese started it, and they lasted longer. They retained a small settlement on the west coast, in Goa, until 1961. That’s fourteen years after the British imperialists handed over control.
The British Liberation
Motivationally, the British East India Company (EIC) was a trade organization, there to create business opportunities. The Crown granted them the patent to set up camp in 1600.
The EIC set sail, set up camp(s), then started trading. Next came the security forces.
What started as a cultural exchange with money-making opportunities, inevitably turned into a security detail. With interests to guard, this was inevitable.
Like all imperialistic moves, the public pitch back home was something about bringing civilization to underprivileged people, but that’s not how things were on the front lines.
There, native people suffered subjugation and abuse. It was the same in Australia, it was the same in South Africa, and it was the same in the Americas.
The eventual raj or rule of the British crown was an inevitability in 1858, which brought more of the same garbage, but in better uniforms. Instead of some ruthless corporate entity oppressing the people for their own selfish financial gain, it was the British Crown and the British Army asserting a more “civilized” form of oppression.
Before the Portuguese arrived, there was fighting amongst the people of modern day India, much like humans have fought since we were cave dwellers. The battles in India, however, were ideological, the Hindus and Sikhs versus the Muslims.
As is wont to happen, there was something of a natural divide, but not so clear as a boundary. The Muslims tended to live in the northern part of British India, the Hindus, and Sikhs to the south.
The genius of the imperialists was to divide the two ideologies into sovereign nations, Pakistan in the north, India in the South. That partition of the two began August 15, 1947. For the year that followed, a bloody great migration took place.
Muslims from the south migrated north, those who wished to avoid persecution in what would become Hindu and Sikh India. The reverse was also true, with Hindus and Sikhs moving south. Or at least, that was the plan. Many refused to leave their homes, creating territorial disputes.
As the two ideologies migrated, tens of thousands disappeared, died, and suffered at the hands of the other side. Whole villages burned to the ground.
The violence was, by the observations of those who’d witnessed Nazi Germany, worse. Rape was common, but not the worst atrocity. Torture and disfigurement were also common. This was humanity at its most inhumane.
When the dust finally settled in 1948, the bitterness between the two nations would carry them through endless battles and threats up until the present day. This moment, the Pakistan and India are one bad day away from a devastating exchange.
While the British didn’t own the infighting outright, they certainly taught the people of British India a thing or two about oppression.
The people of India took over with all the civilized behaviors they learned from the former imperialist leaders.