India and Pakistan share a dark past of having one of the most tragic handing over of independence from the British. The countries attained freedom 76 years ago in 1947, amidst a bloody partition.
The India-Pakistan partition in 1947 marked a tumultuous chapter in history. Triggered by the end of British colonial rule, the subcontinent’s division into two nations led to widespread chaos and communal violence.
The history of India and Pakistan partition goes back to 1933, when Choudhry Rahmat Ali published a pamphlet calling for Muslim majority country on the Indian subcontinent. The pamphlet titled ‘Now or never, are we to live or perish forever’ also contained the term ‘Pakstan’. The term would later in 1940 be adopted as ‘Pakistan’ in the Lahore declaration, where the Muslim league declared a need for a Muslim nation.
In 1945, a new Labour Govt was formed under Prime Minister Clement Attlee, the Govt sent in a cabinet mission to India, with an aim to discuss how the new states were to be formed. In December 1945, General Elections were held in British India, the Congress party won in most of non-Muslim majority areas, while Muslim league formed the Government in most of Muslim majority areas.
The election results strengthened the Muslim league’s resolution of a separate Muslim nation and gradually partition became inevitable.
Following August 1946, communal riots broke out in several parts of India, with Calcutta and Bombay being worst affected. One year later, after many discussions and deliberations, the Radcliffe line was drawn, giving birth to two separate nations, India, and Pakistan, leading to mass population transfer between the two nations.
Now, 76 years later, India and Pakistan stand as two separate sovereigns, with their own set of challenges and drawbacks. Given the polarisation in India and constant political tensions in Pakistan, Asian Standard spoke to British Indians and British Pakistanis, to understand what Independence Day for India (15 August) and Pakistan (14 August) means to them.
73-year-old, Swarna Ram, a retired person speaking on Indian independence said: “India got independent on 15 August 1947. It has had it own set of challenges, today we cannot say if Indians are living freely or not, but what is important is that it achieved independence, and we should celebrate it to respect those who gave it to us.”
62-year-old Mohammad Rafiq, of Mirpur in Pakistan had his views on Pakistan Independence Day: “Pakistan was a result of the efforts made by Qaid-e-Azam, he was a leader of huge stature, he had his own vision of Pakistan. Now, post creation, both India and Pakistan are going their own path. There is democracy in both the countries. Pakistan right now is going through a critical situation, but which country does not have challenges? The political parties are always in conflict, and in this conflict, the common man faces collateral damage, so there are always efforts to minimise this damage. For the past 70 to 75 years, we have been living like this. Sometimes we are in a good phase, sometimes we are not, but as long as freedom is concerned, we are obviously free, both the countries are free.”
Ashwin Raman, aged 29, is a graduate from University of Leeds, having lived in the UK for the past two years, he shares his view on the situation of India and the value of Independence: “Currently there are two issues that are plaguing India and is affecting people’s life, the first one being religious polarisation, India has always been known for its unity and diversity, people blinded by the thread of patriotism, but now, polarisation has crept in to such an extent that one sect of people are being demonised. Second issue is that freedom of speech is being stifled day by day. People of the country are not able to freely share their opinions on any policy. Apart from these, I still feel, that Independence is still there, democracy is still there, especially when we compare to other nations where such freedom is much more suppressed.”
Ahmed, of Pakistani heritage, aged 25, working part time with a security agency in Bradford was concerned about the situation in Pakistan: “It’s been 76 years since the creation of India and Pakistan, however multiple issues still plague Pakistan. The country is struggling, I would say that it is a situation akin to 1947. The political situation today in Pakistan is not good, the economy is struggling. Despite being around for 76 years, we are still struggling. However, there’s always hope that the situation gets better, and we have a bright future ahead.”
Asian Standard spoke to many others, who did not wish to be quoted or named. Each one, be it Indian or a Pakistani, shared a similar views. While everyone valued the Independence, they blamed the countries’ respective situation on the political class.
“Politicians have pulled us back, people are still in poverty, there are large families with a sole bread earner. A lot needs to be done to get things on track,” a second-generation Pakistani man told Asian Standard.
Speaking to both Indians and Pakistanis in UK, there’s one thing clear. Despite of all challenges, be it a political crisis, religious polarisation, or economic challenges, both the communities have an optimistic view of their respective countries and share a mutual value for its freedom.
Happy Independence Day to both India and Pakistan