EDITORIAL

Colonialism’s bitter breakup of India

India, 1930s. PHOTO: Mark Harrison
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This year marks the 75th anniversary of Britain’s blood-soaked partition of India and Pakistan, one of colonialism’s most callous legacies.

Before Britain invaded the region, people of multiple traditions, languages, cultures and religions intermingled freely. But the conqueror deliberately fomented religious, ethnic, and caste antagonisms to “divide and rule.”

After World War II, however, the British empire was bankrupt and national liberation movements were gaining force around the world, including in India. The monarchy was impelled to relinquish its 300-year control of the country. On its way out, it made a deal with local Hindu and Muslim elites to split the country in two, sparking a sectarian upheaval.

Some 15 million people were displaced, 1–2 million died, and an estimated 80,000 women trying to cross the new border were kidnapped and raped.

The violence unleashed in 1947 remains alive today. Now armed with nuclear weapons, the two countries are continually at each other’s throats, while bigoted assaults based on religious and cultural differences are common to both.

What a stinging rebuke to the pomp and ceremony that celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne!

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