Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeOpinionsThe horrors of partition: How the British left a legacy of unrest which haunts...

The horrors of partition: How the British left a legacy of unrest which haunts us to this day

Even after 70+ years, Assam is yet to recover from the great loss and can hardly regain back its prosperous economy that was once upon a time. Though in the last 9 years efforts are on to develop northeast and Assam, bring it to par with the rest of the nation and revive its economy through South Asian connect.

“So let us call genocide, genocide and not just deaths”, said Adam Schiff. It’s time to recognise and document the partition horrors of the Hindu genocide. India’s Partition is a horror story of genocide and generational loss that till a few years back, few wanted to talk about, hardly write or document.

The world’s worst historical horrors of mass genocide were the cold-blooded ruthless murder of Indians- babies, children, pregnant women, and men of all ages as they got displaced on account of an unwilling forceful partition.

Around 14th August 1947, united India was cruelly divided, partitioning the once spiritual divine all-embracing land into 3 parts- India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan on religious grounds, while the Britisher preached secularism. And this partition came at a cost, at the cost of genocide of more than 2 million Indians. 

In world history, the largest forced migration that ever took place was of Indians, forcing our ancestors to leave their motherland in the name of partition. It was not just demarcating political borders and division but uprooting around 20 million Indians from their families, home, livelihood, business, property, and belongings. They were compelled to migrate to unknown territory with no idea of a destination or future. And it was not a happy migration. There was chaos, looting of both humans and properties, destruction and uncontrolled killings.

People were raped, murdered and burnt alive while they migrated post-partition. Trains transporting people were put on fire, and bodies were found in ashes when they reached the station. There was a bloodbath everywhere. Mass genocide of babies, women (pregnant women, mothers), men and elderly, continued for days – none were spared. And the ever so organisationally strong efficient Britishers simply looked on and allowed these to happen. They created mayhem of a cruel unwise unplanned partition, failing to provide protected passage, security or administrative help. 

A horror worse than the freedom struggle of 200 years. All due to the mindless division of the 5000-year-old ancient Indian civilisation that the colonial Britishers took control by brutal force and were unhappy to leave, as were compelled to leave India by the continuous fight of Indian freedom fighters. Unhappy for having to leave a rich resourceful, mighty country like India that in 300 years made the United Kingdom wealthy, helped build their country and infrastructure, uplifted and boosted its economy, fed its people, gave the queen ‘The Kohinoor’ – the world’s largest and most expensive diamond.

Pre-British rule, India’s share of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the British left India, it had dropped to just over 3%. In 1820, India’s GDP was 16% of the world total. By 1870 during British rule, it had fallen to 12%, and by 1947 had fallen to its lowest ever at 4%. Comparatively, in 1858 when the UK entered India its GDP was a mere 0.711 only and within 12 years in 1870 its GDP was highest at 23.8%. In 1947, Britain became super rich at India’s expense with a GDP of 10.432.

But what did the British do while leaving? Instead of giving the nation back to the original owners of the land, the Hindu Indians; they partitioned India on religious line, cut apart the nation illogically and separated land for Muslims and named it Pakistan. The Britishers, known to have pandered to the Muslims, carried a cruel divisive plan even in the partition of fuelling fire on religious and communal lines. Consequently, even after the partition, what followed was hatred and killings, unrest so much that the nation burnt like never before and was coloured in blood everywhere. The hatred still exists, still continues.

Years on, the pain lives on.

NorthEast, Assam & Partition

There was no corner of the country that was spared. For North East, especially Assam, partition divided our beautiful state, changing land and borders- interprovincial borders of the colonial era became international boundaries changing the dynamics, demography and economy of the state. Along with mass migration here too followed again by killings, and deaths, and partition largely destroyed a flourishing economy of the state and thereby of the entire northeast region. Partition after-affects still hover over Assam, from people to lives, geography to economy to demography.

If there is a single reason for Assam and the NorthEast to be alienated from the rest of India remaining landlocked for lifelong and a region deprived of development and growth and almost given away to China, it is only due to partition. Partition physically separated Assam and NorthEast(NE) from the rest of the country save a narrow passage of 22 kilometres commonly known as the Chicken’s Neck, which is only 17 km wide at its narrowest. Partition took away NorthEast’s natural outlet to the sea that existed since 1904 through the port of Chittagong which became a part of East Pakistan. It disrupted the natural channel of riverine communication, rail and road networks that provided connectivity to this area and had adverse effects on the economy of Assam. This alienated NE from mainland India, depriving it of support, attention from New Delhi and playing a big role in its under-development.

Assam also lost a wealthy district* in terms of the thriving tea, lime and cement industries which in turn resulted in a serious loss of revenue. Partition disrupted the social and economic lives of the various tribal communities in the region, destroying the traditional links that tribal communities, such as the Khasis, Jiantias and Garos, had with the East Pakistani districts of Sylhet and Mymensingh, leaving them split between India and Pakistan, based on their place of residence. 

The Census Report of 1951 categorically observed that ‘the far-reaching effects of this loss will continue to be felt by Assam for long.’ And truly, we are not yet able to be at par with the other states of India. The negative effects of the partition of Assam are hardly studied and hence the region languishes as an unacknowledged site of partition experience. Partition was also not taken kindly by the then East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh and even after 75 years, Assam is to date continuously a target for usurpations by any means. The present means used is mass infiltration by illegal migrants trying to change the demography further; and future control of the state. It is only due to partition that today the National Registrar of Citizenship (NRC) had to be implemented as the changing demography of land and lives and the threat to Assamese identity looms large. Besides, the only connection through the Chicken Neck is the reason for the region being under constant threat from expansionist China and other neighbours fuelling separatist movements, unrest and terrorism.

Even after 70+ years, Assam is yet to recover from the great loss and can hardly regain back its prosperous economy that was once upon a time. Though in the last 9 years efforts are on to develop northeast and Assam, bring it to par with the rest of the nation and revive its economy through South Asian connect.

Yet the lives, land and livelihood lost can never be recovered back. The horrors cannot be forgotten, cannot be undone. The stories that still haunt the sufferers, the agony their ancestors have undergone can hardly be minimized. They still live on. No country needs to go through such times again.

*Sylhet which belonged to the northeast was the most economically important city along with being a spiritual and cultural centre. Sylhet Valley was a large oil and gas-producing region, a hub of tea production and famous for its high-quality cane and agarwood. To date, it produces the highest amount of tea, natural gas and fertilizer.

(Mita Nath Bora is a Researcher and Writer working in the areas of  Public Policy, Livelihood and CSR. She is a Member of the Assam State Youth Commission. Convener of the Nation First Writers Forum and also Convener PRD BJP Assam Pradesh. With an academic background in Economic, Management and Law she addresses various issues of national concern)

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Related Articles

Trending now

Recently Popular

- Advertisement -