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Partition of India: Origin of Hatred | BBC History Documentary | India


This is a phenomenal documentary from the BBC titled Partition of India: Origin of Hatred. The title may be a little misleading because the animus between Hindus and Muslims across South Asia didn’t start with partition. Rather, the splitting of colonial India into Pakistan was the beginning of a violent nation state political rivalry with communal overtones. This hatred had been institutionalized by the British through their ‘divide and rule’ tactics.

640px-Gandhi_and_Abdul_Ghaffar_Khan_during_prayer_Cropped_BrighterBesides the imperial policies of the English, there was plenty of blame to go around for the partition of India. One important reason was the inability of leaders from each community to find common ground and share power. Another was the legacy of the Hindu caste system and how many Muslims were treated as untouchables. Strangely a form of this caste system still exists amongst Muslims in South Asia who discriminate against lower caste converts. Radical Islamist schools preached the Islamization of the sub-continent, and to counter these voices were fascist Hindu organizations who were unwilling to share power with their Muslim brethren. In the midst of all this, were opportunists on both sides, looking to loot and gain assets from those who fled during the violence.Besides the imperial policies of the English, there was plenty of blame to go around for the partition of India. One important reason was the inability of leaders from each community to find common ground and share power. Another was the legacy of the Hindu caste system and how many Muslims were treated as untouchables. Strangely a form of this caste system still exists amongst Muslims in South Asia who discriminate against lower caste converts. Radical Islamist schools preached the Islamization of the sub-continent, and to counter these voices were fascist Hindu organizations who were unwilling to share power with their Muslim brethren. In the midst of all this, were opportunists on both sides, looking to loot and gain assets from those who fled during the violence.

hqdefaultWhile this documentary does not delve into all of these reasons, it touches on a few. Some of them are the caste divide,the deep distrust that existed between these communities despite centuries of peaceful coexistence and the hand the British played in allowing a complete lapse of law and order. This was despite the fact they still had control over the military and police. There is a lot of original footage,retouched in color of partition era India and Pakistan. Often in documentaries of this kind, the historical narrative is focussed on the Hindu and Muslim communities, but here we learn a lot about the Sikh community as well.

In one village, Muslims joined their Sikh neighbors and fought off many marauding mobs successfully.Later when this village became a part of India, these Muslims were driven away to Pakistan by the Indian army. There is a chilling story about a Sikh family who murdered all the women between the ages of 10 and 40 to protect their honor. It goes without saying that women suffered the most during the partition of India. Women from both communities were shamelessly raped and murdered.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 11.34.13 PMBesides the violence, the very ordeal of moving, from one country to another was too much to bear. Most did this on foot, and suffered tremendously. Many children were orphaned because their parents had abandoned them. The new countries had borders drawn up in haste by a civil servant who prior to this assignment had never been east of Paris and was named Sir Cyril Radcliffe. Many of the districts that would be separated by the new borders did not have a majority community. This invariably guaranteed violence. Cities like Lahore that were cosmopolitan, where Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived in peace would change forever.

The quickly drawn up border would not be announced until after independence. This only led to more confusion. Originally India was to be made independent in 1948, but Lord Mountbatten, India’s last viceroy had managed to prepone the official handing over of power by many months. All of this ensued a great mayhem. The death toll of genocidal proportions that occurred from the partition of India was a result of lawlessness that could have been prevented.

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