The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan

Siddhartha Deb writes:

More than earlier historians, Khan is interested in the alternative possibilities that existed during that tumultuous time. Until the Partition plan stipulated that Pakistan would consist of parts of Punjab and Bengal, other shapes had been suggested, ranging from the non-territorial to those demarcating islands and corridors with a Muslim majority in India. Nor were alternative forms of territory and sovereignty suggested only for Pakistan. One idea was that independent city-states should be created in Calcutta, Delhi, Karachi and Lahore, each ruled by an elected governor. Many of the rulers of the princely states imagined separate futures for themselves, and occasionally carried out ethnic cleansing: the Muslim Meos were massacred in the princely states of Alwar and Bharatpur in present-day Rajasthan, for example. In the rural areas of the princely state of Hyderabad, a peasant uprising lasted from 1946 to 1951, beginning as a rebellion against the feudal Nizam of Hyderabad but continuing as an insurrection against the Indian state, which seized the Nizam’s lands in 1948. Kashmir’s Hindu king, who ruled over a largely Muslim population, tried at first to keep his options open before caving in to pressure from the Congress. Soon after, Indian soldiers were flown into the Valley to face off against Muslim irregulars supported by the Pakistani army, so beginning a cycle of occupation, insurgency and proxy wars that still continues.

(LRB 1 January 2009)

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