In 1947, as India gained its independence from the British Raj, the country was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of India. The division, which became known as the Partition of India, left at least 10 million people displaced, and more than 500,000 dead.
In 1905, the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress (INC) protested against the British plan to ease the religious tensions by dividing the state of Bengal along religious lines. Muslims responded by forming the Muslim League which sought to add the voice of Muslim into decisions that had effect on them.
When World War I broke out, both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League agreed to send 1 Million volunteer Indian troops to fight on Britain’s behalf in Europe. Both were lead to believe that in return, the British will end their colonial rule over India and grant the country independence. They were both deceived when Britain offered no concessions after the great war.
In April of 1919, protests broke out in Amritsar, Punjab to which the British responded by ordering the army to open fire on the unarmed protesters. Over 1,000 people were killed in what became known as the Amritsar Massacre. The word about the massacre spread across India and millions of formerly apolitical Indians became supporters of either the INC of the Muslim League overnight.
In the midst of the melee, a man who were to become the symbol of non violent protest worldwide arose. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a big proponent of keeping the Hindu and Muslim populations unified, however not all INC members shared his inclination to join with Muslims which created room for the Muslim League to plan for independence from Hindu majority India.
When World War II broke out, the British expected India to once again send a large number of soldiers to fight and die on their behalf in Europe, but the INC remembered how they were hoodwinked the last time and refused to get fooled again. Because ties between the INC and the Muslim League have loosened by that time, unlike the INC, the Muslim League agreed to provide their soldier in hopes that it would garner Britain’s support for an independent Muslim state.
As the independence for Muslims became imminent, the country began a gradual descent toward sectarian civil war. Mahatma Gandhi called for all Indians, regardless of religion to stand united in the opposition to British rule, but tensions kept rising and so did the death toll on both sides.
The prospect of keeping India united became unattainable but additional tensions were created by the inability of both sides to agree on where the new border should be. Regions with mostly Muslims population were to become Pakistan, while those with mostly Hindus and other, less represented religions (Christians, Sikhs) stayed with India. The problem were regions with nearly even mixtures of Hindus and Muslims, such as the wealthy and fertile state of the Punjab that both sides wanted to keep.
Eventually, the border was drown right down the middle, forcing millions of people into displacement. The melee created by mass migration, coupled with rising sectarian hostility resulted in half a million deaths.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded on August 14, 1947. The Republic of India followed suit on August 15, 1947.
Below are a few pictures taken during the 1947 Partition of India. Most were published in the Time magazine, including the pics of the woman eaten by a hungry dog.