The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan

The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan

by Yasmin Khan

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The Partition of India in 1947 promised its people both political and religious freedom—through the liberation of India from British rule, and the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan. Instead, the geographical divide brought displacement and death, and it benefited the few at the expense of the very many. Thousands of women were raped, at least one million people were killed, and ten to fifteen million were forced to leave their homes as refugees. One of the first events of decolonization in the twentieth century, Partition was also one of the most bloody.


In this book Yasmin Khan examines the context, execution, and aftermath of Partition, weaving together local politics and ordinary lives with the larger political forces at play. She exposes the widespread obliviousness to what Partition would entail in practice and how it would affect the populace. Drawing together fresh information from an array of sources, Khan underscores the catastrophic human cost and shows why the repercussions of Partition resound even now, some sixty years later. The book is an intelligent and timely analysis of Partition, the haste and recklessness with which it was completed, and the damaging legacy left in its wake.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300176391
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 11/05/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Yasmin Khan is associate professor of history and Fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford, and author of The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     viii
List of Maps     x
Acknowledgements     xi
List of Abbreviations     xiii
Glossary     xv
Timeline of Major Events, 1945-1950     xvii
Introduction: The Plan     1
In the Shadow of War     11
Changing Regime     23
The Unravelling Raj     40
The Collapse of Trust     63
From Breakdown to Breakdown     81
Untangling Two Nations     104
Blood on the Tracks     128
Leprous Daybreak     143
Bitter Legacies     167
Divided Families     186
Epilogue     205
Notes     211
Select Bibliography     233
Index     243

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The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
bruchu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Painful BeginningsThere are so many ways in which this story can be told, the truth, is often not one of them. Because the truth is too painful and too hard to imagine, because the truth doesn't give us hope in humanity. In "The Great Partition", Yasmin Khan takes us as close to the truth about this most tragic chapter in the history of South Asia as we will probably ever get. It is on the surface a simple story about post-WWII decolonization and the birth of two modern nation-states that tragically descended into a catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions.The story of the Partition of India and Pakistan is unfortunately not a new one. There were several historical precedents that all had been marked by tragic consequences, such as the mass migrations between Greece and Turkey following WWI, or the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Turkey, also following WWI. Which makes this exercise all the more tragic, knowing that history was being repeated.Partition was not the first solution presented in their liberation from the British Raj. Khan's book is especially strong in describing those meetings between the British officials (Mountbatten), Muslim League (Jinnah), and the National Congress (Nehru) in the months before 1947. However, this initial proposal of an Indian federation didn't last long and Khan's interpretation is that all sides agreed to Partition as the "easy way out". It is perhaps useless now to think what if, but still one has to wonder if there was an alternative to the eventual solution that resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands.The story of Partition is a lesson in how not to delineate territorial borders. Much like how the protagonists at the Paris 1919 peace conference arbitrarily carved up nation-states, the Partition of the province of Punjab in particular was an exercise in ignorance. Communities cut off from pilgrimage sites, factories divorced from their source of raw materials. The rush by British colonial administrators to make an expeditious exit is mostly to blame here which Khan describes as the "unforgiving calculus of Partition" (p.127).It is the tragic irony that in the end, it took the shock of Gandhi's assassination which "immediately helped to stabilize and enforce national feeling and undoubtedly gave ascendancy to secular policy" (p.180).What makes this story so important is it's lasting consequences. Khan writes: "The permanent separation of Indians and Pakistanis from each other, and their inability to cross the new border, was the most long-lasting and divisive aspect of Partition" (p.194). Families ripped apart, lives forever shattered.In reading "The Great Partition", that familiar but dangerous theme of ethnic nationalism rears its ugly head. People didn't all of a sudden decide to kill, torture and rape their neighbors, they were coaxed into doing it. A deadly mixture of demagogue leadership and paranoid xenophobia drove good decent people into hysteria, turning them into the most heinous criminals. It's the "Lord of the Flies" theory.Anyone who wants to learn more about modern history of South Asia should read this book. Khan, Professor at University of London, herself a product of and a generation or 2 removed from Partition has managed to weave together the tragic personal narratives with interpretations of primary source documents of the political leaders to produce a highly nuanced and insightful monograph of this monumental event.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago