The Great Partition | Yasmin Cordery Khan

Summary of: The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan
By: Yasmin Cordery Khan

India’s Role in WWII

India’s significant contribution in World War II paved the way for its independence, albeit with growing religious divisions.

India’s contribution to World War II with over 2.5 million troops, among other resources, weakened British colonialism. The Indian people, who played a crucial role in the war, faced risks of Japanese attacks, economic hardships, and famine. Post World War II, there was increasing demand for India’s independence. However, the British’s administration approach led to unrest and divisions between religious groups. India’s freedom came with inevitable religious disputes and, hence, should not be viewed independently of World War II. Overall, India’s impact on the war and subsequent independence is often overlooked but cannot be ignored.


Dive into the complex history of India and Pakistan as we explore their tumultuous path to independence in ‘The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan’ by Yasmin Cordery Khan. In this summary, you will witness firsthand the British colonial influence that sparked religious divides, the intense political struggle between Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the chaotic consequences of hastily drawn new borders. Gain a deep understanding of how the events of this period permanently shaped the lives of millions of people and the trajectories of these two emerging nations.

India’s Uncertain Path to Independence

In 1945, Britain promised India independence, but the path to achieving it was unclear. Elections were held to determine the leaders of Indian public opinion. The Indian National Congress Party, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, and the All-India Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, won. The election demonstrated the rise of Muslim nationalism and calls for a separate Muslim state in northern India. The Congress party sought a united, independent, and secular India, but the election weakened their stand. The elections fueled huge expectations on religious lines, but the diverse nature of the population made it almost impossible to achieve an outcome that satisfied both sides.

The Unintended Consequences of British Withdrawal from India

The creation of Pakistan was opposed by some everyday Muslims who were concerned about its practical implications, despite strong advocacy from Muslim leadership. British administrators failed to recognize how the election polarized voters along religious lines, and prioritized a hasty exit over creating a peaceful settlement between factions. The colonial power viewed any settlement in terms of land, ignoring the potential impact on different ethnic and religious groups living peacefully together for centuries.

India’s Struggle for Postcolonial Freedom

India’s road to postcolonial freedom was fraught with deeply conflicting ideas that eventually led to violence and the failure of a constitutional compromise. The return of soldiers who had fought in World War II sparked armed militias intent on protecting their communities, but this quickly spiraled into violence fueled by ethnic nationalism. The British Cabinet Mission’s attempt to find a constitutional compromise failed in 1946, leading to riots and the spread of disinformation. With the British government eager to place the task of governing into local hands, partition seemed like the only solution, despite the challenges of the intricately mixed religious and ethnic populations of Northern India. This historic turning point marked the creation of full-blown modern nation-states while local understandings of freedom and Pakistan were redefined.

The Hasty Partition

In 1946, with the collapse of order in Punjab and Bengal, the British acquiesced that Partition was the sole solution for India. The border commission, led by a British lawyer Cyril Radcliffe, hastily worked to finalize the borders, without considering the cultural and historical significance of the regions. The Partition plan was announced on June 3, 1947, withholding details of new borders until Independence Day. The plan, which brought relief to the British government, did not consider the opinions and implications for the people living in the border region.

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