Blaming Nehru : Partition - The Role Of The British

One of the favourite theories that quite a number of us subscribe to is the reason and the blame for Partition, which is ascribed to Panditji. This article presents the other side of the picture, one which will hopefully lead the reader to do some questioning of the accepted and commonly understood versions or rather impressions that are held as gospel. 

It is stated that the reason for Partition is that Panditji and Jinnah were not able to get together, leading to a rift and ultimately to Partition. The supposed ego-clash between these two pivotal figures in our history is considered a key aspect of the entire Partition saga. The scenario that plays out is a simplistic fall-out between these two main players, leading to Partition. Further, The Mahatma's support for Panditji is also claimed as a powerful factor. 

I make no claim either way in this article; I leave this argument as it is for now. As the reader shall see, it would be premature to take this up at this juncture. The reason is that the above is a very simplistic scenario, that does not take the full scope of the problem into account. The first task is to establish the full set of parameters to be considered  before we can get to analysing the individual contributions of each. 

There were three players in this scenario : Muslims, Non-Muslims {Mainly Hindus} and The British. All of us tend to forget the presence of the British in the scene. They were controlling the levers of power, and were in a position to exert considerable influence, as we shall see. Furthermore, this simplistic scenario overlooks one simple reality : that Panditji and Jinnah were not alone, there were a dozen or more major players in the scenario - as well as millions of common citizens. The commonly told narrative in the public forgets that all central players were important because of the public; and drew their power from their following. This is especially true of Panditji. 

That is the key to the solution : the key question should be, how is it that one man was able to drive Millions into believing India was not their home? That they needed another country for themselves? Just an ego clash does not fit bill. The following of the people, and their willingness to listen to one man and his scenario of hate, indicates the presence of some third {or maybe more} visceral factor/s that was / were influencing them. Most critically, how was it that two communities who lived side-by-side for a Millennia and more even under Hindu or Sikh rulers, who fought the British together in 1857, who served under each others' rulers, who cooperated with each other, fought against each  other, lived with each other for better or for worse, came to see each other as enemies? How was it that the atmosphere became so vitiated that violence was rampant, and the nation became literally ungovernable by the British?

The answer is the introduction of the third variable into this simplistic algebraic equation : The British. Prior to the British, the struggle for power between the Muslim rulers and the Marathas was already in full swing; Hindus were on both sides, as well as Muslims. The struggle for Hindu political dominance was also in full upswing in the Mughal-Maratha battles, without it becoming a people's war, or an inter-community affair. It was into this quagmire, in a nation temporarily disordered, and with a weakened central structure, entered. 

The British were centrally involved right from the start. This is not a simple tale; it all started way back in 1757, and gathered steam from 1857, which, for the record, wasnt a mutiny; it was mass uprising of almost the entire Northern India, large tracts of Southern India and parts even of Eastern India, and included a joint Hindu-Muslim attempt. It was, in every sense, The First War Of Independence. More here : The Significance of 1857 in our Independence

1857 established a few  things to the Brits - one, colonisation of India by the White Man was impossible. Next, it also made clear to them that conversions and religious attacks were also a recipe for certain disaster. And that is why 1857 is the first War of Independence: we protected out way of life, and our society - which is 100% brown and pure. We protected our religion, and our country. Had this not happened, who knows what the future held? Look at other esp African countries... "

It also made crystal clear to them that the next time Hindus and Muslims unite, The White Man is out. That was the most critical learning the British took from 1857. 1857 laid the foundation for Partition; after 1857, it is my personal opinion that a united India became impossible due to the British {But I jump the gun, more of that later}. Till their last days, The British were terrified of a popular Army-led uprising; rightly so. The next time The Indian Army rose, The White Man was kicked out. 

It also laid the groundwork for an insidious divide and rule policy, a policy that had, and still has, far-reaching implications. And it was this Divide And Rule Policy that played havoc with the structure and fabric of our society and our internal politics.  To summarise,

  • Differential treatment to both communities
  • Differential approach in jobs
  • Differential approach in education
  • Differential approach in treatment and attitude
  • Differential community building
  • Entrenching and deepening religious and caste divides. 
  • Differential treatment to political movements by both communities
  • These steps were followed by the separate electorates of 1905...

  • The net impact of the above was to institutionalise caste based and religion based differences.
  • This, combined with the unbelievably shocking, mind-numbingly cruel slaughter and mayhem in 1857-59 had created a subdued population, simmering, but terrified
  • This was why The Mahatma was adamant : No Violence. he knew that violence would give the British the opportunity to recreate 1857. 1919 had confirmed his worst fears; which is why he called off all movements at even the slightest hint of violence. Remember that when The Mahatma's opinions were being formed, 1857 was a living memory. Also remember that as recently as 1919, the murder of a 1000 innocent Indians was regarded a celebrated event by The Whites in England, with Dyer even getting accolades and huge money as a reward for killing a 1000 Indians. Thus, the terror of The British was real.

  • It was in this brutal, sad and terrifying mixture of seething rage, anger and discontent that the British played out their Great Game : Russia.
  • They did not understand they were playing with fire; with something so powerful that it would one day consume them. That is what happened. The forces they unleashed ripped apart the entire empire. They suppressed Muslims, leading to seminal changes in them - creating a force that is now threatening World Peace. The suppression led to a series of changes and questions within Islam, but I digress. That is not relevant here.
  • The other factor : The Arrogance Of The White Man, who considered the Muslim a fighter and the Hindu a coward. {Yes. evidence of this also exists, sorry}. {History is silent proof of just how tough and hard The Hindu can be... but that is another story}
  • The Great Game + White Arrogance are the two deciding factors here. Having said that, there are other parameters involved - Islam and its internal tumult ranging from Wahhabi influence, to Syed Ahmed Khan, Al-Afghani etc; inter-community stress with the rising tide of nationalist thought; inability of the majority to convince the minority; rising tensions, all of which  are irrelevant to the question here
  • In this seething Maelstrom, one critical decision was considered, in the backdrop of WW1, when Partition was first considered  : 1933, when the British thought that if push comes to shove, Baluchistan can be partitioned off, so as to retain troops to counter Russia. It was evident that independent India would not allow that, given the opinions of its leaders.
  • It was in this backdrop that Jinnah met Linlithgow in September 1939, and assured the British:  "Muslim Areas should be separated from Hindu India, and run by Muslims in collaboration with Great Britain- Jinnah to Linlithgow, 4 Sept 1939"! "He [Jinnah] represents a minority, and a minority can only hold its own with our assistance Linthgow to the Secretary of State" 
  • From this point on, every British step was taken to ensure Partition. Each and every single step.
  • The police stepped aside in riots, not taking action. 
  • Islamic agenda got wide dispersal as a result, further deepening divides
  • No action in the runup to and during Direct Action Day, 1946, leaving a community helpless and defenceless
With that, we arrive in 1946, in a situation where no one was willing to listen to the other, with rampant violence and hatred. Before we look at internal players, I shall go into detail with specific examples of Divide And Rule, and how it destroyed the fabric of our society. 


This article is yet another in my continuing endeavour to understand the tragedy of Partition, and the reasons behind it; as well as my contribution towards telling and spreading the real story.  Partition stands as one of the most convoluted and involved topics I have even run across; and blunt frank and straight : no material I have read has managed to convince me or answer all of my questions... the other aspects - Internal ones, like Jinnah/Nehru, The Mahatma, internal realities - shall be detailed later, as  I progress further in my hunt for the truth... so please bear with me. 


1) From the ruins of empire- Pankaj Mishra {For a Pan Asian Perspective, and to understand British strategies}
2) Partition - The Untold Story - Narendra Sarila {An insiders account - ADC to Mountbatten, replete with irrefutable explosive original documentary evidence}
3) Jinnah, Partition, Independence - Jaswant Singh {Blow-by-blow account of the final days}
4) The Case For India - Will Durant {For the superb analysis of the British Strategy}
5) India's Struggle For Independence - Bipin Chandra Pal {For thorough overview of the entire era}
6) Churchill's Secret War - Madhushree Mukherjee {For the Period from 1940-1944}
7) The Discovery Of India - Jawaharlal Nehru {To Understand Pandit Nehru : Must read for ALL Indians}
8) Bengal Divided: The Unmaking Of A Nation: 1905 - 1971 - Nitish Sengupta {For Divide And Rule, and its insidious impact in tearing asunder 2 united communities}


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