The violence of the Partition of India and Pakistan, 1946-1948.
Held, D.G. den
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British India became independent in August 1947. It was partitioned along religious lines into two countries: India and Pakistan. The Partition was accompanied by excessive violence, even though the transition of power was peaceful. Approximately one million people were killed and twelve million people migrated as a direct result of the Partition. The extent of the violence sounds rather paradoxical. Therefore, the following question is asked: how can the violence of the Partition be explained? Theories from the field of conflict studies were combined with historical sources to formulate an answer. Three structural causes that made India and Pakistan prone to violence are identified. These causes are ethnic geography, weak states and intra-state security concerns. The new-born states of India and Pakistan were ethnically diverse weak states, lacking capable political institutions and sensible borders. The absence of proper armies led to intra-state security concerns. Altogether, both India and Pakistan were very predisposed to violence. However, violence did not happen everywhere, despite the violence-prone conditions. There were large differences between certain states. In the princely state of Malerkotla, the period of Partition was quite tranquil. In the neighbouring princely state of Patiala, many people died because of Partition- related violence. The commitment theory explains that the differences in outcome are mainly a result of whether the princes of Patiala and Malerkotla would benefit of a certain involvement in the violence or not. The role that individuals played is explained by the motives of fear and greed. Many people acted out of fear. Misjudgement of the intentions of others and the absence of reliable information led to arms racing. Besides that, some people acted in order to get economical or personal gains. The lawlessness of the Partition period made it easy to loot or solve personal issues. The violence that accompanied the lootings also increased the fear by itself and the arms racing, creating a vicious circle. Altogether, there were many factors that influenced the violence of the Partition. The combination of causes presented in this thesis explain why the Partition of India and Pakistan was accompanied by violence on a very large scale.