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[Watch] Partition: The Day India Burned

Bharat Nayak

August 15th, 2015

This is a BBC Documentary

This is a 90-minute BBC documentary on the Partition of India and provides a good overview of the fateful events leading to that cataclysmic decision by the British and the catastrophic suffering of ordinary people caught in the crossfire of communal hatred. Documentary highlight the effects of Britain’s withdrawal from India in 1947 which triggered one of the biggest migrations in history. 15 million were displaced and more than a million lost their lives. The story is told through the testimony of people who lived together for centuries but were forced out of their homes as one of the largest and most ethnically diverse nations in the world was divided. Dramatised reconstructions evoke some of the mistrust, violence and upheavals that ensued.

It describes in detail: (a) British motivation for leaving India after World War 2 in a quick and face-saving manner; (b) the underlying distrust of Hindus and Muslims of each other despite centuries of living together; (c) Muslim educational and economic backwardness relative to Hindus and their fear of Hindu domination in a united India; (d) the failure of the March 1946 Cabinet Mission in Simla on account of Nehru’s refusal to a agree to a decentralized Subcontinent; (e) the beginning of the Hindu-Muslim communal riots with Jinnah’s call for Direct Action in Calcutta in August 1946; (f) the desperate attempts made by Gandhi to effect Hindu-Muslim unity via appeal to their humanity; and (g) the pressure exerted on most Princely States to agree to ascension to India. It also describes: (h) the manipulation of people by political leaders in the name of religion; (i) the slaughter, looting, raping, and mayhem among different communities at the village level; (j) the deep reluctance of people to abandon their generational homes; (k) the brave attempts of certain individuals to save their neighbors of “other” communities from forcible ethnic and religious cleansing; (l) the horrific price paid by women for “defending” their “honor”; (m) the utter lack of governmental preparation for a mass migration of people; (n) the “needless” human carnage caused by Mountbatten’s decision to expedite the planned Partition; and (o) the decline of hitherto culturally rich and cosmopolitan cities like Lahore by loss of “other” communities. This documentary was made in 2007.

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