75th Anniversary of Partition: A Timeline of Post-Partition Events
In 2022, we celebrate the 75th year of Indian independence. In that time, the subcontinent has seen many major historical turning points — some triumphant and some tragic.
While we’ve seen the events leading up to the Partition of India, let's look at the moments that came in the aftermath of the Partition. Let’s recount the rise and fall of leaders, the creation of Bangladesh, and the moments that affected billions of people.
1947 — The Immediate Fallout
The Radcliffe Line, the Britain-created border between East and West Pakistan and India, immediately proved disastrous. In Punjab, the line forced many Muslims to be in Hindu majority West Punjab, and many Hindus to be in the Muslim majority East Punjab.
As soon as the border was announced, 12 million people fled across to the other side to avoid persecution. This also led to mass murder of ethnic minorities. Estimates of total deaths go as high as 2 million.
This same pattern emerged in Bengal, where more than 3 million fled to avoid religious persecution. And in smaller numbers, this occurred in many other areas as well.
Rape as a weapon was extensively used to attack ethnic minorities in the communal violence. More than 300,000 women were abducted and raped during the chaos.
1947 — First Indo-Pak war
On October 27, India and Pakistan fought a small war in Kashmir. The dispute over control of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir would continue to draw the two countries into conflict.
1948 — Mahatma Gandhi Assassinated
On January 30, Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi to death during an interfaith prayer meeting.
Godse was motivated by a belief that Gandhi was too sympathetic to Muslims in the country and to Pakistan.
1950 — Indian Constitution Comes Into Effect
The Constitution of India — ratified by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 — came into effect on January 26, 1950. This made it the largest constitutional republic in human history.
1951 — Resettlement
After Partition, resettlement and migration continued for several years. Millions who tried to migrate disappeared.
Both India and Pakistan agreed to find and return abducted women to their home countries. However, many of the victims did want to return to their families, due to discrimination against rape victims.
1952 — India Holds General Elections
The first general elections since the Partition of India were held from October 25, 1951 to February 21, 1952. Jawaharlal Nehru and his Indian National Congress party were massively successful.
The party would continue to hold a strong grip on government until 1977.
1962 — Sino-Indian War
After years of increasing hostilities, China and India had a border war in the Himalayas from October to November, 1962.
In the end, China made small territorial gains, including Rezang La and Tawang. This was fought almost entirely in a ground war due to the mountainous conditions.
Though Britain and the US did not sell weapons to either side, India benefited greatly from Soviet support. As the Sino-Soviet Split was beginning to intensify, the USSR looked to India for an ally.
1965 — Second Indo-Pak War
This was the second war fought in Kashmir between these two countries, but it would not be the last.
It was sparked when Pakistan attempted to foment an insurgency through its Operation Gibraltar. India immediately responded by sending in troops and waging war for 17 days. The fighting included the largest armored vehicle and tank battles since the second World War.
The fighting ended with UNSC Resolution 211, urged on by the Soviet Union and United States. This resulted in the Tashkent Declaration and a ceasefire.
Due to the lack of Western support, India began seeking stronger ties to the Soviet Union, and Pakistan began reaching out to China. This shift presented one of the biggest changes in global politics during the decade.
1971 — Bangladesh Liberation War
With the Proclamation of Bangladeshi Independence on March 26, 1971, war brokeout between East and West Pakistan — with the East wanting to be its own country.
The independence movement began when East Pakistan’s Awami League won a strong electoral victory in the 1970 general election. Despite their victory at the polls, the party was directly refused leadership.
On March 7, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a speech to his fellow East Pakistanis, asking them to join him in a non-cooperation movement against the government.
On March 26, Bangladesh declared independence, with Pakistan preemptively launching Operation Searchlight the night before — beginning a campaign of massacre and mass rape committed by the Pakistan Armed Forces.
Over the next nine months, Bengali guerillas slowly won independence with substantial help from India. The human cost included 3 million dead, and up to 400,000 Bengali women sexually assaulted.
The Indian Army faught alongside the nascent Bangladesh forces, the third time it was in open conflict with Pakistan.
1974 — India's First Nuclear Test
Called Pokhran I, this underground nuclear test launched the Indian subcontinent into a nuclear arms race. Given the ongoing skirmishes in Kashmir and tensions that remained high since Partition, India's nuclear capabilities became a major concern for Pakistan, which would acquire these weapons in 1998.
1975 — The Emergency
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi successfully convinced President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of emergency on June 25, 1975. The measures would last 21 months.
During the Emergency, civil liberties were cancelled and many of Gandhi's political opponents were imprisoned and some tortured. Trade unions were decimated. There was also a campaign for forced mass sterilization in rural areas.
The Emergency was declared due to unrest caused by economic hardship and ongoing scandals surrounding Gandhi's use of her power to defraud the electoral process.
Major protests, like those led by Jayaprakash Narayan, were gaining momentum through the mid-70s.
When elections were held again in 1977, the Janata Party won a sweeping victory. The coalition party saw the Indian National Congress merge with both left wing and right wing parties to defeat Gandhi.
1984 — Indira Gandhi Assassinated
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh on October 31.
In revenge, Hindus murdered almost 3,000 Sikhs in communal violence.
Gandhi's son Rajiv took his mother's position at the head of government.
1991 — Rajiv Gandhi Assassinated
A Tamil revolutionary killed Rajiv Gandhi on the campaign trail with a suicide bomb on May 21.
1992 — Babri Mosque demolished, Ayodhya Riots
Hindus destroyed a 16th century mosque and rioted throughout India, leading to the death of 3,000 Muslims.
1993 — Bombay Bombings
Underworld figurehead Dawood Ibrahim organized a group of bombers who carried out a series of 12 blasts in Bombay on March 12, leading to the death of 257 and leaving 1,400 injured.
1998 — Nuclear Tests in Pakistan
After India's successful nuclear tests in early May, Pakistan answered with Chagai-I, their first since they began their nuclear program in 1972.
This caused a great deal of anxiety internationally, as the two countries frequently skirmished, which they would the following year.
1999 — Kargil War
In this first conflict between the two countries since both gained nuclear weapons, the Kargil War again brought soldiers into Jammu and Kashmir where India and Pakistan fought over control of territory. The resulting war led to no change in territory.
2001 — Indian and Pakistan Standoff
On December 13, armed men attacked the Indian Parliament, which the government immediately blamed Pakistan for. Transportation and diplomatic connections were cut, followed by a build-up of armed forces on the Indo-Pak border.
The stand off captured the attention of the whole world, as two nuclear powers came close to war.
2002 — Godhra Train Burning, Gujarat Pogrom
After the Sabarmati express train caught fire on February 27, 59 Hindu pilgrims on board perished.
This sparked religious riots that rocked the country for three days, leading to 2000 Muslim deaths and the mass rape of women. The chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi was accused of stoking the riots, and the police were accused of directing rioters to Muslim-owned businesses.
2006 — Mumbai Train Bombings
On July 11, the local rail line in Mumbai was hit with a series of pressure cooker bombs. The attack killed 209 people and injured approximately 714. Members of the Indian Mujahideen, including Sadiq Sheikh, were arrested for the bombings.
2008 — 26/11 or India's 9/11
Beginning on November 26 and lasting until the 29th, Mumbai was the scene of 12 shooting and bombing attacks orchestrated by the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Known as India's 9/11, the attacks killed 175 people and injured 300 more. The high level of coordination, and the terrorists' origin in Pakistan, led to incredible tensions in the region.
2014 — Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister, BJP Comes to Power
The 2014 Indian general election saw the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) National Democratic Alliance take control of the government. BJP's Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.
High-ranking officials in the BJP, including Modi himself, have been frequently implicated in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment and even violence.
2019 — Border Skirmishes
On February 14, an attack in Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Front. Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group in Pakistan claimed responsibility, but the Indian government concluded it was Pakistan — though the Pakistani government denied responsibility.
In response, India launched an airstrike, which Pakistan answered the next day.
2020 — CAA Delhi Riots
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act was introduced in 2016 in India, which expanded legal immigration status to many religious minorities. However, conspicuously absent from the list were Jews and Muslims.
In response, protests against this discrimination began in December 2019.