Polarized by religion, friends and neighbors turned on each other. Hundreds of thousands were killed and millions displaced. The atrocities were horrific — pregnant women and infants were not spared.
That was the unexpected result of Britain’s haphazard plan to leave the subcontinent in 1947 after nearly three centuries and split it into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, itself carved into two regions more than 1,000 miles apart. The partition, as the division came to be known, triggered one of the biggest migrations in history.
It would forever change the face and geopolitics of South Asia; almost 25 years later, for instance, Bangladesh was born from East Pakistan.
Some historians argue that partition would have been unnecessary had Britain granted self-rule earlier to India, where Hindus and Muslims had lived side by side for centuries. But the idea of a separate state for British India’s Muslims had gained traction by the 1930s even though it was opposed by…
This article was written by Vivek Shankar and Mikko Takkunen and originally published on www.nytimes.com