chapter  9
31 Pages

Religion in Contemporary India

At midnight on August 15, 1947, India attained its independence from Britain. For many on the subcontinent it proved to be a bittersweet moment, for it resulted in the partition of India and Pakistan. Pakistan, a nation primarily intended for Muslims, was divided into two parts: West Pakistan, comprised of northern Panja¯b and the provinces of Sind, Baluchistan, and the Northeast Frontier, and East Pakistan, comprised of East Bengal. East

Pakistan would become Bangladesh in 1971. At the time of the partition, many families, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh, voluntarily or involuntarily, left behind the lands of their foreparents, afraid they would be living in a nation unsympathetic to their faith. Some 10 million persons are said to have moved from their ancestral homes in 1947, of whom at least a million are estimated to have died in the violence that ensued. Many Hindus from Sind or East Bengal, for example, were cut off from their family roots, as were Sikhs who had lived for generations in northern Panja¯b. While many Muslim families also moved, millions of others opted to stay in the new nation-state of India, preferring to keep their businesses and lands.