The Indian Subcontinent



The Indian Independence Movement

Gandhi was the pivotal figure of the Indian independence movement. His ideal of non-violent civil disobedience not only attracted mass following in India and shaped its successful struggle for a sovereign state, but also influenced social justice movements across the world.

Learning Objectives

Describe Gandhi’s role in the movement for Indian independence

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Indian independence movement, spanning 190 years, encompassed activities and ideas aiming to end the East India Company rule (1757–1858) and the British Indian Empire (1858–1947) in the Indian subcontinent. Its most decisive phase has been associated with Mahatma Gandhi, who in today’s India is commonly referred to as “the father of the nation.”
  • Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics, and political leadership skills. He was a prominent leader of the Indian nationalist movement in South Africa and a vocal opponent of basic discrimination and abusive labor treatment as well as oppressive police control. During these protests, Gandhi perfected the concept of satyagraha  (“insistence on truth”) that he would later implement in India.
  • Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and joined the Indian National Congress, a key participant in the Indian independence movement. His ideas and strategies of non-violent civil disobedience initially appeared impractical, but his vision brought millions of ordinary Indians into the movement, transforming it from an elitist struggle to a national one.
  • Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920, when he also started the Non-Cooperation Movement. The movement urged the use of Indian materials as alternatives to those shipped from Britain. It also urged people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts, resign from government employment, refuse to pay taxes, and forsake British titles and honors. It enjoyed widespread popular support and the resulting unparalleled magnitude of disorder presented a serious challenge to the British rule.
  • Gandhi stayed out of active politics for most of the 1920s but emerged from seclusion by undertaking his most famous campaign, a march of about 240 miles (400 km) from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat between March 11 and April 6, 1930. The march, known as the Salt March, was an act of civil disobedience against the British empire and the unjust salt tax of the British.
  • Gandhi initially favored offering “nonviolent moral support” to the British effort when World War II broke out in 1939. As the war progressed, he intensified his demand for independence, calling for the British to Quit India. At the end of the war, the British gave clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands. With the speedy passage through the British Parliament of the Indian Independence Act 1947, Pakistan and India became two separate sovereign states. As a rule, Gandhi was opposed to the concept of partition as it contradicted his vision of religious unity.

Key Terms

  • Quit India Movement: A civil disobedience movement launched in Bombay by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8, 1942, during World War II, demanding an end to British Rule of India. Gandhi made a call to Do or Die in a speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. The All-India Congress Committee launched a mass protest demanding what Gandhi called “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India. Almost the entire leadership of the Indian National Congress was imprisoned without trial within hours of Gandhi’s speech. Sporadic small-scale violence took place around the country and the British arrested tens of thousands of leaders.
  • Salt March: An act of nonviolent civil disobedience in colonial India initiated by Mahatma Gandhi to produce salt from the seawater in the coastal village of Dandi, as was the practice of the local populace until British officials introduced taxation on salt production, deemed their sea-salt reclamation activities illegal, and repeatedly used force to stop it. The 24-day march began on March 12, 1930, as a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly. It gained worldwide attention, which gave impetus to the Indian independence movement and inspired the nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • satyagraha: A Hindu term, loosely translated as insistence on truth or holding onto truth or truth force, that refers to a particular form of nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. The term was coined and developed by Mahatma Gandhi, who deployed the philosophy in the Indian independence movement and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa for Indian rights. The theory influenced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s and James Bevel’s campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and many other social justice movements.
  • Indian National Congress: One of two major political parties in India, founded in 1885 during the British Raj. Its founders include Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, and Dinshaw Wacha. In the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, it became a pivotal participant in the Indian independence movement, with more than 15 million members and 70 million participants in its opposition to British colonial rule in India.
  • Non-Cooperation Movement: A significant phase of the Indian independence movement from British rule, led by Mahatma Gandhi, that aimed to resist through nonviolent means. Protesters would refuse to buy British goods, adopt the use of local handicrafts, and picket liquor shops. The ideas of ahimsa (no harm) and nonviolence and Gandhi’s ability to rally hundreds of thousands of common citizens towards the cause of Indian independence, were first seen on a large scale in this movement through the summer of 1920.

Gandhi’s Return to India

The Indian independence movement encompassed activities and ideas aiming to end the East India Company rule (1757–1858) and the British Indian Empire (1858–1947) in the Indian subcontinent. The movement spanned a total of 190 years (1757-1947) but its most decisive phase has been associated with Mahatma Gandhi, who in today’s India is commonly referred to as “the father of the nation.”

In 1893 at the age of 24, Gandhi arrived in South Africa to work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian Traders in Pretoria. He spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics, and political leadership skills. He was a prominent leader of the Indian nationalist movement in South Africa and a vocal opponent of basic discrimination and abusive labor treatment as well as oppressive police control. During these protests, Gandhi ad perfected the concept of satyagraha (“insistence on truth”).  In 1914, his strategies succeeded. The legislation against Indians was repealed and all Indian political prisoners were released. Gandhi accomplished this through extensive use of non-violent protest, such as boycotting, protest marching, and fasting.

Gandhi returned to India in 1915 with an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist, and organizer. He joined the Indian National Congress,  a pivotal participant in the Indian independence movement, and was introduced to Indian issues, politics, and the Indian people primarily by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation and his insistence on working inside the system. Gandhi took Gokhale’s liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to be wholly Indian. He initially entered the political fray not with calls for a nation-state but in support of the unified commerce-oriented territory championed by the Congress Party. Gandhi believed that the industrial and educational development that the Europeans had brought with them were required to alleviate many of India’s problems. Gandhi’s ideas of and strategies for non-violent civil disobedience initially appeared impractical to some Indians and Congress members. But his vision brought millions of ordinary Indians into the movement, transforming it from an elitist struggle to a national one. The nationalist cause was expanded to include the interests and industries that formed the economy of common Indians.

Gandhi’s Leadership: Civil Disobedience

Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920 when he started the Non-Cooperation Movement. He convinced other leaders of the need for a  movement in support of Khilafat (a pan-Islamic, political protest campaign launched by Muslims in British India to influence the British government)
as well as swaraj (self rule). The movement urged the use of khadi (handspun and hand-woven cloth) and Indian material as alternatives to those shipped from Britain. It also urged people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts, resign from government employment, refuse to pay taxes, and forsake British titles and honors. The movement enjoyed widespread popular support and the resulting unparalleled magnitude of disorder presented a serious challenge to the British rule. However, Gandhi called off the movement following the Chauri Chaura incident, which saw the death of 22 policemen at the hands of an angry mob. In 1922, Gandhi was sentenced to six years of prison, but was released after serving two.

Without Gandhi’s unifying personality, the Indian National Congress began to splinter during his years in prison, splitting into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru favoring party participation in the legislatures, and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, opposing this move. Further, cooperation among Hindus and Muslims, which was strong at the height of the nonviolence campaign, broke down. Gandhi attempted to bridge these differences through many means, including a three-week fast in the autumn of 1924, but with limited success.

image

Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn, in the late 1920s, author unknown.

Gandhi expanded his nonviolence platform to include the swadeshi policy—the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. Gandhi even invented a small, portable spinning wheel that could be folded into the size of a small typewriter.

Salt March

Gandhi stayed out of active politics and thus the limelight for most of the 1920s. He focused instead on resolving the wedge between the Swaraj Party and the Indian National Congress and expanding initiatives against untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance, and poverty. He emerged from his long seclusion by undertaking his most famous campaign, a march of about 240 miles (400 km) from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat, between March 11 and April 6, 1930. The march, known as the Dandi March (Salt March) or the Salt Satyagraha, was an act of civil disobedience against the British empire and its unjust salt tax. In response to the local practice of producing salt out of seawater, the British introduced taxation on salt production, deemed sea-salt reclamation activities illegal, and repeatedly used force to stop these activities. The 24-day march began as a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly. Gandhi and thousands of his followers broke the law by making their own salt from seawater (at the Gulf of Khambhat). The march was a turning point for the Indian independence movement.

For the next few years, the Congress and the government were locked in conflict and negotiations until the passing of the Government of India Act in 1935. By then, the rift between the Congress and the Muslim League was unbridgeable. The Muslim League disputed the claim of the Congress to represent all people of India, while the Congress disputed the Muslim League’s claim to voice the aspirations of all Muslims.
The 1935 Act, the voluminous and final constitutional effort at governing British India, articulated three major goals: establishing a loose federal structure, achieving provincial autonomy, and safeguarding minority interests through separate electorates. The federal provisions, intended to unite princely states and British India at the center, were not implemented because of ambiguities in safeguarding the existing privileges of princes. In February 1937, however, provincial autonomy became a reality when elections were held. The Congress emerged as the dominant party with a clear majority in five provinces and held an upper hand in two, while the Muslim League performed poorly.

image

Demonstration against British rule in India, c. 1930s, author unknown.

The Civil Disobedience Movement indicated a new part in the process of the Indian self-rule struggle. As a whole, it was a failure, but it brought the Indian population together under the Indian National Congress’s leadership. The movement made the Indian people strive even more towards self-rule.

Quit India Movement

Gandhi initially favored offering “nonviolent moral support” to the British effort when World War II broke out in 1939, but the Congressional leaders were appalled by the unilateral inclusion of India in the war without consultation of Indian representatives. All Congressmen resigned from office. After long deliberations, Gandhi declared that India could not be party to a war ostensibly fought for democratic freedom while that freedom was denied to India. As the war progressed, he intensified his demand for independence, calling for the British to Quit India in a speech at in Bombay at Gowalia Tank Maidan. This was Gandhi’s and the Congress Party’s most definitive revolt aimed at securing the British exit from India. Quit India became the most forceful movement in the history of the struggle, with mass arrests and some acts of violence.

Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Bombay by the British a day after the Quit India resolution was passed. He was imprisoned for two years, during which his wife Kasturba died after 18 months’ imprisonment. He was released in 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery. The Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage his many supporters. Gandhi came out of detention to an altered political scene: the Muslim League was now a political power and while the leaders of Congress languished in jail, other parties supported the war and gained organizational strength. At the end of the war, the British gave clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands. At this point, Gandhi called off the struggle and around 100,000 political prisoners were released, including the Congress’s leadership.

Partition and Independence

As a rule, Gandhi was opposed to the concept of partition as it contradicted his vision of religious unity (the Muslim League passed a resolution to divide British India in 1943). He suggested an agreement that required the Congress and Muslim League to cooperate and attain independence under a provisional government; thereafter, the question of partition could be resolved by a plebiscite in the districts with a Muslim majority.

On June 3, 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General of India, announced the partitioning of British India into India and Pakistan. With the speedy passage through the British Parliament of the Indian Independence Act 1947, at 11:57 on August 14, 1947 Pakistan was declared a separate nation, and at 12:02, just after midnight, on August 15, 1947, India became a sovereign state. Eventually, August 15 became Independence Day for India. Both Pakistan and India had the right to remain in or remove themselves from the British Commonwealth. In 1949, India decided to remain in the Commonwealth.

Violent clashes between Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims followed. India’s partition and independence were accompanied by more than half a million killed in violent clashed as 10–12 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims crossed the borders dividing India and Pakistan. Gandhi, having vowed to spend the day of independence fasting and spinning, was in Calcutta where he prayed, confronted rioters, and worked with other leaders to stop the communal killing.

Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. Leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, including Martin Luther King, James Lawson, and James Bevel, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about nonviolence. Anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was also inspired by Gandhi. Others include Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (prominent Muslim leader), Steve Biko (anti-apartheid activist in South Africa), and Aung San Suu Kyi (democratic leader in Burma).

Partition and Religious Tensions

The partition of British India into Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan was a victory of the Muslim League’s vision of a separate state for Indian Muslims. It resulted in massive unrest, the biggest population movements in history, and political tensions that continue until today.

Learning Objectives

Assess the pros and cons of dividing the Hindu and Muslim populations of India into separate states

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Indian society under British rule was very diverse, reflecting the history of kingdoms and empires that had occupied the territory for centuries and consisting of multiple religious, linguistic, and ethnic groups. In this multitude of cultures, the main factor of division would become religion, specifically a growing divide between the two largest religious groups: Muslims and Hindus.
  • The political event that sowed the seed of division was the Partition of Bengal: the division of the largest administrative subdivision in British India, the Bengal Province, into the Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam and the Hindu-majority province of West Bengal. The Hindu elite of Bengal protested staunchly, leading the Muslim elite in India to organize the All India Muslim League in 1906. The organization would be crucial to the eventual creation of a separate Muslim state.
  • After the Muslim League reached out to the masses, it attracted hundreds of thousands of new members. Its leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah was now well-positioned to negotiate with the British from a position of power. The League, in contrast to the Indian National Congress, supported Britain in the war effort. When Congress leaders were arrested in 1942, the League received an opportunity to spread its message.
  • Rejecting the notion of united India, Jinnah proclaimed the Two-Nation Theory, which argues that the primary identity and unifying denominator of Muslims in the South Asian subcontinent is their religion, rather than their language or ethnicity, and therefore Indian Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations, regardless of ethnic or other commonalities.
  • As independence approached, the violence between Hindus and Muslims continued. With the British army unprepared for the potential for increased violence, the date for the transfer of power was advanced. In June 1947, a partition of the country along religious lines, in stark opposition to Gandhi’s views, was decided. The predominantly Hindu and Sikh areas were assigned to the new state of India and predominantly Muslim areas to the new state of Pakistan.
  • The majority of Indians remained in place with independence, but in border areas millions of people (Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu) relocated across the newly drawn borders. In the riots which preceded the partition in the Punjab Province, between 200,000 and 2 million people were killed in the retributive genocide between the religions. UNHCR estimates 14 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims were displaced during the partition. It was the largest mass migration in human history.

Key Terms

  • All India Muslim League: A political party established during the early years of the 20th century in the British Indian Empire. Its strong advocacy for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state, Pakistan, successfully led to the partition of British India in 1947 by the British Empire.
  • Partition of Bengal: A 1905 division of Bengal that separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. It was one of the key events that initiated the divide between Muslims and Hindus in India and eventually led to the 1947 Partition and the creation of two separate states: predominantly-Hindu India and predominantly-Muslim Pakistan.
  • Indian National Congress: One of two major political parties in India, founded in 1885 during the British Raj. Its founders include Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, and Dinshaw Wacha. In the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, it became a pivotal participant in the Indian independence movement, with over 15 million members and over 70 million participants in its opposition to British colonial rule in India.
  • Direct Action Day: August 16, 1946, originally announced by the Muslim League Council to peacefully highlight the Muslim demand for a separate state, became a day of widespread riot and manslaughter between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) in the Bengal province of British India.
  • Two-Nation Theory: The theory argues that the primary identity and unifying denominator of Muslims in the South Asian subcontinent is their religion, rather than their language or ethnicity, and therefore Indian Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations, regardless of ethnic or other commonalities. This ideology was directly linked to the Muslim demands for the creation of Pakistan in British India.

Hindus and Muslims in British India: A Growing Divide

In general, the British-run government and British commentators consciously used the term “people of India” and avoided speaking of an “Indian nation.” This was cited as a key reason for British control of the country; since Indians were not a nation, they were not capable of national self-government. While some Indian leaders insisted that Indians were one nation, others agreed that Indians were not yet a nation while recognizing that they could become one. Indian society under the British rule was, in fact, very diverse and did not easily match the predominant nationalist paradigms of what a nation should be. It reflected the long history of kingdoms and empires that had occupied the territory for centuries and consisted of multiple religious, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds. In this multitude of cultures, the main factor of division would become religion,  specifically a growing divide between the two largest religious groups: Muslims and Hindus.

The political event that sowed the seed of division was the Partition of Bengal. In 1905, then-Viceroy Lord Curzon divided the largest administrative subdivision in British India, the Bengal Province, into the Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam and the Hindu-majority province of West Bengal (present-day Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha). Curzon’s act, the Partition of Bengal, would transform nationalist politics. The Hindu elite of Bengal, among them many who owned land in East Bengal that was leased out to Muslim peasants, protested staunchly.

The Hindu protests against the partition of Bengal led the Muslim elite in India to organize the All India Muslim League in 1906. The League favored the partition of Bengal, since it gave them a Muslim majority in the eastern half. The Muslim elite expected that a new province with a Muslim majority would directly benefit Muslims aspiring to political power. The partition of Bengal was rescinded in 1911. King George V announced the capital would be moved from Calcutta to Delhi, a Muslim stronghold.

While the Muslim League was for decades a small elite group, it grew rapidly once it became an organization that reached out to the masses, gaining hundreds of thousands members in regions with significant Muslim population. Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah was now well-positioned to negotiate with the British. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow declared war on India’s behalf without consulting Indian leaders, leading the Indian National Congress provincial ministries to resign in protest. The Muslim League, in contrast, supported Britain in the war effort and maintained its control of the government in three major provinces: Bengal, Sind, and the Punjab.

Two-Nation Theory

Jinnah repeatedly warned that Muslims would be unfairly treated in an independent India dominated by the Congress. In 1940 in Lahore, the League passed the “Lahore Resolution,” demanding that, “the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.” As the Congress was secular, it strongly opposed having any religious state and insisted there was a natural unity to India. It repeatedly blamed the British for “divide and rule” tactics based on prompting Muslims to think of themselves as alien from Hindus. Jinnah rejected the notion of a united India and emphasized that religious communities were more basic than an artificial nationalism, proclaiming the Two-Nation Theory. The theory argues that the primary identity and unifying denominator of Muslims in the South Asian subcontinent is their religion, rather than their language or ethnicity, and therefore Indian Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations, regardless of ethnic or other commonalities. This ideology was directly linked to the Muslim demands for the creation of Pakistan.

Partition of British India

In 1942, with the Japanese fast moving up the Malayan Peninsula after the Fall of Singapore and with the Americans supporting independence for India, Winston Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of Britain, sent an offer of dominion status to India at the end of the war in return for the Congress’s support for the war effort. Not wishing to lose the support of the allies the British had already secured, including the Muslim League, the offer included a clause stating that no part of the British Indian Empire would be forced to join the post-war Dominion. As a result of the proviso, the proposals were rejected by the Congress, which since its founding as a polite group of lawyers in 1885, saw itself as the representative of all Indians of all faiths. In response to the Congress’s Quit India Movement and with their resources and attention already spread thin by a global war, the nervous British immediately jailed the Congress leaders and kept them in jail until August 1945. The Muslim League was now free for the next three years to spread its message. Consequently, the Muslim League’s ranks surged during the war.

In 1946, new elections were called in India. Earlier, at the end of the war in 1945, the colonial government announced the public trial of three senior officers of Bose’s defeated Indian National Army who stood accused of treason. Now as the trials began, the Congress leadership, although ambivalent towards the INA, chose to defend the accused officers. The subsequent convictions of the officers, the public outcry against the convictions, and the eventual remission of the sentences created positive propaganda for the Congress, which only helped in the party’s subsequent electoral victories in eight of the eleven provinces. The negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League, however, stumbled over the issue of the partition. Jinnah proclaimed August 16, 1946, the Direct Action Day with the stated goal of highlighting, peacefully, the demand for a Muslim homeland in British India. The following day violent Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Calcutta and quickly spread throughout British India.

image

Dead and wounded after the Direct Action Day, which developed into pitched battles as Muslim and Hindu mobs rioted across Calcutta in 1946.

The “Direct Action” was announced by the Muslim League Council to show the strength of Muslim feelings both to British and Congress because Muslims feared that if the British just pulled out, they would surely suffer at the hands of overwhelming Hindu majority. This resulted in the worst communal riots that British India had seen.

As independence approached, the violence between Hindus and Muslims in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal continued unabated. With the British army unprepared for the potential for increased violence, the new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, advanced the date of the transfer of power, allowing less than six months for a mutually agreed plan for independence. In June 1947, the nationalist leaders, including Sardar Patel, Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs, agreed to a partition of the country along religious lines in stark opposition to Gandhi’s views. The predominantly Hindu and Sikh areas were assigned to the new state of India and predominantly Muslim areas to the new state of Pakistan. The plan included a partition of the Muslim-majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal. With the speedy passage through the British Parliament of the Indian Independence Act 1947, at 11:57 p.m. on August 14, 1947, Pakistan was declared a separate state, and just after midnight, on August 15, 1947, India became a sovereign state. Both Pakistan and India had the right to remain in or remove themselves from the British Commonwealth. In 1949, India decided to remain in the Commonwealth.

Consequences of the Partition

The great majority of Indians remained in place with independence, but in border areas millions of people (Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu) relocated across the newly drawn borders. In Punjab, where the new border lines divided the Sikh regions in half, there was much bloodshed. In Bengal and Bihar, where Gandhi’s presence assuaged communal tempers, the violence was more limited. In the riots which preceded the partition in the Punjab Province, it is believed that between 200,000 and 2 million people were killed in the retributive genocide between the religions. UNHCR estimates 14 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims were displaced during the partition. It was the largest mass migration in human history. According to Richard Symonds, at the lowest estimate, half a million people perished and 12 million became homeless as a result of the forced migrations.

The Partition was a highly controversial arrangement and remains a cause of tension on the Indian subcontinent today. Some critics allege that British haste led to increased cruelties during the Partition. Because independence was declared prior to the actual Partition, it was up to the new governments of India and Pakistan to keep public order. No large population movements were contemplated and the plan called for safeguards for minorities on both sides of the new border. Both states failed, resulting in a complete breakdown of law and order. Many died in riots, massacres, or just from the hardships of their flight to safety.

image

A special refugee train at Ambala Station during partition of India

Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly formed states in the months immediately following Partition. The 1951 Census of Pakistan identified the number of displaced persons in Pakistan at 7,226,600, presumably all Muslims who had entered Pakistan from India. Similarly, the 1951 Census of India enumerated 7,295,870 displaced persons, apparently all Hindus and Sikhs who had moved to India from Pakistan immediately after the Partition.

A cross-border student initiative, The History Project, was launched in 2014 to explore the differences in perception of the events during the British era which led to the partition. The project resulted in a book that explains both interpretations of the shared history in Pakistan and India.

The Green Revolution

India’s Green Revolution has produced extreme increases in food production, turning India from an import- and food aid-dependent state to a self-sufficient one. However, it has left many poor farmers out of the gains of modern agriculture and contributed to serious environmental and public health issues.

Learning Objectives

List some of the innovations that led to increased food production in India

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Green Revolution refers to the research and development of technology transfer initiatives between the 1930s and the late 1960s that increased agricultural production worldwide, particularly in the developing world. The initiatives are credited with saving over a billion people from starvation.
  • Before the mid-1960s, India relied on imports and food aid to meet domestic requirements. However, two years of severe drought in 1965 and 1966 convinced the government to reform the agricultural policy. India adopted significant policy reforms focused on the goal of food grain self-sufficiency. This ushered in India’s Green Revolution. It began with the decision to adopt superior yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties in combination with better farming knowledge to improve productivity.
  • The initial increase in production was centered on the irrigated areas of the states of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh. With the farmers and the government officials focusing on farm productivity and knowledge transfer, India’s total grain production soared. With agricultural policy success in wheat, India’s Green Revolution technology spread to rice. India adopted IR8, a semi-dwarf rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), that could produce more grains of rice per plant when grown with certain fertilizers and irrigation.
  • Since irrigation infrastructure was very poor, Indian farmers innovated tube-wells to harvest ground water. When gains from the new technology reached their limits in the states of initial adoption, the technology spread in the 1970s and 1980s to the states of eastern India — Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal. The lasting benefits of the improved seeds and new technology extended principally to the irrigated areas, which account for about one-third of the harvested crop area.
  • A main criticism of the effects of the Green Revolution is the cost for many small farmers using high-yielding varieties, with associated demands of increased irrigation systems and pesticides. Many farmers have difficulty paying for the expensive technologies and the gains of the Green Revolution are hardly available to all Indian farmers, particularly those cultivating smaller land plots. The increased usage of fertilizers and pesticides for high-yielding varieties has also contributed serious environmental and public health issues.
  • Despite the impressive accomplishments of the Green Revolution, India continues to face massive socioeconomic challenges, including those related to the development of agriculture such as extreme poverty in rural areas, hunger and undernourishment, and farmers’ struggles to find funds to cultivate land.

Key Terms

  • Global Hunger Index: An index that places a third of weight on proportion of the population that is estimated to be undernourished, a third on the estimated prevalence of low body weight to height ratio in children younger than five, and remaining third weight on the proportion of children dying before the age of five for any reason.
  • Green Revolution: A set of research and development of technology transfer initiatives occurring between the 1930s and the late 1960s (with prequels in the work of the agrarian geneticist Nazareno Strampelli in the 1920s and 1930s), that increased agricultural production worldwide, particularly in the developing world, most markedly in the late 1960s.

The Green Revolution refers to a set of research and development of technology transfer initiatives occurring between the 1930s and the late 1960s (with prequels in the work of the agrarian geneticist Nazareno Strampelli in the 1920s and 1930s), that increased agricultural production worldwide, particularly in the developing world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug (often called the Father of the Green Revolution), who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.
They are credited with saving over a billion people from starvation.

Green Revolution in India

Before the mid-1960s, India relied on imports and food aid to meet domestic requirements. However, two years of severe drought in 1965 and 1966 convinced the government to reform the agricultural policy. India adopted significant policy reforms focused on the goal of food grain self-sufficiency. This ushered in India’s Green Revolution. It began with the decision to adopt superior-yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties in combination with better farming knowledge to improve productivity. The state of Punjab led India’s green revolution and earned the distinction of being the country’s bread basket.

The initial increase in production was centered on the irrigated areas of the states of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh. With the farmers and the government officials focusing on farm productivity and knowledge transfer, India’s total grain production soared. A hectare of Indian wheat farm that produced an average of 0.8 tonnes in 1948, produced 4.7 tonnes of wheat in 1975 from the same land. Such rapid growth in farm productivity enabled India to become self-sufficient by the 1970s. It also empowered the smallholder farmers to seek further means to increase food staples produced per hectare. By 2000, Indian farms were adopting wheat varieties capable of yielding 6 tonnes of wheat per hectare.

With agricultural policy success in wheat, India’s Green Revolution technology spread to rice. However, since irrigation infrastructure was very poor, Indian farmers innovated tube-wells to harvest ground water. When gains from the new technology reached their limits in the states of initial adoption, the technology spread in the 1970s and 1980s to the states of eastern India — Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal. The lasting benefits of the improved seeds and new technology extended principally to the irrigated areas, which account for about one-third of the harvested crop area. India also adopted IR8, a semi-dwarf rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), that could produce more grains of rice per plant when grown with certain fertilizers and irrigation. In 1968, Indian agronomist S.K. De Datta published his findings that IR8 rice yielded about 5 tons per hectare with no fertilizer and almost 10 tons per hectare under optimal conditions. This was 10 times the yield of traditional rice. IR8 was a success throughout Asia and dubbed the “miracle rice.” In the 1960s, rice yields in India were about two tons per hectare. By the mid-1990s, they had risen to six tons per hectare. In the 1970s, rice cost about $550 a ton. In 2001, it cost under $200 a ton.

In the 1980s, Indian agriculture policy shifted to emphasize other agricultural commodities like oil seeds, fruit, and vegetables. Farmers began adopting improved methods and technologies in dairying, fisheries, and livestock to meet the diversified food needs of a growing population.

Criticism

A main criticism of the effects of the Green Revolution is the cost for small farmers using high-yielding varieties, with their associated demands of increased irrigation systems and pesticides. A case study has demonstrated that the Indian farmers who buy Monsanto BT cotton seeds, sold on the idea that these seeds produced “natural insecticides,” still must pay for expensive pesticides and irrigation systems. This might lead to increased borrowing to finance the change from traditional seed varieties. Many farmers have difficulty paying for the expensive technologies and the gains of the Green Revolution are hardly available to all Indian farmers, particularly those cultivating smaller land plots.

The increased usage of fertilizers and pesticides for high-yielding varieties has also led to decreased soil fertility while the use of electric tube wells decreased groundwater table below the previous level. The negative environmental impacts of the Green Revolution are barely beginning to show their full effects. The widespread chemical pollution in communities that utilize pesticides and herbicides is creating a public health problem that has disproportionately impacted women. In the state of Punjab, touted as a success of Green Revolution, cancer rates have skyrocketed. In a 2008 study by Punjabi University, a high rate of genetic damage among farmers was attributed to pesticide use. Ignorance on the appropriate use of pesticides resulted in heavy use, improper disposal, the use of pesticides as kitchen containers, and contamination of drinking water with heavy metals.

image

Women farmers at work in their vegetable plots near Kullu town, Himachal Pradesh, India

The Green Revolution brought a modern approach to agriculture by incorporating irrigation systems, genetically modified seed variations, insecticide and pesticide usage, and numerous land reforms. It had an explosive impact, providing unprecedented agricultural productivity in India and turning the country from a food importer to an exporter. Yet the Green Revolution also caused agricultural prices to drop, which damaged India’s small farmers.

Continuous Challenges

India’s agricultural sector today still faces issues of efficiency due to lack of mechanization and small farmers who live in poor conditions. In India, traditional agriculture is still dominant as many farmers depend on livestock in crop production, for manure as fertilizers, and the use of animal-powered ploughs. According to 2011 statistics, the average farm in India is about 1.5 acres, minuscule when compared to the average of 50 hectares in France, 178 hectares in United States, and 273 hectares in Canada.

Despite the impressive accomplishments of the Green Revolution, India continues to face massive socioeconomic challenges. In 2006, India contained the largest number of people living below the World Bank’s international poverty line of US$1.25 per day, the proportion having decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005 and 25% in 2011. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization report in 2015, 15% of the Indian population is undernourished. Since 1991, economic inequality between India’s states has consistently grown: the per capita net state domestic product of the richest states in 2007 was 3.2 times that of the poorest.

Global Hunger Index  (GHI) measures hunger by placing a third of weight on proportion of the population that is estimated to be undernourished, a third on the estimated prevalence of low body weight to height ratio in children younger than five, and the remaining third on the proportion of children dying before the age of five for any reason. According to 2011 GHI report, India has improved its performance by 22% in 20 years, from 30.4 to 23.7 over 1990 to 2011 period. However, its performance from 2001 to 2011 has shown little progress, with just 3% improvement. A sharp reduction in the percentage of underweight children has helped India improve its hunger record on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2014. Between 2005 and 2014, the prevalence of underweight children under the age of five fell from 43.5% to 30.7%.

In 2012, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 13,754 farmer suicides. Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Activists and scholars have offered a number of conflicting reasons for this phenomenon, such as monsoon failure, high debt burdens, genetically modified crops, government policies, public mental health, personal issues, and family problems.

The World’s Largest Democracy

Since the 1947 independence, India has been a constitutional republic and representative democracy, but religious and caste-related violence, terrorism, and corruption continue to challenge the Indian democratic system.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate democracy in India

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Being the seventh largest (by area) and the second most populous country in the world, the Republic of India is the largest democracy by electorate. India is a federation with a parliamentary system governed under the Constitution of India, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, in which “majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law.”
  • The Constitution of India, which came into being in 1950, states in its preamble that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India’s form of government is traditionally described as “quasi-federal” with a strong center and weak states. India is a federation composed of 29 states and seven union territories.
  • The federal government comprises executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The President of India is the head of the state while the Prime Minister of India is the head of government and exercises most executive power, leading the Council of Ministers. The legislature of India is a bicameral parliament. A unitary three-tier independent judiciary comprises the Supreme Court, 24 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts.
  • India has a multi-party system, where there are a number of national as well as regional parties. As with any other democracy, political parties represent different sections among the Indian society and regions and their core values play a major role in the politics of India. In recent decades, Indian politics has become a dynastic affair. This phenomenon is seen both at the national and state levels.
  • Indian society is very diverse in religion, region, language, caste, and race. This has led to the rise of political parties with agendas catering to one or a mix of these groups. Economic issues like poverty, unemployment, and development substantially influence politics, although different parties propose dramatically different approaches.
  • Indian democracy faces many challenges. Terrorism, Naxalism, religious violence, and caste-related violence are important issues that affect the political environment of the Indian nation. Further, corruption has serious implications for both protecting the rule of law and ensuring access to justice.

Key Terms

  • Naxalism: Ideology associated with and an informal name given to communist groups that were born out of the Sino-Soviet split in the Indian communist movement. Ideologically they belong to various trends of Maoism. Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengal. In recent years, they have spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India. Some factions are considered terrorists by the Government of India and various state governments in India.
  • vote bank politics: The practice of creating and maintaining loyal blocs of voters through divisive policies. As it encourages voters to vote on the basis of narrow communal considerations, often against their better judgement, it is considered harmful to the principles of representative democracy.
  • Indian National Congress: One of two major political parties
    in India, founded in 1885 during the British Raj. Its founders include Allan
    Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, and Dinshaw Wacha. In the late 19th and early
    to mid-20th centuries, it became a pivotal participant in the Indian
    independence movement, with over 15 million members and over 70 million
    participants in its opposition to British colonial rule in India.
  • vote bank: A loyal bloc of voters from a single community that consistently backs a certain candidate or political formation in democratic elections. Such behavior is often the result of an expectation of real or imagined benefits from the political formations, often at the cost of other communities.

The Indian Government

As the seventh largest (by area) and the second most populous country in the world, the Republic of India is the largest democracy by electorate. India is a federation with a parliamentary system governed under the Constitution of India, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy in which “majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law.” Federalism in India defines the power distribution between the federal government and the states. The government abides by constitutional checks and balances. The Constitution of India, which came into being in 1950, states in its preamble that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India’s form of government, traditionally described as “quasi-federal” with a strong center and weak states, has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic, and social changes.

The federal government comprises executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The President of India is the head of state and is elected indirectly by a national electoral college for a five-year term. The Prime Minister of India is the head of government and exercises most executive power. Appointed by the president, the prime minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of parliament and leads the Council of Ministers. The legislature of India is the bicameral parliament. It comprises the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (“Council of States” with 245 members elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures,  who serve six-year terms) and the lower called the Lok Sabha (“House of the People” with 545 members, all but two directly elected by popular vote for five-year terms). India has a unitary three-tier independent judiciary that comprises the Supreme Court, 24 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts.

India is a federation composed of 29 states and seven union territories. All states and two union territories have their own governments. The executive of each state is the Governor (equivalent to the president of India), whose role is ceremonial. The real power resides with the Chief Minister (equivalent to the Prime Minister) and the state council of ministers. States may either have a unicameral or bicameral legislature, varying from state to state.

India has a multi-party system, with a number of national as well as regional parties. As with any other democracy, political parties represent different sections among the Indian society and regions and their core values play a major role in the politics of India. Through the elections, any party may gain simple majority in the lower house. Coalitions are formed in case no single party gains a simple majority in the lower house. Unless a party or a coalition have a majority in the lower house, a government cannot be formed by that party or the coalition.

In recent decades, Indian politics has become a dynastic affair. This phenomenon is seen both at the national and state levels. One example of dynastic politics has been the Nehru–Gandhi family, which produced three Indian prime ministers and is leading the Indian National Congress party. At the state level too, a number of political parties are led by family members of the previous leaders.

image

Indira Gandhi, the daughter of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, served as prime minister for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84).

Challenges of Indian Democracy

The Indian society is very diverse, with substantial differences in  religion, region, language, caste, and race. This has led to the rise of political parties with agendas catering to one or a mix of these groups. Some parties openly profess their focus on a particular group while others claim to be universal in nature, but tend to draw support from sections of the population. For example, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (the National People’s Party) has a vote bank among the Yadav and Muslim population of Bihar, and the All India Trinamool Congress does not have any significant support outside West Bengal. The narrow focus and vote bank politics of most parties, even in the central government and central legislature, sidelines national issues such as economic welfare and national security. Moreover, internal security is also threatened as incidences of political parties instigating and leading violence between two opposing groups of people is a frequent occurrence.

Economic issues like poverty, unemployment, and development substantially influence politics, although different parties propose dramatically different approaches. Garibi hatao (eradicate poverty) has been a slogan of the Indian National Congress for a long time. The well known Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) encourages a free market economy. Conversely, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) vehemently supports left-wing politics like land-for-all and right to work, and strongly opposes neo-liberal policies such as globalization, capitalism, and privatization.

Terrorism, Naxalism (ideology associated with communist groups that were born out of the Sino-Soviet split in the Indian communist movement), religious violence, and caste-related violence are important issues that affect the political environment of the Indian nation. Furthermore, corruption is a problem that has serious implications for both protecting the rule of law and ensuring access to justice. In 2008, the Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, “including human trafficking, child prostitution immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder.” Many of the biggest scandals since 2010 have involved very high level government officials, including cabinet ministers and chief ministers.
A 2005 study done by the Transparency International in India found that more than 62% of the people had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office.

India’s Growing Economy

Since the introduction of economic liberalization reforms in the 1990s, India has experienced impressive growth and joined the elite club of the fastest developing economies in the world, though large segments of the population still live in poverty. Severe economic disparities exist among states in terms of income, literacy rates, life expectancy, and living conditions.

Learning Objectives

Give examples of India’s increasing share of the global economy

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Indian economic policy after independence was influenced by the colonial experience and its exploitative nature. Indian leaders were largely influenced by British social democracy and the planned economy of the Soviet Union. Domestic policy tended towards protectionism and economic interventionism, while trade and foreign investment policies were relatively liberal.
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union, India’s major trading partner, and the Gulf War, which caused a spike in oil prices, resulted in a major balance-of-payments crisis for India, which found itself facing the prospect of defaulting on its loans. The country asked for a $1.8 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, which in return demanded deregulation.
  • In response, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, along with his finance minister Manmohan Singh, initiated economic liberalization in 1991. The reforms did away with the Licence Raj, reduced tariffs and interest rates, and ended many public monopolies, allowing automatic approval of foreign direct investment in many sectors.
  • By the turn of the 21st century, India had progressed towards a free-market economy, with a substantial reduction in state control of the economy and increased financial liberalization. Today, the economy of India is the sixth-largest in the world measured by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity. The country is classified as a newly industrialized country, one of the G-20 major economies, a member of BRICS, and a developing economy with an average growth rate of approximately 7% over the last two decades.
  • Among the positive outcomes of the economic development is better access to primary education, increased literacy, and reduced poverty. However, in terms of both access to education and poverty level, India continues to face massive challenges.
  • Despite the impressive economic growth, India experiences a plethora of social issues, including corruption, the lack of proper sanitation, debt bondage and other forms of bonded labor, child labor, child marriage, and gender-based violence. A substantial segment of the caste-based society has limited access to quality health care and education. Severe economic disparities exist among states in terms of income, literacy rates, life expectancy, and living conditions.

Key Terms

  • G-20: An international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. It was founded in 1999 with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • Licence Raj: The elaborate system of licences, regulations, and accompanying red tape required to set up and run businesses in India between 1947 and 1990.
  • BRICS: The acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies. The association’s members are all leading developing or newly industrialized countries, but they are distinguished by their large, sometimes fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional affairs. All five are G-20 members.

Economic Policies After Independence

Indian economic policy after independence was influenced by the colonial experience and its exploitative nature, as well as by British social democracy and the planned economy of the Soviet Union. Domestic policy tended towards protectionism, with a strong emphasis on import substitution industrialization, economic interventionism, a large government-run public sector, business regulation, and central planning. At the same time, trade and foreign investment policies were relatively liberal. Steel, mining, machine tools, telecommunications, insurance, and power plants, among other industries, were effectively nationalized in the mid-1950s. Economists referred to the rate of growth of the Indian economy in the first three decades after independence as the Hindu rate of growth because of the unfavorable comparison with growth rates in other Asian countries.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, India’s major trading partner, and the Gulf War, which caused a spike in oil prices, resulted in a major balance-of-payments crisis for India, which found itself facing the prospect of defaulting on its loans. The country asked for a $1.8 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which in return demanded deregulation. In response, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, along with his finance minister Manmohan Singh, initiated economic liberalization in 1991. The reforms did away with the Licence Raj (a system of licences, regulations, and accompanying red tape required to set up and run businesses), reduced tariffs and interest rates, and ended many public monopolies, allowing automatic approval of foreign direct investment in many sectors. Since then, the overall thrust of liberalization has remained the same, although no government has tried to take on powerful lobbies. By the turn of the 21st century, India had progressed towards a free-market economy, with a substantial reduction in state control of the economy and increased financial liberalization.

Today, the economy of India is the sixth-largest in the world measured by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). The country is classified as a newly industrialized country, one of the G-20 major economies, a member of BRICS, and a developing economy with an average growth rate of approximately 7% over the last two decades. Maharashtra is the wealthiest Indian state and has an annual nominal GDP of US$330 billion, nearly equal to that of Portugal and Pakistan combined, and accounts for 12% of the Indian GDP followed by the states of Tamil Nadu (US$150 billion) and Uttar Pradesh (US$130 billion). India’s economy became the world’s fastest growing major economy in the last quarter of 2014, replacing the People’s Republic of China.

India has one of the fastest growing service sectors in the world with an annual growth rate of above 9% since 2001, which contributed to 57% of GDP in 2012-13. India has become a major exporter of IT services, business process outsourcing services, and software services, with $167.0 billion worth of service exports in 2013-14. It is also the fastest-growing part of the economy. The IT industry continues to be the largest private sector employer in the country. India is also the third largest start-up hub in the world with over 3,100 technology start-ups in 2014-15. The agricultural sector is the largest employer in India’s economy but contributes to a declining share of its GDP (17% in 2013-14). India ranks second worldwide in farm output. The industry sector has held a constant share of its economic contribution (26% of GDP in 2013-14). The Indian automobile industry is one of the largest in the world with an annual production of 21.48 million vehicles (mostly two- and three-wheelers) in fiscal year 2013-14. India has $600 billion worth of the retail market in 2015 and one of world’s fastest growing e-commerce markets.

Outcomes of Economic Development

India has made huge progress in terms of increasing the primary education attendance rate and expanding literacy to approximately three-fourths of the population. The literacy rate has grown from 52.2% in 1991 to 74.04% in 2011. The right to education at elementary level has been made fundamental,  and legislation has been enacted to further the objective of providing free education to all children. However, the literacy rate of 74% is still lower than the worldwide average and the country suffers from a high drop-out rate (impacted by economic challenges faced by the poorest segments of the society). Further, the literacy rates and educational opportunities vary greatly by region, gender, urban and rural areas, and among different social groups.

There is a continuing debate on whether India’s economic expansion has been pro-poor or anti-poor. Studies suggest that the economic growth has reduced poverty in India although it remains at a substantial level. In 2012, the Indian government stated 21.9% of its population is below its official poverty threshold. According to United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) program, 270 million or 21.9% people out of 1.2 billion of Indians lived below poverty line of $1.25 in 2011-2012 as compared to 41.6% in 2004-05. It is important to note, however, that the World Bank and UN-accepted poverty line is very low and many of those whose purchasing power falls above it still face massive economic struggles.

A critical problem facing India’s economy is the sharp and growing regional variations among India’s different states and territories in terms of poverty, availability of infrastructure, and socioeconomic development. Severe disparities exist among states in terms of income, literacy rates, life expectancy, and living conditions.

Map shows the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) on a purchasing parity basis (PPP), for 35 states and union territories of India at 2011 US$ equivalent basis. The highest GDP per capita, on PPP basis, was observed in Chandigarh (,345 per person), while the lowest was observed in Bihar (<img ,019 per person).

Economic disparities among the States and Union Territories of India, on GDP per capita, PPP basis in 2011

After liberalization, the more advanced states have been better placed to benefit, with well-developed infrastructure and an educated and skilled workforce that attract the manufacturing and service sectors. The governments of less-advanced regions are trying to reduce disparities by offering tax holidays and cheap land and focusing more on sectors like tourism which although geographically and historically determined, can become a source of growth and develop faster than other sectors.Continuous Challenges

Corruption has been one of the pervasive problems affecting India. A 2005 study by Transparency International (TI) found that more than half of those surveyed had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office in the previous year. In 1996, bureaucracy and the Licence Raj were suggested as a cause for the institutionalized corruption and inefficiency. More recent reports suggest the causes include excessive regulations and approval requirements, mandated spending programs, monopoly of certain goods and service providers by government-controlled institutions, bureaucracy with discretionary powers, and lack of transparent laws and processes. The Right to Information Act (2005), which requires government officials to furnish information requested by citizens or face punitive action, computerization of services, and various central and state government acts that established vigilance commissions have reduced corruption and opened up avenues to redress grievances.

In 2011, the Indian government concluded that most spending fails to reach its intended recipients. A large, cumbersome bureaucracy sponges up or siphons off spending budgets. India’s absence rates are one of the worst in the world. One study found that 25% of public sector teachers and 40% of government-owned public sector medical workers could not be found at the workplace. Similarly, there are many issues facing Indian scientists, with demands for transparency, a meritocratic system, and an overhaul of the bureaucratic agencies that oversee science and technology.

Despite the impressive economic growth, India continues to experience a plethora of social issues, many associated with countries that lag economically. These include the lack of proper sanitation, debt bondage and other forms of bonded labor, child labor, child marriage, gender-based violence, and poor access to quality health care and education faced by a substantial segment of the caste-based society.

Kashmir and Territorial Disputes

The decision of the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh to make Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir an independent state in the aftermath of the 1947 establishment of independent India and Pakistan has resulted in a violent territorial conflict that still continues.

Learning Objectives

Examine the history behind the territorial dispute over Kashmir

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • British rule in India ended in 1947 with the creation of new states, Pakistan and India. The 562 Indian princely states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir had a predominantly Muslim population ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. He decided to stay independent because he expected that the state’s Muslims would be unhappy with accession to India and the Hindus and Sikhs would become vulnerable if he joined Pakistan. The decision initiated a territorial conflict between India and Pakistan, with an additional intervention of China in 1962, that still continues.
  • Muslim League officials assisted in a large-scale invasion of Kashmir by Pathan tribesmen. The authorities in Pakistani Punjab waged a private war by obstructing supplies of fuel and essential commodities to Jammu and Kashmir. The violence in the eastern districts of Jammu that started in 1947 developed into a widespread massacre of Muslims. The rebel forces in the western districts of Jammu took control of most of the western parts of the state and formed a provisional state Azad Kashmir (until today a self-governing administrative division of Pakistan).
  • Following the Muslim revolution in the Poonch and Mirpur area and Pakistani-backed Pashtun tribal intervention, the Maharaja asked for Indian military assistance. India set the condition that Kashmir must accede to India for it to receive assistance. The Maharaja complied and the Government of India recognized the accession of the princely state to India. The resulting Indo-Pakistani war lasted until the end of 1948. Despite UN negotiations, no agreement was reached between the two countries on the process of demilitarization.
  • Following its failure to seize Kashmir in 1947, Pakistan supported numerous covert groups in Kashmir using operatives based in its New Delhi embassy. About 30,000 infiltrators are estimated to have been dispatched in August 1965 as part of the Operation Gibraltar. The plan was for the infiltrators to mingle with the local populace and incite them to rebellion. The Operation failed but the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 followed.
  • Another phase of the conflict took place in December 1971. During the war, Indian and Pakistani military forces simultaneously clashed after the Eastern Command of Pakistan military signed the Instrument of Surrender, marking the formation of East Pakistan as the new nation of Bangladesh.
  • During the 1990s, escalating tensions and conflict due to separatist activities in Kashmir and nuclear tests conducted by both countries resulted in the Kargil War (May-July 1999). The region is currently divided among three countries in a territorial dispute: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas and Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir) and Ladakh, and the People’s Republic of China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract).

Key Terms

  • Operation Gibraltar: A code name for a strategy of Pakistan to infiltrate Jammu and Kashmir and start a rebellion against Indian rule. Pakistan hoped to gain control over Kashmir, but the operation was a major failure. The operation sparked the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1947: A military confict, known also as the First Kashmir War, fought between India and Pakistan over the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu from 1947 to 1948. It was the first of four wars fought between the two newly independent nations. Pakistan precipitated the war a few weeks after independence in an effort to secure Kashmir, the future of which hung in the balance. The inconclusive result of the war still affects the geopolitics of both countries.
  • Kargil War: An armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control.
  • Line of Control: The military control line between the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of the former princely state of Kashmir and Jammu—a line which, to this day, does not constitute a legally recognized international boundary but is the de facto border.
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1971: A military confrontation between India and Pakistan that occurred from December 3, 1971, to the Fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. The war began with preemptive aerial strikes on 11 Indian air stations that led to the commencement of hostilities. Lasting just 13 days, it is one of the shortest wars in history.
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1965: A war that was a culmination of skirmishes that took place between April 1965 and September 1965 between Pakistan and India. The conflict began following Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar, designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against Indian rule. India retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack on West Pakistan. The 17-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides and witnessed the largest engagement of armored vehicles and the largest tank battle since World War II.

Partition of British India and Kashmir

British rule in India ended in 1947 with the creation of new states: Pakistan and India. The British Paramountcy over the 562 Indian princely states ended and the states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, had a predominantly Muslim population ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. He decided to stay independent because he expected that the state’s Muslims would be unhappy with accession to India and the Hindus and Sikhs would become vulnerable if he joined Pakistan. Pakistan made various efforts to persuade the Maharaja of Kashmir to join Pakistan. Faced with the Maharaja’s decision, the Muslim League agents clandestinely worked to encourage the local Muslims to revolt in Poonch. Muslim League officials assisted and possibly organized a large-scale invasion of Kashmir by Pathan tribesmen. The authorities in Pakistani Punjab waged a private war by obstructing supplies of fuel and essential commodities to Jammu and Kashmir.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947

The violence in the eastern districts of Jammu that started in September 1947 developed into a widespread massacre of Muslims around October 20, organized and perpetrated by the local Hindus. The Maharaja himself was implicated in some instances. A team of British observers commissioned by India and Pakistan identified 70,000 Muslims killed, while the Azad Kashmir Government claimed that 200,000 Muslims were killed. About 400,000 Muslims fled to West Pakistan and many believed that the Maharaja ordered the killings in Jammu. The rebel forces in the western districts of Jammu organized under the leadership of Sardar Ibrahim, a Muslim Conference leader. They took control of most of the western parts of the State by October 22. On October 24, they formed a provisional Azad Kashmir (free Kashmir) government based in Palandri. Today, Azad Kashmir is a self-governing administrative division of Pakistan. The territory lies west of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Following the Muslim revolution in the Poonch and Mirpur area and Pakistani -backed Pashtun tribal intervention, the Maharaja asked for Indian military assistance. India set the condition that Kashmir must accede to India for it to receive assistance. The Maharaja complied and the Government of India recognized the accession of the princely state to India. Indian troops were sent to the Jammu and Kashmir but Pakistan refused to recognize the accession of Kashmir to India. Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah ordered to move Pakistani troops to Kashmir at once. However, the Indian and Pakistani forces were still under joint command. With its accession to India, Kashmir became legally Indian territory and the British officers could not a play any role in an inter-dominion war.

Rebel forces from the western districts of the state and the Pakistani Pakhtoon tribesmen made rapid advances. In the Kashmir valley, National Conference volunteers worked with the Indian Army to drive out the raiders. The resulting Indo-Pakistani war, known also as the First Kashmir War, lasted until the end of 1948. In May 1948, the Pakistani army officially entered the conflict, in theory to defend the Pakistan border. C. Christine Fair notes that this was the beginning of Pakistan using irregular forces and asymmetric warfare to ensure plausible deniability, which has continued ever since.

Prime Ministers Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan met in December, when Nehru informed Khan of India’s intention to refer the dispute to the United Nations under article 35 of the UN Charter.Complex negotiations boiled down to the difference between India requiring an asymmetric treatment of the two countries in the withdrawal arrangements, regarding Pakistan as an aggressor, and Pakistan insisting on parity. The UN mediators tended towards parity, which did not satisfy India. In the end, no withdrawal was ever carried out, with India insisting that Pakistan had to withdraw first and Pakistan contending that there was no guarantee that India would withdraw afterwards. No agreement could be reached between the two countries on the process of demilitarization.

Photo portrait of Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh

Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession in October 1947, under which he acceded the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India.

The root of conflict between the Kashmiri insurgents and the Indian government is tied to a dispute over local autonomy. Democratic development was limited in Kashmir until the late 1970s and by 1988, many of the democratic reforms introduced by the Indian Government had been reversed. In 1987, a disputed state election created a catalyst for the insurgency when it resulted in some of the state’s legislative assembly members forming armed insurgent groups. In 1988, a series of demonstrations, strikes and attacks on the Indian Government began the Kashmir Insurgency.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Following its failure to seize Kashmir in 1947, Pakistan supported numerous covert groups in Kashmir using operatives based in its New Delhi embassy. After its military pact with the United States in the 1950s, it studied guerrilla warfare through engagement with the U.S. military. In 1965, it decided that the conditions were ripe for a successful guerrilla war in Kashmir. Under a strategy code named Operation Gibraltar, Pakistan dispatched groups into Indian-administered Kashmir, the majority of whose members were volunteers recruited from Pakistan-administered Kashmir and trained by the Army. About 30,000 infiltrators are estimated to have been dispatched in August 1965 as part of the Operation Gibraltar. The plan was for the infiltrators to mingle with the local populace and incite them to rebellion. Meanwhile, guerrilla warfare would commence, destroying bridges, tunnels, highways, and Indian Army installations and airfields, creating conditions for an armed insurrection in Kashmir. Using the newly acquired sophisticated weapons through the American arms aid, Pakistan believed that it could achieve tactical victories in a quick, limited war. However, the Operation Gibraltar failed as the Kashmiris did not revolt. Instead, they turned in infiltrators to the Indian authorities in substantial numbers and the Indian Army ended up fighting the Pakistani Army regulars.

On September 1, Pakistan launched an attack across the Cease Fire Line, targeting Akhnoor in an effort to cut Indian communications into Kashmir. In response, India broadened the war by launching an attack on Pakistani Punjab across the international border. The war lasted until September 23, ending in a stalemate. Following the Tashkent Agreement, both sides withdrew to their pre-conflict positions and agreed not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Another phase of the conflict took place from December 3 to the Fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. The war began with preemptive aerial strikes on 11 Indian air stations that led to the commencement of hostilities with Pakistan and Indian entry into the war of independence in East Pakistan on the side of Bengali nationalist forces. During the war, Indian and Pakistani military forces simultaneously clashed on the eastern and western front and ended the war after the Eastern Command of Pakistan military signed the Instrument of Surrender, marking the formation of East Pakistan as the new nation of Bangladesh (with India’s support). Approximately between 90,000 and 93,000 Pakistani servicemen were taken prisoners by the Indian Army. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 3 million civilians were killed in Bangladesh.

Simla Agreement

As a follow-up to the war, a bilateral summit was held at Simla, where India pushed for peace in South Asia. At stake were over 5,ooo square miles of Pakistan’s territory captured by India during the conflict and over 90,000 prisoners of war held in Bangladesh. India was ready to return them in exchange for a “durable solution” to the Kashmir issue. The Simla Agreement was formulated and signed by the two countries, whereby they resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations and maintain the sanctity of the Line of Control. The agreement also stated that the two sides would meet again for establishing durable peace. The envisioned meeting never occurred.

China’s Role

In 1962, troops from the People’s Republic of China and India clashed in territory claimed by both. China won a swift victory in the war, resulting in Chinese annexation of the region they call Aksai Chin that has continued since. Another smaller area, the Trans-Karakoram, was demarcated as the Line of Control (LOC) between China and Pakistan, although some of the territory on the Chinese side is claimed by India as part of Kashmir. The line that separates India from China in this region is known as the “Line of Actual Control.”

Current Status

After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, there was a long period with relatively few direct armed conflicts involving military forces. During the 1990s, however, escalating tensions and conflict due to separatist activities in Kashmir, some of which were supported by Pakistan, as well as the conducting of nuclear tests by both countries in 1998, led to an increasingly belligerent atmosphere. In mid-1999, alleged insurgents and Pakistani soldiers from Pakistani Kashmir infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in the Kargil War (May-July 1999). Fears of the Kargil War turning into a nuclear war provoked then-United States President Bill Clinton to pressure Pakistan to retreat. The Pakistan Army withdrew their remaining troops from the area, ending the conflict. India regained control of the Kargil peaks, which they now patrol and monitor all year long.

The region is currently divided among three countries in a territorial dispute: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas and Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir) and Ladakh, and the People’s Republic of China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract). India continues to assert its sovereignty or rights over the entire region of Kashmir, while Pakistan maintains that it is a disputed territory. Pakistan argues that the status quo cannot be considered as a solution and further insists on a UN-sponsored plebiscite. The Kashmir conflict continues.