Who was responsible for the partition of India? Did it happen due to Mohammed Ali Jinnah or Mahatma Gandhi? Or were the British of the view that the country needed to be divided?

7 Answers 7


According to Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (I have a link to Wikipedia but have read the book multiple times), the idea for Pakistan came from Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a student studying in England who pitched the idea to Mohammed Ali Jinnah at a dinner. Choudhary Rahmat Ali is also credited with coining the name "Pakistan". Jinnah wasn't receptive to the idea but warmed to it when the Government of India Act of 1935 saw most of the spoils go to Hindus.

Convinced that Muslims had no place in an independent India, he became a strident proponent of a separate Muslim state. Despite a great deal of diplomacy and attempts at persuasion by many, including Gandhi and Viceroy Mountbatten, he remained steadfast to this idea, threatening violence and predicting civil war if the division wasn't allowed to happen. The other leaders of Congress, tired of fighting and wanting to get the transfer of power over with, accepted his demands reluctantly. Gandhi was reportedly saddened, but powerless; he couldn't be seen to be feuding publicly with the other leaders of Congress (mostly Nehru and Patel) by breaking ranks.

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    +1 Excellent answer except that Allama Mohammad Iqbal is not mentioned here at all who is widely regarded in the subcontinent as the one fueling the idea of a separate Muslim state. He was the main force uniting Muslims behind Jinnah. It is also worthwhile to look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan_Movement for an interested reader. In summary, the British didn't care. Hindus wanted all united India. Muslims didn't want to live under Hindu rule and wanted to separate. May 26, 2014 at 2:18

The actual decision of how to divide the country - how to draw the partition line - was the work of, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, chair of the Border Commissions.

There were two border Commissions. One for Punjab and the other for Bengal. Each commission had 4 representatives. Of which, 2 were from the Indian National Congress and the other 2 were from the Muslim League. Radcliffe had just 5 weeks to decide the border - before 15 August 1947 (though it was actually published on the 17th).

The whole task was a dreadful mess. The resulting ethnic cleansing saw some 25 million refugees and an estimated 1.5 million dead. Border disputes, particularly in Kashmir, continue to this day.

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    India had lived with a mix of Hindu and Muslims side by side for hundreds of years. There is no reason that this peaceful coexistence could not have continued for long after but for a few high profile politicians (some of whom counted Gandhi as a friend) who sought partition and stirred trouble. Jan 8, 2012 at 12:36
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    @Rincewnd - I think that's a little like claiming that europeans and native americans had lived peacefully for centuries before civil rights campaigners stirred it up.
    – none
    Jan 8, 2012 at 16:06
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    @mgb But Muslim 'minorities' (along with others) still live in a 'Hindu' India.
    – rest_day
    Jan 30, 2012 at 19:51
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    @mgb Sure, minorities in Greater India were oppressed but it was no genocide. It is important to remember that the Muslims were both minority in some areas and majority in others. You seem to favour the Muslims in Hindu India while ignoring the Hindus in Muslim Pakistan. The partition triggered a massive genocide of minorities on both sides of the borders. There were other options and the negligence and over-hast of the partition is a tragedy that was foreseen and could have been prevented. Jan 31, 2012 at 12:11
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    @Rincewind42 - Could you perhaps add some of the information (including names) in your first comment into your answer? IMHO this answer (as well as the other answer) aren't good enough to upvote becuase they both just talk about the British doing it without mentioning any Indians themselves pushing for partition (and who). I suspect the Brits would have been perfectly happy to keep the entire area whole, if that had been the expressed desire of everyone else, but that isn't the impression I get reading these answers. Am I wrong?
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 7, 2012 at 16:27

The partition of India was undertaken per the Indian Independence Act of the British Parliament, taken after consultation with the main interest groups.

Gandhi agreed to the partition reluctantly; other groups, such as the Muslim League, enthusiastically.

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    Why did you choose to link to a clone of Wikipedia (absoluteastonomy.com) instead of the original article on Wikipedia itself? Is there some benefit to doing this?
    – mgkrebbs
    Dec 8, 2011 at 3:18
  • @mgkrebbs: Probably my bad linking skills. But that's the source I used.
    – Tom Au
    Dec 10, 2011 at 20:01
  • This answer is not of top quality. I could not understand why the asker accepted this.
    – user806
    Apr 21, 2012 at 15:22
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    @BROY, can you show us what a good answer to this question looks like?
    – Joe
    May 24, 2012 at 17:24

Of the three answers Jayaraj's answer is the most appropriate. Other answers are purely technical. Those answers are akin to saying the US President is elected by the state electors ignoring the fact that the election by state electors is mostly a formality after the people of the United States have voted.

Jinnah didn't stop with just threatening violence. His call for "Direct Action Day" on 16th August 1946 was indeed a call for foreceful action to get what he wanted, the partition of India. Read here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_Action_Day.


Hindi urdu controversy and quota system controversy and illiteracy problem of india were the factors responsible for partition of india in 1947.

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    Can you elaborate on why they are responsible?
    – Semaphore
    Nov 9, 2014 at 9:04

Friends,I am weak in English.The slogan of Hindu mahasabha & RSS - "Hindu ,Hindi, Hindustan" slogan and their demand for prohibition of cow slaughter in India annoyed the muslims of British India.On the other hand hindus suspected the patriotism of muslims for their love of Arab land and Afghanistan.The question about future national language of India was also a great factor in the partition of India.Hindus opposed the quota system for minorities.Absence or Lack of great leaders like Abraham Lincoln & Garibalidi in India was also a great factor. The role of local rulers of princely states was full of communalism and partiality in nature. Crores of illiterate poor people were easily influenced by communal leaders and by rumours.

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    You can edit your existing answers rather than post new ones.
    – Semaphore
    Nov 9, 2014 at 11:46

Read Jaswant Singh's book on Jinnah. You will learn that Sardar Patel, Nehru and Gandhi were actually responsible for dividing India. Simply, because they were fearful that Muslims would be nearly half of the population in a united India, making it hard for the Hindu counterpart to dominate. Hence, their desire to divide India. The English grabbed the opportunity to weaken the subcontinent. Muslims' plight in today' India is a testimonial to what would have happened to them in an undivided India.

I fully agree that a united India would have been a mess for the Muslims, as they would have been subjugated by the Hindu majority, which was unwilling to grant proportionate representation to minorities in a united India. After all, Jinnah was a member of Congress till 1913, and Iqbal had written saarey jehaan se piara Hindustan hamaaraa.

We can set aside out hate and respect oneanother as good neighbors, who have a shared heritage.

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    do remove the anti-Hindu rethoric... And do remember that in majority Muslim countries the minorities have it far harder than in majority Hindu countries.
    – jwenting
    May 26, 2014 at 7:58
  • Jinnah was highly influenced by Allama Iqbal, a famous Muslim poet who first conceived of the idea of the separate Muslim state of Pakistan. In the 1937 provincial elections, the Congress won by a landslide margin while the Muslim League failed to garner seats even in those areas where there was a Muslim Majority. This was a major setback for Jinnah and other Muslim politicians who started growing more and more insecure about their future in a Hindu dominated India. Jinnah started campaigning vociferously for the creation of Pakistan after that.
    – srini
    Jun 6, 2020 at 10:31
  • It is wrong to surmise the condition the Muslims of the United India would have been from the so-called plight of the Muslims in the present-day India. In a United India, the Muslims would have been THREE TIMES as numerous as they are in today's India. Most of the Muslim elite left India after 1947 to migrate to Pakistan and elsewhere abroad. So Muslims would have been in a far better state in an undevided India. Jul 17, 2020 at 22:21

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