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Indian Partition Communal Violence

Also called: Indian civil war

Years: 1947-1948
Battle deaths: 200,000 [1]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
India, Pakistan

Published prior to 2013 | Altered: 2016-08-10 12:07:53
The partition of India (Hindi: हिन्दुस्तान का बटवारा, Urdu: تقسیم ہند‎, Bengali: ভারত বিভাগ) was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics. This led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (that later split into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). The Indian Independence Act 1947 had decided 15 August 1947 as the appointed date for the partition. However, Pakistan came into existence a day earlier, on 14 August.

The partition of India was set forth in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Indian Empire and the end of the British Raj. It resulted in a struggle between the newly constituted states of India and Pakistan and displaced up to 12.5 million people with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million (most estimates of the numbers of people who crossed the boundaries between India and Pakistan in 1947 range between 10 and 12 million). The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship to this day.

Source: Wikipedia, published under the GNU FDL. Retrieved 2013-08-22

Lionel Baixas writes in Thematic Chronology of Mass Violence in Pakistan, 1947-2007 (see note [1] for full citation):

While some argue that the violence that erupted at the moment of Partition was popular and spontaneous and that it can’t be considered as a general phenomenon due to the non-involvement of large-scale organizations (Alam, 1998: 98), the nature and the extent of the violence clearly underline the organized and planned character of the attacks. Furthermore, it suggests the involvement of private armies such as the Muslim League National Guard, the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and the Akal Fauj, counting respectively 42,300, 59,200 and at least 8,000 members (Hansen, 2002: 135). Although the State did not directly participate in the violence, the communalized role of the police, the complicity if not direct involvement of the political leaderships and the State’s attitude of laissez-faire point to its responsibility (Virdee, 2007: 16-36; Khan, 2007: 36-60). During its existence, between August 1 and 31, the 50,000 men Punjab Boundary Force was unable or unwilling to maintain peace and order (Jeffrey, 1974: 491-520).

Violence was not just a marginal phenomenon, a sudden and spontaneous communal frenzy that accompanied Partition. It was on the contrary at the very heart of the event. Nor was it merely a consequence of Partition but rather the principal mechanism for creating the conditions for Partition. Violence constituted the moral instrument through which the tension between the pre-Partition local character of identity and its postcolonial territorial and national redefinition was negotiated (Gilmartin, 1998: 1069-1089). Violence operated as the link between the community and its new national territory. That is precisely what gave it its organized and genocidal dimension as it was meant for control of social space so as to cleanse these territories from the presence of other religious communities (Hansen, 2002).


Notes on fatalities

[1] Battle deaths: Lionel Baixas, Thematic Chronology of Mass Violence in Pakistan, 1947-2007, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, published on 24 June 2008, accessed 22 August 2013, URL : link, ISSN 1961-9898. Post in Correlates of War, Non-State War Data v4.0 without fatality data.

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.


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