British Empire
The end of the British empire - India
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British government report on the state of India in 1947
(Catalogue ref: DO 142/259)
  • This is an extract from a report sent by British officials in India to the Commonwealth Relations Office in London in September 1947. This was soon after India was partitioned into India and Pakistan and became independent from British rule.
  • The main events described in the report are the terrible violent outbreaks that came as India became independent.
  • The majority of Indians were Hindus, but a very large number of Indians were Muslims. As the campaign for Indian independence grew it was largely headed by Hindus like Gandhi. Muslims became concerned that they would be a minority in India and campaigned for their own Muslim state of Pakistan.
  • Tension between Hindus and Muslims erupted into violence as Indian independence got closer. There were terrible atrocities by both sides and thousands were killed. Around 2 million people fled from their homes to areas of Pakistan or India where they would not be a minority.
  • In 1947 the final partition of India created the two states, although violence continued for some time. Partition left 18 million Hindus in Pakistan and 40 million Muslims in India. There were serious disputes over territories, particularly Kashmir. Even today, relations between India and Pakistan remain tense and there have been many outbreaks of violence and open war in the 1960s.
  • Other parts of this report suggest that the police and armed forces of India and Pakistan were inadequate to cope with the tensions. There were too few of them, they were not well trained and they were badly equipped. However, the main issue was that, with the removal of British commanders, the police and army supported their traditional family and religious communities instead of the new government of India.
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