I ran into the London Review of Books, which goes into an excellent history of the how’s and why’s of the Indian partition. My Indian background gives me a basic narrative with familiar characters and events, (Jinnah was a British tool, Gandhi and Nehru are unquestionable legends, Pakistan was and is a bad idea) — but I was really quite unfamiliar with the details. It turns out, like in Palestine, the British took turns supporting the opposing sides, and were always cautious to never support one side too much.
“The British Empire bequeathed a series of partitions: Ireland, Palestine, India, Cyprus. Though colonial principles of divide and rule played a role in each, the cases were not the same. If partition in India was to have any chance of being carried through peacefully or equitably, at least a year of preparation was needed. Its conveyance within six weeks was a sentence of death and devastation to millions. ‘Never before in South Asian history,’ one trenchant local observer has written, ‘did so few divide so many, so needlessly.’ The number of those uprooted, fleeing to lands they had never known, was anywhere from 12 to 18 million: the largest avalanche of refugees in history.