Saturday, July 11, 2015

Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition (Nisid Hajari)

Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition by Nisid Hajari recounts the division of India and Pakistan in 1947 as Britain ended its centuries-long control over Indian affairs. "The Partition" as it is known was driven by many factors, which Hajari recounts in chronological detail.

This historical account details the seeds of Partition on a number of fronts: first, the history of the relationship between Muslims and Hindus in Indian history and how, despite occasional religious-oriented violence, the two communities had co-existed and co-contributed to a developing regional power prior to the nationalism movement that developed within India in the early 20th century. Between religion, culture, and ego among leaders in both the Muslim-led League and the Hindu-dominated Congress, Hajari accounts how people of both faiths, plus the Sikhs of Northern India, rioted against the other and how the British Empire, financially decimated by World War II, was looking for a quick exit and not a lasting peaceable solution. The result was the Partition of India and Pakistan, hastily done along roughly religious lines, which led to further conflict in parts of Kashmir and in cities near both borders as Hindus in a Muslim-dominated Pakistan and Muslims in Hindu-dominated India were targeted and killed by the other side.  The result of Partition was the largest mass-migration of people in world history, with millions of Muslims and Hindus moving into safer territory in order to flee the prospect of religious violence.

Hajari takes the 1947 Partition and broadbrushes 70 years of following history, pointing out how Pakistan's history has been full of military rule combined with interference in Afghanistan for the better part of the past forty plus years. The India-Pakistan conflict has occasionally flared up since 1947, with three separate conflicts through their histories as countries. The author focuses on how tensions between the two nations remain strong despite occasional, gradual, attempts to resolve the two side's differences in recent years over disputed Kashmir. More attention could have been given to recent events and a future outlook to where things could head in this region; however, Hajari does a brilliant job of telling how the seeds of division in South Asia were originally sewn. Midnight's Furies is a fast, well-sourced read.