The partition of British India in 1947 created two new countries, India and Pakistan, but the birth of the two states was accompanied by widespread violence and population movement. Crispin Bates, an historian at the University of Edinburgh, describes the process of partition as “chaotic,” and identifies the legacy of partition as one reason for political and religious tensions in India and Pakistan today.

Geographical Divisions

The newly-created state of Pakistan was made up of two geographically separate areas, located on India’s northwest and northeast borders and known as West and East Pakistan. West Pakistan is the present-day state of Pakistan, and borders the disputed territory of Kashmir which was not included in the British partition plan. East Pakistan lay in the former province of Bengal, and gained independence as Bangladesh after a civil war in 1971.

Religious Divisions

The populations of the two new states were differentiated along religious lines. Pakistan held a Muslim majority, while India’s population was predominantly Hindu. This division according to religion led to history’s largest mass-migration, as 10 million people moved to take refuge with people of the same religious beliefs. A further one million people were killed in religious violence during partition.