Post Independence Challenges UPSC

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

Challenges Faced by Independent India

Broadly, independent India faced three kinds of challenges.


  • The first and the immediate challenge was to shape a nation that was united, yet accommodative of the diversity in our society.
  • At that time it was widely believed that a country full of diversity could not remain together for long.


  • The second challenge was to establish democracy. You have already studied the Indian Constitution.
  • The Constitution granted fundamental rights and extended the right to vote to every citizen.
  • A democratic constitution is necessary but not sufficient for establishing a democracy.
  • The challenge was to develop democratic practices in accordance with the Constitution.


  • The third challenge was to ensure the development and wellbeing of the entire society and not only of some sections.
  • The real challenge was to evolve effective policies for economic development and eradication of poverty.

Process of Partition

  • ‘India’ was to be divided into two countries, ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’. Such a division was not only very painful, but also very difficult to decide and to implement.
  • It was decided to follow the principle of religious majorities. This basically means that areas where the Muslims were in majority would make up the territory of Pakistan. The rest was to stay with India.
  • The idea might appear simple, but it presented all kinds of difficulties.
  • First of all, there was no single belt of Muslim majority areas in British India. There were two areas of concentration, one in the west and one in the east. There was no way these two parts could be joined. So it was decided that the new country, Pakistan, will comprise two territories, West and East Pakistan separated by a long expanse of Indian territory.
  • Secondly, not all Muslim majority areas wanted to be in Pakistan. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the undisputed leader of the North Western Frontier Province and known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’, was staunchly opposed to the two-nation theory. Eventually, his voice was simply ignored and the NWFP was made to merge with Pakistan.
  • The third problem was that two of the Muslim majority provinces of British India, Punjab and Bengal, had very large areas where the non-Muslims were in majority. Eventually it was decided that these two provinces would be bifurcated according to the religious majority at the district or even lower level. This decision could not be made by the midnight of 14-15 August. It meant that a large number of people did not know on the day of Independence whether they were in India or in Pakistan.
  • The Partition of Punjab and Bengal caused the deepest trauma of Partition. This was related to the fourth and the most intractable of all the problems of partition. This was the problem of ‘minorities’ on both sides of the border.
  • Lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs in the areas that were now in Pakistan and an equally large number of Muslims on the Indian side of Punjab and Bengal (and to some extent Delhi and surrounding areas) found themselves trapped.
  • They were to discover that they were undesirable aliens in their own home, in the land where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries.
  • As soon as it became clear that the country was going to be partitioned, the minorities on both sides became easy targets of attack.

The Communal Holocaust

  • At the very outset the people and the government faced the gravest of crises. The great danger was that the atmosphere and the mentality generated by Partition and the riots might persist and strengthen communal tendencies in Indian politics.
  • But Indian nationalism was able to withstand the test. The situation was brought under control within a few months through decisive political and administrative measures. For example, during August–September, the back of communal violence in Delhi was broken by bringing the army on the streets and ordering the police to shoot at communal mobs indulging in looting and killing.
  • The government also succeeded in protecting the Muslim minority in the country , so that in the end 45 million Muslims chose to remain in India.
  • Communalism was thereby contained and weakened but not eliminated, for conditions were still favourable for its growth.
  • Nehru carried on a massive campaign against communalism to instil a sense of security in the minorities, through public speeches, radio broadcasts, speeches in parliament, private letters and epistles to chief ministers.
  • He even advocated a ban on political organizations based on religion and got the constitution amended to enable the government to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the right to free speech and expression in order to curb communal speeches and writings.
  • A major setback to the communal forces occurred with Gandhiji’s martyrdom.

Rehabilitation of Refugees

  • The government had to stretch itself to the maximum to give relief to and resettle and rehabilitate the nearly six million refugees from Pakistan who had lost their all there and whose world had been turned upside down. The task took some time but it was accomplished.
  • By 1951, the problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees from West Pakistan had been fully tackled.
  • The task of rehabilitating and resettling refugees from East Bengal was made more difficult by the fact that the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal continued for years.
  • While nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan had migrated in one go in 1947, a large number of Hindus in East Bengal had stayed on there in the initial years of 1947 and 1948.
  • But as communal riots broke out periodically in East Bengal, there was a steady stream of refugees from there year after year till 1971. Providing them with work and shelter and psychological assurance, therefore, became a continuous and hence a difficult task.
  • Unlike in Bengal, most of the refugees from west Punjab could occupy the large lands and property left by the Muslim migrants to Pakistan from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and could therefore be resettled on land. This was not the case in West Bengal.
  • Also because of linguistic affinity , it was easier for Punjabi and Sindhi refugees to settle in today ’s Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and western U.P., Rajasthan and Delhi.
  • The resettlement of the refugees from East Bengal could take place only in Bengal and to a lesser extent in Assam and Tripura.
  • As a result ‘a very large number of people who had been engaged in agricultural occupations before their displacement were forced to seek survival in semi-urban and urban contexts as the underclass’, and contributed to ‘the process of immiserisation’ of West Bengal.

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