The British Raj refers to the British rule between 1858 and 1947 of the Indian Subcontinent, or present-day India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar, during the period whereby these lands were under the colonial control of the United Kingdom as part of the British Empire. Since the independence of these countries, their pre-independent existence has been loosely referred to as British India.
The first proponents of an independent Muslim nation began to appear in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century under the British Raj. Following the first War for Independence, the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885. Some Muslims felt the need to address the issue of the Muslim identity within British Raj, leading to Sir Syed Amir Ali forming the Central National Muhammadan Association in 1877 to work towards the political advancement of the Muslims. The organisation declined towards the end of the nineteenth century but was replaced in 1906 by the All-India Muslim League. Although the League originally demanded constitutional guarantees for Muslims, several factors including sectarian violence prompted a reconsideration of the League’s aims. The All India Muslim League was founded on the sidelines of the 1905 conference of the Muslim Anglo-Oriental Conference. This party was not, right until 1940, separatist. The idea of a separate nation was mooted in humor, satire and on the fringes of the political milieu.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who ultimately led the movement for a separate state, had despaired of British Indian politics and particularly of getting mainstream parties like the Congress (of which he was a member much longer than the League) to be sensitive to minority priorities. Among the first to make the demand for a separate state was the Pakistani writer/philosopher Allama Iqbal, who, in his presidential address to the 1930 convention of the Muslim League said that he felt that a separate nation for Muslims was essential in an otherwise Hindu-dominated South Asia. The Sindh Assembly passed a resolution making it a demand in 1935. Iqbal, Jauhar and others then worked hard to draft Mohammad Ali Jinnah to lead the movement for this new nation. Jinnah later went on to become known as the Father of the Nation, with Pakistan officially giving him the title Quaid-e-Azam or “Great Leader”.
In 1940, Jinnah called a general session of the All India Muslim League in Lahore to discuss the situation that had arisen due to the outbreak of the Second World War and the Government of British India joining the war without taking the opinion of the Indian leaders. The meeting was also aimed at analyzing the reasons that led to the defeat of the Muslim League in the general election of 1937 in the Muslim majority provinces. Jinnah, in his speech, criticised the Congress and the nationalist Muslims, and espoused the Two-Nation Theory and the reasons for the demand for separate Muslim homelands. Sikandar Hayat Khan, the Chief Minister of the Punjab region, drafted the original Lahore Resolution, which was placed before the Subject Committee of the All India Muslim League for discussion and amendments. The resolution, radically amended by the subject committee, was moved in the general session by Shere-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq, the Chief Minister of Bengal, on 23 March and was supported by Choudhury Khaliquzzaman and other Muslim leaders. The Lahore Resolution ran as follows:
That the areas where the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North western and Eastern zones of British India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.
The Resolution was adopted on 23 March 1940.
As the British granted independence to their dominions in British India in mid-August 1947, the two nations joined the British Commonwealth as self-governing dominions. The partition left Punjab and Bengal, two of the biggest provinces, divided between India and Pakistan. In the early days of independence, more than two million people migrated across the new border and more than one hundred thousand died in a spate of communal violence. Up to 3.5 million Non-Muslims who lived in Pakistan were forced the leave the area, which was one major factor in causing a violent reaction amongst the populations of the newly founded nations. The partition also resulted in tensions over Kashmir leading to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.