A Movement Toward Independence
Many Asians served in the armies of the colonial
powers during World War II. The fight against the
Nazis deepened Asians’ desire for independence.
Japanese victories over European powers early in
the war made Asians believe that the colonial rulers
could be defeated. In Europe, people began to
doubt that it was right for nations to have colonies.
Name two things that increased Asian hopes for independence.
Freedom Brings Turmoil
In the 1920s, Mohandas Gandhi led a movement
for Indian independence. Two groups worked in
this effort. The Indian National Congress, also
called the Congress Party, said that it represented all of India. Most of its members were Hindu.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah formed the Muslim
League in 1906. He said that the Congress Party
did not care for the rights of Indian Muslims. The
British encouraged the division of Hindus and
Muslims into two opposing groups. This division
helped the British keep control of the country.
After World War II, Britain was ready for India
to be independent. But the British did not know
which people in India would take power. Riots
broke out between the Hindus and Muslims
Gandhi tried to end the violence. A Hindu
extremist assassinated him for protecting Muslims.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British viceroy of
India, also tried to stop the violence. He finally
accepted the idea that partition, or the division of
India into two nations, was necessary.
The British Parliament passed a law granting
independence in July 1947. It created the separate
Hindu and Muslim nations of India and Pakistan.
The law gave people only one month to decide
which country they wanted to live in and to move
there. As millions of people began to move, more
violence broke out.
What divisions existed between Indian political groups and what was the attempted solution?
Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of India. He led the country for 17 years.
India and Pakistan went to war over the state of
Kashmir. Kashmir bordered both countries. It had
a Hindu ruler and a large Muslim population.
Conflict over Kashmir continues today.
Nehru tried to reform Indian society. He hoped
to improve the status of the lower castes and of
women. Shortly after he died in 1964, his daughter,
Indira Gandhi, became prime minister. She took
steps to increase food production. In 1984, she
ordered an attack on Sikh rebels. A few months
later, she was killed by Sikhs. She was followed by
her son Rajiv Gandhi. He was later assassinated.
Separatist movements continue to disrupt Indian
What problems has modern India faced?
Pakistan Copes with Freedom; Bangladesh and Sri Lanka Struggle
Pakistan has faced a great deal of violence, too.
When Pakistan was first formed, it had east and
west parts that were separated by India. In a
bloody fight in 1971, the eastern part won its independence. The new nation took the name
Bangladesh. Power struggles have caused problems in the western part since then. Its leaders
have included Ali Bhutto and his daughter,
Benazir Bhutto. She was elected prime minister
Ceylon, an island on the southeastern coast of
India, won its independence in 1947 as well. In
1972 it was renamed Sri Lanka. Since 1983, a
Hindu minority on the island - the Tamils - have
led a bloody fight to form a separate nation.
How have new political divisions led to violence?