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Freedom of Speech and Religion: A comparative analysis

By: Karan Teotia, Aryan Swetabh, Prateek Singh, and Kumar Yuvraj, students at Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA


The split of British India into three autonomous Dominions was known as the Partition of India. The three states have subsequently been reorganized, and the Dominion of India has been known as the Republic of India since 1950, while the Dominion of Pakistan has been known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan since 1956, as well as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh since 1971.

Consequently, one of the world’s largest migrations occurred, with millions of Muslims migrating to West and East Pakistan (the latter now known as Bangladesh), and millions of Hindus and Sikhs migrating in the opposite direction. Hundreds of thousands of people never made it. Communities that had coexisted for over a millennium across the Indian subcontinent assaulted each other in a terrible outbreak of sectarian warfare, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. A mutual genocide that was both unforeseen and unprecedented. Massacres, burning, forced conversions, mass abductions, and horrific sexual violence were all commonplace in Punjab and Bengal. Seventy-five thousand women were raped, with many of them wounded or killed as a result.[1]

Both states subsequently faced huge problems accommodating and rehabilitating post-Partition refugees, whose numbers swelled when the two states went to war over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Later bouts of communal tension generated further movement, with a trickle of people still migrating as late as the 1960s.

Today, the two countries’ relationship is far from healthy. Kashmir remains a flashpoint, both countries are nuclear-armed. Indian Muslims are frequently suspected of harbouring loyalties towards Pakistan, non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan are increasingly vulnerable thanks to the so-called Islamisation of life there since the 1980s. Seven decades on, well over a billion people still live in the shadow of Partition. Unfortunately, even 74 years after the creation of two independent countries, Indians and Pakistanis continue using the same colonial mechanisms to study our societies, creating divisions and distinctions that might have not necessarily existed.

Today, India is the most developed of the underdeveloped countries. If there were no impediment, in 15-20 years, it can easily become a highly-developed country. This is all the time it takes to transform a backward country to a highly developed one, as the experience of Japan after the Meiji Restoration in 1868 shows. The real reason for Partition was that the British did not want united India to emerge as a modern industrial giant, and thus a big rival to British industry. They also wanted India to remain a big market for the Western arms industry as India is perhaps the biggest purchaser of foreign arms in the world.[2] Partition which as sought be the harbinger of peace to the feud created between the peaceful living communities in the sub-continent as claimed by the persons behind the partion. However, several decades have passed since and partition can only be attributed to an unwise decision and opposed to the interest of subcontinent countries. Following are the after effects of partition which continues to haunt the sub-continent till date-



The relative force and power differential between India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is at the core of these nations’ defence approaches. India enjoys benefit in terms of national power but these nations is gripped by severe political rivalry and corresponding arms’ race among major regional powers due to outstanding disputes between them. Their defense expenditure consumption is redirecting in excess of sixteen per cent of their total fiscal budget away from productive activities.

The research adds that this corresponds with a time in which India’s GDP increased at a pace of more than 7.4 per cent on average, while Pakistan’s economic situation worsened dramatically, implying the necessity to sustain high levels of GDP development in order to make a dent in poverty. Bangladesh’s defence procurement is hampered by an imbalance between policy, budgeting, and procurement procedures. The development of newer missiles and tactical nuclear weapons adds to the instability and risk of the situation. Unless and until all three can initiate a discussion on economic and military relations, they will continue to feed their defence budgets, raising the opportunity costs of such spending which could have been avoided if there was no partition among them. [3]

Cross border migrations

In wake of partition, the break-up of British India led to crores of people move across the border in Pakistan and Bangladesh.  By 1948, as the great migration drew to a close, more than fifteen million people had been uprooted, and between one and two million were dead.

The Census provides information on the number of immigrants that each state has which is, 95 per cent of the total 2.3 million Bangladeshi immigrants lived in states that shared a border with Bangladesh. West Bengal has the highest proportion of Bangladeshi immigrants (82%), followed by Tripura (9%), and Assam (1%). Along with that, 28 per cent of Pakistani immigrants were discovered in Punjab, 17 per cent in Delhi, 15 per cent in Haryana, and 9 per cent in Rajasthan. A significant Pakistani-origin population was also discovered in the western states of Maharashtra (8%), and Gujarat (4%).[4] Such cross border migration is a result of partition, People living for centuries were forced to leave their motherland and migrate to an alien unknown place for their life and dignity.

Forceful conversion

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) mandates the freedom of religion or belief.[5] Pakistan has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).[6] Forceful conversion is becoming a daily phenomenon in Pakistan and India has shown concern over reports of cruel acts committed against religious minorities in the country before the UN Human Rights Council. It has been estimated that 1000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted and then married off to their abductors every year.[7] Not just Pakistan, horrible tales comes from Bangladesh as well. Research shows, mass graves of 45 Hindus found in the strife-torn Rakhine area. But, the horror does not end there. Hindus Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh camps are being forced to convert to Islam at the hands of majority Muslim Rohingyas.[8] In fact, far from recognizing the right to convert, the Indian state and powerful Hindutva organizations utilize the specter of so-called forced conversions to persecute minorities (mainly Christians in this case).[9] No country is free from forceful conversion, even with laws, rules and regulations, people are being displaced from one nation to other because of forceful conversions.

Loss of heritage

Independence and the end of British Empire were achieved through geographic separation and terrible, almost unimaginable brutality. An estimated two million people were killed in religious conflict, while twelve million more fled across newly formed boundaries in the aftermath of the power transition.  India was still a country where customs, languages, and cultures crossed religious lines, and where individuals did not identify themselves only by their religious beliefs. Looters, refugee camps, and the cruel actions of omission and commission of numerous government departments all put pressure on monuments.[10] Many people lament the loss of the great culture that once distinguished Delhi. With a significant Muslim population gone, Urdu, the city’s primary language, declined and was quickly replaced by Hindi and Punjabi. Mushairas (recitations of Urdu poetry) became infrequent and were replaced by government-sponsored Kavi Sammelans.[11] Several hindu pith sites which were visited by people of all religion were destroyed, Sikhs had to wait for decades to have access to their most pious religious place, Gurudwara Darbar sahib in Kartarpur and they await for unrestricted access to Darbar sahib. All this was a result parttio


[1] The Great Divide-The violent legacy of Indian Partition- The New Yorker

[2] Firstpost

[3] Heavy military spending hurting India, Pakistan: US report- Dawn


[5] UNOHCHR, ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’, p. 12

[6]  Reuben Ackerman ,Forced Conversion and marriages in Sindh, Pakistan, University of Birmingham

[7] Submission to UNOHCHR during Pakistan’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review, p. 5

[8] Vivek Gumaste, There may be no hindus left in banladesh in Coming 30 years, The Sunday Guardian.

[9] Shohaib Daniyal, How India uses absurd charge of forced religious conversion to target minorities and dalits, Scroll.

[10] Nayanjot Lahiri, How partition impacted monuments in Newly formed India, The Caravan.


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