Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
India's long struggle for freedom, led by Mohandas Gandhi, was rewarded soon after World War II. With independence, however, came division and bloodshed. After years of violence between Hindus and Muslims, the country was partitioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan -- creating over 10 million refugees and the deaths of about a half million people. Gandhi was among the victims of the religious strife, assassinated five months after India's independence by a Hindu fanatic. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 16, 1947:
New Delhi, Aug. 15 (AP). --
Millions of Hindus and Moslems dropped their months-long fratricidal strife in the emotional upsurge of celebrating their first day of independence today.
Appeals for peace sped across the young dominions of India and Pakistan, but the bitterly opposed religious communities still fought a mutually destructive conflict in the Punjab, where press dispatches reported vultures preying on the bodies of the fallen.
The toll of rioting and gang warfare in that unhappy province rose to 268 dead and 65 wounded in Lahore. A dozen fires blazed in the city, and authorities disclosed the use of tanks by the military for the first time to suppress heavily armed gangs.
The award of a boundary commission partitioning the province between the two dominions was delayed for two days as the British governor general, Sir Evan Jenkins, handed in a temporary "basis of national division."
New Delhi's first day of liberation from British rule was ushered in with ceremonies combining the pomp and splendor of East and West, and Calcutta's millions of Hindus and Moslems joined freely in celebrating together.
Embracing each other, shouting "Jai Hind" (Victory to India), and waving the new tri-color flag of saffron, green and white, the Calcutta crowds marched by the thousands in a "holy pilgrimage" to the temporary residence of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the "architect of India's freedom."
There, where the wispy Indian was conducting his own celebration with fasting, praying and spinning, they shouted, "Hindu, Moslem one."
In New Delhi hilarious crowds planted a flagpole wherever there was room for one. Bands blared. Horsedrawn tongas (two wheeled carts) were gaily decorated. Shops, banks and newspapers closed for the day.
Bombay, birthplace and backbone of the Congress Party's triumphant freedom struggle, staged the greatest mass demonstration in its history with 400,000 persons parading from the Gowalia Reservoir where the first session of the party was held 62 years ago. Motorcyclists mingled with bullock carts.
Moslem Pakistan's celebration in Karachi came to a conclusion with a military parade viewed by 100,000. Mahomed Ali Jinnah, Moslem chief, took the salute as a detachment of the Pakistan Navy and Army marched past and a squadron of air force planes flew overhead.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru concluded the Hindu dominion's first day with a nationwide broadcast in which he told the people "our first and immediate objective must be to put an end to all internal strife and violence which disfigure and degrade us and injure the cause of freedom."
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com