Partition of India
The historical context for “The Dog of Tithwal” is the Indian-Pakistani conflict that arose after the partition of India in 1947. The partition came after India won its independence from British rule on August 14, 1947. India was divided into two countries formed on the basis of religion, with Pakistan as a Muslim state and India as a secular nation ruled by the Hindu majority. Boundary issues and religious disputes brought about terrorism, war, and continuing disharmony between India and Pakistan. Even the imposition of official boundaries did not cause the conflict to cease.
The decision to partition India resulted in barbaric treatment of citizens who happened to be living in the “wrong” nation after the boundaries were drawn. By law, people were required to live in the new nation that “matched” their religion— Muslims in Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs in India— regardless of where they lived before the partition. Sixteen million refugees streamed across the borders, hoping to make homes in regions entirely foreign to them. The entire region dissolved into disarray.
Since there was no experienced government to effectively deal with the chaos and violence, it fed on itself. In addition to more than half a million deaths, looting and rape were commonplace. In particular, the Hindus and the Muslims used women to intimidate each other: “ghost trains” filled with severed breasts of women were sent from each country to the other.
Decades after the partition, Indian and Pakistan are still in conflict, and individuals and families are still affected by the material, psychological, and financial losses of partition and its aftermath.
To understand the reasons for the partition, it is necessary to look at the history of India. Starting in the late thirteenth century and continuing for more than three hundred years, Muslims ruled the subcontinent under the Mughal Empire. Then India became part of the British Empire under Queen Elizabeth I. Over a period of three hundred and fifty years, the British consolidated their power in India. The British treated the Muslims and Hindus almost as if they were residents of two different nations and ruled them separately. Even in the census, the British categorized Indians according to religion.
As the British Empire expanded, so too did the land it held in India. By World War II, the British held a large area that was subject to Hindu and Muslim conflicts. The Muslims, who were not interested in learning English, were at a disadvantage to Hindus when it came to holding positions in government. The Muslims resented the fact that Hindus held better jobs, especially since, formerly, Muslims had been in power. Meanwhile, the Hindus had not forgotten Muslim rule. They tried to replace Urdu, a Muslim language, with Hindi as the official national language.
In an attempt to reduce conflict, British and Indian leaders decided to divide the subcontinent of India so that Muslims would have their own nation. The resulting partition, in 1947, carved Pakistan out of India. Part of Pakistan was on the west side of India, near the Indus River, and another part was to the east. (The eastern region is now the nation of Bangladesh.) More than one thousand miles of Indian territory separated the two regions of Pakistan—yet another challenge to the new country’s inexperienced leaders.
Carol Ullmann (Editor) Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 15, Saadat Hasan Manto, Published by Gale, 2002.