Recounting the year prior to the August 15, 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, Hajari draws the main characters in precise detail: the passionate Nehru, the otherworldly and ultimately ineffective Gandhi, the austere, recalcitrant Jinnah, and the arrogant Mountbatten. Years ago, I read Train To Pakistan, an historical novel by Khushwant Singh, published in 1956. Singh radically simplifies partition into the story of one village on the Indo-Paki border -- a most memorable book. I was looking to Midnight’s Furies to provide the backstory. To a degree it does, but it seems to gloss over or ignore the reasons why such extreme violence would erupt, ending with at least a million dead and 15 million displaced.
India was home to three major religions -- Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs -- and numerous sects of each religion. For hundreds of years they lived in comparative harmony, a syncretic culture. Confronted with the opportunity for independence from Britain, every memory of oppression, bullying, favoritism, and discrimination rose up in the factions (mostly instigated for political gain) and became fodder for murder and mayhem. Bankrupt from WWII, Britain was desperate to get out of the imperial business and become more a benevolent leader of the consortium of former colonies, then continue funding the black hole of India. To this end, the time from announcement of the withdrawal of Britain to the partition was eight months. In fact, Mountbatten announced the actual partition plan June 2, 1947 and it was implemented August 15th. No time was allotted for establishment of functional government and systems for either country, though India had the upper hand because their government remained in Delhi while the Muslims had to move from Delhi to Karachi. And, the stories go on and on. I’d appreciate hearing from readers who have found other informative books on this period. BTW, I have read Midnight’s Children by Rushdie – a magnificent book, but not written to be a history of partition