Humanities 210 MIC/WIC- Cora Agatucci
Cultures & Literatures of Asia

India Timeline 4:
Independence of
India & Pakistan (20th c.)

Asian Timelines Table of Contents Literary & Cultural History
Learn more about selected Indian topics by clicking the links embedded in these timelines.
And if you find inaccuracies, bugs, or other relevant websites, please let me know:
The timeline pages are under construction and probably always will be...

"Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, more generally known as Dada Saheb Phalke, was responsible for the production of India's first fully indigenous silent feature film Raja Harishchandra, which heralded the birth of the Indian film industry. The film had titles in Hindi and English and was released on May 3, 1913 at the Coronation Cinema, Bombay" (History of Indian Cinema)
1914 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returns to India from South Africa, where he had organized the Indian community there to oppose the white supremicist government through a technique of non-violent agitation he called "satyagraha" (trans. "moral domination").
Gandhi, a devout Hindu, espoused a moral philosophy of tolerance, brotherhood of all religions, non-violence (ahimsa), and simple living. It was Gandhi, a remarkable and charismatic leader, who was eventually able to mobilize the masses of India and create a broad-based populist movement for freedom and independence from the British, as the members of the educated Indian elite had not been able to do. Jawaharlal Nehru (later independent India’s first prime minister) credited Gandhi with revitalizing the Indian Freedom Movement:

"He was a powerful current of fresh air
that made us stretch ourselves and take a deep breath"


1914-1918 World War I: large numbers of Indians, Hindu and Muslim, rallied to the British cause and 1.2 million Indians gave valiant service to the war effort. However, a joint campaign of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League resumed anti-British demands for political reforms in 1916. The British responded with promises of increased self-government. After the war, however, the British passed the Rowlatt Acts, suspending civil rights and enacting martial law in areas disturbed by riots and uprisings.
1919 Jalianwalabagh Massacre at Amritsar in the Punjab, when British troops fire on a huge assembly of people protesting British rule. (See The Amritsar Massacre from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.) Sikhs join the Indian freedom struggle, and Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hindu social and religious reformer, emerged as a formidable Indian leader in the independence movement. Gandhi called upon all Indian people to meet British repression with Satyagraha—non-violent resistance. Native outrage at the massacre provoked widespread violence and disorder, prompting Gandhi to declare April 13 a day of mourning. Anti-British feeling intensified.
1920-1922 Gandhi instituted the Non-Cooperation Movement--calling for boycotts of British commodities, courts, and educational institutions; noncooperation in political life, and renunciation of British titles held by Indians—which proved very effective in fight for Indian freedom. Viewed as seditious, Gandhi was imprisoned in 1922, and periodically again thereafter over the next two decades (the last time in 1942). Gandhi was called Mahatma (Sanskrit for "Great Soul") among the Indian people.
1927 - 1929: Mohandas K. Gandhi wrote his autobiography My Experiments with Truth, originally in Gujarati script, now considered a modern Indian classic. Another great early 20th century Indian writer widely known through translation is Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Islamic leader and philosopher, who wrote in Urdu and Persian.
1930-1931 Gandhi organized the Civil Disobedience Movement, a mass violation of the government salt monopoly, and led the 200-mile Salt March to the Gulf of Khambhat where seawater was boiled to make salt. Gandhi was again jailed, and the Indian Nationalist Movement revived, as civil disobedience, riots, demonstrations, and widespread disorder resulted in 27,000 Indian nationalists sentenced to prison terms. (See photo and more history of Gandhi.) Many women also emerged, including Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali, and Bhikaji Cama, played an active role in the struggle for freedom. While the British reached a truce with Gandhi and other Indian National Congress leaders, the Muslim League advanced demands for special privileges in the proposed Indian dominion government, professing fear of Hindu domination. The controversy provoked bitter Hindu-Muslim rioting and widened the schism between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.
Much later 20th-century Indian writing remains untranslated, but several writers working in English are relatively well known to the West. They include Mulk Raj Anand, among whose many works the early affectionate Untouchable (1935) and Coolie (1936), both novels of social protest; and R. K. Narayan, writer of novels and tales of village life in southern India. The first of Narayan's many works, Swami and Friends, appeared in 1935. See Paul Brians' Study Guide to R. K. Narayan: The Guide (1958). Among Narayan's more recent titles are The English Teacher (1980), The Vendor of Sweets (1983), and Under the Banyan Tree (1985). See modern Indian writers in English . A Bibliography of Hindi Literature in English Translation has been compiled by Irene Joshi, South Asia Librarian, Univ. of Washington.


1935-1937 The British Parliament and then the Indian people, influenced by Gandhi, approve the Government of India Act, which prepared the way for full independence and protection of Muslim minorities. However, many Indian National Congress members opposed the act, which stopped short of full independence for India. In practice, the plan for federation of India proved unworkable because Indian princes refused to cooperate with the more radical Indian national Congress and Muslims continued to claim the Hindus had excessive influence on the new national legislature. The Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, advocated the creation of an independent Muslim state (Pakistan), which in turn provoked violent Hindu opposition.


1939-1945 World War II rang the death knell for Western Colonialism in many parts of the world. In India, the British viceroy declared war on Germany in 1939, in the name of India, without consulting Indian leaders. Congress Ministries in 9 provinces resign resisting Indian support for the British war effort.
1940 Gandhi and other Indian National Congress leaders intensified their campaign for immediate self-government, naming it as the price for Indian cooperation in the war effort, and were arrested. A campaign of civil disobedience was launched in 1940, while the Muslim League and many princely states supported the British war effort. Again, vast numbers of Indian troops participated in war on the British side at home and on the fronts.
1941 Subhash Chandra Bose escapes from India to organize the I.N.A. (Indian National Army) movement to enlist support to fight against the British.
1942 Cripps Mission: Waves of anti-British agitation in India, however, prompted the British to institute the "Cripps Mission," instituting an interim government during the war and promising full independence for India after World War II. The mission failed when both Congress and Muslim League leaders objected to various sections of the proposed program. Quit India Movement started by Gandhi, resumed the civil disobedience movement. Indian resistance to rule of the British Raj intensified; Gandhi, Nehru, and 1000s of supporters were imprisoned, and the Indian National Congress was outlawed.
In August 1942, the Quit India movement was launched. Gandhi, the Mahatma ("Great Soul") declared:

"I want freedom immediately,
this very night before dawn if it can be had.'..
we shall free India or die in the attempt,
we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery."

The British resorted to brutal repression against non-violent protesting satyagrahis.

1943 Famines in Bengal
1944 Japanese invaded India along the Indian-Burmese border, encouraged by Indian disunity and anti-British agitation. After initial successes, the Japanese were forced back into Burma by Anglo-Indian troops. The British released Gandhi from jail on May 6; Gandhi and Muslim leader Jinnah began negotiations to iron out their differences, but the discussions ended in failure.
1945 India became a charter member of the United Nations, Nehru was released from prison, and the British government issued a white paper on the Indian question, with proposals resembling the Cripps mission of 1942.
1946 A new deadlock and anti-British riots provoked a new series of negotiations with Indian leaders in 1946. An interim government representing all major political groups except the Muslim League was established, with the Muslim League finally agreeing to participate. J. L Nehru is named Prime Minister of the Interim Government, formed through the Cabinet Mission’s plan to prepare India for independence. Nevertheless, anarchy threatened as Muslim-Hindu strife escalated in various parts of India, with widespread communal riots.
1947 Louis Mountbatten became viceroy and recommended immediate partitioning of India to the British government as the only means of averting catastrophe. The Indian Independence Act, incorporating Mountbatten’s recommendations, was speedily approved by the British parliament, and on August 15, India and Pakistan were established as independent dominions of the Commonwealth of Nations, with the right to withdraw or remain in the British commonwealth (India elected to remain in the Commonwealth in 1949.)

The new states of India and Pakistan were created along religious lines, areas with Hindu majorities allocated to India and those with predominantly Muslim populations assigned to East and West Pakistan (with 1000 mi. of Indian territory between them).

August 15, 1947- Partitioning of India & Pakistan Indian Independence Day: The termination of British rule in India prompted widespread celebration by Indians of every religious and political persuasion, and August 15 was officially declared Indian Independence Day. In the words of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs:

"For the first and perhaps the only time in history,
the power of a mighty global empire 'on which the sun never set',
had been challenged and overcome by the moral might of a people
armed only with ideals and courage."

(See Independence.)

Yet the 1947 partitioning of India and Pakistan (recounted in Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India) came at enormous cost. It created massive dislocations and migrations, and celebrations were darkened by bitter Hindu-Muslim-Sikh antagonisms and brutal violence, particularly in regions almost equally populated by members of these faiths. In the Punjab (including Lahore, and map) where the line of demarcation between India and West Pakistan brought nearly 2 million Sikhs, traditionally anti-Muslim, under the jurisdiction of Pakistan, bitter fighting broke out. A mass exodus of Muslims from India into Pakistan, and of Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan into Indian territory took place. In the course of the initial migrations, which involved more than 4 million people in the month of September 1947 alone, convoys of refugees were frequently attacked and massacred by fanatical partisans. Coreligionists of the victims resorted to reprisals against minorities in other sections of India and Pakistan. Indian and Pakistani authorities brought the strife under control during October, but the shift of populations in the Punjab and other border areas continued until the end of the year.
"Who Am I? Living Identities Vs. Acquired Ones" is a thought-provoking essay about the process of defining and identifying oneself as a woman or man, a Punjabi, a Hindu, a Muslim and other multilayered identities. by Madhu Kishwar, from a Punjabi family uprooted by the Partition of 1947. Kishwar speaks out on gender issues, being a refugee, and having an uprooted identity (Manushi, issue 94, May-June 1996). She concludes:

"Why is our own sense of self so fragile that we need to fear and hate others merely because they are somewhat different from us? Predominance of negative ethnocentric sentiments against others is a sure sign of a fragile, fractured, and uprooted identity. Hatred of others is usually a sign of self-contempt. Those who really like themselves, are comfortable being themselves,
are not prone to hatred and aggression towards others."

1947-1949 Kashmir is attacked by Muslim insurgents, supported by Afghanistan and Pakistan, after Hindu leader Raja Hari Singh signs documents to make Kashmir, traditionally predominantly Muslim, part of India. Pakistan questioned his right to do so. Fighting between Muslim and Indian forces broke out and continued until 1949, with the intervention of the United Nations. The U.S. sided with Pakistan and the U.S.S.R. sided with India in the Kashmiri dispute. Kashmir remains an unresolved source of troubled relations between India and Pakistan.
1948 The Mahatma ("Great Soul") Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu fanatic. Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, died later the same year.

Post-Independence India & Pakistan

1948-1949 India launches its first 5-year plan for economic development, and passes a new constitution into law.
1947 - 1951 The first government of Pakistan (A Chronology) was headed by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, with Muhammad Ali Jinnah as governor-general, and it chose Karachi as its capital. Jinnah died later that year. From 1947 to 1951 the country functioned under chaotic conditions. The government endeavored to create a new national capital, organize the bureaucracy and the armed forces, resettle refugees, and contend with provincial politicians who often defied its authority. Failing to offer any program of economic and social reform, however, it did not gain popular support. Liaquat was assassinated in 1951.
1951 Bangladesh (West Pakistan) revolts against (East) Pakistan, and Indo-Pakistani War erupts. (See Bangladesh Online.)
1953 Mt Everest conquered for the first time by Tenzing and Hillary.
1954 Doctrine of Panch Shila (Five Principles of Non-Interference) is accepted as the basis for Indo-Chinese relations.
Indian Film: In 1955, the first movie of Satyajit Ray (b. 1921, Calcutta, India, - d. 1992), Pather Panchali (trans. The Lament of the Path, The Saga of the Road, or The Song of the Road, India, 1955), won several International Awards and established Ray as a world-class director. Satyajit Ray's father, Sukumar Ray was an eminent poet and writer in the history of Bengali literature. In 1940, after receiving his degree in science and economics from Calcutta University, Satyajit Ray attended Rabindranath Tagore's Viswa-Bharati University. Pather Panchali [All Movie Guide] is one of three films in the acclaimed Apu trilogy directed by Satyajit Ray: the other two are Aparajito (trans. The Unvanquished, India, 1956) and Apur Sansar (trans.The World of Apu, India, 1959). (*Note: COCC Library Media holds the 3 films in the Apu Trilogy!) Pather Panchali covered main character Apu's early years in his native village, while Aparajito detailed his school years, and the tragedy that temporarily brought him back home. In Apur Sansur, Apu, having abandoned college due to lack of money, hopes to find success as a writer. The Apu Trilogy was based on Bibhutbhusan Bandopadhaya's semi-autobiographical novel Aparajito. Among Ray's long list of films is Ghare-Baire (trans. Home and the World, India, 1984), based on the novel by Nobel Prize Winner Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), also the subject of Ray's 1961 documentary Rabindranath Tagore. In 1992, on his death bed, Ray was given an Honorary Academy Award "for his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures and for his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world." Today, Ray, together with Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak, is regarded by the international film world as one of India's most important directors. (See also Satayjit Ray, from All-Movie Guide.) See also the detailed History of Indian Cinema from Indian Cinema and Entertainment (India on the Internet), All time Great Pakistani and Indian Movies, and Hindi Film Reviews (Indolinks)
1956 Indian States are reorganized on linguistic-cultural bases. A 2nd Five-Year plan for economic development is launched. Meanwhile, Pakistan produced a new constitution and declared itself an Islamic Republic.
1961 Portuguese surrender Goa, which again becomes part of India.


1961 India drives the formation of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM): refusing alignment with either super power in the "Cold War," India under Nehru sought close bilateral relations and cooperation with countries of both the Western and Socialist blocs, as well as other nonaligned nations of the world.
1965-1966 Undeclared war rages between India and Pakistan, with India winning some Pakistani territories, coming very close to Lahore; and Pakistan winning back some parts of Kashmir. USSR mediates peace talks between India and Pakistan.
1966 Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) becomes Prime Minister of India. Unrest begins in the Punjab, resulting in its division into Punjabi-speaking Punjab, and Hindi-speaking Haryana.
1971 Another Indo-Pakistani War takes place, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) as an independent nation.
1974 Indira Gandhi pushes science and technology, and India conducts its first nuclear explosion, justified as a deterrent to Chinese aggression.
1975 First Indian satellite is launched, along with an ambitious family planning program. Socialism movement and unrest intensifies, and a State of Emergency is declared.
"It all began with Midnight’s Children" (1981, by Salman Rushdie, b. 1947, Bombay), according to Debashish Mukerji--the contemporary "boom" of contemporary Indian fiction in English. Read Mukerji's article"An Area of Brightness," from The Week: "The boom is also an outcome of the growth of a post-Independence generation which thinks, speaks and writes primarily in English. 'It was thought that with the departure of the British, the English language was finished in India,' says Ruskin Bond, who has been writing in English for 40 years. 'In fact, just the opposite has happened. English has flowered in India to an extent it had never done in British times.'"--Debashish Mukerji.
1982-84 Sikh unrest begins and quickly becomes violent, centered at the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar. Indira Gandhi sends the Army in to crush the rebellion. The Sikh leader is killed in the assault, and the Sikhs take revenge by assassinating Indira Gandhi. Widespread Hindu-Sikh riots result, and nearly 3,000 Sikhs die. Rajiv Gandhi becomes Prime Minister in his mother’s place.
1985-88 Sikhs remain emotionally alienated and precipitate further terrorist violence in the Punjab. Meanwhile, Rajiv Gandhi pushes for economic development and high tech industry, consumerism and prices rise, along with public corruption. Relations with U.S., Pakistan, and China improve, while those with Sri Lanka (over Tamil minority rights) and Nepal deteriorate.
1986-1988 Agitation for free elections in Pakistan launched by Benazir Bhutto in 1986; in 1988 she is elected Prime Minister. Bapsi Sidhwa, author of Cracking India, was on the advisory committee to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Women's Development, and has been awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan's national honour in the arts.
Since 1985 The South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), established in 1985, has tried to promote greater regional cooperation among its seven member states - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC is based on the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, mutual benefit and non interference in the internal affairs of other states. The U.N. Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace is another step in the direction of peace and stability in the area. (See thoughts on Uniting India and Pakistan today collected by Raj's World--Raj identifies himself as a Bengali Indian Mining Engineering student at Univ. of Kentucky.)


1980s: Among acclaimed younger authors writing of modern India with nostalgia for the past is Anita Desai (see also another biography and photo)—as in Clear Light of Day (1980). Her In Custody (1984) Desai's In Custody (1984) is the story of a teacher's fatal enchantment with poetry (see historical and political contexts for this novel). Ved Mehta, although long resident in the U.S., recalls his Indian roots in a series of memoirs of his family and of his education at schools for the blind in India and America; among these works are Vedi (1982) and Sound Shadows of the New World (1986). See Indian Writers in English (photos & brief bios) and more on Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988) (Washington State Univ.). Rushdie's Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie, won the 1981 Booker-McConnell Prize, and Satanic Verses won the 1988 Booker-McConnell Prize.
In 1997, it was announced that Cracking India was to be made into a film by Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Metha (click Metha, born in Amritsar and now living in Toronto, for photo and discussion of her controversial film Fire).

India Timelines Sources & Resources

Bajwa, Sandeep S. "Builders of Indian Civilisation" [Excerpts from Builders of Indian Civilisation, by P.L. Bhargava, Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press.] From:

Chakravarty, Sumita S. National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 1947-1987. Texas Film Studies Series. Ed. Thomas Schatz. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1993.

Embree, Ainslie T., ed. Sources of Indian Tradition. Vol. 1: From the Beginning to 1800. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1988.

"India" and "Pakistan." Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corp., 1993-1996.

"India: The Golden Jubilee." Special ed. of Granta 57 (Spring 1997).

Indian Ministry of External Affairs. "History of India."From:

Johnson, Gordon. Cultural Atlas of India. Oxfordshire, UK: Andromeda Oxford, 1996.

Nelson, Lynn H., and Patrick Peebles, ed. Classics of Eastern Thought. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.

"Pakistan: A Chronology." Postimperial and Postcolonial Literatures in English (Brown Univ.) From: .

Stearns, Peter N., Michael Adas, and Stuart B. Schwartz. World Civilizations: The Global Experience. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Tharu, Susie, and K. Lalita, ed. Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present. New York: Feminist Press-City Univ. of New York, 1991.

Vijay, Alok. "Historical Chronology of Bharat [India]." From:

Viswanathan, Gauri. Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1989.

India Timeline 1:  Early India (to CE 8th c.)
 India Timeline 2: Muslim & Mughal Empires (9th - early 18th c.)
 India Timeline 3: The British Raj (late 17th - early 20th c.)
India Timeline 4
TOP of this page Independence of India & Pakistan (20th c.) &
India Timelines Sources
URL of this webpage:

Asian Timelines: India China Japan
  were first prepared by Cora Agatucci, in 1998. 
They are slowly being updated in Winter 2001.  Please bear with me.

Other Online HUM 210 Course Resources:

HUM 210 Syllabus Course Plan Assignments Student Writing 
Asian Film Asian Links: India China Japan

Cora's Home Page | Site Map | Current  Schedule | Cora's Classes
Student Writing | COCC Links  

If you're interested in other world literatures and cultures, visit these course websites:
Hum 211 - Culture and Literature of Africa 
Eng 109 - Western World Literatures (late 18th-late 20th centuries)