India: Religions c. 1950

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Map Code: Ax00992

At the 1947 partition, roughly 25 per cent of the population of the Indian subcontinent was Muslim, forming a majority in territories that would become Pakistan, but with large minority populations throughout the western half of the Indian subcontinent. Other minorities, including Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, comprised some 5 per cent of the population, with the Sikhs heavily concentrated in Punjab. Fraught negotiations to maintain Indian unity between the Hindu Congress party and Muslim League foundered and, with sectarian riots killing thousands, the British Labour government pushed through partition, hoping to mitigate the bloodshed. The overlapping migrations of displaced religious migrants led to the violent deaths of perhaps a million people. Jammu-Kashmir, with a Hindu Maharaja, but Muslim majority population, is still a disputed territory. Ceylon encountered India’s problem in microcosm but reversed, with a large Hindu Tamil minority. In their case, the majority Sinhalese were largely Buddhist.

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