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The Birth and Partition of a Nation:
India's Independence

August 15th, 1947, inaugurated one of the cruelest and most enduring ironies of decolonization. India, a British property with over 4,500 years of civilization and a population of 415 million, finally achieved independence. But it was a triumph that opened a social, historical and geographic wound that has yet to fully heal: the new Indian state was partitioned into two.

The creation of modern India and Pakistan

Main information

The relationships of the Indian nation and the British before WW1.The British ruled the country for 2 centuries and the Indians did not approve of their presence and fought against their oppressors. To go on ruling, the British decided to set against each other the various religions : Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.

The role of religion in the country: It divided the country : it put minorities (Britain) in positions of power over majorities (the natives).

Of course the Indians fought over religions before the British colonization.

Jinnah  wanted a separate Muslim state if independence was given.

During both world wars , in return for troops independence was promised.

WW1 : Troops were sent but the British did not keep their promise. / WW2 : Only the Muslim leader agreed with sending Indian troops.

Muslim and Hindu communities’ worries:  the Muslims feared living under an Hindu majority whereas the Hindus didn’t want the Muslims to break up the country.

Their fears had brutal consequences: killings, forced conversions, arson, abductions, rape and ethnic cleansing. This violence came to a head in 1946 with the Kolkata killings when 4,000 Hindus were killed.

2 consequences : the British were scared and promised to leave in 1948 and the religious divisions they had stocked had turned to an inferno

The leaders had different positions:Jinnah demanded a Muslim state, Nehru reluctantly agreed and Gandhi opposed it but it was too late : Jinnah’s supporters were in no mood to debate.

The partition of the country : Sir Cyril Radcliff had to draw borders taking into account religion, railways and irrigation canals; it  took him 33 days instead of 36 to do the job  and  he did not draw a line for Kashmir.

Dates of independence : August 14th : Pakistan / August 15th :India

The dreadful consequences of the partition : 7 million people moved from India to Pakistan and 7 million people moved from Pakistan to India. 1 million people died in the process : murdered, starved and poisoned. Mobs lynched trains full of men ,women and children. Families have been split apart to this day

The army did not interfere ; they were busy saving their own lives!

Up to now India has fought 4 wars against Pakistan.

Their bones of contention (= points de discorde) today : borders, water, the nuclear power, even cricket matches.

As a conclusion, the divide has become deeper than ever

A map of the partition

« I only hope nothing goes wrong Madam » A cartoon on the Indian partition

Introduction :

a black and white cartoon

We know nothing about the origin of this drawing : no title, no cartoonist name, no date of publication.

The topic: It shows the consequences of the Partition on the Indian continent from 1947 onwards (à partir de ..).

Description: what is happening in the drawing

It looks like the coffin magic trick which can be seen in magic shows. This trick consists in sawing in half the magician’s smiling female assistant, locked in a wooden coffin. But here, we can’t see her feet sticking out on one end and the assistant is not smiling at all !

Regarding the 2 magicians they are well-known since (= puisque) they are two of the most important Indian political leaders of the 1940s : in the bottom right-hand corner, Jinnah who served as the leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until 1947 when Pakistan was created under his impulse. Then he became Pakistan’s first Governor-General until his death in 1948. On the other side of the coffin, Nehru who fought for the independence of India as the leader of the Indian independence movement. He then became Prime Minister of the Indian independent nation from 1947 to his death in 1964. Another important character of that period is standing in the top left-hand corner ; this is Gandhi, Nehru’s mentor and anti-colonial nationalist who used non violence to get India’s independence from British rule. In the other side of the picture, a representative of the British Crown is wiping the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. He looks anxious / concerned / uneasy / fretful / fidgety / edgy (= anxieux) Last but not least, the woman in the coffin is clearly an Indian lady with her veiled head. She has the same anxious look as the Crown agent while staring at the blade of the saw about to (= sur le point de) cut her legs . She has every reason to be frightened for (= because) this is not a magic illusion but the reality of the partition of India.

Analysis : the author’s message + your opinion on it + the limits of the document (specific to the DNL oral exam)

This image is a metaphor of the partition which cut the Indian sub-continent into a muslim country called Pakistan and an independent India with an Hindu majority.

Indeed both Nehru and Jinnah are energically splitting apart the coffin which stands for the Indian Sub-continent which until 1947 was ruled by the British. As for the British agent, he is doing nothing to help the lady. He only hopes the independence process will take place peacefully and he is trying to reassure the Indian lady but from the look in his eyes, we can assume that he has doubts / reservations / he is uncertain about / skeptical about the final outcome. (le résultat final) Gandhi’s attitude – his standing aside from the trick- shows that he disagrees with the process but as a peace advocate, he is doing nothing to prevent the show from going on.

The message conveyed by the cartoonist is quite clear : India suffered a lot from the partition ; its political leaders did not take into account the dreadful consequences this partition would have on the population represented here by the lady. He also blames the attitude of the British coloniser who let the situation deteriorate when they understood they could not handle it anymore.

I find this cynical cartoon a very accurate analysis of the partition. It is also thought-provoking since we clearly understand that this « trick » had a terrible impact on the Indian nation causing its death ?

Testimonies of Indian refugees

Rami, 70 , business man, UK : He was Sikh, opposed to partition. Emigration from India to the UK. Not born at the time of the partition. Never knew his father. Lived as a refugee in India. Poverty and starvation.

Tarik Malik, 80, doctor, USA : Muslim. Emigration : from Kashmir to Pakistan to the USA. Father killed between Kashmir and Pakistan by Hindu paramilitary organization. From previliged to refugee (barefooted)

Nasim Fatima Zubairi, 82, foster carer, UK : Muslim. Used to get on well with her Sikh neighbours but finally attacked by them. Emigration from India to the UK. Witnessed the killing of her entire family. Lightly injured. Migraines. Taken in by extended family. Job : foster mother of children from Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan.

Vijay, 60 (GP), UK : Hindu. Migration from India to the UK. Not born at the time of the partition. No roots, no family history, nothing to tell his children. Great sense of deprivation, denial. His life before 1947 blanked out.

Surinder Shani, 81, architect, UK : Educated sikh in a Muslim city. Muslim friends. Moved from Pakistan to the UK. 12 in 1947. Forced to occupy the Muslim neighbours’ house. Feeling of guilt : occupation of the house + neighbours killed. Division of the family over the decision to occupy the house.

Patricia, 75, nurse, UK : British Raj Christian. From India to Pakistan to the UK. Parents protected her. Fled by train hidden in a mattress not to be killed, nearly got killed. Heard all the people on the roof get murdered. Difficulties to fit in the UK. Gross British food vs delicious Indian food. In Britain, nobody knows about the chaos created by the British.

Avan, 52, materials controller, UK : Hindu. Friendly relationships with others. Not born at the time of the partition. His aunt died during the trip from Pakistan to India. His grandfather had to start a new business.

Creation of a museum: There is still much hatred between India and Pakistan and between their religious communities. Yet, some people try to reconcile people through a museum dedicated to Partition highlighting the selfless acts of numerous people towards their so-called “enemies” and the powerful impact this event had on individuals.

A non-profit organization actions: The oral history project: people’s personal stories should teach a lesson to future generations: fighting is useless.

Its aim is to promote tolerance, respect and a better understanding of other communities.

Yet, given the terrible hardships some people had to endure, they find it impossible to forgaive who and what was taken away from them.

India is growing and changing fast : the caste system was outlawed in 1955. But some traditions are still in place : discrimination and segregation related to this system. In urban areas, a 60 % wealth gap exist between the upper classes and the Dalits.

This hereditary system also called the Jati system is 2,000 years old and originates from ancient Hinduism. Being considered as impure, the Dalits are segregated from schools and temples.

The system was instituted as a law when the British claimed India as a colony.

By 1947, year of India’s independence, the system was ingrained (= established / rooted) into the culture but 8 years later, it was declared unconstitutional by the government which implemented (= established / put into effect) affirmative action like quotas for certain jobs and university admissions.

Unfortunately, vestiges of the caste hierarchy remain in many fields  (political life, marriage or acting out of one’s caste especially in rural areas)

To conclude, to become completely caste-free, India needs more education, government policies and social programmes.

Indian women's empowerment: The Gulabi Gang

Main information

Their characteristics:

– “The word ‘gang’ doesn’t necessarily denote criminals. It can also be used to describe a team, a crew.” : their number protects them

– They share a common objective : to fight against injustice and for their rights

pink “We decided to dress in a single colour, which would be easy to identify. We didn’t want to be associated with other colours as they had associations with political or religious groups. We settled on pink, the colour of life.”

– Their symbol is their stick to protect themselves

Their songs

From 1:44 to the end

Their leader : Sampat Pal Devi Their original place of action (the bastion of the gang) : a district of Uttar Pradesh (Banda)                                              Number : 2500 (twenty five hundred )   30,000 members across the state     Name and uniform were adopted in 2006

Characteristics of the area from where the group emerged :drought (/ˈdraʊt/– sécheresse / ) – poverty – caste – coits (/ˈkəʊɪts/ a class of robbers, in India, who act in gangs)            20 % of the total population of the state (320,000 people out of 1.6 million) are Dalits or untouchables

Reaction of the population at the emergence of this vigilante group : not surprised because of poverty and discrimination : women have been victims of dual discrimination : gender and caste

A man’s testimony : very hard for women – no rights once they were married – cases of women burnt alive or hanged to death – women thrown out of their homes                       Since the Gulabi gang’s arrival, there has been some improvement : women can inforce some of their rights

The group fights for Dalits and non Dalits.  Men who abandon or beat their wives feel the wrath (/ˈrɒθ// : colère – courroux) of the gang – apathetic (/ˌæpəˈθɛtɪk/ : indifferent) bureaucrats are not spared.

Their leader: The gang started in the 1980 under the leadership of Sampat Pat Devi. Shemarried at the age of 11, 5 children, her husband is a vegetables and ice-cream vendor, at 50, her sprit is intact and she is still commited to the cause : her fight for the dignity of her female comrades.

We aim to empower women, promote education with an emphasis on girls, and stop corruption and domestic violence. But since the administration is against the poor people of our country, we often end up taking matters into our own hands. We first speak to the husband who is beating his wife. If he doesn’t understand then we ask his wife to join us while we beat him with lathis. Our missions have a 100 percent success rate.”    Sampat Pal Devi, Gulabi Gang Leader

The evolution of women's rights



We studied one piece of literature (texte littéraire) dealing with feminism at the beginning of the last ( = previous) century.

The excerpt we considered (= examined) is part of Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy entitled Fall of Giants in which he relates (= tell (about)) the British women’s suffrage movement through the political activism of Ethel. We learn that in 1917 women’s living conditions were extremely harsh. Yet most men did not consider that their wives were overworked and thought that household chores were equally shared. But most women (whom) Ethel knew were dirt-poor, underfed and had no choice but to live in hovels. On top of that, they worked 12 hours a day and back from work, they had to look after home and children. That was the reason why Ethel reckoned (= consider) that women deserved the right to vote as much as men did . As for the government, they tried to lower the temperature (= calmer le jeu) by allowing a debate in Parliament on women’s suffrage as they were afraid that women would resume their aggressive campaigning to bring attention to their cause. A vote was finally organized, the first step (stage) towards women’s vote granted first in 1918 (for women over 30) and then in 1928 (for women over 21 like men).   (In France = 1944)

Gender equality today

Emma Watson’s speech at the UN, July 2014 (listen to it from the beginning to the end once)

definition of feminism : the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. (in the political, social and economic fields)

The same rights : the right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage.

The same opportunities at work : equal pay, leadership positions, training, personal and professional life balance, political involvement

examples of discriminations : at school (less present in sports, sciences, female-oriented education) – at work (female-oriented professions, less present in high positions, lower wages) – in the society : sexual exploitation / trafficking, domestic violence / girls infanticides

Examples of discriminations Emma Watson discovered when she was younger :

– Girls who express strong opinions are considered as authoritarian whereas boys are not. / – Girls are sexualized at a younger age than boys.

– Girls are supposed to look feminine and delicate. / – Boys are not supposed to express their feelings which are seen as weaknesses

the feminists’ reputation: very bad and frowned upon, they are seen as bashing males

Emma’s experience of gender inequality : living in a western country, she has never been affected by gender inequality at home, school, in the society

Men and gender equality

Men should get involved into reducing inequalities because they also suffer from them. In the society their parental role is considered as less important, they have fewer opportunities to express their feelings and some see no other way out than committing suicide : they are locked into a role.

If they get rid of their stereotypes, women will be able to get rid of their stereotypes

what does she want men to do She wants men to let women be themselves and men express their true self.

If nothing is done, what will happen ? Girls and women will go on suffering from inequalities at school, work and in the society for years and years .

Gender pay gap

Salary : a woman earns a little more than 3/4 of a man’s salary   ReasonWhy : lower-paid jobs (nurses, teachers, waitresses, secretaries)

women’s careers suffer from a setback when they get pregnant and raise their children / They also do most of the housework which is time consuming and exhausting.

So they are less flexible for high-paying jobs          So to reduce the pay gap, more occupations should be more flexible in terms of schedules.

The glass ceiling

Definition : invisible but real barrier through which the next stage or level of advancement can be seen, but cannot be reached by a section of qualified and deserving employees. Such barriers exist due to implicit prejudice on the basis of age, ethnicity, political or religious affiliation, and/or sex. Although generally illegal, such practices prevalent in most countries.          Coined (= invented) in 1984 / also « pink-collar ghetto »

Some people argue that glass ceiling doesn’t not exist because there are laws against it, women naturally don’t opt for executive positions, they don’t get the proper diplomas to perform this function, they don’t have corporate culture. The situation is improving but the glass ceiling is far from being broken in companies and in politics.

One more step: Saudi Arabian women at a football match  A TV report by the Herald Sun

– In Saudi Arabia, women have been allowed to attend (= assister à) a football match for the first time without being accompanied by a man (= on their own= toutes seules)

– It shows a change in the society.

– A woman explains that those women attending this match are 20-year-old girls who were taught at school that physical activities were bad for women.

– The female journalist says that it is a remarkable time for women in Saudi Arabia.

– Next June , the ban on driving will be lifted (= levé) ; many women are getting ready to drive.

– The Prince is presently encouraging a more progressive approach.

– As proof (= pour preuve), a royal decree has relaxed the male guardianship system

– Moabism (Sunite Islam ) is indeed one of the most unequal countries in the Middle East.

– Yet, slowly, things are changing : women can access healthcare and education without permission.

– but permission is still (= encore) needed to travel abroad and open a bank account.

– As a conclusion : in a country where women have always faced strict gender discrimination this football match is a huge step (= étape)

The American Deam


The authors of the United States’ Declaration of Independence held certain truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. »

The term was coined by writer and historian James Truslow Adams in his best-selling 1931 book « Epic of America. » He described it as « that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. » He went on to explain, « It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. »



What phrases (=expressions) does the TV presenter connect the American dream with?

These unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. » .

The first interviewee’s recollections (= memories)

Isabel Belaski ‘s origins :

A Jewish Russian old lady who emigrated to America and spent her life in a small appartment in Brooklyn, New York.

They emigrated when she was 10 years old without any possessions (she was almost naked)  and arrived in April 1930 at Ellis island. Lateron, her father, who had trained in Leningrad, became a famous opera singer praised by Einstein.

Why did they make the journey ? .They were a Jewish family who just managed to escape (from) Staline’s pogroms. They were looking for liberty and not for wealth (= richesses) ; that was a dream.

What used to be the image of the Statue of Liberty ?

It was the symbol of a new life for immigrants who were fleeing persecutions in Europe.

Did the dream change ? When ? It definitely changed in the 1950’s.

What happened at that time ? America’s post-war economy boomed.

What did the immigrants want ? The new-comers wanted a new share (= part(age)) of the prosperity. Being able to afford (= pouvoir se payer) electric appliances (appareils électriques) and cars was the only goal. But the things changed with the economic recession (= la crise économique)

The Brooklyn kids

Their origin :Most of them come from Latin America

Reason for coming : their only reason was financial.

Do they show ambition ? Why ?Yes since (= puisque) most of them wish they could go / went to college (= university)

Francisco’s viewpoint

His parents started from nothing but now, they have their own house and a house they rent out plus a couple of cars ; they are doing fine.

Yet, for others, their expectations have been dashed (= déçu, réduit à néant)

Jaritza’s point of view : it differs from what Francisco said.

Her father has worked hard all his life ; he went to the USA when he was 18, he got a Bachelor Degree but he is still working hard for nothing ; he suffers from back pain, has no medical benefit and he keeps struggling.

A third teenager gives us the reasons for this situation.

The wages (= salaries) are too low to be able to live decently ; as a result, you need to have 2 jobs to pay for the rents because rents are very high.

Back to Isabel and her definition of the American Dream

Those teenagers’ vision of the American Dream are far from Isabel’s (one). Indeed, she states (= affirms / claims) : »You can start as a janitor ([ˈdʒænɪtər]) (= concierge) and you become the owner (= propriétaire) of the building»

The reporter wonders if the vision is still true.

She concludes by saying that today, the new arrivals have less faith (= foi) in the American Dream of getting ahead.