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Midnights Furies Nobody expected the liberation of India and birth of Pakistan to be so bloody — it was supposed to be an answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus who had been ruled by the British for centuries Jawaharlal Nehru Gandhi’s protégé and the political leader of India believed Indians were an inherently nonviolent peaceful people Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a secular lawyer not a firebrand But in August 1946 exactly a year before Independence Calcutta erupted in riots A cycle of street fighting — targeting Hindus then Muslims then Sikhs — spun out of control As the summer of 1947 approached all three groups were heavily armed and on edge and the British rushed to leave Hell let loose Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today

10 thoughts on “Midnights Furies

  1. Tariq Mahmood Tariq Mahmood says:

    What is the main reason for the continuing animosity between India and Pakistan? Why can't they just get along? Nisid presents the main reasons for the distrust between the two governments which sadly is still pretty much the same after 70 odd years since their creation Both founding fathers Nehru and Jinnah almost completely distrusted each other and did their utmost to destabilize their nemesis India using their superior army while Pakistani resorted to proxy a tribalmujahedin model to counter India's army Unfortunately the same formula is employed even today why because it still works and I would argue that it has gotten worse with the rise of RSSBJP government in its second term So if Pakistanis started using Islam as the main ideology for Pakistan after the fall of Dhakka the Indians seem to have followed them by ideology to Hinduvita leaving little room for minorities on either sideWhat can be a common ideology which unites both arch enemies from their far right ideologies?

  2. Murtaza Murtaza says:

    I had mixed feelings about this work My biggest complaint is that it seemed based to large degree on secondary sources so than I'd hoped and the preface seemed to suggest and as such it didn't seem to cover as much new ground as one would hope for an already thoroughly documented historical event On the other hand the narrative itself is really gripping and well written The book is an absolute page turner and I suppose that in itself makes it worth writing another book on PartitionContent wise Jinnah unsurprisingly comes across poorly Nehru fares much better although by no means comes across unscathed One thing that the author does very well is tracing the roots of Pakistan's current paranoia about India back to the initial attempts by India to devour the Pakistani state The early roots of Pakistani support for non state militias is also traced with their predecessors being the impromptu militias who travelled to fight in the Punjab and Kashmir during the breakup of the countryNonetheless Pakistan itself clearly seems to have been a half baked idea concocted callously by Jinnah and perhaps even supported by the British as a means to handicap a newly independent India Reflecting in hindsight its clear that a full India would be a potential superpower today and maybe would have already been long ago In this light the support British Conservatives gave at the time Muslim nationalism makes sense in a sinister way as a parting kick to the subcontinentIn Partition India came apart in a manner from which it has never healed A mosaic of cultures that existed for millennia was blasted apart by the mania of nationalism something which feels and today like a mere fad Above all due to the inability of a few craven elites to get along millions of ordinary people who would've in all likelihood continued to live peacefully ended up suffering in the most grievous manner possible My gripe on the sources aside this is a compelling and fairly evenhanded look at one of the greatest calamities to occur in the 20th century a high bar For those unfamiliar with the history it offers a good primer

  3. Louise Louise says:

    The book begins with up close and personal stories on the 3 leaders Jawaharlal Nehru Mohandas Ghandi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah This warm and engaging part is followed by the politics and violence of the independence movement followed by the politics and violence of achieving independence The book Indian Summer tells this story with emphasis on the British role this book focuses on the role of the IndiansIt seems that than half this book tells of the mobs people hacked to piecesdeath arson suicide or forced conversions in lieu of rape rape villages wiped out trains arriving in Pakistan full of bodies body parts and blood For the political parts a reader needs background than I have Without the threads that hold the story together a lot of the narrative seemed like a collection of episodes You really need to know why the British inclusive of Churchill agreed to the creation of Pakistan and why British officers served in both the Indian and Pakistani armies Why were the Sikh’s not at the bargaining table? The author freuently alludes to “both sides doing it” “it” being violence or intransigence at the bargaining table but you never see Nehru encouraging violence or giving it a wink and a nod and despite his hatred for Jinnah he tried to work with him Nevertheless there is a lot to learn You see that the vibrant independence movement did not provide independence Britain’s devastation from WWII did that but produced the leaders for the new India and Pakistan You can see Jinnah’s toxic leadership and the violence partition spawned You see the meetings of the leaders and their helplessness to stop the violence You see Jinnah’s denial that lives in Pakistan today in its role with the Taliban and housing Osama Bin Laden There are interesting narratives on personal lives of the key people the dynamics of their meetings how areas eligible to join a country did so and Jinnah's telling Bengali's that their language will be Urdu to name a few There are sad turning points such as setting the date for partition and India's handing funds over to Pakistan The numbers of casualties are staggering This story is ripe for alternative histories If there were no Jinnah would there be a Pakistan? If there were no Pakistan would India suffer from a restive minority? Would violence have been avoided if the partition was given time or if the ruler of Kashmir joined his area with India sooner? Should there have been a partition for the Sikhs? The maps are helpful and the Index worked for the few times I used it The research is well documented and the writing is readable The B W have good portraits of the key players

  4. Christopher Christopher says:

    June 2020Having just read through this book again I find myself agreeing with what I said almost five years ago This book is perhaps the definitive book on India’s partition the murderous devastation it left in its wake and how those wounds continue to fester Yet so much has changed in the last five years that I come to this book with new uestions While Kashmir is still one of the biggest potential flashpoints in the world the main story out of India now is the rise Prime Minister Modi and Hindu nationalism The NPR podcast “Throughline” did an excellent episode on the roots of Hindu nationalism not too long ago which is tangential in a lot of ways to this book However this book only touches upon Hindu nationalism’s roots in hardline groups like the RSSS which was responsible for so much violence and instability during the partition Indeed just as this book preserves a moment in history so too does this book reflect that moment in the mid 2010s when this biggest regional concern was just another Kashmir conflict going nuclear While this book still serves as a great guide to those bloody years before and after partition needs to be researched and written about the sad state of India’s internal politics and how it connects to its pastJuly 2015One of the greatest tragedies to ever occur in the history of the 20th century was the partition of India following the end of British rule of the subcontinent not just because a once large country was split in two but because of the communal slaughter of Muslims Sikhs and Hindus that occurred as each group unsure of their future in either the new India or Pakistan grouped together and began to see their neighbors as potential murderers in waiting The massive slaughter of innocent people that occurred in 1947 which is the root cause of tensions and suspicions between India and Pakistan to this day has never been fully told until now In this fine short history of the partition of India Mr Hajari lays bare the suspicions and savagery that characterized this confusing time in Asia's history At its heart is the personal and political animosity between the founding leaders of India and Pakistan Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah From their outright hatred of each other Mr Hajari traces how their inability to compromise led first to the calls for partition then sporadic rioting then communal genocide on an inconceivable level and then finally war and assassinations The hardest thing about this book is that with each succeeding chapter things seem to get worse Mr Hajari even uotes some British officials in India and Pakistan who had recently fought in World War II saying that the slaughter was worse than the Holocaust It is not until Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated at the beginning of 1948 do things seem to calm down and even Gandhi doesn't come away as the Hindu saint some may think of him as And while neither the Pakistani nor Indian governments were responsible for the targeted killing of Muslims Sikhs and Hindus some officials may very well have winked at the violence It will be a tough slog of a book but by the end of it you will see where the deep suspicions India and Pakistan have for each other originated from and where Pakistan first began to useIslamic insurgents to counter Indian military power and why Kashmir has become the greatest flashpoint in international politics with any dispute between India and Pakistan over the disputed region that could uickly go nuclear This is a true and depressing litany of woe and death and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about India and Pakistan

  5. Vinay Vinay says:

    Loved the book Five stars primarily because it's so hard to find even handed historical summaries of events in modern India I'd naturally read about the Partition before most recently with Indian Summer another fantastic book but this book brought out many nuances I'd glossed over in the past Three things I found interesting1 It reinforced my belief that Partition could have gone down a very different path if it was anyone but Nehru Jinnah and Mountbatten negotiating Each man's biases insecurities and ambitions are critical aspects to why the subcontinent looks the way it does today2 Kashmir is particularly complex This might just be me but I've always found it hard to find facts around what the issue is My gripe with Indian literature is that we don't have too many respected historians writing about recent events leading to everyone getting their version of Reality I like how Hajari goes through the entire story and calls out specific points where the Indian and Pakistani versions vary Exceptionally helpful to serve as a starting point to understand Kashmir better Must read 3 I love reading about Nehru The man had his flaws arguably too emotional not as tough a negotiator as Patel would have been idealistic to a fault etc That said Nehru was India's embodiment of Plato's Philosopher King As I complain to friends every time I read about Obama's view of history and America's place in it and the challenges America faces today I feel sad that we don't have many politicians who don't and in many cases can't similarly discuss with the idea of India Being a student of history gives you the maturity and humility to understand the underpinnings of why people society and countries behave in a certain way today Nehru was a rare idealistic visionary who saw the world this way And cobbled together a nation in a complex difficult time It is perhaps too soon it has only been 50 years since he died after all for those who disagree with Nehru to still respect his immense unparalleled contribution to the founding of the country I wonder when that day will come

  6. A Man Called Ove A Man Called Ove says:

    The title is misleading The Deadly legacy of India's Partition it should be history instead of legacy From the description on goodreads From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today No it does not It is not an analysis it is not a book that explores causes of events it is a chronicle a narrative historyHaving said that it has been written very very well This was my n th book on India's independence movement partition and yet came to know a no of new factsevents Also it was largely unbiased ; or maybe there were biases but they were not forced opinions or distortions of facts as Indian liberals do And the author has successfully built character portraits of Jinnah and Nehru in their full glory And Patel hasnt been spared too As an Indian used to reading an evil portrait of PakistanMuslims during partitionriots I was surprisedBecause of its unputdownable nature and short length this is a perfect read for those who are new to the subject too And I do wish other authors do read it to understand how history can be made interesting without compromising on scholarship

  7. Virat hooda Virat hooda says:

    True Wonderer355 Stars Death Destruction DisasterIf India wants her bloodbath she shall have it Mahatma Gandhi to Archibald Wavell 27th Aug 1946It is ironical that the one time the messiah of peace non violence uttered words of carnage they turned out to be prophetic beyond belief 'Partition' the word has become a synonym for 'meaningless disaster' to Indians and probably for the Pakistani people as well I have read and seen books documentaries featurettes about the 'Why' 'How' 'When' 'Who' of that time trying to make sense to find justification for the enormous loss that both nations suffered and found none No apt ideology no holy war no past no explanation to it all save one 'Ambition Arrogance' That's what doomed us“History is written by the Victors” and so finding an impartial account of it is nigh impossible The pages if written with intent can be colored any which way So reading this book was a sobering experience like bathing in cold water MrNisid Hajari has tried his utmost to remain neutral to present the events ‘as is’ and be critical of them as impartially as he could I am almost thankful that he didn’t use a lot of imaginative writing while describing the massacres Reading about them in pure statistics was chilling enough ten’s of thousand of women raped many thousand children slaughtered men cut down with indifference like swatting flies The Sikhs with their Jathas The Muslims with their war cries the Hindu RSSS with their fanaticism trains dripping with blood and filled with body parts utter bloodbath Furies let loose indeedThe book gets full marks on researching the ‘Indian follies’ for the partition many a time the only story told is the one critical of the British Don’t get me wrong the lion’s share of the blame does go to them they were the prime mechanics of the hate that festers across the Indian subcontinent still though MrNisid Hajari has not delved into that he has portrayed the Brits as someone who just wanted the job done in popular retelling the Indian leaders come across as helpless victims Not so though heavily influenced and burdened by the long standing policies and the departing chaos of the Raj the Indian leaders and their vanity deserves a lot of the blame too Nehru with his idealism trying to be the white knight all the time Patel with his stiffness Gandhi with his meekness and of course none than the ‘Lucifer’ of the Indian ‘Eden’Jinnah the vainest of them all Each of them with their necks stiff and noses in the air A cause that they have fought for for so long together forgotten in an instant replaced with the pursuit of deluded fame and personal gloryA considerable portion of the book is focused on the partition of ‘Punjab’ and the ensuing riots which happened The key players behind it all their attitude how the insecurities of all the communities were stoked into a fearful frenzy to the point that they forgot that they have been living with each other for centuries in relative peace And it became ‘them’ or ‘us’ that uickly It also does a good job in explaining the other’s side attitude the friction between the two regimes has its roots in the tussle of partition Every little spat between the founding fathers has now bloomed into a full on policy of suspicion and distrust for the two nations The insurgency in Kashmir and the tussle for territories in the early days of independence has been covered in uite detail something lacking in the standard historiesAn interesting read for any history buff or politics enthusiast though it does read for the most part as plain History but I found that a welcome aspect Something this volatile should be treated with an analytical attitude rather than an emotional one The later would happen on its own despite our best tries

  8. Ari Ari says:

    I learned in high school that British India was partitioned in 1947 between India and Pakistan and that this process went badly I didn't know than that Thanks to this book now I feel like I have much better understanding what happened and why I also feel like I have a much better sense why Pakistan is screwed up in the ways that it isAt least in this account it's a Frankenstein or Sorcerer's Apprentice story Jinnah and Nehru were basically decent people who started a process they immediately lost control of Overheated rhetoric led to violence which lead to ill feeling hysterical exaggerated press coverage reprisals and atrocity It's startling and a than a little scary how fast things got totally out of control and the extreme levels of brutality that became normalizedNehru comes off well in this account He was appalled by the violence was trying sincerely to stop it and exhibited great personal bravery in doing so He would get in a small plane order his pilot to land in front of a mob and personally try to harangue them into going home instead of burning down Muslim villages Jinnah comes off less well As early as 1947 the Pakistani elite was indulging in the very dangerous habit of preaching Jihad in the hills in order to recruit tribal warriors to fight against India This has of course gone very badly for the Pakistanis and the world in the decades since And Jinnah personally at least acuiesced in this though he was a very sick man and probably not closely involved in any of the details of anything The people who come off worst are the Sikh leaders in the Punjab who very deliberately organized a campaign of terror and atrocity to drive all the Muslims out of their territory in the hopes of establishing an independent Sikh state I feel like I have a better understanding now how ethnic conflict takes shape It's not altogether a pleasant feeling

  9. Nancy Nancy says:

    A History of the Violence at the Separation of India and PakistanAfter WWII the British felt pressured to give India independence However the Muslim forces in the north of India led by Jinnah a lawyer wanted to control their own destiny Jinnah would settle for nothing less than an independent country and Pakistan was born However creating two separate countries was not simple Muslims Hindus and Sikhs lived on both sides of the proposed border Each group feared the other would try to take away their freedoms and thus began the ethnic cleansing Muslim toughs rampaged through the countryside killing hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs Hindus and Sikhs retaliated by killing Muslims Wholesale massacres occurred and the British were unable to stem the tide Even Gandhi who believe that the Indians as a whole were a peaceful people was unable to keep the violence from escalating This is a very difficult book to read because of the descriptions of violence However it's important to the understanding of what happened and what is still happening today Before reading the book I knew little about the division of India now I can see how stressful it was The author points out that much of the violence in the Middle East today had it's roots in that time Pakistan feared India and as a result gave asylum to the Taliban and other extremist groups Anyone interested in the problems of the Middle East should read this book It is very well written and gives a warning about the origins of the stresses in that region that we would all do well to heed I reviewed this book for the Vine Program

  10. Sambasivan Sambasivan says:

    This is by far the best and the most comprehensive account of one of the darkest periods of Indian history The gruesomeness of the event and the helplessness of our leaders to mitigate the pogrom that ensued during Independence is honestly delineated with telling detail All the players including the British grossly underestimated the impact of Partition Must read for anyone interested in understanding the human psyche

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