India marked the 75th anniversary of independence on Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving a speech from New Delhi’s historic Red Fort.
The “Jewel in the Crown” of the British empire became independent in 1947, after two centuries of colonial occupation and exploitation.
As Britain left, the Indian subcontinent was hurriedly split in two: Hindu-majority India and mostly Muslim Pakistan.
This precipitated one of the biggest-ever movements of humanity as millions of people, uprooted from areas their families had inhabited for generations, rushed to be on the right side of the new border.
It also unleashed a cataclysm of sectarian violence in which nearly two million people were killed. Entire trains full of people were massacred and huge numbers of women were raped.
More blood flowed and millions of others shifted 24 years later when East Pakistan, backed by India with Soviet support, fought a war of independence in 1971 to become Bangladesh.
At partition, the disputed region of Kashmir was also split between India and Pakistan, with the Himalayan territory the spark for two of the nuclear-armed rivals’ three wars and numerous skirmishes since.
Wearing a cream-coloured turban speckled with the colours of the Indian flag, Modi promised to turn India into a developed nation in 25 years and said India should crush the “termite” of corruption and nepotism.
“Hundreds of years of colonialism has restricted our sentiments, distorted our thoughts. When we see even the smallest thing related to colonialism in us or around us, we have to be rid of it,” Modi said in his nearly 80-minute speech.
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