It is clear that the differences between Hindus and Muslims had become so acute by the beginning of the forties that something like partition had become inevitable.
For those who still regret the division, I can only say that the British could have probably kept the subcontinent united if they had been willing to ladle out more power in 1942 when Sir Stafford Cripps tried to reconcile the aspirations of the people of India with his limited brief. The Congress Party could also have done it if it had accepted in 1946 the Cabinet Mission proposals of a Centre with limited powers. The States would have all the powers except those which were entrusted to the Centre. Jinnah had agreed to the Cabinet Mission plan. But the ‘if’s of history are at best hypothetical and at worst subjective.
Has partition served the purpose of the Muslims? I do not know. In Pakistan people avoid the word “partition”. On August 14 they celebrate their deliverance not so much from British rule as from the fear of Hindu rule. During my trips to that country, I have heard people say that they are happy that at least they have “some place” where they feel secure, free of “Hindu domination” or “Hindu aggressiveness”. But I feel that the Muslims have been the biggest losers; they are now spread over three countries, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Imagine the influence that their numbers—their votes—could have commanded in the undivided subcontinent. They would have been more than one-third of the total population.