Partition of India
British India won independence from the Empire in August 1947. The British, their power waning in the wake of World War Two, began to hand their territories back to the native peoples. But in the case of British India, there was one final act of politics before they could complete the handover.
The British had noted tensions between the local Hindu and Muslim populations. They decided to create a separate state for each religion, moving millions of people out of their homes and into the respective areas. The Hindus would live in India, while the Muslims would live in the newly-formed Pakistan. This wasn’t just the handing back of power to the local people, but the chaotic creation of two new states and the mass forced migration of many millions of people.
The execution of the partition was a disaster. It immediately led to civil war in Pakistan between the east and west parts of the country, eventually leading to the creation of a third state, Bangladesh. Many people died, many more lost all of their possessions and their homes. Areas such as Kashmir were poorly planned and have been contested ever since. Even now, tensions in the area mean that the two countries are on the precipice of nuclear war. It’s an important historical event, the lasting implications of which we may not understand for decades.