70/70 - At the Stroke of the Midnight Hour

3 January 2017

At midnight on 14/15 August 1947, India and Pakistan became independent from the British Empire.

A relationship that formally began with Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy to the court of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1615, ended over three centuries later with the independent nations of India and Pakistan.

The Indian sub-continent shaped Britain’s destiny, as much as Britain shaped modern India and Pakistan’s.

Tara’s 70/70 programme marks this extraordinarily intimate relationship through a series of 70 events over the course of the year. Events ranging from plays, music, dance and spoken word that illuminate the connections between the worlds of India, Pakistan and Britain.

“A moment comes which comes but rarely in history,

when we step out from the old to the new…”

Jawaharlal Nehru on 15 August 1947

From time to time, statesmen deliver speeches that define the dawn of a new age, providing inspiration for successive generations.

None more so, perhaps, than Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten - respectively the 1st PM of India, the 1st President of Pakistan and British India's last viceroy...



15 August 1947

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.

At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, then an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her successes and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.

The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now.

Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagines that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India whose representatives we are, we make appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.



11 August 1947

The Constituent Assembly has got two main functions to perform. The first is the very onerous and responsible task of framing the future constitution of Pakistan and the second of functioning as a full and complete sovereign body as the Federal Legislature of Pakistan. We have to do the best we can in adopting a provisional constitution for the Federal Legislature of Pakistan. You know really that not only we ourselves are wondering but, I think, the whole world is wondering at this unprecedented cyclonic revolution which has brought about the clan of creating and establishing two independent sovereign Dominions in this sub-continent. As it is, it has been unprecedented; there is no parallel in the history of the world. This mighty sub-continent with all kinds of inhabitants has been brought under a plan which is titanic, unknown, unparalleled. And what is very important with regards to it is that we have achieved it peacefully and by means of an evolution of the greatest possible character.

I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of India and the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. Much has been said against it, but now that it has been accepted, it is the duty of everyone of us to loyally abide by it and honourably act according to the agreement which is now final and binding on all. But you must remember, as I have said, that this mighty revolution that has taken place is unprecedented. One can quite understand the feeling that exists between the two communities wherever one community is in majority and the other is in minority. But the question is, whether it was possible or practicable to act otherwise than what has been done. A division had to take place. There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be on end to the progress you will make.

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish.

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.



14 August 1947

I am speaking to you to-day as your Viceroy. To-morrow the Government of the new Dominion of Pakistan will rest in your hands and I shall be the constitutional head of your neighbour, the Dominion of India. The leaders of both Governments, however, have invited me to be the independent Chairman of the Joint Defence Council. This is an honour which I shall strive to merit.

Tomorrow two new sovereign States will take their place in the Commonwealth: not young nations, but the heirs to old and proud civilisations: fully independent States, whose leaders and statesmen, already known and respected throughout the world whose poet and philosophers, scientists, and warriors, have made their imperishable, contribution to the service of mankind: not immature governments or weak, but fit to carry their great share of responsibility for the peace and progress of the world. The birth of Pakistan is an event in history. We, who are part of history, and are helping to make it, are not well-placed, even if we wished, to moralise on the event, to look back and survey the sequence of the past that led to it. History seems sometimes to move with the infinite slowness of a glacier, and sometimes to rush forward in a torrent. Just now, in this part of the world our united efforts have melted the ice and moved some impediments in the stream, and we are carried onwards in the full flood. There is no time to look back. There is time only to look forward. I wish to pay tribute to the great men, your leaders, who helped to arrive at a peaceful solution for the transfer of power.

Mr. Jinnah has my sincere good wishes as your new Governor-General. Moral courage is the truest attribute of greatness and the men who have allowed the paramount need for agreement and a peaceful solution to take precedence over the hopes and claims they so strongly held and keenly felt have shown moral courage in a high degree. I wish to acknowledge, too, the help of others: of the men who advised and assisted the process of negotiation: of the men who kept the machinery of administration running, under great difficulties, of the men who have worked day and night to solve the innumerable problems of partition. All this has been achieved with toil and sweat. I wish 1 could say also without tears and blood. But terrible crimes have been committed. It is justifiable to reflect, however, that far more terrible things might have happened if the majority had not proved worthy of the high endeavour of their leaders, or had not listened to that great appeal which Mr. Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi together made, and which the respective future Governments reiterated in a statement made by the Partition Council. May I remind you of the terms of that statement? The two Governments declared that "it is their intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all citizens, irrespective of religion, caste or sex in the exercise of their normal civic rights all citizens will be regarded as equal and both Governments will assure to all people within their territories the exercise of liberties such as freedom of speech, the right to form associations, the right to worship in their own way and the protection of their language and culture.

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