Brexit chaos? Think of the bloody commotion when Britain left India in 1947


A scene during the partition of India

I suppose it should be no surprise that chaos rules Britain’s attempt to exit from the European Union. When Britain left India – a country it had ruled for hundreds of years – a bloody commotion followed in its wake.

Britain left India (and the newly-created Pakistan) after giving a seven-week notice. Some might say the British administration was only doing what the Indians had been struggling for, for ages. Britain, they say, read India’s hand-lettered signs pointing to exit correctly. It knew that empires were yesterday’s benefits scheme and it decided to get out while the going was good.

The result was mass displacement, butchering, a frenzy of violence, rioting in Punjab.

The numbers of those killed could be anything between 500,000 and two million. Roughly 10 to 12 million people were displaced. Independence month for India and Pakistan 70 years ago, left both countries with millions of bruised, battered and grieving people.

Can you imagine that when the British left India they had created no master plan for the process? There was nothing that gamed the possible scenarios and action plans at the ready to deal with them. They just left the Indians to get on with it.

One might gape in horror at the casual dismissiveness with which the British treated their exit from India. In terms of Brexit, the surprise is that they’re being so careless with their own future.