After centuries of British rule, body expected Indian Independence and the birth of Pakistan to be so bloody - they were supposed to be the answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi's protege and the political leader of India, believed Indians were an inherently nviolent, peaceful people. Pakistan's founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular lawyer, t a firebrand. But in August 1946, exactly a year before Independence, Calcutta erupted in street-gang fighting. A cycle of riots - targeting Hindus, then Muslims, then Sikhs - spiralled out of control. As the summer of 1947 approached, all three groups were heavily armed and on edge, and the British rushed to leave. All hell let loose. Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter. Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border, carving a gulf between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in Midnight's Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today.
NISID HAJARI is the Asia Editor for Bloomberg View. Prior to Bloomberg, he spent a decade at Newsweek magazine, as Asia Editor, Foreign Editor, and eventually co-editor. He has appeared frequently as a commentator on foreign affairs on NPR, NBC and CNN, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.