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Assignment: states—India and Pakistan.

Assignment: states—India and Pakistan.

Assignment: states—India and Pakistan.

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Assignment: states—India and Pakistan.

Two large and distinct populations—the larger one Hindu and the other Muslim—inhabited the subcontinent of India. The heaviest concentration of Muslims was (is) in the northwestern and eastern parts, whereas the vast lands in between constituting the bulk of the territory under the British Raj (the colonial ruler) were dominated by Hindus. To avoid conflict between these two religiously distinct communities, the retreating British created two states—India and Pakistan. The western part of Pakistan was separated from the eastern part with India in the middle (see Figure 7.5).

This geographic anomaly was only one of the problems the British left unresolved. Another was the Hindu-Muslim split within India: Although most Muslims inhabited the territory of Pakistan, a large Muslim minority remained within the territory of the newly independent state of India. Even more problematic was the fact that India is a mosaic of diverse ethnic and cultural minorities, each speaking a different language. There were also several religions, including Sikhism, Jainism, and Christianity, as well as Hinduism and Islam.

Finally, no account of contemporary India is complete without mentioning poverty and population. Next to China, India is the most populous country in the world, with more than one billion souls. To this day, tens of millions are illiterate, and hundreds of millions are desperately poor, living in rural areas with little or no access to basic services, schools, health clinics, jobs, and the like.

Indeed, millions of India’s poor have no identity—literally—because they lack birth certificates and school records. Imagine if you had no way to prove who you are. You could not open a bank account, get a job, enroll in college, get a post office box, travel abroad (sorry, no passport), or get a driver’s license—to cite but a few examples. In 2010, India launched the Unique Identity (UID) project aimed at providing an exclusive number, based on biometrics (photo, all ten fingerprints and iris scans) to every resident in the country—more than a billion people.