The policy of divide and rule was inaugurated right in the days of East India Company when the Britishers were establishing themselves as rulers of India. The Company set one Indian ruler against the other and ultimately it became the undisputable ruler.
In the latter half of the 19th Century, Nationalism started growing. Now the British government found it prudent to vitalize their policies of divide and rule and drive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims.
The British had looked upon the Muslims with disfavor and suspicion since the revolt of 1857. But now they realised that in order to counteract the growing Nationalism, time had come to appease the Muslims. The Government seized every opportunity to set the Indians against one another on the basis of religion and creating hostility between them.
Ultimately, in accordance with this policy, separate electorates for Muslims were established. The formation of the Muslims League sowed the seeds of communalism. The league had been formed on the encouragement of British officials.
The Communal Award of 1932 was a continuance of this policy, because it allowed separate electorates and reservation of seats to the depressed classes also. Separate electorates were first demanded by the Muslims in 1906 and introduced for them under the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1907. This was done with a view to building up Muslim communalism as a counterpoise against Indian Nationalism.
Under the Montford Reforms (1919) they were extended for Sikhs, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians, etc. Under the Act of 1935 seventeen separate electorates were constituted. In reality, communal electorates were an unmixed evil. They hampered the growth of national unity.
The two-nation theory appeared in 1938 and was clearly communicated by Jinnah in 1940. Once, the demand for Pakistan was made, it received direct and indirect encouragement from British authorities. The immediate cause of the emergence of the demand for Pakistan was the refusal of the Congress to form coalition ministries after the elections of 1937.
The county seemed to be drifting towards anarchy and ruin. Under the circumstances, partition was accepted as a ‘necessary evil’, the only way of getting rid of British rule and preventing a complete breakdown of law and order.