Freedom at Midnight

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Cover of the paperback edition

Freedom at Midnight (1975) is a book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. It describes the events in the Indian independence movement in 1947-48, beginning with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten of Burma as the last viceroy of British India, and ending with the death and funeral of Mahatma Gandhi.

The authors having interviewed many of those who were there, including Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the book gives a detailed account of the last year of British India, the princely states' reactions to independence (including descriptions of the Indian princes' colorful and extravagant lifestyles), the partition of British India and on religious grounds, and the bloodshed that followed. It also covers in detail the events leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, as well as the life and motives of British-educated Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The book is a result of deeply scanned and researched events, which often are left out by other historians. For example, the crucial maps setting the boundary separating India and Pakistan were drawn that year by Cyril Radcliffe. Radcliffe had never visited India in his life before being appointed as the chairman of the Boundary Commission. The description of the very British-style summertime capital Shimla in the Himalayas and how supplies were carried up steep mountains by porters each year is interesting. The book also explains the fury of both Hindus and Muslims, misled by their communal leaders, during the partition, and the biggest mass slaughter in the history of India as millions of unfortunate people were uprooted by the partition and tried to migrate laboriously by train, oxcart, and on foot to new places designated for their particular religious group. Many migrants fell victim to bandits and bloodthirsty religious extremists of both dominant religions. One incident quoted is particularly terrifying: it describes a canal in Lahore that ran with blood and floating bodies. A tragedy that befell a poor and sincere interfaith peasant couple is heart-rending. The final pages of the book witnesses the events that led to the tragic end of Mahatma Gandhi. The plan of the slaughter of The 'Father of the Nation' by Nathuram Ghodse.

Controversial for its portrayal of the British expatriates, the native rulers of India and members of India's first cabinet, it is a non-fiction book told in a casual style, similar to the authors' previous Is Paris Burning? and O Jerusalem!.

Collins and Lapierre also wrote a book about their research with respect to Mountbatten, titled Mountbatten and the Partition of India. This book contains interviews with Mountbatten, and a selection of papers that were in his possession.

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