In 1947 suppose that, instead of attempting to draw a fair line between Muslims and non-Muslims, British India has a referendum asking each village, “With which of your neighbors (including native states) would you merge?” Do the most favored mergers (skipping those that would create enclaves), and ask again ... until no further mergers are approved. (Increase the threshold of approval at each step.)

The disadvantage is that some ambitious parties paint the process as a last effort to keep India divided and weak.

The advantage, as I see it, is that the people decide by their own criteria how to divide themselves, which may be on religious or ethnic lines, or not; I suspect links of commerce often outweigh such differences, but that's my own ignorance and bias talking. In any case, fewer refugees!

The immediate result is, let's say, twenty to a hundred post-British states. Of the many native states, some have grown, and some are quickly seized by their bigger new neighbors.

What happens next? What does India look like thirty years later, assuming no British (or Chinese or ...) interference?

(Prompted by this question about the Sepoy Rebellion.)

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    $\begingroup$ "What happens next" is a very broad question. Are you asking about "next" on hourly, yearly, or millennial time scales? From a social, military, or economic perspective? Assuming no external influence from Britain or other countries? I suspect there are an infinite number of alternatives, so we'll need some restrictions to narrow down the possibilities. I've voted to place your question on hold until you get a chance to edit it so you don't get swamped with unhelpful answers. $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Sep 14, 2019 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't look like this would create much difference in the country boundaries, just in who to blame for them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_India#/media/… $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Sep 14, 2019 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn, I explicitly reject the assumption that majorities choose to join with all their co-religionists. Why not, for example, Dravidians vs Aryans? $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2019 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Anything's possible but I'd guess almost everyone would vote for the option that doesn't require them to move. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Sep 14, 2019 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ You fail to take caste divisions into account. The upper castes would join forces and force the lower castes (~40%+ of the population, at a conservative estimate) to vote according to their dictates or simply not be allowed near the voting centre. Minorities need not show up. $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Sep 14, 2019 at 18:54


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