Fraud Played on Bharat

Jinnah, even after accepting the June 3rd Plan in general terms, tenaciously pursued his objective to the last detail. While the Congress had readily accepted Mountbatten as the Governor General of Bharat, Jinnah kept everybody guessing. It was fully one month later, on 2 July, that he intimated to the Viceroy that he himself would be the Governor General of Pakistan. At the same time, he had desired that Mountbatten would stay on as Bharat's Governor General! Jinnah had patently sidetracked the express provision in the Menon Formula, to which he had agreed, of having a common Governor General for both the Dominions.

By this move, Jinnah had scored a double advantage. On the one hand he was left unfettered to pursue all his future maneuvering against Bharat, while at the same time Bharat was put under the restaining hand of a third party. The fact that Jinnah and Attlee and even Churchill had sent special messages to Mountbatten to remain as Bharat's Governor General only confirmed the advantages that were likely to accrue to Pakistan and Britain by this arrangement.

Jinnah also turned down the eminently wise suggestion of Ismay, Chief of Mountbatten's Staff, that "both the new Governments should have an instrument on which they could rely in the early days of their nationhood." and that "the Indian Army as at present constituted was ideal for their purpose."

But Jinnah would not accept power on August 14 "unless he had an army of appropriate strength and predominantly Muslim composition under his control." This insistence of Jinnah, again, as ensuing developments have shown, was in accordance with his future designs against Bharat.

Motive Behind Urgency: Fear of Nation's Resistance

Between the date of announcement of Partition, 3 June and 15 August, hardly 72 days were left for carrying out the stupendous task of division of the vast country. The problems to be faced were many and intricate: division of the Army and Police, deciding the rival claims of assets and liabilities, demarcation of boundary, and last but not the least, the resulting colossal human problem

How is it that Mountbatten, a seasoned commander and a diplomat, came to take this clearly perilous course? All through his interviews with the leaders, Mountbatten was particularly stressing upon the need to go through the whole operation with the utmost despatch. Though the time-lag in the original proposition by the British Government for the completion of the scheme was upto June 1948, Mountbatten advanced the date of transfer of power by more than ten months and announced the date as 15 August 1947-the date on which Japan had surrendered two years ago.

Leonard Mosley gives the clue to the real motives behind Mountbatten's decision: "Having proved to his own satisfaction that the Indians were largely paper-tigers when confronted by the right kind of bluff, the Viceroy gathered his British staff around him and told them to rush through the details of the Draft Scheme for Independence without delay. The idea was to jostle a settlement. through before either the Congress or the Muslim League had too much time to think about it, and before any really effective opposition to the partition of the country had time to develop." (Emphasis ours)

What, in the eyes of Mountbatten, could have been that factor which if allowed time would have snowballed into a 'really effective. opposition"? It lay in a basic element of the nation's mind. The people had no doubt implicitly trusted their leaders in the struggle for independence. They had firmly believed in their brave words of safeguarding the nation's integrity However, their first and foremost point of devotion was their motherland. The Congress leadership had captured their imagination precisely because of this factor. They had, in the people's eyes, become the champions of the country's freedom struggle.

But once they knew that they were going to be betrayed. resentment would have grown. It was quite likely that the mounting pressure of nationalist forces would have made the leaders review their decision. It is to this aspect that Leonard Mosley has referred, when he said, "before the Congress had too much time to think about it." The overwhelming response evoked by the impassioned call of Tandon, even in AICC was a clear pointer to this probable development. There was one more factor. Almost all the Indian Army Officers-both Hindu and Muslim - were strongly opposed to Partition. General Habibullah was one such, and he had made serious attempts to contact his colleagues in a bid to stall Partition. Added to this, the general atmosphere in the country, in the wake of the L.N.A. trials and naval revolt, was surcharged with a revolutionary fervour which was predominantly nationalist and would not have brooked Partition.

The partition of Punjab and Bengal was again another serious factor which would have generated a growing opposition to June 3rd Plan. The life of Hindus and Muslims had been so inextricably woven together there that the realisation of the consequences of tearing them apart would have led to a storm of protest from even among the Muslims. Writes Khaliquzzaman:

"After the Congress decision on partition of the provinces, it (demand for Pakistan) had become a live issue; for a news item published in the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore dated 25 March 1947 reported: "Sir Khizar Hayat Khan, former Premier of the Punjab, is opposed to the division of Punjab, according to a source close to Malik Khizar Hayat Khan.' Later on Malik Sahib himself, in a statement dated 19 April 1947, said: "It will be ruinous for all communities to split up the Province into bits. I had, in a press interview some weeks back, expressed my opposition to any scheme involving partition of the Punjab. I notice now that a section of the Press has doubted the authenticity of that statement. I have. in fact on many occasions in the past expressed the view that it would be ruinous for all communities to split up the Province into bits. The present Punjab boundaries make the province a self sufficient economic unit. The irrigation system, the electricity scheme, and the extensive development programme of the future, if torn apart, would lead to impoverishing of both the western and the eastern Punjab. It will be a catastrophic calamity if this comes about and all sections of the Punjabis should consider the dangerous implications, particularly the Hindus and Sikhs in the West and Muslims in the East of Punjab."

Moreover, the Muslim leaders of Punjab and Bengal were for long against Partition and only of late had joined the League Camp, No wonder they would have stood out against Partition if sufficient time had been allowed to make their opposition vocal.

There was one crucial factor. Soon after the June 3rd Plan was announced, the Muslims who were to remain in the Indian Union had begun to realise that they were being sacrificed at the altar of Pakistani Muslims' interests. (Details of this aspect are given in Chapter 26). Most of the aggressive rank and file of the League had been drawn from the Indian Union areas, and in the face of the growing Hindu outbursts, they would have most certainly turned their back on the suicidal course of Pakistan. That could very well have forced Jinnah to revise his stand and come to terms with Congress. Mosley's expression "before the Muslim League had too much time to think" cannot convey anything other than this.

These were the several factors which, if time had been allowed, would have certainly developed into an effective opposition. And it was to obviate this possibility that Mountbatten jostled through the settlement.

Terrific Consequences - Mountbatten's Responsibility

However, the consequences of Mountbatten's decision were terrible. To quote Mosley again: "If the Labour Government was prepared to give united India its freedom by June 1948, how was it possible to promise a divided India freedom ten months earlier?.... did he (Mountbatten) really expect to create anything but chaos and the uttermost confusion even if he could not have envisaged the killing and suffering which would stem from it?

"Mistake after mistake, indeed.

"Partition of India announced in May 1947, and no plans for dividing its Army until June, with only six weeks to go to the deadline.

"Partition announced in May, but the Commission to decide the

boundaries along which the two new States would be divided not

appointed until the end of June.

"Partition in May, and Independence in August, but a people desperate to know deliberately kept in ignorance of which country they belonged to until two days after Independence."¹

Further, Mountbatten's decision to withhold the publication of the Radcliffe Boundary Commission Award till 17 August entailed further disasters. For, in the Award lay the fate of millions of Indians - both Hindus and Muslims. Mosley says: "For the Sikhs and Hindus in Western Punjab and the non-Muslim inhabitants of Lahore it was, of course, vital information. This Award would be the signal to them to collect up whatever belongings they had and go East. In the mounting glare of communal tension, the sooner they knew their ate the better's

Allan Campbell Johnson writes: "Various points of view about poblication (of Radcliffe Award) were put forward. On administrative grounds it was argued that earliest possible announcement would e of help to Jenkins (the Punjab Governor) and would enable last minute troop movements to be made into the affected areas in avance of the transfer of power Alternatively, it was suggested that in so far as the Award would in any case be bound to touch off trouble, the best date to release it would be 14th August Mountbatten said that if he could exercise some discretion in the matter he would prefer to postpone its appearance until after the Independence Day celebrations, feeling that the problem of its timing was one of pychology and that the controversy and grief it was bound to arose on both sides should not be allowed to mar Independence Day itself."

Leonard Mosley is unsparing in his criticism of Mountbatten in this score as well: "As a man of success, he was, of course, bound to be against anything which would cloud the clear skies of Independence Day In the light of subsequent events, he was obviously wrong to suppress the report for so many days, and he was obviously even more wrong in failing to take the Indian and Pakistan leaders into his confidence. A prior report would have given millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims a chance to pack their bags and leave, a confidential report to Nehru, Jinnah and to the Punjab Boundary Force Commander, General Rees, would have made it possible for dispositions and arrangements to be made to allow them to leave in some semblance of order. But Mountbatten took no one into his fidence. He hugged the Awards to himself and suppressed them til after Independence Day Independence Day was happy. But millions of people died or lost everything as a result.

This is a matter for Mountbatten's conscience. It obviously did not trouble him-or possibly did not even occur to him-for Campbell -Johnson writes of his mood in the last minutes of the British Raj

As midnight struck, Mountbatten was sitting quietly at his desk

I have known him in most moods, tonight there was an air about him of serenity almost detachment For a man sitting on a revelation which would, in the next few weeks, cause the death of nearly a million people and provoke the greatest and most miserable trek in histors it was a remarkable mood to be in

In his book published in January 1981, Edward Behr, European editor of Newech International, has many revelations to make As soon as the principle of partition was raised it was obvious that Yommunal and religious' stresses would erupt into violence and every army and police unit would be needed to stop mass killinge...

"But Lord Mountbatten refused to defer independence day

despite pleas by army commanders from all over the subcontinent

The commanders wanted a delay so that army and police forces could

be reorganised as separate Indian and Pakistani entities"

"Lord Mountbatten stuck to the date of August 15, 1947, and apart from posting a force of 5,000 on the new frontier between India and Pakistan a number which proved totally inadequate he refused to accept the advice of his subordinate commanders on both sides

"No one will ever know how many people died as a result of this ill-planned and groteaquely ill-executed division of the Indian subcontinent."

"But surely one of the least wholesome of its aspects has been Mountbatten's post-facto insistence, that he was right, that all deaths that ensued were inevitable, and that no other course of action was possible?

"Many Indian army and police officers, from the highest ranks to the lowest, know differently and see in Mountbatten, even after all these years, not the glamorous leader of the Burma campaign but a man tarnished by hubris, with blood on his hands."

Congress Blunders vis-a-vis Boundary Commission

Cyril Radcliffe was the chairman of both the Punjab and Bengal Boundary Commissions. All members of the two Commissions were High Court Justices. Each Commission had two Hindu and two Muslim members. The Bengal Commission was also entrusted with the work of demarcating the Muslim majority areas in Sylhet district of Assam. The disastrous complacency of the Congress leadership in respect of the constitution of the Boundary Commission has been clearly brought out by Prof. A.N.Bali, reputed educationist and writer of Punjab

"The Congress leaders had grievously erred in the first place by agreeing to one Boundary Commission for Bengal and the Punjab, secondly, accepting a one-man Commission instead of a three-men Commission and, thirdly, accepting a particularly obscure person, namely, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who was neither known for his legal eminence nor for his political impartiality nor for any special contribution to the public life of England. When the name was proposed Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru never made any inquiries about his antecedents. That Mr.Jinnah had readily agreed to the name should have caused some suspicion in the mind of Pt Nehru. But probably it was too trivial a matter to engage his serious attention. A letter published in a daily paper of Delhi alleged that years ago he had worked as a junior counsel to Mr.Jinnah when he had set up his practice in London. This news was never contradicted. Their fourth blunder was in agreeing to waive the right of appeal against the Arbitrator's award to the British Government."

Baldev Singh, the Sikh spokesman, had pressed for a specific reference in the Government's statement of 3 June to the claims of Sikhs. Mountbatten, however, succeeded in persuading him not to insist on it. Nor did the Congress leaders care to support Baldev Singh. Both of them fell a prey to Mountbatten's pretensions of sympathy to their cause and believed that he would wield his influence with the Boundary Commission to ensure justice to the Sikhs.

Census Figures Fallacious

The basis for the demarcation of boundaries was the 1941 Census figures, Even here, the unrealistic policy which the Congress had adopted previously had now boomeranged. The Congress had issued a call to the people to boycott the Census of 1931 as it entailed 'communal enumeration. This had resulted in quite a number of Hindus boycotting the Census, implicitly following the Congress dictates. The Muslim leaders, on the other hand, urged the Muslims to enumerate themselves fully. And the same story was repeated in 1941. The Muslim League ministry in Bengal conspired to see that the enumeration among a major section of the Hindu Scheduled Tribes in Bengal forming 15 percent of the population was not carried out at all. All this had resulted in tilting the balance in favour of Muslims in several districts.

Savarkar had denounced the Congress policy as suicidal. He had urged the Government to have a close and strict watch over the enumeration of Muslims, lest they should swell their numbers. artificially. To the Hindus, he had appealed to put down their community as 'Hindu' alone irrespective of their caste, sect and other denominations.

The Congress which had boycotted the Census, however, had no force in participating in the elections in 1937 and again in 1945-6 and the constitutional set up based on these very Census figures While the 1931 Census figures had left their impact on the India Act of 1935, the 1941 Census figures proved to be the crucial factor for deciding the boundaries between Bharat and Pakistan.

Complacency of Hindu Leaders

Radcliffe played his part craftily. Every member of the Commission would, after pleading with him, get away with the feeling that Radcliffe was convinced of the justice of his case. Especially so was the case with the Hindu members. They in turn had made the Hindu masses fondly believe that their claims would be upheld by Radcliffe. M.C.Mahajan, a member of the Punjab Commission, was so firmly convinced about Lahore remaining in Bharat that he did not think of shifting his family from there. The other member Tejsingh too had not thought of shifting even his library from Lahore. The Muslims who formed just 25% in Lahore too believed the same and had fled en masse. The Sikh and non-Sikh Hindus in Central Punjab were consistently fed on the false hopes that the Chenab river would be the demarcation line of East Punjab. And this illusion of theirs persisted upto the last moment of announcement of the Award, i.e.. 17 August.

Radcliffe, however, kept his counsel to himself. He had not in fact taken part in any one of the ten sittings of the Punjab Commission. He would only receive and go through the reports. The members' opinions, in his eyes, were merely their proposals. His was the final say, irrespective of the justice of the claims or otherwise of different parties.

The eyes of the Congress and Sikh leaders and the general mass of Hindus in particular the Sikhs were opened to the shocking injustices done to them and the terrible fate awaiting them, only on 17 August

The guideline for division of assets and liabilities of the Government of India had not been specifically mentioned in the June 3rd announcement. But ample indications were there that the basis would be the population of the two dominions. As regards the demarcation of boundary also the Boundary Commission had mentioned population and other factors as the basis. But the other factors' had not been precisely spelt out. However, hopes were raised in the hearts of Sikhs by the statement of Alexander Butler, deputy leader Conservative Party, in the middle of July 1947 in which he said: "In the partition of the Punjab we have left the Sikh community almost exactly divided between one side of the frontier and the other. It is to be hoped that the Boundary Commission will be able to arrange the boundary so that the shrines and properties and other things held so dear by the Sikhs may be amassed as far as possible within one frontier." Arthur Henderson too had clarified 'other factors' as including the location of Sikh shrines in Punjab.

However, the League was quick to counteract this gesture. Dawn threw the challenge that the Boundary Commission's Award would be resisted by the League whatever the consequences, if extraneous factors other than population were taken into consideration. Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan forwarded strongly worded protests to Mountbatten.

Even earlier, Mountbatten, in his conference with leaders on 2 June, had frankly stated the position. He had, in short, conveyed that he had repeatedly asked Sikh leaders whether they desired the partition of Punjab. The Sikhs were so spread out over the Punjab that any partition would necessarily divide their community; nevertheless, they still declared themselves to be in favour of partition. For that purpose different formulae had been examined. But no solution which would safeguard the interests of the Sikhs had been found. It had not been possible to adopt any principle other than division between Muslim-majority and non-Muslim-majority areas.

Again, in his press conference on 4 June, when he was asked whether property would be a factor for consideration of the Boundary Commission, Mountbatten had replied that the British Government - least of all the Labour Government could hardly be expected to subscribe to a partition based on land property.

The arbitrary style of Radcliffe's approach came to the surface during M.C. Mahajan's discussions with him. The latter had argued on the basis of facts and figures for the retention of Lahore in East Punjab. To this Radcliffe had casually remarked, "How can it be possible to grant both the major cities' - Calcutta and Lahore - to only India?" Mahajan's plea to fix up some common criterion and then decide fell on deaf ears.

However, the complacency of Hindu leaders including the Sikhs would not be disturbed, even in the face of such unambiguous declarations. And it was only on 17 August that they were brought face to face with the grim reality of the situation. Most of the great canal systems - the finest in the world, most of the rich wheat lands which the Sikhs and other Hindus owned and most of the Sikh shrines including Nanakana Saheb had been gifted away to Pakistan, So too was Lahore. All the places the Sikhs had hoped to secure had been snatched away from their hands and made over to Muslims. And over 40% of them had been rendered homeless and penniless.

Discrimination and Fraud against Bharat

In short, the Congress and Sikh joint demand that protection of the cultural and religious life of the Sikhs, strategic conditions, economic security and a national distribution of the irrigation systems, river waters, canal colonies, etc., be made the basis for boundary demarcation had been completely bypassed. In all, just 38 percent of the area and 45 percent of the population were assigned to East Punjab. West Punjab was awarded 62 percent of the area and 55 percent of the population plus a major share of the income of the undivided province. Of the total 70 million acres of irrigated land in undivided Bharat, the Indian Union got just 48 million acres ar 68 percent and Pakistan 22 million or 32 percent. While the loss of property suffered by Hindus (including Sikhs) ran to about 4,000 crores, the loss for Muslims was just a fraction of that.

The same story of fraud was repeated on the Bengal front. The Chittagong Hill-Tracts which had hardly 3% Muslim population was joined to Pakistan. H.N.Pandit, in his recently released book Fragments of History, has revealed that Radcliffe was pressurised by Mountbatten to make this concession to Pakistan. The Congress had staked its claim for 59 percent of the area and 46 percent of the population of the undivided Bengal. However, under the Award only 36 percent of the area and 35% of population came to West Bengal Besides Chittagong Hill-Tracts, Khulna, an overwhelmingly Hindu majority area, also had been transferred to Pakistan. Further. Darjeeling, a part of West Bengal, had been totally cut off from the rest of the province.

The memorandum submitted by the editor of Calcutta contains some more shocking revelations: "The maps supplied to Radcliffe by the Survey Department were fallacious, fanciful. They had no relation to realities. The maps supplied to the Hindu and Muslim members of the Commission differed not only from each other, but from the one given to Radcliffe as ell."

The comparative division of territory of both the Eastern and Western parts between Bharat and Pakistan put together boiled down to this: Pakistan with 19% of the total population had got away with 23% of the total territory.

The glaring discrimination shown against Bharat in the case of NWFP has already been mentioned. The right of self-determination given to the Sind Provincial Assembly was denied to NWFP. And a fresh chance was afforded to the League to seize that province in the form of referendum. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, reputed all over the country as Frontier-Gandhi and a great freedom fighter, gave a call to boycott the referendum saying that the option of independent Phaktoonistan was not included therein and the people had been asked to choose only between Bharat and Pakistan. And this left the field entirely free for the Muslim League to whip up the Islamic frenzy of the tribal Muslims with the cry of Dar-ul-Islam on their lips.

The Tragic Story of Partition - H.V. Sheshadri


1 Mosley, The British Raj, p.118

2. Khaliquzzaman, Pathway, pp. 378-9
3. Mosley, op cit, 283-4

4. Ibid., p. 262

5. Ibid., p. 262
6. Ibid, pp 262-3

7. Hindustan Times, 25-1-1981

8.A.N.Bali, Now It Can Be Told, p.61

9. Ibid. p.64

10 VP.Menon, Transfer of Power, p.379