Early Problems of Independence
THE unwillingness of the British Government to admit the necessity of partition until all hope of preserving Indian unity had vanished, had the unfortunate result that no detailed thought was given to the mechanics of division until June 1947, and all preliminary arrangements for the establishment of two independent countries then had to be made in a little over two months. Within this brief interval, three major problems had to be tackled--the settlement of boundaries; the division of the apparatus and personnel of civil government; and the division of military assets and formations. The first of these problems was mechanically the simplest.
The grouping of Muslim and non-Muslim districts in the Punjab and Bengal for the purpose of opting for India or Pakistan was made on a rough-and-read basis and a much more meticulous examination was required before the final partition. of the two Provinces could take place. A Boundary Commission, with Sir Cyril Radcliffe as Chairman, was appointed to make the demarcation, both in the Punjab and in Bengal. The Bengal problem was relatively simple, but the Punjab presented grave difficulties, particularly in connection with the district of Gurdaspur. The Commission had been directed to demarcate the boundaries on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims, but was also to take other factors into account. These other factors loomed large in the case of Gurdaspur, partly because it would have been unsatisfactory to isolate Amritsar, the great centre of Sikh influence, from India and partly because, as Lord Birdwood puts it, 'it was a case of the needs of an area artificially created by a canal against the sentiments of a majority of the inhabitants'. The matters soon assumed greater importance than would otherwise have been the case, since the award of most of Gurdaspur to India strengthened India's strategic position against Pakistan in the course of the Kashmir campaign.