Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Partition of India 1947: Unknown Boundaries, Uncertain Future and the Birth of Unfriendly Nation States

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Partition of India 1947: Unknown Boundaries, Uncertain Future and the Birth of Unfriendly Nation States

Article excerpt

"History is Messy for the people who must live it."1

On August 14, 1947 two states were born without borders. They were to be announced three days later on August 17. All depended on where the dividing line would make the homes of people fall. One single stroke was to decide the wrong or right side making one a citizen among the majority or a part of the suppressed minority destined to suffer exploitation, dishonouring of religion or perhaps conversion and even death.2 The uncertainty that loomed large on the fate of the residing communities took a dangerous toll on their future prospects. The undefined nature of the date of transfer of power and the persons responsible for the mysterious delay together wrote a ghastly story of twelve to eighteen million3 migrations and dislocations into unknown territories. To them it amounted to only a lash of a pen or the stretching of a line on paper. In fact it was this mere line that denoted disaster for all those who intended migration in the humid and sultry monsoon days of 1947.

Besides the 'drawing of political boundaries and nationalizing identities'4 nobody was clearly spelling out the guiding principles behind the creation of new India and new Pakistan.5 This was the most disastrous of all deeds committed in India. The fortunes of millions hung perilously on both sides of the border, on the whims and dictates of a few and rather of one person. In the process they were also unknowingly being saddled with the baggage of a lifetime of hatred and animosity. The few "guilty men" of the implementation of the Indian Partition Plan have long gone to their graves but their verdict lives on in the torturous memory of historical annals as a sordid tale of misery, agony and unjust ruling. Even the aftermath seems to be a continuing one; "every communal riot, every border skirmish, every war takes us back to it."6 In many ways it remains the "unspoken horror"7 of our times, igniting fear of a new pogrom, a new disaster at the smallest instance of disturbance this or that side of the border, "a concentrated metaphor of fear, violence, domination, difference, separation."8 This unending trauma has its seeds in the partition of India, in the very lay out of the master plan that was stage-managed by the British who in their haste to save their repute drove the subcontinent into ruthless and incessant war. The uncertain future of millions writ large in the Boundary demarcation plan was largely responsible for the massacre and violence of 1947; its horrid memories leave little for the people of the two countries to make any fruitful attempt at cementing their bonds, least of all on a permanent basis.

The Plan to Partition India had been ready by August 9 but was not made public till August 17, days after the official announcement of the division, and this above all else nurtured in its womb the seed of a formidable conflict that was the very rationale of Partition; the HinduSikh-Muslim animosity. The British-Congress liaison had by now become an open tale more eminently manifested with the arrival of Mountbatten to India in March 1947 with the explicit purpose of dividing India. His relations with the Congress leaders and in particular with Jawaharlal Nehru went back to their time in Singapore. This relationship was to develop and flourish on a different note when Nehru's clandestine attachment with Edwina Mountbatten continued as a side affair in Indian politics. In later days the making of the Partition Plan, its composition and implementation and in particular the drawing of the line to separate the two anticipated states brought out the amorousness in the clear. After being appointed as the Viceroy of India, the first person he contacted was Krishna Menon, Nehru's confidant and interlocutor with the Labour Party leaders in London.9 At the same time the presence of Congress spies in the ranks of Muslim League 'in camera' sessions and their consequent reporting to Mountbatten to which the Viceroy himself confessed10 clearly stipulates the unfitting and inappropriate conduct of the government. …

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