Independence day supplement
At the stroke of midnight of 15th August 1947, India became free from the British yoke. At the same time, the country was Partitioned to create a new nation; Pakistan, a Muslim majority state. In an unprecedented political game of treachery and deception, the British Governor General Lord Mountbatten along with the Congress leaders, Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabh-bhai Patel carved out 1/3rd of precious Indian territory from Bengal and Punjab to placate Muslims as a price for freedom. This has turned out to be an act of betrayal of peoples’ faith, as Gandhiji had earlier given an assurance to them that India will be Partitioned only on his dead body.
At the time when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was making his famous, ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech, in the Constituent Assembly; Gandhiji quietly left Delhi to be with violence stricken people in Bengal, where bloody Hindu-Muslim riots, had broken out. Surprisingly Gandhiji chose to be away from Delhi when the ceremony to usher in freedom was taking place. It was said that he preferred to be with suffering humanity rather than participate in the festivities. The Congress leaders had willfully decided to minimise the sufferings of millions of refugees who were pouring in Delhi and around areas in search of safe havens.
The drum beaters of the Congress went into action to weave a web of myth in the country that the freedom was won by the messiah of peace without shedding even a drop of blood! A song from the famous film Jagruti of that time was, ‘Oh Saint of Sabarmati you have worked a miracle by giving us freedom without (the use of) a shield or a sword.’ (‘ns nh ges vktknh fcuk [kM~x fcuk <ky] lkcjerh ds lar rqus dj fn;k deky-^)
As a consequence of Partition, how many people, men, women and children lost their lives? How many were uprooted from their moorings? What was the number of young women who were tortured, raped and kidnapped? What were the arrangements made to provide protection and a safe passage to these refugees? Who were the leaders supervising over the greatest migration of human beings on earth? The people want answers to these and many more questions which have remained unanswered so far. As observed by Sir Winston Churchill, “It is wrong not to lay the lessons of the past before the future.”
In the past several years, a number of scholars, bureaucrats, politicians and writers have tried to find answers to these questions, troubling the minds of the people. However, the Government of India or the Congress Party which was the main player during the traumatic period, has not cared to come out with any authentic answers to these queries.
Dr. Rafique Zakaria writes in his book, The Man Who Divided India, “Why did Mountbatten, so convinced that Partition would be a disaster and the man asking for it is a “psychopathic”, work so tenaciously to make it possible? The subtle way in which he went about using all his charm, on the contrary, to convince Nehru and Patel that Partition was the only solution, makes most intriguing reading.
“For the next few weeks Mountbatten used all his resources, energy and tact to expedite the process of dividing India; though convinced, as he told everyone he talked to, that division would be the worst calamity that the country would have to face, still he did not lift his royal finger to prevent it. On the contrary he used the two persons closest to Nehru and Patel – VK Krishna Menon and V P Menon respectively – and through them tried to convince their leaders that this (Partition) was the best solution in view of the permanent hostility that existed between Hindus and Muslims. Mountbatten knew that Gandhi would never agree to Partition; the best way to make him acquiesce in it would be to get round Nehru and Patel. How the Viceroy achieved this, he himself has explained; it is a sad reflection on the whole episode; the Viceroy said, ‘Don’t forget Krishna Menon and V P Menon were my . . . spies is the wrong word, they were my contacts, my links’.”
Azad has given a graphic account of how Mountbatten went through such a huge operation, supremely unconcerned of its possible inhuman fallout: “I also asked Lord Mountbatten to take into consideration the likely consequences of Partition of the country. Without a moment’s hesitation Lord Mountbatten replied, “At least on this question I shall give you complete assurance. I shall see to it that there is no bloodshed and riot. I am a soldier and not a civilian. The whole world knows what was the sequel to Lord Mountbatten’s brave declaration. When Partition actually took place, rivers of blood flowed in large parts of the country. Innocent men, women and children were massacred. The Indian Army was divided and nothing effective was done to stop the murders of innocent Hindus and Muslims.” This information nails down the false propaganda that freedom was won without shedding a drop of blood.
What a price India had to pay for its freedom! The British true to their imperial design left their premier colony bleeding. They had ruled by dividing Hindus and Muslims; they left, dividing their richest possession, but after depleting it.
To a question, why the Congress which was opposed to the Partition of India meekly accepted the Partition? The explanation given by Congress leaders was that once the Pakistan was created, the Hindu-Muslim riots will come to an end and there will be peace in the country. This promise by Congress leaders has also turned out to be a hoax. As MC Chagla has written, “Partition was a tragedy and a calamity. It was not unavoidable. Partition has solved no problems; on the contrary, it has created more problems and very serious ones too.”
Contrary to the expectations of the leaders, after Partition, Hindu-Muslim riots instead of abating have gone on increasing and are still continuing. Pakistan has become an enemy state and has become a permanent threat to the peace and progress of India.
In a major cover up operation to hide the sins of omissions and commissions, the Congress has up till now succeeded in concealing the facts, which allows the myth to subsist. Madhav Godbole, former Home Secretary of Government of India records in his book, The Holocaust of Indian Partition as follows: “Partition of India was a traumatic event. Apart from destroying the unity of India, the two-nation theory created a divide between the Muslims and non-Muslims which has not been easy to bridge. But, more important was its tremendous human cost – loss of about a million lives and uprooting of nearly eighteen million people. Nehru described this holocaust as a man-made Greek tragedy.”
Godbole observes: “The poison of communalism had seeped so deep that it should have been evident to anyone that transfer of power was not going to be peaceful. But, the British and the leaders of the two would – be dominions – India and Pakistan – failed to see this writing on the wall.” According to Godbole, “with foresight and planning, its (holocaust’s) extent and severity could have been reduced substantially.”
According to Godbole, “Nehru and Patel must have been aware of the seriousness of Jinnah’s illness and still pressed for Partition. India, which is better off with Partition, should be eternally indebted to them for their farsightedness, political courage and statesmanship. United India would have been unbelievable, ungovernable, un-survivable.”
Godbole writes, “Though impending civil war was the common refrain all over the country it figured again and again in official correspondence and assessment, no one has owned responsibility for the monumental carnage and every one, who was involved in the decision-making processes and affairs of the state during the crucial period, has tried to safeguard his position in history by shifting the blame to someone else or to attribute it to reasons beyond the control of anyone and therefore unavoidable.”
In a shocking revelation, Godbole records, “Considerable government records of the period in India have still not been released. The Government of India (GoI), which believes in far to much secrecy, even as compared to the British government, has still not transferred considerable records of the period to the NAI. The Index to the Proceedings of the Home Department, Political Section, for the years 1946 to 1947 (which incidentally is marked confidential) contains the list of a large number of files. However, only a few of these have been transferred to NAI. It is not known whether the other files are still in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) or have been destroyed. It is high time their status is made clear. Policy files, Intelligence Bureau (IB) records and Cabinet papers are not available though nearly six decades have elapsed since Independence.
To sum up this sordid saga of freedom according to Dr Rafique Zakaria, “Nehru and Patel committed the greatest blunder in agreeing to Partition, much against the wishes of the Mahatma; the aftermath was so horrendous that the two leaders later publicly regretted their decision.”
(The writer is former MLC and a Legal Consultant.)