Friday, August 24, 2007

Partition of India: Part One

The Transfer of Power 1942-47 is a treasure trove. Free from hind sight and biases, this collection of documents from India Office Records during the period January 1, 1942 - August 15, 1947, meticulously edited by Irish historian and professor Nicholas Mansergh, is as close to a no-spin zone as it gets. I will publish some interesting excerpts hoping the readers will check out the original documents.

The Transfer of Power : Volume X (22 March - 30 May 1947) (page 159-160)

Record of Interview between Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Mr. Jinnah (Mountbatten Papers. Viceroy's interview No. 41 -- April 8, 1947)

... "I tried once more to bring him back to the Cabinet Mission plan, but he was absolutely adamant that it was useless to resurrect a plan which could only have been tried if the utmost goodwill had prevailed between all parties in 1946, and which now was foredoomed to failure.
I invited Mr. Jinnah to put forward his arguments for partition. He recited the classic ones.

I then pointed out that his remarks applied also to the partition of the Punjab and Bengal, and that by sheer logic if I accepted his arguments in the case of India as a whole, I had also to apply them in the case of these two Provinces.
Whilst admitting my logic, he expressed himself most upset at my trying to give him a "moth eaten" Pakistan. He said that this demand for partitioning the Punjab and Bengal was a bluff on the part of Congress to try and frighten him off Pakistan. He was not to be frightened off so easily; and he would be sorry if I were taken in by the Congress bluff.
I replied "I would not be taken in; because if I agreed to such partition, it would be on your able advocacy; but I could not of course allow your theories to stop short at the Provinces."

He was most distressed, and said that it would greatly weaken his Pakistan, and appealed to me not to destroy the unity of Bengal and the Punjab, which had national characteristics in common: common history, common ways of life; and where the Hindus have stronger feelings as Bengalis or Punjabis than they have as members of the Congress.
I said I was impressed by his arguments; and was therefore beginning to revise my ideas about any partition anywhere in India; since any argument that he produced for not agreeing to partition within the Punjab and Bengal applied with even greater force to India as a whole. For if he was to insist on the partition of India, he would be breaking up a great sub-continent of numerous nations, which could live together in peace and harmony; who could, united, play a great role in the world; but who divided, would not even rank as a second-class Power. The more so since he evidently intended to destroy even the mere vestiges that remained of the Indian army, after the passing of this morning's budget proposals for the armed forces and the likelihood of the withdrawal of all British officers by June 1948.

I am afraid I drove the old gentleman quite mad, because whichever way his argument went I always pursued it to a stage beyond which he did not wish it to go" ...

(to be continued)

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