Partition caused sudden displacement of about 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, loss of their properties; and murder and slaughter of an estimated one to three million: there are no definite figures—an exercise for a proper count was never carried out! Wrote Patrick French:
“The number of people killed during the creation of independent India and Pakistan has never been established. It was in the interest of the governments of Attlee, Jinnah and Nehru to play down the scale of the massacres, since they all bore a measure of responsibility for what had happened. …As Marn Singh, an eye specialist [a victim of Punjab partition]… remembered: ‘Personally I believe it was the fault of politicians, who were keen for power, especially that Mr Jinnah, who hoped to gain a nation without even damaging the crease of his trousers, like some lord of England.’”

Trains carrying refugees from either side were looted, and passengers were slaughtered. There was mass dishonouring, brutality and rapes. JA Scott, the then British DIG of Police in Rawalpindi had stated: “I could never believe that such barbarous acts as were committed on innocent
people in rural areas of Rawalpindi district could be possible in Punjab.”

Winston Churchill had accused Mountbatten of killing two million Indians! Mountbatten’s critic Andrew Roberts had commented:
“Mountbatten deserved to be court-martialled on his return to London.”

Once the partition was agreed upon in principle by all the concerned and contending parties, it should have been carried out in a well thought-out, planned and professional manner. That responsibility lay principally with the British, and particularly with Viceroy Mountbatten, and with the heads of the two governments—Nehru and Jinnah. Of course, the responsibility also lay with the Congress, the Muslim League, and the other political parties and organisations, and their leaders. Sadly, everyone failed the people.

For such a hugely major operation like partition of a country, and creation of a new country, no blue print was prepared, no planning was done either to ensure security and safety of people and their property, or to provide for their rehabilitation. It was just hurriedly and haphazardly put through, exposing millions to grave risk.

The bitter, unfortunate truth was that having decided to quit India, the Raj didn’t really care. They had already decided to withdraw British troops from active service and repatriate them before the transfer of power. The British were too much in a hurry to get out. If they could be here for about two centuries to exploit and oppress, why not a few months more to secure Indians, as a compensation? But, Mountbatten and the British were least bothered about the Indians. They maintained only limited British troops to secure the left-over British. Having decided to leave, the Raj didn’t wish to risk British lives. If Hindus and Muslims indulged in killing, looting and raping each other, so be it! Would demonstrate all the more how things would degenerate without them! British colonialism was a hugely cruel, greedy, selfish project. Why the British who had managed law and order covering millions for many, many decades in India failed at this critical juncture? Accusing the Raj of dereliction of duty, Sardar bitterly complained to Mountbatten: “The British had little difficulty when it was a question of putting down Indian freedom movements.”

The point, however, is why the Indian and the Pakistani leaders, whose people were to be so frightfully affected, failed to read the writing on the wall? That terrible things were bound to happen should have been very well known to them after what happened on the ‘Direct Action Day’ in Calcutta in August 1946, in Noakhali in East Bengal, and in Bihar, and in scores of other places down the decades, including the most horrible Moplah Rebellion of 1920s in Malabar, Kerala, where Muslims butchered Hindus!

Weren’t they aware that what actually happened was bound to happen if they didn’t take sufficient care? What precaution and care did they take?

Expectedly, our clueless, non-violent Gandhian leaders had done absolutely nothing to keep people safe. They could have heeded Dr BR Ambedkar’s wise and elaborate plan in his book “Pakistan or the Partition of India” given several years back on peaceful transfer of population . But, with “Mahatma” and “scientifically-minded, rational” Nehru as leaders, who would listen to the genuinely wise persons like Dr Ambedkar. If things had been planned well and foreseen, there could have been an agreement between the Congress and the Muslim League for a well- designed protocol for smooth and orderly transfer of population (as Ambedkar had detailed in his book), as per the wishes of the concerned families and groups. Further, if the time was deemed too short to make adequate preparation for smooth transfer of power to the two domains, partition and independence could have been delayed. Where was the tearing hurry?

There were precedents to this proposal of population transfer: Muslim Bulgarians were resettled in Turkey, and in exchange many Turks were transferred to Bulgaria in pursuance of the Turko-Bulgarian Convention of 1913—about two and a half million people were thus resettled. Another Muslim-Christian exchange of population case was that under the Treaty of Lausanne signed on 30 January 1923 between Turkey and Greece involving about 1.6 million people.

What is noteworthy is that the Muslim League leaders wanted “transfer of population ”. Wrote Prafull Goradia: “The post-partition government of Nehru turned a blind eye to the fact that the [Muslim] League had demanded an exchange of population as an integral part of the country’s vivisection. All the Muslims of Hindustan were to emigrate to Pakistan and all non-Muslims were to come over to Hindustan. No less that eight leaders of the Muslim League, namely, Jinnah, Feroze Khan Noon, Nawab of Mamdot, Pit Ilahi Bux, Mohammad Ismail, II Chundrigar, Shaukat Hayat Khan and Raja Ghaznafar Ali Khan, had demanded an exchange of population.”

In an article, Prafull Goradia highlighted: “For the Muslim leaders therefore the idea of a population transfer was neither novel nor surprising. Even Prophet Muhammad had undertaken hijrat from Mecca to Madina while founding Islam. No wonder then that Khan Iftikhar Hussain of Mamdot had said that the exchange of population offered a very practical solution for the problem of the Muslims, reported by Dawn, 3 December 1946. Pir Ilahi Bux, the Sindhi leader, had said that he welcomed an exchange of population for the safety of the minorities, as it would put an end to all communal disturbances as reported by Dawn, on 4 December 1946. So also felt Raja Ghazanfar Ali who later became Pakistan’s envoy to New Delhi. Dawn, of 19 December 1946. Reported his having asked for the alteration of the population map of India… It was implicit in these statements that the League objective was to undertake ethnic cleansing soon after partition. That this was not mere conjecture was proved by the fact that almost all Hindus were driven out from West Pakistan in a matter of two to three years. Evidently, the League leadership had fears that ethnic cleansing on their side would invite a similar action in Hindustan, causing untold miseries to their Muslim brethren. In any case, the Dar-ul-Islam that they were pursuing was for all Muslims of the subcontinent. Why should those, who happened to be in Hindustan, be condemned to live indefinitely in a hopeless Dar-ul-Harb? There were no stray threats either by Mamdot or Pir. Jinnah, while addressing a press conference at Karachi on 25 November 1946, said that the authorities, both central and provincial, should immediately take up the question of exchange of population, as reported by Dawn on 26 November, 1946. Sir Feroze Khan Noon, who later rose to be Prime Minister had earlier on 8 April 1946, threatened to re-enact the murderous orgies of Chengez Khan and Halaqu Khan if non-Muslims took up an obstructive attitude against population exchange. Ismail Chundrigar, who also eventually rose to be Prime Minister of Pakistan, had said that the British had no right to hand over Muslims to a subject people over whom they had ruled for 500 years. Mohammad Ismail, a leader from Madras had declared that the Muslims of India were in the midst of a jehad. Shaukat Hayat Khan, son of the Prime Minister of Punjab, Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, had threatened, while the British were still in India, of a rehearsal of what the Muslims would do to the Hindus eventually. The point that came through clearly was that transfer of population was an integral part of the demand for Pakistan.”

Gandhi and Nehru would have done a genuine favour to the Muslims if they had facilitated their emigration to Dar-ul-Islam (Pakistan), rather than condemning them to Dar-ul-Harb (India)—for their religion commanded so, and because many poor Muslims did not have the means to emigrate. Sadly, Gandhi and Nehru did not really understand Islam or the Muslim psychology—and, in their hubris, chose to impose their immature, unrealistic ideas, creating indescribable problems both for the Muslims in India and for the non-Muslims in Pakistan.

Further, for the consequent Partition mayhem why those responsible— the leaders on either side—have not been singled out and made accountable? Why the blame has been put on general public on either side, and their inhumanity? How could Mountbatten, the main person responsible, escape the blame, and lord it out? Why was compensation not demanded from the British, the actual party responsible? If what is described below was possible, why thousands were allowed to be brutalised and slaughtered? It is from “Empires of the Indus” by Alice Albinia:
“In 1947, Hameeda Akhtar Husain Raipuri was a young mother… She came to Karachi at Partition with her family from Aligarh… As the wife of a civil servant in the Education Ministry, Hameeda’s introduction to Karachi was comparatively orderly. The train that brought her from Delhi was one of the first to be attacked; but it was full of government employees, and thus was well defended by the army. ‘A gentleman was waiting at the station at Karachi with the keys to our flat in Napier Barracks,’ she says, ‘another was holding out a ration card.’ So the family settled into their new country, full of hope…”

That is, had all trains been well-guarded, like in the above case, thousands of deaths, loot and rapes could have been easily avoided. Similarly, had proper planning been done, and had a bigger and stronger military, para-military, police or armed volunteer force deployed well in advance, with political leaders, social workers and volunteers to assist them, most of the other tragedies could also have been avoided.

Instead of doing the above, Mountbatten and his British staff had done the opposite—they had ensured that all the British troops were withdrawn before the partition. This is what Sir Evan Meredith Jenkins, the last governor of the Punjab, had advised Mountbatten (who too was of similar opinion): “I think it will be wise to avoid postponing the relief [withdrawal] of British troops for too long. It would be awkward if trouble on a large scale started while the relief was in progress. My own advice would therefore be to make the change before the end of July [1947].”

Further, why shouldn’t Mountbatten, Nehru, and the Congress have planned for augmenting the strength of the police and army by induction of Indians. Well-trained returning INA soldiers were readily available. But, the British and the Congress (especially Nehru) bias against anything remotely related to Netaji Subhas and his INA came in the way!

Rather than ensuring sufficiency of troops to control possible trouble, Nehru had grandly and irresponsibly declared: “I would rather have every village in India go up in flames than keep a single British soldier in India a moment longer than necessary.” But, if Nehru was happy having the highest post of the Governor General (till June 1948), and the highest posts in the Army with the British after independence, why not the soldiers to save poor citizens?

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