Recently I have read the book titled “The Great Partition” written by Yasmin Khan. The book gave an impartial picture of the sufferings of the people in the sub-continent before, during and after partition. The physical, financial, familial, social, emotional, and psychological tragedies that millions had to undergo were very aptly described in the book.
Today after 73 years of partition, we remember with great pride our Independence Days on 14th and 15th August depending on which country we belong. But more important dates were 3rd June and 17th August 1947 which were intertwined with the tragedy that millions underwent in the name of freedom.
On 3rd June 1947, British government formally declared division of British India into India and Pakistan. What to talk of common people, even on 3rd June 1947 Jinnah and Nehru had vague idea about what the two countries would look like. Communal riots were already ravaging British India. This vagueness had caused a chaotic situation and aggravated the plight of people who suffered during the partition.
On 14th and 15th August 1947, Pakistan and India achieved power from British Crown (Transfer of Power) to become two independent countries. Ironically on the respective days of independence, either country did not know about the boundary between them. That was a very strange situation of becoming independent countries without knowing the exact boundaries. The boundary settlement was awarded on 17th August 1947 by the British government.
Clement Attlee declared on 20 February 1947 about giving independence to India. Behaviour of British government since then was like a thankless and remorseless ruler who washed his hands from all responsibility towards ensuring peaceful transition of power and partition. On 17th August 1947, the first British military troop sailed out of Bombay for home.
The front line political leaders like Jinnah and Nehru were getting old and showed greed and urgency for political power. There was no second line of leaders in Congress and Muslim League. Congress and Muslim League could not think of deferring independence to work out the ways and means to reduce the communal blood bath and make partition less tragic for millions of people.
Both Congress and Muslim League did not want to comprehend the magnitude of human sufferings of partition, which were gradually becoming clear. Thus, India and Pakistan were born like eagerly awaited babies to poor and teenage parents in jungle. The teenage parents did not know how to handle the situation, look after the babies and save from wild carnivorous animals.
I tend to blame Congress party more for this human sufferings. Muslim League under Jinnah was stubborn with Pakistan demand since 1940 and claimed to represent whole of Muslim community of British India. But Congress, on some flimsy reasons (like Ganga-Jamuni Tehjib), refused the Pakistan demand of Muslim League and staked claim to represent all communities of India. That was not at all pragmatic stand on the part of Congress.
And more the Congress negated Muslim League, more the situation became volatile. Direct Action Day (16.08.1946) was a result of Congress shortsightedness. Few Muslim leaders like Frontier Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, and Asaf Ali, in favour of Congress, were no match for the tens of millions of Muslims crying for Pakistan. After 1940 Pakistan Resolution of Muslim League at Lahore, Congress could have worked with Muslim League for peaceful division of India.
To add insult to the injury, two years eight months after the bloody partition, Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950 accepted the staying of respective minority in either country as hostage of other. What a preposterous barter system for humanity! Pakistani Ramu Kaka was kept hostage for safety of Indian Jumman Mia. This was the worst case of deriving virtue out of vice.
Today (23.01.2021) is the 125th Birthday of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Had all Indians taken arms against British and supported Azad Hind Fauz of Netaji from within India in 1942 instead of allowing the Congress to launch non-violent ‘Quite India Movement’ of Gandhi, the history of sub-continent would have been different. However, these are serious ifs and buts of history which many Indians and Pakistanis would like to ponder over today.