The furore in the BJP camp in India, triggered by L K Advani’s recent remarks about Jinnah being a secular person and yet the founder of Pakistan, seems to have subsided. What is the real, historical truth? Recently unsealed British top-secret archives provide a stunningly different version of what really happened during the cataclysmic partition, in 1947, of India into three separate and distinct entities.
Prior to India’s independence, it was widely believed that India was not likely to survive as an independent nation. The Muslim League dreamt of restoring Muslim political dominance in India and did not originally envisage a partition of the country into independent Muslim states. The Leaguers, in fact, felt that Partition would mean that Muslim power would get withdrawn to two distant corners of the subcontinent?considered by many an embarrassing retreat for Islam, which enjoyed 800 years of conquest. Since Muslims were nearly 40 per cent of the population of pre-partition British India and the non-Muslims were fragmented into innumerable faiths and castes, the concept of re-establishing some degree of Muslim dominance and control over the entire subcontinent seemed enticingly possible.
According to widely accepted notions, in India and Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the architect of Pakistan. Actually, it was the British who threatened to conduct a referendum in every province of the subcontinent and it was Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel who surrendered to the pressure, setting the stage for Lord Mountbatten, the British Viceroy of India, to formally propose the Partition Plan and get the Congress and Muslim League to accept it. On February 20, 1947, the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, announced that “Britain might have to consider handing over power to the existing provincial governments”. This left the Congress with no choice but to accept partition.
At that time, very few persons imagined that India would not only survive but actually flourish as one of the world’s strongest and longest lasting democracies and that Sardar Patel, the “Iron Man of India” would succeed in orchestrating the almost unimaginable task of so swiftly and decisively integrating over 600 former princely states into the Indian Union, at the time of Independence, in 1947.
According to Narendra Singh Sarila, the ADC to Lord Mountbatten in 1947, whose forthcoming book exposes the truth, the Partition of India was actually decided in February, 1946. This means that it was not Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the British Chairman of the two Boundary Commissions which partitioned India and created East and West Pakistan, who masterminded the plan. He arrived in India, for the first time only on July 8, 1947. By August 17, 1947, just two days after India’s day of independence, Mountbatten had presented the Boundary Commission Awards to Indian leaders.
In fact, Jinnah, the “Quaid-i-Azam” could do no more than to console his countrymen?”we have been squeezed in as much as was possible and the latest blow that we have received is the Award of the Boundary Commission. It is an unjust, incomprehensible and even perverse Award. It may be wrong, unjust and perverse; and it may not be a judicial but a political Award, but we have agreed to abide by it and it is binding upon us. As honorable people we must abide by it. It may be our misfortune but we must bear up this one more blow with fortitude, courage and hope.” Lord Wavell, then the Viceroy of India, had all along encouraged the concept of partition, and recommended, as far back as February 1946, a truncated Pakistan – excluding from it one-third of the Punjab, half of Bengal and almost the whole of Assam – which thereafter became the final blue-print for the Award which enforced the partition of India.
Jinnah may actually have been just a tactical instrument for the British to use against the Congress. In the Cold War that ensued later between the West and the Soviet Union, it came as no surprise to enlightened political leaders, worldwide, when Pakistan became a much-used base for the West’s overt and covert confrontations with the Soviets and their allies or victims.
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Based in Mumbai, India