Was Partition of British India Fair?
Without a question, the two most significant events of the twentieth century were World War I and World War II. However, another significant event in that century is the partition of British India. Some historians call this division “The Great Divide.” This split resulted in the greatest migration in human history. Hundreds of thousands of people relocated from one area to another. Furthermore, no one is unaware of the stories of slaughter and violence. But there’s another part of this idea that we’ll talk about today. What criteria they used to divide the land? Was there any criterion accessible at the time?
And if there was so, did they follow it? Had any religious groups, including Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, suffered prejudice as a result of this division? In this blog, we will attempt to learn about this specific issue using facts and data.
In 1947 when the British realized that partitioning the subcontinent was no longer an option. In this situation, Lord Mountbatten, Viceroy of British India, proposed a plan for the division of British India. We call this plan as 3rd June Plan or Mountbatten Plan. Mountbatten became Viceroy in February 1947, just a few months before. He was simply deployed to split British India. He had to make the final decisions regarding partition. Moreover, he had to complete the plan to separate two main states, Punjab and Bengal, in the Third June Plan.
There were around 600 princely states whom maharajas ruled in British India at the time. Viceroy also gave those princely states the option of joining newly established states. States had to decide on the basis of location and residents’ demand. On July 30, 1947, they established a boundary commission under the leadership of Sir Radcliff. He was a British lawyer. He knew barely about the subcontinent’s ground realities. He’d never been there before.
In this commission, they elected two judges from Muslim League and two from the Congress. They had to finalize it by 14th August 1947. They announced this boundary award on 17th August, three days after the partition. After this, an issue got surfaced which we will discuss below. Before this, keep in mind that the last census of the sub-continent happened in 1941. And, this division was on the basis of that census. We took all facts and figures in this column from this census.
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How did British India got Divided?
At the time of partition, there were three major groups in United Punjab, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Muslims constituted 53.22% of Punjab, Hindus 30%, Sikhs 14.91%, and Christians 1.44%. In the grouping, Hindus and Sikhs became together while Muslims grouped with Christians.
The province of Punjab, apart from princely states, had five divisions. These were Multan, Rawalpindi, Jalandhar, Ambala, and Lahore. It had to divide. According to partition formula, they gave Rawalpindi and Multan to Pakistan. This was on the basis of the Muslim majority. Similarly, they gave Ambala and Jalandhar to India on a Hindu majority basis. The remaining division was Lahore. Lahore also consisted of 58% of Muslims. According to the formula, they should have given it to Pakistan. But they divided it because of unknown reasons.
Lahore- From Divison to Districts
Lahore division consisted of 6 districts at that time. These were Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Lahore, and Sheikhupura. The three districts Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, and Sialkot, they gave to Pakistan due to the clear Muslim majority. While Amritsar district, they gave it to India on the basis of a clear majority of Hindus. Leaving two, Gurdaspur district and Lahore district were yet to be decided.
Let us first discuss Gurdaspur. The Muslim population of this district was 51%, which was a clear majority. They should have given it to Pakistan. It consisted of four tehsils, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Batala, and Shakargarh. If we talk about tehsil-wise, three tehsils had a Muslim majority. Only one Pathankot had Muslims in the minority. Two of the three tehsils that had a Muslim majority, they gave them to India. They gave only Shakargarh to Pakistan. Furthermore, these tehsils were also contiguous to Pakistan’s border. It’s obvious that this decision was taken in favor of India.
Now, we will discuss the Lahore district. This district consisted of three tehsils. These were Chunian, Kasur, and Lahore. All of these had a clear Muslim majority. Lahore tehsil had 62.1% Muslims. Kasur had 57.9%. Besides, Chunian had 60.8% Muslims. Overall the whole district consisted of 61% Muslims. It meant that it had to be included in Pakistan. But, while demarcating the border here, they divided the Muslim-majority tehsil of Kasur. Its 1162 square kilometers, the present Patti area, they handed over to India. Surprisingly, they divided no other tehsil whether it was Muslim-majority or Hindu-majority. Kasur was the only tehsil which they divided on an unknown basis.
▶ It seems that they applied no criterion during the division of Gurdaspur and Lahore. Although there should have been some criterion. No one knows if this division was on the basis of district or tehsil.
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Was Division District-based or Tehsil-based?
If the division of Punjab was on the basis of districts, the whole of Lahore and Gurdaspur should have been with Pakistan.
And, if it was on tehsil based division, Ferozepur and Zira tehsil of Jalandhar had a clear Muslim majority. But, they gave it to India. These both tehsils were also contiguous to the Pakistan border. They also should have been included in Pakistan.
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Moreover, there were two more Muslim-majority tehsils in Jalandhar which were Nakudar and Jalandhar tehsil. These tehsils should have been easily in Pakistan because they were contiguous to the Zira tehsil.
Furthermore, there comes Dasoya tehsil of Hoshiarpur district of Jalandhar division. There was also a Muslim-Christian group that was more in number. It also should have been in Pakistan.
Moreover, two tehsils of Gurdaspur district, Gurdaspur and Batala were also Muslim-majority and were adjacent to the Radcliff line. It had also to be included in Pakistan.
Next comes the Muslim-majority Anjala tehsil of the Amritsar district of the Lahore division. It was also adjacent to the Radcliff line. And last but not least, they could include Kasur tehsil in Pakistan. Due to the tehsil-based division, it was possible that clearly, the Muslim-majority state of Kapurthala would also have joined Pakistan. But they gave it to India because its Maharaja was Sikh.
Such you all can decide whether this division was fair or not.