Posted: January 24, 2013 in Education, Geopolitics, Politics
Tags: , ,

Why did Mountbatten suddenly declare that the Partition of India would take place with inexplicable haste on August 15, 1947, almost a year ahead of schedule?

Colonel Anil Athale (retd) explains the likely reasons for the British decision to hastily grant India independence.

Over 65 years ago, one of the enduring human tragedies occurred when the Indian subcontinent was divided on religious lines. Nearly one-and-half million innocent people lost their lives during Partition. Even till today, one fifth of humanity, living in South Asia, continues to pay the price of that division.

No Indian or British historian has yet attempted to explain that event satisfactorily. The first question is: Why did Lord Wavell, the Viceroy, on June 11, 1945, abruptly call off the Simla talks when all the political parties favored the creation of a united India?
The second question arises from the British cabinet’s statement that the transfer of power to Indians would take place by June 1948? (The British government’s statement of June 3, 1947.) Lord Louis Mountbatten as viceroy had insisted on this cut-off date when he went to confer with the cabinet in London in May 1946.
Why, then, on his return from London a fortnight later, did he then suddenly declare that the Partition of India would take place with inexplicable haste on August 15, 1947, almost a year ahead of schedule?

To understand the events of 1947 one has to go back to 1942, when on August 9, Mahatma Gandhi gave the call for ‘Quit India’ and “do or die”. This came at a particularly decisive moment in World War II. The Germans were at Stalingrad and Japan ruled the Pacific.

The Americans were worried about the impact this would have on the war effort and President Roosevelt dispatched a personal emissary Colonel Johnson to India and brought immense pressure on the British to promise Independence to Indians in return for cooperation by the Congress in the war efforts.

The Cripps mission was borne out of this compulsion. Gandhi rejected this by dubbing it as ‘post dated check issued on a falling bank’. But Churchill was unmoved and believed that Congress leaders were ‘Men of straw’ and that with the help of Jinnah the British would control the situation.

In the early hours of August 9, a massive British crackdown began. Congress leaders were arrested and taken to various high security prisons. On hearing news of their arrest, disturbances broke out in Bombay, Ahmadabad and Poona. But like all such movements, it was difficult to sustain action in the absence of a trained leadership and a proper organization.

The British were helped by the fact that Indian Anglicized community and Muslim League(readers has to dig the facts that why and how Muslim league originated) elements provided active help and information to the British police to round up the nationalists. There was no second rung Congress leadership to fill the vacuum created by the arrest of leaders, and no plans for an underground network.

On March 30, 1947, during the concluding session of a Muslim League working committee meeting, Jinnah suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the Breach Candy hospital. Dr Patel, his personal physician, declared that it was only the patient’s timely arrival that had saved him.

By a unanimous decision the working committee decided to keep this occurrence secret. Jinnah regained consciousness soon and refused the doctor’s orders to stay in the hospital. Jinnah’s stubbornness ultimately overrode medical advice and he was discharged the very next day. It is most unlikely that the British did not come to know of this.

The British realised that without Jinnah, the creation of Pakistan was next to impossible. It was the news of Jinnah’s illness that prompted the advancement of British departure from India, with tragic consequences. That is why Mountbatten suddenly declare that the Partition of India would take place with inexplicable haste on August 15, 1947, almost a year ahead of schedule
Understanding these factors behind the events of 1947 helps us see the extraordinary influence the British have over American approach to the subcontinent. The British time and again have shown their almost ‘paternal’ love for Pakistan. This author has seen enough evidence in even JFK era papers of the kind of dependence the US has on UK as far as the subcontinent is concerned.

If seen objectively and not from the point of view of ‘durbari’ historians, the record of the past can teach us much about the present.

The date August 15 was also carefully chosen by the British. It was on this very day that Japan surrendered in 1945. What better way to thwart any possible Indo-Japanese linkage in future than to make India (and South Korea) celebrate while Japan remembers its humiliation! Specially relevant in the days of 1947 when the stories of Japanese support to Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army were a household word in India!

(Based on the research conducted by the author and the late Lieutenant General Eric Vas for their book Unmaking of Pakistan: If Bose Had Lived?’, published by Strategic Books as an e-book.)

That a matter of such importance should escape the questioning of the public mind is an indicator of the confusion (or mental lethargy) we have been thrown into. The significance of the events relating to Japan is often underestimated in conventional Indian thinking on geopolitics. Learning about even the basic reactions of Japan to the geopolitical forces would perhaps cause many of us Indians to hang our heads in utter shame.



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