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27 November, 2020 06:50:40 PM
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Radcliffe Line: The partition of the Indian subcontinent

The controversy was getting much more complex day by day and Mountbatten decided to form the Radcliffe Commission which would complete the task of drawing a map that would divide the Indian subcontinent.
Ahmad Alfatah Mugdho
Radcliffe Line: The partition of the Indian subcontinent

The Radcliffe Line is a demarcation line which was published on 17 August 1947 regarding the partition of Indian subcontinent. This line is known as the Radcliffe line simply because the man who was appointed in the mission to conduct the Partition was Sir Cyril Radcliffe.

When the British government partitioned India as well as the entire subcontinent 70 years ago, the demarcation of the border between the new states of India and Pakistan had not yet been released. It took another two days to get published on August 17, 1947. Although the boundary was decided to be finalized on 12th August of 1947, it got published on the 17th August as the authority wanted to avoid confusion on Independence Day. Another salient reason to be taken into consideration is that the British government wanted to take more time to manage the chaos which was taking place in Bengal and in Punjab province.

The last British Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten also was in confusion regarding the partition of Indian subcontinent. As a result, when India and Pakistan were divided officially and emerged as the independent states, the border districts were in dilemma because of the demarcation and the questions were arising under which country they’re going to be ruled by.

Now the question arises how the partition was done as well as the Radcliffe Line was drawn by the Radcliffe commission. This leads us to innumerable confusions about the fact that the British government wanted to divide India based on the Two Nation Theory by the All-India Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah or the British was following some other sort of strategy to conduct this partition process.

One of the prominent leaders of India who was the pioneer of Indian National Congress was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi was the torch bearer of non-violent movement right from the beginning who never wanted the partition of India. Gandhi was dreaming off a united India who didn’t agree with the proposal of Jinnah regarding the Two Nation Theory. On the other hand, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was strict to his Two Nation Theory and he wanted to create a different country where there would be the Muslim majority and later he became the first President of the independent Pakistan.

The entire Indian subcontinent was dreaming off their desired independence for so long and their innumerable efforts, innumerable hardship got paid off in 1947 when the India Independence Act was passed in the British Parliament. Lord Mountbatten who a British Royal Navy officer posted in Burma as the Admiral of that fleet came to India from London on the 22nd March of 1947. He was being sent by the British Government to avoid the initial question of partition and implement the plan of a united India.

After taking the control over the Indian subcontinent, Mountbatten sat on the negotiation table to advance the topic of the independence of India and the senior leaders of Indian National Congress and All-India Muslim League were present there where Jinnah opposed the proposal of a united India. Gandhi readily accepted the proposal of Mountbatten to emerge this entire subcontinent as a united India.

The controversy was getting much more complex day by day and Mountbatten decided to form the Radcliffe Commission which would complete the task of drawing a map that would divide the Indian subcontinent. Conflicts regarding the demarcation were at peak and the Hindu-Muslim conflicts were a daily affair in the Punjab province.  

The Radcliffe Commission had one month only to perform this tough task of dividing the Indian subcontinent where there were so many controversial regions which could turn into death zones after the partition and so the demarcation line drawing was the most difficult task to carry out. Sir Cyril Radcliffe was the head of this commission who was a British lawyer. When Radcliffe submitted the report to the last Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten, he informed him the most enthralling part of this demarcation map. Radcliffe said that the map which his commission submitted was being prepared by the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill back in 1945 right after the end of the Second World War.

This was a moment of enthrallment for Lord Mountbatten who also got to know that this was being kept confidential since the last two years where the blueprint of the divided Indian subcontinent was being drawn. The task of Radcliffe Commission was completed and then Mountbatten finally declared the independence of Indian subcontinent and later he handed over the power of India and Pakistan respectively in Delhi and in Lahore to its leaders. The Radcliffe line was drawn in such a manner where the controversy could not be solved in years so that two neighbouring nations India and Pakistan could fight for eternity.  

We can see the existence of an unsolved dispute between India and Pakistan regarding the Kashmir issue and the demarcation of the Punjab region is also a matter of controversy which has been the centre of bilateral dispute even after 73 years of the partition of this subcontinent. The British played their strategic move by drawing the Radcliffe Line and the consequence is visible which will never get to see the light of hope in some near future for solving the longstanding border conflict between two nuclear power holders.

 

The writer is a student of the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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