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'Partition' in focus again as PM makes August 14th the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day

WebdeskAug 14, 2021, 02:23 PM IST

'Partition' in focus again as PM makes August 14th the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day

                                                                                                                                                                            Nirendra Dev


What would have been the course of Indian history had not protagonists like Mountbatten come around to decide about India’s history? 


New Delhi: "Partition’s pain can never be forgotten," says Prime Minister Narendra Modi and announced that August 14th would henceforth be remembered as the Partition of Horrors Remembrance Day.


"Millions of our sisters and brothers were displaced, and many lost their lives due to mindless hate and violence," he tweeted, recalling the struggles and sacrifices.


“Sir, I suffer from the congenial weakness of believing I can do anything.”–Lord Louis Mountbatten had reportedly told Winston Churchill when the important offer of Indian Viceroy post was given.


What would have been the course of Indian history had not protagonists like Mountbatten come around to decide about India’s history?


Mountbatten was chosen by British leadership under then Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee to take over India's reins. In the words of Mountbatten’s predecessor, Earl Wavell (Viceroy from 1943 to 47), India and the British Raj then had already “reached a completely impasse” situation.



This ‘impasse’ actually relates to the gulf of difference several events and history had created between Wavell and the then Indian political leaders.


One can always ponder on the fascinating choice of its players by the history.


What was supposed to be Mountbatten’s precise agenda? Did the British Raj already make up their mind for withdrawal and grant Indian independence?


Were they looking for a scapegoat in Mountbatten to pull them out of the mess?


“On the other hand, the Indian political scene had offered five foremost protagonists then to be dealt with effectively and individually, then collectively. The famous five–Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Liaquat Ali Khan and Sardar Vallabhai Patel–were already divided politically. The August 16th 1946 Calcutta protest–Direct Action Day - demonstration by Jinnah had already given a glimpse of how horrifying things could turn. The protest by Jinnah’s supporters on a fateful day had already left 15000 injured and at least 5000 killed. Direct Action Day (August 16th 1946), is also known as the Great Calcutta Killings.  ”



Although the communal passion stayed in Indian public life and Jinnah was a ‘player’ in the theatre, it is also true that all these five players had submerged their entire life completely into politics and freedom struggle.


All Five had dreamed about the ‘culmination’ of their lifetime’s sacrifice and struggle.


In other words, Indian independence would have come sooner than later, despite Mountbattens or the likes of Jinnahs and Nehrus.


Western writers and even Left-leaning historians have shown a great tendency to hail Mountbatten’s stint as a success. In doing so, they declare rather unhesitatingly that “many colonial nations were not so fortunate and were forced to pay the price of their freedom with bloody wars.” (the quotes attributed to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre).


But what was our partition? And more importantly, did they miss the bloodbath and the post-1947 sort of permanent hostility between India and Pakistan?


Would India of 2021 be different without the 1947-partition and the chief protagonist Mountbatten who scissored the map of India?


A United India–in retrospect–today is only wishful thinking. Many would say the division of India was a blessing in disguise.


Others can argue that Mountbatten was against partitioning and preferred Indian leaders to settle for a united country.


Later, Jinnah’s illness and possibly premature death were unknown to many, including those who mattered like Mountbatten.


“If somebody had told me he’s going to be dead in X months, would I then say let’s hold back India together and not divide it? Would I have put back the clock and held the position? Most probably. I have a feeling Jinnah may not have known himself since he had tuberculosis,” Mountbatten reportedly told Larry Collins and Lapierre in exhaustive interviews later in the 1970s.”



This may be something difficult to stomach as Mountbatten’s predecessor Wavell had got wind of it.


The British staff under Wavell also perhaps knew and had “kept it to themselves”, Mountbatten claimed.


This argument is not convincing as Mountbatten came and started ruling India with every minute detail about India and Indian politics and the political stars.


They could not have missed this vital information about India.


The 'Partition of India' was perhaps the lasting revenge of the colonial masters, as they felt ‘defeated’ and had to withdraw from India reluctantly.


However, no last word can be said.


Muslim scholars like Rafiq Zakaria believed partition had rather harmed the cause of Muslims in the sub-continent.


In the ultimate analysis, the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day should also be an occasion to ponder about governance in the country and the roadmap for the future.


The Republic of India will not be deemed as successful till every passenger in the boat reaches their destination of happiness and prosperity and takes India to newer heights.



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