The partition of the Punjab in mid-August 1947 took place as part of a negotiated settlement brokered by the British between the Indian National Congress, the All-India Muslim League and the Sikhs of Punjab to partition India and transfer power to India and Pakistan.
The principle on which India and the Punjab were divided was that Muslim-majority areas were separated from the rest of India and given to Pakistan.
The demand to partition India was made by the main communal party of the Muslims, the All-India Muslim League. It insisted that Indian Muslims were not a minority (one-fourth of the total population of India) but a separate nation by virtue of their Islamic faith and culture.
On June 3, 1947, the Partition Plan was announced which required the Punjab and Bengal assemblies to vote on whether they wanted to keep their provinces united or partitioned. Both the assemblies voted in favour of partitioning their provinces.
Every year, Islamic Republic of Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on 14th August and India on 15th August, so the common myth among people is that firstly, the partition of Hindustan took place and then both the countries got freedom.
In fact, everything that happened in 1947 was totally opposite.
Both the countries first attained freedom nearly 350 years of British rule and two days after, the partition took place. It's a rarely known fact that the person who was behind India's partition had never seen the country.
Let's go back to the flashback, 68 years ago, when the historic decision was taken in Delhi.
- Even when Pakistan and India achieved independence, till Aug 17, there was no announcement on the borders of two countries.
- The man who set the boundary lines for India and Pakistan was Cyril John Radcliffe, the British lawyer and Law Lord.
- Radcliffe was given the daunting task of the chairmanship of the two boundary committees of drawing the borders for the new nations of Pakistan and India, in a way that would leave as many Hindus and Sikhs in India and Muslims in Pakistan as possible.
- On Aug 17, 1947, the Radcliffe Line was formally declared as the boundary between India and Pakistan, two days following the Partition of India.
- British government had given the responsibility of dividing Punjab and Bengal province between the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan to Sir John Radcliffe.
- He was commissioned to equitably divide 4,50,000 km sq of territory with 88 million people.
- The estimated loss of life during the partition of India is one million. For the Punjab alone, the loss of life is estimated somewhere between 500,000-800,000 and 10 million people were forced to flee for their lives.
Some surprising facts
- Radcliffe had no complete information about the geography of India.
- On the basis of maps, castes and religions, Radcliffe divided the two nations.
- Prior to partition, Radcliffe had never been to India.
- On July 8, 1947, when he reached India, he was told that what task he has to accomplish.
- British government gave him only 5 weeks to complete the daunting task.
- Radcliffe had finalised new maps between Aug 9 to Aug 14, but it was delayed due to some controversy.
- The two tehsils of Punjab's Gurdaspur were included in Pakistan part, as majority of people were Muslims. In fact, in Pakistan , those Ahmadi populations are never considered as Muslims in Pakistan.
- On the day of partition, people of Bengal's Muslim- dominated districts- Murshidabad and Malda- had put Pakistani flags on their houses, but they later came to know that were part of India. Chittagong, with only 2 percent Muslim population went to Pakistan (now Bangladesh).