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Incomplete Partition: The Genesis of the Kashmir Dispute [quick read]
by Saima Alvi
06 May 2002 08:34 UTC
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5 May 2002  Sunday  

BOOK REVIEW:How it all began by Shahid M. Amin 

Incomplete partition: the genesis of the Kashmir dispute, 1947-48 
By Alastair Lamb 

Oxford University Press, 2002

Alastair Lamb's Incomplete partition: the genesis of the Kashmir dispute 
1947-1948, which was first published in Britain in 1997, has now been 
reprinted in Pakistan. The book is based on meticulous research of the 
voluminous source material in the UK, Pakistan and India, as also the 
memoirs of some of the principal actors of the Partition era. 

In Pakistan, there has been a spate of rhetorical statements about 
the "betrayals" by Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy, and Radcliffe, 
the chairman of the Boundary Commission, as well as the evil machinations 
of the Indian leaders. However, few in Pakistan have bothered to 
substantiate these allegations with specific evidence. Against this 
background, Pakistanis have to thank Lamb for furnishing much documentary 
evidence, which gives substance to the Pakistani allegations. 

In the context of the partition of Punjab, and the genesis of the Kashmir 
dispute, Pakistan has charged that Mountbatten and Radcliffe had conspired 
(either together or separately) to deny to Pakistan the Muslim majority 
areas in Gurdaspur district which went to India and thus gave it an access 
to Kashmir. Thus was born the bitter Kashmir dispute that continues to 
create dangerous tensions in the subcontinent more than half a century 

Lamb has unearthed important evidence that, on the whole, endorses the 
Pakistani allegations. In particular, his book clearly establishes that 
Mountbatten had a pro-India bias and he was, moreover, guilty of 
prevarication, if not outright lying. 

Regarding the delimitation of the Punjab border, Lamb has shown that 
Radcliffe's border line was essentially based on the blueprint prepared by 
the previous Viceroy Lord Wavell and forwarded to the British Government in 
London in a telegram dated February 1946, about 17 months before Radcliffe 
arrived on the scene. This telegram was based on a draft prepared by a key 
official in the Viceroy's staff named V.P. Menon, who had close ties with 
the Congress leaders. 

In Wavell's partition blueprint, which Radcliffe seems to have followed, 
the tehsils of Gurdaspur and Batala were to be included in India. Wavell 
had explained, "Gurdaspur must go to Amritsar for geographical reasons and 
Amritsar being sacred to the Sikhs." Access to Kashmir for a future 
independent India was not a consideration for Wavell. 

Hence, contrary to a widely shared impression in Pakistan, on this score, 
it could not be said that Mountbatten influenced Radcliffe to change his 

Lamb also argues that Radcliffe did not have Kashmir in mind while awarding 
this area to India. He was thinking primarily to ensure the security of 
Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs, as well as following the natural 
river boundary in this region. 

It was in another sector that Mountbatten did intervene and persuade 
Radcliffe to change his original award. Lamb has clearly established that 
Radcliffe had decided to include in Pakistan the Ferozepore and Zira 
Tehsils (having a Muslim majority of 55.2 and 65.2 per cent respectively 
according to the 1941 census). They were contiguous to Pakistan and had a 
Muslim majority. These areas also had the Ferozepore headworks that were 
crucial for West Punjab's canal irrigation. (In April 1948, India in fact 
choked off water supply to Pakistan by using these very headworks.) 

On August 8, 1947, Christopher Beaumont, Radcliffe's secretary, prepared a 
typewritten note illustrated with a map showing this new boundary. Abell, 
Mountbatten's private secretary, sent both the map and the descriptive note 
at once to Lahore to Abbot, secretary to Sir Evan Jenkins, the governor of 
Punjab. (This document came in the hands of Pakistani authorities who 
published it in 1983.) 

On August 12, 1947, Radcliffe had a luncheon meeting with Mountbatten and 
Ismay, Mountbatten's chief of staff. It was here that Mountbatten was able 
to persuade or cajole Radcliffe into changing his award about the 
Ferozepore salient. Thus, his final award of August 12, 1947 differed 
significantly from the boundary he had given on August 8. 

Mountbatten, however, flatly denied at the time and subsequently that he 
had anything to do with the Radcliffe award or even knew about it before it 
was actually announced. On August 13, 1947, he wrote to both Jinnah and 
Nehru that the Radcliffe Award was still awaited and "at present, 
therefore, I have no idea of its contents". As Lamb observes: "This 
statement is, without a nugget of doubt, untrue." 

Similarly, when Liaquat Ali Khan complained to Ismay on August 11, about 
the manipulation of the award, the latter made a false statement, in 
writing, that Liaquat had no right "to imply that the Viceroy has 
influenced this award". For years thereafter, Mountbatten kept denying his 
role in the affair. What is even more shocking is that the highest British 
officials subsequently tried their best to cover up the true facts in order 
to save Mountbatten's reputation. Thus, records were destroyed or otherwise 
tampered with in this exercise. 

There is also the question about Radcliffe's own integrity and sense of 
justice. Why should he have succumbed to Mountbatten's pressure even when 
there was clear justification for awarding the Ferozepore salient to 
Pakistan? It had a Muslim majority and was contiguous to Pakistan. The 
Ferozepore headworks had a direct bearing on the economic welfare of 
Pakistan. These were the main criteria for the partition. The same criteria 
necessitated the award of the two eastern Tehsils of Gurdaspur to Pakistan. 
The argument that this would have threatened the security of Amritsar is 
odd. How could such a reasoning override the basic formula for partition on 
the basis of contiguity and Muslim or non-Muslim majority? 

At the same time, the thinking in Pakistan that Radcliffe was deliberately 
providing an access to India via Gurdaspur does not seem to be correct, in 
the light of the evidence provided by Lamb. One tehsil of Gurdaspur, 
namely, Pathankot, which had a non-Muslim majority of 61 per cent, had to 
go to India and would have provided it an access to Kashmir, even if the 
other two tehsils had gone to Pakistan. 

Coming next to the Kashmir dispute, the important point proved by Lamb is 
that the Indian military intervention on October 27, 1947 took place before 
the Maharaja had formally acceded to India. In fact, there remains a 
mystery if the Maharaja ever did sign an Instrument of Accession as this 
document is said to be "missing" from Indian records. 

Lamb shows that the record was falsified from the very beginning by 
claiming that V.P. Menon had travelled to Jammu on October 26 to secure 
such an Instrument. Hence, the Indian argument ever since that India had 
sent its forces to defend its own territory has no basis since by October 
27, no Instrument of Accession had been signed. Moreover, at first, 
Mountbatten had insisted that it would have been "the height of folly" to 
send Indian troops into Jammu and Kashmir without prior accession. 

Lamb also questions the justification given for the Indian military 
intervention in Kashmir, namely, that there had been a massive intrusion in 
Kashmir by Pakistani tribal Pathans and that the "raiders" were involved in 
massacres and plunder. The reality was that a serious revolt had broken out 
in the Poonch area of the state by August 1947. It was entirely indigenous. 
Reacting to this revolt, Lamb notes that the Maharaja embarked upon a 
massacre of Muslims in Jammu in which at least 200,000 Muslims were killed. 
This slaughter of Muslims stirred the Pathan tribals who started to move 
into Kashmir around October 10, 1947. 

The then Deputy Prime Minister of Kashmir, R.L. Batra, had said on October 
24 that the insurgent forces were "tribesmen who are out of control of the 
Pakistan government". Batra gave their number at around 2,000 and did not 
consider the state to be in real danger. But the Indian Defence Committee, 
meeting presided over by Mountbatten on October 25, saw this as "a 
systematic invasion by tribesmen sponsored by the government of Pakistan". 

The conclusion from the foregoing is clear. India had intervened in Kashmir 
without obtaining an Instrument of Accession from the Maharaja. Hence, the 
argument of self-defence and defending "Indian" territory was false. Nor 
was there any basis to the contention that Pakistan had committed 
aggression in Kashmir. The whole thing was a gross exaggeration if not 
outright fiction. The role of Mountbatten in this ignoble exercise has by 
now been laid bare. 

The poor information of the Pakistani leaders (including Jinnah and 
Liaquat), about the developments in Kashmir and the Radcliffe Commission, 
seems like a mystery. In fact, one gets the impression of inactivity on 
their part, with little anticipation of what was about to happen in 
Kashmir. On the part of Jinnah, there was somehow a lingering faith in the 
British sense of fairplay. He probably did not see what Mountbatten was 
doing until it was too late. It is clear that the friendship that both 
Mountbatten and his wife had developed with Nehru, as also Mountbatten's 
dislike for Jinnah, led to some disastrous consequences for Pakistan. 

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