This book is the first full-length study of the 1947 drawing of the Indo-Pakistani boundary in Punjab. It uses the Radcliffe commission, headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe , as a window onto the decolonisation and independence of India and Pakistan. Examining the competing interests that influenced the actions of the various major players, the book highlights British efforts to maintain a grip on India even as the decolonisation process spun out of control. It examines the nature of power relationships within the colonial state, with a focus on the often-veiled exertion of British colonial power. With conflict between Hindus , Muslims and Sikhs reaching unprecedented levels in the mid-1940s , British leaders felt compelled to move towards decolonization. The partition was to be perceived as a South Asian undertaking, with British officials acting only as steady and impartial guides. Radcliffe's use of administrative boundaries reinforced the impact of imperial rule. The boundaries that Radcliffe defined turned out to be restless divisions, and in both the 1965 and 1971 wars India and Pakistan battled over their Punjabi border. After the final boundary, known as the 'Radcliffe award', was announced, all sides complained that Radcliffe had not taken the right 'other factors' into account. Radcliffe's loyalty to British interests is key to understanding his work in 1947. Drawing on extensive archival research in India, Pakistan and Britain, combined with innovative use of cartographic sources, the book paints a vivid picture of both the partition process and the Radcliffe line's impact on Punjab.
process as one for which South Asians bore primary responsibility – constitute the major themes of this book, which takes the drawing of the Indo-Pakistani boundary as a window onto the end of empire in South Asia. They appear again and again in all aspects of the boundary-making process, from the belated determination that a line needed to be drawn, to the negotiations over how to draw it and to the
In Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story ‘Toba Tek Singh’, a man from a village in the Indo-Pakistani borderlands refuses to choose between the two states and dies in the no-man’s-land along the boundary. The West Punjabi town of Toba Tek Singh, from which Manto’s tale takes its name and its protagonist his nickname, was one of many affected by the Indo-Pakistani boundary. The
he had felt the freedom or the desire to display his private thoughts, how might this statement have been different? Radcliffe never spoke publicly about the Indo-Pakistani boundaries – a major element of Britain’s imperial legacy in South Asia. 41 In private, however, he felt great regret for the events that accompanied Britain’s withdrawal. A few months before his death, during a newspaper interview for a piece
drawn after the maps were taped together. Furthermore, the point where the boundary crosses the edge of the map is not always the point of best fit between these misaligned maps. These facts underline the great hurry in which Radcliffe and his aide assembled this essential visual representation of the Indo-Pakistani boundary. 102 It is no surprise to find that the tight deadline imposed on the
one of these lectures, Radcliffe noted that ‘much of the interest of history lies in wondering why things could not have happened differently’. 61 This section addresses precisely this point. Why didn’t Radcliffe, arguably the one individual with the greatest control over the outcome of the Indo-Pakistani boundary-making process, operate differently? Why not refuse to take on the task, since it