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-Pakistaniboundary 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
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-Pakistaniboundaries – 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
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-Pakistaniboundary-making
process, operate differently? Why not refuse to take on the task, since
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-Pakistaniboundary. 102
It is no surprise to find that the tight deadline imposed on the