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The Radcliffe boundary commission and the partition of Punjab
Author: Lucy P. Chester

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.

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Lucy P. Chester

colonial power. Specifically, I trace the reluctant cooperation of South Asian elites with British leaders in setting up the Radcliffe commission. The decisions made by these elites, operating under British pressure, in some cases ran counter to popular welfare. This work therefore seeks to add complexity to debates about the nature of colonial power and postcolonial legacies. Second, I contend that it was

in Borders and conflict in South Asia
The façade of South Asian responsibility
Lucy P. Chester

participant acidly observed, ‘I do not think that anyone really expected these eminent but sessile judges to go around in dhotis and sherwanis [traditional Indian garb] digging holes and putting up concrete markers, which is what “demarcating” means.’ 53 The Radcliffe commission was clearly concerned with delimitation, not demarcation; demarcation was left to India and Pakistan, after

in Borders and conflict in South Asia
Alternatives to the Radcliffe award
Lucy P. Chester

. Certainly there is an important relationship between violence and the boundary commission, but it runs in a different direction than one might assume. In reaction to the simmering violence of 1946 and early 1947, the British constructed a façade of control, of which the Radcliffe commission was a central part. This pretence was useful in the short term, allowing the British to carry out their hasty

in Borders and conflict in South Asia
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‘No such deeds’: responsibility and remembrance
Lucy P. Chester

division, while in Pakistan one sees the reverse side of the same coin: a sense of gain, of pride in a newly created state. But in Pakistani historiography as well there is a sense of loss; as the historian Hugh Tinker writes, ‘Pakistan is unique as a country with a sense of bitterness and grievance for territories that have never formed part of its polity.’ 3 Immediately after partition, the Radcliffe

in Borders and conflict in South Asia
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Cyril Radcliffe and the end of empire
Lucy P. Chester

Radcliffe Commission, it is clear, was a device to load the onus of the details of Partition on to the shoulders of a non-”Indian” so as to leave Mountbatten blameless of responsibility for unpopular decisions.’ 16 Certainly Radcliffe understood the depth of his unpopularity in both Pakistan and India; when asked in the early 1960s whether he would like to return to India, he reportedly replied, ‘God

in Borders and conflict in South Asia
The Radcliffe award
Lucy P. Chester

’s judicial façade was breaking down in public. The Radcliffe commission, and Radcliffe in particular, served as a useful scapegoat not only for the British, but also for the Pakistani and Indian governments. British leaders originally hoped to shift the blame for problems with partition to the nationalist leaders, 15 but even after it became clear that the line was largely

in Borders and conflict in South Asia
Sagarika Dutt

created was simply that the Muslim majority states, mainly in the north-west and Bengal, would go to Pakistan and the rest of the subcontinent to India, although the princely states (under the semi-autonomous rule of princes) were given the right to remain independent if they so desired. However, this meant that borders had to be drawn, a task performed by the Radcliffe Commission. In the event, partition caused much human suffering as a result of the tensions and hostilities which had flared up between the Hindus and the Muslims due to the communal politics of the

in India in a globalized world