I am a General who has been defeated by his own soldiers.” Mahatma Gandhi

1940 to 1947 - was the formative period in my life as well the most significant time in Indian history when the British rulers decided to quit India and transfers power into Indian hands. They also accepted the division of India as agreed to by the Muslim League, which claimed to represent most Muslims of the country and the Indian National Congress, which undoubtedly represented a vast majority of the Indian people. During all these years, I was a student involved in the freedom movement. In 1944, however, I started having a vintage view of the emerging independence movement – simultaneously watching the partition tragedy which affected me personally as a Punjabi Hindu living in Lahore. I was forced to quit my home and job – and had to migrate to India to start a new life. In Lahore , I had joined a daily Hindi newspaper about three years before independence, as an Assistant Editor in-charge of the night shift while during the day I went to the Punjab University for my Masters’ Programme in Political Science. Less than two years after partition, I became part of the newly formed East Punjab Government in Shimla. I was, therefore, witness and privy to most political developments before and immediately after independence. In dividing India, into Pakistan and India as two separate countries, the principal player was a man called Mohammed Ali Jinnah – who told the Indian National Congress leaders, Mahatma Gandhi and others on the one side and the British rulers on the other –give me Pakistan or face a Civil War and to make his threat work he enacted a preview of the civil war in the shape of a carnage in Calcutta where several thousand people lost their lives in one day.

Mahatma Gandhi was unequivocally against the partition of India but was willing to be flexible enough to yield to Jinnah to keep India as one country – he agreed to accept Jinnah as the first Prime Minister of India if he gave up his insistence on dividing India on religious basis.

On the issue of formation of Pakistan, Gandhi was clear, “Pakistan over my dead body”.

Although the British Government led by the Labour Party had decided to leave India peacefully, deciding factor was not change of heart or mind, but the compulsion that they could no longer hold India either by force or by intrigue. They did try to know how much more force was needed to hold on to India. In reply, the then Viceroy Lord Wavell who was a brilliant retired General wrote back in a top secret letter to his government that he will need at least five more British Divisions – about two hundred thousand additional soldiers- to preserve law and order in India . This has been revealed in the confidential papers recently declassified by the British Government. The new Labour Prime Minister Atlee was not willing to take any risk – he had made promises in the general elections to the British people that he will demobilise the Army and bring the boys home. It would have been a disaster if he had to mobilise additional two hundred thousand soldiers for overseas assignments.

However, the veteran British General favoured the creation of an independent Pakistan State, as it would be in the larger British strategic interests. He expressed this opinion to British Government and suggested that Pakistan as envisaged by Mohammed Ali Jinnah minus East Punjab, West Bengal and Assam will be adequate for British interests and more acceptable to the Indian leadership. He also suggested March, l948 as the date of leaving India by the British forces.

The British did not trust the Indian National Congress leaders who had been rebels all through their careers while the Muslim League led by a feudal oligarchy favoured the British continuation. They were convinced that an independent sovereign Pakistan would be more pliable against the monolithic and large India. The Viceroy, therefore, supported the creation of Pakistan.

My intention here is to honestly tell how India won its independence as everything happened before my eyes as a young newsmanin the mid-forties

To recall history, the British entered India as petty traders as early as l600 getting some trading concessions from the Mughal King Shah Jehan. The Dutch, the Portuguese and the French came more or less at the same time. After the death of Shah Jehan, the Mughal Empire in India started showing signs of disintegration. As the imperial power in Delhi weakened, local Maharajas, Nawabs and other chieftains started fighting among themselves. The British who had started their business as a small trading company named East India Company found an opportunity to play politics along with the trading in India. They had a highly trained British force with the most modern arms. They instigated local chieftains against each other in return for favours in the form of territory, money or more concessions and consolidated their position. Over the years, they became so strong that they managed to defeat the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal in the battle of Plassey in l757 by intrigue and fraud. Having taken over the fertile Indo- Gangetic plains, they forced the Mughal Emperor to grant them the viceroyalty of the area too - making them immensely powerful.

In l803, they decisively defeated the Marathas, who were a major power in the country at that time threatening the Mughal Emperor in Delhi. Now, the whole of India was open to their penetration. Only the Sikh Empire in the north was a stumbling block. The death of the wise Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh shattered the Sikh empire and the intrigues among the Sikh generals that followed humbled them in two wars– placing the whole country at the mercy of the British East India Company.

Exhausted by wars, the British East India Company needed money and they sold the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the Dogra General Dhyan Singh for a paltry sum of 7.5 million rupees.By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the tiny British East India Company had been transformed into a mighty empire – they had already thrown their rival European powers - the French, the Dutch and the Portuguese out of India. Over 500 local rulers and chieftains had no option but to accept the British suzerainty in return for promise to let them rule their kingdoms. But, promises were only on paper. The East India Company continued to be on an expansionist spree. Irked by their behaviour, some of the disgruntled Indian princes along with several battalions of the Sepoys of the British Army on the British payroll revolted against the East India Company under the leadership of the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zaffar in l857. The British called it the Sepoy Mutiny while the Indian historians have described it as the First War of Indian Independence. The British were fortunate. Not all the Indian Princes joined in the mutiny – in fact, some of them actively supported them especially the Sikhs in the north. The poor old Mughal Emperor known more for his Urdu poetry than power and whose realm did not extend beyond the four walls of Delhi, was captured. The mutiny was mercilessly quelled and most of the captured rebels hanged- the sons of the Mughal King were also publicly hanged in Delhi. The lonely Mughal King was taken to Mandley in Burma where he died in exile adding some more poems to his rich collection.

Distressed by the mutiny in India, which could have liquidated the British Empire and which resulted in a heavy toll of British life, the Government in London decided to take over the governance of India directly under the Crown . The East India Company was wound up and the Indian administration brought under the control of a Governor General or Viceroy appointed by Queen Victoria – the then Queen of England. She was declared the Empress of India. From now on, all major political decisions on India were taken in London by the Secretary of State for India with the approval of the British Cabinet.

The Queen Victoria assured the Indian rulers that their territories would be respected in future. In return, they were expected to behave and remain faithful and loyal to the Crown. In order to keep them under check, the Viceroy appointed a British Resident in every Indian State to keep the British Government informed about what was happening within those states . The ruler was advised, warned or made to abdicate in cases of gross misdeeds or mal-administration. Living in total luxury with little checks, most of the Indian rulers degenerated into play boys and the British let them indulge so long as they did not join the nationalist forces which were raising their heads in the British India. There are hilarious stories of the Maharajas and Nawabs having scores of wives and concubines, booking all the hotel rooms during their travels to Europe.

From failure of Indian Mutiny, till the First World War in 1914, it was a period of consolidation of the British Raj in India. During the Muslim rule or the rule of the Indian princes, the people suffered arbitrary and whimsical administrators where the law of the powerful prevailed. The new administration under the British introduced uniform laws in the land and applied them fairly– giving a feeling of security to their subjects. They introduced major reforms. They formulated new educational policy and enforced English as the official language of the Government for use in courts and communications with government.. As a result , Indians got a common language to communicate with each other. The advent of printing technology and newspapers helped create national awakening and fellow feelings. A modern judicial system was launched with uniform legal and penal codes. Another major development was introduction of an All India Civil Service (Indian Civil Service – ICS) – which came to be known as the steel-frame of the British power .. Railways soon connected the whole country - removing distances and encouraging trade, business and travel. Post and Telegraph offices made their presence felt in both urban and rural areas. Telephones that followed did the same – even more effectively.. Common currency and Customs Services brought a sense of unity among the people of India. After the Muslim and Sikh rule in Punjab where the law generally favoured the rich, the Sikh peasantry was so happy with the British Sahibs that they described the British as ‘Topiwale Sikhs ‘ which implied good people.

The post World War I years were the period of mass awakening . With the spread of education, newspapers and radio, Indians understood the value of freedom and democracy and started demanding their rights. But, the British bureaucrats here had no intention of giving the same freedoms to their subjects - which they enjoyed in their home country.

The Indians were told during the War that 1 that the Germans were aggressors and they had designs over India and fight against Germany was fight for Indian freedom. After the War, the Indian intelligentsia expected some form of Home Rule to be offered. But, the British officialdom was not ready – in fact, they became more rigid. However, the liberal traditions of the British democracy influenced selected British intellectuals working in India to make a small beginnings. One of these gentlemen was Mr. A. Hume who established a forum to discuss reform issues in l885 and called it the Indian National Congress. He was its first President. Before setting it up, Mr. Hume had a nod from the then British Governor General Lord Curzon to start it .

Over the next few decades, the Indian National Congress grew from strength to strength – initially passing harmless resolutions demanding sops and minor reforms. The Congress at that time attracted brilliant Indian lawyers and professionals- however they confined their activities to armchair politics. But, their activities gradually created political awareness and a demand for home rule. Mohammed Ali Jinnah who later became the architect of Pakistan was one of those legal minds who at that time was one of the top Congress leaders and the greatest votary of Hindu Muslim unity. Gopal Krishan Gokhle – one of the tallest Congress leader described him as the best ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity. In those years, Jinnah opposed reservation of Muslims in services, legislatures as well as in the local bodies. In the Congress session of 1910 at Allahabad , he introduced a resolution, condemning “ provision of reserving separate seats for Muslims especially in its application to Municipalities , District Boards and other local bodies .'' He was of the opinion that that “it will sow the seeds of division between Hindus and Muslims to keep them politically apart.”'

But the British were playing their own games – they introduced reservations in every sphere of government – national as well as State dividing the people . Jinnah was an ambitious political stratagist who wanted to indulge in the luxury of Indian politics only as a dominant player – not as second to anyone .But , he found it difficult to dominate when Mahatma Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress in the twenties and transformed it into a mass movement for freedom - initially demanding Dominion status or Home Rule for Indians and later total freedom.. Jinnah- an aristocrat was not used to the politics of agitation, which involved arrests and jails. He saw no scope to rise in the Indian National Congress and decided to move back to London to practice law at the Privy Council where he was practising earlier after his Bar- at- Law. He had plenty of clients among the Indian feudal aristocracy who had their cases before the Privy Council, which was the highest judicial body- Court of Appeal- within the British Empire.

In the coming years, Mahatma Gandhi led several movements of civil disobedience and non-co-operation against the British Government to persuade them to leave India peacefully. He himself abjured violence – and expected his people not to fight the government by violent means. Instead, he asked them to court arrests, go to jails, not to pay taxes, leave government jobs, manufacture salt on the beaches without paying taxes, not to buy British-made cloth and the burn old imported clothes. He urged them to wear only the hand-made Indian cloth – preferably Khadi spun on the spinning wheel and woven by human hands. To set an example, Mahatma Gandhi religiously found time daily to work on his spinning wheel. The flag which Indian National Congress used during the freedom struggle was the same flag which India uses today excepting that the Ashoka Chakra has now replaced the Spinning Wheel of Gandhi in the centre of the flag. Wearing Khadi became the most popular thing for the young and old Indians and their Khadi costumes and the white cap, which came to be known as Gandhi cap, could immediately identify Congress workers. At one time, Mahatma Gandhi asked students and teachers to leave government schools. And, many of them followed his orders. Millions of men and women of India courted arrests all over India and the jails had no space to keep the new inmates. It appeared that the British might be forced to quit.

However, when the movement was at its peak, Mahatma Gandhi decided to suspend it after a few stray incidents of violence - to start again when people promised to remain non-violent. This gave the administration a breathing space to prepare for the next round. People resented the decision but Mahatma Gandhi was fighting a just war where he did not want to use any foul means.

But, the unexpected return of Mohammed Ali Jinnah to India in l935- gave the British reason to delay freedom. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had changed colours. He was no longer a votary of Hindu Muslim unity – now, he called for a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. He announced that Hindus and Muslims could not remain together – and insisted that the British should not leave India without dividing the sub-continent. He took his own time, in clarifying his concept of what was meant by a new homeland. It was spelled out only in l940 in a resolution passed by the Muslim League in their Lahore session.

“The ideology of Muslim League is based on fundamental principle that Muslims of India are an independent nationality and any attempt to merge their national and political identity and unity will not only be resisted, but, in my opinion, will be futile for anyone to attempt it………. We are determined to set up an independent Muslim State in the subcontinent." He said .

The Lahore resolution, was moved by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, the Chief Minister of Punjab, who demanded the territory including NWFP, Baluchistan, and Sind, whole of Punjab, Bengal and Assam with a corridor linking the two wings of the new state through the Indian Territory. The l940 resolution did not call it Pakistan – the name was given later.

To expound further Jinnah declared, “We can settle the political problem in ten minutes. Gandhi should say that I agree there should be Pakistan. I agree that one fourth of India composed of Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Bengal and Assam with their present boundaries, constitute the Pakistan State.”

The resolution also opened the way for dividing the provinces of Punjab, Bengal and Assam on the basis of majority population of the two communities.

The wily Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan – soon changed his tune to float the idea of an independent Punjab with all the five rivers – without disturbing its existing boundaries. No one trusted him and the idea died a natural death. The same happened when H.S. Suhrawardy, the man who presided over the Bengal Government during Calcutta massacres, floated the idea of an independent Bengal, which was also turned down because of lack of trust in Suhrawardy.

A story is told about why Jinnah returned to India from London where he had a roaring practice. Someone conveyed to him that Jawahar Lal Nehru had claimed that Jinnah was finished. This alleged remark by Nehru angered Jinnah to an extent that he decided to wind up his practice and return to Mumbai to ‘teach Nehru a lesson'.

Jinnah never claimed to be a religious Muslim as he enjoyed his Scotch in the evening with fellow Muslims and other friends and made no secret of that. On the other hand, Jinnah acquired the British tastes of eating pork sausages etc . He was a very well-dressed man wearing clothes stitched by the best tailors of England. Jinnah was very friendly to Parsee families - specially Sir Dinshaw Petit – one of his friends. At the age of forty, Jinnah fell in love with his 18-year old pretty daughter Ruttie who was described as 'warm, friendly, gregarious and fiercely independent' and married her against the wishes of her parents. They did not remain together for long – though they were not legally divorced. Rutti died at the age of 29 only in a Paris hospital. Jinnah's biographers have claimed that the only time Jinnah cried was when Rutti's body was lowered in the grave. Ruttie left a daughter behind – Dina - who moved to London with her father when he decided to set up his practice in England . But the young Dina could not cope with her father and married another Parsee against the wishes of her father. The family still lives in India.

In his memoirs, Justice M.C. Chagla, a retired Chief Justice of Bombay High Court has related an interesting story of Jinnah ordering sausages and eggs for breakfast where Justice Chagla had joined him. While he was eating his food an old Muslim with a small boy came to him. As Jinnah motioned to him to sit – the child extended his hand to pick up the pork sausage from the plate and eat it. Justice Chagla did not stop the child from eating pork fearing that if it was found out that Jinnah ate pork, he would have lost his elections to the Central Legislature from where he was contesting on a reserved Muslim seat.

Pakistan or Civil War became Jinnah’s constant refrain and a war cry.

As the World War II started in l939, the new Viceroy Lord Wavell announced India’s participation in the War without consulting Indian leadership, which hurt the sentiments of the Indian people. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru were opposed to the Fascist regimes of Germany and Italy and wanted to support the British Government in its war efforts – provided they agreed to free India after the successful completion of the War. The British Government did not want to make any commitment. Muslim League leadership was only interested in opposing the Indian National Congress and had no hesitation in supporting the British in return for favours.

As the War turned bad for the British- the Japanese forces knocking at India's doors in Burma – and the rebel Indian patriot Subhash Chander Bose leading the Indian National Army with Japanese support and occupying Imphal, the capital of the state of Manipur in Assam, the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was forced to announce in the British Parliament on March 11, 1942, ” The crisis in the affairs of India arising out of Japanese advances has made Britain wish to roll out all the forces of Indian life to guard their land from menace of the invader.” And, as a sop he announced sending out Sir Stafford Cripps, the then Lord Privy Seal with some proposals to meet the Indian leaders. The proposals were rejected by both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim league..

The Congress leadership was still deliberating on the issue of cooperation with the British to meet the challenge of the Japanese. One view among the Congressmen was to serve notice on the British to quit India. Mahatma Gandhi supported this view and was willing to launch a non-violent movement to achieve this objective. Apprehending trouble from the Indian National Congress, the Viceroy Lord Wavell put the entire Congress leadership in various jails in the country. Mahatma Gandhi and his frail, ailing wife, Kasturba and his sick Secretary and friend Mahadev Desai were detained in Sir Agha Khan Palace at Pune which was converted into a jail. Both Mahadev Desai and Kasturba Gandhi died in the jail one after the other. Mahadev Desai left this world only a week after his arrival in the jail. The country was shocked and agitated. The Quit India Movement, which started under its own momentum with top leadership in the jails, was at its height in every village and town. A million Indians courted arrests and there seemed to be no end to it. Since all Congress leaders were in the jail, there were stray incidents of sabotage and violence in the country much to the anguish of Mahatma Gandhi.It continued unabated till Viceroy Wavell called it a day and released the entire Congress leadership one morning in 1944.

The War, too, was taking a favourable turn for the British against the Germans and Italians in Europe and Japanese in South East Asia. In late 1944, it was clear that the War may end in favour of the Americans and the British – the atom bomb attack on two cities of Japan - Hiroshima and Nagasaki - broke the back of the Japanese. The Japanese emperor tamely surrendered to the Americans in Tokyo.

Weakened by a long and costly war and having exhausted all resources, Britain realised that they could not keep India in bondage! Even the arch conservative Winston Churchill who had earlier declared that he will be the last Prime Minister of Great Britain to liquidate the British Empire was forced to send reconciliatory signals to come to an amicable settlement before Germany surrendered on May 1945. War had lasted half a decade. No longer able to hold its vast empire – it opted to drop its ‘Jewel in the crown.' The British people back home were looking for a change in rulers of the country. The General Elections of 1945 brought that change – the Labour Party led by Clement Atlee replaced the Conservative Party Government headed by Winston Churchill.

Atlee was a man in a hurry to get rid of Indian empire.– it was becoming difficult to manage India. There was a naval revolt on in Mumbai docks, which shook the British Government. The trial of three Indian National Army Officers – a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh in the Red Fort of Delhi enabled Indian National Congress to create an environment where the British found themselves in the dock. They could no longer trust their Indian Armed Forces – the only choice was to hand over power. Nehru donned his lawyer's clothes to represent the cause of Indian National Army officers in the Red Fort. It helped India unite.

The British Government started doing its home work to relinquish India peacefully . In the beginning of 1946, Atlee despatched a 11-member Parliamentary delegation consisting seven members from the Labour Party, three Conservatives, one Liberal and one woman member to India to have a feel about the existing ground realities. They travelled from extreme north to the south India talking and meeting the people. One of the Liberal members Sorenson stayed with Nehru in Anand Bhavan, Allahabad. Presumably, this was arranged by Nehru's friend, Krishna Menon. Nehru was able to brief him about the Indian situation ..

Irrespective of party affiliation, the British Parliamentary delegation reached the unanimous conclusion that India was seething with discontent. Immediately on arrival, they met the Prime Minister, Clement Atlee and told him “India must have its independence - and now.” All member agreed that Jawaharlal Nehru was the man with whom the British could do business.

The Prime Minister was already aware of the Indian anger as he had visited India earlier as part of the the Simon Commission. He had faced the wrath of the Indian people who shouted 'Simon, Go back' in every town and village they visited and had also seen how the Indian Satyagrahis faced the police 'lathis' and bullets fearlessly under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

But , the British had to find ways and means to quit India without hurting themselves. They had to devise a policy how and to whom the power should be transferred. Indian National Congress – which represented the mainstream politics of India was the obvious choice. But, there was the Muslim League – which claimed to represent the majority of the Muslims. And lately the Muslim League had come out with a strong demand to divide India on the basis of religion – Muslim majority areas constituting a new nation which was willing to remain a dominion within the British Commonwealth. They called it Pakistan .The Hindus majority areas becoming another nation – retaining the name India. There was yet another party in the subcontinent - over 575 Princes of India – Nawabs and Maharajas – who were autonomous within their own realms – with the British Government having sovereignty over them. The sovereignty was called Paramountcy. Some of the Indian States ruled by Princes were bigger than European countries including U.K. e.g. Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad. What should be their future? This had to be determined. To decide the course of action, Prime Minister Atlee dispatched in the spring of 1946, a three-member Cabinet Mission consisting of Lord Pethic Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr A.V. Alexander.

Before the Cabinet Mission arrived, the British Government ordered General Election in India in the winter of 1945-46. The elections were long due not only for Central Legislature but also for provincial legislative bodies. This, they believed, would determine the strength of the respective political parties.

The Indian National Congress put its heart and soul in the elections – so did Muslim League. But , Muslim League had an advantage – they were fighting only on the seats reserved for Muslims and to be voted by the Muslims and a majority of Muslims had already been sold to the idea of a separate country.

The result was on the expected lines – Congress getting a thumping majority in the Central Legislature and most provincial legislative assembles and forming Governments in 8 out of 11 existing Provinces. Congress also succeeded in forming its government in one Muslim majority state – North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) where Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, a Gandhian nationalist leader was the undisputed leader. Muslim League had its Government only in Bengal and a mixed set-up in Sind and Punjab.

For Central legislature, Muslim League had bagged most Muslim seats. The verdict was clear. Most Muslims were in favour of Pakistan while the rest of India favoured united India.

Meantime, Prime Minister Clement Atlee had taken another pragmatic decision – appointing a new and energetic Viceroy in India - replacing Lord Wavell with Lord Louis Mountbatten - who already knew Jawaharlal Nehru.

Mountbatten had seen the popularity of Jawaharlal Nehru with the Indian residents as he had travelled in an open car with Nehru to the venue where Indians were going to receive Nehru. Mountbatten and his family hosted a dinner in honour for Nehru. While Nehru was still in Malaya, the 3-member Cabinet Mission arrived in India for a long and arduous efforts to find a solution to transfer of power to Indians. With utmost patience on their side and great striving on the part of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, who was the then President of the Indian National Congress, a Plan of a federated India was evolved which Mahatma Gandhi persuaded Congress Working Committee to accept. It provided only a thin unity between the Hindu majority and Muslim majority regions to keep them united. The Cabinet Mission discussed the Indian situation with as many as 500 political leaders – but ultimately the proposals were turned down because of opposition of Jinnah .

August 12,1946. Lord Wavell invited Nehru to form a shadow government. On Wavell's request, Nehru appealed to Jinnah to form a coalition with him. Mr. Jinnah coldly issued his proverbial negative reply. On September 2, Jawaharlal Nehru formally took charge as Prime Minister of India – when Jinnah declared it a 'Day of Mourning' to register Muslim League’s protest. He asked Muslim Leaguers to display black flags on top of their homes. To follows it up. Jinnah declared August 16 as Direct Action Day to achieve Pakistan. Direct action against whom? I wondered. Perhaps against the majority in the country. Immediate result of this direct action was – “bloody shambles” in Calcutta killing thousands of people in one day. It was virtually stage-managed by Muslim League Government in Bengal headed by H.S. Suhrawardy.

Despite this, the Muslim League later agreed to join the shadow government in the Centre headed by Nehru for the avowed aim of ‘wrecking the central government from within’.

Distressed by the turn of events, Prime Minister Atlee announced on February 26, 1947, that Britain will certainly quit India by June 1948 – warning the Congress and Muslim League to sort out their differences before that date. A little later, it was announced that Admiral Louis Mountbatten will be the twentieth and the last Viceroy of India. He believed that Lord Mountbatten with his vast experience of South East Asia and India may be able to accomplish the job of transfer of power better – by June 1948- the target date set by him.

On March 22, 1947, the handsome and suave Viceroy - a cousin of the British King George V along with his Vicerine Edwina arrived in Delhi and set to work. Lord Mountbatten was no stranger to India – nor his wife Edwina. In 1931, Lord Mountbatten accompanied Prince of Wales; his cousin as his ADC to tour India. Edwina Ashley, who became his wife later, had followed Lord Mountbatten to India and it was in Delhi that ‘Dicky’- Lord Mountbatten proposed to Edwina to be his wife. They were witness to the massive demonstrations against Prince of Wales Indian visit by the Indian people.

From the day one, the new Viceroy remained busy – visiting Provinces, meeting leaders of all shades of opinion. Within four days of his arrival, he had met both Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru.

Between March 31 and April 12, 1947, Mountbatten conferred with Mahatma Gandhi six times, Jinnah had equal number of meetings with the indefatigable Viceroy. Jinnah stubbornly clung to his two nation theory. No amount of logic would convince him. At one stage, he told his advisers that Jinnah was a psychopath. As his thoughts crystallised, he saw no option but to partition India.

Mahatma Gandhi was against the partition of India – he firmly said – vivisection over my dead body.

Arguing his case with Louis Fischer, an American writer, Gandhi said. “No Pakistan was possible unless the British created it. The British would not create Pakistan unless Congress accepted it. The British could not create Pakistan against the wishes of majority – to placate Muslim League. Congress, therefore, should not accept it.”

But, Congress leadership, it seemed, wanted to avoid the civil war, which was already on in the villages, towns and cities of India. Civil War could not be fought non-violently – many Congress leaders felt.

How did Lord Mountbatten arrive at the decision to partition India? I will leave it to Lord Mountbatten to say in his own words. On completion of his work in India, Lord Mountbatten addressed the Royal Council of Empire Society of London on October 6, 1948.

“The problem”, he said, “was the fate of 400,000,000 people, the fate of India, perhaps the fate of Asia. My assignment was to take Britain out of India by June 1948. The schedule required me to produce a solution by the end of 1947 in undivided India.”

Mountbatten added “The Congress leaders agreed that “they would accept partition to avoid civil war.”

“I was convinced Muslim League would have fought”.

This was the background under which Lord Mountbatten was working.

But how was India to be divided? Congress refused to allow large non-Muslim areas to go to Pakistan. That in effect meant that two major provinces of Punjab and Bengal, too, will have to be partitioned.

“When I told Jinnah that I had the provisional agreement of the Congress leaders to partition, he was overjoyed and when I added that it will logically involve the partition of Punjab and Bengal, he was horrified.”

“Jinnah did not like that and started beating about the bush.”

“I told him that he could have a united India with unpartitioned Punjab and Bengal or a divided India with partitioned Punjab and Bengal.”

“And he finally accepted the latter solution.”

“This would allow the British Parliament enough time to pass necessary legislation for the freedom of India by June 1948.”

“But on the spot”, he added, “ he and his advisers agreed that it would be too slow.”

“Trouble had already started on August 16, 1946 on Jinnah's Direct Action Day in Calcutta, followed by Noakhali in Bengal and the Hindu reprisals in Bihar. Then the Muslims massacred the Sikhs in Rawalpindi in Punjab, a rising took place in North-West Frontier Province.”

“I arrived out there,” Mountbatten continued, “to find a terrible pendulum of massacres swinging wider and wider, if not stopped, there was no telling where India might end.”

“Personally,” Mountbatten said, “I was convinced the right solution for them would have been to keep a united India under the May 16, 1946 Plan of the British Cabinet Mission. But the Plan pre-supposed the co-operation and good-will of all the parties.”

“Mr Jinnah,” he added, “made it abundantly clear from the first moment that as long as he lived he would never accept a united India, He demanded partition, he wanted his Pakistan.”

“Congress on the other hand, favoured an undivided India.”

Why did Congress agree to the partition of India despite Gandhi's strong resistance?

Nehru had agreed, “They can have Pakistan provided they do not take with them the areas which do not wish to join them. Mountbatten agreed to divide Punjab and Bengal”.

Patel warned, he would have put Jinnah's threat to test of force. But, in the end, he too acquiesced.

“I agreed to partition as a last resort when we reached a stage when we would have lost all”. Mountbatten told his audience.

Nehru, Patel and the Working Committee approved the partition Plan. Their approval became official when All India Congress Committee in New Delhi sealed it on June 15 – voting 153 for and only 29 against.

At last, the Indian National Congress was reconciled to Pakistan.

But, Gandhi did not change and made no secret of his chagrin. “The Congress,” he told a prayer meeting I attended in Delhi on May 7, 1947, “has accepted Pakistan and demanded the division of Punjab and Bengal. I am opposed to any division of India now as I always have been in the past. But what can I do? The only thing I can do is to disassociate myself from such a scheme. Nobody can force me to accept it except God.”

Gandhi went to see Mountbatten. His advice to the British was to leave with their troops and 'take the risk of leaving India to chaos or anarchy.' If the British left India, Gandhi explained, there might be a chaos for a while. “We will still go through the fire no doubt but that fire will purify us” - he explained.

But Mountbatten was not a General who left things to a chance – he chose a precise approach – the partition.


At that time, President of the Indian National Congress was Acharya J.B. Kriplani, a Congress leader who belonged to Sind – now in Pakistan. Defending the decision of the Congress Working Committee on acceptance of the Pakistan Plan, he said, “The Hindus and Muslim communities vied with each other in the worst of orgies of violence... I have seen a well where women with their children, 107 in all, threw themselves to save their honour. In another place, a place of worship, 50 young women were killed by their menfolk for the same reason...these ghastly experiences have affected my approach to the question. Some members have accused us that we have taken the decision out of fear. I must admit the truth of this charge, but not in the sense it is made. The fear is not for the lives lost or the widows' wail or the orphans' cry or many houses burnt. The fear is that if we go on like this, retaliation and heaping indignities on each other, we shall progressively reduce ourselves to a state of cannibalism and worse. In every fresh communal outburst, the most brutal and degraded acts of previous fight become the norm. This is the cruel truth”, he added.

Kriplani said, “I have been with Gandhi for 30 years – never wavering in loyalty.” Why then I am not with him now? He asked himself. 'It is because he has not yet found a way of tackling the problem on mass basis.'

Congress leadership was afraid that Gandhi may stall the partition plan by going on a fast unto death. But, Gandhi never wanted to impose his will on others. He continued his peace mission.

Ninety five percent of Gandhi's mail was abusive and hateful.

Hindus wanted to know why he was partial to Muslims – some even called him Mohammad Gandhi. Some Hindus described him as fifth columnist against Hinduism. Muslims asked him to stop creating obstacles in the way of Pakistan.

Gandhi did what he was best at – going to Calcutta, Bihar and wherever riots broke out – to establish peace... to quell the riots – and bring piece back and in the process exposing himself to the wrath of his dissenters.

But, fire had gone out of Gandhi – he was not the same man. He described partition – a spiritual tragedy. “In India, that is shaping out today there is no place for me. I have given up the hope of living for 125 years. I may last a year or two. I have no wish to live if India is to submerge in the deluge of violence as it is threatening to do.”

On June 3, 1947, Prime Minister Atlee announced the partition plan in the British Parliament as proposed by Lord Mountbatten. Viceroy too announced it on All India Radio. He said frankly, “I am of course, just as much opposed to partition of provinces as to the partition of India herself.”

It did show utter helplessness on the part of all in the face of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's threat. He was a merciless, cold man .

India and Pakistan became two nations – Pakistan was born first on August 14, 1947 and India a day later. India requested Lord Mountbatten to continue as the Governor General but in Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah decided to keep the crown on his head.

As Pakistan came into existence on August 14, Quaid-e-Aazan (the Great leader) Jinnah spoke to the nation – asking all Pakistanis – Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians to live like brothers and sisters. In the new country, there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion – and all citizens will have the same rights. He had no intention to introduce rigid Islamic laws.

When I listened to Jinnah's broadcast on All India Radio, I wondered, whether it was Jinnah or Nehru speaking. It was the same Jinnah who a few days ago used to say Hindus and Muslims could not co-exist. And, now he was pleading with his new countrymen to live in harmony with Hindus and Sikhs. Te two nation theory vanished as Jinnah was crowned.

A few days later, when the All India Muslim League members from India, some 300 of them - more than those who were on the Pakistan side, met their Quaid-e-Aazam in Karachi, he made it abundantly clear to them, “I am no longer your President, go back home. I have no advice for you.” They were dejected and retorted that they supported the idea of Pakistan. His reply, “I created Pakistan. It was my and my fight alone.”

On August 15, 1947, India's independence Day, Mahatma Gandhi was in Calcutta trying to quell the riots and establish peace. Gandhi travelled in an open vehicle arm-in-arm with the former Muslim League Chief Minister, who had a change of heart and was promoting communal harmony. The international Press paid tributes to the magic of the man in the loin-cloth.

Mahatma Gandhi was invited to the inauguration of the Independence Day festivities – he replied, “Thirty-two years of work, has come to “an inglorious end.”

“On August 15, 1947, India would become independent. But the victory was cold, political arrangement. Indians would sit where Englishmen had sat; a tricolour would flutter in place of the Union Jack. That was the hollow husk of freedom. It was victory with tragedy, and the victory that found the Army defeating its own general.”

On August 15, in Muslim Pakistan there were several million Hindus and Sikhs – most of them were forced to leave despite Jinnah's call for equal treatment of all Pakistanis. Of the 330 million residents of the Indian Union, 42 million at the time of Partition were Muslims. The fighting broke out in the two Dominions between the ruling majority and the scared minorities. No one was safe!

The Army was divided. The treasury was divided, bureaucrats were divided. Families were divided. Everything was divided. Vivisection sundered vital arteries. Out of the mayhem flowed the human blood. River waters carried dead bodies and their colour too turned red. I have seen the river Ravi turning red with my own eyes.

This is how we won our freedom- over a million people perished in the partition riots- more than those who died in World War 11.

l50 million people trekked their way hundreds of kilometres either to India from Pakistan or to Pakistan from India not to their new homes or new opportunities but to unknown homelessness, death or disease.


A few days after partition, the Muslims of Delhi approached Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, who was the President of Indian National Congress during the critical years of negotiations between the Indian National Congress and the Viceroy of India for advice and guidance.

Addressing a Friday congregation at Jama Masjid, Delhi, he said :

“Do you remember I hailed you, you cut off my tongue. I picked up my pen, you severed my hand. I wanted to move forward, you cut off my legs. I tried to turn over, and you injured my back... I called upon you to wake you up at every danger signal. You did not heed my call... I warned you that the ‘Two-Nation’ theory was death-knell to a meaningful, dignified life; forsake it. I told you that the pillars upon which you were leaning would inevitably crumble. To all this you turned a deaf ear... Time sped along. And now you have discovered that the so-called anchors of your faith have set you adrift, to be kicked around by fate...”


Though Jinnah was first upset at getting what he termed as “ moth-eaten “ Pakistan , he was later overjoyed at being the founder of a new sovereign state. He decided not to waste a day of his crowning glory . Margaret Burke-white , photographer of TIME and LIFE Magazine found Jinnah gripped with a ' fever of ecstacy ' in Karachi and as she congratulated him on creating the world's largest Muslim nation. Jinnah corrected her ,” Oh , it is not just the largest Islamic nation, Pakistan is also the fifth largest nation in the world. “ he replied raising his head further.

A note of personal triumph was unmistakable on his face. His ego was limitless

But time was not on the side of Jinnah . He was already sick – he was a skeleton by now. He was dying of consumption and cancer. And had very little time to live and this secret was known only to a man called Dr. Patel – a Hindu- who was his personal physician and he kept it a secret. That is why perhaps Jinnah was a man in hurry to get Pakistan. He was sorely disappointed with the new leaders of Pakistan – including his Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. He lamented to M.A. Khare, Chief Minister of Sindh that he was disappointed with his Prime Minister. He had also started suspecting his Prime Minister Liaqat's honesty.

He trusted no one. Jinnah had appointed Liaqat Ali Khan as his trustee. but he never took him in confidence. Liaqat Ali Khan came to know of it only after Jinnah’s death.

Liaqat Ali Khan was later assassinated by some unknown Pakistanis. No clue till today who killed him.

He found the Nawab of Mamdot, the Chief Minister of Punjab as totally untrustworthy. He called the English Governor of Punjab and asked him to sack him and appoint another leader Mumtaz Daultana as Chief Minister of Punjab. Daultana refused to take the job, telling the Governor, Mamdot, “I would just have my throat cut.”

Jinnah was shocked – at the prospect of his 'Pakistan' in the hands of mafia.

There was no end to Jinnah's helplessness.

His problems turned into crisis with a new upheaval in Bengal over the language issue. Bengalis in the East rose en-masse against the Central Government's decision to make Urdu the only official language of the Dominion. They demanded that as they constituted more than half the population of Pakistan. Bengali should be declared as the only official language of the country.

The situation was so explosive that sick Jinnah had to rush to Dacca to pacify the population. He had confidence in his own leadership. He thought they would listen to him and abide by his rules.

But, alas, the fervour of Islam worked no more. For Bengalis, language came first.

He arrived in Dacca on March 21, 1948 to a cold reception - with no slogans of Qaid-e-Azam Zindabad.

As was his habit, he was not willing to listen to any dissent and declared in an aggressive speech that the official language of Pakistan will be Urdu and no other.

The public reacted angrily – shouted back. They were not prepared to listen – not even to their Qaid-e-Azam.

He then warned them about the 'fifth column' which was out to destroy Pakistan. “I am sorry to say that they are Muslims who are financed by outsiders.”

Disappointed, Jinnah returned to Karachi next day from Dacca after his first and last visit to East Bengal capital. He confided to his sister, Fatima.

“I am sorry the game is lost. I am backing the wrong horse.”

Jinnah struggled with death in Quetta. The doctor felt that the end was not far and advised him to go to Karachi for better treatment. Jinnah was in great agony and pain but he never wanted to show it. No one was allowed to enter his room unless he called. Doctors too had to seek permission to go there. The ailing Jinnah would immediately adjust clothes and tried to show that he was alert.

For the plane journey to Karachi on August 13, 1948, his sister advised him to wear the usual Kurta Pyjama to be comfortable in travel.

But, the 'English man' in Jinnah insisted on wearing a brand new suit with a tie to match and handkerchief in his vanity pocket.

Fatima helped him to put on his pump shoes and favourite hat.

He could not think of dressing himself in any other way!

He died on September 28, 1948 – one year after the establishment of Pakistan. He was 72 when he died.

His mausoleum in Karachi is a place of pilgrimage for the Muslims of Pakistan.

Did he ever regret his decision to divide India? Did he regret that a million people perished in the partition riots? No one could answer as Jinnah had no friends nor confidants – only the hangers on to toe his line. He was a loner. His own wife died young because of a indifferent husband and his daughter deserted him to marry a Parsee.

In the meetings of the top leaders of Muslim League, Jinnah’s views were final. Anyone, who dared to dissent, was out!

If he had lived longer, perhaps he could have changed the direction of Pakistan to a more modern and moderate state. One can only wonder.

Hate never takes you anywhere.