Unlike Gandhi, Nehru spent seven years in England and learnt the British charms and culture perfectly. He returned to his hometown Prayag (then called Allahabad) and enrolled as a member at the British club. He was rudely denied membership to an all exclusive white body; he was dismissed as a bloody, black Indian. Nehru carried the pain and hurt for years and soon after this incident, he plunged into the freedom movement.
And another key player, Louis Mountbatten, the governor general, had his own whims. While addressing the media on the decision of partition, he was asked if the date for transfer of powers was decided. He impulsively said yes and announced 15th August.
The world was shocked and more so the British parliamentarians, Indian members of Congress and the masses. He just loved that date and abruptly announced at the spur of the moment, giving hardly a couple months for the country to prepare for the shock.
While Nehru and Jinnah had strong differences on what land would go to India and Pakistan, they agreed for a neutral party to decide the issue. Mr. Radcliffe had no idea about India and he had to draw the line. The warring Indian contenders agreed to what he’d say because he was after all impartial and had no prior knowledge of India. If this isn’t shocking, Mountbatten withheld the announcement of the partition line till the last minute of 15th August; thus he plunged millions in deep anxiety and insecurity. What followed then is mayhem at its worst. Men who loved each other dearly as brothers and were neighbours for generations, mercilessly cut each other’s throats. They hated and killed as Tamas- dark evil forces descended on the subcontinent, plunging the nation to unparalleled misery. India bled and the world watched in horror.
And all the while, the four of them, except Gandhi, assured everyone that partiton would be smooth. They were cut off from reality but Gandhi knew what is coming up for he had lived with the masses; he was in touch with ground reality. But for most others at the top echeleons of power, it was a pathetic case of ineptitude and irresponsibility. The fifty odd mile distance from Amritsar to Lahore was filled with numberless dead bodies. So many corpses lay unclaimed that vultures bloated by their feast, refused to fly. Dogs refused to eat anything except the livers from the corpses littered. In many places one couldn’t distinguish between the dead body of a human, horse or a buffalo.
And then there were the bizarre Maharaj’s and Nawabs of 570 odd kingdoms who posed a terrible threat to Indian union. The quietly effective Mr. V.P. Menon and his boss Sardar Patel did the impossible with remarkable alacrity and doggedness. These silent heroes are unsung while others are glorified in their country’s textbooks as champions of Independence.
While many of these leaders reveal what a leader should not be, we have common men and soldiers who revealed great character during this terrible disaster. Let’s see their shining examples.
To be continued…