the Editor: Akhtar
February 24, 2005
The Englishmen in
the subcontinent during the Raj were most aptly
categorized by E. M. Foster in his masterpiece A
Passage to India. Ronny, McBryde and their ilk were
aloof, nonchalant and distanced, and remained superciliously
sequestered in their lofty mansions and palatial
houses with little or no social rapport with the
local populace. Others like Fielding and Mrs. Moore
were captivated by the subcontinent's surroundings
and traditions and were tempted to cultivate the
'native.' They made up the perspicacious white-skinned
mortals who judiciously applied themselves to rationalize
a social enigma, a political issue, a religious
In later years, men cast in the mold
of Olaf Caroe (Governor NWFP and author of The Pathans)
and Ian Stephens (Editor of The Statesman and author
of Horned Moon) appeared on the scene as the real-life
incarnation of the cultured breed.
Following the death of my father I
stumbled on a few letters he had exchanged with
some blue-blooded Englishmen with whom he had worked
in the pre-Partition era. The writers occupied important
positions in undivided India and I dare say a place
in the hearts of those they came in contact with.
Among them figured distinguished names: Sir Arthur
Lothian (author of Kingdoms of Yesterday), Sir Duncan
Mackenzie, Sir Conrad Corfield (who as Political
Advisor to Lord Mountbatten did not agree to implement
the Viceroy's policy vis-à-vis the former
Indian States and, in consequence, left India in
the last week of July 1947), Sir L.E. Barton, Sir
G.V.B Gilan etc.
This correspondence pertained to
the pre- and the immediate post-Partition era and
interesting features of the subcontinent's social
fabric and history. The opinions expressed in these
evocative epistles were remarkably forthright and
revealing. They seem to acquire special significance
today as serious misgivings are aired about the
Two-Nation Theory that formed the basis of the division
of the subcontinent. Were the subcontinent Muslims
wronged by the departing Englishmen? Was there something
inherently wrong about the Two-Nation Theory? Were
the Socialists in London responsible for the problems
that later came to plague the fledgling
state of Pakistan and continue to haunt it to this
day? Was a conspiratorial scheme at work to defeat
the purpose of the creation of Pakistan and to cause
serious doubts about the validity of the Two-Nation
Theory in later years? A small sampling of the correspondence
my father had with the former Residents of India
seems to furnish a clue to what transpired on the
eve of Partition:
"There is very little doubt that
Lord Wavell resigned from the Viceroyalty because
he was unwilling to carry out the orders of the
Socialist Government and that Mountbatten was sent
out as a ji-hazauri who was willing to do what he
was told - the more so as he was totally ignorant
of India and its problems.
It is also highly probable that Field
Marshal Auchinleck resigned because he was unable
to get a
fair deal for Pakistan in the matter of distribution
of assets; though there is no actual proof of either
of these theories, as both of them were loyal to
their government to stir up so much mud…"
- Sir Duncan Mackenzie, 24 October 1952.
"I felt that the States
in particular, and to a less extent, Pakistan, got
a poor deal from the late Govt. and the last Viceroy.
So while I respect very much what you say about
the trend of Pakistani feeling, I am not altogether
surprised. I have done what I could to correct the
balance in my book, and in two articles on the States
published in the January and April issues of the
Quarterly Review…" - Sir Arthur Lothian,
9 June 1952.
"…it is difficult for anybody
who has served for a long time and whose family
had served India for 150 years, not to feel sorrow
that the old order has passed away so completely,
and that its passing was brought about in such a
shameful way. One cannot help feeling that the change
- which admittedly had to take place, and indeed
had very largely taken place even during my 31 years
in India - should have been far more gradual and
that more regard should have been paid, not only
to the formal treaties with the States, but to the
promises so often given that the safety of
minorities would be adequately secured. There was
indeed a sorry gap between promise and performance…"
Sir Duncan Mackenzie, 20 January 1949.
"I entirely agree with your remarks
to what happened in 1947 and notice that even the
Socialists have given up their talk of what a 'far
sighted act of statesmanship' they committed. Kashmir
seems a fair sample…" - Sir G.V.B. Gillan,
29 December 1952
"I was up in London not long
ago and had a long talk with Sir Claude Auchinleck.
He goes out East nearly every winter as a traveling
Director of Grindlay's, so manages to keep in touch
with things out there much better than I can. He
was full of admiration for the spirit of Pakistan,
the way she is keeping her end up and (in the Army)
the way they have kept up the old Regimental traditions
and their pride in them.
Incidentally I gathered indirectly that he was not
responsible for the raw deal that Pakistan had in
the division of military stores and supplies…"
Duncan Mackenzie, 23 December 1951.
"I don't know whether you share
my view that something good has been lost by the
destruction of the States, but at all events we
share the same view about the ignominious scuttle
from our responsibilities in the East. Having once
assumed them, you cannot wash your hands of what
follows from that hasty abandonment. I might however
write volumes on this: so I shall forbear…"
- Sir Arthur Lothian, 18 July 1952.
"…while in Delhi in 1949
I had the privilege of being invited to a luncheon
party which His Excellency Mr Mohammad Ismail had
given in honor of the Hon'ble Mr. Justice Munir,
who was one of Pakistan's representatives on the
Punjab Boundary Commission.
The after-lunch talk turned to the Boundary Commission's
award. Mr. Munir said that just before returning
to Delhi, Sir Cyril Radcliffe accompanied by other
members of the Commission had a final flight over
the canal system and that he (Sir Cyril) told the
members that he would be fixing the boundary line
about 8 miles east of Jullundur and that he (Mr.
Munir) and the other Pakistan representatives were
pressing him to fix Sutlej (which was some 10-12
miles further east) as a natural boundary. Mr. Munir
said that he was simply shocked to hear the actual
award broadcasted two or three days later which
fixed the boundary about 78 miles west of the one
indicated by Sir Cyril just before he had left for
Delhi. That I think substantiates the charge that
the award was altered. Moreover, I have not come
across any contradictions of the charge by Sir Cyril
himself and shall of course be interested to know
your views on the subject…" - Khan Sahib
Mahmood Ahmad Faruqui, 7 November 1952.