Partition of Punjab Excerpts from ‘disastrous twilight A personal record of the partition of India

By Major General Shahid Hamid

A Personal Record of the Partition of India’ by Major-General Shahid Hamid was published in 1986 by Leo Cooper. The author was Private Secretary, 1946-47, to Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck who was the last Commander-in-Chief in British India from 20th Oct 1943 to 26th Sept 1947. Shahid Hamid saw the unfolding of critical events from close quarters as the C-in-C’s office was privy to all matters, military, political or administrative. He kept a record of all important happenings, which is valuable material for history on all vital aspects of the Partition. It includes Mountbatten’s role in the events that led to the carnage of Muslims.

 Author’s Introduction in his own words. I had never met Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck before I was selected to be his first Indian Private Secretary. Why I was selected for the post I do not know… I was fortunate to witness many historic events, and also to meet the men who made them possible. This gave me a unique insight into the character of the leaders and their approach to the national problems that were facing them. I was able to record their opinions, expressed both privately and in the open… I saw small men entrusted with great jobs, playing with the destiny of millions. This book has been written incorporating the diary I kept diligently in those days. It is not just a record of events, but includes my reactions to what I saw, what I heard and what came across my desk. [p. vii]

 I have come to the conclusion that someday I may publish my diaries as a book; for in it there will be certain facts brought to light of which few people have knowledge. [p. 240] The Sikhs’ Reaction to the Partition Plan.4 June: When Mountbatten announced his (June 3) Plan, the Sikhs promptly perfected their plan for revenge. Led by their warrior class and assisted by their leaders, they have organized themselves into ‘Jathas’ (gangs). They have adopted force and terror tactics. They are now preparing their followers physically and psychologically for the brutalities to be inflicted on the Muslims. The Congress High Command is encouraging them and calls them the ‘sword arm of the Congress’.

Mountbatten at no stage encouraged the Sikhs to come to a settlement with the Muslim League which would have partially avoided the massacre. In fact he encouraged them to stay with the Congress. When the Sikhs became violent he arrested none. [p.180,181]

Radcliffe’s Appointment.28 June 1947: It had been decided to ask Sir Cyril Radcliffe to be the head of the Punjab and Bengal Boundary Commissions. I think that it is a great mistake as he can be influenced by Mountbatten. It would have been far better to have selected a man from a country outside the Commonwealth. [P.194] Boundary Commission.22 July: The Boundary Commission has been set up and has started its deliberations. [P.208] 24 July: The Punjab Boundary Force has been positioned. It is too small a force to be effective. The Sikhs have decided to ignore it and put their plan of vengeance into operation. There have been riots in Dehra Dun, Meerut, Pilibhit, Alwar and Bharatpur. Many Muslims are being massacred [p.209,210].

Efforts to Influence the Boundary Commission.21 July 1947: Baldev Singh* has asked Major Short** to fly out to India and use his influence to get the Boundary Line drawn as much to the West as possible. [p. 208] * A top Sikh leader; Mountbatten knew Baldev Singh was the treasurer of a fund that the Sikhs were collecting for buying arms.[p.163] **Major Short, an old officer of XI Sikh Regiment and a great Sikh enthusiast; arrived on 28 July, stayed with Baldev, attached to Mountbatten’s staff and was their unofficial adviser on Sikh affairs.[p.211]. Short had been introduced to Mountbatten by Cripps as the authority on Sikh affairs. [p.180]

Hindus also for Killing Muslims.4 August:Evan Jenkins, the Governor of Punjab, says that when the Hindus mention that ruthless action must be taken to restore law and order they mean that every Muslim should be killed. [P.219] Boundary Award Delayed. 9 August 1947: Everyone is talking about the impending Boundary Award. On many occasions Radcliffe, supported by his secretary, Beaumont, had said that the Muslim Majority Tehsils of Ferozpore which include the Canal Headworks, Zehra and Moga, will form part of Pakistan. It is said that yesterday (8 August) Radcliffe had finalised the Award. He has now submitted it to Mountbatten, who is trying to keep it a closely guarded secret. Many of its salient points have already leaked out through the staff of the Boundary Commission and through his own staff.

A copy of the Award, unwittingly, and unknown to Mountbatten, has been sent by George Abell* to the Secretary of the Governor of Punjab and is known to many. It is common talk that Mountbatten is busy changing it  giving India a corridor to Kashmir through Gurdaspur as well as the Ferozpore Headworks. The Muslims are very jittery. Radcliffe originally said that he would require one to two years to establish the Boundary Line but Mountbatten has over-ruled him. He wants him to base it on the ‘rule of thumb’. There is continuous consultation between the Congress, the Sikhs, the Princes and Mountbatten. Something is cooking. Nobody knows the date of the announcement of the Award. It is up to Mountbatten.

Governor of Punjab has been asked by Mountbatten for advice as to the date of announcement. It is also said that the Viceroy will not be issuing the Award in the form of a communiqué from the Viceroy’s House. It will be published as a Gazette Extraordinary under the instructions of the Boundary Commission. Mountbatten wants to give the impression to the world that he had nothing to do with it. [P.222] *George Abell entered the ICS in 1928; Private Secretary to the Viceroy 1945-47. Rioting by Sikhs.9 August 1947: Rioting by Sikhs has started. This is in accordance with their plan. [P.223] C-in-C Pakistan Armyon the Delay in the Award.11 August: General Frank Messervy is of the opinion that the postponement of the Boundary Commission Award is causing uncertainty and immense bloodshed. [p.224]

Shocking Report of the Boundary Force.11 August: A report has been received from the Punjab Boundary Force which says that:

v              The refugee problem, mainly from Eastern Punjab to Western Punjab is becoming increasingly difficult.

v              The disturbances are producing an average of two hundred to five hundred killings a day. Raids are organized and usually carried out by well-armed gangs of Sikhs.

v              Derailment of trains is a common occurrence. The Maharajah of Faridkothimself is known to be organizing the operations.

v              On arrival in Amritsar to take over their duties, the non-Muslim Police disarmed the Muslim members of the Police Force. [p.224]

Messervy’s Alarming Report.11 August: General Messervy has also reported that the situation in Punjab is really bad. The Sikhs are operating large numbers of gangs and timely information about their movement is impossible. The situation in Amritsar is fast deteriorating as a result of the disarming of the Muslim Police by the Hindu Superintendent of Police. [p.224]

The Sikhs’ Ghastly Behaviour. 13 August: In a conference in Lahore, Jenkins, the Governor, and Pete Rees, Commander of the Boundary Force, gave their views on the prevailing situation. They painted a very gloomy picture. They said that the Sikhs were behaving with ‘pre-medieval ferocity’, and felt the worst had still to come.

The C-in-C made a note. ‘The delay in announcing the Award of the Boundary Commission is having a most disturbing and harmful effect.’ [P.225] Late Announcement of Award led to the Storm of Killings.16 August: There was a meeting of the Joint Defence Council under the chairmanship of Mountbatten. It was attended by Nehru, Vallabhai Patel, Baldev Singh and Liaquat Ali Khan. Auchinleck gave his views on what he had seen in the last few days and on the discussion he had with Governor Jenkins and Major-General Thomas Rees. He emphasized that the delay in announcing the Award of the Boundary Commission had resulted in the wildest rumours, even to the extent, for example, that Lahore will be part of India. This has given fresh impetus to the killings by the Sikhs. The Award should have been announced on 9 August, as Jenkins had suggested earlier.

Patel said rioting at Rawalpindi started a chain reaction. He admitted that Tara Singh had made indiscreet and inflammable speeches, which had added fuel to the fire. Liaquat openly said that the whole thing had been carefully engineered by the Sikhs under the guidance of Baldev. Nehru sat depressed and in a daze. He asked whether there was a military escort on every train. If so, why did the massacres take place? He was told that the gangs got on to the train with their arms concealed. Once on, they then attacked suddenly.

Mountbatten tried to humour everyone and admitted that he hoped he had not made too big a mistake by not announcing the Award on 9 August. He said that the storm was not unexpected, but its extent could not have been anticipated. He said he now realized that if he had rounded up the Sikh trouble-makers, including Tara Singh, he would not have had to face this day. [p.234]

Mountbatten’s Underhand Alterations. 16 August: The Award has been shown to the leaders. It is a black day for Pakistan. All the rumours were true about Mountbatten amending the findings, and that he has destroyed the proof. What he did not realize was that, by mistake, a copy was sent to the Secretary of the Governor of Punjab which Jenkins gave to his successor, Francis Mudie, who handed it over to Liaquat. This has horrified Mountbatten. The amendments Mountbatten made were common knowledge. The Canal Headworks at Ferozepore have been awarded to India on the instigation of his great friend, the Maharajah of Bikaner who, on 11 August, sent his Prime Minister, Sirdar Pannikar, and his Chief Engineer, Kanwar Sain, to see him. It has convinced the Muslims that Mountbatten altered the Award. Finally, Nehru was instrumental in getting the Award altered. A corridor has been provided to Kashmir. [p.235]

The Treacherous Alterations in the Boundary Award. The Pakistan Times, 18 August 1947, reported, ‘In the Punjab the notional division had been unfair but the final Award has gone much further and hacked off some of our richest tracts of land. The blow has been the hardest in Gurdaspur where the two Muslim Tehsils of Gurdaspur and Batala with a Muslim majority have been thrown into Hindustan along with the Pathankot Tehsil, taking away from Pakistan the rich Muslim industrial area of Batala. A part of Lahore has been broken off. Radcliffe has gone to the trouble of drawing a village to village boundary but the Ajnala Tehsil of Amritsar District with a 60 per cent Muslim majority and contiguous to the District of Lahore has been completely forgotten. The Tehsils of Zehra and Ferozepore with a clear Muslim majority have been dismissed with talk of “disruption of communication”.’ [p.236]

Mountbatten Lied about the Alterations. 16 August: Mountbatten says that he received the Award on 13 August and signed it on the 15th. Everyone knows this is not correct. The late announcement has caused havoc because of the uncertainty of which areas would finally belong where. Mountbatten wanted the bloodbath to happen when the two Governments had been established so that the responsibility would not be his.[p.235] Award Published.17 August: The Boundary Award was published today. [P.236] Sikhs on the Rampage. 17 August: A meeting of the Joint Defence Council has been held in Ambala. Rees told the meeting that without the Punjab Boundary Force the slaughter would have been far greater. The Sikhs are burning the country from Lahore to Julundhur and turning it into a battlefield.

Percy Howard wrote in The Sunday Express, ‘It was really the movement of the Sikh community out of the new Pakistan which sparked off the great killings in the Punjab and they acted like savages.’ [P.236] Sikhs’ Private Army.19 August: Situation in the Punjab, especially Amritsar, is bad. Sikh personnel of the (disbanded) Indian National Army (of Subhas Chandra Bose) have formed a Private army for the slaughter of the Muslims. They want to ensure the elimination of Muslims from the Sikh areas of the Punjab. The Indian Government is incapable of controlling the Sikhs. Trains to Pakistan are being looted each day and their occupants slaughtered. [p.237]

Appalling Situation in Delhi.5 September: Situation in Delhi is extremely critical. Muslims are being hunted and butchered in the streets, and the bodies lie rotting. Arson and looting are the order of the day. [P.246] Bloodshed was Pre-Planned. 8 September: Sikhs in Simla have been slaughtering the Muslims according to a pre-arranged plan. The civil administration in east Punjab is practically non-existent. There too the Muslims are being slaughtered according to a concerted plan [p.246].

Ban on ‘Kirpans’ Withdrawn.13 September: (From letter to Mountbatten by Auchinleck). “I feel I must tell you of my fears about the present situation. I see in today’s newspaper that the ban placed on ‘Kirpans’ has been virtually withdrawn. The general public, here and all over India, can place one interpretation only on this action, which is that the Government does not really mean to grasp this problem of asserting its authority over the forces of disorder. The inference is that it is afraid to deal with the Sikhs as they should be dealt with.”[p.249]

Governor Jenkins’ Official Records were burnt. Once when I met Jenkins and pressed him to write his memoirs, he replied that, ‘It is not in the interest of the Commonwealth.’ It is known that at the time of his departure from India he was warned by Mountbatten not to speak out. He was ordered to burn all his official papers, which included many connected with the Boundary affair, but still a few papers including the original sketch map demarcating the boundaries between the two Dominions before it was altered by Mountbatten fell into the hands of Francis Mudie, the Governor, who gave them to Liaquat. [P.300].

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