Interview with Radcliffe

Cyril Radcliffe gets a lot of (mostly undeserved) flak from people anxious to find some scapegoat for the partition disaster. The following is an extract from Kuldip Nayar’s book “Scoop” (published originally by Scroll, India) that sheds some light on those times and Radcliffe’s role in them.

HOW A KNEE JERK DECISION LED TO MISERY FOR GENRATIONS

An excerpt from ‘Scoop’, in which the veteran journalist, who died on August 23, wrote about interviewing Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Boundary Commission.

“I nearly gave you Lahore,” Lord Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Boundary Commission, told me. “But then I realised that Pakistan would not have any large city. I had already earmarked Calcutta for India.”

Lahore had Hindus and Sikhs in a majority and way up in assets, he said. Yet he had no option because of paucity of big towns in Pakistan. The conversation took place at Radcliffe’s flat in London towards the later half of 1971. I had gone there to meet Lord Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General. I wanted to know how the boundary lines of India and Pakistan were drawn. Although the Boundary Commission had four more members – two from India, Mehar Chand Mahajan and Teja Singh, and two from Pakistan, Din Mohammed and Mohammed Munir – they were all serving judges.

Radcliffe was the one who made the decision because the Commission was divided, India’s members on one side and those from Pakistan on the other. What yardstick did he apply? I was keen to know. I found to my horror that Radcliffe had no fixed rules to go by when he drew the boundaries between India and Pakistan. He had gathered sufficient information by the time he came to demarcate the borders. Continue reading “Interview with Radcliffe”

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