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India

Mountbatten Proposed idea of United India On April 5, 1947, But Jinnah Had Other Ideas

The original date of freedom was June 3, 1948, but Mountbatten was a man in a hurry.

Jawahar Lal Nehru was pressed for time yet wrote the Tryst with Destiny speech on August 14. He had penned it as ‘Date with Destiny.’ (Photo: Twitter/Rahul Gandhi)

Chandigarh: On August 14, 1947, we went to sleep as citizens of a British Colony but on the morning of August 15 we woke up as free Indians. However, for tens of lakhs, it was a long walk to freedom, punctuated by bloodshed, rioting, looting and death. There was elation and there was despair.

Lord Louis Mountbatten came to India in March 1947 as the viceroy. The task given to Mountbatten by King George VI and British Prime Minister Clement Atlee was a gradual transfer of power to India. The date on which India was to become free was June 3, 1948 (the date of transfer of power).

Since Mountbatten was a man in a hurry to return to London, he first proposed the idea of a united India to Mohammad Ali Khan Jinnah on 5 April 1947. It would have been simpler for Mountbatten to not divide the country. He cited to Jinnah that the task of dividing the states of Punjab and Bengal where Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived cheek by jowl, was difficult. But Jinnah was indifferent and cold to such arguments.

A few days later, Mahatma Gandhi in a meeting with Mountbatten asked him to invite Jinnah to form a new central government, but Mountbatten never let Jinnah know that Mahatma Gandhi had discussed such an idea with him. And the idea of a united India died.

Tearful Farewell Turned Violent

When the new date of India’s independence –August 15, 1947 — was announced, voices grew louder for the partition of the country. And, when it became clear that Partition will take place, the fringe elements played their role both in Pakistan and India.

Anticipating trouble, Muslims from central India, particularly Uttar Pradesh started their journey to Pakistan on bullock carts, horses, and bicycles in large groups. Rich ones took cabs, and ultra-rich people flew to Karachi. The same was true about Sikhs and Hindus who lived in Pakistan.

Migration meant that urban people who had bank accounts went to the banks and withdrew their money. In Karachi alone, Rs. six crores was withdrawn, mostly by Hindus and Sikhs headed to India.

When the initial exodus began, the Muslim neighbours of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, and the Hindus and Sikh neighbours of Muslims on the Indian side bade them tearful farewell, often helping them pack their luggage and food that would last them their journey.

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Prof Mohammad Khalid, a keen watcher of Punjab affairs adds an important dimension to the bloodshed during Partition, “The fringe elements roused communal feelings on both sides of the border and made the entire humanity its victim. The beginning of the bloodshed during Partition can be attributed to it.”

The Original Speech Was ‘Date With Destiny’

When the communal clashes began, anticipating that it may get worse, Mountbatten advanced India’s independence day. And that advancement of date was arbitrary. In fact, one of Mountbatten’s big successes was attached to August 15. Two years before India’s independence, Japan had surrendered before the Allied Forces on this very day. Therefore, he chose August 15 as India’s Independence Day as well.

But the astrologers close to the political establishment in India warned that August 15 was not an auspicious day for independence. And thus, official formalities of independence were advanced by nine minutes.

Jawahar Lal Nehru was pressed for time yet wrote the Tryst with Destiny speech on August 14. He had penned it as ‘Date with Destiny.’ But while delivering the speech in the eye of his mind he changed the word ‘date’ and substituted it with the word ‘tryst’ and delivered it as ‘Tryst with Destiny’.

Nehru Ate Frugal Meal & Head To Raisina Hills

At the time when he was preparing his speech, he was at his dinner table at Teen Murti Bhawan. By his side were Indira Gandhi and his personal assistant MO Mathai. That night, Nehru ate frugally, some rice, yellow lentils and curd. In the middle of his dinner, Indira Gandhi apprised him of a telephone call from Lahore. When Nehru returned to the dinner table after attending the call, he had gone sombre – news about an outbreak of a riot had come from Lahore.

Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Dr BR Ambedkar reached the Raisina Hills at 10:00 pm. Jawahar Lal Nehru began his speech at 11: 51 pm on August 14 at the Constituent Assembly Hall in the Parliament, exactly the way astrologers had wished. Outside, it was raining incessantly and tens of lakhs of Indians were happily drenched in that August rain. Elsewhere though, people were drenched in blood as riots and arson continued unabated. The advancement of Independence Day from June 3, 1948, to August 15 1947 resulted in a more hurried exodus of Muslims to West Pakistan and East Pakistan, and of Hindus and Sikhs to India.

Radcliffe Line Drawn By Sprinkling Limestone Powder

At the borders, Radcliffe line which was more or less hazy even in the mind of Sir Cyril Radcliffe was being sprinkled with limestone powder. Sir Radcliffe who was a brilliant jurist had little knowledge of India’s geography. In many places, the line demarcating the boundary between India and Pakistan, went right through the middle of the villages, houses and at some places people became citizens of one country while their farms fell into another.

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Brigadier Mohinder Singh Chopra from the Indian Army and Brig Naseer Ahmad from the Pakistan Army oversaw the boundary demarcation even as trains laden with mutilated bodies were crossing that line which was a work in progress.

Many Sikhs and Hindus from Karachi and Rawalpindi reached Lahore and Nankana Sahib thinking that it will go to India, and Muslims from parts of East Punjab went to Gurdaspur imagining it will be part of Pakistan. In fact, the post offices of Gurdaspur had flags of Pakistan atop the buildings for a few days after August 15, 1947.

According to the book ‘India After Gandhi‘ written by historian Ramachandra Guha, Sikhs felt enraged because Nankana Sahib which Sikhs thought should have been part of India went to Pakistan. And Muslims felt cheated as they thought that handing over a Muslim-majority Gurdaspur to India was unjustified.

Gandhi camped in a Muslim house in Beliaghat, Kolkata

When the world hailed Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, the man who had made this tryst a reality lay on a mattress at a Muslim home in Beliaghat in Kolkata. At around 11:00 pm, he cleaned his room, spun his khadi yarn had his frugal meal and went to sleep.

On August 15, 1947, he woke up at 4:00 am and wasn’t celebrating at all.

A day later, he told the people that he was living in a Muslim locality in Beliaghat. He said this is how he wished the entire country to be like. Gandhi tried hard to stop the bloodshed but the fire of violence and bloodshed had spread far and wide.

At both, the eastern borders with East Pakistan, and the western borders with West Pakistan even drinking water and food had the presence of human blood.

If in Delhi there was hollering out of elation as the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Tri-Colour was unfurled, at the borders there was death and despair.

At 8:30 am on August 15, Nehru and fourteen other ministers took the oath of office and assumed charge as cabinet ministers and India started crawling in the midst of the birth pangs.