INDIA TAKES THE PLUNGE
Take B.C. and the Maritimes, forge them into a new country called Pakistan, and you’ve got an idea of what india faces
NEW DELHI, INDIA (by cable)—Within the next few weeks boundary commissions will draw across the face of India the rift line of a political earthquake, splitting a subcontinent and one fifth of humanity into two new British Dominions—India and Pakistan.
Pakistan, which means “land of the pure,” will become the latest word in the world’s political vocabulary and the newest force in nationalist Asia. About 52 million Moslems and 18 million Hindus will live in this country, which will be split into two parts with a thousand miles of India between.
If you compared India to a triangle standing on one point, then lopped off the areas surrounding the other points, the lopped-off pieces would be Pakistan. The larger part remaining would be India, and within India will live 190 million Hindus and 40 million Moslems.
The problems involved in this partition are stupendous. Starting from scratch, the Dominion of Pakistan will have to set up at least the framework of a government, with only weeks to do it in. The Indian Army, a tightly knit fighting group, will be split in two—perhaps by the laborious process of asking each man whether he wants to serve India or Pakistan. Each dominion will need ambassadors in other national capitals all over the world. And how do you split a railway, divide up a nation’s currency, share her debts?
These problems would be enormous in the calmest of countries. In India and Pakistan, ridden with centuries of passions and prejudices, hatreds, tensions and frustrations, they could be full of danger.
Now Moslems Can Eat Beef
NEITHER Hindus nor Moslems are wholly in favor of all parts of the “Mountbatten formula.” Its overwhelming virtue is that it was the only plan both sides, and the British, would accept. Superficially, at least, it should do away with some of the religious intolerance which sometimes in theory and sometimes in fact divides India. In Pakistan the Moslem will be able to eat his cow without giving offense to the Hindu, who worships the animal. And the Hindu, in turn, will be able to follow his religion without as many affronts as when the two religions were without territorial division.
From witnessing the development of this plan through mont hs of political reporting for Reuter’s News Agency, I think this plan will work. But from its announcement June 3 after a series of conferences between the Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and the Hindu and Moslem leaders, controversy has burst into violence in many parts of India and it is impossible at this stage to say definitely that the plan will work. Nehru, the Hindu leader, does not know. Neither does Jinnah, the leader of the Moslems. Lord Mountbatten frankly admitted that his plan had risks. It is still a matter of fretful conjecture whether India’s masses, who’ve had little to say in the evolution of the plan, will take quietly the upheaval resulting from the British exit.
The work of the boundary commission is being guided by referendums among minorities who are voting to decide whether to join India or Pakistan. In some communities the alternatives are represented simply by colored ballot boxes to minimize mistakes among people who neither read nor write. A further complication
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is added by the 522 princely states, some of which will choose to remain independent of either Dominion.
These are the two crucial problems if the plan is to work:
First, Hindus and Moslems must accept the boundary commission’s findings without serious argument .
Secondly, they must get together in tolerance and good faith to settle division of armed services, currency and finance, communications, trade and commerce, defense and foreign affairs.
The first step in the process is allocation of necessary staff to the new central government of Pakistan. Taking Canada as an example, try to imagine a situation under which a complete government civil service had to be organized from scratch—and within a few weeks or months. And in India this summer it must be done. The only starting place is the existing central government civil service in India.
Unless the staff of the new Pakistan Government is predominantly Moslem the purpose of the partition of India will be defeated.
The most feasible suggestion, there-
fore, would appear to be recruitment of all Pakistan staff from Moslems in the government service, no matter where their homes may be. This would give the Moslems the feeling that their new state will start its career with a devoted band of officials.
This principle is equally important from the point of view of the new India Government. It has been proposed that non-Moslem officials whose homes are in Pakistan areas should be allowed to continue their careers in the Indian Government. In any case, transfer from one government to another should not involve reduction in
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prospects of pay, promotion or pensions. As another part of the same problem, both India and Pakistan will have trouble finding sufficient men qualified to head diplomatic missions in the world’s capitals.
Another important problem is that of currency—who gets how much out of the national pocketbook when the split comes? A solution to what is almost an insoluble problem has been suggested by the Hindustan Times, and is being studied by currency experts of both the new dominions.
Pointing out that it would be a terrible disaster if India’s currency and credit suffered during the process of partition, the newspaper said:
“The Reserve Bank cannot be split up and must continue to be the main organ of currency control in Hindustan. A parallel institution will have to be organized in Pakistan.
“The process of transfer may be something as follows: As soon as the Pakistan notes are ready they will be issued in its territories in place of the present notes. The latter will be surrendered to the Indian Reserve Bank who will give sterling securities and gold and rupee securities in agreed proportions up to certain fixed limits.
“In two or three years the entire Indian currency will be withdrawn from Pakistan and the Pakistan note issue will be backed by its due proportion of the assets now held by the allIndia Reserve bank.
“Though the Dominion Governments of Pakistan and India may be in existence by August, it may be expected that present budget arrangements won’t be disturbed until April of 1948 except in one material particular: Joint expenditure should be confined to current expenditure. Reconstruction I grants and advances should be left, to : the separate governments who’ll naturally view the position in the light of the new situation created by the division of India and the partition of Bengal and I Punjab.”
Both Congress and Moslem league I leaders are still examining the basis of division of India’s assets and liabilities. No simple and clear-cut formula has been reached yet. Such questions as these have yet to be answered:
Is this a partition of a country, or only a case of certain areas seceding from India?
If certain areas secede, is it India’s responsibility to establish them on a sound footing or is it a risk the seceding areas should face?
Shouldn’t each government be asked to take over the assets within its territory and divide common assets and liabilities, including public debts, on a population basis?
Free Trade—For a Time
The reorganization oi communications will be a long and complicated business. The effect of the division and partition of provinces will be felt most in relation to railways. Hindustan has 30,000 miles of railway compared with Pakistan’s 14,500. The Pakistan mileage is disproportionately large and will include strategic railways whose deficits have been met in the past from general revenues. 11 costs the central exchequer about $4 millions a year to maintain one section of railway lines in the frontier tribal zones. The Pakistan railway will need new offices, workshops and technical services.
It is not anticipated that there will I be any customs’ frontiers between the two states for some time, allowing trade to flow freely. This is particularly necessary for the administration of food controls. The Union Government must reorganize present schemes of
procurement and distribution which depend largely on supplies of wheat and rice from Punjab and Sind. Hindustan will have powerful bargaining commodities, however, in cloth and sugar.
Problems connected with the division of armed forces are causing seme difficulty. While many senior military and civil officers would still like to preserve intact this tightly knit fighting force, any such plan of joint defense or of combined armies is impracticable. Although 97% of personnel are opposed to a division, it is now inevitable that the Indian army will be divided on a territorial or communal basis—probably the former.
There may be some sort of selfdetermination in that the men themselves are asked: Do you want to
belong to the India army or the Pakistan army? Mr. Jinnah has declared his desire to have a close military
alliance between Pakistan and India. The division of the country will require the enlarging of future defense forces. India’s standing army may have to be assisted largely by territorial formations in Assam, East Punjab, West Bengal and areas surrounding states which declare themselves to be sovereign and independent. Some system of conscription may have tobeintroduced.
As the form and future of India crystallizes the nature of things to come for the 562 states occupying one fifth of the country becomes more muddled.
While the All-India Congress has just passed a resolution repudiating the right of any Indian state to declare itself independent after the lapse of paramountcy late this summer, Mr. Jinnah declares that “constitutionally and legally, Indian states will be independent sovereign states on the termination of paramountcy and they’re free to decide for themselves what course they want to adopt.”
The majority of Indian states may find it in their interests to join one or the other of the constituent assemblies —Hindustan or Pakistan. While talk of popular pressures being exerted
against the states to bring them into the union is quite fashionable in Congress quarters, some of these states— especially some of the more capably governed larger states—might prove disconcertingly tough if subjected to hasty, ill-considered pressure. Hyderabad and Tra vaneo re, powerful and wealthy states, have so far declared their intention of assuming independent sovereign status on the lapse of British paramountcy.
Anger and Apathy
Little has been heard about the reaction of India’s smaller communities to the partition plan, although some of them, the Sikhs, for instance, won’t know for weeks whether they’ll be under Pakistan or Hindustan. One hundred thousand wealthy Parsecs, mainly in Bombay, won’t be much
affected. About 300,000 Anglo-Indians aren’t happy about the split, which will result in about 240,000 in Hindustan and 60,000 in Pakistan. Some, jittery about their status in the new setup, have already sailed for Britain.
Comparatively few of India’s 400 million inhabitants fully understand the complications or implications of this division of their country, which for dozens of generations under the Moguls and then the British has known a single rule.
The men in the street, the commoners, are generally unenthusiastic about the partition plan. Some already have burned their Khadi caps (Congress party headgear of handspun and handwoven white cloth). Some are even apathetic, like my Moslem bearer Ali, whose comment on this milestone in India’s history was: “Oh, I suppose it’s a good thing.”
Some think that civil war is inevitable before a settlement can be reached, and would like to fight it now. A student representing this extreme opinion told me one morning that he and his friends expect the .two states will break down, giving rise to a revolt
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among the masses who’ll sweep away present leaders and reunite all India.
There has been some breaking down of factional enthusiasm. A tram conductor told me: “I’ve been a
nationalist all my life. I went to jail during the civil disobedience movement which coincided with a time when I was out of a job. When I wasn’t wearing my uniform, at work, I always used to wear my Khadi cap. The other day I burned it.”
A bearded Moslem hackney driver said: “Sahib, you just wait. This is
nothing. Our Qaed E. Azam (“great leader”—Jinnah) hasn’t shown his hand. What has happened is only a beginning of what we’ll get.”
A Hindu businessman: “I’m an
internationalist. I believe in private property and the sanctity of personal endeavor. For a person like me who has no narrow loyalties, Pakistan is better if partition takes place. India, I’m j afraid, will destroy private enterprise.
I’ll give the benefit of my capital and I organizing ability to the Pakistanis, who obviously have to begin their industrial life from scratch.”
A Hindu milkman: “We have
stood by the Congress all these years thinking that Congress would aim at releasing India from foreign domination, undivided. We have suffered and our sons and daughters have struggled and sacrificed so that our mother India may be free. Jinnah sahib may declare that minorities will be protected. But how can we believe what he says after the riots in Punjab and Bengal in the last few months?”
A high-school teacher: “The country is shocked by the betrayal. The prin! ciple of self-determination is exploited j freely and under the cloak of a democratic settlement a subtle plan for splitting India is presented to us.”
A small shopkeeper: “I’m happy that at least our great leader Jinnah has succeeded in achieving Pakistan. But the Pakistan we fought for is not the one the British have granted us. We wanted the whole of Bengal but we are left with only part of it and with Hindu states on either side. If we are attacked, we shall be helpless. By the time
Lahore rushes its army we shall be finished. What the Moslems have got in Pakistan is the tail of Bengal; the Hindus have the head.”
The views of Indian leaders reflect, in part, the disappointment of the people, but also a common element of “We don’t like it completely but we’ll make the best of it.”
Mahatma Gandhi, whose stature is almost that of a saint among Indians, said: “I admit that what has been
accepted is not good. But I’m confident that good will certainly emerge out of it.”
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Moslem leader, said: “It is quite clear that the plan does not meet in some important respects our point of view.” Meanwhile, the newspaper Dawn, which he founded, trumpeted in huge headlines: “Pakistan Zindabad!” (“Long live Pakistan!”).
Pandit Nehru, speaking for the dominant Congress party which for 60 years has fought for a united, independent India, spoke the most impassioned plea for the future. “It is with no joy in my heart that I commend these proposals to you,” he said. “. . . The proposal to allow certain parts to secede if they wish is painful for any of us to contemplate.
“Nevertheless I am convinced that our present decision is the right one. The United India that we have labored for was not one of compulsion or coercion but the free and willing association of free peoples. It may be that under this new plan we shall reach that United India sooner than otherwise and that she will have a stronger and more secure foundation.
“We are little men serving great causes. But because the cause is great something of that greatness falls upon us also. I have no doubt that we are ushering in a period of greatness for India. The India of geography, of history and of tradition; the India of our minds and hearts cannot change.
“India’s heart has been broken, but her essential unity cannot be destroyed.” ir