Partition Summary Notes

Partition About the Author

Wystan Hugh Auden (21 February 1907-29 September 1973) was a British – American poet. Auden’s poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form and content. Joseph Brodsky, a Russian-American Nobel laureate stated that Auden had “the greatest mind of the twentieth century”. Some of his best known poems are “Funeral Blues”/’September 1,1939” and “The Shield of Achilles”.

Partition Summary

The poem “Partition” is written byWystan Hugh Auden (1907 – 1973). He was an American poet. The poem was written in 1966. The poem ‘Partition’ is a caustic criticism of the seven weeks Cyril Radcliffe spent in India drawing up the borders between India and Pakistan.

The consequences of partition are the subject of hundreds of books, but they are no where better summarized than in this poem by Auden describing the plight of Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British barrister having no familiarity with the Indian subcontinent who chaired the committees set up to define the boundaries of the new India and Pakistan. W. H. Auden captures beautifully how ruthlessly partition was decided in his poem.

British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India on his mission to draw the borders between the newly divided Indian sub-continent for the first time. He had to draw borders between “two peoples”, the Muslims of Pakistan and the Hindus of India. It is well-known that these people are extremely different of their food habits as well as their choice of worship.

They are not compatible. The authorities in London had briefed him that he had veiy little time to resolve the border dispute between an independent India and the newly created Pakistan. It was too late for the two people to mutually reconcile or for having any rational debate to resolve it.

The situation had escalated to such a height that the only solution to resolve it is to separate the two people. The last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, was a very diplomatic man. He had already written a letter to the barrister that it is better for him to keep away for him and to avoid being seen with him.

They had arranged a separate quarters for him during his stay in India. The Viceroy had assured the barrister that he will provide four judges, two Muslims and two Hindus to advice him in his task. The final decision has to be entirely taken by the barrister himself.

After the barrister arrived in India he was secured in a secluded mansion with a high level of security personnel guarding the mansion day and night to keep away the would-be assassins. The barrister started his work right away. But how could he do justice to his task, the maps that were provided to him were out of date, the census reports were incorrect.

He had to be quick to decide the dispute and hence he could not order for correct reports as it might take years to complete them and there was no time to reexamine and inspect the contested areas. Moreover, the barrister fell victim to a bout of dysentery and he found the weather in India intolerably hot.

This acted like a catalyst, and the barrister hastened to finish the report on the border dispute in only seven weeks. The poet makes an ironic comment that in the end the sub-continent of India, for better or worse was divided. The very next day the barrister hastily sailed back to England.

Back in England he told the other members of his social club that he will never go back to India because if he did, he was afraid he would be shot. While drawing the border, Radcliffe was faced with unyielding demands from all sides, communal tensions, doubtful census numbers, tough economic, administrative and defense considerations and some say even interference from Viceroy Mountbatten.

Was Radcliffe biased? Was he ill-informed? This poem is one of the best criticisms of Radcliffe and his 1947 decision by the poet W. H. Auden. Pakistan along the Radcliffe Line ended in violence that killed one million people and displaced 12 million. Radcliffe burnt his papers, refused his Rs. 40,000 fee, and left once and for all.

Partition Glossary

  • He: He refers to the British barrister, Sir Radcliffe
  • Fanatically: He refers to the British barrister, Sir Radcliffe
  • Incompatible: Not able to exist or work with another person
  • Reconciliation: A situation in which two people or groups of people become friendly again after they have argued
  • Patrolling: To go around an area to see if there is any trouble or danger
  • Assassins: Someone who kills a famous or important person, usually for political reasons or in exchange for money
  • Bout: A short period of illness or involvement in an activity
  • Trot: To move in a way that is slightly faster than walking
  • Frontiers: Border separating two countries

Partition Questions and Answers

Question 1.
Mention the two ‘fanatically at odds’ people referred to in the poem?
Answer:
The two ‘fanatically at odds’ people refered to in the poem ‘Partition’ are the newly divided sub-continents people, Hindus of Bharath and Muslims of Pakistan.

Question 2.
Partition was the only solution, because
Answer:
It was too late for mutual reconcilation or rational debate.

Question 3.
Who was assigned with the job of partitioning India?
Answer:
Sir Cyril John Radcliffe (1899-1978) a British barrister was assigned with the job of partitioning India.

Question 4.
Why was ‘he’ provided with other accommodation?
Answer:
The British Viceroy of India in 1947, was friendly with both Pt. Nehru and Md Ali Jinnah. He was a non-controrersial viceroy. He did not want to offend both the Hindus and Muslims. So he wished to stay in the background away from the controversial division of the nation. So Radcliffe was provided another accomdation away from the Vvicroy House in Delhi.

Question 5.
Who could the lawyer consult before making the final decision?
Answer:
The lawyer was given four judges, two Muslim and two Hindu, to consult with.

Question 6.
Why were the police patrolling the garden round the clock?
Answer:
The police were patrolling the gardens of the mansion in which Sir Radcliffe was housed to keep away assasins.

Question 7.
What were the two resources used for partition?
Answer:
Out of date maps and incorrect Census Returns.

Question 8.
What did ‘he’ do after reaching England?
Answer:
He quickly forget the case, as a good lawyer must.

Question 9.
What did the lawyer tell his Club? Why?
Answer:
Sir Radcliff told his club that he wouldn’t ever step onto the Indian soil, afraid that he might be shot.

II. Answer the Following Questions in About a Page Each:

Question 1.
Give an account of the problems the lawyer faced during the process of partition?
Answer:
Sir Radcliff was chosen arbitrally by the British imperial government to prepare the partitioning of India and Pakistan. Indeed he had never set eyes on India before. He was given exactly five weeks to draw the borders between an independent India and newly created Pakistan, because time was short and it was too late for mutual reconciliation or rational debate, so the only solution was Partition.

The entire responsibility of demarking the boundary between the two countries rested solely on him and his was the final decision. The then Viceroy of India had warned him that he would stay in the background and would not be involved in the process of Partitioa. The barrister was housed in a lonely mansion with tight security as the British feared he would be killed by assassins. Thus he feared a threat to his life.

Not only that, he had a very short period to study the reports and decide on mutually agreeable solution for the border dispute. The maps at his disposal were outdated, and the census reports were almost incorrect.

Due to the constraints of time, he could not personally inspect the contested areas or check the report. Radcliff found the Indian weather too hot to bear and had to face health issues. He suffered a bout of dysentery that sapped his energy and patience. So he finished his assigned work as quickly as possible and fled to England the very next day.

Question 2.
The borders between India and Pakistan were decided in seven days. Substantiate?
Answer:
British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India on his mission to draw the borders between the newly divided Indian sub-continent for the first time. He had to draw borders between “two peoples”, the Muslims of Pakistan and the Hindus of India. It is well-known that these people are extremely different of their food habits as well as their choice of worship. They are not compatible.

The authorities in London had briefed him that he had very little, time to resolve the border dispute between an independent India and the newly created Pakistan. It was too late for the two people to mutually reconcile or for having any rational debate to resolve it. The situationhad escalated to such a height that the only solution to resolve it is to separate the two people.

The last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, was a very diplomatic man. He had already written a letter to the barrister that it is better for him to keep away for him and to avoid being seen wkh him. They had arranged a separate quarters for him during his stay in India. The Viceroy had assured the barrister that he will provide four judges, two Muslims and two Hindus to advice him in his task. The final decision has to be entirely taken by the barrister himself.

After the barrister arrived in India he was secured in a secluded mansion with a high level of security personnel guarding the mansion day and night to keep away the would-be assassins. The barrister started his work right away. But how could he do justice to his task, the maps that were provided to him were out of date, the census reports were incorrect.

He had to be quick to decide the dispute and hence he could not order for correct reports as it might take years to complete them and there was no time to reexamine and inspect the contested areas. Moreover, the barrister fell victim to a bout of dysentery and he found the weather in India intolerably hot.

This acted like a catalyst, and the barrister hastened to finish the report on the border dispute in only seven weeks. The poet makes an ironic comment that in the end the sub-continent of India, for better or worse was divided. The very next day the barrister hastily sailed back to England.

Back in England he told the other members of his social club that he will never go back to India because if he did, he was afraid he would be shot. While drawing the border, Radcliffe was faced with unyielding demands from all sides, communal tensions, doubtful census numbers, and tough economic, administrative and defense considerations and some say even interference from Viceroy Mountbatten.

III. Answer the Following Questions in About two Pages Each:

Question 2.
Partition is an unfortunate consequence of the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British. Substantiate?
Answer:
Yes, the Partition of India and Pakistan is an unfortunate con-sequence of the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British. Partition can be seen as a concerted contribution from the. Muslim League whose demand for a separate homeland intensified after 1940, the British who used communalism to thwart the rise of nationalism and its pro-League approach towards the end and the ultimate Mure of the Congress to integrate the Muslim masses into the national movement and its inability to evolve a strategy to fight communalism

  1. The British Divide and Rule Policy to promote rivalry and discord among various groups
  2. The Bengal Partition of1905 dividing theprovince into Hindu and Muslim majority areas
  3. The formation ofMuslim League, initiallyto prevent Muslims from joining Congress
  4. Separate Electorates for the Muslims through Lucknow Pact
  5. Socio-religious movements such as Tabligh,Tanzim, Shuddhi, Sangathan all aimed at attacking the religious sentiments of both Hindus and Muslims
  6. 1937 elections: Unwillingness shown by Congress to accept the league as coalition partners drove away the League for good
  7. Declaration of Jinnah at the Lahore Session of the League in 1940 that Hindusand Muslims can never have a common nationality
  8. Pro-League attitude of the British in the August Offer 1940
  9. Failure of Cripps Mission and its acceptance of autonomy of Muslim majority province
  10. Failure of Shimla Conference indirectly sub-served the League’s demands
  11. The Cabinet Mission was the final nail in the coffin. This was followed by Jinnah’s brutal Direct Action Day culminating with the Mountbatten Plan 1947.

English Summary

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