The British role in partition is at best maladministration and at worst criminal negligence by the authorities of the British Raj under the last Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten. With some 12-15 million migrating and up to a million deaths, some very basic questions need to be asked.
The two state basis of partition was pretty baseless given the multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nature of the subcontinent for thousands of years. If you were going to have a religious state for Muslims why not one also for the Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths as well? Moreover the subsequent liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 from former East Pakistan, puts pay to the idea that religious faith is the only basis of forming a state without taking account of language and culture.
The communal riots in Bengal in places like Calcutta and Noakhali in 1946 could have been stopped if the British army got involved rather then be told not to get involved, and then escalated in the following year. That was clearly the time for the authorities to put their foot down and put a stop to further killings. Furthermore, matters can not have been helped by the boundaries of the new state of Pakistan not being released till two days after independence – yes thats after independence itself – by which time most families had already made their moves when we had another year or to inform people of where the red lines actual existed. Furthermore giving the Princely states the option of opting in or out of India or Pakistan and even going independent without referendums with the local residents was clearly asking for trouble in places like Kashmir and Hyderabad.
While the emphasis has been on the personal stories that all our families who were caught up with it, to tell our stories on the 70th anniversary of partition, let us not forget how badly it was handled by authorities of the British empire.