Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
‘Time,’ they had briefed him in London, ‘is short. It’s too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we’ve arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.’
Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.
The next day he sailed for England, where he quickly forgot
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.
Featured image by Margaret Bourke-White
“Cyrill Radcliffe, an obedient servant to the British imperial interests, wrote to his stepson: ‘Nobody in India will love me for the award about the Punjab and Bengal and there will be roughly 80 million people with a grievance who will begin looking for me. I do not want them to find me.’ (Sunil Khilnani. The Idea of India, Penguin, New Delhi, 2004) Radcliffe, one of the personifications of imperial conspiracy, wrote the letter on August 14, 1947. It was actually a confession about an imperialist act: under an umbrella of law, a jab by a dagger to inflict a fatal injury to a people’s struggle for freedom, part of a class war the dominating interests was conducting against the people.” (Farooque Chowdhury, “Class War in East Bengal, 1946 and Communist Party”, Frontier, autumn number 2015, Kolkata)
Where can one read the FULL poem by W H Auden : ” Partition ” ?