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1947 Boundary Commission awards for Punjab and Bengal

  • Published
    13th Aug, 2022
Context

It was on August 17, 1947, two days after Independence, that the award of the Boundary Commissions for the partition of Punjab and Bengal was announced.

  • The award caused much anguish to the people of the two provinces and also to the governments of India and Pakistan.
About

What were the two Boundary Commissions?

  • In June 1947, Sir Cyril John Radcliffe, a British lawyer, was made the Chairman of two boundary commissions of Punjab and Bengal.
  • It was given the task to draw up the new borders of India and Pakistan and given a period of five weeks to complete this task.
  • The boundary commissions of Punjab and Bengal also included two nominees each of the Indian National Congress and Muslim League
  • The Punjab commission had Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan, Justice Teja Singh, Justice Din Mohammad and Justice Muhammad Munir as members.
  • The Bengal commission comprised Justice CC Biswas, Justice BK Mukherjee, Justice Abu Saleh Akram and Justice SA Rehman.
  • The Radcliffe Line became the border between India and Pakistan when the Award was published on 17 August 1947, two days after independence.
    • The western side of the Radcliffe Line still serves as the Indo-Pakistani border and the eastern side serves as the India-Bangladesh border.

Discussion regarding the awards:

Bengal

  • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru: The minutes of the meeting show that Nehru protested against the award of Chittagong hill Tracts to Pakistan (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh).
  • Lord Mountbatten defended the award saying that the Chittagong district had close economic ties with the hill tracts and that the port required proper supervision of the Karnaphuli river which runs through the hill tracts. He made a suggestion of compromise by re-adjustment of territory which was rejected by Nehru and the Liaquat Ali Khan.
  • Fazl-ur-Rahman objected to the inclusion of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts in India.

Punjab

  • Nehru said that he considered that the award of boundary commission in the Punjab was likely to have a bad effect among the Sikhs, who presented a particularly difficult problem.
  • Sardar Baldev Singh said that the reaction to the award would be very unfavourable on the Sikh mind.
  • Liaquat Ali Khan said it would have a similar unfavourable reaction among the Muslims.
  • Sardar Patel’s view was that the only solution to the Punjab award was a transfer of population on a large scale.

BR Ambedkar and SP Mukherjee’s note on Bengal award:

  • The joint note of the two ministers pointed out that the decision of the award in some vital respects is “unjust and unfair” and against the fundamental policy of the partition and also the terms of reference.
  • The joint note concluded that the award in Bengal was unjust and arbitrary and will be a source of bitterness and strife now and in future.
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