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Geographical division

Drawing the border dividing the Indian subcontinent into Hindu majority India and Muslim majority East and West Pakistan was an enormous task. It was organised by the Bengal Boundary Commission and the Punjab Boundary Commission, both under the chairmanship of British lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliffe. Radcliffe sought to divide the sub-continent along religious lines. Using censuses, he looked at individual districts: placing districts with Muslim majority populations in Pakistan and Hindu majority districts in India.

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A census is an official count of the population

The partition of India (1947) Author: Partage_de_l'Inde.svg: historicair 17:15, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

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Radcliffe was ill-equipped for the task at hand as he had never visited India before drawing the border and arrived in India just one month before Britain’s departure. The British government considered this an asset that made him a neutral party. This actually made Radcliffe ill-informed on the geography and politics necessary for the exercise and the censuses he used were six years out of date. Accurate data collection was almost impossible in the time he had; as Radcliffe drew the border the migration of refugees had already begun. The population was changing daily. Radcliffe had insufficient time for such a significant task.

The border paid no attention to existing railway lines and divided industrial plants from agricultural areas where raw materials such as jute were grown. The border also cut off communities from sacred pilgrimage sites. For example, for centuries Sikhs made pilgrimages between the Golden Temple in Amritsar India and Kartarpur in Pakistan, yet now these sites became separated by the border.


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DID YOU KNOW...?

Jute is a very strong, quite cheap fibre used in making packaging materials. Grown in India, jute would be shipped to places such as Dundee in Scotland. During the 19th century, half the workforce of Dundee were employed in the textile industry who would make products from jute. The city became known as a ‘juteopolis’ due to the fact that their main industry involved working with jute. Events in India would have a big impact on life in the UK due to the connectedness of British industry with Indian resources.