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Drawing the Lines

- Ramanjit Singh

How the border between India and Pakistan was drawn in Punjab remains one of the most interesting subject for research in the entire Partition saga. I have documented the reasoning behind the Radcliff Award and how the notional boundary, first outlined in June 1947, was markedly changed when the final boundary was announced on August 17th, 1947 (after a delay of two days).

Notional Punjab Boundary formulated as of June 1947 exposes Amritsar from all three sides.

On June 3rd 1947, the British put forth a crude boundary to partition Punjab. Based on the 1941 census, most of the districts along Ravi were Muslim majority districts, thus the approach of how to split Punjab with any semblance of logic became next to impossible.

The Radcliff Award in essence boils down to defending Amritsar. The notional boundary had the entire district stuck out as an island surrounded by Pakistan on three sides. Sheikhupura and Ravi to its north, Lahore in the south west and Gurdaspur in the east. Cut-off from the rest of India by river Beas forming its natural boundary in the south. In undivided Punjab, the Lahore District went all the way to Harike Pattan (the confluence of Sutluj and Beas). This was also called the Ferozepur salient.

Lahore - Amritsar District lines pre 1947 Punjab
District lines separating Amritsar and Lahore, this would have become the international border if the notional boundaries of the June plan had not changed.

In this map, we can see a more detailed view of the part of Lahore district's Kasur tehsil that went to India.

Portion of Lahore District that was allotted to India - Radcliffe Award.

A small but still significant part of Lahore district (part of Kasur tehsil) and 3 out of 4 tehsils of Gurdaspur District went to India. Three tehsils of Gurdaspur that went to India are Batala, Gurdaspur and Pathankot. Shakargarh was given to Pakistan.

District lines separating Amritsar and Gurdaspur, this would have become the international border if the notional boundaries of the June plan had not changed.

Difference between the notional and actual boundaries is quite significant in this part of of the India-Pakistan border. The notional boundary follows the Amritsar district boundary from Ravi down to Beas river and then the border follows the contours of the Beas river all the way to Jammu and Kashmir. The Radcliff Award, as announced on Aug 17th, puts the border north at river Ravi and gives Gurdaspur district to India.

Boundary award was announced on Aug 17th 1947 (British delayed the announcement for couple of days after Aug 15th). This has raised controversy as to why there was a delay. A lot of writers on both sides mention that in the days prior to the release of the map, the Radcliff award was tilted in India's favor. Indian argument was that for all the economic loss that the Hindus and Sikhs suffered in losing their major business hubs in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Sialkot, plus the large tracts of land in Lyallpur and Montgomery (Canal colonies), that this"tilt" was a small token of compensation for their loss, a sort of consolation prize for the Indian Punjabis. Also the award provided a buffer to protect Amritsar in case of a war, and thus the border is equidistant from Lahore and Amritsar.

Authors Narendra Singh Sarila and Patrick French write the following in their research paper:

"If the Sikhs' holy city of Amritsar was to be located in India, it was essential that it was not cut off in a hostile Pakistani sea. This inevitably meant that surrounding pieces of territory had to be allocated to India." Had the notional boundary remained as the final border between India and Pakistan, Amritsar would have been undefendable in case of a war. Another point to note is that Ferozepur and Zira tehsils also had a majority Muslim population but were given to India.

Lahore having Muslims in majority with about 64.5% percent but Hindus and Sikhs controlled approximately 80% of city's assets, Radcliffe had originally planned to give Lahore to India. When discussing the process of drawing the borders with journalist Kuldip Nayar, he commented "I nearly gave you Lahore. ... But then I realized that Pakistan would not have any large city. I had already earmarked Calcutta for India." When Sir Cyril Radcliffe was told that "the Muslims in Pakistan have a grievance that he favored India", he replied, "they should be thankful to me because I went out of the way to give them Lahore which deserved to go to India. (Wiki)

When one drives from Ferozepur to Amritsar, and goes through Bhikiwind or Patti, the route traverses part of the Lahore district that still remains in India.


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