Photo by Lee Jin-man/AP/Press Association
‘…I love the tag Birds without Borders as I sit here writing about the way humans negotiated borders in the Partition…’
…comment from Deborah Nixon, a reseacher on Partition, by email to Flightpathproject.
Partition: n. 1. division into parts, esp of a country with separate areas of government
definition: Oxford Compact English Dictionary
Cyril John Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe GBE, PC, QC was a British lawyer and Law Lord best known for his role in the partition of British India during which about 14.5 million people crossed borders.
Drawing the Line, by Howard Brenton, a play about Cyril Radcliffe and his role in the Partition of India, premiered in London on 3 December 2013
Photos: Elliot & Fry 1949, National Portrait Gallery, London; Tristram Kenton for the Guardian
Partition by WH Auden
Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on the 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 the 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 The maps at his disposal were out of date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 could quickly forget
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.
Train to Pakistan
This edition published by Penguin Books India and Ravi Dayal Publisher 2009.