Highlights

  • Radcliffe Line resulted in the creation of India and Pakistan
  • It was created in five weeks by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer
  • Violence that followed partition saddened Radcliffe and he never returned to India

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Independence Day 2022: The story behind Radcliffe Line which divided India-Pakistan

Sir Cyril Radcliffe was asked to base his lines on the population of Muslims and Hindus, in addition to “other factors” which were never officially defined. 

The Radcliffe Line, a demarcation on a piece of paper, decided the nationality and fate of millions and resulted in the creation of India and Pakistan. Did you know that this line was created in a span of five weeks by a man who had never been to this part of the world before being assigned this mammoth task? The completion of which resulted in one of the biggest human migrations in modern history, with roughly 14 million people displaced and more than one million killed.

In July 1947, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer, was commissioned by the then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten to ‘go and get it done’ by which he meant 'draw the borders' that would divide British India into two countries before the scheduled departure of the Crown from its colony.

He was asked to base his lines on the population of Muslims and Hindus, in addition to “other factors” which were never officially defined. With not much time in his hands and little to no knowledge of the intricacies of India’s demography, Radcliffe based the border on some census reports and maps that didn’t necessarily depict the ground reality.

Although he did manage to make time to fly over parts of north India to get the lay of the land.

On 17 August 1947, two days after India gained independence, the Radcliffe line, named after its creator, came into being.

Independence Day 2022 Live: India celebrates 75 years of Independence

While Radcliffe, rather, the British, can be blamed for not doing a very good job demarcating the India-Pakistan border, it was politics, to some extent greed for power, and threat perception that necessitated the partition in the first place.

The genesis of the demarcation was the demand by the Muslim League for the Muslim-majority provinces of British India to form their own country.

The violence that followed the partition saddened Radcliffe to the extent that he burnt his papers, refused his fee, around Rs 40,000 and left India, never to return.

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