Quest for undiscovered answers
Institution of an investigative commission is long overdue on the carnage unleashed during India’s Partition
Since the World War-II, certain national and international commissions of inquiry and historical research committees have been appointed to investigate dramatic and momentous events of the more or less recent past in order to understand what exactly happened, what decisions and non-decisions are to blame and what can be done to repay the damage, compensate victims and reduce the possibility of recurrence of such happenings. Of course, due to political and social sensitivities, and to the unwillingness of responsible powerful parties to face blame, many other great tragedies have not been properly investigated, so far so that circumstances remain a matter of controversy until the results fade from public memory.
One well-known instance of such efforts to better understand and judge the past is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding the crimes committed by the Apartheid regime as well as those carried out by some of the militants who fought it. Another much more flawed and limited endeavour was the British Chilcot Inquiry into the circumstances of the British decision to call for and join in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 on fallacious pretexts, without any of the members of the coalition having made any plans for protecting the civilian population, preserving public order and safety and helping set up an alternative stable government. The USA has not conducted a similar exercise in order to avoid inculpating many members of the top civilian and military leadership, beginning with the then President and Vice President of the country who might have been found guilty of war crimes and crimes of aggression (i.e. a crime against humanity according to Nuremberg and Tokyo jurisprudence).
In India, the bloody and disastrous partition in 1947 has never been officially investigated and no proper answer has been found as to why no planning had been made for the transfer, protection, shelter and compensation for the millions of people who were directly affected by the decision to split the country. No accurate figures are available but a rough estimate is that nearly two crores were uprooted from their homes and about 20 lakhs were massacred.
An investigation commission should hence be set up to assess and explain the responsibilities, failures and motivations of the responsible parties.
Taking his stand against partition, Gandhiji had written to Jinnah on September 15,1944, emphasising that Hindus and Muslims were not two nations but one. He said: "I find no parallel in history for a body of converts and their descendants claiming to be a nation apart from the parent stock. If India was one nation before the advent of Islam, it must remain one…" But then, what happened next, needs to be investigated.
Views expressed are personal