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Wednesday, December 30, 1998
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Mountbatten favoured Sikhs: Datta
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Dec 29 — A new pathbreaking research on the partition of Punjab indicates that Lord Mountbatten's interference in the Boundary Commission Award was aimed at favouring the Sikhs, helping India retain Gurdaspur district and also getting Ferozepore and Zira tehsils which had earlier been awarded to Pakistan by the commission.

These issues were touched upon by Prof V.N. Datta, Professor Emeritus, Modern History, Kurukshetra University, on the second day of the 59th session of the Indian History Congress at Punjabi University here.

Professor Datta, who has based his paper on the Churchill Archives and the Transfer of Power volumes in Oxford and Cambridge Universities, says contrary to the popular belief Lord Mountbatten interfered in the boundary question and even urged its Chairman Sir Cyril Radcliffe to balance the border of the east and the west.

Quoting the Lord Mountbatten's letter to Lord Ismay, Prof Datta said the former advised Sir Radcliffe to bear the Sikh problem in mind while balancing the east and west borders and that "any generosity to Pakistan should be more in Bengal than in Punjab."

The historian said Lord Mountbatten was concerned about the Sikhs as their most fertile lands of Lyalpur and Montgomery were being awarded to Pakistan. He said while in awarding the Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur to India by ignoring the principal of majority population, the commission had stuck to the recommendations made by Lord Wavell in February 1946, the boundary line with respect to Ferozepore and Zira tehsils was changed on February 10 or 11, 1947, reverting them back to India after being awarded to Pakistan.

He said Lord Mountbatten understood that if Gurdaspur was allotted to Pakistan, Amritsar would be isolated and surrounded by predominant Muslim majority districts of Lahore, Gurdaspur and the princely state of Kapurthala. He said because of this Lord Wavell had earlier recommended that Gurdaspur should not be separated from Amritsar. The commission finally separated one tehsil of Shakargarh from Gurdsapur which was beyond the Ravi and allotted it to Pakistan.

Professor Datta said in the case of Ferozepore and Zira tehsils, which had a Muslim population of 54.25 per cent and 55.26 per cent, the Punjab Governor was told on August 8, 1947, that the tehsils were going to Pakistan by the Viceroy's secretary. He said the following day it was confirmed in writing, Prof Datta said however the next day the Punjab Governor was informed telephonically that both tehsils were being allotted to India.

The historian said Sir Radcliffe had probably wanted to compensate Pakistan for giving part of Lahore district and Gurdaspur to India. He said however Lord Radcliffe later changed his mind.back

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