Partition by W.H. Auden by Bijay Kant Dubey SignUp
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Literary Shelf Share This Page
Partition by W.H. Auden
by Bijay Kant Dubey Bookmark and Share

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this 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 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 The maps at his disposal were out of date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 quickly forgot
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.

I do not know who can write such a poem as he has, if there is a poem like this? Is there a historian who has in this way? How was India partitioned? Who divided it and for what? How could it be? Can land be divided, or it is settled? Who is here to answer? All are but silent about with the lips held tight and answerless. All these lie inherent in unmindful of what the politicians, constitution-makers, historians, nationalists, freedom fighters and so on say it or put it otherwise. Had they at least the land department fellows they could have at least resolved the issues lying pending and unsettled? But the politicians cannot be believed, in no way at all. The selfish men and liars can never be. Who the guilty men of the Partition and how would India be in a haste? Whose vested interests were what? Who wanted what? The intentions are clear and if not, we may sense. How is this transition for power, the transfer of power? Can things be shipped so easily? It takes time. Can the things be partitioned as it was? With the Bench of the Five in which we can feel the echo of the Panch-parameshwara, wherein God is, can settle the things is our old perception, but can judgement be made in its negation, from the Indian perspective? Who really a fanatic, who really a patriot, who is who of, God knows, time will say it. Those whom we think of fanatics may not be and those whom we nationalists may not be. Who is what, it is very difficult to say it, it is very difficult to judge. Without consulting the peoples, the lands were partitioned at the behest of communal and divisive forces, politicians with vested political interests. Auden though he had not been during the Partition time catches the true spirit and frenzy, the fever and fret of the moments hanging so heavy upon with ill-will, brutality and irresponsible handling of the sensitive situation. Could the leaders not feel it then? Could the administrators not? Could the politicians not? How the chroniclers of history as Auden fails them through his sense of law and justice? Here he is no doubt John Galsworthian in his disposition of law and justice.

Had Sir Cyril Radcliffe been to India, he could have taken time, doing it not in haste, but he was called, reined in to demarcate the boundaries. The answer is not, he had not been before. If this could be the thing, how would he in a huff the vehemently opposed parties, the things of those peoples who are fanatically at odds with their different diets and incompatible gods?

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.

With the time briefed in London, schedules given, it was too late for a rational debate or conciliation and he thought of drawing the line as the contesting parties could not come to the table and the Partition appeared to be indispensable which but needed to be dealt with tougher iron hands, giving a deadly blow to the frenzied communal forces, given the vast mass of varying customs, sects, creeds, religions so differing from each other but aligning in the end    to a synthesis. The British too lacked that spirit and sense of dedication as they could not take it to be own failing to understand it properly and India too had been so ismic. The problem is none administered it well keeping the spirit of it and taking time to modernize. 

The separation is the last solution. But the real story we do not know it. The problem lay it in illiteracy, black art, superstition, fatalism, inaction, backwardness, caste system, poverty, maladministration, mismanagement, backwardness, underdevelopment, ignorance, medievalism, conservatism, narrow nationalism, regionalism, parochial thinking, religious bigotry, fanaticism, ritualism and so on.

'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.

But the Viceroy had the company and band of own. So, keeping it in view he maintained distance from and avoiding him tried his utmost to dispense with which but needed rough works done before. As for to reach at, he was offered the Hindu and Muslim judges, but we wonder that the judges too could not be of any use in bailing out of the political crisis. He too was at wit’s end as for how to begin and where to end, how the lot of his to dispense with.

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 the police patrolling the house to drive the suspected assassins away, he got down to work, demarcate and oversee the Partition plan which was not at all timely and up to date as he had been just with the old maps:

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep 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.

A barrister he sailed for after his hectic activity and wrangling but so fraught with mistakes and miscomprehension, with so much misconception and misdemeanour. He went to and forgot just as a good lawyer does it for his profession’s sake as he misapprehended his presence could his life in trouble as for the trouble brewing and taking a drastic change with bloodshed, murder, loot, seize which K.A. Abbas’ The Refugee explains it best.

The next day he sailed for England, where he quickly forgot
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.

But without knowing the history unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission, critical context one may not do justice with the poem. Who is the man whose arrival is awaited? One needs to know it. And Radcliff is the person here partitioning.  As for the judges, Hindu and Muslim, we are not sure of which Auden knows it best. Or, if we go through the minutes of the Partition, we shall know it by the way, but what pains us most is this that they divided it in a haste and with so much brutality doing justice to  a serious life matter in a childish way. The British too had not been serious in any way and their purpose too was to use and extract economically from rather than doing any good to. Can the lands be settled in such a way? Are the lands divided or settled? May I know it?

What the historians could not W.H.Auden has in his one small poem, has said it all what it happened, what they did and what our leaders and politicians. Could lands have been divided and settled in such a way? Is this the method of demarcation, drawing the line? Could Partition be done in such a way? Was it pre-planned, well-conceived, well thought about? The answer is clearly, no. The reasonable men do not do as such, those who are logical at least. And I know it that they will not prescribe it into the courses of study as it opens our eyes and the hidden truths will come out, if asked out of curiosity and logic is given to unravel the formulae of the Partition.

When we read the poem, Partition, we could not make a way, as for if Auden would take up Indian Partition and what interest will he get from. But understood it through his indications that he was going to deal and grapple with a more sensitive and psychological matter which needed a sense of historicity and judgement which but a leftist like Auden and a socialist like George Bernard Shaw could have. Neither the Indians nor the so-called Pakistanis could think of the drastic consequences, the horror and terror of the Partition. It was not a partition of a nation, but of a sub-continent.

The Partition was a lapse on the part of judgement and the then time high court judges inducted in as the members too could opine in such a way is strange to think of toeing the religious lines as for the division of Mother India which is but a fallibility of human judgement as man is not above all those vested petty considerations, is the truth never to be put aside. What the people have got from is true from the prediction of Auden, better or worse the people of India and Pakistan can say it well. The times too had been awkward as such were the fellow people.  Nehru and Jinnah too could not feel about the complications in their lust for sitting on chair. How can man be so cruel, we feel it on seeing the politicians, colonists and the colonized, the fundamentalists, fanatics and conservatives! 

It was really a blunder to partition the sub-continent, a sin which Gods will never pardon it. Had there been no philanthropists and charitable people? Were there only the fundamentalists and communal forces involved in loot, plunder, murder, capture, violence and bloodshed? The fangs of the communal, divisive forces needed to be broken the moments it grew or appeared to be lethal and venomous. The census reports too were not up to date. The Governor-General too saw it tearlessly standing in the no-man’s land which could have been averted somehow, but in the absence of some wise judgement the mistake was committed in which all the parties were involved in practically more or less. Whose agendum was the Partition? How the resolutions taken? Was it done just to slaughter the innocent lives, to wipe out the common families mercilessly, to uproot them from their nativity? But something twitched him when he found the Partition taking a bad turn and people losing lives, getting displaced and dislocated and driven out of their homes and for that reason he refused to take the fee for his plan, burnt the papers and left in a huff. He really felt guilty of conscience, but what could he have if the times were so heavy upon and the situations so adverse? How strange is it that the judges too could not counsel him in the right way upholding judicature and jurisprudence, the Divine Justice, invoking the Goddess of Law from the human lapses, errors and trials of judgement?

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03-Apr-2021
More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey
 
Views: 123      Comments: 1

Comments on this Article

Comment Yes, partition of sub-continent and freedom to new nations were done in a hurry leaving the consequences to be dealt with by the rulers! It makes it easy for third party to fish in the troubled waters! When the whole nations by unions are trying to unite all into One World, the nations of this sub-continent supposed not to have been partitioned are still living in the partition time mind! It is better at least let them realize the benefits of unity and work towards that wise end!

T A Ramesh
04/03/2021 13:46 PM




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