We have been watching the two-part film about Partition on Channel 4 – ‘India 1947: Partition in Colour’. It was much more shocking and, to be honest, disturbing than I had imagined.
My father was there – I thought in Delhi, but I now realise in Calcutta, presumably in Government House, so was much less involved than he would have been had he stayed in Delhi in the negotiations round Partition and why I never heard talk of Mountbatten’s personality, attitudes and behaviour which seem to have been so key to how it happened.
He was, I think, and remained friendly with Christopher Beaumont, the civil servant who worked with Cyril Radcliffe, the chairman of the Boundary Commission. But I did not know the full scale of the bloodshed and I don’t remember it being discussed at home, not that much about his time in India, and the details of its fraught politics, was.
He left Calcutta on Friday 15th. August 1947 by flying boat, so was not there to see the consequences of Partition. It was all treated as if it was about the orderly transfer of power, a delusion, not the deaths that resulted.