In an earlier article, we had discussed about “June 3” plan & the reasons behind the selection of midnight of 15th August 1947 for Indian independence:
With the “June 3” plan finally in place, the leaders & officers on both sides (India & Pakistan) hardly had any time to negotiate and had to dive into the mammoth task of partition right away. While the geographical part of the partition which required redrawing of national boundaries went under the ambit of Lord Mountbatten & his team, the biggest challenge for the Indian (and Pakistani) officers was to divide national assets proportionately among the two nations.
As per the latest statistics population and “other” factors, it was decided to use a simple formula of 4:1 ratio (i.e 80% for India & 20% for Pakistan) for the purpose of divisible assets. In the case of cash, debt & financial reserves like gold bars, the implementation was straightforward. Out of every 5 gold bars, 4 would be given to India and 1 to Pakistan. However, the real challenge was in dividing other assets like offices, furniture, books etc where considerable grey areas led to some really bizarre methods of asset division and implementation blunders.
For example, in the case of govt offices, several tables sent from one country to another did not accompany chairs & vice versa. Even Police-Band instruments were not spared, with drums going to India & flutes going to Pakistan and so on. Wine cellars were retained in India since Pakistan was against alcohol but India had to compensate in cash for the alcohol to Pakistan.
The bizarreness reached heights in the case of libraries housing large number of books. For the sake of 4:1 division, librarians divided books without stimulating even an iota of common sense. Alterate volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica were divided between the 2 countries, which resulted in each country having incomplete sets. Dictionaries were ripped apart with pages having A to K entries going to one country and the rest of the pages to another. Suppose there was only 1 copy of a book, it had to be given to the country which had the most interest in it. This would have been feasible in the case of regional & religious books, but what about English novels? Among India & Pakistan, which country would have more interest in a book like “Alice in wonderland”? What looked simple on paper (during the Jun 3rd plan) had become a nightmare during execution.
Not wanting to be left behind, the extremists also jumped into the bandwagon and had their own demands including a plan to dismantle Taj Mahal and ship it to Pakistan because it was built by an Islamic ruler!!
In terms of currency notes, since there was only one mint (printing press for currencies), Pakistan agreed to reuse Indian currencies by marking those notes with “Government of Pakistan” stamp till it could establish its own printing press.
Yes, the technique of coin toss decided the fate of several assets including the horse-drawn carriages & govt vehicles. Despite these processes & techniques, arguments & ferocious fights broke out regularly even among dignified officers who could stoop down to the level of hiding even office stationery or refusing to divide/transfer them.
Such was the level of insanity during partition that the entire process was aptly termed “The most complex divorce in history”.
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