The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition by Narendra Singh Sarila; Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India by Stanley Wolpert - review by David Gilmour

David Gilmour

Problems of Partition

The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition

By

Constable & Robinson 432pp £20 order from our bookshop

Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

By

Oxford University Press 231pp £xx order from our bookshop
 

Some years ago I went to a dinner in Lucknow where everyone present was a Hindu refugee, or refugee’s child, from Lahore. A week later I had a similar evening in Lahore where everyone was a Muslim refugee from Lucknow. It was difficult to believe that at these events I was meeting enemies, citizens of hostile states that had fought several wars and were about to fight once more in Kashmir. The guests had no animosity towards their supposed foes across the border, and indeed, so similar were the two sets in cultural and conversational ways, they could have mingled happily at each other’s parties. The only difference was that I was offered Indian whisky in Lucknow and mango juice in Lahore.

Those evenings illustrated for me both the tragedy of the 1947 partition and its apparent pointlessness. How could any good that might have come from it (and this today still seems negligible) be worth the massacres and migrations and destruction of communities? After it was over, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first

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