The book is a part of a series entitled – People at Odds, written for the students of Grade 6-12. It claims to have used ‘a straightforward historical approach supported by many examples of how common people have been affected, and often devastated, by political and military forces.’ Further it ‘follows the history chronologically, emphasizing the initial geographic division of the two countries as the main source of conflict.
While the efforts are laudable, regrettably the author has done more harm to the history of the region. Certainly it is a biased and distorted picture of the region. She starts with the mental agony of Cyril Radcliff, entrusted with the stupendous task of dividing a sub-continent in a short period of 36 days. After completing his work within the allotted time he left for his home in a huff to avoid any holocaust of anger of the public. She reveals ‘he accepted no payment for the work’ but does not tell about his brief for drawing the maps of two countries.
With beautiful picture of Mountbatten, she forgot to mention his role in partition of India. Irony of the situation, Mountbatten joined as Viceroy in March 1947 and he hurriedly invited Radcliff, a person unknown to the region, in July 1947 to prepare the blueprint of partition by August 1947. Though Viceroy had enough time at his disposal as Prime Minister Attlee had decided the date of independence in June 1948, but seemed in haste to create his name in the history. Had the date been followed, perhaps proper preparation would have been made and the bloodshed would not have taken place.
Enough details about the ailment and death of M A Jinnah has been given. Mountbatten knew that he might not survive for long but he kept quiet, as Viceroy was keen to be Governor General of both the countries.
She starts with the belief that ‘the territory was never a single nation’. If so, why the British were attracted and ruled for two hundred years. There are lot of mistakes and distortion of facts in the book. She appears to be obsessed with – Hindu region and English empire.
A few glaring discrepancies in the book may be cited, especially in regard to India:
- P.28 - Kashmir was the birth place of Nehru
– No he was born in Allahabad. His ancestors were from Kashmir.
- P.29- It is not clear exactly what role Pakistan played in the initial invasion of Kashmir by the Pathan force.
- Perhaps ignorance. What does Pathan force means?
- The two nomenclatures of administration mixed up – Prime Minister and President, at so many places, more in the case of Pakistan.
- P.39 -...rumblings of discontent and challenges to Nehru’s leadership within his own party...
- Unfounded. When, where?
- P. 40 - He (Nehru) resigned from Congress Party, a shock to the nation.
- When? Totally untenable.
- P. 40 - The luxurious palace of Viceroy ... became the home or Nehru.
- Not at all. It became the house of President of India. Nehru was allotted the residence of former British C–in-C General Auchinlek.
- P. 50 - ...a dispute over the boundaries soon led to war.
– it was not small dispute. It was naked aggression.
- P. 51 – Once the war with China had ended, India began to feel pressure...settle dispute with Pak over Kashmir.
-No, India never felt any pressure from any side.
- P. 52 – She (Indira) was secretly making all decisions herself (after Nehru’s illness).
- P.53- (Shastri) lacked Nehru’s desire for peacemaking.
-In fact he was the embodiment of peace as evident in Tashkent Agreement.
- P.60 – Indira Gandhi was in Kashmir ... there she was asked to go back to India at once...she informed PM Shastri about it...
-Not acceptable. Who could say go to India. She was there in India only and anyone knowing her cannot dream about her.
- P. 66 – On Nov 1, 1966, India was once more divided – a new state to become known as Khalistan was created...
-Absurd. Author should correct it urgently.
Every page is full of such glaring mistakes not only about India but about Pakistan as well. They can be compiled in a separate volume. In view of these, the claim that ‘books are packed with valuable information and insights that will give students a firm foundation for understanding the source of these conflicts and a realistic view of the prospects for peace’ seems misleading. At places, she seems perplexed with the volume of information and vastness of the subject
The book has 6 chapters and each chapter has further sub divisions. It also contains one page of chronology of events, suggestions for further reading, bibliography and subject index.