India 1947: Partition in Color Revisited: A Heartbreaking and Anger-Inspiring Story of Britain’s Colonial Legacy | TV

HHow many documentaries about the brutal partition of India have opened with a PR accent expressing a nostalgic variation of sentiment: “India was the jewel in the crown…”? India 1947: Partition in Color (Channel 4) also begins with these words. But the tone of this tense, angry two-part film is different, and not just because the stock footage has been colorized for the first time. More than color, it is saturated with a clear truth, in particular the dignified anger born of 75 years of seeing one’s painful history co-opted, misrepresented and silenced.

Using film, photos, heartbreaking oral testimony, raging private documents, and all-star collaborators, as well as some unnecessary reconstruction, India 1947: Partition in Color traverses the year leading up to one of the greatest. Catastrophes of the 20th century. On February 20, 1947, six months before partition, we see Britain appoint Lord Mountbatten as the last Viceroy of India. On May 6, 1947, with three months to go, Mountbatten’s Balkan Plan is approved in London, despite not having been discussed with any Indian leaders (namely Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah). The countdown on screen is claustrophobic and stressful. Justly. We’re talking about a tiny group of men who carved up one of the most diverse parts of the world in weeks – a roll of the dice that unleashed a tragedy in which a million Indians died and some 15 million were uprooted (although many estimates are off the mark). closer to 17, even 20 million).

Refreshingly, most of the talking heads are Indian and Pakistani: professors, historians, and authors, as well as Lakshman Menon, the silver-tongued grandson of VP Menon, Mountbatten’s top aide. They are all ruthless in their assessment. Take for example Stanford professor Priya Satia on the fact that it took five days for the British governor in Bengal to deploy troops to quell the wave of violence that swept through Calcutta, now Calcutta, in August 1946. “This shows the lack of value of Indian life,” she says. “It’s racist.” Or Shruti Kapila, a professor of Indian history at Cambridge, who points out that the ensuing bloodbath between Hindu and Muslim neighbors stemmed from Britain’s colonial policy of divide and rule.”Indians are literally set free to kill each other,” he says, “without the British taking any responsibility for the civil war unleashed by their policies.”As for Mountbatten’s sudden decision to create two new countries with different identities in just 10 weeks, broadcaster Anita Anand says, “It sounds crazy, because it’s crazy.”

There are revelations. What came to be known as the Mountbatten Plan was not his at all. It was Vice President Menon who hastily came up with the idea of ​​transferring power to two countries instead of a dozen or more provincial governments. “In fact,” says Lakshman Menon, “Mountbatten had absolutely nothing to do with it.” VP Menon was offered the highest level of knighthood in the latest Mountbatten Honors List. “My grandfather turned him down very politely,” says Lakshman, eyes twinkling. “Later he said to his daughter-in-law, my mother: ‘How can I accept a knighthood as the man who caused the partition of my country?'” a lot of guilt, and trauma, for everyone.

Then there is the messy and politically expedient relationship between Mountbatten, his wife, Edwina, and Nehru, the charismatic leader of the Indian National Congress with whom he was rumored to be having an affair. Andrew Lownie, author of The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves, presents it as fact, backed up by Nehru’s diaries. He also says that they may have been a “threesome”: “Mountbatten and Nehru were attracted to each other on a romantic level.”

In any case, it was totally inappropriate considering Mountbatten’s unbiased role. Although it took him two weeks to meet with Nehru’s great rival, Jinnah, the head of the Muslim League, he met with Nehru immediately. They got along great. After all, Nehru, who was steeped in English education, is ironically regarded as “the last Englishman to rule India.” And both men sought a united India, while Jinnah, after World War II, demanded a homeland for India’s Muslim minority to protect their lives. In a top-secret memo, Mountbatten admits to “taking advantage of my friendship with Nehru to ask him for his personal opinion on the new draft.” A draft that he showed to Nehru, but not to Jinnah, whom he described as “a psychotic case.” Historian Adeel Hussain says that he has never seen a historical figure call mad so often, although “when you look [Jinnah’s] demands, are rational and sober.

The second part of India 1947: Partition in Colour, which covers the border line drawn by Cyril Radcliffe, a man who had never visited India, uses details from the unpublished memoirs of his private secretary Christopher Beaumont. This first part includes excerpts from Mountbatten’s diaries and letters, which were “held for the nation” in 2010. However, there are more documents, the publication of which was blocked last year by the Cabinet Office. This is how the sensitive partition is still 75 years later. Sometimes the greatest power of a documentary is to remind us how much we don’t yet know.

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