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Divide and Quit, Penderel MoonPenderel Moon’s account of the great Partition of South Asia reads as an autobiographical narration of the whole incident. A member of the Indian Civil Service, Moon—by virtue of his posting in Bahawalpur, a princely state adjoining the Punjab—examines the politics played out in Delhi between the Congress and the Muslim League, and focuses on the oscillating nature of the Khizar-Akali government that ultimately gave birth to the Sikh problem during the days of the Partition. Moon argues that due to Jinnah’s unsympathetic attitude, which did little to assuage the pain inflicted on the Sikh community during the riots in March 1947, the Sikhs unwillingly sided with the Congress as they failed to trust the League leaders. (Deliberately I use the term “unwilling” for as history has it, the Sikhs later demanded a separate state for themselves during 1970s. This was known as the “Khalistan Movement”, nipped in the bud by the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through Operation Blue Star. This led to her assassination, followed by the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.) Incited by the injustice meted out to them, the Sikhs resorted to merciless rioting and looting as soon as the Partition was officially declared. Though Moon’s opinions, as he explores the politics played out/against the Sikhs, seems to be extremely biased towards the aforementioned community, he scathingly attacks the mayhem unleashed in Central Punjab that almost amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Muslims. Through contrast and calculation, Moon opines that, when compared to the violence in Eastern Punjab, Western Punjab experienced less brutality as far as rioting was concerned. The population of Western Punjab, he argues, was of a mild temperament compared to those in Eastern Punjab; “the relative docility of the peoples” of Western Punjab “gave a milder character to the disorders” (pp.263). Next important aspect that Moon narrates in detail is the part played by the police and the army. He cogently argues that “[I]n Bahawalpur, as in many other Indian States, the police were a depressed class, utterly neglected and despised, and all attention and funds were devoted to the army” (pp.127). Hence it was easier for the marauders to go ahead with their expedition. He also refers to incidents where the army betrayed administrative orders and took part in the looting and killing of kafilas, making their way across to India. The narration of the events in Rahim Yar Khan, where the “Labana Sikhs” were terrorized by the army who incidentally were given the responsible to provide security to the group is a case in point (pp. 230-234). The breakdown of the government amidst the communal frenzy is time and again highlighted by Moon. His narrative is interspersed with incidents that directly depict the violence. At the same time, he elaborates the rehabilitation program undertaken by the authorities to sustain the waves after waves of migrating population that made inroads in Western Punjab. Being the District Magistrate, he himself saw to it that various batches of Hindu and Sikh refugees were safely transported to India. With hindsight, Moon sums up his book by asking tricky questions like could the Partition be avoided and how the Sikh problem could have been solved. He traces the politics from 1937 to 1946, from Gandhi to Jinnah, from the Quit India Movement to the Cabinet Mission to conclude that “the export of Parliamentary democracy” (pp. 284) for a country as diverse as India eventually led to its downfall. To quote, “And so there was introduced into a vast country of illiterate peasants, belonging to diverse races and religions and held together only by a geography and common subjection to British rule, a system of government which, while it served the English and some close kindred peoples well enough, has elsewhere been—and doubtless will continue to be—a constant source of strife, disunity and disruption” (pp.284). Such an outrageous remark, directed to the Indian population, does not do justice to the civilization of ours. Nonetheless, one agrees with Mark Tully who, in the introduction of the book, states that India has still “to rediscover itself. When it does, it will have much to teach us” (pp. xxii). Another interesting observation made by Moon is the new fascination of “national state” that drew Gandhi and Jinnah to accept the idea of the dividing the land. To quote, “[I]n the ultimate analysis the cause of the disaster was their common worship of new god—the National state” (pp.286). The concept of nation-state gripped the whole of Europe and the resultant consequences were that of two world wars. Moon criticises the idea of the nation-state which is a modern entity in the league of nations. Over all, Moon is not a detached observer like many of his British contemporaries. He took part in the action and composes this book from his first-hand experiences of tackling the aftermaths of the Partition where, to quote him again, innumerable people “had been driven from homes by exigencies not of war but of freedom” (pp.260)—that is the freedom of India and Pakistan.

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