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How The West Was Lost

A brilliantly researched history shows how the NWFP was delivered to Pakistan through British chicanery and Congress’s confused bungling

How The West Was Lost
How The West Was Lost
outlookindia.com
2019-10-05T10:25:53+05:30

The story of the Partition of India never seems to go away. Just when you think that the last word has been written, lost opportunities rued and villains identified, comes along a new book. Not all books add to the substantial body of knowledge that exists or introduce insights that set scholars thinking. Raghvendra Singh’s India's Lost Frontier: The Story of the North-West Frontier of Pakistan attempts to do this. Most books on Partition look at roles of different actors, actions that made Partition inevitable, the avoidable mistakes of key players that facilitated communal division, specific inci­tements to violence that would provoke ferocious reactions.

So why another book, I asked myself as I picked this up. However, after reading it carefully, I was convinced that this was a story that needed to be told, and it’s told here competently. This is not to suggest that the book is flawless in both content and presentation. But more of that later. The question to ask is what makes this book different and therefore readable.

The story of the Partition of Punjab and Bengal and its horrendous, attendant vio­lence is seeped into our collective consciousness. The Partition Museum at Amritsar brings out the human element powerfully, though a similar effort for Bengal is missing. Two scholarly works in the last decade that questioned conventional narratives were by Venkat Dhuli­pala (Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India) and Ishtiaq Ahmed (The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed). The first exposed the myth that the demand for Pakistan was just a bargaining plea, that Jinnah just wanted a better deal for Muslims of India and the Congress mishandled it. Ahmed’s book is the first to look at a province in such great detail, using...

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