72 years ago, the partition of India came into effect dividing British India into two new, independent countries – India and Pakistan. The northern region was a predominantly Muslim section of India that later became the nation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, while the Hindu majority of southern region was named the Republic of India. At the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru gave the famous speech hailing country’s decade-long movement against the British Raj. Celebrations began the midnight with fireworks in the major cities in both the newly formed countries.
However, one of the mammoth tasks that the leaders from both sides were to deal with was the division of physical assets between both India and Pakistan. While the geographical part of the partition that required the redrawing of boundaries was with Lord Mountbatten and his team, the biggest challenge for officers from both sides the division of national assets proportionately between the two countries. Different categories of assets had to be examined separately and divided on an equitable basis.
Interestingly, on August 14, 1947, India’s cash balance was about Rs. 4000 million, out of which Pakistan wanted Rs. 1000 million. Incidentally, India was not in favor of paying such a huge amount to the newly formed neighbor. Evidently, the panel decided to pay Rs. 750 million to Pakistan.
Apparently, it was not only the human beings who were divided between India and Pakistan, it was the banknotes, furniture, books and even the employees too. The human columns of public employees from junior ministers to sweepers, to railroad presidents, errand boys, clerks, and bearers had to be transported off from one dominion to another. Sadly, the communal riots compelled these people to abandon their immobile properties in their ancestral countries and migrate between the newly independent India and Pakistan.
1. Monetary and liquid assets
After a long struggle of decision-making, Pakistan got 17.5 percent of all the monetary and liquid assets, while India got a share of 82.5 percent including currency stocks, coins, postal and revenue stamps, gold reserves and the assets of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). All these financial distributions were accounted with proper details that even the record of the proportional distribution of petty cash worth Rs. 75 from a district commissioner in Nagaland has been mentioned in the records.
2. Movable and non-liquid assets
These assets included the units like all the items from the government premises. From down to tables, chairs, light bulbs, pots, brooms, stationary, and even blotting paper were divided. It was decided that all the movable and non-liquid assets will be divided in the ratio of 80:20 between India and Pakistan with India receiving 80 percent and Pakistan getting the remaining 20 percent. Even the books in the government libraries were divided between India and Pakistan.
3. Government vehicles
From rail tracks to the roadway mileage, government vehicles and railway rolling stocks were also divided in proportion between the two countries.
4. Assets of the police force
In Lahore, the Police Superintendent divided everything equally between the Hindu deputy and Muslim deputy. From legging to rifles, turbans and lathis, everything was divided. Interestingly, even the instruments of police band were split between the two comrades. Instruments like flute and trumpet went to Pakistan, while India got drums and cymbals. However, one instrument was left in the end and that was a trombone. Surprisingly, the deputies who had been colleagues for years had to fist fight to gain the instrument for their country.
5. Government library books
Dictionaries were torn apart such that A-K belonged to India and the rest went to Pakistan. Sets of Encyclopedia Britannica kept in the Punjab Government library were divided using religious terms. However, when there was only one copy of any book available in the library, librarians allotted the books based on the greater interest of the nations.
6. Wine cellars
India decided to keep the wine cellars with them since Pakistan would be an Islamic nation where alcohol was ‘haraam’. Nevertheless, Pakistan was monetarily compensated for the value of the wine.
Since there was one government press in India that was used to print the currency notes, India refused to hand that over to Pakistan. Therefore, the Islamic nation had to begin its existence with Indian currency notes with a rubber stamp of “Pakistan” over “India” on the notes, till the time they had their own printing press.
8. Royal carriages
The Viceroy of India has two sets of Royal carriages, out of which one was trimmed in gold and the other in silver. Now, who would get which set, was the decision of the Mountbatten family. They chose to ‘toss a coin’ for the decision. And after the coin toss, India received the gold trimmed set of carriages. From the harnesses to the uniforms of the helpers, everything was divided between India and Pakistan.
9. Indian Army divided
After the end of British rule in India, the existing British Indian Army and its administration also ceased to exist. Around 260, 000 men mainly Hindus and Sikhs moved to India and 140, 000 men, mainly Muslims went to Pakistan. The Brigade of Gurkhas, recruited in Nepal was divided between India and Britain. Individual troops were split up. The 19th Lancers in Pakistan exchanged their Jat and Sikh troops for Muslims from the Skinner’s Horse in India.
To everyone’s amazement, the extremists jumped to the bandwagon and had their own demands including the division of Taj Mahal by dismantling it and shipping it to Pakistan since it was built by an Islamic ruler.