Radcliffe Line

boundary of the Partition of India

The Radcliffe Line became the international border between India and Pakistan (which also included what is now Bangladesh) during the partition of India. The line divided Bengal into Indian held West Bengal and East Bengal which became East Pakistan in 1956. The line was decided by the Border Commissions headed by Cyril Radcliffe [en], who was to divide equitably 175,000 square miles (450,000 km2) of territory with 88 million people. The line took effect on 17 August 1947 after the Partition of India. When the partition was implemented, there were some problems:

  • The Chittagong Hill Tracts had a mostly Buddhist population, but they were given to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  • To counterbalance the relatively small share of Gurdaspur district awarded to Pakistan, Radcliffe attempted to instead transfer Ferozpur and Zira tehsils in Muslim-Majority Ferozpur District to Pakistan. This was opposed by the Maharaja of Bikaner because Harike headworks on the confluence of the Sutlej and the Beas rivers, from where a canal originated, was the only source of water for his desert state was in Ferozepore. It was only after he threatened Lord Louis Mountbatten, that he would accede his princely state to Pakistan if Firozpur was awarded to West Punjab province, that the award was changed at the last minute and all of Firozpur District was awarded to East Punjab in the Republic of India.
  • The Gurdaspur District was moslty Muslim, but was given to India.
  • Sometimes the line divided villages, so one part of the village was in each country. At other instances, it went through houses, different rooms of the same house were in different countries.