When the India-Pakistan partition was evident, in June 1947, Britain commissioned Sir Cyril Radcliffe to head the two Boundary Commissions (one for Punjab and the other for Bengal), to equitably divide 4,50,000 km sq of territory with 88 million people. Each Boundary Commission had four representatives, two from the Congress and two from the Muslim League and given the tension between the both, the decision regarding the boundary ultimately lay with Radcliffe. Radcliffe was a brilliant legal mind, but he had no border-making experience, nor had he ever been to India. He arrived in India on 8th July 1947 and was given five weeks to work on the border. While defining the boundary, Radcliffe also took into consideration “natural boundaries, communications, watercourses and irrigation systems”, while paying heed to socio-political affairs. Radcliffe completed the boundary line a few days before Independence.
Understandably, Radcliffe’s final proposals met with howls of disapproval from both sides. Even before he had completed his work, mutual suspicion and rumors about the eventual course of the border led to deadly violence on the ground. To create perceptual distance between the independence of India and Pakistan and the accompanying riots — and especially to deflect blame for the latter from Britain — Mountbatten postponed publication of the Radcliffe Border Commissions’ findings to two days after Aug. 15. For those two days, India and Pakistan were like conjoined twins. With long stretches of the border undefined on Independence Day, some towns raised both the Indian and Pakistani flags. Following the release of the border scheme, called the Radcliffe Award, violence escalated to horrendous levels. When all was over, pogroms and ethnic cleansing had left up to 1 million dead and forced 12 million to move one way or the other across the new border. Disgusted and horrified, Radcliffe burned all his papers and refused the fee of 40,000 rupees for his work. He left on Independence Day and never returned.