A correspondent writes: I have always been an admirer of
headlines of momentous events which have been reported in The Statesman over
the decades. Be it “The Sunset” on Deshbandhu Chittaranjan’s passing or
“Hiroshim Mon AmI” on the dropping of atom bomb in Japan or “The Great Calcutta
Killing” following the communal conflagration which engulfed with the city in
August, 1946 or “Appointment with Freedom” on the nation becoming independent
or “Jawaharlal” following the death of the nation’s longest serving prime
minister, or “Wreck of a Party” on split in the Congress to name a few. The
Statesman carried an editorial “Moon Eclipsed” when Sir Penderel Moon, ICS had
to put in papers. Looking into a pile of books at College Street the other day,
I chanced upon Divide and Quit by Penderel Moon. It is a gem of a book being a
first-hand account one of the most cataclysmic events of the century, the
Partition of India. The author, a member of the ICS posted at Bahawalpur, offers
an analysis of the Partition, describing the manifestations of communal frenzy,
the efforts made to stem the terror, and the breakdown of government. There
have been other books on this topic but what interested me was the author. Moon
had to resign after interception of a copy of an unsympathetic reply of the
then Punjab governor to him which he had sent to a brother of Rajkumari Amrit
Kaur, a secretary to Mahatma Gandhi.

Moon had sought better treatment for those arrested for
civil disobedience movement. Kaur was in prison, the war situation was grim for
the British and in the backdrop of these happenings Moon had to resign. In his
comment on the reply, Moon had received from the government, he wrote: “I
experienced mingled feeling of astonishment and disgust. I was astonished
because I did not think that the government would have the nerve to deal out to
me such pitiful claptrap. It is (an) insult to one’s intelligence besides being
a reflection on their own.” Obviously, this note was not music to the ears of
the mandarins of India Office. When the Cripps Mission came to India, a member
wanted Moon to accompany it as an advisor. Such was his level of efficiency and
experience about Indian affairs. One does not have to tease one’s little grey
cells too much to fathom the reason why it did not receive the India Office’s
nod. However, when British rule ended in India, Moon became the Chief
Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh and later moved on to the Planning Commission.
Moon believed that sooner the British handed over power to Indians, the better.
As for the massacres in the wake of the Partition, his view had few takers
amongst his British colleagues in the service he had quit. He wrote “If
therefore the British care to ask wherein lay their responsibility for the
massacres and migrations of 1947, the answer may be succinctly given. It lay in
their belief in the virtues of parliamentary democracy and their reluctance to
part with power.” Mark Tully in his foreword to “Divide and Quit” writes,
“India has still, I believe, to rediscover itself. When it does, it will have
much to teach us.” Sir Penderel would not have disagreed.