Tribal Areas in Favour of Indian Union

Letter from Vallabhbhai Patel to Louis Mountbatten, 13 August 1947

My dear Lord Mountbatten,

A deputation of the Chittagong Hill Tribes saw me this morning and expressed to me their grave apprehension that their area was going to be included in East Bengal under the Boundary Commission award. I am unaware of the source of their information, but they seemed to be well convinced that this was going to happen. I have told them that the proposition was so monstrous that if it should happen, they would be justified in resisting to the utmost of their power and count on our maximum support in such resistance.

Personally, I feel it is inconceivable that such a blatant and patent breach of terms of reference should be perpetrated by the Chairman of the Boundary Commission. We have all along felt that the future of this area was not at all in doubt. No fair reading of the terms of reference or appreciation of the factual position could make a 97 per cent non-Muslim area a part of the award relating to the boundary of East Bengal. Such a decision would also jeopardize the position of the adjoining Tripura State which is a Hindu State with predominantly Hindu population, which has acceded to the Indian Dominion and has joined the Union Constituent Assembly.

I, therefore, feel bound to draw your attention to the serious consequences which would follow such a manifestly unjust award. There is no doubt from the report of the Tribal Areas Committee who collected unimpeachable evidence on the spot and whose views I represented to the Chairman of the Commission in a letter (copy enclosed) which I sent to him as Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Constituent Assembly, that the entire population of this area is in favour of remaining in the Indian Union.

Any award against the weight of local opinion and of the terms of reference, or without any referendum to ascertain the will of the people concerned must, therefore, be construed a collusive or partisan award and will have, therefore, to be repudiated by us. I make this statement with a full sense of responsibility as one who was party to the setting up of the Commission. But you cannot clearly expect us to submit to a proceeding which would be in violation of the basic conception underlying the Commission’s terms of reference.

I must also point out that public reaction would wholly and overwhelmingly support us in such repudiation. Already there is considerable doubt whether they would get an impartial award under the novel and strange procedure adopted by the Chairman of not even hearing the arguments. Many persons have come and complained to me that he has rendered himself liable, by this means, to being influenced by circles in your secretariat whose antipathies to India and sympathies with the League are well known. The selection, as secretary of the Commission, of one of the European officers of the Punjab, who are generally associated in public mind with pro-League sympathies, has not mended matters. I have generally adopted an indifferent attitude to these complaints, but if the award confirms the worst fears entertained by the public, it is impossible for me to predict the volume of bitterness and rancour which would be let loose and I am certain that this will create a situation which both you and I may have to regret.

Yours sincerely, Vallabhbhai Patel

Reference : Towards Freedom & Sardar Patel Corrospondence Vol. IV, pp. 174-5



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