Author and former British Indian Army officer Francis Tuker references Manchester Guardian's article on the violence in Punjab and why the British Indian authorities did not do anything to stop it.
The Punjab savagery can hardly be received merely as another of the terrible catastrophes of the age, and then passed over ’, writes the Manchester Guardian in a leading article under the caption ‘ Indian Massacres ’. ‘ Were these horrors not preventable? ’ asks the paper.
British themselves produced no remedies. There is still a British Governor-General in India and a British Commander- in-Chief.
It was known that as soon as the Boundary Commission would announce its award, there would be disturbances, and to deal with these the Punjab Boundary Force was created under General Rees. Why then did this consist of only four battalions ? Rural outbreak is harder to control than tumult in cities. But sufficiency of troops with jeeps and tanks and aeroplanes could have prevented the atrocities.
Many of these have been the work of units marching in military formation and such petty hordes can be broken up by machine--gunning from the air. By control from the air, the danger could have been avoided of clashes between troops and the police. If some Indian Regiments could not have been relied upon to take action against their co-religionists, there were the Gurkhas, and as long as the British troops are in the country who can deny that they also should have been used to prevent such crimes as the present ?
Moreover, systematic atrocities such as have taken place cannot be improvised in a day. Police intelligence in India is good, and must have given warning of what happened. What attention was paid to its reports ? ’
Concluding, the paper writes, ‘ These are questions of the past. What of the future ? A week’s evils have probably left consequences in division and hatred which will continue for years. A small palliative, and one which the honour of India urgently requires, is the uncovering of the organisers of these massacres and their punishment, if possible, by a joint tribunal of India and Pakistan.
Francis Tucker further writes...
The P.B.F. consisted of the best part of two and a half divisions. I doubt if more soldiers could have been scraped up from all India, except perhaps some armour from Southern Command. There is no doubt that the appearance of British troops in strength in the cities of the Punjab would have had a great moral effect.
They were too young and inexperienced to be used outside the towns. However, we were debarred from using them by the terms of the agreement with the two Dominions whereby, after August 1947, they could not be employed unless the disturbances directly threatened the lives or property of Europeans. As there was no such threat, and as neither Dominion asked for British troops to help them, the prohibition remained. As I have said before, matters were made no better by the most highly-placed personages both in Hindustan and Pakistan stressing more the evils that were done to their people in the other’s territory than attacking their own people for the evil that was in their hearts and the horrors they were committing. The newspapers gave great prominence to these provoking speeches.