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The Cost Of Keeping A Secret…

Author Andrew Lownie has created trouble for the British Government by questioning Lord Montbatten‘s role in the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947. When a London Tribunal was hearing a dispute against the British Government over the surviving classified diaries and correspondence of Lord and Lady Mountbatten, the British novelist sought full disclosure of the confidential papers, stressing that Lord Mountbatten had mentioned in his diary that he met British Judge Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who headed the Boundary Commission to demarcate the India-Pakistan border, and Secretary of the Commission Christopher Beaumont on July 12, 1947. Clara Hamer, who was representing Lownie, informed the Tribunal that Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India and the first Governor General of Independent India, had overseen the transition of British India into two separate identities, India and Pakistan, and stayed in the Subcontinent until June 1948. She asked the Tribunal why the British Government was paying GBP 600,000 (around USD 800,000) for hiding the Mountbatten diaries.

Lownie recently blasted the British Government for trying to bury those papers, especially from the Partition years, and paying that huge amount in a court battle against him. The author claimed that London was doing so out of fear that Mountbatten’s diaries could damage the reputation of the British Royal Family, apart from jeopardising Britain’s relationships with India and Pakistan.

Andrew Lownie

It may be noted that Lord Mountbatten (June 25, 1900 – August 27, 1979), the great-grandson of Queen Victoria, met Edwina (November 28, 1901 – February 21, 1960) in the Indian capital of New Delhi in 1922. Although they got married that year, their relationship had many ups and downs, as both of them had affairs with other people. As their marriage was not a secret affair, Lownie asked: “What is that the British Government is trying to hide?” The author argued that Lady Mountbatten’s close relations with first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (November 14, 1889 – May 27, 1964), too, was an open secret. Hence, there is no reason to maintain the secrecy.

In one of her letters, Lady Mountbatten wrote to Nehru: “I hate to see you driving away this morning. You left me with a strange sense of peace. Perhaps, I have brought you the same?” And to that, Nehru had reportedly replied: “Life is a dreary business.” Both the British and Indian Historians had claimed that the Mountbatten papers form a treasure trove. They also contain a lot of scandals. So, when Lownie urged the British Government to provide common Britons with unrestricted access to these papers a few years ago, the Government rejected his request. Citing Britain’s Freedom of Information Law, he once again requested the Government to release at least 99.8% of the Mountbatten papers. The Government rejected his request for the second time.

Mountbattens with Nehru (Centre)

Talking to the media in the third week of November 2021, Lownie said that the unreleased papers reportedly document the years from 1947 and 1948, which include the diaries of Lord and Lady Mountbatten and some correspondence between them. As both of them had the habit of writing down their unfiltered thoughts, those documents could reveal many unknown facts, believes the author. According to Lownie, as Mountbatten had overseen the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, it would not be comfortable for Britain to declassify his diaries. They might have contained Lord Mountbatten’s view of Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi and Sir Cyril Radcliffe.

Nehru’s very personal note to Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Courtesy: Republic World)

Furthermore, Mountbatten was a very influential member of the British Royal Family and a maternal uncle of Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip. Prince Charles used to consider him as a father figure, who had played a very important role in Prince Charles’ personal life, involving Camila Parker Bowles and Princess Diana. Despite all these, Lownie wants the British Government to explain why it has spent GBP 600,000 in protecting them. He is of the opinion that the Government should not hide Lord Mountbatten’s thoughts from the Global Community.

Meanwhile, the Tribunal in London would soon determine whether all of the private diaries and letters of Lord and Lady Mountbatten should be released to the public, in spite of concerns by the British Cabinet Office.

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