Letter: Behind the image of Mountbatten

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The Independent Online
Sir: The image of India's last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, faded globally long before Jan McGirk discovered it had ("Image of last Viceroy fades under new order", 31 March).

In his book Eminent Churchillians, Andrew Roberts, the historian and biographer, demolishes the image of Lord Mountbatten as a military planner and describes him as "a mendacious intellectually limited hustler, whose negligence and incompetence resulted in many unnecessary deaths - the numbers of which increased exponentially as his meteoric career progressed".

Roberts's main criticism of Mountbatten is directed at his role in the hasty, unplanned and unsupervised partitioning of India:

Any population transfers that were ... demanded could have been properly supervised and protected. Then - and only then - the country could have been partitioned and the two countries declared independent. In not following this common-sense sequence - indeed in taking the steps in almost the reverse order, with such horrific consequences - Mountbatten deserved to be court-martialled on his return to London.

As India celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence in August this year, it should demand from the British government a public inquiry into the circumstances leading to its partition in 1947 and especially the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the biggest transfers of population in history.