- 1 TOWARDS INDIAN INDEPENDENCE AND PARTITION: UNDERSTANDING “C.R. PLAN” & “DESAI LIAQUAT PACT” OF 1944, “WAVELL PLAN” 1945, “CABINET MISSION” & “MOUNTBATTEN PLAN” OF 1946 AND “INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ACT” OF 1947
TOWARDS INDIAN INDEPENDENCE AND PARTITION: UNDERSTANDING “C.R. PLAN” & “DESAI LIAQUAT PACT” OF 1944, “WAVELL PLAN” 1945, “CABINET MISSION” & “MOUNTBATTEN PLAN” OF 1946 AND “INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ACT” OF 1947
With the inception of the devastating World-War-II, not merely the nationwide demand for complete independence accumulated an uncontrollable acceleration in India but also the probabilities for its achievement had maximized due to the sociopolitical immobility of British administration. Yet, what hindered the nationalist approach for the creation of a sovereign India during that time was the continuance of complex communal apprehensions between Hindus and Muslims despite considerable ventures for negotiations. Amidst the global catastrophe and intensified communal mistrust, Mr Jinnah proclaimed the “Pakistan Resolution” on 23 March 1940 in Lahore Session of Muslim League that insisted on “territorial readjustments” for the making of a separate dominion for the Muslim population called “PAKISTAN”, as highlighted below:
“the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.“
For Congressmen who envisioned the Swaraj for an integrated India, How can Jinnah’s separatist demand for “Pakistan” can be acceptable? How can even the “Partition of India” into two dominions- Hindustan and Pakistan in terms of religious differences be envisaged? Besieged by bewildering questions, neither Congress nor League could resolve the communal impasse amongst themselves which proved increasingly problematic to colonizers who aspired to hurriedly quit India at the earliest.
This article critically delineates the recommendations proposed in the national and colonial schemes like C.R. Formula, Desai Liaquat Pact, Wavell Plan, Cabinet Mission etc. for decoding the communal deadlock between Muslim League and Congress. Additionally, it also sensitizes the readers about the struggle against communalism during the conclusive year’s of the achievement of “Indian Independence and Partition of India 1947.”
Comprehensively Understanding “PARTITION AND COMMUNALISM IN INDIA“
C.R. PLAN OR C. RAJAGOPALACHARI FORMULA 1944:
Composed by Gandhi’s Conscience Keeper- Chakravarti Rajagopalachari during the destructive World War-II in 1944, the C.R. Formula endeavoured to resolve the political and constitutional deadlock between Indian National Congress and All-India Muslim League by suggesting to decide whether on not to carve out Pakistan based on the results of plebiscite conducted in Muslim majority areas which were predicted to be the parts of future Pakistan. According to Mr C. Rajagopalachari, Congressmen should concede to the League’s demand of Pakistan if the Muslims of the Indian provinces approves Partition of India and therefore, he devised the following proposals on 10 March 1944 to compromise with the Muslim League that proved objectionable to Congress as it confirmed the demand of “Pakistan”:
- The Muslim League will support the national demand of Indian Independence and will also provide the utmost support to Congress in forming a provisional interim government at the centre in the transition period.
- Aftermath the global war, a commission will be assigned to enlist the Muslim-majority districts in the North-East and North-West of India in which a plebiscite will be organized on basis of Universal Adult Franchise to determine if these states intend to separate from India or not.
- If the Muslim majority area consented to partition India, then there will be an alliance between the two dominions considering the subjects of defence, communication and commerce.
- These conditions will be applicable only if Britain bestows full sovereignty on India.
Not only within Congress but also from the Muslim League, C.R. Formula suffered scathing criticism. Muslims protested because it hadn’t explicitly acknowledged the demand of “PAKISTAN” and Jinnah argued that only Muslims irrespective of adult suffrage should be involved to vote in the plebiscite and not the total population of the provinces. Serious complaints from Akali-Dal, Hindu Mahasabha, V.D. Savarkar etc. led to its failure.
DESAI LIAQUAT PACT 1944:
In the aftermath of the failure of the C.R. Plan, the second scheme for unravelling the constitutional crisis between the All-India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress was made by two pre-eminent leaders in late 1944- Bhulabhai Desai and Liaquat Ali Khan on behalf of Congress and League respectively. They secretly proposed to formulate an interim provisional government at the centre that would consist of 1. Equal nominated members from Congress and League in Central Legislature; and 2. 20% of seats reserved for minorities. However, this effort for negotiation took place without the knowledge of Patel, Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah and hence, this pact remained crucially insignificant and unexplored.
WAVELL PLAN 1945:
Amidst exacerbated communal tensions, the Viceroy of India Lord Wavell realized the incapability of Congress and League to internally find the solution for the communal and constitutional impasse in India but he was little optimistic from the Gandhi-Jinnah talks that were scheduled in September 1944 at Jinnah’s house in Malabar but nothing came out of the negotiation. Writing about the ideological difference between Gandhi and Jinnah, Lord Wavell states in a letter to Secretary of State for India, Lord Amery that-
“Gandhi wants independence first and then willing to resolve the communal problem as he is profoundly a Hindu and wants transfer of full Power to some nebulous national”, While Jinnah wants to settle down communal problem first and then wants independence as he has lost his trust in Congress and Hindus.”
To sort out the communal differences between Hindus and Muslims and express their sincerity to the masses during the election time in England, Lord Wavell summoned a conference in Shimla for reconstituting the Indianized Governor-General’s Executive Council and framing the new constitution for India on the mutual concurrence of League and Congress. Premised upon the London discussions with British Parliament, Wavell defined a plan that was announced on 14 June 1945 and it suggested:
- Reconstruction of Viceroy’s Executive Council that will be entirely Indian except Viceroy and his Commander in Chief; and the equal representation of Hindus and Muslims will be ensured.
- The recreated council will perform the role of sovereign Interim government that will be responsible to the Central Government and work by the Government of India Act 1935.
- An Indian would be appointed as a member of Foreign Affairs in the Council. However, a British commissioner would be accountable for trade matters.
- The defence of India would reside in British hands until power was ultimately transferred to Indians.
- The Viceroy would convene a meeting of Indian politicians including the leaders of Congress and the Muslim League at which they would nominate members of the new Council.
- If this plan were to be approved for the central government, then similar councils of local political leaders would be formed in all the provinces.
- None of the changes suggested would in any way prejudice or prejudge the essential form of the future permanent Constitution of India.
At Shimla Conference, on 25 June 1945, both Muslim League and Indian National Congress battled against this plan for their reasons- Jinnah under League claimed that Muslims in the Viceroy’s Executive Council should all be the members of the Muslim League and not from Congress so to ascertain Muslim League as the sole spokesman of Muslims in India while Congressmen were distressed because it had neither guaranteed immediate Indian Independence nor composition of Constituent Assembly. Serious criticism resulted in its failure.
CABINET MISSION 1946:
In July 1945 elections, Labour Party victoriously stabilized its control in England who was extensively enthusiastic in finding the solution to the complicated constitutional tussle in India as soon as possible because the nationalist forces seemed transparently successful and invigorating; and consequently, they instantly dispatched the Cabinet Mission to India on 24 March 1946 that yearned to immediately transfer the powers from British Government to Indian leadership without hampering Indian integrity. Framed by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, and A.V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Cabinet Mission advised the following proposals in May 1946 after the inconclusive conference with League and Congress:
- Refusal of demand of full-fledged feasible “PAKISTAN” because the Muslim majority regions that were supposed to be constituting separate sovereign state for Muslims would also accommodate a large magnitude of Non-Muslim population, almost 38% in North West and 48% in North East.
- Reorganization of Provincial Assemblies into three sections:
- Section A: HINDU MAJORITY PROVINCES: Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, United Provinces, Bihar and Orissa
- Section B: MUSLIM MAJORITY PROVINCES: Punjab, NWFP and Sindh
- Section C: MUSLIM MAJORITY PROVINCES: Bengal and Assam
- Three-tier legislative and executive system at 3 levels: provinces, provincial groupings and union level
- Recommended the democratic elections for creating a 389-membered Constituent Assembly by providing proportional representation to Provincial Assemblies who would suggest 292 members and out of remaining 97, princely states will send 93 representatives while 4 will be sent by Chief Commissioner’s Provinces.
- Suggested separate constitution at provincial and sectional level but the union constitution will be framed by all three sections A, B, and C on mutual consensus.
- The powers of defence, communication and foreign affairs were provided to the centre while the residuary powers were vested in the hands of the provincial government.
- Proposed the liberation of princely states from the paramountcy of the British Government to allow them to enter into the defined arrangement of government according to their will.
- Formation of Interim Government from the Constituent Assembly.
- After the first General elections, a province could depart from a provincial grouping and after 10 years, a province could urge reconsideration of a group of the union constitution.
Originally, the Cabinet Mission looked plausible to both Congress and League but the translucency on the subject of “the optionality or compulsion on the provinces to join provincial grouping” re-escalated the political dissension between them and when the British Government favoured League’s standpoint, the communal struggle resumed. According to Congress, the provinces should have the autonomy to willingly participate in the provincial groupings that they desire and shouldn’t have to wait till the first general elections for exiting the grouping since the Congress-supported regions NWFP and Assam were kept under Section-B and C that were Muslim Majority Sections while League agreed for compulsory provincial groupings for the vision of a future Pakistan.
Amidst political frictions, Muslim League and Congress approved the Cabinet Mission on 6 June and 24 June of 1946 for avoiding Partition. By July 1946, the procedures for the formation of Constituent Assembly commenced but within no time, the communal controversies resurfaced when Mr Nehru declared:
Nehru’s speech was exemplified as an instance of treachery by Jinnah who eventually withdrew his assistance from the Cabinet Mission by the end of July 1946 and called for “Direct Action” from 16 August for achieving the dream of Pakistan. The last opportunity for preventing the acrimonious geopolitical division of India was forfeited and the bloodshed of Partition now proved unavoidable.
MOUNTBATTEN PLAN 1946:
With the letdown of the Cabinet Mission, a large-magnitude unprecedented scandalous wave of destructive communal activities called Direct Mass Action upsurged on the Indian Subcontinent that resorted to mass rapes, riots and massacres etc. for petitioning to constitute an independent partitioned dominion called Pakistan for the Indian Muslim population. In the meantime, Lord Wavell was struggling hard for the installation of an Interim Government purely containing Congressmen in which Mr Nehru was regarded as the Prime Minister of then-India and on Jinnah’s persuasion, Liaquat Ali Khan also accepted the obligations of Finance Ministry of then-India.
By 26 October 1946, Wavell silently added League’s member into the interim government but how long can Britishers glue the premier Hindu and Muslim political parties in one nation who had diametrically opposite portfolios. Even though the Constituent Assembly had contemplated the SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC India in the first proceeding of Constituent Assembly in December 1946 and had discussed the fundamental rights of countrymen but amid increased tensions, League demanded the dissolution of the Constitution-framing body by February 1947. Left with no ways out, Mr Atlee, the Prime Minister of Britain proclaimed on 20 Feb 1947 that:
His Majesty’s Government will have to consider to whom the powers of the Central Government should be handed over on due date [30 June 1948], whether as a whole to some form of Central Government for British India or in some areas to the existing Provincial Governments.
Initially, the declaration was greeted with incredulity by Indians but as soon as Lord Mountbatten was appointed as the last Viceroy of undivided colonial India for winding up the scattered remains of British legislation, the untimely warning for solving the interior communal deadlock was perceived critically and seriously. With the uncontrollable communal strife between Hindus and Muslims, the unimaginable idea of PARTITION was imagined to bring into a reality in front of Jinnah’s obstinacy.
In the summers of June 1947, Mountbatten arrived in India for the rapid transference of powers from Britain to Indian leadership based on the grant of dominion status and under his proposal, he provisioned the following points:
- It suggested conducting a plebiscite in Punjab and Bengal Legislative Assemblies to decide by a simple majority if these provinces wanted Partition or not.
- It subscribed to the creation of two dominions and two Constituent Assemblies if the partition was finalized.
- Sindh could determine on its own whether to join any of the dominions or remain independent.
- For recognizing the demand of Congress’ unified India, Mountbatten claimed:
- Independence of Princely States to determine by themselves whether they intend to join India or Pakistan.
- Independence of Bengal
- Declared that freedom would be showered on the nations on 15th August 1947.
- A Boundary Commission would be set up to demarcate the geopolitical boundary between the two nations if Partition was decided.
Nerved of the inevitability of Partition of India, Congressmen by 1947 upheld and welcomed Mountbatten’s Plan. Without the smallest pause, the plebiscite was conducted in Punjab, Bengal, Sylhet districts in Bengal that concluded that India would be partitioned and based on its results, East Bengal and West Punjab became part of Pakistan dominion and West Bengal and East Punjab remained in Indian geographical Region. Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP decided to join Pakistan.
INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ACT 1947:
Premised upon Mountbatten’s Plan, the British Parliament enacted the Indian Independence Act on 5th July 1947 that got royal assent on 18th July 1947 and was implemented on 15th August 1947. It outlined the following provisions:
- Validated Partitioning of India into two separate and sovereign dominions: India and Pakistan who would be administered by their respective Governors-General with effect from 15th August 1947
- Creation of two Separate Constituent Assemblies who would articulate the Constitution of India and Pakistan during the traditional period.
- The complete legislative authority conferred upon the respective Constituent Assemblies of the two new nations
- In the interlude, the governments of dominions will function by the Government of India Act 1935.
- Termination of British suzerainty over the princely states, with effect from 15 August 1947
Under this legislation, Pakistan and India achieved their independence on the 14th and 15th of August in the year 1947 respectively.
Indian Independence was an algebraic product of countless sacrifices of revolutionaries, indomitable courage of nationalists, the bloodshed of the general public, the life struggles of non-stoppable leaders and the nationalist’s vision for unfurling the tricolour of an invincible nation that would forever be sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic but Partition of India that was the byproduct of Indian Independence demarcated the continuous perpetuation of communal tensions between the two nations forever… Therefore, the happiness of Indian Independence was also accompanied by the communal Partition of India.