WAVELL PLAN 1945: Critical Overview, Objectives and Failure
Wavell Plan is a colonial strategy to solve the internal problems between Indian National Congress and Muslim League that had grown, escalated and indefinitely multiplied and intensified during colonial rule. This article critically delineates the recommendations proposed in Wavell for resolving the communal deadlock between Muslim League and Congress.
Background of Wavell Plan
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. To solve this deadlock, many negotiations were tried, Wavell Plan is one of them.
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 to 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.