PLANS OF FREEDOM

The suppression and fru­stration of the aspira­tions of the people dur­ing the War gave birth to an irresistible upsurge. The British administration had been showing signs of complete bankruptcy. The desperate attempts to divert the popular upsurge into fratricidal channels of communal strife had only deepened the crisis. This policy had weakened and demoralised the administrative apparatus and had given rise to corruption, inefficiency and a deepening food crisis. It also had spread contempt for law and order arid the menace of a general conflagration loomed on the horizon.

The Quit India Movement and the emergence of the phenomenon of AZAD HIND FAUJ had made the situation in the country very explosive. Further, the British found it difficult to cope with the changed international situation. Also a Labour Government had come into power in Britain after a dramatic ouster of the War hero, Mr. Winston Churchill.

In this state of affairs, in the words of Sir Stafford Cripps, there were fundamentally two alternatives before the Government. First, they could endeavour to strengthen British control in India on the basis of a considerable reinforcement of British troops. The second alternative was to accept the fact that the first alternative was not possible.

The two events that accelerated the British decision to reach a settlement before the situation passed entirely out of their hands were the trial of the I.N.A. prisoners and the revolt of Indian naval service.

Successive Plans

Three successive Plans were proposed: cabinet Mission Plan in June, '46, Attlee Declaration in February, '47 and lastly the Mountbatten Plan of June, '47. One common factor of all these Plans, as of the earlier Cripps proposals was, the building up of an elaborate structure based on the communal lines.

The political scene in India at that lime was marked by negotiations between tile British Government, the League and the Congress; the Congress eager to attain' country's freedom, the British eager to make a formal transfer and at the same time, trying to protect the British political, economic and strategic interests, in several parts of India, and the League playing what it thought to be a clever game of 'Carving out a separate State, for Muslims.

A delegation of British M.P.’s was sent to India in early January, 1946 to ascertain the views of the Indian leaders. Prof. Laski, the political philosopher of the Labour Party had expressed his fear that unless Britain settled with India, "it may be too late after the Sammer". The M.P.s later reported to Premier Attlee saying that I.N.A. dominated the Indian scene and that labour unrest and impending famine would be very grave factors to reckon with.

Mr. Attlee announced on February 19, 1946 that a Mission consisting of three Cabinet members would visit India shortly. On the very next day the leader of the M.P.'s delegation said, "We must quit India quickly or we shall be kicked out." Mr Jinnah on his part said that Pakistan would be the guiding principle of his talks with Britain.

Cabinet Mission

The British Cabinet Mission consisting of Lord Pathick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Albert V. Alexander arrived in India towards the end of March and after interviewing the leaders of different groups, parties and communities arranged a Confe­rence at Simla. This Conference lasted about a week and broke down on the issue of Pakistan and parity in the proposed interim Government. Though unsuccess­ful, the Simla Conference cleared the issues and in a way subsequent plans followed from it.

The Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy then issued a statement on May 16, 1946, saying that though no agreement had been reached, immediate arrangements should be made whereby Indians may decide the future constitution of India and an Interim Government be set up until the new constitution could be brought into being.

The statement pointed out that after examining the question of a separate and fully independent sovereign state of Pakistan as claimed by the Muslim League, the Mission had come to the conclusion that "the setting up of a separate sovereign state of Pakistan on the lines claimed by the Muslim League would not solve the communal minority problem; nor can we see any justification for including within a sovereign Pakistan those districts of the Punjab, Bengal and Assam in which the population is predominantly non-Muslim." They considered, further, whether a smaller sovereign Pakistan, confined to the Muslim majority areas alone, might be a possible basis of a compromise, but they felt that "neither a larger nor a smaller sovereign state of Pakistan would provide an acceptable solution for the communal problem." In the end, they said: "We are, therefore, unable to advise the British Government that the power which at present resides in British hands should be handed over to two entirely separate sovereign states."

Interim Government Anno­unced

Meanwhile, the Viceroy continued negotiations with the representatives of the Congress and the Muslim League on the number of members and personnel of the proposed Interim Government. As these negotiations did not result in an agreement between the parties, the Viceroy announced the names of the candidates for the Interim Government consisting of six Hindus, all members of the Congress, including one member of the Depressed Classes, five Muslim representatives of the Muslim League, one Sikh, one Christian and on Parsi.

On the 25th of June, 1946, the Congress Working Committee announced their rejection of the plan of an Interim Government. They adopted a comprehensive resolution saying that the "Congress can never give up the national character of the Congress, or accept an artificial and unjust parity or agree to the veto of communal group. The Committee are unable to accept the proposals for the formation of an Interim Government as contained- in the Government's statement of June 16. The Committee, however, decided that the Congress should join the proposed Constituent Assembly with a view to framing the Constitution of a free, united and democratic India."

The Muslim League accepted the plan with certain provisions. But in view of the refusal of the Congress to join the Interim Government, Lord Wavell announced on June 26, 1946 that he would set up a temporary 'caretaker' Government of officials to carry on in the interim period.

The Council of the All-India Muslim League met towards the end of July and passed a resolution withdrawing its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals. By another resolution, the Council resolved that ‘now the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to direct action to achieve Pakistan, to assert their just rights, to vindicate their honour and to get rid of the present British slavery and the contemplated future caste ­Hindu domination.'

The Viceroy invited Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 6th of August to constitute an interim Govern­ment, which he did. It consisted of six Hindus, including one Depressed Class member, three Muslims, of whom two belonged neither to the Congress nor to the League, one Sikh, one Christian and one Parsi. The members took office on September 2, 1946.

The League Brought into the Interim Government

Soon after the Interim Government was formed, the Viceroy started negotiations with the Muslim League with a view to bringing in its representatives and inducing them to join it. The League was, however, required to accept the Statement of May 16 and thereby indicate their readiness to join the Constituent Assembly before they could be admitted into the Interim Government. Lord Wavell, it would appear, did not get a clear decision from the League on that point. He assumed that Mr. Jinnah had accepted the stipulation regarding acceptance of the Statement of May 16 and accordingly invited him to nominate five persons to the Interim Government. The League joined the Interim Government in the last week of October, 1946. The League members, however, were not prepared to accept the Interim Government as a Cabinet, but only as an Executive Council under the Government of India Act.

A deadlock was often created and the position became more and more difficult, and a demand was made on behalf of the Congress that the Muslim League Members should accept the Statement of May 16 and decide to join the Constituent Assembly and recognise the basis of working the Interim Government, or go out of the Interim Government.

On invitation from the British Government Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Baldev Singh, Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan went to London with Lord Wavell in the last week of November, 1946 for discussions which, as was not unexpected, failed to bring about an agreed settlement.

June 3rd Statement-The Mountbatten Plan

Lord Mountbatten had first sent some of his Advisers under Lord Ismay to consult with His Majesty's Government, and subsequently he himself flew to London. He returned to India with a statement on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and the authority to such steps as were necessary to effect transfer of power. The statement was published simultaneously in India and London on June 3, 1947. It laid down the method for ascertaining the wishes of those Provinces and parts of the country which were supposed to be in favour of secession, and in case of division was decided upon, the procedure to effect that division. If the decision by any of them was in favour of a division of the Province. The Province was to be divided and the boundaries were to be settled by a Boundary Commission which would take into consideration all factors and not only the population of a district, in determining the boundaries. The statement announced that legislation would be introduced in Parliament conferring Dominion Status on India, then almost immediately and that if division was decided upon in India, then there would be two Dominions, otherwise only one. Paramountcy would cease simultaneously with the establishment of cominion Status. It was expected that legislation will be completed and power transferred by the middle of August at the latest, thus anticipating the deadline originally fixed for transfer of power by ten months or so.

North-West Frontier Province was asked to decide the question by a referendum and in the British Baluchistan same method was to be adopted for ascertaining the wishes of the people. As regards Assam, there was only one district, Sylhet, which had a Muslim majority, and in case it was decided that Bengal should be partitioned, a referendum was to be held in Sylhet district to decide whether it should continue to form part of Assam or be amalgamated with the Province of Eastern Bengal. This statement of policy was accepted by the Working Committee of the Congress, and its acceptance was later endorsed by the A.I.C.C. The Council of the All-India Muslim League accepted the plan at a meeting held on June 9, 1947 with certain reservations.

As was expected the division was decided in the Punjab and the Bengal. The referendum resulted in N.W.F. Provinces, Baluchistan and parts of Assam joining the seceding parts of India.

The referendum in the N.W.F. had taken place in opposition of the strong protest and boycott of the party in power there, Dr. Khans party, who had only recently been returned in a clear majority in the provincial elections.

The Indian Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament in July 1947 and on 14th August, M.A. Jinnah was declared the Governor-­General of Pakistan.