During the Quit India Movement 1942, the British government arrested and imprisoned all the big leaders of the Congress. There was also an atmosphere of despair in the Indian public due to the success of the British in the Second World War. But the release of the leaders at the beginning of the Simla Conference and the statements in favor of the mass movement launched by Nehru and Patel as a result of their arrest again instilled hope in them. In their statements, while praising the sacrifices of the people, these leaders had also justified the violence committed by the people, due to which the people were happy. Now Congress was becoming popular again.
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Change of power in England and change in British policy towards India
The then situation also created a positive atmosphere in favor of India. Meanwhile, some changes took place in England too, which had an impact on Indian politics as well.
“On the retirement of Viceroy Linlithgow on October 20, 1943, Lord Wavell was appointed the new Viceroy of India in his place. He called an all-party conference which failed.”
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Due to cracks in the wartime United Government and to take advantage of the popularity gained from the war victory, Prime Minister Churchill held general elections in mid-1945, in which he was unexpectedly defeated.
Thus the Labor Party government came to power in England. The new Prime Minister Attlee was sworn in as Prime Minister in July 1945, and the Minister of India (India Secretary) Emery was replaced by Pethick Lawrence. Now the government had two options –
First – India should be kept under its control on the strength of power and
Second – India should be made independent.
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Although Churchill was in favor of the first option, Attlee was very clear that Britain should accede to India’s demand for independence.
“It is to be known that the reason for this decision of Attlee or the British Government was the opposition of the Azad Hind Fauj (INA) and the Navy (R.I.N.) during the war.”
Now the British began to feel that it was no longer possible to keep this country under their control by relying on the help and loyalty of Indian soldiers. These movements put Indian problems in the eyes of the international community. Anti-British sentiment among Indians had increased tremendously during the trial of the officers of the Azad Hind Fauj and the rebellion by the Royal Indian Navy. In addition, during the Second World War, as we are aware, Britain became very weak economically and politically. It was now only a power of the second or third grade. Keeping all these events in view, the British government thought of sending a cabinet mission to India. A meeting of the Congress Working Committee was held in Bombay from September 21 to 23, 1945, in which it passed a resolution to participate in the coming elections.
Attlee’s important statements in the British Parliament
On 15 March 1946, Prime Minister Attlee made a statement before the House of Commons which was very important.
“Atley accepted the principle of self-determination and constitution making for Indians in this statement.”
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Apart from this, India’s right to separate from the Commonwealth was also accepted. The most important thing Attlee said in this statement was about the minorities.
In this statement, Attlee said – “We are aware of the rights of the minorities… but we cannot give the minorities a veto over the majority.”
This statement gave great satisfaction to the Congress. On 15 March itself, it was announced that the British government was sending a cabinet mission to India to resolve India’s political deadlock.
Who were the members in the cabinet mission
Appointed by Attlee, this cabinet mission had three members and these were important members of his cabinet — India Minister Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and A. V. Alexander.
When did the cabinet mission reach India
The Cabinet Mission arrived in India on 23 March 1946.
Differences between Congress and Muslim League in 1946 General Elections
In India in early 1946, both the Congress and the League achieved great success. But due to differences between the two parties, no provisional government could be established. The Congress was not ready to accept the principle of parity between Hindus and Muslims for the establishment of a provisional government. It was the suggestion of the Congress for the Constituent Assembly that the provincial legislatures should be considered as electorates and the native states should be elected by the Praja Mandals. But Jinnah kept insisting on the demand of Pakistan.
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What were the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission
Spoke to Cabinet Mission Congress, Muslim League along with other parties. In 182 meetings, 742 Indian leaders were interviewed and then a conference was called in Shimla. But because the Congress and the League could not reach any agreement, the conference was unsuccessful. The following important things were said in the Cabinet Mission Plan:–
1- According to the cabinet mission plan, an Indian federation will be formed by combining British India and Indian kings (indigenous kings), which will have the Foreign Department, Defense and Communication and which will have the right to collect funds for these departments. The rest of the powers and subjects will remain with the states. Similarly, the executive and the legislature will be composed by the representatives of both the regions.
2- The provinces shall have the right to form groups with separate executive and legislature and each group shall have the right to decide the provincial subjects to be placed under their respective jurisdiction.
For the formation of the Constituent Assembly, seats will be given to each province on the communal basis of population in the ratio of one representative for 10 lakh people. Only three classes of voters were considered–ordinary, Muslim and Sikh (Punjab only). According to this principle, 292 members from the British Indian provinces were to be elected to the Constituent Assembly. The election of the representatives of the Indian states was to be decided in consultation.
3- Negotiations in the context of a treaty were necessary to decide the matters arising out of the transfer of power in the Central Constituent Assembly and England.
4- An interim government will be formed soon with the help of all the parties in which all the departments will remain with the Indian leaders.
5- After the transfer of power, the supreme power related to the Indian states will neither remain with Britain nor with India. This simply meant that the native kings would be completely independent.
What was the main point of the Cabinet Mission Plan?
Rejecting the demand of Pakistan :- The cabinet mission rejected the main demand of Muslim League (separate Pakistan) and argued behind it that —-
First – the establishment of Pakistan will not solve the problem of communalism because Muslims will still be left in the rest of India.
Second – Punjab and Bengal will have to be partitioned which will be against the will of most of the people.
Third – Due to partition, the Sikhs of Punjab will be divided into two parts or they will have to be displaced.
Fourth – there will be a gap of hundreds of miles between the western and eastern parts of Pakistan, which will cause inconvenience in communication and in times of war.
Fifth – Indian state will have inconvenience in choosing one or the other union.
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merits and demerits of cabinet mission plan
The first merit of the Cabinet Mission Plan from the point of view of the Congress was that it did not accept the demand of Pakistan. Since the Congress was against partition from the very beginning and was in favor of a united India, the mission accepted its demand with a weak centre.
On the other hand, through this mission plan, by placing the condition of dividing the provinces into groups on communal basis, tried to please the Muslim League by showing them a glimpse of Pakistan. Secondly, Indian states were given representation in the Constituent Assembly in proportion to their population.
Apart from this, only three types of communal groups were recognized. – Generals, Muslims and Sikhs, and the rest Europeans and Christians, etc. were left out.
Also, for the first time in this plan, the Indian states were given the right to decide their fate. ,
Apart from this, all the members of the Constituent Assembly were to be Indians. In the interim government, all the departments were to be given to the Indians and they were to be given considerable powers in the day-to-day administration. Thus, in clear words, Indians were given full freedom in the making of their constitution and the right to leave the Commonwealth for the first time.
Why did the Congress accept the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission?
The Congress accepted the plan on 25 June 1946, complaining that the Constituent Assembly was not fully sovereign. The Muslim League had earlier given approval on 6 June expressing anger over the non-acceptance of the demand of Pakistan.
Demand for separate independent Sikh state by Sikhs
After the Sikh delegation met Cripps in 1942, again in 1945, when the demand for Pakistan was being discussed, Master Tarasingh and other Sikh leaders started issuing statements that they were in favor of a united India, but if Pakistan If their demand is accepted, they would also like to establish a separate state for the Sikhs. These days the Punjab Congress and the communal Hindu leadership of Punjab were indirectly supporting this demand of the Sikhs thinking that the demand for a Sikh state would act as a counterweight to the demand of Pakistan.
The Sikhs were deeply concerned about the indirect acceptance of Pakistan’s demand by the Cabinet Mission Plan. They were opposing Pakistan, saying that if Pakistan’s demand is accepted, they would take an independent Sikh state. The Sikh leaders were furious that the plan had left them entirely at the mercy of the Muslims and that they were not given the rights which were given to Muslims and Hindus respectively by Parts 15(2) and 19(7) of the plan. Were. But on the assurance of the Congress Working Committee that their interests would eventually be protected, the Sikhs approved the Cabinet Mission Plan.
The most important reason why the Akalis joined Hindustan instead of Pakistan was the Sikh socio-cultural ties or common heritage with the Hindus. There is no doubt about this.
According to the famous English historian P. E. Roberts – “Sikhs are not a separate race from Hindus but a community.”
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Khushwant Singh has also written in the biography of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that the Maharaja had kept the death penalty for only one crime and that was cow-slaughter. Similarly, the Maharaja had helped Shah Shuja on the condition that he would stop cow slaughter after getting the throne of Afghanistan. Europeans were employed by Maharajas on the condition that they would stop eating beef.
It is true that the British after the revolt of 1857, the Arya Samaj movement in the 19th century and the Singh-Sabha movement in the 20th century caused some degree of division between the Hindus and the Sikhs. In a press conference held in Calcutta on July 6, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru had even said that he would have no objection to the Sikhs being given a separate state in the north of India from which they could also enjoy freedom. The Hindu Mahasabha, in its reaction to the plan, expressed its fear of the establishment of Pakistan in the future. The Communist Party had objections to the communal provisions in the plan.
Constituent Assembly elections according to the cabinet mission plan
After the plan was accepted, elections were held for the Constituent Assembly in which the Congress got 199 ordinary seats out of 210. Of the 296 places in British India, the Congress secured 211 places and the Muslim League 73. Jinnah was happy with the election result and worried about the brute majority of the Congress. He started demanding a separate Constituent Assembly and started repeating before the mission that Hindus and Muslims could not be considered as one nation. Not encouraged by the cabinet mission, the League organized a gathering of Muslim legislators in which speeches made openly threatened violence.
Why the cabinet mission plan failed
On June 29, 1946, the League canceled the cabinet plan and threatened ‘direct action’ which meant rioting. This action was not against the government but against the Hindus and the Sikhs which resulted in great loss of life and property from Punjab and Bengal. Apart from this, the talk of the formation of an interim government started by the mission had failed and the government could not be formed. Thus the cabinet mission had failed. One of the reasons for this failure is also believed to be that the members of the Mission had a difference of opinion about the role of the Congress and the League and they could not please either of them. So on 29 June 1946 the members of the mission left for England.
Attempts to form an interim government
The Cabinet Mission gave the Governor-General the power to form an interim government by calling Indian political parties soon after. The Congress rejected Lord Wavell’s offer because the mission in its statement had talked about parity between Hindus and Muslims in the formation of the government. Since Harijans were also included in the Hindus (the Congress probably did not want to give political participation to the Harijans), the offer was worse than even the Wavell plan. Similarly, Wavell tried to form the Congress government on 16 June 1946 by leaving the Muslims as the League considered itself their (Muslims) representative, which was rejected by the Congress.
At this time the League tried to form the government with other parties except the Congress, but the government did not agree to it. Now the Viceroy decided to invite the Congress to form an interim government and left the inclusion of the Muslim League to future events.
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Direct Action Day by Muslim League 6 August 1946
Jinnah refused to cooperate with Nehru and declared 6 August as ‘Direct Action’ Day. The resulting riots, especially in Calcutta, killed thousands.
According to Lord Patrick Lawrence, 5000 people died in Kolkata and 15 thousand people were seriously injured.
Lord Wavell now suggested the formation of a joint government by joining the league. The League joined the government on 3 October 1946 with five members. Members of the Congress team – Sarat Chandra Bose, Shafat Ahmed Khan and Syed Ali Zaheer – had to give up their positions to include five representatives of the Muslim League in the government. But did not promise to join the Constituent Assembly. Post-mortem shows that all the three parties were confused. Congress was of the opinion that in this way it would convince the League to cooperate, on the other hand the League was of the opinion that it would be easier for it to fight for Pakistan and Wavell hoped that both would have to depend on them.
Ultimately, the anger of the Muslim League flared up upon learning that the Viceroy had decided to convene a Constituent Assembly on 9 December 1946. Congress presented a demand that either the League should join the Constituent Assembly by accepting the Cabinet Mission or it should leave the Interim Government. Jinnah refused to join the Constituent Assembly. Therefore, the Secretary of India called both the parties along with the Viceroy to London for talks between 3 and 6 December 1946, but the talks failed. The Home Government accepted the demand of the Muslim League that the country should be partitioned first, but the Congress did not accept this condition. As per the scheduled date, the session of the Constituent Assembly was held on 9 December 1946 but 73 members of the League did not attend it. Jawaharlal Nehru demanded resignations from the members of the League on 13 December 1946, which resulted in riots and chaos.