otherwise specified: The Transfer of Power, Vol VII The Cabinet
Mission, Eds. Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon, 1977].
Before the Cabinet Mission Plan was issued on 16 May 1946, in
the 6 May meeting of the Simla
Conference, clear differences between the Congress and Jinnah on the
grouping question could be seen. Jawaharlal Nehru said while the
Congress would pay a big price to preserve the Union of India, there
were limits to what the Congress would agree to. M.A. Jinnah said that
grouping was the only way to avoid complete partition and that separate
sovereign Group Constitution-making bodies should write
constitutions and decide on all matters except the three assigned to
the Union. Jinnah also said that the Union should in the first instance
be for a period of five years only. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel said this
suggestion clearly indicated the reality behind the grouping proposal.
Sir S. Cripps said that the only way to secure that there was
a grouping arrangement if that were desired would be to allow Provinces
to meet as a section of the Constitution-making Body and form a group.
They might decide to do so either by vote of the Provincial Legislature
or by vote of their representatives in the Constitution-making Body.
Pandit Nehru said that while the Congress contemplated autonomy for the
Provinces that meant internal autonomy, it was quite another thing for
autonomy to be used to create the new piece of constitutional machinery
going beyond the boundaries of the Province. Some Provinces might wish
to group themselves and others might not. Others might be divided up
almost equally on the subject. But Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab who
were a large minority might be adverse to the Punjab being grouped with
the North-Western Provinces.
The Viceroy said that it looked as if a Constitution-making
Body with all Parties co-operating in it would be impossible unless
there were agreement beforehand that Provinces should be accorded the
right to group themselves. It was a choice of difficulties and unless
grouping were agreed to there might be no constitution-making machinery
based on agreement and the consequences would be grave. Pandit Nehru
said that if any Province declined to come into the Constitution-making
Body, the Constitution-making Body should proceed without it. He
thought this was unlikely to happen but Provinces and States which did
stay out would be under great pressure to come in. The same applied to
the States who would have come in subject to considerable internal
The two Constitution-making Bodies and the States
representatives would meet together to decide the constitution of the
Union in respect of the three subjects. All other matters would be
decided in the Group Constitution-making Body both matters of common
concern to the Group and other matters not of common concern. There
could at the outset be a joint meeting of the three bodies to decide
the agenda and procedures but thereafter they would meet separately
except for the determination of the Union Constitution. Mr. Jinnah
rejected the suggestion that there should be one Constitution-making
Body in which decisions on major questions could not be reached without
majority of vote of both Groups and with freedom to withdraw from it.
[Also see CMP(8A) Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union and CMP(8) Simla Conference meeting on 11 May 1946 in which Jinnah insisted that the sovereignty of the 'Pakistan' group had to be fundamental to any constitutional scheme and could not be a subject for arbitration].
V.P.Menon, later to be a major player in the accession of the Princely States, was a senior civil servant in the British Indian government who held the post of Reforms Commissioner and was privy to Cabinet Mission discussions.
In his book 'The Transfer of
Power in India',
1957, V. P Menon wrote
"This rigid attitude of the Viceroy was based on one important consideration. While in Simla, the Cabinet Mission had given an assurance to the Muslim League-an assurance that had not however been made known to the Congress at the time- that decisions in the sections would be by a majority vote of the representatives of the provinces within the section; also that the constitutions for the provinces would definitely be framed by the sections. The Viceroy felt that that His Majesty's Government was in honour bound to respect this assurance. But there were great practical difficulties in the way of implementing an assurance which had been given at the time without full consideration. If, as a result, the League came in and the Congress withdrew, the position would certainly not be bettered.."
327 p 622(full text)
In order to enable me the better to advise such of those who seek my advice, I venture to put before you my difficulty as follows:
You say in your answer to a question: "If they do come together on that basis[the Mission Plan], it will mean that they will have accepted that basis, but they can still change it if by a majority of each party they desire to do so." You can omit the last portion of the sentence as being superfluous for my purpose.
Even the basis in para 15 of the State paper is a recommendation. Do you regard a recommendation as obligatory on any member of the contemplated Constituent Assembly? There is such a ring about the quotation. Can those who enthusiastically welcome the Paper but are discerning enough to repudiate, for instance, grouping honourably seek to educate the country and the Constituent Assembly against the grouping clause? If your answer is "yes", does it not follow that the Frontier and Assam province delegates would be free to abstain from joining the sections to which they are arbitrarily assigned?
I know the legal position. My question has reference to the
honourableness of opposition to grouping.
328 p 622-23
301 page 577(excerpts)
"The Secretary of State said that the Delegation thought it might be helpful to have this meeting so that they could elucidate any points on which the Muslim League representatives found difficulty in understanding the Statement which was being published in the evening.
Nawab Ismail Khan asked at what stage and how Groups would be formed. The Secretary of State and Sir S. Cripps explained that the sections of the Constitution-making Body would meet to decide the character of the Provincial constitutions within the Group, and the Group constitution. The decision would be taken by majority vote of the representatives of the Provinces within the section.
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan asked what would happen if a Province, for example, the North-West Frontier, refused to come to the meetings of the section of the Constituent Assembly of which it was a part. Sir S. Cripps said that the section would presumably proceed without those representatives. The Secretary of State said that under the table in paragraph 19, the North-West Frontier Province had three representatives and their Legislature would be asked to elect three by proportional representation. Those who were willing to elect would be supposed to elect their proportion and they would be entitled to attend even if the residue declined to elect.
Sardar Rab Nishtar asked whether he correctly understood that each section of the Constitution-making Body would be entitled to frame the constitution for the Provinces within it irrespective of whether they attended or not, and also to determine whether there should be a Group and what the Group subjects should be, subject only to the right of a Province to opt out after the constitution had been framed. Sir S. Cripps said that this was in accordance with the document. The option would be exercisable after the whole picture including the Union Constitution had been completed.
Sardar Nishtar asked whether it was open to representatives of two Groups to decide to sit together and act in common. Sir S. Cripps said there was no provision for Groups to sit together but that, unless the Union Constitution contained any provision which would prevent it, there was nothing to prevent two Groups coming together at a later stage by agreement.
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan asked whether a Province
which opted out of a Group could join another group. The Secretary of
State said that he saw no reason why a Province should not be able to
opt into another Group provided that the other Group was willing to
accept it, but this was a matter outside the present document since a
Province could not opt out until the Constitution-making Body had
completed its work. Option from one Group to another would therefore
only take place by negotiation after the constitution had been
Sir S. Cripps said that the Delegation would like it to be understood that this Statement was not to be the subject of negotiation and that it was intended to go ahead with convening the Constituent Assembly on the basis of it. The only alterations which could be considered would be those agreed upon by the two main parties.
Sardar Nishtar asked what was contemplated as regards the States. Sir S. Cripps explained that the States could be represented at the opening formal meeting of the Constitution-making Body by a Negotiating Committee. While the Group and Provincial constitutions were being settled the actual method of representation of the States could be decided by negotiation.
Nawab Mohammed Ismail asked who would interpet the Statement. Sir S. Cripps said that if any question arose he presumed that the Viceroy would be the deciding authority. He would act in consultation with His Majesty's Government when necessary.
The Muslim League representatives asked whether they could have a copy of the note of the explanations which had been given. The Secretary of State said that the document was intended to be self-explanatory and he thought that when it had been studied it would be found that the questions raised were all covered. He would not like it to be thought that he and Sir S. Cripps had been enlarging upon it. They were very familiar with the document and were able to point in it to the answer to various questions which might be raised. It was agreed that Sardar Nishtar might see the note of the meeting and take notes from it but that these would not have the status of an official record.
(Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan asked whether the words in paragraph 15 "recommend that the constitution should take the following basic form" meant that the Constitution-making Body was not free to alter these basic provisions. The Secretary of State pointed out that it would require a majority of each of the major communities in the Constitution-making Body to depart from the basic form. Nawab Ismail Khan asked what would happen if the Constituent Assembly did not comply with these basic conditions. Could His Excellency the Viceroy dissolve it?
Sir S. Cripps said that it would be open to the Muslim representatives to cease to participate. Nawab Ismail Khan asked how this could be done if sovereignty had been given to the Constitution-making Body. There would then be no safeguard. Sir S. Cripps said that sovereignty would not be given until the constitution had been framed, and in reply to Sardar Nishtar said that an Act of Parliament to set up the new constitution would not be appropriate. He was inclined to think that all that would be necessary was an act of cession by the Crown to the Constitution-making Body or to the new Government.)
340 page 639(excerpts)
Dear Lord Pethick-Lawrence,
Committee have carefully considered the statement issued by the Cabinet
Delegation on May 16th, and they have seen Gandhiji after the
interviews he had with you and Sir Stafford Cripps. There are certain
matters about which I have been asked to write to you.
Later on the statement however on page 5 you state that the provincial representatives to the Constituent Assembly will divide up into three sections and "these sections shall proceed to settle the provincial constitutions for the provinces in each section and also decide whether any group constitution shall be set up for these provinces."
There appears to us to be a marked discrepancy in these two separate provisions. The basic provision gives full autonomy to a province to do what it likes and subsequently there appears to be a certain compulsion in the matter which clearly infringes that autonomy.
It is true that at a later stage the provinces can opt out of any group. In any event it is not clear how a province or its representatives can be compelled to do something which they do not want to do.
A provincial Assembly may give a
mandate to its representatives not to enter any group or a particular
group or section. As Sections B and C have been formed it is obvious
that one province will play a dominating role in the section, the
Punjab in section B and Bengal in Section C. It is conceivable that
this dominating province may frame a provincial Constitution entirely
against the wishes of Sind or the North-West Frontier Province or
Assam. It may even conceivably lay down rules, for elections and
otherwise, thereby nullifying the provision for a province to opt out
of a group. Such could never be the intention as it would be repugnant
to the basic principles and policy of the Scheme itself..."
Lord Pethick Lawrence replied to Maulana Azad on 22 May answering his and Gandhi's queries(355 page 659, relevant portion)
"The Delegation have considered your letter of 20th May and feel that the best way to answer it is that they should make their general position quite clear to you[blogger's comment: unlike to the Muslim League, btw, to whom very explicit answers were given as seen above]. Since the Indian leaders after prolonged discussion failed to arrive at an agreement, the Delegation have put forward their recommendations as the nearest approach to reconciling the views of the two main parties. The scheme therefore stands as a whole and can only succeed if it is accepted and worked in a spirit of compromise and co-operation.
You are aware
of the reasons for the grouping of the Provinces and this is an
essential feature of the scheme which can only be modified by agreement
between the two parties.."
And that remained the Mission's and Viceroy's position all along in subsequent months. They tried to shame the Congress for its refusal to submit to the Mission's(and Viceroy's) rigidity on the grouping scheme by accusing Congressmen of many things- of excessive legal hairsplitting, of aiming to grab power and force a solution on the Muslims, of lack of generosity and statemanship.
It is hard to understand, with Jinnah and the Muslim League proclaiming at every turn their determination to achieve a separate sovereign Pakistan, why the British and the League expected that after decades of espousing the creed of Indian unity, the Congress would be stupid enough to agree to the compulsory grouping scheme and thereby make possible a larger separate sovereign Pakistan comprising sections B and C encompassing the whole of Bengal, Punjab and Assam provinces ?
And as V.P. Menon said, if the British sincerely
felt that the compulsory grouping scheme was mandatory because it
brought the Muslim League in, well, it kept the Congress out, so
was the use, finally?
Gandhiji made his point of view clear in a Harijan article on the subject on 26th May.
compliment, however, does not mean that what is best from the British standpoint is also best or
even good from the Indian. Their best may possibly be harmful. My meaning
will, I hope, be clear from
what follows. The authors of
the document have endeavoured to say fully what they mean. They have gathered from
their talks the minimum they
thought would bring the parties together for framing India’s charter of freedom. Their one purpose is
to end British rule as early as
may be. They would do so, if they could, by their effort, leave united India not torn asunder by internecine
quarrel bordering on civil war.
They would leave in any case.
in Simla the two parties, though the Mission suceeded in bringing them
together at the Conference
table (with what patience and skill they could do so, they alone could tell), could not come to an agreement,
nothing daunted, they descended
to the plains of India, and devised a worthy document for the purpose of setting up the Constituent
Assembly which should frame
India’s charter of independence, free of any British control or influence. It is an appeal and an
advice. It has no compulsion in it. Thus the Provincial Assemblies may or
may not elect the delegates.
The delegates, having been elected, may or may not join the Constituent Assembly. The Assembly having met, may
lay down a procedure
different from the one laid down in the Statement. Whatever is binding
on any person or party arises out of the necessity of the situation.
The separate voting is binding on both the major parties, only because
it is necessary for the existence of the Assembly and in no otherwise.
At the time of writing. I took up the Statement, reread it clause by
clause, and came to the conclusion that there was nothing in it binding
in law. Honour and necessity alone are the two binding forces.
is binding is that part of it which commits the British Government.
Hence, I suppose, the four members of the British mission took the
precaution of receiving full approval of the British Government and the
two Houses of Parliament. The Mission are entitled to warm
congratulations for the first step in the act of renunciation which the
Statement is. Since other steps are necessary for full renunciation, I
have called this one a promissory note.
the response to be made by India is to be voluntary the authors have
naturally assumed that the Indian parties are well-organized and
responsible bodies capable of doing voluntary acts as fully as, if not
more fully than, compulsory acts. Therefore, when Lord Pethick-Lawrence
said to a Press correspondent,“If they do come together on that basis,
it will mean that they will have accepted that basis, but they can
still change it, if a majority of each party they desire to do so, ” he
was right in the sense that those who became delegates, well knowing
the contents of the Statement, were expected by the authors to abide by
the basis, unless it was duly altered by the major parties. When two or
more rival parties meet together, they do so under some understanding.
self-chosen umpire (in the absence of the one chosen by the parties,
the authors constitute themselves one) fancies that the parties will
come together only if he presents them with a proposal containing a
certain minimum, and he makes his proposal, leaving them free to add
to, subtract from or altogether change it by joint agreement.
is perfect so far. But what about the units? Are the Sikhs, for whom
the Punjab is the only home in India, to consider themselves against
their will, as part of the section which takes in Sindh, Baluchistan
and the Frontier Province? Or is the Frontier Province also against its
will to belong to the Punjab, called “B” in the Statement, or Assam
to“C” although it is a predominantly non-Muslim province? In my
opinion, the voluntary character of the Statement demands that the
liberty of the individual unit should be unimpaired. Any member of the
sections is free to join it. The freedom to opt out is an additional
safeguard. It can never be a substitute for the freedom retained in
paragraph 15(5) which reads: Provinces should be free to
form groups with executives and legislatures and each group could
determine the Provincial subject to be taken in common.
It is clear that this freedom was taken away by the authors by section 19 which “proposes” (does not order) what should be done. It presupposes that the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly at its first meeting will ask the delegates of the Provinces whether they would accept the group principle and if they do, whether they [would] accept the assignment given to their Province. This freedom inherent in every Province and that given by 15(5) will remain intact. There appears to me to be no other way of avoiding the apparent conflict between the two paragraphs as also charge of compulsion which would immediately alter the noble character of the document. I would, therefore, ask all those who are perturbed by the group proposal and the arbitrary assignment, that, if my interpretation is valid there is not the slightest cause for perturbation.
There are other things in the document which would puzzle any hasty reader who forgets that it is simply an appeal and an advice to the nation showing how to achieve independence in the shortest time possible. The reason is clear. In the new world that is to emerge out of the present chaos, India in bondage will cease to be ‘the brightest jewel’ in the British crown it will become the blackest spot in that crown, so black that it will be fit only for the dustbin. Let me ask the reader to hope and pray with me that the British crown has a better use for Britain and the world. The ‘brightest jewel’ is an arrogation. When the promissory note is fully honoured, the British crown will have a unique jewel as of right flowing from due performance of duty.
are other matters outside the Statement which are required to back the
promissory note. But I must defer that examination to the next issue of
CMP(1) - From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'
CMP(2) - Congress and Muslim League positions on 12 May 1946
CMP(3) - The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946
CMP(4) - Jinnah and ML responses to the CMP 22 May and June 6 1946
CMP(5) - Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946
CMP(6) - Jinnah's meeting with Missiion Delegation on 16 April 1946
CMP(7A) - Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946
CMP(7) - The Congress unease with parity 8-9 May 1946
CMP(7B) - Jinnah and Azad responses to preliminary proposals 8-9 May 1946
CMP(8A) - Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union
CMP(8) - More exchanges on parity, Simla Conference meeting 11 May 1946
CMP(9) - Jinnah and Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and CMP, 8 Jan. and 25 May 1946
CMP(10) - Jinnah and Wyatt(2) on the interim government, 11 June 1946
CMP(11) - Congress opposition to grouping. Gandhi, Patel and Azad, May 1946
CMP(12) - Congress Working Committee resolutions, May-June 1946
CMP(12A) - Arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim, June 1946
CMP(12B) - Behind the scenes-Gandhi, June-July 1946
CMP(12C) - Behind the scenes-Jinnah, June-July 1946
CMP(13) - Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946
CMP(14) - League rejected Plan, called Direct Action, July-August 1946
CMP(15) - Viceroy strong-arming Nehru, Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick-Lawrence to Attlee, Aug -Sept 1946
CMP(16) - Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, Sept. 1946
CMP(17) - League Boycott of the Constituent Assembly Dec. 1946
CMP(17A) - Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947
CMP (A1) - Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Wavell
CMP(A2) - North West Frontier Province, Oct-Nov 1946 and Feb-March 1947
CMP(A3) - Bengal and Bihar, August - November 1946
CMP(A4) - Punjab, February - March 1947
CMP (18) - My take
CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?
CMP(20) - Another take -with links to reference material
CMP(21) - Mountbatten discussing CMP with Patel and Jinnah, 24-26 Apr 1947
CMP(22) - A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan
Extra(1) - Jinnah's speech in March 1941 on independent sovereign Pakistan
Extra(1A) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1941-1942
Extra(1B) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1938-1940
Extra(1C) - Jinnah's speeches and Statements from 1943-45
Extra(2) - Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan
Extra(3) - BR Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'
Extra(4) - Congress and Muslim parties' on the Communal question 1927-1931
Extra(4A) - Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928
Extra(4B) - Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38
Extra(5) - BR Ambedkar on Communal Representation 1909-1947
Extra(6) - Gandhiji's scheme of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947
Extra(6A) - Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43
Extra (6B) - Apr-Jul 1947 Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah
Extra(7) - M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory
Extra(8) - On Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies
Extra(9) - Links to cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys from the Daily Mail, UK, 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth
Extra(10) -Nehru Report 1928 (10 MB pdf)
Extra(11) -Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937
Extra(12) -Jinnah, Linlithgow, Sikander Hayat, Pakistan rumblings 1942-43
Durga Das (1) 1919-1931, Jallianwala Bagh to Bhagat Singh
Durga Das (2) 1931-1936, Crescent Card: Jinnah in London to Fazli Husain in Punjab
Durga Das(3) 1937-1940, Provincial Autonomy to Jinnah gets the veto
Durga Das(4) 1940-1945, The War Years: India's War Effort-Pakistan on a platter
Durga Das(5) 1945-1947, The Cabinet Mission to Divide and Quit
1937-1940(2) Congress and Jinnah fall out in U.P., Jinnah's anti-Congress campaign and the Viceroy gives Jinnah a Veto: Ayesha Jalal, Sarvepalli Gopal and Stanley Wolpert
1937: Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in U. P., M.J. Akbar
1937: Nehru, Jinnah and Coalition Governments, Bimal Prasad
1939-1940: India and the War, Anita Inder Singh
1945-1946: The Elections of 1945-46, Anita Inder Singh
1857-1938 Glimpses of British policy in Punjab: Ian Talbot and David Page
1930-1939 Congress Decline in Bengal, John Gallagher
Glendevon (1) 1937: Congress's Office Acceptance Saga over Governor's Powers
Glendevon (2) 1937-1940: Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States
Glendevon (3) 1939-1942: Linlithgow, Congress, Jinnah,War-time Realignments
1939-1947: Jinnah and the Anglo-Muslim League Alliance, Narendra Singh Sarila
1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)