Durga Das 4

Durga Das(4) 1940-1945 The War Years: India's War Effort-Pakistan on a platter
Quotes included
  • Sapru on Nationalism                                                 
  • India's War Effort
  • Cripp's Mission and threat of Japanese Invasion
  • Quit India
  • Constitutional Deadlock 1943-1944
  • American Support
  • Pakistan on a platter
  • Attlee and Churchill in London
Sapru on Nationalism
In view of the crisis in the nationalist movement, in June 1940 Durga Das wrote two articles offering solutions in The Statesman headed :"India at Bay; Way to Avoid Disaster."

Durga Das writes:
In these articles I suggested the formula of a national government comprising nominees of the provincial administrations. If an announcement of this kind was made, I felt the Congress would return to ministerial responsibility. I drew the attention of [Tej Bahadur] Sapru to my articles in the hope that if he supported the plan it would gain weight.

[Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru was a respected lawyer who played an important role in the political and constitutional development of India. According to Durga Das, though Sapru "was often a bitter critic of Gandhi and of the Nehrus he was at heart a Congress fellow-traveller". ]

Tej Bahadur Sapru "sent me a very interesting reply:

"There is a good deal in your articles which I am in agreement. With the concluding portion in which you say 'a self-governing India would need to spend 300 crores of rupees not forty-five crores, annually, to keep herself in a state of preparedness to meet a possible attack by a major power', I am in complete agreement. I regret that I do not share the optimism of some of your distinguished Congress leaders, who have been saying recently in their speeches that there is no apprehension of a foreign invasion, and that if one takes place they will be able to face it.

The foreign invasion may never- and I hope will never- take place, but I should not like to be put off my guard and it is extremely dangerous and unwise to lull people into a false sense of security. It is mainly because of this that I think that in matters of defence it is an advantage to remain a member of the Commonwealth. In fact, no country can afford to be completely independent of another in the altered state of the world.

I should have thought that the immediate question before us was to get self-government and not the domination of any particular school of thought. You say Gandhi's socialist state will evolve around the village economy. To improve the economic condition of our villages is undoubtedly a vital necessity and I regret that it has been neglected so far, but I doubt whether you are justified in using the phrase 'Gandhi's socialist state.' His 'socialism' is more akin to humanitarianism than to a political creed, and it is so elastic that the orthodox socialist and the combative Marxist may well claim standing room under his canopy.

You then say that the leftist conception is of a Marxist brand. For one thing, if the leftists adopt the Marxist brand, they cannot be nationalists; for another you cannot avoid class struggle. All this will be fatal to the establishment, or at any rate continuance of self-government. Class struggle must also be strengthed by the forces of communalism.

Nationalism in the case of India is, and must be, very different from the territorial nationalism of Europe, which is the result of the Treaty of Vienna made more than 100 years ago and which has been accentuated in Europe by trade rivalries. Nationalism in India must aim, for a long time to come, at reducing the internal points of conflict to a minimum, multiplying the points of contact and fostering a sense of community of interests. This will require very conscious and continued effort.

Personally speaking, I see very little evidence of such nationalism in India. Each party is using democratic phrases and slogans really for the establishment of its own supremacy.

When you express the hope that the Viceroy may cut the Gordian knot by ignoring the claims of both the Congress and the League to represent the will of the Indian people and of the Muslims respectively and calling upon the autonomous provincial units to nominate their representative to form a provincial federal Government, I share the hope with you, though I realise that such a step on the part of the Viceroy will, at the start, meet with the strongest possible opposition both from the Congress and the League.

The recent pronouncement of the Mahatma that it is no use calling an all-parties conference, as other parties, as other parties do not share the point of view of the Congress, has filled me with despair. Bluntly put, it is the very essence of totalitarianism, and it does not matter that his totalitarianism is different from other brands of totalitarianism in that it is based on non-violence. The result is the same. There is no toleration for difference of opinion.

I am most unwilling to express my opinion on these questions at present and if I have written to you this personal letter(not for publication), it is only out of my regard for you."

India's War Effort

The Congress had begun a new campaign of civil disobedience.

Surprisingly, I found the bureaucrats[in Delhi in early 1941] quite unperturbed by the new Congress campaign. In fact, they seemed quite complacent and full of confidence. Symbolic of the general feeling was the Secretary of the War Supplies Department's remark to me : "As a bureacrat, I do not see why we need a national government. We are getting all the supplies we need for our war effort."

The credit for this situation mainly went to Sir Jeremy Raisman, the Finance Member and the only member of the I.C.S to be given charge of this portfolio since 1922. I consider Sir Jeremy one of the architects of the Allied victory. It was primarily this design that provided the manpower and goods worth hundreds of millions of pounds which brought the British their victory at El Alamein in North Africa.

Sir Jeremy confided to me he knew that unlike in World War I, when India voted 100 million pounds as her gift towards the war expenses, the Central Legislative Assembly this time would not make any contribution. He, therefore, devised an ingenious plan under which he was not only able to get all that he wanted for the war effort but created such a powerful profit motive that even Gandhi-capped businessmen came forward to provide supplies.

He achieved this by adopting the simple device under which Britain would not pay India for the goods and services in gold but in sterling and, what is more, the rupee reserve would be held in paper currency and not in metal. India, no doubt, built up a huge sterling balance but the country suffered considerable inflation.

Insofar as Whitehall was concerned, it was convinced that a national government was not necessary to mobilise India for the war effort. The Americans, however, thought otherwise, the more so when Japan began to knock at India's gates.

Back in Lucknow in the summer of 1941, I found Governor's rule functioning effectively and the British bureacracy confident that this time it would see the demise of the Congress. The civil disobedience movement did not excite much public interest and was at a low ebb by the end of the year...

..Although the Viceroy and the bureacracy were satisfied that India was putting in the maximum war effort, Whitehall, concerned about American criticism, authorised Linlithgow to enlarge his Executive Council in a bid to win popular support. Eight Indians and four Britons were appointed to the new Council, the "natives" outnumbering the whites for the first time.

But the gesture was lost when Churchill dashed all hopes roused by the Atlantic Charter with his statement in the Commons that the Charter did not apply to India. [The Atlantic Charter was a joint declaration signed by Roosevelt and Churchill about the ongoing war: http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/53.htm]

Nationalist India reacted angrily and Gandhi firmly refused to approve an earlier proposal by a section of the Congress leaders, who had come out of jail at the end of their term, that they should resume ministerial responsibility. Gandhi told me he opposed the move any way because of his fear that Congressmen would get enmeshed in the power and corruption rackets which at sprung up around war supplies, especially when no political gain would accrue in the existing conditions.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7th December, 1941, brought the U.S. into the war and quickened the pace of political developments. New Delhi suddenly became a focal point for the war effort in Asia and The Statesman decided to shift me to the capital...My return to the capital was professionally timely and a few days later Chiang Kai-shek and his wife visited India in February [1942] to urge the Indian leaders to support the war effort against Japan.

They met Gandhi in Calcutta and at the end of the visit Chiang issued a statement supporting the Indian demand for independence.(I well remember the furore caused when Chiang's statement came through. It was not released for broadcast until the Viceroy had been sounded and had agreed to its publication.). Madame Chiang, whom I met in Delhi, assured me that the Americans were fully behind the Indian demand and that their visit would strengthen the hands of President Roosevelt in putting pressure on Churchill to change his attitude on India...

..Not long after the Japanese entered Singapore and Rangoon had fallen, the British Government decided to send the Cripps Mission to India, thereby rousing great expectations. Roosevelt wanted to make sure that the mission was handled properly and therefore sent his personal envoy, Col. Louis Johnson, to Delhi in April 1942."

Cripps Mission and the threat of invasion by Japan

The Cripps Mission sent to India by the British government "envisaged setting up a constitution-making body at the end of the war and the creation of a new Indian Union as a dominion. Provision was to be made for the participation of the [princely] Indian states and the Constitution so framed was to be accepted by Britain subject to the right of any province to stay out of the Union.

Britain, meanwhile, was to retain control and direction of the defence of India as part of their world war effort, "but the task of organising the full military, moral and material resources of India" was to be "the responsibiliy of the Government of India with the co-operation of the peoples of India."

Cripps believed that his personal relations with Nehru would help him win the approval of the Congress Working Committee for his plan. ..

But Gandhi told me that the Cripps proposals had all the bad points of the federation plan of the 1935 Reforms Act and had further introduced the evil principle of partition of India to be decided by people chosen on a very limited franchise. He had told Cripps that his proposals at best offered "an undated cheque on a crashing bank" and was leaving all power in the hands of the Viceroy and the India Office to govern India while the war lasted. "

Gandhi "held the view that if the Japanese invasion was to be met the British must immediately transfer power so that an Indian government could take command of the instruments of administration, attune them to its purpose and direct the masses how to conduct themselves. I gathered that Gandhi expected the Japanese to land in India and he did not wish the British to leave a vacuum which the invader would fill with a puppet regime.

Besides Gandhi's opposition, the reason for Cripp's failure was Churchill's refusal to back the assurance he had given Azad that the Viceroy's Executive Council would function as a Cabinet and that the defence portfolio would be entrusted to an Indian. Wavell, then Commander-in-Chief [and later Linlithgow's successor as Viceroy], according to some insiders, was agreeable to the arrangement.

..The situation on the war fronts was now becoming increasingly desperate. Japanese warships appeared in the Bay of Bengal. The Government, fearing an invasion was impending, destroyed installations in Madras harbour and took other measures in pursuance of its "scorched earth" policy. The British Parliament had already passed an Act providing that in the event of a complete breakdown of communications with Britain the Vicecory would exercise the powers of the Secretary of State..

..Rajagopalachari and Kamaraj toured Madras and Mira Behn went to Orissa to urge people to keep calm and refuse to cooperate with the invader. The Madras leaders were of the opinion that the British power should be replaced by the Congress organisation so that when the Japanese landed they would find a national government functioning. The Congress members of the Madras legislature, led by C.R., passed a resolution recommending that the League's claim for separation be accepted and negotiations with it for a national government started. The Andhra Pradesh Committee passed a resolution opposing the stand taken by the Madras legislators.

Within a week, the A.I.C.C. met at Allahabad and discountenanced the Madras resolution by a large majority. Instead, it passed one of its own, emphasising the unity of India and calling for non-cooperation with and non-violent resistance to the invader. Rajagopalachari, thus disowned, soon resigned from the Congress. By this time, however, the danger of a Japanese invasion receded and the perspective considerably altered.."

  Quit India

Durga Das writes:

A note made by King George VI in his diary in July 1942 shows that despite their hardline stance about India, Churchill and Tory diehards were convinced that the "jewel of the British Empire" was lost:

"He[Churchill] amazed me by saying that his colleagues and both, or all three, parties in Parliament were quite prepared to give up India to Indians after the war. He felt they had already been talked into giving up India. Cripps, the Press and U.S. public opinion have all contributed to make their minds up that our rule in India is wrong, and has always been wrong for India. I disagree and have always said India has got to be governed, and this will have to be our policy."

But Churchill and the government of India held firmly to the belief that the war effort would be gravely impeded were popular governments to be established in the country.

William Phillips[Roosevelt's personal representative in Delhi] confided in me that few Americans believed that adequate mass support could be mobilised in India for the Allied cause in the absence of a popular government. American opinion was particularly exercised over the grim prospect of a Japanese invasion of India and the possible need to organise a resistance movement.

The deadlock in India however, persisted.. The Congress still laboured under the sincere belief that it could cope with Jinnah's intransigence if it succeeded in striking a deal with the British. The Cripp's proposals had conceded the principle of partition and Gandhi therefore left Delhi in disgust.

The Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution expressing regret that the proposals "gravely imperil the development of a free and united national government and the establishment of a democratic state." "Nevertheless" the resolution went on to say, "the Committee cannot think in terms of compelling the people of any territorial unit to remain in the Indian Union against their declared and established will."

Jinnah exultingly told me that he had won his battle, for he considered this a surrender to the concept of partition..

[Acharya J.B ] Kripalani[Congress General Secretary], confronted with this interpretation, denied that the principle of partition had been conceded. The sentence relating to secession, it was explained, was a concession to men like Asaf Ali who had suggested that the committee should endorse the principle of self-determination. Had that been done, according to Kripalani, any village could have asked for independence.

The League executive almost simultaneously passed a resolution expressing "gratification that the possibility of Pakistan is recognised by implication by providing for the establishment of two or more unions in India" and rejecting the Cripps proposals for the reason that they were not open to modification.

Reluctant to alienate American sympathy, however, the Congress adopted another resolution on 14th July 1942 stating that "it would change the present ill-will against Britain into goodwill and make India a willing partner in a joint enterprise of securing freedom for the nations and people of the world" and that this was possible only "if India feels the glow of freedom". It added "The Congress is, therefore, agreeable to the stationing of armed forces of the Allies in India, should they so desire, in order to ward off and resist Japanese or other aggression and to protect and help China."

The British having spurned this significant gesture, the Congress persuaded Gandhi to resume active leadership of the party and give a call to people in the manner he alone could. It was thus that the Congress embarked on the Quit India campaign on 8th August, 1942...This was to be a mass struggle on non-violent lines on the widest possible scale and Gandhi called it open rebellion- the "do or die" struggle to compel the British to depart.

Linlithgow's Government had anticipated the move and had made its plan to deal with it a couple of months in advance. In a resolute bid to nip the rebellion in the bud, it arrested Gandhi and all the other leaders on the morning of 9th August and incarcerated them in the Ahmednagar Fort..The Congress organisation was outlawed throughout British India.

Bereft of effective leadership, the agitation was carried on by underground workers and quickly turned into a chaotic battle with authority. The eruption into the ranks of the non-violent freedom fighters of extremists and terrorists on one hand and anti-social elements on the other led to alarming disturbances all over the country. Communications were disrupted, much public property was destroyed indiscriminately and the war effort was impeded considerably..

..Among the many who went underground was Yashwantrao Chavan, who later became Chief Minister of his state, Maharashtra, entered the Union Cabinet in 1962 as Defence Minister and thereafter became Home Minister. Another was Aruna Asaf Ali, who once took shelter with a tenant in my house...But the back of the struggle had been broken by the end of September. The Raj, employing all the instruments of suppression at its command, had imposed on the country a sullen frustrated quiet."

While the Quit India movement was being ruthlessly quelled, Reginald Coupland, a professor of Oxford University came up with the Coupland plan which "was a ingenious amalgam of various other schemes then in the air. It sought to resolve the problem by dividing the country into four broad geographical regions: the Indus basin, the Gangetic basin, the delta of the Brahmaputra, and the Deccan.

Two of these regions would have a Muslim majority, and the Hindus would predominate in the other two, and this would result in a balance of power at the Centre. For the princely States, he suggested either a single separate dominion or several dominions where viable units were feasible.

It is interesting to note that Coupland wanted a statutory guarantee for the continuance of the work of the Christian missions in the hill tracts of Assam. (This lends weight to the suspicion that the present-day movement for independence among a section of Nagas and Mizos on the Assam borders is inspired by missionaries.)."[Durga Das writes this in 1968-1969]

Constitutional deadlock 1943-44
The pressure of the war and of political happenings in the country, thrust the Coupland plan into the background. But Jinnah seemed to go from strength to strength. Back from a Muslim League session in April 1943, glowing with pride, he told me that now indeed his claim that the League was the sole representative of the Muslims of India had been vindicated, for three Muslim-majority provinces were being governed by the League Ministries.

I asked Jinnah why he had not responded to Gandhi's request for a definition of his demands.

His reply was illuminating. "You see, Congressmen are dying to get back into power. My men are in power. It is for Congressmen therefore to state what they are prepared to concede. The ball is in their court. I am in the happy position of being able to extract the best terms, as they want power and the British do not want to part with it." Jinnah's parting shot was almost prophetic: "You can depend on Rajagopalachari to use his sharp wits to define Pakistan for me."

Wavell took over as Viceroy in October 1943. This change, Phillips confided to me had been hastened by [US President] Roosevelt's advice to London that Linlithgow should be replaced by someone who could handle the constitutional deadlock with greater imagination.

A week before his departure, [Viceroy] Linlithgow provided me with an interview with an insight into his thinking. With apparent sincerity he expressed the belief that India could not hope to become free for another fifty years. This country, he declared blandly, was new to parliamentary institutions and would require a large leavening of British officials and Europeans to ensure their successful functioning. With the advent of air-conditioning, it was now possible for Britons to settle down in India permanently in areas like Dehra Dun, and when there were some six million of them to buttress a democratic administration, India might expect to make substantial progress towards self-government.

Soon after Wavell's assumption of office, the League decided to establish a Committee of Action to combat a unitary constitution. It was intended to intimidate the Viceroy who, it was said, had arrived with a new mandate from Whitehall. Ignoring the threat, Wavell proclaimed in his address to the Central Legislature in February 1944 that India was a "natural unit."

Early in February, Wavell toured vast areas of Bengal ravaged by one of the most devastating famines of the century during the closing months of his predecessor's regime. He also ordered the release of Gandhi on medical grounds.. The steady Japanese advance was underlining the need for an immediate ending of the political deadlock."

Meanwhile, Durga Das had ended his six-year association with the Statesman and joined the Hindustan Times on 1st April 1944.

"The pleasurable part of this experience was the close understanding and the spirit of comradeship with Devadas Gandhi[Mahatma Gandhi's youngest son and son-in-law of C. Rajagopalachari]. As Managing Editor, he brought to the handling of the affairs of the paper a penny pinching astuteness and a flair for administration."

Jinnah was hostile to the Hindustan Times and would not admit its representatives to his Press briefings. The ban, happily, became inoperative after I joined the paper because of the cordiality of our relations. Jinnah was now riding the high horse, and not with reason. Events seemed to be shaping exactly as he wanted.

Early in April 1944, Rajagopalachari embarked on negotiation with him on the basis of a formula for which he said he had secured the general support of Gandhi, who was confined in the Aga Khan's palace ..after his arrest in Bombay in August 1942. The formula was a subtle attempt to reduce the League's Lahore resolution[the Pakistan resolution] to concrete and intelligible terms. Jinnah had not been wrong in expecting C.R. to perform this useful job for him. But he argued that C. R. lacked the credentials to speak on behalf of the Congress.

Gandhi was released unconditionally on 6th May 1944. In July he said he would now be satisfied with nothing less than a national government with full control of the civil administration. Such a government would be composed of persons chosen by the elected members of the Central Assembly. Gandhi also said "So far as military operations are concerned, the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief will have complete control..The Allied forces would be allowed to carry on their operations on Indian soil. I realise that they cannot defeat Japan without that."

Soon after, "I wrote in the Hindustan Times a piece entitled: "Conspiracy Between British diehards and Jinnah." This was based on a talk with a top Briton who said to me: "Mr Jinnah will never come to an agreement during the war. While he is intransigent, he is on top. Once he agrees to a transitional arrangement, the League will get merged in the nationalist movement and will never be able to dictate terms to the Congress. Mr. Jinnah's intransigence suits us, and if he maintains his attitude and keeps his hands off Punjab, which is our special preserve, he will deserve some support at the end of the war."

Roosevelt's support
Despairing of getting justice from Britain, and its representatives in New Delhi, the Indian leaders now pinned their hopes on Roosevelt exerting pressure on Churchill to meet their demands.

In the middle of 1944, a confidential report on India submitted by William Phillips to Roosevelt created a big stir in New Delhi, London and Washington...Phillips pointed out that the Indian people were at war only in the legal sense, as they had no say in their government and cynically regarded the fighting as a clash between fascism and imperialism, between which there was nothing to choose. It also said that the Chinese, who regarded the Anglo-American bloc with distrust, might feel differently if India was liberated.

Roosevelt had brought about two meetings between Churchill and his special envoy before the report was published, but they had proved unfruitful... When Phillip's findings found their way into print, the British Government was vastly annoyed. Thereupon, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives moved that Sir Ronald Campbell and Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, who had been sent to Washington to "mould" public opinion to accept the British point of view on Indian independence, be in turn declared unacceptable to the U.S. Administration and asked to quit the country.

"Devadas and I decided a run a column in the Hindustan Times exposing this vicious campaign. ..The column was titled "I accuse" and Devadas suggested that I write it under the pen-name Insaf, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's definition of Ram Raj as Insaf Raj. These articles identified and exposed the outfit that was providing a cloak for the official propaganda machine, accused the Government of India of misrepresenting this country in the Soviet Union, China and the Middle East and of spending Indian money abroad to popularise British rule.

We next ran a series of four articles in February on the "British Propaganda Racket in the U.S." which were attributed to a special correspondent. The material for this series came from friendly American sources.

One of the most telling ripostes to the British propaganda was delivered at a time when Churchill was in Washington for one of his frequent consultations with Roosevelt. Some Indians and their American sympathisers booked a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post. Churchill was breakfasting with his host at the White House when the Post was brought in. Roosevelt was unaware that the paper contained the ad, which had been prepared by Syud Hussain, Chairman of the Committee for Indian Freedom, and was a biting indictment of British rule in India.

He passed the paper to Churchill, who opened it and saw the ad, captioned "What About India?" Churchill threw the paper down angrily. On learning the cause of his ire, Roosevelt calmly observed that the ad had obviously been paid for, and buying newspaper space for propaganda purposes was not unusual in the US.

While Indian politicians were pinning hopes on intervention by the U.S. President, C.R convinced Gandhi that he should take up the threads of the negotiations with Jinnah where C. R had left them. The Gandhi-Jinnah talks in Bombay in September[1944] lasted well over a fortnight, but the two parted as distant as ever. Jinnah poured scorn on Gandhi's formula, which envisaged an all-India central authority. "What I am being offered is a truncated and moth-eaten Pakistan," he exclaimed indignantly.

When I met Gandhi in Bombay, he emphatically denied he had countenanced the vivisection of India.

Jinnah, on the contrary, was jubilant when I saw him in Delhi soon after the luckless parleys. "You see, Gandhi has defined Pakistan for me," he said. "Gandhi asked me whether it would be a state whose policy on defence and external affairs could be in conflict with India's. I had only to answer 'yes'."

In November, a non-party conference organised by [Tej Bahadur] Sapru set up a standing committee to examine the communal and minorities questions. Jinnah disdainfully refused to recognise it; he would not unbend even to meet Sapru.

Pakistan on a platter
 In January 1945, Bhulabhai Desai approached Viceroy Wavell and suggested "complete Indianisation of the Executive Council, giving the Congress and the League groups in the Central Assembly forty per cent each of the seats in the Council and the remaining twenty per cent to the minorities. Desai put forward this proposal with the assurance that Liaquat Ali and he had agreed to it and that it had Gandhi's approval..

In an imaginative and statemanlike move to lift the clouds darkening the political horizon, Wavell proceeded to London on 23rd March for consultations with Whitehall. He returned on 4th June and made this fateful announcement ten days later on reconstituting his Executive Council.. Unaccustomed to the subtleties of the political game, Wavell was misled into converting the formula of equal representation for the Congress and the League into an equation between caste Hindus and Muslims.

His statement of 14th June said "It is proposed that the Executive Council should be reconstituted and that the Viceroy should in future make his selection for nomination to the Crown for appointment to his Executive from amongst leaders of Indian political life at the Centre and in the provinces, in a proportion which would give balanced representation of the main communities, including an equal proportion of Muslims and caste Hindus."

The very next day, to create the right climate for the impending talks on the new formula, he ordered the release of the Congress leaders in detention. But no sooner had Wavell made his announcement on the Executive Council than Gandhi disowned it, saying he had never thought in terms of equating the caste Hindus and the Muslims when he blessed the Desai-Liaquat pact.

The Wavell proposal represented, however, a considerable advance on the road to self-rule, and the Working Committee decided to join the conference the Viceroy had summoned. Patel was, however, so incensed at what he regarded as Desai's manoeuvres that he insisted on writing him off as a political liability, and that meant the eclipse of the Leader of the Congress Party in the Central Assembly.

The Simla Conference opened on 25th June, a day after Wavell met and talked with Gandhi, Jinnah and Azad separately. In these talks, the caste complexion of Hindu representation in the Executive Council was removed and it was agreed that the composite Central Cabinet would comprise fourteen Indian Councillors, five each to be selected by the Congress and the League and four viceregal nominees. Among the last group would be a Sikh, two Harijans, and Sir Khizr Hayat Khan, leader of the Unionist Party of the Punjab.

The Congress proposed at the conference that its panel consist of two Hindus, a Muslim, a Christian and a Parsee. As the League had already been accorded parity with the Congress, this should have pleased Jinnah. Further, the fact that seven of the fourteen Councillors would be Muslims should have won him over completely.

The League Council favoured acceptance of the Wavell plan, and the Congress Working Committee got down to the task of preparing a panel of names for the Viceroy's approval. But on 11th July, to the amazement and dissappointment of all who had set great store by these proposals to end the political deadlock, Wavell announced that his private confabulations with Jinnah had failed.

Three days later, the world was told that the conference had foundered on the rock of Jinnah's insistence that all the Muslim Councillors be nominated exclusively by the League. This was a condition the Congress would under no circumstances accept, for it would have reduced it to the status of a body representing only Hindus and the smaller minorities while subscribing to Jinnah's claim that the League was the sole spokesman of the Muslims.

Why, in the hour of League's triumph, having won parity with the Congress, should Jinnah have dragged it back from the threshold of power? On the face of it, his recalcitrance seemed pointless.

But his real aim was known to a few insiders. He was expected to announce his final decision on the Viceroy's proposals to the Press at his hotel lounge. A few moments earlier, he had, however, received a message from the "cell" of British Civil Servants in Simla, which was in tune with the diehards in London, that if Jinnah stepped out of the talks he would be rewarded with Pakistan.

As Jinnah emerged from his meeting with the Press and entered the lift to go upstairs to his suite, I joined him. I asked him why he had spurned the Wavell plan when he had won his point of parity for the League with the Congress. His reply stunned me for a moment: "Am I a fool to accept this when I am offered Pakistan on a platter?"

After painstaking inquiries, I learned from high official and political sources that a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council had sent a secret message to Jinnah through the League contacts he had formed..

Gandhi did not participate directly in the Simla Conference but stayed in the background as "adviser" to those who did. I met him several times and he told me that the most unfortunate aspect of C.R's parley's with Jinnah and Desai's with Liaquat Ali to bring about a Congress-League entente was that they had either misunderstood or misrepresented his approach to the issue.

When Desai had approached him with the formula providing for equal Congress-League representation in the proposed interim government, he had readily agreed, but this provision had been distorted in Wavell's proposals.Again, he had blessed C.R's offer to Jinnah not because he had accepted the two-nation theory nor because he recognised the League as the sole representative of the Muslims. On the contrary, it was precisely because he rejected both these proposals that he supported elections to a constituent assembly on the basis of adult franchise and separate electorates for the Muslims.

He said : "I hold the view that we must accept the verdict of the Muslims so elected on whether they want independence for India as a whole or wish to live separately." Polls held on a narrow franchise would not meet the tests he had laid down.[In the event, the 1946 elections which set the seal on partition were held with twenty-six percent franchise.] It was unfortunate, he added, that most of his colleagues had come out of jail tired and dispirited and without the heart to carry on the struggle. They wanted a settlement with Britain, and what is more, hungered for power.

"I fear", he added, "they may throw to the winds the basic principles for which the Congress has stood. The Hindus are indivisible, India is indivisible. There can be no Swaraj without Hindu-Muslim unity. Jinnah objects to the expression Ram Raj, by which I mean not Hindu Raj but divine Raj, Insaf Raj, where justice will prevail between man and man. If God gives me strength, I will fight for these principles with my life."

Attlee and Churchill in London
I was in London not long after Jinnah torpedoed the Wavell proposals. It was the day after the first atom bomb had flattened Hiroshima. A few days later came Japan's unconditional surrender and the end of World War II. It is difficult to describe the mighty whirlpool of emotions into which I found myself sucked as Londoners celebrated VJ-Day with fantastic abandon. My own preoccupation, however, was with the inexorable forces driving India willy-nilly towards freedom.

On 26th July, less than three weeks before the Japanese capitulation, Labour surprisingly worsted the Churchill Government at the polls and assumed office. Churchill had once declared that he had not become the first Minister of the Crown "to preside over the liquidation of the Empire." Happily for India, neither Atlee, the new Prime Minister, nor his Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, was committed to this diehard view..

Wavell, summoned to London for discussions towards the end of August, had returned to Delhi and announced on 19th September plans for fresh elections to and for a constitution-making body. Hailing the announcement, the Herald commented editorially two days later : "The key sentence in Lord Wavell's announcement-and it was underlined by Mr. Attlee when, last night, he broadcast from London-is that 'India has to play her full part in working out the new world order'. India can never play her full part until she is self-governing... A prominent journalistic supporter of the Congress Party-Mr Durga Das, Joint Editor of the Hindustan Times-wrote in this paper a few days ago that the day when Labour was elected to power in Britain was regarded as a V-Day by Indians...

The Labour Government shows itself eager to break the deadlock which has for so long paralysed Anglo-Indian relations. It proposes, as soon as the forthcoming elections in India have taken place, that the Viceroy should seek discussions with representatives of the new provincial legislatures and of the Indian State, aimed at establishing a constituent assembly to frame a new constitution. The Indian representatives will be invited to decide whether they wish to achieve self-government according to the procedure of the 'Cripps offer' of 1942 or by some alternative procedure."

Whiteley[Chief Whip of the Labour Party in the House of Commons] arranged for me to meet Attlee for a quiet informal talk... On his visit to London, Wavell, he said, had told him that there were two alternatives confronting the British-one, to hold India down by force, for which purpose he would require thousands of additional British troops, and the other to pass on the responsibility for government to the representatives of the people. Attlee added that he, for this part, was clear in his mind that Britain must quit; he firmly believed too that the transfer of power must not be made conditional on India's remaining a Dominion of the British Commonwealth. In this matter, he would leave the decision entirely to the Indians themselves-as envisaged in setting up a Constituent Assembly.

Attlee did not conceal his deep agitation over the Muslim demand for Pakistan and agree with my plea that a minority should not be allowed to hold up the progress of the majority to self-rule. At the same time, he frankly contended it was as impossible for the British to help the majority put down a revolt on the part of the minority as for it to hold India down by force of arms. He added that his intention was to promote in India a structure that would give her federal unity. Should he be baulked in this attempt, he would rather transfer power to the provinces and let the Indians sort out their difficulties among themselves.

He then returned to the theme he had twice earlier propounded to me- that the American presidential system would be more suitable to Indian conditions than British parliamentary democracy. The Constituent Assembly to be set up to formulate a blueprint for the future governance of India, should he felt give serious thought to granting a fixed tenure to the executive, particularly at the Centre.

(In the sixties, when Attlee, now an Earl, visited India to deliver the Azad Memorial Lectures, I harked back to this argument. Did he still cling to his preference for the American system for India? The doyen of the Labour Party met the question squarely. The Indians, he admitted, had shown a remarkable democratic temper in conducting elections and forming majority administration. He was not sure, though, that the strains and stresses like to follow Nehru's departure would not call for modifications in the light of Indian needs. The country's politics in the post-Nehru years have indeed borne witness to Attlee's profound insight.).

Churchill, his severe electoral reverse notwithstanding, was as pugnacious as ever. Conducted into his presence in the central lobby at Westminster by Whiteley, I found him staring curiously at my army uniform. Somewhat overawed, I explained I was a war correspondent and had visited the Middle Eastern and Italian fronts and seen the famous Tenth Indian Division in action.

That set Churchill going. He spoke of how he had started his journalistic career as war correspondent for The Pioneer in India and then remarked: "Indian soldiers are fine fighters, but your politicians are men of straw-not Gandhi and a few others. You are going to be a burden on us. You have to be your own shield, though as I see it you are a continent-not one nation, but many nations. You have poverty and an increasing population." To end the brief interview, he added with a characteristic flourish:"We will play fair by you, if you play fair by us."

In another meeting, the Chief Whip of the Labour Party, Whiteley, "made the point that his party and many Tories felt that the Indian Army should remain united in the interest of the security of South-East Asia and the Near East and join other Commonwealth nations in ensuring the security of the Indian Ocean. He considered the Congress the freedom party and the League disruptionist and expressed the hope that in the impending elections the League candidates in Punjab, Sind and North West frontier province would be defeated. That would help preserve the unity of India."


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

1944: Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Jaswant Singh

1830s-1898: British Forward Policy(1)

1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)

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