India's Constitutional Question - The Cabinet Mission Plan 1946


It is worthwhile for those interested in India's  constitutional question in the pre-independence era to read for themselves primary sources on the Cabinet Mission Plan and related materials.

I have typed out full text and excerpts of discussions, letters, statements and speeches of the primary actors of that period- Congress, Muslim League and the British,  and uploaded these to  this website to make them accessible to a larger audience..

The main sources I have drawn from are

1. 'The Transfer of Power 1942-7' Ed. Nicholas Mansergh, E.W.Lumby and Penderel Moon.
2. 'Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-47'. Selected by Sir Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai, 1957
3. 'Speeches, 'Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', Ed.Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore.

My own thesis is that the Congress Party had to accept Partition of India as the best of only two bad choices offered  by the Plan- a truncated sovereign Pakistan right then or a larger sovereign Pakistan after the British left, whose boundaries would pass through the outskirts of Delhi.

This is borne out by the British and Jinnah's insistence that Congress accept those provisions of the Cabinet Mission Plan which specified the compulsory grouping of provinces into separate sections  and those which specified that the proposed Indian Union have not one but two or more separate Constitution making bodies for all subjects except only three Union subjects defence, foreign affairs and communications.

These provisions meant that under the Cabinet Mission Plan, the Pakistan sections B and C would  for all practical purposes constitute an independent state,  with Hindustan/section A unable to prevent its secession at any point of time.   The only way for Congress to prevent such a larger sovereign Pakistan from coming into being was to stress that grouping of provinces should not be compulsory. When that position was not accepted by the British or Jinnah, the Congress settled for the lesser evil, the smaller truncated Pakistan.

I believe the primary material supports my thesis of these being essentially the only two choices before the Congress and of Congress leaders including   Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Nehru and Patel's being collectively aware of such. 

The primary material is linked in the right half of this page.

New since 07/13:

ForwardPolicy(1): Religious incitement in British Forward Policy 1830s-1898
ForwardPolicy(2): Religious incitement in British Forward Policy 1899-1947

New since  05/12:

Extra(12)-Jinnah, Linlithgow, Sikander Hayat, Pakistan rumblings, 1942-3



Some Secondary Sources
Historians' secondary or interpretative narrations can be illuminating for their delineations of the broader historical picture, despite often propagating misleading biases. The interested reader also often finds in these accounts, valuable quotes and references for further investigation.

Durga Das's India from Curzon to Nehru and after offers his witness's account of Indian political history from the mid-1910s onward till many years past independence. He observed firsthand and reported on the great diversity of Indians participating in many disparate events which together constituted the Indian independence movement. His book is a great starting place and worth reading in entirety. Some parts are quoted here.

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

Many historians  consider that the period 1937-1940 was a decisive one for India's future; as during this period Congress-Jinnah differences over  elected provincial governments evolved rapidly into an unbridgeable political rift between many Muslims and other Indians. Ayesha Jalal's The Sole Spokesman, Sarvepalli Gopal's Jawaharlal Nehru and Stanley Wolpert's Jinnah of Pakistan are quoted here on the events of that period.

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

M.J. Akbar provides invaluable perspective and a wealth of facts and quotes on the same period in Nehru, The Making of India.

1937: Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in U. P., M.J. Akbar

Bimal Prasad's essay, Jawaharlal Nehru and Partition in The Partition in Retrospect Ed. Amrik Singh offers interesting perspectives and quotes on the political events in 1937, a key year in Congress-Jinnah relations.

1937: Nehru, Jinnah and Coalition Governments, Bimal Prasad

Anita Inder Singh's The Origins of the Partition of India 1936-1947 is a copiously-referenced clearsighted narrative of a critical period of pre-independence history. The first portion excerpted corresponds to the months following the British declaration of war in September 1939 and highlights the British reliance on Jinnah's demands to deny any concessions, minor or major, to the Congress. The second excerpt covers the 1945-46 provincial election campaigns, particularly in Punjab. The Muslim League fought this election on the sole platform of Pakistan.
1939-1940: India and the War, Anita Inder Singh
1945-1946: The Elections of 1945-46, Anita Inder Singh

Religious incitement to violence was a recurring feature of British forward policy in Afghanistan and the North West Frontier over a span of at least 120 years from the 1820s-1947. These pages quote both primary sources and a number of historians[Rajendra Prasad, Andrew M. Roe, Arnold Fletcher, Rhea Stewart, Leon Poullada, Stephen Rittenburg,  Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah, Wali Khan], on the subject. Excerpts cover the Barelvi jihad against the Sikh king Ranjit Singh,  Indian, Liberal and Tory politicians' discussions on forward policy in the 1890s, the downfall of the Afghan king Amanullah Khan in 1928-1929 and the British Indian government funding of religious propaganda in the North West Frontier during 1939-1945.

ForwardPolicy(1): Religious incitement in British Forward Policy 1830s-1898
ForwardPolicy(2): Religious incitement in British Forward Policy 1899-1947


Note: This collation would not have been possible without the help of my brother. Without his patient guidance and steady involvement  it might have been impossible for me to navigate the oceans of  material on this subject. The beautiful picture above was shot by him.

07/09
sadna_guptaATyahooDOTcom
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Material available on this website:
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 Mission 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 on the Cabinet Mission Plan-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) - B. R. Ambedkar's commentary 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 a selection of cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys published in the Daily Mail, UK, in 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth - from National Library of Wales' online Illingworth exhibition

Extra(10) - The Nehru Report 1928, full text (10 MB PDF)
Extra(11) - Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937

Some Secondary Sources, contd. The British dependence on Punjab for military manpower after the 1857 mutiny heavily influenced British policies towards land, administration, franchise and demands for self-rule in that province. These quotes from Ian Talbot's Khizr Tiwana and David Page's Prelude to Partition provide glimpses of the particularity exercised towards Punjab by the British.
1857-1938 Glimpses of British policy in Punjab: Ian Talbot and David Page

John Gallagher in a Modern Asian Studies journal paper Congress in Decline: Bengal, 1930 to 1939 provides a neat precis of Congress decline in Bengal in the 1930s. Excerpts include his discussion of the causes of loss of political power of educated, wealthy and propertied Hindus over the Muslim-majority province; the effect of the Communal Award 1932 on Bengali Hindus and an attempt by Congress to reach an all-India communal settlement with Jinnah in early 1935.
1930-1939: Congress Decline in Bengal, John Gallagher

The Marquess of Linlithgow was Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943. His son John Glendevon's book The Viceroy at Bay presents a view of the Viceroy and his tenure which some may not agree with. However, the book exemplifies a particular British viewpoint of that period and also contains a number of illuminating quotes of various major players of the time, including Gandhi, Jinnah and Viceroy Linlithgow and Secretary of State Zetland themselves.

The excerpts from the book presented here cover three episodes: firstly, the tussle between Congress and the Viceroy in 1937 when Congress refused to accept office after winning majorities in six provinces in provincial elections; secondly, Viceroy Linlithgow's efforts to bring into force the Federation part of the Government of India Act 1935 and his various interactions with Congress, Jinnah and the Princes which reveal their respective views on the Indian constitutional question; and thirdly, the wartime positions of all major players from 1939-1942, including the remarkably rapid increase in Jinnah's power to veto Indian constitutional advance.
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

Narendra Singh Sarila in The Shadow of the Great Game combines well-researched primary sources with his comprehensive strategic viewpoint on Congress-British relations, Jinnah-British relations and the American connection. The portions excerpted here are explicitly related to Jinnah-British relations in the war and post-war periods. Excerpts related to the Gurdaspur boundary award from Patrick French's Liberty or Death are also included.
1939-1947: Jinnah and the Anglo-Muslim League Alliance, Narendra Singh Sarila


Former Foreign Minister of India, Jaswant Singh has written a 669-page book Jinnah India - Partition - Independence. Some of the primary material he provides in his book is interesting. The material on the Gandhi-Jinnah talks of 1944 is quoted  to supplement the primary source material in Extra(2) - Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan. It is very difficult to argue,  given any contemporaneous description of the 1944 Gandhi-Jinnah talks, that Jinnah did not want a sovereign independent Pakistan.

1944:  Gandhi-Jinnah talks 1944, Jaswant Singh

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