Intelligence Assessment and the Threat of Civil War

CMP(16) Intelligence assessment about Jinnah's options and the threat of civil war- September 1946.
Document included
  • Intelligence Bureau (Home Department) enclosure sent by Viceroy Wavell to Lord Pethick-Lawrence. From 'The Transfer of Power 1942-47',Vol VIII, Mansergh and Moon, 1979(full text)
page 577, Enclosure to No. 360(full text)
Field Marshal Viscount Wavell to Lord Pethick-Lawrence 24 September 1946

Intelligence Bureau (Home Department)

Secretary has asked me for an appreciation of possible moves in the Muslim League field and of the consequences that might flow from them. In attempting this I necessarily base it on the assumption that Mr. Jinnah's talks with His Excellency the Viceroy have once again ended in failure to achieve agreement. An appreciation would otherwise be unnecessary.

2. Mr. Jinnah would appear to have before him the choice of three alternatives; first, to resile with such grace as he can muster from the precipice of civil war, secondly, to stall for time in which to improve his organisation, and, thirdly, to take a plunge into direct action.

3. The reasons that might prompt him to flinch from the third alternative are:-
(a) Fear or dislike of the bloodshed and butchery and, it may be, the chaos which will result.
(b) The hesitance of some of his immediate subordinates, not all of whom are men of action or wholly irresponsible.
(c) The proof afforded by the Calcutta carnage that it is the poor, including the Muslim poor, who suffer most from the savagery and from the aftermath of disorder.
(d) The realisation that his weapon is double-edged and that slaughter in East Bengal, West Punjab and in Sind of Hindus must be counterpoised by the slaughter of Muslims in other parts of India.
(e) The narrowness, if we exclude for the moment the basic irreconcilability of the one-nation and two-nation theories, of the present disagreement between Congress and the League.
(f) The recognition, through the lesson of Calcutta, that mutual murder need not ultimately and necessarily result in a strengthening of the League, but may instead prompt the thought of coalition among men of sober or sobered mind.
(g) The danger, ever present in the Punjab, of a competent riposte to League disorder from the turbulent Sikh minority.

4. On the other hand, the reasons which may prompt Mr. Jinnah to elect to fight are as strong, if not stronger. They include:-
(a) the matter of his personal pride and prestige which are heavily involved and which, if lowered, must weaken the League and invite defections.
(b) the thought that for the enforcement of a political principle so vital to the Muslims, bloodshed and butchery may well be a cheap price to pay.
(c) the inability to resist the impetus of a movement which he himself has so skilfully fostered and which is gathering powerful force from Muslim resentment and from religious incitement by Muslim Pirs;
(d) his confident reliance on the readiness of the vast bulk of Muslims in Government service, inclusive of the police and the army, to abandon service at his behest or to assist direct action in other ways;
(e) the pressure of some of his more hot-headed immediate subordinates particularly Mamdot and Daultana;
(f) his probable reliance on the support of Muslims in tribal territory which could without difficulty be induced to join in a jehad which promises the excitements of an incursion into North-Western India and of looting; and
(g) his possible hopes of support of the League from a section of the Scheduled Castes.

5. In brief, Mr. Jinnah may be tempted by the knowledge of his possession of a very strong weapon which, though double-edged, can inflict deep wounds on his opponent. If he feels that the threat of its use is unavailing, he may well employ its reality. It is strange to think that, in the present century, the settlement of a dispute can be contemplated through the arbitrament, not merely of civil war, but of an insane butchery which spares neither women nor children.

Nevertheless, the ghastly reality is there and it is beyond doubt that "jehad" is still an emotion of the Muslim mind and that relatively few Muslims will be found to resist its call, or to resist the pressure which sustains it. If, therefore, Mr. Jinnah does decide to plunge, the consequences will be of the gravest. The League has proclaimed its intention to keep "direct action" on the non-violent plane of non-co-operation and, until it announces its plans, it would perhaps be unwise to exclude absolutely its ability to do so; but, in the ordinary run of things, violence must result and must probably take on at least something of the character of a jehad.

6. The possibility continues that Mr. Jinnah may take the middle course of stalling for time. What may incline him in this direction is the very dreadfulness of any decision to fight and also need to discipline and improve his organisation for his purposes. There has been some talk of his going to England to place his case more directly before the British Cabinet and to canvass the support of British public opinion. If he does stall, there is some remote prospect of a lowering of the temperature of present Muslim agitation and of dissidence within the League. But it is far more likely that steps will taken to maintain the intensity of the movement even while he is out of India.

7. If we are to envisage the worst, as for the purposes of this appreciation we must, it becomes of importance to attempt to forecast the possible lines, both initial and as they develop, of direct action. So far, it would appear that nothing definite has been decided upon, but such indications as we have point to the use of some or all of the following methods:-
(a) Non-payment of land revenue and taxes, most probably in Muslim Majority areas and in strong minority areas of the type of Bombay City.
(b) Defiance of prohibitory orders.
(c) Boycott of Central and Provincial Assemblies.
(d) Picketing in one form or the other.
(e) Boycott of British goods.
(f) Use of the existence of Provincial League Governments to divorce connection with the Centre.
(g) Sabotage, the collection of arms and ammunition and acts of terrorism.

Not all of these methods must necessarily result in an immediate outbreak of violence, but most of them would and their sum total must provoke this effect. In this lies the weakness and perhaps the spuriousness of the League's protestation of non-violence. It must also be recognised clearly that any attempt by the Provincial Governments or the Centre to suppress this allegedly non-violent "direct action" must inevitably precipitate a physical decision, particularly in the Muslim-majority areas. An indefinite avoidance of suppressive action must equally induce, even though it postpones, ultimate disorder.

8. If such a situation develops, the police almost certainly require the strong support of troops from the outset. If the police and the troops stand firmly to their task, the situation, though very grave, would not, I think, be uncontrollable, although we might reasonably expect a repetition of Calcutta or worse in several areas. If we are extremely fortunate, these outbreaks of violence may produce their own reaction towards a peaceful adjustment. In Provinces under League Governments the position would not be so healthy, if I can so misapply this adjective.

The risk that Muslim troops and Muslim police functioning in Muslim-majority areas would break and even join the League in active disorder is very great. But, in respect of troops, my opinion cannot have the weight of that of D.M.I.

9. If Muslim police and Muslim troops abandon their functions and join in the general disorder, then an entirely different situation supervenes which becomes, or may be the prelude to, civil war. The fact that the forces behind the League would not have the support of British officers, of a General Staff which is wholly British and of certain ancilliary units, must tend to reduce their endeavour from formal operational warfare to the tactics of a guerilla army. If the forces behind the Central Government also lacked this support, they would suffer from an equal handicap. It is not for me to venture an opinion on the likely policy of His Majesty's Government in this context or on the resulting position militarily. But it is clear that developments in India may compel His Majesty's Government, and possibly at an early date, to state its policy.

10. Unless my appreciation up to this point has been unsound, it is not impossible that the Central Government may be faced with the need for a decision whether or not to attempt to use troops against the League in the knowledge that this might involve the disintegration of the Indian Army. The alternative of leaving the individual Hindu, Sikh or Muslim to defend himself by his individual prowess in the hope that, after bloodshed, sanity may return to men's minds, is horrific. Government may have in mind the use of economic or other sanction against revolting areas coupled with the suppression of trouble by force in Provinces where Muslim resistance is relatively weak. If so, it is desirable that the matter of such possible sanctions should be examined. It is for consideration, also, whether troops(not necessarily British) should not now be so disposed in areas where the gravest trouble is anticipated, as to afford the most effective insurance against an outbreak and the strongest means of dealing with it. A move of troops may precipate conflict by giving ground for it. But, if at any time trouble appears inevitable, it might be wiser to be forearmed than politic. But I am trespassing on ground which is not my own.

11. On the assumption that Muslim police and Muslim troops do not break under the religious urge of a jehad, measures to deal with "direct action" would probably follow very generally the lines adopted by past Governments in dealing with Congress mass action. I have not had opportunity or time to examine any Provincial text-book of such action but from my recollection the methods adopted would include:-
(a) declaration of branches of the League as unlawful associations under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. It hs to be remembered that, as the law now stands, the provisions of the Act are administered by Provincial Governments and not by the Centre;
(b) arrest of Mr. Jinnah and members of the League Working Committee;
(c) arrest of other leaders of Provincial importance;
(d) prohibition of meetings and processions. Such prohibition will be pointless unless the meetings and processions are actually broken up. Also, past experience is clearly shown that, if decisive action has to be taken, it should be taken at the earliest possible moment, before contempt of law and order feeds on its own immunity;
(e) suppression of the Muslim Press in so far as it advocates the cause of "direct action";
(f) confiscation and sale of property attached by reason of the non-payment of rent or land revenue;
(g) heavy extension of jail accomodation and heavy increase of jail staff;
(h)heavy increase in the number of police. Recruitment might not be easy in Muslim-majority areas.

12. It is for the Central Government to decide whether it will face up to the dangers of executing these measures and the risk that, in executing them, the uncontrollable situation of civil war may develop through the excitement of the Muslim servants of Government. The point has to be taken clearly that the past history of mass movements affords no accurate analogy with the present. The Governments of that time could rely on their own machinery of troops and army. This is not absolutely the case now. The appalling awkwardness of decision lies with Mr. Jinnah; but with him also rests the initiative. If he flinches, well and good; and there is some ground to hope for this. But, if not, Government are confronted with a most dangerous situation.


(end quote)

A note on the 'reliability' of the Indian fighting Services with respect to a)Congress-inspired disturbances, b)'communal trouble not amounting to a Jehad' and c)'communal trouble amounting to a Jehad' was sent out by Commander-in-Chief General Auchinleck a few months earlier on May 2 1946, which can be found in 'The Transfer of Power', Vol VII 186 page 406.



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

Site Meter