League Boycott of the Constituent Assembly

CMP(17) Muslim League's boycott of the Constituent Assembly. Viceroy Wavell speaks to Jinnah. The Cabinet Mission insists that the Congress accept compulsory grouping as specified by the Plan in letter. October 1946-January 1947
Documents included
  • Viceroy Wavell's note on his Interview with Mr. Jinnah 30 October 1946. From The Transfer of Power 1942-47 Vol VIII The Interim Government 3 July- 1 November 1946, Eds. Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon,1979.(full text)
  • Statement of Mr. M. A . Jinnah, 21 November 1946. From Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-47, Vol II Selected by Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai 1957.(full text)
  • Statement of His Majesty's Government, 6 December 1946 on the interpretation of paragraph 19(v) and (viii) of the Cabinet Mission statement of 16 May 1946. From Gwyer and Appadorai.(excerpts)
  • Resolution by the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress, 22 December 1946.From Gwyer and Appadorai.(excerpts)
  • Resolution of the Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League, 31 January 1947.From Gwyer and Appadorai.(excerpts) [full text in CMP(17A)]
  • Speech by Jinnah from the Egyptian State Broadcasting Service, Cairo, December 19, 1946. From Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam, Vol IV, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore.(excerpts)


The British could not prevent the Constituent Assembly from meeting on December 9th 1946 because they were afraid that the Congress would walk out of the Interim Government if they did so. Though some urged that Muslim League members should attend since they could always walk out if they did not agree with Constituent Assembly's proceedings, the Muslim League decided to stay out.    Note Jinnah's contempt for the Congress in (5).

526 page 832(full text)
Note by Field Marshal Viscount Wavell 30 October 1946
Note on Interview with Mr. Jinnah 30-10-1946

1. I had an hour and ten minutes with Mr. Jinnah on the question of his calling his Council to accept the Statement of May 16th. It was completely unsatisfactory.

2. After a few preliminaries about the start of the Assembly and of the new Government, I told Mr. Jinnah that I hoped he would call his Council at once to accept the Statement of May 16; they could of course add, if they like, a reference to the Statement of May 25th; but it was essential that the Statement of May 16 should be accepted without further delay, and it was a condition of the League's acceptance of office at the Centre.

I said that Jinnah had told at an earlier interview that he must have some arguments to influence the Council to withdraw their previous decision. I said that the altered facts were that the Congress had agreed that representatives of Provinces should enter the Sections; that they were prepared to agree that any doubtful points of interpretation should be referred to the Federal Court; and most important of all that the Muslim League were now in the Government and able to influence events.

I said I felt it would be impossible at present to get any further assurances from the Congress, and that I did not think it would be good tactics on the part of the League to attempt to do so. A section of the Congress might use this to give them an excuse to force the League out of Government, into which they had not been at all anxious to accept them.

I emphasised that it was impossible for His Majesty's Government to force the Congress or the League to act in any particular way; but that the only hope was that we should get along by agreement. It was to the interests of the Muslim League that the Constituent Assembly should meet as soon as possible and complete its work in the shortest possible time. HMG cannot maintain the present Constitution and remain in India indefinitely and it was therefore in the interests of the League to get the Mission's scheme into operation as near as they possibly could.

3. Jinnah adopted a completely intransigent attitude. He went over all the old arguments, mainly to the effect that the Congress acceptance of the Statement of May 16 was not a genuine one and should never have been accepted as such. He said that the question of procedure inside the Constituent Assembly could not possibly be subjected to the decision of the Federal Court.

I listened patiently to all the old arguments on the weakness of the Mission and HMG in accepting the Congress acceptance of the Statement of May 16th(I was on rather weak ground here, since I entirely agree with Jinnah myself).

4. The main theme of a long discussion was that Jinnah could not possibly secure the acceptance of the Statement of May 16 from his Council unless it was agreed that Congress accepted the literal interpretation of the Mission's plan. He said that he was afraid that his Council would reject it and say that nothing but Pakistan would satisfy them.

I kept to the line that whatever there might be in his arguments, there were practical considerations; the best hope of avoiding civil war and getting the Muslims the best possible terms in India was to continue to carry out the Mission's plan as far as possible. Time is limited since HMG was not prepared to remain in India indefinitely.

5. Jinnah's further arguments were to the effect that the Congress leaders were completely over-rated; had simply reached the position they had because they had been to jail and were therefore martyrs; that the personnel of the Muslim League was really completely superior in administrative capacity, etc; that HMG must make up their minds and support what they had laid down.

He referred as usual to the "piles of letters and telegrams" which he had received, from Muslim Leaguers, imploring him to stand firm, complaining of the numbers of Muslims who were being persecuted by the Hindus, and the failure of the Hindu leaders to condemn the action of the Hindus while carrying out propaganda against the Muslims, and so forth.

I tried to keep the discussion on practical lines of the best tactics in the existing circumstances; but his attitude was to the effect that "if HMG will not take a firm line and protect us, then leave us to our fate".

6. I am not sure how far Mr. Jinnah was taking up his usual extreme attitude before giving way, it really depends on how far the extreme element in the League Council is dominant. I think the only thing now is to tackle his lieutenants, Liaqat & Co. and see what their views are.

Statement of Mr. M. A . Jinnah, 21 November 1946(full text)

I deeply regret that the Viceroy and His Majesty's Government have decided to summon the Constituent Assembly on the ninth of December. In my opinion, it is one more blunder of a very grave and serious character. It is quite obvious that the Viceroy is blind to the present serious situation and the realities facing him and is entirely playing into the hands of the Congress and is appeasing them in complete disregard of the Muslim League and other organizations and elements in the national life of the country.

In these circumstances, it is obvious that no representative of the Muslim League will participate in the Constituent Assembly, and the Bombay resolution of the Muslim League Council, passed on July 29, stands. By forcing this meeting of the Constituent Assembly, the matter has been further exacerbated and a situation has been created which will lead to serious consequences. I want to make it clear that no representatives of the Muslim League should attend the Constituent Assembly summoned to meet on the 9th of December, 1946.

(4) Interpretation of paragraph 19(v) and (viii) of the Cabinet Mission statement of 16 May 1946.
(A) Statement of His Majesty's Government, 6 December 1946(excerpts)

The Cabinet Mission have throughout maintained the view that decisions of the Sections should, in absence of an agreement to the contrary, be taken by a simple majority vote of the representatives in the Sections. This view has been accepted by the Muslim League, but the Congress have put forward a different view. They have asserted that the true meaning of the statement, read as a whole, is that the Provinces have the right to decide both as to grouping and as to their own Constitutions.

His Majesty's Government have had legal advice which confirms that the statement of May 16 means what the Cabinet Mission have always stated was their intention. This part of the statement, as so interpreted, must, therefore, be considered an essential part of the scheme of May 16 for enabling the Indian people to formulate a Constitution which His Majesty's Government would be prepared to submit to Parliament. It should, therefore, be accepted by all parties in the Constituent Assembly.

On the matter immediately in dispute, His Majesty's Government urge the Congress to accept the view of the Cabinet Mission in order that a way may be opened for the Muslim League to reconsider their attitude.

(end excerpts)

(B) Resolution by the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress, 22 December 1946 (excerpts)

...In their statement of December 6, 1946, the British Government, in giving their interpretation of a doubtful point of procedure, have referred to it as a 'fundamental point' and suggested that the Constituent Assembly may refer it to the Federal Court at a very early date.

Subsequent statements made on behalf of the British Government have made it clear that they are not prepared to accept the decision of this Court should it go against their own interpretations. On behalf of the Muslim League also it has been stated that they will not be bound by the decision of the Federal Court, and a demand for the partition of India, which is a negation of the Cabinet Mission's scheme, continues to be put forward.

While the Congress has always been willing to agree to a reference to the Federal Court, any reference now, when none of the other parties are prepared to join it or to accept it, and one of them does not even accept the basis of the scheme, becomes totally uncalled for and unbecoming, and unsuited to the dignity of either the Congress, or the Federal Court. By their repeated statements, British statesmen have ruled this out.

The Working Committee are still of the opinion that the interpretation put by the British Government in regard to the method of voting in the Sections is not in conformity with provincial autonomy., which is one of the fundamental bases of the scheme proposed in the statement of May 16...

(C) Resolution of the Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League, 31 January 1947(excerpts) [full text in CMP(17A)]

...With regard to the third point, namely, that if a Constitution come to be framed by the Constituent Assembly in which 'a large section of the Indian population has not been represented', such a Constitution would not be forced upon any 'unwilling parts of the country', the All-India Congress Committee resolution[CMP(17A)], in paragraph 3, completely distorts the meaning and application of this principle and makes this an excuse to instigate a section of the population of Assam, the North-West Frontier Province, the Sikhs and even Baluchistan, to revolt against decisions that might be taken by the relevant Sections sitting as whole and by a simple majority vote.

In the opinion of the Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League the subsequent decision of the Assam Provincial Congress not to abide by the procedure laid down for the Sections and its reiteration that the 'Constitution for Assam shall be framed by her representatives only' is a direct result of this instigation and is a step taken by Assam Congressmen in collusion with the all-India leaders of the Congress.

The Constituent Assembly met on December 9 [1946] and subsequent dates and thereafter on January 20 [1947] and subsequent dates and has already taken decisions of vital character, so far as it is know to the public; and as some of the sittings were held in camera it is very difficult to get correct information as to what other resolutions it has passed or what decisions it has already taken. It has passed a resolution, known as the independent sovereign republic resolution, laying down the objectives.

It is not only a proclaimation of India as an independent sovereign republic but it lays down fundamentals of the Constitution as was admitted by Pandit Nehru, the mover of the resolution. It is a very vital resolution. It lays down the essentials of the next Constitution; several things which are mentioned there are fundamentals of the Constitution.

It speaks of a Republic or Union, functions and powers vested in the Union or as are inherent or implied in the Union and resulting therefrom, and talks of present boundaries, States, present authorities, the residuary powers, powers being derived from the people, minority rights and fundamental rights. These are undoubtedly fundamentals of the Constitution and they are beyond the limit of the powers and the terms of the scheme of the Cabinet Mission's statement of May 16 and the resolution is therefore illegal, ultra vires and not competent to the Constituent Assembly to adopt.

Next, it has appointed several committees[ blogger's comment: with vacancies left open for Muslim League members to join later if they so wished] and has proceeded to elect an Advisory Committee, referred to in paragraph 20 of the statement of the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy, on the rights of citizens, Minorities, Tribal and excluded areas. Further it has appointed a Steering Committee and various other committees, and as some of the decisions have been taken in camera it is very difficult to say what resolutions it has passed or decisions it has taken..

And lastly, it has appointed a committee to define the scope of the Union subjects, whereas the position was made quite clear, immediately after the statement of May 16 was issued, by the Secretary of State for India in his broadcast and by Sir Stafford Cripps at his press conference where he read out an explanatory statement. Both of them stated in the clearest possible terms the time and the manner in which the Group Constitutions were to be framed by the Sections concerned before the Union Constitution was taken up...

...[ more on how Congress and the Constituent Assembly activities were in gross violation of the terms of the Cabinet Mission Plan]
The Working Committee of the Muslim League is, therefore, emphatically of the opinion that the elections to, and thereafter the summoning of the Constituent Assembly, in spite of strong protests and most emphatic objections on the part of the League, were ab inito void, invalid and illegal as not only the major parties had not accepted the statement but even the Sikhs and Scheduled Castes had also not done so and that the continuation of the Constituent Assembly and its proceedings and decisions are ultra vires, invalid and illegal and it should forthwith be dissolved."

(end excerpts)


Speech by Jinnah from the Egyptian State Broadcasting Service, Cairo, December 19, 1946.(excerpts).

"..one India, or a united India means the establishment of a large India where the Hindus will- with majority of three to one- dominate and rule the Mussalman nation. This will mean as time passes to strangle the very existence of Muslims in India. We, as a nation, will be doomed to perish. It is therefore a matter of life and death to one hundred million Muslims who strive to preserve their lives, to have an independent and separate state in these two regions where there is a solid majority of Muslims.

The philosophy of Hindus, their culture and social life are wholy based on caste system. One is born in one's caste and dies in one's caste. They are the most exclusive people, and no one from a lower caste can be admitted in a higher caste or treated, socially and economically on equal footing. Muslims are considered by the high Hindustani castes as Malich.

There are sixty million of the untouchables who, though they profess to be Hindus, are inadmitable in high caste society of Hindus. They are treated economically and socially as serfs. Democracy is foreign to Hindu society. Those untouchables are caste-ridden and cannot enter or be admitted in other caste.

It is even worse in the case of Muslims, for they are considered from the point of view of history, culture and economy as pole? descendents. As the Muslims believe and act according to the essential principles of equality of mankind, of fraternity and liberty, for they are basically a democratic nation, there is no common ground on which the Muslims and the Hindus can meet in everything that matters in life. They are two different nations. There is no hope therefore, even at a distant future, that they will be homogenous or united.

We have lived there for thousands of years, and the so-called one India is only a means of British domination and British rule that preaches the maintaining of peace and social order.

It is unthinkable that these two nations, which are totally different in everything, can participate in one government administration where the Hindus have three votes against one of the Muslims.

The popular democratic conception of government is to sanction the will of the people behind it. Such a government as may be composed of Hindus and Muslims will be artificial and unnatural, and can never again gain the respect and confidence of the people or be obeyed or honoured. If decisions will be taken as regards legislation and administration by poll-box, this will be disastrous, for they will not stand the shock of test or trial, and will in no time divide acre and acre the opinion of the two nations put artificially together in one government dominating the whole sub-continent of India. The only solution is therefore to separate Muslim India from Hindustani India, and to establish an independent government for each, so that they can live as good neighbours..

..Our scheme is therefore more just and fair to both whereas the Hindu scheme means death to one hundred million Muslims, politically, socially, economically and in everything that matters in life and all that Islam stands for."

(end excerpts)

On February 20th 1947, Attlee announced the British intent to transfer power to Indians by a 'date not later than June 1948'. He also announced that Mountbatten would replace Wavell as Viceroy for the transition period.


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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