Statement by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at a Press Conference on the Cabinet Mission Plan, 10 July 1946. (excerpts)
Asked to amplify his statement in the All-India Congress Committee that the Congress had made no commitment in regard to either the long-term or short-term plan of the Cabinet Mission except to go into the Constituent Assembly, Pandit Nehru said, 'As a matter of fact if you read the correspondence that has passed between the Congress President and the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy you will see in what conditions and circumstances we agreed to go into this Constituent Assembly.
The first thing is we have agreed to go into the Constituent Assembly and we have agreed to nothing else. It is true that in going to the Constituent Assembly, inevitably, we have agreed to a certain process of going into it, i.e. election of the candidates to the Constituent Assembly. What we do there, we are entirely and absolutely free to determine. We have committed ourselves on no single matter to anybody.
Naturally, even though one might not agree to commit oneself, there is a certain compulsion of facts which makes one accept this thing or that thing. I do not know what might be the particular context. But the nature of compulsion of facts would be not of the British Government's desire or intents but how to make the Assembly a success and how to avoid its breaking up. That will be certainly a very important consideration. But the British Government does not appear there at all.'
'When the Congress had stated that the Constituent Assembly was a sovereign body', Pandit Nehru said, 'Cabinet Mission's reply was more or less 'yes', subject to two considerations. Firstly, proper arrangement for Minorities, and the other, a treaty between India and England.
I wish the Cabinet Mission had stated that both these matters are not controversial. It is obvious the Minorities' question has to be settled satisfactorily. It is also obvious that if there is any kind of peaceful change-over in India, it is bound to result in some kind of treaty with Britain.
'What exactly the treaty will be I cannot say. But if the British Government presumes to tell us that they are going to hold anything in India because they do not agree either in regard to Minorities or in regard to the treaty, we shall not accept that position. It will become a casus belli. We shall have no treaty if they seek to impose anything upon us and we shall tear up any treaty they try to impose. If they treat us as equals and come to terms there will be a treaty. But if there is the slightest attempt at imposition, we shall have no treaty.'
'In regard to the Minorities it is our problem and we shall no doubt succeed in solving it. We accept no outside interference in it-certainly not the British Government's interference in it-and therefore these two limiting factors to the sovereignty of the Constituent Assembly are not acceptable to us.
'How to make the job in the Constituent Assembly a success is the only limiting factor. It does not make the slightest difference what the Cabinet Mission thinks or does in the matter.'
Referring to grouping, Pandit Nehru said, 'The big probability is that, from any approach to the question, there will be no grouping. Obviously, Section A will decide against grouping. Speaking in betting language, there was 4 to 1 chance of the North-West Frontier Province deciding against grouping. The Group B collapses. It is highly likely that Assam will decide against grouping with Bengal, although I would not like to say what the initial decision may be, since it is evenly balanced.
But I can say with every assurance and conviction that there is going to be finally no grouping there, because Assam will not tolerate it under any circumstances whatever. Thus you see this grouping business approached from any point of view does not get on at all.'
Pandit Nehru also explained how provincial jealousies would work against grouping. Firstly, he pointed out, 'everybody outside the Muslim League was entirely opposed to grouping. In regard to this matter the Muslim League stands by itself isolated. Applying that principle you will find in the North-West Zone there is a kind of balance, more or less even of pro-grouping and anti-grouping.
'Secondly, entirely for other reasons-non-political, non-Congress, non-League-there is a good deal of feeling against grouping with the Punjab both in the North-West Frontier Provinces and Sind for economic and other reasons. That is to say, even a Muslim Leaguer in Sind dislikes the idea of grouping with the Punjab, because he fears that the Punjab will dominate Sind, the Punjab being a dominant party in that group and more aggressive and advanced in some ways. Apart from the imposed discipline of the League, both in the Frontier and in Sind, the people are unanimously against grouping because both these Provinces are afraid of being swamped by the Punjab.'
Dealing with the powers of the proposed Union Centre, Pandit Nehru said : 'According to the Cabinet Mission's proposals, there were three or four basic subjects in it, i.e. Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and the power to raise finances for these. Obviously, Defence and Communications have a large number of industries behind them. So these industries inevitably come under the Union Government and they are likely to grow. Defence is such a wide subject that it tends to expand its scope and activities more and more. All that comes under the Union Government.
'Similarly, External Affairs inevitably include foreign trade policy. You cannot have foreign policy if you divorce foreign trade from it. They include all manner of things which are not put down there but which can be brought in.'
Referring to the question of raising finances for the Union, Pandit Nehru said that it had to be done by taxation. 'If anyone suggests that some kind of contributions or doles are going to be given by the Provinces or States, it is bunkum. No Central Government carries on on doles.' He recalled how an attempt in the United States in the early days of the American Confederation failed. 'Inevitably, therefore', he added, 'any Central Government must raise its finances by taxation. I cannot make a list now but obviously customs, including tariff, is bound to be one. In fact, tariff is connected with foreign trade policy. It may be Income Tax will be another. I do not know what else.'
Pandit Nehru pointed out that the Central Government must be responsible for foreign markets, loans and such other subjects. It must also obviously control currency and credit. 'Who is going to do it, if not the Centre? You cannot allow each Unit or Province to carry on a separate type of credit and foreign policy.
'Suppose there is trouble between the Provinces or States, or an economic breakdown due to famine conditions, the Centre comes in again inevitably. However limited the Centre might be, you cannot help the Centre having wide powers, because the past few years have shown that if there were no Central authority, the conditions would have been far worse in India.
However, the fact that there has been a Central authority has not done much good to the country, because it has been incompetent. It is obvious that without the Central authority, you cannot deal with the problems mentioned above. There must be some overall power to intervene in a grave crisis, breakdown of the administration, or economic breakdown or famine. The scope of the Centre, even though limited, inevitably grows because it cannot exist otherwise. Though some people oppose this broadening of the Centre, the Constituent Assembly will have to decide on the point.'.."
"These statements were seized upon by Jinnah to withdraw the League's acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan. He had never been happy about this commitment(note below-It is said that Jinnah began to fret within hours of giving his acceptance, 'Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah as I knew him', M.A.H Ispahani) from which he had failed to draw all the advantage he had expected; and he now charged the Congress with having circumscribed its own acceptance with so many conditions that it released him from his own pledge.
The fact that, for once in its negative history, the League had bound itself to co-operate had roused such astonishment and expectation that Jawaharlal has been roundly castigated for helping Jinnah back to his normal, obstructive road. 'Now happened', wrote Azad in his memoirs, 'one of those unfortunate events which changed the course of history.. he[Jawaharlal] is at times apt to be carried away by his feelings. Not only so, but sometimes he is so impressed by theoretical considerations that he is apt to underestimate the realities of a situation.'
More telling are Patel's views, expressed even at the time. Writing on the day Jinnah announced his withdrawal, Patel criticized Jawaharlal for often acting 'with childlike innocence, which puts us all in great difficulties quite unexpectedly..acts of emotional insanity and it puts tremendous strain on us to set matters right.."[blogger's comment:Patel wrote this about Nehru's travel to Kashmir on June 19 1946 to court arrest by Raja Hari Singh's authorities. Nehru did this in support of jailed Sheikh Abdullah who was being brought to trial by the Raja's government. Nehru insisted on travelling to Kashmir despite all advice and was duly arrested]
..However it is unfair to blame Jawaharlal merely because Jinnah used this as the chance to break out of the cage of acceptance. Jawaharlal was not acting in a mood of pique. To make clear that these were not casual statements, he reiterated his views in the following weeks.
His utterances were deliberate and in line with Congress policy. Jawaharlal and the Congress believed that the League derived its main sustenance from the support of the British and without this, whatever its successes in the elections, its tissue would weaken. That support had been withdrawn by the Cabinet Mission and Jinnah was aware of it. The important thing now was to make it clear to the British that the Congress intended India to conduct herself as a fully independent sovereign state. Fair treatment to the minorities was the obligation of a free India and not enforceable by the British.
Jawaharlal's speech at the AICC and his statement at the press conference conveyed this message. When, after the press conference, one of those present said to him, 'You have changed the entire basis of the agreement with England', he smiled and replied, 'I am fully aware of that'. His reference to groupings and sections contained nothing new. The Congress, said Jawaharlal, would go into sections but groupings were optional; and this was in accordance with the Plan.
The difficulty was created by the Mission's unwarranted and clandestine assurance to Jinnah that a majority vote in a section would ensure compulsory groupings, and Jawaharlal's assertion that a sovereign Constituent Assembly would settle its own procedures dealt with this commitment effectively even if unknowingly.
That the Congress accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in accordance with its own interpretation had been repeatedly asserted by the Working Committee both before and after Jawaharlal's statements in Bombay in July. The Muslim League too had done the same and proclaimed that it accepted the Plan so as to be in a better position to work for a full Pakistan.It can, of course, be argued that, once the League was committed to the Plan, it would have been wise tactics for the Congress to adopt a low posture and give Jinnah no opportunity to withdraw from the Constituent Assembly. But it is difficult to see the Plan as a conversion of Jinnah which had been set at naught by Jawaharlal. As Jawaharlal said later while commenting on Azad's book[in 1959], "this was to think too much in individual terms and not in terms of the historical forces at work". Pakistan was not made inevitable by two statements of Jawaharlal. They, at the most, provided Jinnah with an opening.."
(end excerpts from Sarvepalli Gopal in his biography of Nehru)
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
1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)