Glendevon (2) 1937-1940 Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States, John Glendevon
Glendevon (1) Governor's Powers and Office Acceptance after the 1937 Provincial Elections
Glendevon (3) 1939-1942 Linlithgow, Congress, Jinnah,War-time Realignments
John Glendevon quoted from The Viceroy At Bay Lord Linlithgow in India 1936-1943, Collins, 1971.
The excerpts from the book presented here cover 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 illuminate their respective views on the Indian constitutional problem.
The excerpts are interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly these contain particularly key quotes of the Viceroy's views on the implications of a Muslim federation in the North West, early rumblings about Pakistan, the Viceroy's exchanges with Secretary of State Zetland on the attitude of Muslims to the Federation, and Jinnah's views on the infeasibility of parliamentary democracy in India.
Secondly, it is interesting to note what appears to be the historian's bias. As can be seen from the numbers below, the Princes' nominees and the Muslims were significantly over-represented with respect to elected Hindu representation in the Federal legislatures under the 1935 Act. Moreover, the British official centre would retain control over defence and external affairs with no prospect offered to India of independence or even Dominion status. As Attlee said[ Durga Das] "My first objection to this Bill is that I think it is deliberately framed so as to exclude as far as possible the Congress Party from effective powers in the new Constitution. But all the way through the Government have yielded time after time to the states and time after time to minority communities, but have always stood strongly up against any yielding to Congress or the nationalists."
However, despite such healthy representation, the Princes, the "Muslims" and British diehards like Churchill were all opposed the Federation because they wanted to stave off Congress majority rule at the centre under any and every condition. The historian faithfully records the various parties' views to this effect.
Meanwhile, possibly in response to the disproportionate representation which Princely States' nominees got in the Federal legislature and the knowledge that the distribution of elected seats had ensured that Congress could always be in a minority at the center, the Congress demanded that Princely States develop representative institutions as a precondition for Federation.
Due to this activism (and in spite of the fact that except the Congress and the "Hindus", all other parties, namely the Princes, the Muslims and the British, were getting from the Federation scheme much more power than they could expect from their population numbers and yet they opposed federation), it is the Congress and the "Hindus" which are blamed by the author for failure to implement the Federation.
R. J. Moore writes in The Crisis of Indian Unity 1917-1940, The Problem of Freedom with Unity, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1974:
By the end of 1938 the League executive could discern the implication of the Congress campaign against the princes for Muslims' position in an all-India federation: '[The Congress's] main objective in championing the cause of the States' people is only to secure the establishment in the Indian State of an elective system enabling their representatives to be returned to the Federal Legislature, irrespective of anything else, in the hope that it might get a majority.'1 As the Aga Khan reflected in 1940: '. . . the sugar had all come off the [federation] pill the moment the States' representatives were to be elected by the States' peoples rather than nominated by the Rulers, for under such an arrangement the Muslims would not get from the States in the Central Legislature the support they required to balance the Congress votes.'2 If the federation was to be controlled by a Congress-dominated legislature then Indian Muslims would have nothing to do with it. . . .
1 All India Muslim League Executive Council resolution, December 1938.
2 Linlithgow to Zetland, 27 February 1940.
In short, the Princes, the powerful Muslim parties and the British all found it unbearable that the Congress sought an elected majority in central legislature by calling for representative institutions via free multi-party elections in the Princely States.
Government of India Act 1935
When Linlithgow was appointed to India, the total population of British India was, in round figures, 390 million. On these nearly 300 millions were Hindus and the Muslims numbered a little over 90 millions. In addition there were 660 Princely States with a population of about 91 millions. They varied in size from Hyderabad, which was half the size of France, to little territories of a few square miles. Scattered throughout British India they were not constitutionally part of it but they acknowledged the paramountcy of the Crown. ..
The chief provisions of the 1935 India Act were as follows. The Provinces were to have responsible government of the parliamentary type but their Governors would be armed with special powers for the protection of minorities and also to take over the administration in the case of a breakdown. These were sometimes called 'Section 93' powers from the number of the relevant section of the Act.
Secondly, the franchise was extended to 30 million voters and there would be separate electorate for Hindus and Muslims under what was known as the Communal Award.
Thirdly, at the Centre a Federal Government was to be set up consisting of representatives both of British India and of princely States, the latter to be nominated by their rulers. The Legislature would consist of two houses, a Legislative Assembly and a Council of State.
Fourthly diarchy was to be abolished in the Provinces and introduced at the Centre. [Diarchy meant key subjects are reserved to Governor or Governor-General and are out of scope of Indian ministers and legislatures]. The Governor-General in Council was to be responsible for the portfolios of Defence and External Affairs, all the remaining posts being held by Ministers responsible to the Legislature...
Fifthly, the Federation could not be brought into force until half the number of princely States entitled to sit in the Council of State acceded, provided that this half also represented half the total population of all the States.
In [the British] Parliament the federal part of the Bill was bitterly opposed through all its stages by the right wing of the Conservative Party led by Winston Churchill in the Commons... In a debate on 12th March, 1935 he had said that he would continue to warn the Princes against it and added: 'I should be ready to take on my own shoulders the responsibility of persuading them to stand out of it'.
In India the provincial part of the Act was generally approved though the Congress Party condemned the whole Act as a 'charter of slavery'. This was because they refused to consider any constitution that was not drawn up by a constituent assembly of the Indian people. The Muslims for their part were fearful of being subjected to Hindu raj of nearly 400 millions. They did not, however, reject Federation outright, relying on the safeguards as well as on a reasonable number of years before the British left India.
The population proportion of the Princely States in the whole of India was 91 millions out of 481 millions (19%). The population proportion of Muslims in British India was 90 millions out of 390 millions (23%).
The composition of the Federal Legislature was as follows. The Council of State had 250 members consisting of 100(40%) nominated members from the Princely States and 150(60% ) elected members from British India. Of the 150 members assigned to British India, 75(50% of 150) were to be nonMuslim and 49 (33% of 150) Muslim.
The Federal Assembly had 375 members of whom 125(33%) would be nominated members from Princely States and the rest 250 members would be from British India, of which 105(28% of 375) would be elected Hindus from British India and 82(22% of 375) would be elected Muslims.
If the Princes did not join the Federation, the British Indian Federal Assembly would have a strength of 250 members of which 105(42%) would be elected Hindus and 82(33%) elected Muslims.
Durga Das in India from Curzon to Nehru and After quotes Attlee in the House of Commons in June 1935 on the Government of India Act 1935:
"My first objection to this Bill is that I think it is deliberately framed so as to exclude as far as possible the Congress Party from effective powers in the new Constitution. But all the way through the Government have yielded time after time to the states and time after time to minority communities, but have always stood strongly up against any yielding to Congress or the nationalists. Hence we stress the need for making a far stronger provision than there is in the Bill for the transference of the reserved subjects, and particularly of defence. The result of anyone reading through this Bill is that he is struck not by what is conceded but by what is withheld. That will have an extraordinarily bad effect on our future relationships.. Finally is the Bill going to be accepted and worked by the people of India? I do not think so."
Durga Das also quotes Churchill on the same Bill in Feb. 1935:
" We have as good a right to be in India as anyone there except, perhaps, the Depressed Classes, who are the original stock. Our Government is not an irresponsible government. It is a government responsible to the Crown and the Parliament. It is incomparably the best Government that India has ever seen or ever will see. It is not true to say that the Indians, whatever their creed, would not rather have their affairs dealt with in many cases by British courts and British officers than by their own people, especially by people of the opposite religion."
Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States
The crisis with the Congress [over office acceptance] had not deflected the Viceroy from the underlying problems of Federation. His correspondence with Zetland shows an undiminished sense of urgency. [On 27th May 1937 ]He wrote : 'The more I reflect upon the political situation as a whole, the more impressed I am by the importance of achieving Federation as early as possible.'
The fact was that the Princes' fears were hardening. For one thing, Congress agitation in the States was increasing significantly. For another, some of the States whose accession to Federation was vital, were showing mounting anxiety lest, in the event of accession, their revenues should be forfeit to the federal treasury. The Viceroy would have liked the Act to be amended to take account of their fears and to reserve certain excise duties to the States' Governments..Eventually the Viceroy's view prevailed but by then war had broken out and the issue was only of academic interest.
[The first meeting between the Viceroy and Gandhi took place on August 4th 1937] Their talk lasted for an hour and a half.. Gandhi had first talked of the past including the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and was inclined to be bitter about it. The Viceroy then his utmost to dissuade him from his policy of forbidding official contact between members of Congress and the British. He failed to move him. He told Gandhi that, although he disagreed strongly with his policy on this point, he did not hold it against him personally. Gandhi replied in the same spirit but said that the dominant consideration with him was his apprehension of imperialism. Linlithgow warned him of the possibly unfavourable effect of his policy on British public opinion, which wanted to be friendly and fair to India. Gandhi took the point but would not yield....
In November, 1937, Lord Lothian arrived in India for a long visit. He had seen Nehru and reported him as wholeheartedly opposed to Federation. Nehru said he would do everything possible to prevent it. He would not contemplate the responsibility of forming a government at the centre when most of the centre's revenue would be reserved for defence, leaving no money for carrying out reforms to which Congress was pledged: nor would he accept participation by the States in Government unless they adopted representative institutions. Lothian thought Congress might force a crisis over Federation...
[Nehru] went so far, on a tour of North and North-West India in October, as to emphasize that the ultimate aim of the Congress was the overthrow of the present Constitution and its replacement by one based on severance of the British connection. Significantly he forecast that a European war was inevitable and stressed the opportunity it would give to Congress to fight for independence. The most important aspect of the struggle, he declared, was not the acceptance of office but the organising of the masses and the instilling of 'mass revolutionary mentality' into them. Of equal importance was the recruiting of Muslims into the ranks of the Congress...
Linlithgow had followed up his meeting with Gandhi by inviting other Congress leaders and representatives of the Muslims to see him... [Among them were Bhulabhai Desai and Satyamurti]. Desai was not violently hostile to Federation though he felt that with external affairs and defence reserved to the centre there would be too small a field of activity left to the Federal Legislature. Like Birla he wanted Federation as soon as possible and he favoured a Federation of British India which the States could join when further developed politically..[Satyamurti's] objections to the federal proposals were the same as Desai's, as was his solution. Again the Viceroy replied that any long process would threaten the unity of India. Was Satyamurti aware, he asked, of the strong movement of thought in the Punjab towards a federation of the north-west? Satyamurti blamed the system of communal electorates for this and told Linlithgow that he would earn India's gratitude if he could do away with them. Linlithgow asked how this would be received in Bengal (where the Hindus were in a minority). Satyamurti saw the point. At the end of the interview he assured the Viceroy that, whether they agreed with him or not, Congress had high regard for him personally...
For the Muslims came Mohammed Ali Jinnah, President of the Muslim League, and Muhammad Yakub. Jinnah took the line at their first interview that insufficient attention was paid to the Muslims and that there was a real risk of their being driven into the arms of the Congress. More trouble should be taken in dealing with them both outside and inside the Legislature. Linlithgow thought there was something in this as far as the Legislature was concerned and that the government front bench had not made enough use of minority groups there.
Jinnah did not on this occasion come out unequivocally against Federation. Like the Hindu leaders whom the Viceroy had seen he thought they should start with a federated British India. The States could be admitted provided their representatives were elected on a wide franchise and on a basis of popular institutions.
Jinnah complained with some bitterness that Linlithgow had been unwise to see Gandhi as by doing so he had greatly raised the stock of the Congress and thereby set back the prospects of the Muslims..
It was not many weeks later that the Muslim League held the meeting which caused the Viceroy to step up so strongly the tone of his warnings to Zetland. At this meeting Jinnah launched into a strong indictment of Congress for pursuing an exclusively Hindu policy which would result in chaos, bitterness, communal war and the strengthening of the imperial hold over India. The Muslims, said Jinnah, could expect neither justice not fair play under Congress government and no settlement between them was possible.
At the same meeting Sikandar made what Linlithgow called a surprising and important move. He announced his decision to advise all Muslim members of his Unionist Party in the Punjab to join the Muslim League. The Premier of Bengal, Fazlul Huq, issued a statement in similar terms to the Muslims of Bengal. The meeting also passed a resolution condemning the federal scheme and adopting independence as the ultimate aim of the League. It had been a real success for Jinnah. The League had undoubtedly gained significant strength and would now make rapid strides in extending its organisation. The Premiers of the Punjab and Bengal had clearly had their hands forced by Jinnah into decisions which, governing as each of them was with a Coalition Ministry, they must have taken with great reluctance. Communal bitterness was bound to be accentuated. There was an immediate uneasiness among the Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab over Sikandar's declaration...
[In a letter to the King on 30th November, 1937] the Viceroy also[among other current matters] referred to the question of the release of political prisoners. Gandhi had persuaded the Bengal Government to release many of them. The Governor had not felt called upon to intervene as he did not consider that these releases were a serious threat to the peace and tranquility of the Province(the criterion for intervention laid down by the Act). Linlithgow recognised that the releases would put a heavy burden on the police but he thought it had to be recognised that no democratic government could be expected for long to carry the responsibility of the forcible detention of a large number of persons not convicted of crime in the ordinary courts of the land...
Early in the New Year, 1938, Linlithgow toured Madras and Hyderabad in the south. In Madras he had a long discussion with Rajagopalachari, who said he fully realised the force of the arguments for Federation but that the Muslims were strongly against it. Congress and the Muslims were, he observed, discussing the question at that moment. As long as these talks were in progress and there was any hope for a favourable outcome Congress could not commit itself to Federation because of possible destructive effects on communal feeling.
The Viceroy reported to Zetland (13th January) that these Hindu-Muslim talks were news to him but he doubted whether they would have any lasting result...
In his letter of 10th February Linlithgow also described to the King the significant increase of Hindu-Muslim tension over recent months. He wrote that Jinnah had become alarmed by the defection of a growing number of Muslims from the Muslim League to the Congress. This was because they were seeing Ministers in a position 'to help their friends and to inconvenience their opponents.' Jinnah's reaction had been to rouse the Muslims with the cry that the growing power of the Congress threatened Muslim culture. This was a success and invigorated the League.
The Viceroy had seen Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, leader of the Liberal Party..[who] told him he had warned Lord Lothian, with whom he had recently discussed the situation, that he wanted to democratise the Princes too fast. If action to that end was to be stepped up, the point would be used against government that it had yielded to Congress at the expense of the Princes over a matter on which government had never even asked the Princes to meet it. This would simply have the effect of frightening the Princes off Federation...
A few days after Sapru's visit Birla came to see the Viceroy. He thought the Congress was moving towards acceptance of Federation. Gandhi was not over-worried, said Birla, by the reservation of defence and external affairs to the centre, but was concentrating on the method of choosing the States' representatives. Birla wanted the Viceroy to help Gandhi by persuading a number of Princes to move towards democratic election of representatives. Linlithgow asked him if either he or Gandhi had thought of the difficulties. Birla answered that Gandhi did not worry about details but concentrated upon fundamentals...
The Viceroy particularly wondered whether Gandhi had considered the effect of the suggested action upon the Muslims. They would at once demand that a proportion of the States' seats at the centre be reserved for Muslim candidates. Linlithgow told Birla that insistence on these conditions would probably postpone Federation for twenty years, which might be fatal to an all-India Federation. It would encourage the already strong movement for a Federation of the north-west, comprising the Punjab, Sind, the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab States. Such a scheme, he warned, was by no means academic. It might interest Birla to know that certain very influential persons in the Punjab had not only declared their preference for this plan but had openly advocated it before a Muslim conference in Lucknow in private session.
Birla said that the communal position in India was getting rapidly worse. Congress was aware of it and its leaders were deeply anxious. He then suggested that the best course might be to let the Muslims have their Federation of the North-West. This astonished Linlithgow, who thought at first that Birla was teasing him. When he saw that the suggestion was serious he asked Birla whether he envisaged the perpetuation of British military power to keep the peace between Muslim and Hindu Federations:
'If so, I recommend him to pursue his reflection a little further. For my part, and having regard to the military power at the disposal of the Muslim Federation, I thought that no more serious danger could be conceived, whether to the future unity of India or to the peaceful evolution of a Hindu confederacy further South.'
Birla then said that the only chance for Federation lay in agreement between Government and Congress and the best hope of this lay in discussion between the Viceroy and Gandhi....
Then came the Viceroy's second interview with Gandhi[5th April]... They came quickly to the question of Federation. The Mahatma said he wanted to break the Act. He realised that the Government could not be expected to pass important amendments so soon but he insisted on acceptance by the States of the principle of democratic election of their representatives at the centre. He said it would be a great mistake to assume that if their condition were not met Congress would work the Act and merely grumble. The Viceroy dealt with the point about the States, as he had met it with the other Hindu leaders. He did not get the impression that Gandhi had thought out the problem in detail. 'But', he wrote, 'the more I see him the more I am convinced that he is the only man in that party who can deliver the goods, though I by no means underestimate his capacity.. to drive as hard a bargain as he can.'...
The Viceroy saw Jinnah on 6th April. The Muslim leader refused to support any scheme which would produce a Hindu majority in a federal India. His star was in the ascendant and he had moved away from the position he had taken at their first interview. His reorganisation of the Muslim League had brought about a marked stiffening of the communal attitude even in a Province so remote from communal disputes as Madras...
During the spring of 1938 there had been a disturbing rise in communal tension. Each side was maneuvering for position. On the Hindu side there was serious rioting in Bombay and other cities. The Muslim League held meetings in Calcutta, at which Jinnah and Fazlul Huq made strong speeches. Huq not only criticised the Viceroy for having seen Gandhi but also accused him of going out of his way to express to Gandhi his satisfaction that Congress Governments were functioning in seven provinces. There was no basis for this last accusation and Huq was told so. He was contrite and offered to make amends. The Viceroy replied that he did not ask for a public apology (he felt this would weaken the Bengal Government); he asked instead for a private letter from Huq pledging himself that it would not happen again. Huq wrote accordingly...
Three weeks before his leave started, Linlithgow saw Sikander. He did not find the Punjab Premier constructive. Sikander pleaded for postponement of Federation on the grounds that a Congress majority at the Centre would result from early implementation and would immediately attack the reservation of defence and external affairs. This would undermine the privileged position which the Punjab enjoyed on army recruitment. Sikander proposed the partitioning of India into six or seven regional groups, one of which would be Pakistan. On top of this he wanted a complicated system of central representation designed to prevent a Hindu majority in the All-India Legislature. The Viceroy listened and then implored Sikander to try to dissuade Jinnah from committing the Muslim League to complete opposition to Federation.
[In August 1938 while on leave, the Viceroy] took in his stride the news that the Congress Working Committee had rejected all the Muslim League's demands. These had been made at a series of talks between the two communities. Jinnah now denounced Congress in public and declared there could be no compromise. He had then seen Brabourne, to whom he expressed the fear that Zetland and Linlithgow were negotiating with Congress on the federal question. He then suggested to the acting-Viceroy that the Central Government should be kept as it was, that the British should protect the Muslims in the Congress Provinces and that the Muslims in return would protect the British at New Delhi. The Muslim leader was far too intelligent to believe for an instant that such a solution was possible but it suited his tactics at that point to propose it.
Congress was also putting increased pressure on the States by propaganda and incitement. In the small state of Dhenkanal(on the Orissa border), for instance, the situation was near to open rebellion. Troops had to be sent to stand by in case of complete breakdown....
The Princes received the Government of India's offer at the end of November, 1938. They were asked to reply within six months...
The Viceroy saw the editor of the Hindustan Times, who surprised him by expressing the opinion that Federation would go through... [T]he editor said that the Congress would not accept anything less than a radical amendment of the Act which would break the reservation of defence to the Governor-General. The Viceroy replied that there could be no question of this. Congress ought not to miss the opportunity of Federation because there was 'the almost certainty that, once the system started working, they would within ten or fifteen years look to the realisation on practice of most of their desires in the matter of defence and the like.'. If Congress turned its back upon Federation and insisted on the establishment of parliamentary institutions in the States, or a particular convention on defence, they took a grave risk, 'and the growing interest in issues such as Pakistan left the very strong impression on me that other parties, too, were looking to the future and making their plans.' The Viceroy made it clear that he would do his utmost to further the policy with which he had been entrusted by Parliament - to establish India as an organic political unity...
Pressure upon the Viceroy over the form of government in the States was mounting from various quarters which were friendly to Congress. Linlithgow had constantly to remind these people that there would be no Federation unless the States came in and nothing would be more certain to keep them out than action by him such as was asked for. Nevertheless he knew how badly some of the States were administered and he issued instructions to all Residents in the States that the Government of India must now take more active steps to encourage good government and raise standards of administration, especially in the smaller States. These steps must be taken whether or not the Princes acceded to Federation because the problems of their administration vis-a-vis British India would remain whatever the circumstances. The decision was a result of several months of careful consideration by the Viceroy of this very point. But he was anxious about the extra strain which would inevitably fall upon his political officers, confronted with a new problem of observation and supervision over a third of India...
[By early 1939] The Congress attack upon the State was increasing in strength. The Viceroy's task was not a simple one. He wrote to the King:
'It is not an easy or comfortable business to handle, because certain of the States under pressure are not administratively in too good shape, nor are all their Rulers well equipped, either by character or experience, to stand up to so formidable a challenge. I have to be extremely careful, in stimulating the Chiefs to undertake necessary administrative reforms and the removal of any real grievances agitating their subjects, not to put upon them more than they can bear, lest I should reduce them to a state of despair or even of resentment. Your Majesty of course knows that many of the smaller Ruling Chiefs are really no more in substance or importance that considerable landlords. That they were given ruling powers which were withheld from many landlords in other parts of India whose status and possessions are frequently far greater, has been due largely to historical accident and the policy in vogue at the time of the subjugation of the regions in which their ancestors flourished. But great or small, efficient or the reverse, the same principles are at issue whichever of the Indian States is assaulted, and when they are attacked we are bound to give them countenance and, if necessary, protection. Naturally, Congress seeks to find the weakest spot in the defence, and I am therefore left at times to conduct an awkward campaign with allies some of whom are none too staunch or reliable.."
The Viceroy had here described clearly the dilemma of British rule in India. Gandhi never let him forget it. Even if the Mahatma was prepared to see the point of the Viceroy's wise reminder that no generation can be held responsible for history he hammered away with his accusation that the Princes were a British creation-an unhelpful generalisation and not entirely accurate.
Linlithgow went on in the same letter to tell the King why he thought that the campaign against the States was so vicious at this moment:
'..the immediate intensity of the attack on the States is due in part to the internal difficulties which at present confront Congress. For the first time Gandhi's absolute authority has been challenged by the refusal of Subhas Bose, the outgoing President of the Congress, to withdraw his candidature for re-election in favour of the Mahatma's nominee(Rajendra Prasad). The "Old Guard" with Gandhi at his head, had become so accustomed to complete obedience from the whole organisation that it never occurred to them that Bose would refuse to toe the line... Meantime I expect both parties to the struggle to pick a quarrel with my Government in order as far as possible to conceal their own domestic differences.'...
[At the end of February 1939 the Viceroy had to cut short a trip to States in Rajputana and return to New Delhi to deal with a crisis].Trouble had been brewing in a small State in Western India called Rajkot, the ruler of which was known as the Thakor Sahib. A powerful Congress leader in the west of India, Vallabbhai Patel, had persuaded the Thakor Sahib in December to agree to the appointment of a committee to draw up a scheme of reforms. The committee would consist of three officers of the State and seven non-official members to be recommended by Patel and nominated by the Thakor Sahib. A week later Patel sent in his list. The Thakor Sahib objected to certain names upon it and, after a short interval, announced the names of the seven himself. Only three of them were Patel's.
A few weeks later Gandhi entered the lists. He accused the Thakor Sahib of a breach of faith as well as of ill-treating political prisoners. He arrived in Rajkot himself and was at once given every facility to inspect the State's prisons. He was accompanied by three officers of the Western India States Agency, who reported that no trace could be found of ill treatment. Then on 2nd March, Gandhi sent the Thakor Sahib an ultimatum that would fast till the breach of faith was repaired. He imposed conditions concerning the constitution of the committee, the time by which it was to end its deliberations and the release of all satyagrahis within twenty-four hours. The Thakor Sahib rejected the ultimatum and Gandhi began his fast on 3rd March.
The Viceroy now intervened. Having received a request from the Thakor Sahib for the loan of a Government official to preside over the reform committee he replied that he would try to find one. He also sent a message to Gandhi. In this he said he hoped that the appointment of one of his officials as chairman would meet Gandhi's anxiety to ensure that the Thakor Sahib carried out the undertaking given in December. The Viceroy also expressed regret that Gandhi had not consulted him before deciding to fast and asked him to come and talk things over with him as soon as possible...
Linlithgow followed this message with a telegram to Gandhi in which he said he realised that what counted most with the Mahatma was the question of breach of faith. Acknowledging the existence of doubts in the matter of the December agreement he suggested referring them to the Chief Justice of India, Sir Maurice Gwyer. The Thakor Sahib was agreeable. Gandhi accepted the Viceroy's offer. 'I have great regard for you,' the Mahatma replied;.. 'I feel too that I should rely upon your honour..' On condition that political prisoners were released- the Thakor Sahib agreed to this - he abandoned his fast...
The opinion of the Chief Justice went in favour of Gandhi. Gandhi then overplayed his hand. After an interval he returned to Rajkot to maintain his pressure on the Thakor Sahib. It appeared that Gandhi had earlier promised the landlords and the Muslims of Rajkot that they would secure for them representation on the reforms committee. He then found that he could not implement his undertaking without destroying his own majority on the Committee. He temporised but the parties concerned sought to hold him to his promise and challenged him to take this case also to the Chief Justice for settlement. At this point Gandhi gave in, proclaimed publicly that his fast had been a misguided one and apologised to everyone, including the Viceroy, for the trouble he had caused. The Viceroy noted that the Mahatma put up ' a tremendous smoke screen of almost metaphysical argument to conceal his withdrawal.'..
Linlithgow had told Zetland, even before Rajkot blew up, that nothing in India had moved more quickly than the States-Congress situation. He was sure they would have to work hard to keep abreast of it and he was doubtful of the adequacy of the Political Department in this connection. He thought they might have to reorganise it drastically:
I feel sometimes that nothing short of a shake-up of this kind will purge the Political Service of their mediaevalism, the consequences of generations of experience in the Indian States. We are faced with a radical change in a situation of the first importance, and we may be driven to consider equally radical changes in our machinery for dealing with it.'...
Within a few days of the end of Gandhi's fast the Viceroy was addressing the Chamber of Princes. To the full Chamber he gave assurance that Great Britain would stand by her treaties to the Princes. At the same time he warned them that a heavy obligation lay upon them to adjust themselves to changing conditions. They must live in their States(some were hardly ever there), limit their privy purses, provide popular institutions and be active in remedying the legitimate grievances of their subjects. Smaller States, he urged, should unite their administrations, for instance in police matters and education. He was surprised to hear that his audience felt encouraged by his speech.
He followed up this address with a meeting at which he spoke to sixteen of the most important rulers in private, including the Standing Committee of the Chamber... The Viceroy said that political agitation in the States was not caused by the prospect of Federation. It was a part of a great upsurge in political activity which they might trace right across the face of Asia from the Nile to the Yellow Sea of China and it had been evident in India for the last twenty years. They would fail to understand this movement if they thought it was mainly directed towards termination of British rule in India. 'Essentially the movement is everywhere one directed towards a liberating of political institutions and towards the progressive recognition of the rights of the individual subject..and the change has come to stay.. the fact is that the old order has gone for ever.' The Viceroy advised the princes to face the facts : 'My own instinct is conservative, but when change is plainly and inevitably coming, I would not advise my friends to wait for it in complete inaction. Far better to go about and meet it, and to mould it, while it is still malleable, to your own purposes.'
Shortly after the Viceroy's meetings with the Princes, Gandhi came to see him. The Mahatma said that he had been impressed by the Viceroy's efforts to move the Princes in the right direction of reform. Following up this acknowledgment Gandhi instructed his followers to suspend civil disobedience in the States.
On the eve of the Rajkot affair Linlithgow had had a long talk with Jinnah. The Muslim leader said that he did not reject the federal idea, but the Federation must be one which would ensure an adequate equipose between Muslim and Hindu votes so that there would be adequate balance between the communities. The Viceroy asked him how he would secure this. Jinnah had in mind the manipulation of territorial votes and the adjustment of territorial divisions. He was seen to blush when the implication of these suggestions was pressed but said he preferred his ideas for carving up of the country to Sikander's.
The Viceroy then asked Jinnah if he thought that this equipoise could be maintained if the British left India. Jinnah said it might be very difficult. Did he then want the British to stay? The Viceroy wrote to Zetland:
'He admitted with some reluctance that it looked very much as though that was the position which was going to emerge but he added that many were losing faith in us. It was perfectly clear that we had not made up our minds whether we were going to go or not and the only possible course for the Muslims to take in these circumstances was to continue to abuse us as loudly as possible in public, partly because we were so clumsy in our handling of the situation, and partly because the Muslims must show the public that they were a good nationalists and as good Indian as any other community. Behind the scenes they might adopt a more co-operative attitude - so long, that was, as we did not intend to clear out.
If on the other hand we really had it in mind to abandon control of this country then it was quite obvious that Muslims must bestir themselves and be ready to fight, and he felt quite sure that in doing so they could also look for the help of Congress.'
Linlithgow asked Jinnah if he seriously contemplated that His Majesty's Government
'should now go back to Parliament, after ten years of endeavouring with the help of Indian opinion, and with the utmost publicity, to devise a workable scheme, and after two years experience to suggest that in the Provinces the scheme devised admitted of being worked; say that the idea of the transfer of responsibility to Indian shoulders for which we have been working was all mere nonsense, and that something completely different, on the lines which Jinnah now indicated would have to be devised? Why should we carry that baby?'
Jinnah said that was precisely the position. He quite recognised that it was not attractive from the point of view of His Majesty's Government, or to the British in India, but if we carried the advantages we must also carry the burdens, and so long as there was any shadow of authority in India exercised by His Majesty's Government we might be perfectly certain that we should be landed with every possible responsibility by Hindu and Muslim alike.'
The Viceroy found this an extremely informative interview. Even allowing for Jinnah's defensive tendency to exaggerate, his words did link up with the feeling of uncertainty about the future in various quarters...
[In the spring of 1939]the chances of a co-operative attitude by Congress toward Federation seemed more promising, [but] this was not true of the Muslims. Jinnah had, under threat of resignation, forced the Muslims in the Assembly to abstain in the division of a new trade agreement for India, thus causing an important defeat to the Government. Constitutionally this did not make any difference to the outcome because the Viceroy used his powers of certification to restore the necessary provisions, but tactically the move surprised Linlithgow. It also annoyed many prominent Muslims throughout the country who criticised Jinnah strongly. The Viceroy was told that Jinnah wanted a year in which to try out the policy of supporting neither the Government nor its opponents in the hope that each would be convinced of the value of Muslim support and would bid for it.
Linlithgow reported an hour's discussion which he had with Jinnah, mainly on the subject of Muslim grievances. They talked about the political position generally. Jinnah then turned to the Viceroy and said that he would frankly confess that he saw no solution and that he did not now believe that this country was competent to run a democracy; that he and others who had advocated a reformed system of government had, he felt in the light of practical experience, formed a wrong judgment of the capacity of India to run such a system. Jinnah thought that propertied Hindus were coming to the same conclusion. Everybody had been carried away by a natural desire for home rule and by an objection to government by aliens,
'but he was satisfied now, he thought, that the present system would not work and that a mistake had been made in going so far. He concluded these observation by reminding me that the country depended on us.'
Linlithgow replied to Jinnah that if this was true he and other Indian political leaders had bluffed His Majesty's Government and the British electorate into thinking that their scheme for self-government under the Act was a good one. In any case to what form of government should they revert? Jinnah did not like this question and made no positive suggestion for carrying on the government of the country if the present scheme broke down.
The Viceroy had no doubt that the Muslims were becoming increasingly uneasy at what Jinnah described as 'Hindu arrogance' and more and more apprehensive of the fate of a minority- even a minority of ninety million people - under the scheme of the Act. He felt there was some foundation for Jinnah's allegations of unfair treatment of Muslims in particular Provinces although investigation had never borne these out..
Zetland's reply was to the point:
'It is at least refreshing to find Jinnah admitting an error of judgment in pressing for parliamentary government for India and saying further that the situation depended upon us. I should however, be not a little surprised if he proved willing to say the same thing in public. Indeed I should be more surprised if, in the event of our even suggesting the possibility of our having to consider the imposition of any restriction on the free play of democratic forces in India, Jinnah did not shout as loudly against us as the most rabid Congressman!'..
Exchanges of view between the Viceroy and Zetland on the Muslim problem continued until well into the summer. Linlithgow traced the course of the argument as it had developed during the three Round Table Conferences and the sittings of the Joint Select Committee which had preceded the 1935 Act. He wrote that neither of them should be surprised that the near approach of Federation had brought Muslim fears to the surface. During those earlier discussions the Muslims had made demands of the most excessive character but at no stage had the British Government been able to go further than in the scheme of the Act. They had not felt justified in doing so either on the merits of the case or as a matter of practical politics, given the legitimate claims of other communities and the necessity to get them into any workable scheme. The root of Muslim apprehensions, said the Viceroy, lay in any system of responsible central government.[responsible=responsible to legislature]. No plan for Federation based upon representative government could be acceptable to those Muslims who contemplated the future course of Indian politics as an unending communal contest. But the Government were agreed that an all-India Federation was the only practical line of constitutional advance as also was it the necessary corollary of provincial autonomy.
'I do not think that the Muslims have it in their power to prevent the attainment of Federation, or to make it unworkable-unless they can discover means to prevent a sufficient number of Rulers from acceding. Indeed I shall be most surprised if, when the test comes, Muslims do not work the federal constitution to the best of their opportunities...I shall be very greatly mistaken if we do not find that the two communities will work much more closely together with the degree of responsibility at the centre which the Federation involves...'
In June there was a meeting of some of the leading Princes and their ministers in Bombay. They resolved that they regarded the terms of the federal offer as fundamentally unsatisfactory and unacceptable in their present form... Linlithgow's dilemma was acute. He had asked to be allowed to put pressure on the Princes before the Bombay meeting- pressure in their own interests. But Churchill and the diehards were in a determined mood. Having insisted successfully at the outset that the Princes should not be pressed to accept they were not going to draw back now. Their tactical position was strong for they themselves were applying all the pressure they could muster to dissuade the reluctant Princes from acceptance. As Linlithgow pointed out to Zetland, the Government had allowed its hands to be tied....
Whatever the ethics of these Princes' behaviour at Bombay, the main force behind their intransigence lay in the genuine fear activated by the Congress attack on the States the previous winter. Zetland was told this by the Mysore representative at the conference and there can be no doubt of its truth. Congress was reaping where it had so impetuously sown...
On 21st August [the Viceroy] addressed the Standing Committee of the Chamber of Princes at Simla. While he reiterated that the decision was for the Princes to take he told them he thought the federal offer was very favourable to them. They would have one third of the seats in the Lower House and two fifths in the Upper House. This, he told them, had always seemed to him to be a bloc which, if the Princely Order were wise and held together, no political party could afford to ignore...
The Princes must see, as was evident to any skilled observer, how difficult it would be to retain the so-called 'irresponsible Centre' indefinitely... Leading members of the [Princely] Order had after all been directly responsible for the emergence of the [Federal] ideal as a result of the Round Table Conference... Finally Linlithgow reminded the Princes of all the care which had been taken over many years of deliberation and discussion before the passing of the 1935 Act...
When the outbreak of war put an end to this scheme nearly two-fifths of the States had expressed their readiness to join, some of them making accession conditional upon protection of treaty rights. This represented twenty seats out of fifty-two and a population of eleven millions out of thirty-nine million.. [When war broke out]both the Secretary of State and the Viceroy agreed that further steps towards[Federation]must now be postponed for the duration. The Hindus, who had so foolishly let slip a golden chance to help in its realisation, now regretted the position. The Muslims were delighted. The Princes felt relieved.
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)