Eclipse Of The United India Federation — Susanta Kumar Sur

15 December 2012
Towards Pakistan ~ I

Eclipse Of The United India Federation ~ susanta kumar sur

ON 11 May 1946, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan had accepted the plan for a united India federation during the Cabinet Mission’s negotiations. This had triggered a political upheaval in India and Britain. Neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Clement Attlee could comprehend this twist of Jinnah. The British Prime Minister was worried that America, which had since 1942 advocated such a federation, might come forward to support this move. Attlee and Churchill tried to sabotage the federation plan by directing Cripps through coded cipher cables. There was a code ~ ‘Novic’ ~ for such cables which were not to be seen even by Viceroy Wavell. (R J Moore, Escape from Empire, p. 77).

Before the Cabinet Mission members left India on 29 June 1946, Cripps concluded his assignment. He had persuaded Gandhi to write his letter, to be sent through Louis Fischer. On 25 June, Fischer arrived in India and met Gandhi and Cripps on 27 June. After the Mission’s departure, Nehru criticised the provincial grouping as embodied in the Cabinet Mission plan. Cripps and Pethick-Lawrence made confusing statements on the Mission’s achievements in both Houses of the British Parliament. Gandhi had strong reservations on the federation scheme. The Congress won a majority in the Constituent Assembly election result in July 1946. All these factors paved the ground for Muslim League hardliners to reject Jinnah’s acceptance of a united India federation.

By the time Fischer had left India on 25 July, after collecting Gandhi’s letter dated 15 July, and his personal secretary Khurshed’s letter dated 22 July, Jinnah was planning to meet the All India Muslim League Council delegates in Bombay from 27-29 July 1946. In that convention, the Direct Action resolution for sovereign Pakistan was adopted by the League. Effectively, the concept of a united Indian federation was abandoned. After this League convention, Sir R F Mudie, Governor of Sind, met two prominent Sind League leaders ~ Ghulam Hussain and M A Khuhro ~ separately and reported the outcome of these discussions in an undated secret note to the Viceroy Wavell: “Ghulam Hussain’s account did not differ much from Khuhro’s. He said that the decision was unanimous, and that, if Jinnah had not agreed to something of this sort, the feeling was so strong that he would have been swept aside”. (Transfer of Power, vol 8 p 213).

The communal riots were engineered over the next three weeks after Gandhi gave his written consent to Partition… under British supervision. Jinnah had realised that communal riots had been precipitated by his fanatical supporters after he was forced to accept the “direct action” resolution. Also, he was forced to abandon the united India plan and accept a sovereign truncated Pakistan. Realising his predicament, Wavell said, “I think that he (Jinnah) is probably no longer in control of events on the Muslim side. Jinnah told the Viceroy on 19 November 1946 that the Muslims had to have their own bit of country and let it be as small as you like. But it must be our own”. (Wavell: Viceroy’s Journal, p 378). Wavell told Jinnah: “The only alternative to agreement was civil war, which was likely to be disastrous for the Muslims”. Jinnah insisted that any settlement between the Congress and his Muslim League was “quite impossible” (Transfer of Power, vol 9, p 108-109).

The Muslim League’s refusal to enter the Constituent Assembly and accept the federation scheme for united India without a British guarantee on the grouping procedure signified a secret intent of the colonial masters to create Pakistan. As Jinnah had himself told Wavell that he was amenable to accept a sovereign moth-eaten Pakistan, Attlee decided it was time to advance an official clarification on the “grouping procedure” which Jinnah was seeking since June 1946. Before this, the Prime Minister wanted to show that Britain was keen to have a united India under a single Constituent Assembly and therefore, at his bidding ~ to show before the USA ~ Viceroy Wavell had issued invitations to attend the Constituent Assembly which would meet on 9 December 1946.

Jinnah publicly refused, saying that the League stood by its withdrawal from the Cabinet Mission plan, unless it was guaranteed by the British Government. The British statement of 6 December 1946 at the end of the London Conference reaffirmed the victory for the League. But it was too late, for Jinnah had already been forced to swallow the bait for a moth-eaten Pakistan. No wonder Wavell in his last letter had told the King on 24 February 1947: “It (6 December 1946 statement) should in my view have been made many months earlier.”

After the London conference, Jinnah and Liaquat stayed back. Churchill and Simon took advantage of Jinnah’s presence to conclude their final strategy to create Pakistan which would be protected by Britain under a defence treaty. On 11 December, Churchill sent Jinnah an address that he might use without attracting attention in India. The former Prime Minister would sign himself as “Gilliatt” (his secretary’s name). Jinnah was asked to provide an accommodating address and to mention his code word for signature. Simon sent to Jinnah the names of members of the House of Lords who would be particularly interested in the subject of Pakistan, pre-eminently Lord Salisbury (father of Sir John Simon and also the “Nestor” of Churchill’s Cell). On 11 December, the British Cabinet noted that the “pressure of events was leading to the establishment of some form of Pakistan” (Transfer of Power, vol 9, p. 358).

The “pressure of events” became more evident when Churchill told the House of Commons on 12 December that he favoured Britain retaining an important post-imperial presence in a divided sub-continent ~ meaning Britain would keep Pakistan under their political and defence control. Jinnah wrote to the Prime Minister: “Is this country to go down in history with the badge of betrayal upon her?”.

In India, Sardar Patel was also suffering from a sense of betrayal, especially at the hands of Cripps who had played the role of a Congress sympathizer during the Cabinet Mission’s visit. He had accepted the Congress interpretation of the “grouping procedure” and his doublespeak ended after being in favour of Jinnah for six months. Patel had realised that Cripps’ assurances were meant only to induct the Congress into the government to soften their attitude towards the British. In parallel, the League’s political temper was against the Congress, indeed secretively to precipitate the communal discord over the creation of Pakistan. He took serious exception to the last paragraph of the London declaration which stated that no Constitution, framed by a Constituent Assembly in which a large section of the Indian population had not been represented, would be forced upon any unwilling part of the country. Patel conveyed his opinion to acting Viceroy Sir John Colville on 10 December. He described this “encouragement of Pakistan as a “betrayal” in the wake of Attlee’s announcement in Parliament on 15 March 1946 that “we cannot allow a minority to place a veto on the advance of the majority”. Patel has suggested if the British really wanted to leave India, the government should name a date of departure, perhaps by 1 January 1948, when Jinnah would be bound to compromise. (Transfer of Power, vol 9, p 322-23).

Patel and G D Birla agreed with V P Menon that Britain would not leave India without creating Pakistan. Patel wanted to get rid of Jinnah’s so-called Pakistan provinces, without realising the fate of the huge non-Muslim population that would be left out in those areas. Birla wrote a series of letters between 12 and 15 December to Stafford Cripps suggesting a truncated Pakistan, on 16 December to A V Alexander, and on 18 December to the acting Viceroy Colville.

Patel in a letter to Cripps dated 15 December denounced him as a traitor: “You have created a very unfavourable situation for me. All of us here feel that there has been a betrayal. Your interpretation means that Bengal Muslims can draw the constitution of Assam.” (Durga Das, Sardar Patel Correspondences, vol 3, p 313-15).

Birla, V P Menon and Patel tried to work out a constitutional settlement of the issue of a truncated Pakistan. The idea was crystallised on the basis of two dominions in accord with the Act of 1935. The crystallised scheme, which was dictated in the presence of Sardar Patel, was sent with the Viceroy’s knowledge to Pethick-Lawrence, through Gandhi’s emissary Sudhir Ghosh (V P Menon, Transfer of Power in India, p. 359).

16 December 2012
Towards Pakistan~II
The Twists And Turns Of Nationalist Politics
susanta kumar sur

ON 24 January 1947, Sir Norman Smith, Director of the Intelligence Bureau had submitted a report on the Indian situation in 1946 to Viceroy Wavell. Its copies were later endorsed by Pethick-Lawrence for the information of Attlee, Cripps and A V Alexander. “The game has been well played … the Indian problem has been thereby thrust into its appropriate plane of communalism, some kind of an opportunity for orderly evacuation now presents itself … Grave communal disorder must not disturb us into action, which would reintroduce the anti-British agitation. The latter may produce an inordinately dangerous situation and lead us nowhere … As I have said for some months, Pakistan is likely to flow from “Congresstan” (the acceptance of office by Congress) … I do not think Pakistan will bring advantage to the Indian Muslims” (Transfer of Power, vol 9; p 544).

On 14 February 1947, Attlee sent a telegram to the King who was headed for South Africa on board IIMS-Vanguard: “Attlee was proposing to announce a statement in the House of Commons on 20 February 1947 for fixing a terminal date to end the British rule in India”. Before Mountbatten’s arrival, Birla, Patel and Menon met each day from 3 to 7 March to finalise the Punjab and Bengal Partition resolution. On 7 March, Patel had met Devadas Gandhi (Gandhi’s youngest son), editor of Hindustan Times (owned by G D Birla) and its joint editor, K Santhanam, for publishing the resolution on 9 March. Before this resolution was passed on 8 March, Patel had maintained the political courtesy by conveying the Congress acceptance of a truncated Pakistan to Jinnah through their common confident Kanji Dwarkadas. “If the League insists on Pakistan, the only alternative is the division of the Punjab and Bengal”. (Kanji Dwarkadas, Ten Years to Freedom, p 207).

VK Krishna Menon had briefed Mountbatten on 13 March 1947 regarding the partition of Bengal with Calcutta to be retained in India. Mountbatten had come to India duly prepared about the course of action to be taken for protecting British interests. “Mountbatten’s first few weeks contain an element of playacting, with everyone except Jinnah, mouthing the appropriate sentiments about Indian unity, yet all except Gandhi privately knowing that the cause was lost. Ismay was deputed to prepare a plan for the partition of India”. (Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten: the Official Biography, p 374).

In a public speech on 20 April, Nehru said: “The Muslim League can have Pakistan, if they wish to have it, but on the condition that they do not take away other parts of India which do not wish to join Pakistan. (Menon, op cit p 354). Two days later, Nehru, who had earlier met Mountbatten in Singapore, categorically told the Viceroy that the Congress would never share power with the League at the Centre on the basis of equality between the two, nor between the two sovereign states (Transfer of Power, vol 10, p 364).

Mountbatten met Gandhi and Jinnah on 4 and 5 May before he could bring out the secret “Menon Plan” (received through Sudhir Ghosh) as his own. At the behest of Mountbatten, Gandhi again met Jinnah on 6 May. The Mahatma ironed out their agreement in secret for the partition of Bengal and Punjab. A communique was issued by Jinnah as a public exercise with Gandhi’s approval: “We discussed the question of division of India into Pakistan and Hindustan. Mr Gandhi does not accept the principle of division. He thinks that division is not inevitable, whereas in my opinion not only is Pakistan inevitable but it is the only practical solution of India’s political problem.” (Kanji Dwarkadas, op cit p 213).

Gandhi informed Mountbatten on 8 May that despite a very pleasant meeting with Jinnah on 6 May, the Muslim League leader was quite firm that the question of Pakistan was not open to any discussion. The same day, Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy: “I feel sure that partition of Punjab and Bengal is wrong in every case.” (Transfer of Power, vol 10, p 667).

Jinnah’s next move was deliberate. He gave Gandhi an opportunity to prove that he was indeed against the partition of Punjab and Bengal. On 9 May 1947, it was reported in The Hindu that Jinnah had no objection to allow Bengal to participate in the Constituent Assembly, “or going out of his Pakistan plan, if the western zone of Pakistan (with undivided Punjab) was conceded to him.” (Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, vol 2, p 178).

It appears that if Bengal’s case was accepted by the Congress, Punjab would have raised the same demand, thus defeating the Pakistan scheme. Jinnah’s proposal was also not acceptable to Birla who since 1937 was persuading Congress leaders to divide Bengal into Hindu and Muslim provinces. When Jinnah was willing to part with Bengal/ Calcutta to tackle this issue, Patel appeared on the scene. Without realising the meaning of Jinnah’s tactics, he was not willing to give away the non-Muslim majority East Punjab and likewise, the non-Muslim majority West Bengal with Calcutta. On 9 May 1947, Patel spelt out his response to the Associated Press. “If the Muslim League insists it wants separation (from the existing Constituent Assembly) then the Congress will not compel them to remain by force. But it will result in dividing Bengal and Punjab”. (Transfer of Power, vol 10, p 716-17).

On 17 May, Jinnah made another attempt to warn Mountbatten and the British Cabinet against partitioning Bengal and Punjab. On 20 May, Sir Eric Mieville, principal secretary to the Viceroy, cabled Mountbatten in London: “Jinnah told me ‘I am not speaking as a Partisan, but I beg you to tell Lord Mountbatten once again that he will be making a grave mistake if he agrees to the partition of Bengal and Punjab’”. (Transfer of Power, vol 10, pp 852, 916).

Jinnah gave another opportunity to Congress leaders to avoid physical partition by raising the issues of transfer of population with exchange of assets. Jinnah, as an astute lawyer, was acutely aware that Hindus and Sikhs owning more than over 80 per cent of the land and business in the West Pakistan zone, especially in West Punjab, and Bengali Hindus of East Bengal holding over 80 per cent landed property, the very idea of Pakistan could be defeated through such talk of population and asset exchange. He was also aware that if the population and asset exchange idea was thoroughly publicised, the Muslims in India would create such a hue and cry that the Pakistan balloon would be pricked. Patel and Nehru were not inclined to implement the population and asset exchange proposal as it would not lead to the creation of Pakistan to provide the Congress an opportunity to get rid of Jinnah from the Indian mainland. Besides, Sir R F Mudie, the then Governor of Sind, who was also keen to create Pakistan in the interest of Britain, dissuaded Jinnah from talking of transfer of population which he had done after the Bihar riots (Madhab Godbole, The Holocaust of Indian Partition, p 283; Stephen P Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, p 49).

During the AICC meeting on 14 June 1947, convened to consider Mountbatten’s Partition plan, Gandhi didn’t reject the idea. Nor for that matter did he call for a movement against the idea of Pakistan. Nehru admitted somewhat apologetically that the Congress would not be able to help the Sikhs and Hindus of West Punjab and the Hindus of East Bengal for the division of the Punjab and Bengal. He and Patel were silent on the issue of population and asset exchange. The communal tension that was building up turned neighbours into killers and soured relations between colleagues. It led to the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs in West Pakistan and riots in Calcutta.
On 16 October 1949, Nehru told a meeting in New York that if the Congress had an inkling of the terrible consequences of Partition, it would have resisted the division of India. “It was a big mistake on our part not to have listened to Bapu (Gandhi) at that time.” Nehru stopped short of telling the meeting that his “Bapu” never raised his voice against Mountbatten’s partition plan during the AICC session on 14 June 1947.

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