Freedom with Division

Arora IAS Class Notes

Attlee’s Statement (February 20, 1947)

  • British Announcement:
    • Clement Attlee, British Prime Minister, declared Britain’s intention to leave India.
  • Key Points:
    • Deadline:June 30, 1948 for transfer of power, regardless of Indian agreement on a constitution.
    • Power Transfer:
      • To a central government (if formed).
      • To existing provincial governments if a central government is not established (including the possibility the Muslim-majority provinces wouldn’t join).
    • Princely States:
      • British authority over them would end with transfer of power.
      • These powers wouldn’t be transferred to any new Indian government.
    • New Viceroy:Lord Mountbatten to replace Wavell.
  • Reasons for Fixed Date:
    • To pressure Indian parties to reach an agreement.
    • To avoid a constitutional crisis.
    • To demonstrate British sincerity about leaving.
    • To acknowledge the decline of British authority in India.
  • Congress Response:
    • Open to transfer of power to multiple centers (existing assembly could function).
    • Upset by the possibility of partition.
  • Muslim League Response:
    • Emboldened by the statement.
    • Launched a civil disobedience movement in Punjab to overthrow the coalition government.

Independence and Partition

Reasons for Accepting Partition

  • Communal riots and unworkable Congress-League coalition forced consideration of partition in early 1947.
  • Hindu and Sikh groups in Bengal and Punjab feared forced inclusion in Pakistan.
  • Nehru (Congress) stated partition of Punjab and Bengal as the only alternative to the Cabinet Mission Plan.
  • Kripalani (Congress) offered to concede Pakistan if Bengal and Punjab were partitioned fairly.

Mountbatten as Viceroy (March 1947)

  • More decisive than predecessors due to informal power to make on-the-spot decisions.
  • Aided by British government’s firm decision to withdraw.
  • Tasked with exploring unity and division options until October 1947, then advising on transfer of power.
  • Realized the broad outlines of the situation were already clear before his arrival.
  • Cabinet Mission Plan deemed a failure.
  • Jinnah insisted on a sovereign state (Pakistan).
  • Mountbatten attempted to woo both Congress and the League.

Mountbatten Plan (June 3, 1947)

  • Freedom with partition gaining wider acceptance before Mountbatten’s arrival.
  • Key innovation (suggested by V.P. Menon): immediate transfer of power with dominion status (and right to secession), eliminating the need to wait for a new political structure agreement.

Main Points of the Mountbatten Plan

  • Punjab and Bengal Legislative Assemblies would vote on partition (simple majority required).
  • Partition would create two dominions and two constituent assemblies.
  • Sindh would decide its own future.
  • Referendums in NWFP and Sylhet district (Bengal) would determine their fate.
  • Congress concessions:
    • No unified India.
    • Pakistan’s creation.
  • League concessions:
    • Smaller Pakistan (Congress aim).

Why Congress Accepted Dominion Status

  • Ensured peaceful and quick transfer of power.
  • Allowed Congress to assume authority and control the explosive situation.
  • Provided continuity in bureaucracy and army.

Why Britain Offered Dominion Status

  • Potential to keep India within the Commonwealth (even temporarily).
  • Economic and strategic benefits of continued ties with India.

Rationale for Early Independence (August 15, 1947)

  • Secured Congress agreement to dominion status.
  • Absolved Britain of responsibility for the communal situation.
  • Plan implemented swiftly.
  • Legislative assemblies of Bengal and Punjab voted for partition.
  • East Bengal and West Punjab joined Pakistan.
  • West Bengal and East Punjab remained with India.
  • Sylhet district joined East Bengal.
  • Boundary commissions were set up to demarcate new provinces’ borders.
  • NWFP referendum favored Pakistan (Congress did not participate).
  • Balochistan and Sindh joined Pakistan.

Indian Independence Act (July 18, 1947)

  • Passed by British Parliament, formalizing the Mountbatten Plan.
  • Established two independent dominions: India and Pakistan (effective August 15, 1947).
  • Each dominion had a governor-general.
  • Each dominion’s constituent assembly assumed legislative power.
  • Existing central legislative bodies dissolved.
  • Governments of both dominions to function under the Government of India Act, 1935 (until new constitutions were adopted).
  • Pakistan became independent on August 14, 1947.
  • India gained independence on August 15, 1947.
  • Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan.
  • India requested Mountbatten to continue as Governor-General.

Plan Balkan (March-May 1947 – Rejected)

  • Mountbatten’s alternative plan if the Cabinet Mission Plan failed.
  • Envisioned transfer of power to individual provinces (or a confederation).
  • Punjab and Bengal could choose partition.
  • New units and princely states could join India, Pakistan, or remain independent.
  • Abandoned after Nehru’s strong opposition.

Problems of Early Withdrawal

  • Rushed partition resulted in issues:
    • Lack of transitional institutions to address partition problems.
    • Jinnah’s refusal to share the Governor-General position with Mountbatten.
    • Delay in announcing the Boundary Commission Award (August 12, 1947) to avoid British blame for violence.

Integration of States

State People’s Movement (1946-47)

  • Demanded political rights and representation in the Constituent Assembly.
  • Nehru: States refusing to join would be seen as hostile.

Vallabhbhai Patel Takes Charge (July 1947)

  • Oversaw state incorporation in two phases.

Phase I (By August 15, 1947)

  • Most states signed Instruments of Accession with India.
  • Princes agreed to:
    • Central authority over defense, external affairs, and communication (previously under British control).
    • No change in internal political structure.

Reasons for Easy Agreement:

  • Princes weren’t giving up much.
  • Internal power remained intact.

Phase II (Within a Year)

  • More complex integration process.
  • Merged states with provinces or new unions (Kathiawar, Vindhya Pradesh, etc.).
  • Internal constitutional changes in some states (e.g., Hyderabad, Mysore).
  • Incentives: generous purses and positions as governors/rajapramukhs.

Patel’s Achievement

  • Rapid political unification of India after independence.

Why Congress Accepted Partition

Long-Term Failures

  • The Congress failed to integrate Muslim masses into the national movement.
  • This reflects the movement’s success in anti-colonialism but failure in nation-building.

Reasons for Accepting Partition

  • Urgency to Avoid Violence:Partition was seen as a way to prevent further spread of communal violence and the collapse of the Interim Government.
  • Preserving Indian Unity:Partition prevented the Balkanization of India by stopping princely states from gaining independence.
  • Gradual Concessions:The Congress had been conceding to the Muslim League’s demands for a separate state in stages:
    • Cripps Mission (1942): Autonomy for Muslim-majority provinces.
    • Gandhi-Jinnah talks (1944): Right of self-determination for Muslim-majority provinces.
    • Cabinet Mission Plan (1946): Possibility of Muslim provinces forming a separate assembly.
    • December 1946: Compulsory grouping of provinces.
    • March 1947: CWC resolution accepting Punjab (and Bengal) partition if necessary.
  • Inability to Control Riots:The Congress leadership, particularly Nehru, underestimated the intensity of communal violence and its effect on the populace.
  • Wishful Thinking:Nehru believed Hindu-Muslim differences would resolve after independence and partition would be temporary/peaceful.

Gandhi’s Helplessness

  • He felt the people’s communalization left him with no choice but to accept partition.
  • He questioned the possibility of fighting communalism with a communally charged population.
  • He urged Congress to reject partition emotionally but accept it practically.

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