Freedom and Partition of India

Circumstances leading to Freedom and Partition (1944-47)

  • By opening months of 1944, German forces had started retreating & World War II had entered into last phase. It was quite clear that end of war was just matter of time as a result of this, political environment in India had also started to change.
  • British Government gave indication that it was standing by the provisions of Cripps plan but the political differences prevailing between Congress and Muslim League were coming in the way of constitutional advancement in India.
  • Apprehensive that government could use the differences between Congress and Muslim League to deny the transfer of power into Indian hands. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi started taking initiatives to hammer out different prevailing between Congress & Muslim League. Rajagopalachari’s formula and Desai, Liyaqat Ali talks were the steps in the same direction.


C. Rajagopalachari’s Formula (Jan -1944)

  • It was a plan prepared by C. Rajagopalachari, at the behest of Mahatma Gandhi to hammer out the different prevailing between Congress and Muslim League.
  • Formula provided that Congress and Muslim League should work together for attainment of Independence.
  • Issue of partition should be decided through election in Muslim majority areas after attainment of Independence.
  • Even in case of separation of India into two sovereign units. Both unites would maintain cooperation in essential matter such as defense, communication & foreign affairs.
  • This condition would be binding on Congress only in case of transfer of complete responsibility into Indian hands.
  • Rajagopalachari’s formula was prepared in March 1944. It was discussed for Gujarat & Jammu at Bombay in June 1944.
  • Formula failed to settle the difference between Congress & Muslim League because Jammu demanded that issue of partition was settling 1st & then only Muslim League will cooperate to attainment of Independence.


Desai-Liyaqat Ali Talks (Jan- 1945)

  • Bhulabhai Desai was the leader of Congress in Central Legislative Assembly and Liyaqat Ali Khan was deputy leader of Muslim League in same house. Both were friends. They held private talks to find way to settle different prevailing between Congress & Muslim League with blessing of Gandhiji.
  • Both of these leaders agreed that Congress & Muslim League should have equal representation in proposed interim government & both parties should work together for attainment of Independent.
  • These talks’ fiats to find solution to India’s political problem because when Jammu got to know about these talks, he immediately repatriated these talks.


Wavell Plan in Simla Conference

Viceroy Wavell meets Indian leaders at Simla Conference


  • The failures of initiatives taken by Congress in setting difference between Congress & Muslim League compelled Governor-General Lord Wavell to formulate plant himself so that a solution could be found for Indian’s political problem.
  • He formulated a plan in Jan 1945. He went to London in March 1945 to discuss this plan and plan was revealed in June 1945.
  • The Wavell plant provided that-
  • The Governor-General’s executive council would be converted into interim Government.

All its members except the Governor-General himself and commander in Chief would be Indians.

  • Caste Hindus Upper (Upper Caste Hindus) & the Muslims will have equal representation in proposed interim government.
  • The Veto power of Governor-General will not be abolished but it will not be used except in special circumstances.
  • A constitutional assembly would be elected by using the formula suggested by Cripps plan.
  • This plan was discussed at Simla (Simla Conference) during June – July 1945 but conference fiats because Muslim members in the proposed interim government shall be nominees of Muslim League. This demand of Jammu was unacceptable to Congress.


Significance of Failure of Simla Conference

  • Failure of Simla Conference was development of great significance of India’s political history because league could exercise Veto successfully in this conference.
  • League wasn’t only Muslim party nor it only party representing Muslims in India. Instead of pressuring Jammu in giving up his impractical demand, Governor-General Lord Wavell announced failure of Shimla Conference. This failure was big success of Muslim League it was great failure for Indian National struggle.
  • Failure of Shimla Conference emboldened Muslim League greatly. Its politics became much more radical. The league could claim to be only representative of Muslim. This new formed confidence played important role in remarkable success of Muslim League in the elections of 1945 (winters).
  • The league won 15% of total Muslim Votes. It could win majority in Bengal and Sind. Its affiliate party formed government in Punjab.
  • This growing strength of Muslim League was quietly visible that’s why Puran Chand Joshi commented that to glorify strength of Congress & to denies Muslim League is to be blind.
  • High lightened the Simla Conference V.P. Menon commented that Shimla Conference afforded last opportunity to the force of nationalism to fight real guard action to preserve integrity of country and when battle was last, the waves of communalism quickly engulfed it.

Cabinet Mission Plan

  • On 19th Feb 1946, British Government announced his decision to send three members of British. Cabinet to have look at Indian political problem & find solution on this because continuation of political deadlock in India was adversely affecting the British interest.
  • By this time, British government realized that continuation of British Rule in India would harm Indian relation with leadership of Independent India because the anti-British discontent had assumed revolutionary proportional Indian Leaders were demanding the immediate transfer of power into Indian hand. Impact of Quit India Movement had shaken the foundation of British rule. British government realized that power had to be transferred into Indian hands sooner or later.
  • British government could see that any future continuation in India would seriously affect the policy of India remain member of British Commonwealth. Exit of India from commonwealth would affect British economic interest.
  • The communal riots taking place in different parts of India frequently were affecting the British Rule prestige at international level.
  • The Royal Indian Naval Munity of 18th Feb 1946 had clearly indicated that still pillar on which British Indian Rule resting had started on crumbling.
  • Britain could no longer rely on unflinching royalty of Indian soldier & without superiority of military, British Rule could not continue even for a single day.
  • Cabinet mission comprised Lord Pathic Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps & A.V. Alexander.
  • Cabinet Mission arrived in 24th March 1946 after holding elaborate discussions with various Indian leaders. A plan was announced on 16th May 1946. This plan provided that-
  • There shall be one single Indian union. Demand of Pakistan was rejected by terming it as impractical.
  • The provinces were to be put in 3 groups-Groups A, B, C.
  • Group A North West Province, Bihar, Central Province, Bombay & Madras.
  • Group B was to have Punjab, Sind, North West Frontier Province.
  • Group C was to have Bengal & Assam.
  • Central government was to enjoy control over defense, foreign affair, currency & communication. All other powers including residuary power were rested in provinces.
  • Pakistan was given the freedom to form one or more group by deciding issues they wanted to take up in common.
  • Constitution Assembly was to be set up to draft new constitution in India. Members of Constitution Assembly were to be elected by members of provincial legislature by using system of proportional representation. One member in Constitution Assembly was to represent population of one million.
  • An interim government was to be formed immediately to manage Indian affair in the meantime.


Merits of Cabinet Mission

  • Closer examination of Cabinet Mission plan reveals that it was having number of merits. The biggest merit was emphasis on creating one Indian union. The demand of Pakistan was rejected clearly.
  • It was last major effort on part of British to save unity & integrity of India.
  • The Cabinet Mission Plan tried to strike a balance between the demand of Congress of one single Indian union and demand of Muslim League of maximum possible autonomy to provinces.
  • At one time it appears that the British were successful in their design as Muslim League accepted Cabinet Mission Plan by adopting a resolution on 6th June 1946.
  • The divisive practice of separate electorate was abundant. Plant provided that members of Constitution Assembly would be elected without any reservation to any community.
  • Under the scheme proposed by Cabinet Mission Plan, all the decisions in Constitution Assembly were to be taken through majority votes. Some safeguards were provided for minorities.
  • All the members of proposed Constitution Assembly were to be Indians, the British government promised not to interfere in function of Constitution Assembly in any way.


Demerits of Cabinet Mission

  • The Indian union proposed by Cabinet Mission Plan was very weak and such weak union could have never been stable & successful.
  • Protection was provided to Muslims but there was no safeguard to protect returns of other minorities.
  • The system of grouping of provinces was weak. It was not clear in what manner the groups were met & deicide common issue.
  • Representative of native states in proposed Constitution Assembly were to be nominated by rules. It was against principles of democracy.


Reaction of Various Parties

Reaction of Congress

  • Congress accepted Cabinet Mission Plant partially. It agreed to participate in constitution making procedure but refused to join Interim Government.
  • Congress was against the system of grouping of provinces. It was not clear whether group was compulsory or voluntary. Congress was under impression that provincial grouping was voluntary whereas Muslim League assumed grouping was compulsory & it was fundamental component of Cabinet Mission Plan when Congress sought clarification from British government, British response was weak.
  • Dissatisfied by British response, Congress refused to participate in interim government.


Reaction of Sikhs

  • Sikhs of Punjab were strongly against Cabinet Mission Plan because the proposed groups of Sikhs were left at mercy of Muslim.


Reaction of Muslim League

  • Muslim League accepted Cabinet Mission Plan by adopting resolution to that effect on June 6.
  • This resolution of Muslim League clearly indicated that issue of separate state wasn’t very serious matter for Muslim League. This issue used by Muslim League to carry out religious polarization in India to widen its mass base.
  • Having achieved the objection of electoral success, league was ready to abundant the issue of separate state.
  • This resolution indicated that partition of India was not inhabitable till June 1946.
  • When Congress refused to participate in interim government formation of this Interim Government was postponed by British.
  • League demanded that the Interim Government should be formed without Congress but this demand was rejected by Governor General Wavell. At this Muslim League felt humiliated & decided to go ahead with objection of separate state.
  • On 29th July 1946, Muslim League adopted a resolution & rejected Cabinet Mission Plan.
  • League decided to celebrate 16th Aug 1946 as Direct Action Day. It gave the slogan; Pakistan will be taken through fight.
  • On 16th Aug 1946, large scale communal riots were orchestrated throughout in India. Entire national government pushed into civil war.
  • This development made partition of India almost inhabitable.
  • As a result of Civil war like situation leaders like Patel started believing that partition of India was only viable action.


Interim Government

  • Large scale communal riots witnessed in India as result of Direct Action Day forced Congress to change its stand on formation of Interim Government.
  • On 2nd Sept 1946, Interim Government was formed. The Muslim League initially refused to join it but it accepted membership on 26th Oct 1946 in Interim Government.
  • Members of Muslim League joined Interim Government; with the only intention to racket from within destroy.
  • Policy of stiff non co-operation was followed by members of Muslim League. This rigid attitude of league further convinced leaders like Patel that it would be impossible to create Indian union with Muslim League in it. This development increased the inability of partition.
Direct Action Day- On this day exactly 71 years ago, Kolkata (then Calcutta) experienced its most violent convulsions. The infamous ‘week of long knives’ – an unprecedented orgy of loot, murder, rapes and molestation let loose on the city’s unsuspecting Hindus by Muslim League strongmen and goons that left 5,000 people dead, tens of thousands maimed and an estimated 1.2 lakh homeless – started with the call for ‘direct action’ on 16 August 1946 by League supremo Muhammad Ali Jinnah.





Breakdown Plan (Sept 1946)

  • In Sept 1946, Governor General Lord Wavell formulated this plan.
  • By this time, cold war (1946) hostility had started. A section of British policy maker had started realizing that some territories in India should remain under British control even after transfer of power.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru was proclaimed socialist. It was expected that Independent India could join hands with Soviet Union.
  • This thinking had made leader like Wavell, a supporter of two nation theory.
  • Breakdown Plan formulated to pressurize Congress to accept the creation of Pakistan.
  • This plant proposed transfer of power to every British province & native state beginning from South to North. These Indian entitles were to decide their political future themselves.
  • Breakdown Plan was direct threat to Indian Unity & integrity. It was opposed by Jawaharlal Nehru strongly & British were warned of serious consequences.
  • As a result of strong Indian opposition, Breakdown Plant was abundant but it convinced Indian Leaders that British game plan was to fragment India into as many pieces as possible so that British interest could remain safe.
  • Lord Mountbatten was the last Governor General of British India along with being 1st Governor General of Independent India. He was appointed as Governor General of India in Feb 1947 with clear instruction to transfer power into responsible Indian hands by June 1948. He came to India on 23rd March & very next day he started holding talk with Indian Leaders so that power could be transferred at the earliest.
  • Mount Batten was a senior military commander. He had played an active role in World War II. He behaved as if he was on military operation while dealing with task of transferring power into Indian hands.
  • He held 133 rounds of talks with different Indian leader during period 24th March – 6th May 1947.
  • He used every trick in book to achieve his objective when leader like Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru didn’t agree to the partition plan; he pressurized them into acceptance by putting forward the plan “Balkan” in April 1947.
  • Boundary commission created under the chairmanship of Cyril Redcliff were pushed hard to submit their award as soon as possible as a result of this, national boundaries drawn in haphazard manner, many areas left unmarked, many villages, houses divided into 2 nation.
  • It was this military operation like speed of Mount Batten that forced Indo-Pak to right wars to settle the issues left behind by Lord Mount Batten.

Role of Lord Mountbatten in Partition of India

  • When Mountbatten came to India as Governor General only Muslim League and British government were clear about objective of Partition of India.
  • In fact, the Muslim League was also playing to the tune of British government because by the meet of 1946, many policy makers of British had started believing in efficacy of “Two nation theory”.
  • Cold war had already started many British leaders apprehensive that Independent India led by Jawaharlal Nehru could join Soviet Union. In such an environment, it was imperative to safety of British interest that same territories in India must remain close to or under British control so that cold war politics could be handled effectively.
  • Mountbatten had to strived hard to make Congress accept the reality of Two-nation theory. Leader like Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Patel agreed to creation of Pak only when British threatened India’s complete fragmentation. Without this serious threat to unity & interest of India, Congress would never accepted creation of Pakistan so it’s not correct to say that Mountbatten’s task was merely to work out the detail of Partition of India as demanded by Muslim League & agreed upon by both British government and Congress.

Different views about Partition of India

Mahatma Gandhi
  • Gandhi was strongly against Two-nation theory. He believed that Hindu & Muslim were not two different cultural entities.
  • Gandhi was of the opinion that Indian National can survive only when both Hindu & Muslim are part of it. He emphasized that he will never allow political will of majority to impose on minority.
  • Gandhi was strongly against partition & he said that partition will take place only on his dead body.
  • Gandhi accepted partition with heavy heart when there was no other alternative. He said that Indian will start another movement for reunification of Indo-Pak once the communal frenzy (madness) settled down.


Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
  • He was strongly against two nation theory like Gandhi till very last.
  • He was of the opinion that partition will seriously affect & disturb economics, communication & extension defense of both Indo-Pak.
  • At a time, groups were emerging on international scene; division of India would be against ongoing international trend.
  • He accepted partition only British threaten complete fragmentation of India by transferring power to all the native state & British provinces.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
  • He was only leader of Congress who never accepted partition.
  • He was of the opinion that Indian Struggle against British Rule has been fought by Hindu & Muslim together & communalism was handy work of small section of leaders.
  • He was of the opinion that partition wasn’t demanded by common masses, its reflection of political ambition of few leaders.
  • He said that if we wait for 2-3 years & delay Independence then Muslim League would come to turn one India automatically.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
  • He was in favor of two nation theory, as he considered Muslim as a nation.
  • He was of the opinion that constitutional safeguard could be apply only to minority not to a nation.
Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan
  • Frontier Gandhi was against partition when Congress accepted partition; he commented that his entire movement had been thrown into wolves.
Hindu Mahasabha
  • It was strongly against partition.
  • It wanted India to remain united & to be proclaimed as Hindu nation.