Sir Stafford Cripps visiting with Mohandas Gandhi in India, March 1942. Stafford Cripps was sent as one member mission to India in March 1942 as one member mission by the British government to conciliate Indian Leaders to ensure full Indian support for British war efforts.
The decision of the British government to send Cripps was a response & reaction to circumstance created by the entry of Japan in World War-II on 7th Dec 1941. The entry of Japan in World War-II transformed the character of conflict because within a short Span of few weeks almost the whole of South Asia was captured by Japanese forces. It was quite clearly visible that India shall be the next target of Japan. To counter possible Japanese invasion, Full Indian support was required to achieve this objective Sir Stafford was sent as One Indian Mission with the draft declaration.
Provisions of Cripps Proposal
Immediately after the end of the war, steps will be taken to set up a constituent assembly for making a new constitution for India. It was declared that if no Indian plan could be agreed upon for elections of members of the constituent assembly, the members would be elected by the provincial legislature by using the principle of proportional representation.
Steps will be taken to ensure the participation of native states in the constituent making. Subject to fulfillment of two conditions, the making of a new constitution would be carried out by Indians themselves. These conditions were- The provinces will have to return to accept/reject a new constitution.
Central Authority shall have to sign on a treaty to cover all the Walters arising out of the transfer of complete responsibilities into Indian hands. Indians were also invited to participate in councils of the league of nation & British commonwealth. In the meanwhile when World War was going on, full Indian support was expected to British war efforts.
Cripps Proposal & Indian Reaction
Cripps’s plan garnered criticism from all over India and Indian leaders. Every political organization has criticized and termed it as useless. Here is the party-wise reaction to the Cripps plan.
Indian National Congress
The Provision of Cripps Proposal was failed to satisfy Indian aspiration because Indian Nationalists were demanding transfer of Indian responsibilities into Indian hands immediately. Congress wanted the Central Authority shall be set up immediately to draft a new constitution for India.
Gandhi termed this proposal as a post-dated cheque to which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru added on failing Bank. The Congress was not so much against long term provisions of Cripps Proposal as it was against its immediate provisions of Cripps Proposal. Congress strongly condemned freedom given to provinces to accept & reject the new constitution because this was a direct threat to Indian unity & integrity.
Reactions of Hindu Mahasabha: The Hindu Mahasabha was strongly against freedom giving to provinces to accept/reject the constitution.
Reactions of Sikhs of Punjab: Sikhs also rejected this proposal because freedom giving to Peasants to accept/reject the constitution. They were apprehensive that if Punjab rejected it, a new constitution the Sikh would leave at mercy of Muslims.
The reaction of Depressed Classes: Depressed Classes by Bhimrao Ambedkar also rejected this proposal because it didn’t contain any provision to safeguard their interest.
The reaction of the Muslim League: The Muslim League rejected the Cripps Proposal on the ground that its demand for a separate state was not accepted clearly. League is also opposed to the formula proposed by Cripps Proposal for the election of members of Central Authority. League wanted that members of the constituent assembly should be elected by using a separate system of the electorate.
Analysis of Cripps Proposal and August Offer
Competitive analysis of Cripps Proposal & that of August Offer revealed that Cripps Proposal was an improvement over August Offer on at least four grounds. August Offer proposed dominion status because the British were to remain responsible for Indian defense & foreign affairs.
Cripps Proposal proposed that India could secede from Commonwealth games & India can attain complete Independence. August Offer provided that steps will be taken from setting up Central Authority after the end of the war. The Cripps Proposal went step furniture & proposed a formula for the election of a member for Central Authority.
Overemphasis on the safeguard of minorities was an important limitation of August Offer but no such emphasis was visible in Cripps Proposal. System of separate electorate followed by British for abundant & members of Central Authority was be elected by members of the provincial legislature through a system of proportional representation.
A system of proportional representation ensured that all the members of the Central Authority would be Indians. August Offer invited Indians to participate in Government Generals executive councils & war advisory council. This Proposal invited Indians to participate in councils of the League of nations & British Commonwealth.