On 19th Feb 1946, the British Government announced his decision to send three members of the British. Cabinet to have look at the Indian political problem & find solutions on this because the continuation of political deadlock in India was adversely affecting the British interest.
By this time, the British government realized that the continuation of British Rule in India would harm Indian relations with the 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.
The impact of the 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. The British government could see that any future continuation in India would seriously affect the policy of India remain members of the British Commonwealth. The exit of India from the commonwealth would affect British economic interest.
The communal riots taking place in different parts of India frequently were affecting the British Rule prestige at the international level. The Royal Indian Naval Munity of 18th Feb 1946 had indicated that still pillar on which British Indian Rule resting had started on crumbling. Britain could no longer rely on the unflinching royalty of Indian soldiers & without the superiority of the military, British Rule could not continue even for a single day.
Proposal of Cabinet Mission Plan
Cabinet’s mission comprised Lord Pathic Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps & A.V. Alexander. Cabinet Mission arrived on 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. The demand for 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, Northwest Frontier Province. Group C was to have Bengal & Assam.
The central government was to enjoy control over the defense, foreign affairs, currency & communication. All other powers including residuary power were rested in provinces. Pakistan was given the freedom to form one or more groups by deciding issues they wanted to take up in common. Constitution Assembly was to be set up to draft a new constitution in India. Members of the Constitution Assembly were to be elected by members of the provincial legislature by using a system of proportional representation. One member of the Constitution Assembly was to represent a population of one million.
An interim government was to be formed immediately to manage Indian affairs in the meantime.
Merits of Cabinet Mission
The closer examination of the Cabinet Mission plan reveals that it was having several merits. The biggest merit was an emphasis on creating one Indian union. The demand for Pakistan was rejected clearly. It was the last major effort on part of the British to save the unity & integrity of India.
The Cabinet Mission Plan tried to strike a balance between the demand of Congress of one single Indian union and the demand of the 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 electorates was abundant. The plant provided that members of the Constitution Assembly would be elected without any reservation to any community.
Under the scheme proposed by the 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 the proposed Constitution Assembly were to be Indians, the British government promised not to interfere in the function of the Constitution Assembly in any way.
Demerits of Cabinet Mission
The Indian union proposed by Cabinet Mission Plan was very weak and such a weak union could have never been stable & successful. Protection was provided to Muslims but there was no safeguard to protect the returns of other minorities. The system of a grouping of provinces was weak. It was not clear in what manner the groups were met & deicide common issues.
A representative of native states in the proposed Constitution Assembly was to be nominated by rules. It was against the principles of democracy.
The reaction of Various Parties
Reaction of Congress
Congress accepted Cabinet Mission Plant partially. It agreed to participate in the constitution-making procedure but refused to join the Interim Government. Congress was against the system of a grouping of provinces. It was not clear whether the group was compulsory or voluntary.
Congress was under impression that provincial grouping was voluntary whereas the Muslim League assumed grouping was compulsory & it was a fundamental component of the Cabinet Mission Plan when Congress sought clarification from the British government, the British response was weak. Dissatisfied by the British response, Congress refused to participate in the 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 Muslims.
The reaction of the Muslim League
Muslim League accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan by adopting a resolution to that effect on June 6. This resolution of the Muslim League indicated that the issue of a separate state wasn’t a very serious matter for Muslim League. This issue was used by the Muslim League to carry out religious polarization in India to widen its mass base.
Having achieved the objection of electoral success, the league was ready to abundant the issue of a separate state. This resolution indicated that the partition of India was not inhabitable until June 1946. When Congress refused to participate in the interim government formation of this Interim Government was postponed by the 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 the objection of a separate state. On 29th July 1946, the Muslim League adopted a resolution & rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan.
League decided to celebrate 16th Aug 1946 as Direct Action Day. It gave the slogan; Pakistan will be taken through the fight. On 16th Aug 1946, large scale communal riots were orchestrated throughout India. The entire national government pushed into civil war. This development made the partition of India almost inhabitable. As a result of the Civil war-like situation leaders like Patel started believing that the partition of India was the only viable action.
Large-scale communal riots witnessed in India as a result of Direct Action Day forced Congress to change its stand on the formation of the Interim Government. On 2nd Sept 1946, the 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 the Muslim League joined the Interim Government; with the only intention to racket from within destroy.
The policy of stiff non-co-operation was followed by members of the Muslim League. This rigid attitude of the league further convinced leaders like Patel that it would be impossible to create an Indian union with the Muslim League in it. This development increased the inability of partition.
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Direct Action Day- Nearly 74 years ago, Kolkata (then Calcutta) experienced its most violent riots in the name of pre-organized peaceful protests. 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