CABINET MISSION PLAN
When the Cabinet mission arrived in Delhi in March, it had three members, Cripps, A.V. Alexander and Pet hick-Lawrence. They would work in close conjunction with the Viceroy who was assured that it was not intended that he should be treated as a lay figure.
The Mission’s task was to try to bring the leaders of the principle Indian political parties to agreement on two matters:
The method of framing a constitution for a self-governing, independent India
The setting up of a new executive council or interim government that would hold office while the constitution was being hammered out.
The main problem was, as it always had been, the Hindu-Muslim partition. Congress wanted a unified India and the Muslim League wanted a separate, independent Pakistan. The Mission set to work at once, spending two weeks in lengthy discussions with representatives of all the principal political parties, the Indian States, the Sikhs, Scheduled Castes and other communities, and with Gandhi and several other prominent individuals. But at the end of these discussions there was still no prospect of an agreement between the parties and the mission decided to put forward the two possible solutions for consideration.
A truncated Pakistan, which Wavell had wanted to tell Jinnah, was all he would get if he kept insisting on a sovereign Pakistan.
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A loose federation with a three-tier constitution – provinces, group of provinces and an all-India union embracing both British India and the Indian States, which Cripps had devised with the help of two Indian officials, V.P. Menon and Sir B.N. Rau. The Union would be limited to three subjects, foreign affairs, defense and communications, with powers to raise funds for all three; all other subjects would vest in the provinces, but the provinces would be free to form groups, with their own executives and legislatures that would deal with such subjects as the provinces within the group might assign them. In this way the Provinces that Jinnah claimed for Pakistan could form Groups or sub-federations and enjoy a large measure of autonomy thus approximating to Pakistan.
After some demur, Jinnah agreed to the federation plan, Congress also reluctantly agreeing and both parties were invited to send representatives to discuss it with the Mission at Simla. A week of discussions led to no agreement and the Mission decided to refurbish the plan to meet the views of the parties as far as possible that had been expressed at Simla. The final statement of the plan was published on May 16th.
The statement rejected decisively a wholly sovereign Pakistan of the larger or the smaller truncated variety. It went on to commend the plan for an all-India Union, with a three-tier constitution and went on to indicate the method how it should be brought about. A constituent assembly was to be elected by members of the Provincial Legislatures and after a preliminary full meeting, at which an advisory committee would be set up on fundamental rights, minorities and tribal areas, would divide into three Sections – Section A consisting of the representatives of the six Hindu-majority provinces; Section B of the representatives of the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province and Sind; and Section C of the representatives of Bengal and Assam. These sections would draw up constitutions for the provinces included in them and would also decide whether a group should be formed and, if so, with what subjects; but a province would have the option to opt out of a group by a vote of its legislature after the new constitutional arrangements had come into operation. Finally the Constituent Assembly was to meet again as a whole, this time along with representatives of the Indian States in appropriate numbers to settle the Union Constitution.
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The Statement was well received and was widely accepted as clear evidence of the British Government’s genuine desire to bring British rule in India to a peaceful end. Gandhi pronounced it ‘the best document the British Government could have produced in the circumstances.’ Jinnah was less enthusiastic, but both sides gave it consideration. Congress wanted to interpret the statement as meaning that provinces could choose whether or not to belong to the section in which they had been placed, but the Mission countered this with a further Statement on 25th May, in that the provinces in each section were an essential feature of the scheme.
Wavell and the mission wrote to the Indian states rulers, warning them that when Britain quit India it would cease to exercise the powers or shoulder the obligations of paramount. They would not in any circumstances transfer paramount to an Indian Government, but the ending of the relationship would leave a void, and it was suggested, would be best filled by entering into a federal relationship with the new Government of India as units in the proposed Union. They would retain their internal sovereignty and all their powers save those ceded to the Union in connection with the three subjects of foreign affairs, defense and communications. The Princes were reasonably content with this.
While the League and Congress were giving thought to the Statement of May 16th, the Mission went about the formation of a new executive council or interim government, but they also prepared and sent home a breakdown plan. The plan followed the premise that one of the main parties would reject the proposals. If the Muslim League rejected the proposals, Congress would go ahead on the premise that parts of the country not willing would be left out of the union. If Congress dismissed the proposals, it might be followed by a threat to seize power in another ‘Quit India’ movement. Wavell proposed that the British should then withdraw from the six Hindu-majority provinces and allow them to become entirely independent but retain control of the other provinces until fresh arrangements acceptable to their population could be made.
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On 19 February, 1946, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, in the House of Lords, and C.R. Attlee, the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, announced that a special mission consisting of three cabinet ministers would be sent to India. The mission included the secretary of state for India, Lord Pethick – Lawrence, the president of the board of trade, Sir Stafford Cripps, and the first lord of the admiralty, A.V. Alexander.
The mission prepared the following plan: first preparatory discussions with elected representatives of British India and with the Indian states in order to secure the widest measure of agreement on the method of framing a constitution; second, the setting up of a constitution making body; and third the creation of an executive council having the support of the main Indian parties. The mission reached New Delhi on 24 March 1946.The talks started with Indian leaders on 26 March 1946, which continued until 11 September 1946. The commission gave the Quaid-e-Azam the choice to accept a truncated but sovereign Pakistan or to have Pakistan with undivided but not completely sovereign provinces. The league, in a resolution, asked for the establishment of a constituent assembly for the six Muslim majority provinces, which would constitute one group. This group was to enjoy complete autonomy in internal affairs. Other subjects, like foreign affairs, defense and communications were to be entrusted to the union government. On the other hand, the scheme presented by the Congress placed more subjects under the union government. It also proposed that the constituent assembly should be elected and its meeting should be held before the formation of this group of provinces.
The scheme was not acceptable to the League, so the negotiations failed. On 16 May, 1946 the cabinet mission announced its own scheme which suggested several measures. First, it recommended the establishment of an interim central government. It also asked for the formation of three groups of provinces and the establishment of constituent assemblies. It also stipulated that the union government should deal only with foreign affairs, defense, communications and rising of finance and that all residual powers should be vested in the provinces. The Muslim league and Congress both accepted the plan. In pursuance of the cabinet mission proposals, the viceroy named six Congressmen and five Leaguers for the new executive council, which the League accepted, but the Congress rejected. An interim government was formed by the Congress and the League, but it also failed. In March 1947, Mountbatten was appointed as the new viceroy of India. The plan for the division of India was announced, which led to the creation of two dominions, India and Pakistan in August 1947.
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REACTION AND ACCEPTENCE:
The approval of the plans would determine the composition of the new government. The Congress Working Committee had initially approved the plan. However, on 10 July, Jawaharlal Nehru, who later became the first prime minister of India, held a press conference in Bombay declaring that the Congress had agreed only to participate in the Constituent Assembly and “regards itself free to change or modify the Cabinet Mission Plan as it thought best.” The Congress ruled out the June 16 plan, seeing it as the division of India into small states . Moreover, the Congress was a Centralist party. Intellectuals like Kanji Dawarkadas criticized the Cabinet Plan. Congress was against decentralization and it had been under pressure from Indian capitalists who wanted a strong Center. The plan’s strongest opponent was the principal Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, due to the reason that the territories had been grouped together on the basis of religion .
The Muslim League gave its approval to the plan. There was an impression that the Congress also had accepted the scheme and the Plan would be the basis of the future constitution of India . Jinnah, in his speech to the League Council, clearly stated that he recommended acceptance only because nothing better could be obtained . However, on declaration from the Congress President that the Congress could change the scheme through its majority in the Constituent Assembly, this meant that the minorities would be placed at the mercy of the majority. The Muslim League Council met at Bombay on 27 July. “Mr. Jinnah in his opening speech reiterated the demand for Pakistan as the only course left open to the Muslim League. After three days’ discussion, the Council passed a resolution rejecting the Cabinet Mission Plan. It also decided to resort to direct action for the achievement of Pakistan.”
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However, the plan had its advocates. Maulana Azad, a nationalist Muslim leader, said that while the groupings were a major concession to the theme of religious separatism, it would also force the League to accept a framework for a united India. While assuring minority rights and participation, an independent India would be free to do away eventually with the groupings arrangement. Gandhi criticized the Maulana’s views for ignoring practical considerations and League ambitions. Cabinet Mission plan had similar recommendations already in news and intellectual circles from 1940. Amedkar, Mollana Obid ullah Sindhi and Mollana azad already gave such recommendations. Amedkar wrote his book in 1940, Mollana Sindhi gave his manifesto of new party in 1939 based on decentralize India while Azad ABC plan was also similar to Cabinet Mission. Azad’s position was very tricky yet Gandhi ji and Patel at that moment changed AZAD and installed Jawahar Lal Nehru as president. Kanji Dawarka Das in his famous book “Ten Years to freedom 1937-47” and Jaswant Singh in his recent book “Jinnah India-Independence-Partition” write all details of congress working committee debates and untimely press conference by JLN in which congress rejected the last effort to avoid partition.
FORMATION OF GOVERNMENT:
The Viceroy began organizing the transfer of power to a Congress-League coalition. But League president Muhammad Ali Jinnah denounced the hesitant and conditional approval of the Congress and rescinded League approval of both plans. Thus Congress leaders entered the newly styled Viceroy’s Executive Council: Jawaharlal Nehru became the head – vice president in title, but possessing the executive authority. Vallabhbhai Patel became the Home member – responsible for internal security and government agencies. Congress-led governments were formed in most provinces – including in the NWFP, in Punjab (a coalition with the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Unionist Muslim League).
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The League led governments in Bengal and Sind. The Constituent Assembly was instructed to begin work to write a new constitution for India.
COALITION AND BREAKDOWN:
Jinnah and the League condemned the new government, and vowed to agitate for Pakistan by any means possible. Disorder arose in Punjab and Bengal, including the cities of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. On the League-organized Direct Action Day, over 5,000 people were killed across India, and Hindu, Sikh and Muslim mobs began clashing routinely. Viceroy Wavell stalled the Central government’s efforts to stop the disorder, and the provinces were instructed to leave this to the governors, who did not undertake any major action. To end the disorder and rising bloodshed, Wavell encouraged Nehru to ask the League to enter the government. While Patel and most Congress leaders were opposed to conceding to a party that was organizing disorder, Nehru conceded in hope of preserving communal peace.
League leaders entered the council under the leadership of Liaquat Ali Khan, the future first Prime Minister of Pakistan who became the finance minister. But the council did not function in harmony – separate meetings were not held by League ministers, and both parties vetoed the major initiatives proposed by the other, highlighting their ideological differences and political antagonism. At the arrival of the new (and proclaimed as the last) viceroy, Lord Mountbatten of Burma in early 1947, Congress leaders expressed the view that the coalition was unworkable. This led to the eventual proposal, and acceptance of the partition of India. The rejection of cabinet mission plan led to a resurgence of confrontational politics beginning with the Muslim League’s Direct action day and the subsequent Bihar killings. The portioning of responsibility between the League, the Congress and the British Colonial Administration for this breakdown continues to be a topic of fierce disagreement.
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TOPIC CABINET MISSION PLAN
SUBJECT: PAKISTAN STUDIES
MAJOR: PAKISTAN STUDIES
DEPARTMENT PAKISTAN STUDIES
LAHORE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN UNIVERSITY, LAHORE
* REACTION AND ACCEPTENCE
* FORMATION OF GOVERNMENT
* COALITION AND BREAKDOWN