The partition of India and the agonies associated with it are still alive in the memory of millions of people.
Jinnah Proposed Gandhi Disposed …Thus India Divided
Although the India-Pakistan partition took place nearly seven decades ago, it is still a lingering reality. It is the indifferent attitude of leaders both from the Congress and the Muslim League that resulted in the bifurcation of the country.
Bibliographic information Jinnah Proposed Gandhi Disposed.
|Title||Jinnah Proposed, Gandhi Disposed: … Thus India Divided|
|Authors||Prafull Goradia, K. R. Phanda|
|Publisher||Center for Advances Research, Reference, Information & Enhanced Documentation, a unit of SAMARTH, 2014|
JINNAH Proposed GANDHI Dispose
In this excerpt, the culminating Partition talks shed light on the dwindling influence of Gandhi and the power play between Mountbatten and Jinnah
THE WHIRLWIND BEGINS Mountbatten appears to have decided almost immediately that there was little time left to the Raj and no progress to be made via negotiation. By 10 April he was telling his staff that Partition was probably the only way forward, and he put the idea to a conference of his provincial Governors a few days later.
They were seriously concerned about the collapse of public order, especially the Governors of NWFP, Punjab and Bengal. But they did not recommend Partition; they wanted reinforcements. Mountbatten outwardly took this on board, but extra manpower was never a viable way forward for the expiring Raj.
His solution was to push forward to Partition even more rapidly. This policy, however, was not untouched by doubt. Even in early May, as he was laying detailed plans for Partition, he was also privately deploring it, referring to the growing willingness among Indian leaders to accept it as ‘sheer madness’.
The British Government had declared itself ready to give Indians what they wanted, and Mountbatten was following this line. But personally, he feared for the consequences, and therefore constantly urged the need to show that the decision to partition the country had been an Indian one.
Jinnah was in favour of Partition along provincial boundaries but had long been opposed to any internal partition of provinces because he wanted Pakistan to include West Bengal and East Punjab. Congress leaders – but not Gandhi – had slowly been moving towards an acceptance of Partition of the country for some time before Mountbatten’s arrival.
A violent campaign orchestrated by the Muslim League against the Unionist ministry in Punjab ﬁnally forced its resignation on 2 March, leading to serious three-way communal ﬁghting. This prompted the Congress Working Committee to pass a resolution on 8 March calling for the ‘administrative’ partition of the province, a principal which, Nehru acknowledged to Wavell, would probably have to be extended to Bengal too. By 20 April Nehru was prepared to concede in public that the League could have Pakistan if whatever parts of India it wanted were willing to join.
At the time this probably excluded the NWFP, which had a Congress ministry as embattled as well opt for India over Pakistan, or even prefer sovereign independence, which promised to open up a sackful of further strategic considerations for the British. It was not yet clear how the NWFP would ﬁt into any India – Pakistan settlement, and it was to be the
NWFP that eventually brought up the rear in all the Partition arrangements because of this uncertainly… …PLAN PARTITION On the night of 10-11 May Mountbatten showed the newly returned proposals to Nehru, who took strongly against them, whereupon the Viceroy’s reforms commissioner, V. P. Menon, produced a rapid redraft. Menon, though a civil servant, had been following his own line on the independence issue for many months, and had submitted a memo in January 1947 suggesting a transfer of power to two successor states based
on immediate Dominion Status – a plan that was ignored at the time. Menon was close to Sardar Patel, and must have been aware of how Patel and Nehru had recently come to see the military and constitutional advantages of immediate Dominion Status, and how they were only willing to accept Pakistan after the partition of Bengal and Punjab.
All these elements now came together neatly when Mountbatten, shaken by Nehru’s vehement rejection of the redrafted Plan Balkan, asked Menon to draw up a new set of Heads of Agreement, a task he accomplished in six hours.
This second plan, soon christened ‘Plan Partition’, became the During an historic conference in New Delhi, Lord Mountbatten and the main Indian leaders agreed upon the Partition of India according to a British plan Independence settlement. Plan Partition had several crucial new features. It was based on an acceptance that the Muslim League was not coming in to current constituent assembly, and it therefore made provision for the setting up of two new ones, which would be treated as governments-in-waiting, or ‘Provisional Authorities’.
It allowed for a possible internal partition of and it provided for a referendum on the membership of India or Pakistan to be held in the NWFP. It did not allow the main Hindu-Congress provinces the choice to opt for either India or Pakistan; they were to stay within the ‘Union of India’. Nor was sovereign independence any longer on offer to the princes.
Although it was not written into the document, the understanding was that the two “Provisional Authorities’ were to receive immediate Dominion Status. This bypassed all potential difﬁculties of the constituent assembly stage of the transfer of power, as laid out in the cabinet Mission plan. Now, with immediate Dominion Status in But by this stage Gandhi’s opinions carried no sway with the NehruPatel partnership, so Mountbatten had little use for them place, the successor governments could simply continue under the Government of India Act of 1935, and then secede from the Commonwealth if they desired.
Meanwhile, both sides would proceed separately towards different constitutional models in their own time, within their own sovereign boundaries, and without immediate concern for the vexing constitutional questions that dogged the larger Indian policy. The whole transfer of power would be simpliﬁed and expedited. Mountbatten ﬂew to London on 18 May to explain the new plan.
While he was there, the Congress leadership deﬁnitely crushed the idea of an independent Bengal. PLAN GANDHI Gandhi’s lone pilgrimages in Naokhali and Bihar reﬂected his political isolation from the Congress leaders, and it had only been the arrival of Mountbatten that persuaded him to return his attention to matters of state. But he proved as eccentric as ever, hovering
Partition of India
Thus arose the strange circumstance that in the crucial meeting, Jinnah never verbally consented to Plan Partition above the detail that all the others were so engaged with. His fervent opposition to any form of partition gave him little scope to contribute when all the other major players were wrestling with exactly this outcome.
After his offer of the premiership to Jinnah he went back to Bihar, still calling for an ofﬁcial enquiry into the killings there. He saw Mountbatten again in early May, when he also met Jinnah alone, but made no progress with either. The only positive result of his discussions with Jinnah was a joint appeal to all Indians to remain at peace. But he had not entirely given up.
He had an alternative plan whose main points were: that a unitary government composed entirely of either Congress or League nominees should be sworn in; that the British should transfer power immediately without portioning the country – any such decision was to be left entirely to Indians; that the constituent assembly should continue as it was; that a Court of Arbitration be set up to safeguard the minorities; and that ‘paramountcy’ – British authority over the princely states – should pass directly to the new Indian government and should not lapse, as it would under all other schemes.
On 8 May he sent these ideas to Mountbatten, who thanked him politely. But by this stage Gandhi’s opinions carried no sway with the Nehru-Patel partnership, so Mountbatten had little use for them. Gandhi spend the rest of
May in Calcutta, trying to reconcile Hindus and Muslims. Finally, on 2 June, he made one last appeal to Mountbatten. This was a Monday and therefore one of his days of silence. As India’s fate hung in the balance, he wrote notes in pencil on the backs of used envelopes.
As a distillation of his humility this seems almost perfect, but it also speaks of his powerlessness. While the continent lay awaiting ‘vivisection’, the old sage remained silent, knowing that no words of his would be of any use. The reality was that the Congress had ﬁnally seized the political initiative, and that Mountbatten was looking for the easiest way forward that did least damage to British national interests.
Violence in Partition of India
The law and order issue was extremely troubling and there was no solution. Even the police had begun to mutiny. THE FINAL ACT Jinnah was not happy when the details of Plan Partition became known. The partition of provinces struck at the viability of Pakistan economically, and threatened to give his new country a massive burden of defence expenditure with too small a ﬁscal to support it.
He began to develop new demands: over the army, and then for an 800-mile land corridor to join the two ‘wings’ of Pakistan. But his ability to obstruct and delay had vanished. Mountbatten returned to India on 30 May with Cabinet approval for the new deal, which was then put to the leaders on the morning of 2 June.
They were given time to digest the proposals, then Mountbatten told them that their formal acceptance would be required the following day. To avoid embarrassment, prior assurances of an agreement to the plan were to be received by midnight. All but Jinnah indicated that they would approve the plan as requested. Jinnah felt unable to give his assent without referring to his Working Committee and to ‘the people’.
He went to see the Viceroy privately late that evening and, while he promised to do his best to carry the League with him, he could not formally consent to the plan without the authority of his All-India Council. Mountbatten was now trapped by the relentless pace he had set, and he extricated himself by hijacking Jinnah’s authority. He said that he would speak for the League himself, and if it chose to contradict him later he would take the blame. Jinnah the bluffer was ﬁnally out-bluffed. Mountbatten speciﬁcally instructed him that when he was asked for the League’s agreement the next morning, he did not have to speak, but must ‘in no circumstance contradict’, and should merely nod his head when the question was put to him.
The meeting next day passed off as planned; Jinnah fulﬁlled his promise. Thus arose the strange circumstance that in the crucial meeting, Jinnah never verbally consented to Plan Partition. Mountbatten, Nehru, Jinnah and Baldev Singh for the Sikhs each spoke on All-India Radio that night. Only Mountbatten was truly pleased; only Jinnah was downbeat. His language was sombre, and he appealed not for celebration but for calm, emphasizing that decisions had still to be taken, coolly and with earnest consideration. He represented the deal not as a ﬁnal agreement but as another step in the process.
In this, he was actually correct. It should be noted that the agreement to enter a process to hand over power that might also result in Partition. There were still votes to be conducted in four provinces, two of which were voting on Partition as well as membership of Pakistan. There was to be a referendum in NWFP and a Shah Jirga, or grand tribal council, in Baluchistan. But Mountbatten was not deﬂected by these details; on 4 June he announced that independence would come on 15 August.”