National Movement: Towards Freedom & Partition (1939-1947)
1. Second World War and Nationalist Response
Sept 1, 1939: Germany attacks Poland, WW-2 starts.
Sept 3, 1939: Britain declares war against Germany and declares India’s support for war without consulting Indian opinion.
Congress will cooperate in war if –
-> Freedom was given after the war.
-> Some form of genuinely responsible govt was immediately set up.
Sept 10-14, 1939: At CWC meeting at wardha:
-> Gandhi – for unconditional support.
-> Netaji Bose & Leftists – for taking advantage.
-> Nehru – Neutral.
The CWC resolution – No participation unless freedom is granted.
2. Linlithgow’s Statement
-> Britain’s war aim is to resist aggression.
-> All interest groups to be consulted to modify 1935 Act for future.
-> Immediately a “consultative committee” to be formed for advising functions.
3. Congress Response
-> Rejected the proposal as a reiteration of the old imperialist policy,
-> No Indian support to the war.
-> Congress ministries in provinces to resign.
-> But no immediate mass struggle to be launched.
4. Pakistan Resolution – Lahore (Mar 1940)
-> “Pakistan Resolution” passed at Lahore Session of Muslim League.
5. August Offer (Aug 1940)
To get Indian cooperation in the war effort, the Viceroy announced August Offer.
-> Dominion status offered.
-> After the War, constituent assembly to be formed comprising mainly Indian.
-> Minorities’ consent to be essential for any future settlement.
Congress rejected the offer.
6. Individual Satyagrahas (Oct 1940)
-> launched to show the dissatisfaction to the August Offer.
-> 1st- Vinoba Bhave & 2nd- JL Nehru
-> To show that nationalist patience was not due to weakness.
-> To express people’s feeling that they were not interested in the war.
7. Cripps Mission (March 1942) – FAILED
-> Sent due to Japanese threat to seek Indian support for the war.
-> An Indian union with dominion status, with right to withdraw from Commonwealth.
-> After war, a constituent assembly elected by Provincial assemblies to frame the constitution.
-> Any Province not willing to join the union could have a separate constitution & form a separate union.
-> Meanwhile, defence of India to remain in British hands.
The Congress Objected to –
-> Dominion Status
-> Right to provinces to secede
-> No immediate transfer of power
-> Retention of GG’s supremacy.
The ML objected to –
-> Pakistan not being explicitly offered
-> Machinery for creation of CA.
8. Quit India Movement (Aug 1942)
-> Failure of Cripps Offer an evidence of British lack of will to concede Indian demands.
-> Public discontent against wartime hardship.
-> Feeling of imminent British collapse.
-> Indian leadership’s desire to prepare masses for possible japanese invasion.
AICC Meeting- Gowalia Tank, Bombay
-> Quit India Resolution ratified.
Aug 9, 1942: All prominent leaders arrested.
-> Public on rampage- especially Eastern UP, Bihar, Bengal- attacking symbols of Authority.
-> Underground activity to provide a line of command.
-> Parallel governments in Ballia(UP), Tamluk(Bengal) & Satara(MH).
-> Sections participating included youth, women, workers, peasants, govt officials, some communists.
Feb 1943: Gandhi started a fast against the violence of the state.
March 23, 1943: Pakistan Day observed.
Famine of 1943: man-made famine.
9. Rajagopalachari Formula (March 1944)
- ML to endorse Congress demand for independence.
- League to cooperate with Congress in forming provisional govt at centre.
- After the war, Plebiscite will decide whether or not to form a separate sovereign state.
- In case of partition, Common centre for defence, commerce, communications, etc.
- Applicable only if England transferred full powers to India.
10. Desai-Liaqat Pact
- Congress & League nominees to have equal representation in Central Executive.
- Liaqat Ali gave up his demand for a separate Muslim State on the return of parity in the council.
- 20% seats reserved for Minorities.
11. Wavell Plan (Shimla Conference– June 1945)
- With exception of GG & CIC, all members of the executive council were to be Indians.
- Caste Hindus & Muslims were to have equal representation.
- ML wanted all Muslims to be its nominees & claimed a communal veto in the executive council.
- Congress objected to it being painted purely as a Caste Hindu Party.
Wavell’s Mistake: Virtual Veto to ML, which strengthened League’s position(in 1945-46 elections); and exposed the real character of Conservative govt of Churchill.
12. Indian National Army (INA)
Phase 1: Indian POWs handed over to Mohan Singh to recruit them into INA.
- Serious differences emerged between INA & Mohan Singh.
- As Mohan Singh wanted to raise an army of 2 lakh, whereas Japanese wanted a token force of 2000.
Phase 2: Netaji Bose + assisted by Rashbehari Bose & Others in Singapore.
- Set up Provisional Indian Government with HQ @ Rangoon & Singapore.
- Women Regiment called Rani Jhansi Regiment formed.
When INA POWs brought back by Britishers to India after the war to court-martialled, a powerful movement emerged in their defence.
13. Last 2 years of British Rule
Two Basic Strands –
- Tortuous negotiations resulting in freedom & partition, accompanied by communal violence.
- Sporadic, localised mass action.
July 1945: Labour govt comes to power in Britain.
Aug 1945: Elections to Central & Provincial Assemblies announced.
Sep 1945: Announcement of a Constituent Assembly after war.
Change in Government’s Attitude due to –
- Change in global power equation; UK no longer a power.
- Labour govt sympathetic to India.
- Tired British soldiers & shattered British economy.
- Anti-imperialist wave throughout Asia.
- Officials feared another Congress revolt.
Two Main Election Planks for Congress
- Repression of 1942 (expressed in election campaign to glorify martyrs & condemnation of officials)
- Mass pressure against trial of INA POWs.
14. INA Agitation
- Had unprecedented high pitch & intensity for the release of INA prisoners.
- Had wide geographical & social spread.
- Pro-INA surfaced in traditional bulwarks of the British Raj-govt employees & loyalists.
15. Three Upsurges– Winter of 1945-46
National sentiment of INA trials developed into violent confrontations with the authorities.
Stage 1: (Nov 21, 1945) In Calcutta over INA trials.
Stage 2: (Feb 11, 1946) In Calcutta over 7-yr sentence to an INA officer.
Stage 3: (Feb 18, 1946) In Bombay, strike by Royal Indian Navy Ratings.
- Congress did not support these upsurges because of their timing & tactics.
16. Why British Withdrawal Seemed Imminent by 1946
- Success of nationalist forces in struggle for hegemony.
- Demoralisation among bureaucracy & the loyalist section.
- Limitations of British strategy of conciliation & repression.
- Demands of leniency for INA by army men & RIN ratings’ revolt.
- An entirely official rule was impossible.
Main Aim of Govt Policy Now
- A graceful withdrawal after settlement on modalities of transfer of power, & Post-Imperial Indo-British relations.
17. Wavell’s “Breakdown Plan”(May 1946)
- Wavell presented this plan to Cabinet mission in May 1946 => visualised a middle course between “repression” & “Scuttle”.
- This plan envisaged the withdrawal of British Army & Officials to the Muslim provinces of N-W & N-E and handling over the rest country to the Congress. (Making a “Northern Ireland of Pakistan”).
18. Cabinet Mission (Announced on Feb 1946)
To find out ways & means for a negotiated, peaceful transfer of power to India.
- Pethick Lawrence– Secretary of State for India.
- Stafford Cripps– President of the Board of Trade.
- A.V. Alexander– First lord of Admiralty
- Rejection of the demand of full-fledged Pakistan.
- Grouping of existing provincial assemblies into three sections – Section A,B,C.
- 3-tier executive & legislature at province, princely states & union level.
- Provincial Assemblies to elect a Constitutional Assembly.
- Union Of India to deal with defence, communication, external affairs.
- Provincial autonomy with residual powers.
- Communal questions to be decided by a Simple majority of both communities present & voting.
- Princely states free to decide.
- Province free to come out the union.
- Congress claimed that the grouping was Optional,
- While, ML thought that the grouping was Compulsory.
- Mission decided the matter in League’s favour.
- Both ML & Congress accepted Cabinet mission proposals in june 1946.
19. Further Development
July 1946: League withdrew from the plan after Nehru’s press statement, and gave a call for “Direct Action” from Aug 16, 1946.
Sep 1946: An Interim govt headed by Nehru sworn in.
Oct 1946: League joins interim govt & follows an obstructionist approach.
Feb 1947: Congress demands removal of league members; League demands dissolution of CA.
20. Atlee’s Statement (Feb 20, 1947)
- June 30, 1948 as deadline for transfer of power.
- Power may be transferred to one centre or in some areas to existing provincial governments if the Constituent Assembly was not fully representative.
- British powers & obligations vis-à-vis the princely states would lapse with transfer of power, but these would not be transferred to any successor government in British India.
21. Mountbatten Plan (June 3, 1947)
- Punjab & Bengal assemblies to take decision on partition.
- In case of partition, two dominions and two constituent assemblies would be created.
- Sindh would take its own decision.
- Referendum to be held in NWFP & Sylhet district.
- Freedom to be granted on Aug 15, 1947.
- A boundary commission would be set up if partition was to be effected.