Hi, Everyone! For a long time now I have been thinking of posting this particular chapter of my book Burning for Freedom in small excerpts. I thought the January 26, the Republic day of India, might be a good time to give a thought to the terrible events that took place right before independence.
The year is 1946. Treachery and tragedy were running rampant on Indian soil, beating a direct path to partition and a free India. The Indian National Congress had won the elections (Hindu electorate) with a landslide and the Muslim League had captured the Muslim seats. Free India was to be handed over in the hands of these two parties. Hindu Mahasabha stood nowhere in these negotiations. While many may be aware of the gist of what took place, the actual details are not commonly known. I had to read so many books to nail down the nitty-gritty of it all. This chapter gives a quick run through of the events from August 1946 to June 1947. If anyone is taken over by a feeling of disbelief or feel that I am “re-inventing” history, click here for the documentation.
August 1946-June 1947
fter the elections, Atlee sent three of his cabinet ministers from London to sort out the Indian political mess. The need was pressing. The Indian navy had revolted; the army, too, had refused to follow orders at times. Britain had managed—just—to curb them, but she needed to get out of India, fast! The wrangling and squabbling between the British, Congress, and Muslim League commenced.
An agreement being impossible, the Cabinet Mission announced a plan: formation of a Union of India, embracing all the provinces and Princely States, which would deal with the foreign affairs, defense, and communications along with the power to raise the finances required for them; provinces to be divided into three sections—effectively representing what could be West Pakistan, Hindustan, and East Pakistan; a provincial autonomy to be established by vesting all other subjects and residuary powers in the provinces; a Constituent Assembly to be formed to map out the constitution of free India; and an Interim Government to be formed immediately for the day-to-day running of the country in the transition period, while a permanent deal was negotiated with Britain.
Both parties after a spate of objections and qualifications agreed to go ahead, with reservations, accepting the spirit of the plan. Jinnah put his Pakistan demand aside …! A tenuous, very tenuous, agreement had been reached. There was great hope of saving the integrity of India!
At this very, very delicate juncture in the politics of India, Nehru came out with very unwise—to express it kindly—statements in a press conference. He admitted: that in agreeing to Wavell’s plan, Congress had done nothing more than start a process; they were not bound by any provisos regarding minorities; there was no certainty about grouping of the sections; and the union would have more say in the running of the provinces than was suggested by the Mission.
In effect, he publicly refuted the spirit of the Mission’s plan in toto …! What was the purpose of this move by the Congress leaders? Smashing the hopes of an undivided, United India? Surely they weren’t naïve enough to imagine that Jinnah would acquiesce meekly to this!
Even so, Jinnah did not immediately break the tenuous bond of agreement; he approached Wavell and sought an assurance that Britain would provide a guarantee against the treachery of Congress. Wavell was unable to do any such thing. On July 27 the Muslim League opted out of the Mission’s plan. Declaring that their goal for a Pakistan was back on the table, they announced a policy of “Direct Action” to reach it.
The brutality of Genghis Khan would not be a patch on them as they wreaked vengeance upon the Hindus, they promised!
And indeed, they lived up to their word—while the Viceroy, Nehru, and Gandhi lifted not a finger, official or otherwise, to protect the helpless Hindus.
The next excerpt is on the Direct Action.