Colonial & Postcolonial Literature
The Partition of India
"A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance." -Jawarhalal Nehru
14 August, 1947, saw the birth of the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan. At midnight the next day India won its freedom from colonial rule, ending nearly 350 years of British presence in India. During the struggle for freedom, Gandhi had written an appeal "To Every Briton" to free their possessions in Asia and Africa, especially India (Philips and Wainwright, 567). The British left India divided in two. The two countries were founded on the basis of religion, with Pakistan as an Islamic state and India as a secular one.
Whether the partition of these countries was wise and whether it was done too soon is still under debate. Even the imposition of an official boundary has not stopped conflict between them. Boundary issues, left unresolved by the British, have caused two wars and continuing strife between India and Pakistan.
The partition of India and its freedom from colonial rule set a precedent for nations such as Israel, which demanded a separate homeland because of the irreconcilable differences between the Arabs and the Jews. The British left Israel in May 1948, handing the question of division over to the UN. Un-enforced UN Resolutions to map out boundaries between Israel and Palestine has led to several Arab-Israeli wars and the conflict still continues.
1600-British East India Company is established.
1857-The Indian Mutiny or The First War of Independence.
1858-The India Act: power transferred to British Government.
1885-Indian National Congress founded by A. O. Hume to unite all Indians and strengthen bonds with Britain.
1905-First Partition of Bengal for administrative purposes. Gives the Muslims a majority in that state.
1906-All India Muslim League founded to promote Muslim political interests.
1909-Revocation of Partition of Bengal. Creates anti-British and anti-Hindu sentiments among Muslims as they lose their majority in East Bengal.
1916-Lucknow Pact. The Congress and the League unite in demand for greater self-government. It is denied by the British.
1919-Rowlatt Acts, or black acts passed over opposition by Indian members of the Supreme Legislative Council. These were peacetime extensions of wartime emergency measures. Their passage causes further disaffection with the British and leads to protests. Amritsar Massacre. General Dyer opens fire on 20,000 unarmed Indian civilians at a political demonstration against the Rowlatt Acts. Congress and the League lose faith in the British.
1919-Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (implemented in 1921). A step to self-government in India within the Empire, with greater provincialisation, based on a dyarchic principle in provincial government as well as administrative responsibility. Communal representation institutionalised for the first timeas reserved legislative seats are allocated for significant minorities.
1920-Gandhi launches a non-violent, non-cooperation movement, or Satyagraha, against the British for a free India.
1922-Twenty-one policemen are killed by Congress supporters at Chauri -Chaura. Gandhi suspends non-cooperation movement and is imprisoned.
1928-Simon Commission, set up to investigate the Indian political environment for future policy-making, fails as all parties boycott it.
1929-Congress calls for full independence.
1930-Dr. Allama Iqbal, a poet-politician, calls for a separate homeland for the Muslims at the Allahabad session of the Muslim League. Gandhi starts Civil Disobedience Movement against the Salt Laws by which the British had a monopoly over production and sale of salt.
1930-31-The Round Table conferences, set up to consider Dominion status for India. They fail because of non-attendance by the Congress and because Gandhi, who does attend, claims he is the only representative of all of India.
1931-Irwin-Gandhi Pact, which concedes to Gandhi's demands at the Round Table conferences and further isolates Muslim League from the Congress and the British.
1932-Third Round Table Conference boycotted by Muslim League. Gandhi re-starts civil disobedience. Congress is outlawed by the British and its leaders.
1935-Government of India Act: proposes a federal India of political provinces with elected local governments but British control over foreign policy and defence.
1937-Elections. Congress is successful in gaining majority.
1939-Congress ministries resign.
1940-Jinnah calls for establishment of Pakistan in an independent and partitioned India.
1942-Cripps Mission o India, to conduct negotiations between all political parties and to set up a cabinet government. Congress adopts Quit India Resolution, to rid India of British rule. Congress leaders arrested for obstructing war effort.
1942-43-Muslim League gains more power: ministries formed in Sind, Bengal and North-West Frontier Province and greater influence in the Punjab.
1944-Gandhi released from prison. Unsuccessful Gandhi-Jinnah talks, but Muslims see this as an acknowledgment that Jinnah represents all Indian Muslims.
1945-The new Labour Government in Britain decides India is strategically indefensible and begins to prepare for Indian independence. Direct Action Day riots convince British that Partition is inevitable.
1946-Muslim League participates in Interim Government that is set up according to the Cabinet Mission Plan.
1947-Announcement of Lord Mountbatten's plan for partition of India, 3 June. Partition of India and Pakistan, 15 August. Radcliffe Award of boundaries of the nations, 16 August.
1971-East Pakistan separates from West Pakistan and Bangladesh is born.
Reasons for Partition
By the end of the 19th century several nationalistic movements had started in India. Indian nationalism had grown largely since British policies of education and the advances made by the British in India in the fields of transportation and communication. However, their complete insensitivity to and distance from the peoples of India and their customs created such disillusionment with them in their subjects that the end of British rule became necessary and inevitable.
However, while the Indian National Congress was calling for Britain to Quit India, the Muslim League, in 1943, passed a resolution for them to Divide and Quit. There were several reasons for the birth of a separate Muslim homeland in the subcontinent, and all three parties-the British, the Congress and the Muslim League-were responsible.
The British had followed a divide-and-rule policy in India. Even in the census they categorised people according to religion and viewed and treated them as separate from each other. They had based their knowledge of the peoples of India on the basic religious texts and the intrinsic differences they found in them instead of on the way they coexisted in the present. The British were also still fearful of the potential threat from the Muslims, who were the former rulers of the subcontinent, ruling India for over 300 years under the Mughal Empire. In order to win them over to their side, the British helped establish the M.A.O. College at Aligarh and supported the All-India Muslim Conference, both of which were institutions from which leaders of the Muslim League and the ideology of Pakistan emerged. As soon as the League was formed, they were placed on a separate electorate. Thus the idea of the separateness of Muslims in India was built into the electoral process of India.
There was also an ideological divide between the Muslims and the Hindus of India. While there were strong feelings of nationalism in India, by the late 19th century there were also communal conflicts and movements in the country that were based on religious communities rather than class or regional ones. Some people felt that the very nature of Islam called for a communal Muslim society. Added to this were the memories of power over the Indian subcontinent that the Muslims held on to, especially those in the old centers of Mughal rule. These memories might have made it exceptionally diffficult for Muslims to accept the imposition of colonial power and culture. They refused to learn English and to associate with the British. This was a severe drawback for them as they found that the Hindus were now in better positions in government than they were and thus felt that the British favored Hindus. The social reformer and educator, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who founded M.A.O. College, taught the Muslims that education and cooperation with the British was vital for their survival in the society. Tied to all the movements of Muslim revival was the opposition to assimilation and submergence in Hindu society. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was also the first to conceive of a separate Muslim homeland.
Hindu revivalists also deepened the chasm betweent he two nations. They resented the Muslims for their former rule over India. Hindu revivalists rallied for a ban on the slaughter of cows, a cheap source of meat for the Muslims. They also wanted to change the official script form the Persian to the Hindu Devanagri script, effectively making Hindi rather than Urdu the main candidate for the national language.
Congress made several mistakes in their policies which further convinced the League that it was impossible to live in a undivided India after freedom from colonial rule because their interests would be completely suppressed. One such policy was the institution of the "Bande Matram," a national anthem which expressed anti-Muslim sentiments, in the schools of India where Muslim children were forced to sing it.
The Muslim League gained power also due to the Congress. The Congress banned any support for the British during the Second World War. However the Muslim League pledged its full support, which found favour form them from the British, who also needed the help of the largely Muslim army. The Civil Disobedience Movement and the consequent withdrawal of the Congress party from politics also helped the league gain power, as they formed strong ministries in the provinces that had large Muslim populations. At the same time, the League actively campaigned to gain more support from the Muslims in India, especially under the guidance of dynamic leaders like Jinnah.
There had been some hope of an undivided India, with a government consisting of three tiers along basically the same lines as the borders of India and Pakistan at the time of Partition. However, Congress' rejection of the interim government set up under this Cabinet Mission Plan in 1942 convinced the leaders of the Muslim League that compromise was impossible and partition was the only course to take.
Impact and Aftermath of Partition
"Leave India to God. If that is too much, then leave her to anarchy." --Gandhi, May 1942
The partition of India left both India and Pakistan devastated. The process of partition had claimed many lives in the riots. Many others were raped and looted. Women, especially, were used as instruments of power by the Hindus and the Muslims; "ghost trains" full of severed breasts of women would arrive in each of the newly-born countries from across the borders.
15 million refugees poured across the borders to regions completely foreign to them, for though they were Hindu or Muslim, their identity had been embedded in the regions where there ancestors were from. Not only was the country divided, but so were the provinces of Punjab and Bengal, divisions which caused catastrophic riots and claimed the lives of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike.
Many years after the partition, the two nations are still trying to heal the wounds left behind by this incision to once-whole body of India. Many are still in search of an identity and a history left behind beyond an impenetrable boundary. The two countries started of with ruined economies and lands and without an established, experienced system of government. They lost many of their most dynamic leaders, such as Gandhi, Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, soon after the partition. Pakistan had to face the separation of Bangladesh in 1971. India and Pakistan have been to war twice since the partition and they are still deadlocked over the issue of possession of Kashmir. The same issues of boundaries and divisions, Hindu and Muslim majorities and differences, still persist in Kashmir.
Literature and Film Dealing with the Partition of India
Bhalla, Alok, ed. Stories About the Partition of India. 3 vols. New Delhi: Harper Collins, 1994.
Desai, Anita. Clear Light of Day. New York: Penguin, 1980.
Garam Hawa ('Hot Air'). Dir. M.S. Sathyu. With Balraj Bahni, Geeta Siddarth, Jalal Agha, and Farouque Shaikh. Unit 3 MM, 1973.
Ghosh, Amitav. The Shadow Lines. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.
Kesavan, Mukul. Looking Through Glass. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1995.
Manto, Sadaat Hassan. Best of Manto. Ed. and Trans. Jai Ratan. Lahore: Vanguard, 1990.
Rushdie, Salman. Midnight's Children. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Sahni, Bhisham. Tamas. New Delhi: Panguin, 1974.
Sidhwa, Bapsi. Cracking India. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1991.
Singh, Khushwant. Train to Pakistan. New York: Grove Press, 1956.
Brittanica Online: India. http://www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=macro/5003/4/toc.html
History Today: India and the British http://www.historytoday.com/today/0997/main.stm
Itihaas: Chronology-Modern India-1757 AD to 1947 AD http://www.itihaas.com/modern/index.html
Celebrating 50 Years of Freedom http://www.indiaconnect.com/freedom/jun0347.htm
Indolink Analysis: The Ideology of Pakistan http://www.indolink.com/Analysis/pakIdlgy.html
TIME Essay: Hurrying Midnight http://www.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/1997/int/970811/spl.midnight.html
Hindu and Muslim: The Gospel of Hate http://electron.rutgers.edu/~myadav/war71/wall/dec6c.html
The Salt Lake Tribune: Train to Pakistan deals with Early days of Indian Independence http://www.sltrib.com/97/aug/081097/arts/31245.htm
India at Five-O http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~sonali/rushdie.html
Light at a Half Century's End? http://archive.abcnews.com/sections/world/indiapak814/index.html
Fragments of Imagination: Rethinking the Literary in Historiography through Narratives of India's Partition http://18.104.22.168/jouvert/issue2/Didur.htm
Contemporary Conflicts: Kashmir http://www.cfcsc.dnd.ca/links/wars/kash.html
BBC News Online: World Analysis Arab-Israeli Partition: a Middle East Milestone http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/world/analysis/newsid_35000/35484.stm
Azad, Maulana Abul Kalam. India Wins Freedom. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1960.
Hasan, Mushirul, ed. India's Partition: Process, Strategy and Mobilization. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.
Kanitkar, V.P. The Partition of India. East Sussex: Wayland, 1987.
Lord Birdwood. India and Pakistan: A Continent Decides. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1954.
Philips and Wainwright, eds. The Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives 1935-1947. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1970.
Sharma, Kamalesh. Role of Muslims in Indian Politics (1857-1947). New Delhi: InterIndia, 1985.
The Greatest Migration: Photographer Margaret Bourke-White Captures the endless sufferings of a nation divided and the subsequent mass migration in this famous photograph (© 1947 Margaret Bourke-White, Life Magazine), first published 58 years ago in LIFE Magazine.
Britain's holdings on the Indian subcontinent were
granted independence in 1947 and 1948, becoming four new independent states:
India, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Pakistan (including East
Pakistan, modern-day Bangladesh).
The Partition of India
THE Partition of India ranks, beyond a doubt, as one of the 10 greatest tragedies in human history. It was not inevitable. India's independence was inevitable; but preservation of its unity was a prize that, in our plural society, required high statesmanship. That was in short supply. A mix of other reasons deprived us of that prize - personal hubris, miscalculation, and narrowness of outlook.
While Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League bear heavy responsibility - since they demanded and pressed for Pakistan - the Congress cannot escape blame. Least of all the hypocritical Sangh Parivar. Its chief mentor V.D. Savarkar formulated the two-nation theory in his essay Hindutva, published in 1923, 16 years before Jinnah came up with it. The Hindu Mahasabha leader Lala Lajpat Rai wrote in The Tribune of December 14, 1924:
"Under my scheme the Muslims will have four Muslim States: (1) The Pathan Province or the North-West Frontier; (2) Western Punjab (3) Sindh and (4) Eastern Bengal. If there are compact Muslim communities in any other part of India, sufficiently large to form a province, they should be similarly constituted. But it should be distinctly understood that this is not a united India. It means a clear partition of India into a Muslim India and a non-Mulsim India." This was 16 years before the League adopted the Pakistan Resolution in Lahore, on March 23, 1940 (emphasis added, throughout). Prof. Muhammad Aslam Malik claims: "The present study concentrates only on how the resolution was shaped. It deals with the subject exhaustively and explains some of the intriguing questions objectively... Nevertheless, it is not the last word on the subject." This stroke of modesty is preceded by a sustained belittling of all others who wrote on the subject. In bringing to light important archival material, the author renders high service. In proceeding to analyse them, however, he only amuses the reader when his aim, apparently, is to enlighten him. One who can confidently assert that B. Shiva Rao was "the proprietor of The Hindu", that the hill-station Matheran, which Jinnah loved, was an "island", and that Sir Chimanlal Setalvad was a Parsi, can assert anything. He draws freely on his imagination. "It can be imagined that Jinnah would have agreed to favour Sir Sikandar only when the latter agreed to support the League's Pakistan proposition, which he had vehemently opposed at the Delhi meeting of the Working Committee. It can also be visualised that, for the sake of saving his face, Sikandar should have demanded the inclusion of some of his suggestions in the 'outline'..."
The author is out to prove a thesis which some people in India also espouse - Jinnah was for Partition from the mid-1930s and the Lahore Resolution was not a bargaining counter. He thinks that his leader is belittled if the contrary is averred. One is reminded of the judge who said "this court may often be in error, but it is never in doubt."
There were four forces at work then. The historians of the Hindu Right, R.C. Majumdar and A.K. Majumdar, refer in Struggle for Freedom (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; 1969; page 611) "to one factor which was responsible to a very large extent for the emergence of the idea of Partition of India on communal lines. This was the Hindu Mahasabha..." Recently, the veteran socialist Prem Bhasin wrote: "The ease with which a large number of Congressmen and women - small, big and bigger still - have walked into the RSS-BJP boat and sailed with it is not a matter of surprise. For, there has always been a certain affinity between the two. A large and influential section in the Congress sincerely believed even during the freedom struggle that the interests of Hindu Indians could not be sacrificed at the altar of a united Independent India. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Lala Lajpat Rai had, for instance, actually broken away from the Congress and founded the Nationalist Party which contested elections against the Congress in the mid-twenties" (Janata; Annual Number, 1998). G.B. Pant was the architect of the Ayodhya problem.
Gandhi and Nehru opposed such elements doggedly, but they were not prepared to relent on their preference for a centralised federation. Meanwhile, the Muslim Right had begun to play with the Partition idea since Iqbal's famous address to the League session in 1931. But his group of Muslim provinces was confined to western India as a member of the Indian Union. Jinnah did not subscribe to such schemes. He was a belated convert and for tactical reasons.
Both the Congress and the League were opposed to the federal part of the Government of India, 1935. Nehru wrote to Rajendra Prasad on July 21, 1937: "During the General Election in U.P. there was not any conflict between the Congress and the Muslim League. It was the decision of both the parties to avoid conflict as much as possible and to accommodate each other." In October 1937, the League adopted as its objective complete independence and became a mass party. That that round of the Congress-League parleys for coalition failed was bad enough. Far worse, as Tej Bahadur Sapru wrote to Shiva Rao, was the behaviour of Congress Ministries. Jinnah's talks with Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose failed dismally. The Congress took a fateful step. It began advocating the establishment of a Constituent Assembly as a solution to the problem. As K.M. Panikkar pointed out in a brilliant memorandum, dated October 10, 1945, no such Assembly can succeed except on the basis of a Congress-League accord and unless "a procedure of bringing the parties together on some minimum basis of agreement is evolved before the Constituent Assembly meets."
In 1939 the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, asked Jinnah whether he had "a constructive policy", any alternative to the Assembly which Jinnah dreaded because he was certain to be outvoted there. The Viceroy invited Jinnah for talks on March 2, 1939. In these talks, Jinnah, despite his opposition to federation, presented his conditions for accepting it. He told the Viceroy that "the only form of federation which would appeal to him would be one that contained what he described as an equipoise." By this he meant, as Jinnah himself explained, "an adjustment of votes and of territorial division which would give a Hindu-Muslim balance." He added that this equipoise was to be "obtained by a certain degree of gerrymandering" - weightage of votes or seats. Various variants of the Pakistan scheme were then under active consideration within the Muslim League. The Premier of Punjab Sir Sikander Hayat Khan's scheme sought the division of India into autonomous "zones" within a federal India.
The League appointed two bodies. A foreign committee was set up in December 1938 and a constitutional subcommittee was set up in March 1939. Authors of the various schemes cooperated with both. Jinnah "told the Muslim League Council, on April 8, 1939, 'There were several schemes in the field including that of dividing the country into Muslim and Hindu India', but the (Sub) Committee was not pledged to any particular scheme."
On September 11, 1939, the Viceroy announced suspension of the federal part of the Act. Jinnah, true to form, kept his counsel to himself. For the first time he propounded the theory that Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate nations in India. In an article in the journal Time and Tide of London (January 19, 1940) Jinnah asserted that "there are in India two nations, who both must share the governance of their common motherland". This implied clearly a pact to govern a united India. The theory was aimed at asserting a claim to equality in standing. Only two months later in Lahore on March 23, 1940 the Muslim League demanded Partition in a Resolution which did not mention the two-nation theory at all. The omission is all the more remarkable for the fact that the theory very much figured in the Resolution adopted by the League's Working Committee on February 6, 1940. Its five points provided "the outline" of the Pakistan proposal.
It was based on draft prepared by the Foreign Committee on February 1, 1940 at a meeting with the authors of schemes. The Constitutional Sub-Committee had apparently gone into hibernation. The text of the League's draft is appended to the book (Appendix C). When Jinnah met the Viceroy on February 6 he argued that "he and his friends were disposed, on the whole, to take the view that to publish in full their fundamental opinion as to the constructive steps to be taken for the future, would at this stage, from their standpoint, be inadvisable since it would needlessly expose surface (sic) to criticism". But Linlithgow pressed him to provide his alternative scheme.
THE League's historic Lahore session met in Lahore on March 21. The next day proved crucial as the Working Committee deliberated on the Pakistan resolution. The first preliminary draft, which the Subjects Committee discussed on March 23 for adoption by the session in the plenary, provided for an All-India Centre. The provisions read thus: "(e) That the regions may, in turn, delegate to a Central agency, which for the convenience may be designated the Grand Council of the United Dominions of India, and on such terms as may be agreed upon, provided that such functions shall be administered through Committee on which all regions (dominions) and interests will be duly represented and their actual administration will be entrusted to the Units. (f) That no decision of this Central Agency will be effective or operative unless it is carried by at least a two-thirds majority. (g) That in the absence of agreement with regard to the constitution, functions and scope of the Grand Council of the United Dominions of India, cited above, the regions (dominions), (9) shall have the right to refrain from or refuse to participate in the proposed Central structure... (i) That the peace-time composition of the Indian Army shall continue on the same bases as existed on the 1st April, 1937." (Appendix D).
The author need not have lost himself in reverie, as he does on the fate of this draft. He should have consulted Evolution of Pakistan edited by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada (Royal Book Co, Karachi; 1995). He has reproduced in facsimile the draft prepared by Sir Sikandar with corrections therein by Jinnah, Malik Barkat Ali, an opponent of Sikandar, and others. There is a bracket suggesting omission of clauses (e) (f) and (g) concerning the Centre.
This explains Sikandar's speech in the Punjab Assembly on March 11, 1941. "I have no hesitation in admitting that I was responsible for drafting the original Resolution. But let me make it clear that the Resolution which I drafted was radically amended by the Working Committee, and there is a wide divergence between the Resolution I drafted and the one that was finally passed. The main difference between the two Resolutions is that the latter part of my Resolution, which related to the Centre and coordination of the activities of the various units, was eliminated." He, however, continued to remain a Leaguer.
But the Resolution as adopted contained a significant paragraph at the end. "This session further authorises the Working Comm-ittee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers such as defence, external affairs, communication, customs and such other matters as may be necessary." In his masterpiece Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946), Dr. B.R. Ambedkar reproached Gandhi for not putting searching questions to Jinnah on the text when they met in 1944. "What does the word 'finally', which occurs in the last para of the Lahore Resolution, mean? Did the League contemplate a transition period in which Pakistan will not be an independent and sovereign State?" (page 411)
Ayesha Jalal holds: "By apparently repudiating the need for any centre, and keeping quiet about its shape, Jinnah calculated that when eventually the time came to discuss an all-India federation, British and Congress alike would be forced to negotiate with organised Muslim opinion, and would be ready to make substantial concessions to create or retain that centre. The Lahore resolution should therefore be seen as a bargaining counter, which had the merit of being acceptable (on the face of it) to the majority-province Muslims, and of being totally unacceptable to the Congress and in the last resort to the British also. This, in turn, provided the best insurance that the League would not be given what it now apparently was asking for, but which Jinnah in fact did not really want" (The Sole Spokesman; page 57).
Meanwhile, the Foreign Committee soldiered along to produce the "scheme of constitution" promised in the last para and submitted its Report dated December 23, 1940 to Jinnah. It said:
"The Lahore resolution of the League does not look forward to the proposed regional states assuming immediately, as they are formed, powers of defence, external affairs, communication, customs, etc. This argues that there should be a transitional stage during which these powers should be exercised by some agency common to them all...
Jinnah disowned it and even repudiated the Committee's locus standi. (For the text of the Report vide The Pakistan Issue edited by Nawab Nazir Yar Jang Bahadur; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore; 1943; pp 73-92). It was not unanimous. A leak to the press created a sharp controversy. But these lines in the Report showed keen perception: "A common coordinating agency would be necessary...; for, under the third principle of the Resolution, it will be impossible to implement effectively the provisions of safeguards for minorities without some organic relationship subsisting between the States... an agreed formula has to be devised whereby the Muslims shall share the control at the Centre on terms of perfect equality with the non-Muslims" (page 88). In plain words, Pakistan would spell the ruin of Indian Muslims unless it had an "organic relationship" with the rest of India.
Jinnah did not wish publicly to concede a Centre. Confident of his tactical skills, not unjustifiably, he thought he would, when the chips were down, "pull it off". He miscalculated. The Congress was not interested in sharing power. His abrasive rhetoric impaired his credentials as an interlocutor. Nehru wrote in his jail diary on December 28, 1943: "Instinctively I think it is better to have Pakistan or almost nothing if only to keep Jinnah far away and not allow his muddled and arrogant head from (sic) interfering continually in India's progress" (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; First Series; Vol.13; page 324). He accurately predicted: "I cannot help thinking that ultimately the Muslims of India will suffer most" (ibid; page 24).
That Jinnah's adherence to the Resolution of March 23, 1940, with its tantalising last para, was tentative emerges clearly from a consistent record of concessions on his part. Muslim leaders in U.P. like Chaudhury Khaliquzzaman and the Nawab of Chhatari expressed disquiet. On October 22, 1940, Jinnah asked Chhatari to come out "with a definite scheme of his own" and promised that he would bear that scheme in mind while making a final decision in this regard (page 200). Chhatari suggested that "We must get as many Hindus out of the Congress as possible to join hands with us". His suggestion clearly implied establishment of an all-India federation. The League was not unanimous on Pakistan even after the Lahore resolution.
Chundrigar, a Leaguer close to Jinnah, told H.V. Hodson, the Reforms Commissioner, in April 1940 that the object of the Lahore Resolution was not to create "Ulsters" but to achieve "two nations... welded into united India on the basis of equality". It was, he added, an alternative to majority rule; not a bid to destroy India's unity. Jinnah himself told Nawab Mohammed Ismail Khan, one of the few who thought for himself, in November 1941, that he could not come out with these truths "because it is likely to be misunderstood especially at present". But, "I think Mr. Hodson finally understands as to what our demand is". Hodson regarded it as a bid for a set-up on "equal terms" motivated by the fear that Muslims might be reduced to being "a Cindrella with trade union rights and a radio in the kitchen but still below stairs."
UNFORTUNATELY, the author's work does not take note of Prof. R.J. Moore's work Endgame of Empire published in 1983, in which he refers to a file in the Jinnah Papers in the Government of Pakistan's archives containing his correspondence with Cripps in 1942 on "the creation of a new Indian Union". Significantly it is still embargoed.
Jinnah emerged from the polls in 1946 with his representative status established. At his very first meeting with the British Cabinet Mission on April 4, 1946, he demanded Partition; but only to concede foreign affairs, defence and communication to the centre.
On April 25, 1946, he was offered two alternatives - the Pakistan as it came to be established in 1947 and an Indian Union superimposed on groups of Muslim provinces. Jinnah rejected the first and said he would consider the second if Congress did the same. His own proposals of May 12, 1946 envisaged, not Pakistan, but a confederation. If pressed he would have accepted a federation. He did so. He accepted the Mission's Plan.
The Mission propounded its plan on May 16, 1946 rejecting Pakistan and plumping instead for a Union confined to defence, foreign affairs and communication and based on three groups of provinces. It was, an "organic" union with enormous potential for growth.
Jinnah accepted it. Gandhi condemned grouping immediately and persisted in the opposition till the end. The Congress professed to accept the plan but so quibbled on grouping as to wreck the proposals.
THE Cabinet Mission's plan of May 16, 1946, envisaged an Indian federation based on three groups of provinces. The provinces were free to secede from the groups in which they were placed by a vote in the first general election after the scheme took effect. But they could not secede from the Union. India's unity was preserved. All they could ask for was "reconsideration of the terms of the Constitution" - a Sarkaria Commission - after 10 years and no more. It would have been open to provinces of Group A (the States which now form the Union of India) to confer on the Union voluntarily subjects beyond the minimum subjects of defence, foreign affairs and communication. Group B comprised Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan and the NWFP. Far from establishing a "weak" Centre, it would have yielded a strong centre for India of today in a federal union with Pakistan, in which India though had a majority, though confined to defence, foreign affairs and communication.
The plan broke down because the Congress refused to accept this grouping formula. It had 207 members in the Constituent Assembly against 73 of the League. In the crucial Group C, comprising Bengal and Assam, it had 32 members against 36 of the League, in a House of 70, with two Independents. Since the League would have had to provide a chairman to work the group, it would have been left with 35 members against 32 of the Congress. How could the League possibly have prevented Assam's secession? Yet it was this bogey which destroyed the last best chance for preserving India's unity.
As late as March 19, 1947 - less than three months before the Partition plan - the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, wrote to the Secretary of State for India, Pethick-Lawrence, that, having met Jinnah recently, Colin Reid, correspondent of The Daily Telegraph "got the impression that he might accept the Cabinet Mission's plan if the Congress accepted it in unequivocal terms". Mountbatten tried to secure that and failed. The Congress preferred India's partition to sharing power with the League in a united India.
In an interview with Jalal in 1980, a Punjab League leader, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, said that Jinnah never wanted a Pakistan which involved the Partition of India and was all in favour of the Mission's proposals. The Cabinet Mission's Plan was wrecked by the Congress as Chimanlal Setalvad rightly held.
The Congress was not consistent on the Partition. On April 2, 1942, the Congress Working Committee criticised the secessionist idea - only to add: "Nevertheless, the Committee cannot think in terms of compelling the people of any territorial unit to remain in the Indian Union against their declared and established will..." Its election manifesto of 1945 reiterated this principle, thus setting at naught the Jagat Narain Lal resolution, adopted by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on May 2, 1942, which ruled out "liberty to any component State or territorial unit to secede."
Rajaji's formula, in March 1944, accepted plebiscite on Partition in areas "wherein the Muslim population is in absolute majority." On September 24, 1944 Gandhi himself offered Jinnah his plan for "two sovereign independent States" with a Treaty of Separation on defence, foreign affairs, etc. Thus, from 1940 onwards, the trend was unmistakably against India's unity. Both Gandhi and the Congress had accepted the principle of Partition, based on consent of the areas concerned. Time was fast running out on India's unity.
THE British government's statement on December 6, 1946 rejected the Congress interpretation of the grouping formula and ended with these words: "There has never been any prospect of success for the Constituent Assembly except upon the basis of the agreed procedure. Should a Constitution come to be framed by the Constituent Assembly in which a large section of the Indian population had not been represented, His Majesty's Government could not, of course, contemplate - as the Congress have stated they would not contemplate - forcing such a Constitution upon any unwilling parts of the country." This gave the Congress one of two choices - unqualified acceptance of the Mission's Plan or Partition. It preferred the latter. Once again, Gandhi rejected the Plan. He advised Assam not to join the Group (c) with Bengal, retire from the Constituent Assembly and frame its own constitution. "Each unit must be able to decide and act for itself" (Harijan, December 29, 1946).
Richard Symonds describes graphically the havoc that followed Partition. He was a relief worker among the refugees when the massacres took place in Punjab at Independence. Tai Yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya, academics at the University of Singapore, describe the aftermath and its lasting impact on Punjab, especially on Sikhs. The opening chapter on "the celebration of independence" in both countries is, like the rest of the scholarly work, excellently documented. Their comments on Radcliffe's work are devastating. "The Radcliffe Award for the Punjab, a six-paragraph document describing the dividing line between the east and west of the province, 'wobbled from communal to economic to strategic factors', followed no natural dividing features such as rivers or mountain ranges, cut across villages, canal systems and communication lines, in the process separating communities and bisecting homes. Large populations of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs found themselves on the wrong side of the border. It was the same for Bengal, where the boundary created large pockets of minorities in East Pakistan as well as West Bengal. Its impact was tremendous, and the trauma of Partition has left an indelible mark not only on Indo-Pakistan relations but upon the lives of millions of Indians and Pakistanis."
The last chapter is on "the legacies of Partition". They write: "Since the late 1940s Muslim political leaders have realized that 'partition proved positively injurious to the Muslims of India, and on a long term basis for Muslims everywhere'. However, since the 1980s, the community has faced new challenge to its political status as political parties, raising the banner of Hindu majoritarian cultural nationalism, have questioned the very basis of India's secularism. The Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Mosque controversy and the larger, continuing mobilization for Hindutva have profound implications for the future of the community, as several scholarly studies have shown."
The Sangh Parivar's ancestors existed even in the 19th century as Joya Chatterjee's superb work Bengal Divided (1995) establishes. Partition weakened the cause of secularism in India and all but destroyed it in Pakistan.