Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been a staunch opponent and detractor of Pakistan Movement. He did everything to block Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s efforts for the creation of Pakistan. By 1942 he saw that the cause of the Pakistan Movement ably pleaded by Quaid-i-Azam had progressed very well. On Gandhi’s guidance, the Congress Working Committee in its resolution of July 14, 1942 demanded that the British should leave India and hand over power to Congress representatives so that the Indian armed forces could be stationed in different parts of the world during the Second World War with the approval of the Congress. Otherwise, the Resolution threatened, the Congress would start a non-violent movement “under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi” to achieve its goal of Indian freedom. Opposing this demand of the Congress, Quaid-i-Azam issued a press statement to the Foreign Press on July 31, 1942 by which he said: “The latest decision of the Congress Working Committee on 14 July 1942, resolving to launch a mass movement if the British do not withdraw immediately from India is the culminating point in the policy and programme of Mr. Gandhi and his Hindu Congress of blackmailing the British and coercing them to concede a system of Government and transfer power to that Government which would establish Hindu Raj immediately under the aegis of the British bayonet thereby throwing the Muslims and other minorities and interests at the mercy of the Congress Raj”. This statement of the Quaid upset the entire Hindu Congress leadership particularly C. Rajagopalachari, who was very close to Jinnah. Consoling Rajagopalachari, Gandhi wrote to him that this statement of Jinnah “should not upset” him. When the British did not accept the Congress demand, the Congress started civil disobedience movement in August 1942 by passing “Quit India” movement. The British Government acted swiftly and arrested Gandhi and other top leaders of the Congress and sent them to jail. Gandhi was arrested and shifted to Aga Khan Palace in Poona. Responding to these arrests of the Congress leaders, Jinnah issued a press statement on the evening of August 8, 1942 in which he said: “I deeply regret that the Congress has finally declared war and has launched a most dangerous mass movement in spite of numerous warnings and advice from various individuals, parties and organizations in this country”. L. S. Amery, Secretary of State for India, termed the Congress mass civil disobedience “a deliberate campaign to sabotage” the British “war effort”. In his statement of August 15, 1942, Rajagopalachari appealed to Jinnah for help at a time when entire Congress leadership was in trouble. Jinnah called a meeting of the AIML Working Committee on August 16, 1942 at his Bombay residence and discussed the matter for two and a half hours, after which, Jinnah in a special interview said: “The Muslim League would join a provisional war-time Government if it had equal voice with Hindus and assurance of Pakistan after the war. It would also consider any suggestion for a solution from any authoritative source”.
When Gandhi was in jail, he planned to write to Jinnah in 1944 to entangle him in the dialogue and correspondence with the hope that Jinnah might commit some error. Quaid-i-Azam was also a very watchful leader who fully understood Gandhi’s tactics both in the Indian National Congress and in the AIML. The meetings took place at Jinnah’s Bombay residence in September 1944 followed by a number of correspondences between the two giants thrashing out the points in detail regarding Pakistan.
Finally, having failed to satisfy Jinnah on the points of divergence, in his letter of September 24, 1944, Gandhi tried to persuade Jinnah to accept the principle of not two nations, but of two brothers, a principle to be worked out by a Congress-Muslim League Commission after the departure of the British when “India will be free from foreign domination”. Jinnah fully understood Gandhi’s tactics to delay the creation of Pakistan. Therefore, Jinnah was not ready to accept such a ploy and in his letter of September 25 said: “As a result of your correspondence and discussions, I find that the question of the division of India as Pakistan and Hindustan is only on your lips and does not come from your heart. And now, suddenly, at the eleventh hour you put forward a new suggestion, consisting of two sentences, in your statements, ‘I have therefore suggested a way out. Let it be partition between two brothers, if a division there must be’. I naturally asked you what this new suggestion meant, and wanted you to give me rough outlines of this new idea in terms of as to how and when the division is to take place and in what way it is to be different from the division envisaged in the Lahore resolution, and now you have been good enough to give me your amplification, in your letter of 24 September, it is clear that your terms are in vital conflict with the Lahore Resolution.” In this way Jinnah made Gandhi’s tactics fail.
After the failure of Jinnah-Gandhi talks it was agreed that both leaders would part as “friends” and not as “enemies”. But Gandhi was soon to divulge his real opposition to the Lahore Resolution when in his press conference on September 30, 1944 he made it clear that the type of partition proposed by the Lahore Resolution was an “unnatural division” which he was not ready to accept. Jinnah termed such aspersions on the part of Gandhi against the very spirit of press communiqué issued towards the end of talks jointly by both the leaders.
Lord Wavell, the Viceroy, was depressed in the sense that the political atmosphere of the country had become very tense after the breakdown of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks. Reporting the matter to Amery, Secretary of State for India, on October 2, the Viceroy wrote:
To this assessment of the Viceroy the Secretary of State wrote back in the following words:
Amery was so disappointed that he further wrote to Wavell on October 19 that the failure of Gandhi-Jinnah discussions has “killed all interest in this country”. This was multiplied by Beverley Nichols’ book, Verdict on India, in which Jinnah’s case of Pakistan was successfully pleaded as it considerably influenced the British public opinion and official circles in the United Kingdom. Despite these opinions at the top level of British hierarchy, M. G. Hallett, Governor of the United Provinces, in his report of October 3, 1944, reported: “The Gandhi-Jinnah talks have made the position clearer; they have shown that neither of these leaders have abandoned any of their former ideas; Jinnah emphasizes the Two-Nation Theory and Pakistan more strongly than before, and clearly wants this question finally decided before the British leave; Gandhi, though he camouflages his position as usual, aims at a Hindu Raj and adheres to the view that independence must come before a settlement”.3 He proposed the conference of the leaders to settle this issue under the auspices of the Viceroy.
Lord Wavell was charged by Gandhi and other Congress leaders for allowing the growth of the Pakistan Movement. He was also charged by the Hindu leadership with failing to tackle Jinnah. In return Lord Wavell charged Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders that he arranged a number of their meetings with Jinnah and Muslim League leadership like Gandhi-Jinnah Talks of 1944, Simla Conference June-July 1945, and others but the Congress leadership failed to tackle Jinnah. It was the failure of Congress and Hindu leadership, Wavell held, in not successfully tackling Jinnah that the Pakistan Movement advanced and Jinnah’s ability and leadership became more popular at world level. Wavell also made it clear that the British Government was not responsible for the popularity of Jinnah and the Pakistan Movement. Gandhi, Nehru, and other Congress leaders lobbied to change the Viceroy Lord Wavell. They also lobbied that Lord Mountbatten should join as the next Viceroy who had a very close relationship with Gandhi and Nehru. This was accomplished in March 1947 when Lord Mountbatten joined as the new Viceroy of India.
With the joining of Mountbatten as the new Viceroy, Gandhi and Nehru were hopeful that now they would be able to tackle Jinnah and make Jinnah’s case for Pakistan a failure. They used Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan for this purpose and suggested other steps to Mountbatten as tohow to tackle Jinnah for keeping up the Indian union.
On April 4, 1947 Mountbatten had a meeting with Gandhi who “brought with him as promised Abdul Ghaffar Khan”.4 Before Gandhi’s entering into dialogue with the Viceroy, Ghaffar Khan was urged by Gandhi to give his briefing about the Governor of NWFP whom he charged “of being pro-Muslim League” and the person responsible for making the Government of NWFP “under his brother [Dr. Khan Sahib]”5 as “difficult as possible”.6 Gandhi, when asked by Mountbatten about his opinion on this, agreed with what was expressed by Ghaffar Khan. Going a step forward, Gandhi even accused Sir Francis Mudie, Governor of Punjab, of also being “pro-Muslim League”.7 Though he pleaded neutrality on the part of British officials, but as a matter of fact what Gandhi wanted was to remove all officers favorable to the partition of British India. He wanted the Viceroy to ignore or suppress public opinion of the Muslims and act according to the wishes of the Congress Caucus. In this meeting in New Delhi, Gandhi advised the Viceroy how the issue of transfer of power should be proceeded with. According to this scheme, Jinnah was to be offered Prime Ministership of United India with the “option of forming a Cabinet of his choice”.8 If Mr. Jinnah accepted this offer, the “Congress would guarantee to co-operate freely and sincerely, so long as all the measures that Mr. Jinnah’s Cabinet bring forward are in the interests of the Indian people as a whole.”9 Gandhi also wanted assurance from Jinnah through the Viceroy that “there shall be no National Guards or any other form of private army” of the Muslim League.10 The other aspect desired by Gandhi was that the Muslim League members of the Constituent Assembly would join the Assembly whose verdict, where Congress has “a decisive majority”, would be acceptable to Jinnah and the Muslim League.11 Lastly Gandhi suggested to Mountbatten through Lord Ismay that “if Mr. Jinnah rejects this offer, the same offer to be made mutatis mutandis to Congress”.12
The first proposal floated by Gandhi was discussed in the Viceroy’s Ninth Staff Meeting on April 5 at 10.00 a.m. which was attended by Lord Mountbatten, Lord Ismay, Sir E. Mieville, Abell, Capt Blockman, Campbell-Johnson and Lt. Col Erskine Crum. In this meeting Lord Ismay informed that he put Gandhi’s proposal before Jinnah who “had rejected it”. Then, other aspects of Gandhi’s proposal were also considered but were thought “not workable”.
It was in the background of this preparedness on behalf of Congress and the British Government that Jinnah had his meeting with Mountbatten in the afternoon of April 5 which continued till the next day. In this meeting the Viceroy noted that Jinnah “was in most frigid, haughty and disdainful frame of mind”.13 Replying to Ismay, Viceroy did not put to him Gandhi’s scheme, but he went for the second option. Before this could happen both exchanged rhetoric after their photographs were published in the newspapers which is reported as follows:
As the first option could not work, the Viceroy went for the second option as mentioned above but on this Jinnah warned the Viceroy that if the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan was ignored or any option other than Pakistan was resorted to, British India would perish for which he would not be responsible. The responsibility for this, as a matter of fact, what Jinnah argued, would lie on none but the British who were running the affairs of the State and the Empire. There was only “one solution”, Jinnah suggested, and that was a “surgical operation” of British India. Consciously or non-consciously retorting to Jinnah’s proposal, Mountbatten abruptly said that an “anesthetic” must precede any “surgical option”.15 Thus Mountbatten was forced to confess that he “would of course not recommend any solution which was patently unacceptable”, the remarks which apparently heartened Jinnah.
The Mountbatten Plan was announced on June 3, 1947 by the British Prime Minister Attlee in the House of Commons published at the same time in British India. By this Plan India was to be divided into two parts, one representing in the Hindustan Constituent Assembly and the other in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Bengal and Punjab were each to be divided into two parts – one representing Muslim majority districts and the other Hindu or non-Muslim majority districts shown in the appendix to this Plan.16 For this purpose the members of each of these two Provincial Legislative Assemblies were to meet in two parts and to decide whether the province should be partitioned or not. The areas opting out of the Indian Union would join the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. However, for the purpose of demarcation of boundary between the two states, in terms of this decision, the Boundary Commission would be appointed to decide about the boundary dividing the Muslim majority and non-Muslim majority areas of the province of Bengal and Punjab.
Gandhi’s Suggestions to Lord Mountbatten to Avoid Partition
On June 7, 1947 Lord Ismay submitted his note to Lord Mountbatten in which he conveyed results of his talk with Gandhi the previous night. Ismay felt that these suggestions of Gandhi were “different” from what Mountbatten had previously thought of them. Gandhi had suggested to the Viceroy that the latter should “speak to Mr. Jinnah in the following sense” on four issues mentioned as follows:
Mr. Gandhi asked that if this appeal to Mr. Jinnah was unsuccessful, he (Mr. Gandhi) might be informed of the fact, in order that he might consider the position again. Mr. Gandhi added that Abdul Ghaffar Khan was so anxious about the permanent blood feuds which would result from the referendum, that he would go to almost any lengths, consistent with honour, to avoid it. As the last resort, he would be prepared to advise his brother and his colleagues in the Ministry to resign, and then to ask the Viceroy to put the NWFP under Section 93.
Mr. Gandhi emphasised that he had not discussed the above with his colleagues, and therefore it should not be mentioned to anyone at this stage. Jinnah did not agree to this. Mr. Gandhi suggested that Mr. Jinnah should be advised to try to win over West Bengal and Eastern Punjab by the same methods. He also suggested that H.E. the Viceroy should speak in the following sense to Mr. Jinnah, when he found him in the right mood to listen:
Mr. Gandhi said that there was a lot of loose talk going on about the possibility that Her Majesty’s Government (H.M.G.) might have different agreements with Hindustan and Pakistan which would possibly tend to favour one over the other. It was, therefore, important that an announcement should be made to the effect that it was H.M.G.’s wish either to enter into tri-partite arrangements with both the Dominions, or to have identical bilateral agreements with each of them; and that, in any event, there would be no question of differentiation.17
This plea of Gandhi, as a matter of fact, was a deviation from what has already been accepted under the June 3 Plan of Mountbatten which required sincere and honest implementation. The purpose of Gandhi’s new suggestion was to confuse the issues and to avoid the referendum in the NWFP because the Khan Sahib Ministry was not ready to hold the referendum on account of the emergence of pro-Pakistan popular sentiments in the province. Instead of accepting the popular verdict of the people of NWFP the Congress wanted to postpone or resort to different recourse so that some time could be gained until the pro-Pakistan sentiments subsided.
Mountbatten wanted to go by the Partition Plan of June 3 in an honest way, but Gandhi was demanding that this Partition Plan should not be fairly implemented, because, according to him, in politics fairness does not exist. For this purpose Gandhi wrote a letter to Mountbatten on June 27/28 1947 and complained that it was a “mistake” on the part of Mountbatten that he treated the Congress and League on equal basis in settling the 3rd June Plan.18 Gandhi even charged: “I pointed the initial mistake of the British being party to splitting India into two.” Gandhi submitted the following five opinions for consideration of the Viceroy:
1. The Congress has solemnly declared that it would not hold by a force any province within the Union.
2. It is physically impossible for millions of caste-ridden Hindus to hold well-knit though fewer millions of Muslims under subjection by force.
3. It must not be forgotten that Muslim dynasties have progressively subjugated India by exactly the same means as the English conquerors did later.
4. Already there has been a movement to win over to the Muslim side the so-called scheduled classes and the so-called aboriginal races.
5. The caste Hindus who are the bugbear are, it can be shown conclusively, a hopeless minority. Of these the armed Rajputs are not yet nationalists as a class. The Brahmins and the Banias are still untrained in the use of arms. Their supremacy where it exists is purely moral. The Sudras count, I am sorry, more on scheduled class than anything else. That such Hindu society by reasons of its mere superiority in numbers can crush millions of Muslims is an astounding myth.19
This letter of Gandhi was considered in the Viceroy’s 48th Staff Meeting held on June 28 attended by Mountabtten, Lord Ismay, Sir G. Abell, Christie, Capt Brockman, I. D. Scott, A. Campbell-Johnson, and Lt Col Erskine Crum. The Viceroy read out Gandhi’s letter in this meeting and stated that Gandhi “had completely misinterpreted” the 3rd June Partition Plan. Mountbatten also referred to his meeting with Gandhi in which he tried to explain to Gandhi that if he did not honour his commitment as promised in the 3rd June Plan, “Jinnah would point out to the world at large that Congress’s acceptance of the Statement of 3rd June had not been honest”.20 At this Gandhi told Mountbatten that in the Hindustani dialect the words “fair play” did not exist.21
Mountbatten reiterated that “he was not expecting or demanding fair play; all that he was requesting was a degree of common sense so that Congress would not put them in the position of wrecking an agreement which had been honourably reached.”22
Thus, all the detracting efforts of Gandhi in the final phase of the Movement of Pakistan were made to fail because of the tough stance of Quaid-i-Azam and a degree of fair play by British authorities. However, secretly Mountbatten did favour the Congress, Gandhi, and Nehru on a number of matters on which there was no fear that Jinnah would publicly defame Mountbatten or the British honour of justice and fair play.
The writer is Ex-Director, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, and Professor at Quaid-i-Azam Chair (NIPS), Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.
E-mail: [email protected]
1. Wavell to Amery [telegram], 2 Oct. 1944 in Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon, Constitutional Relations between Britain and India: The Transfer of Power 1942-7, Vol. V, London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1974, pp-62-63.
2. Amery to Wavell, 3 Oct. 1944, in ibid., p.81.
3. Note by His Excellency the Governor of the United Provinces on the Present Political Situation, 3 October 1944, in Zetland Papers, Eur. Mss. British Library (OIOC), London.
4. Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon, Constitutional Relations between Britain and India: The Transfer of Power 1942-47, vol. X, London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1981, p. 120.
5. Author’s parenthesis. Constitutional Relations between Britain and India: The Transfer of Power 1942-47, vol. X, London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1981, p. 120.
7.Ibid, p. 121.
8. Ibid, p. 140.
9. Ibid. 141.
13. Ibid, p. 137.
14. Ibid, pp. 137-138.
16. Ibid, p. 94.
17. Ibid., p. 286.
18. Proceedings of Viceroy’s 16th Miscellaneous Meeting, Thursday, 5 June 1947, in MSS. Eur. Mountbatten Papers, F. 200/106, British Library (OIOC), London.
21. Mr. Gandhi’s Suggestions to HE the Viceroy, in MSS. Eur. Mountbatten Papers, F. 200/84, British Library (OIOC), London.
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