The British had refused to offer any concessions to the Indians. Gandhiji and Nehru the two leaders who had steadfastly refused to launch any mass movement as it would have affected the right of those who were fighting the fascists felt that silence is no longer the option. Gandhiji hence put the proposal to quit India before the working committee in 1942.
The need for a mass movement was necessary due to the situation of public discontent against the British for high-handedness and shortage of essential supplies. The British had suffered serious reverses in the war. It had abandoned its possessions in the Far East to the Japanese and people felt that in the event of Japanese occupation same would be done in India too. People had no faith in British rule and were withdrawing cash and valuables from post office savings and banks.
All India congress committee was to meet in Gowalia tank in Bombay to ratify this. Gandhiji addressed the citizens on the ground to do or die and not stop till freedom was won.
- government’s servants needed to quit but they had to show allegiance to the congress
- soldiers too needn’t quit but couldn’t fire on their own people
- students who could remain firm should leave their education
- Farmers who could remain firm and be ready to sacrifice could halt tax and revenue.
- Princely states should declare allegiance to the country and recognize the sovereignty of the people.
This program was to be started after giving the government three weeks of time. But the government was prepared in advance and arrested all top Congress leaders and transported them to unknown destinations.
The headless movement had the following features:
- Violent attacks on government installations
- Workers went on strike; students too boycotted schools and colleges.
- Underground networks of workers were being consolidated. Aruna asaf Ali and Sucheta kriplani were prominent here.
- Movement not led by top leaders
- Congress radio was started and broadcasted news to different cities. Usha Mehta and Ram manohar lohia played important roles in radio.
- The parallel government’s in many parts of the country.
- For the first time, British government servants were sympathetic to the protestors.
- Totally spontaneous movement. But due to heavy repression by the government, it lasted for 8 weeks.
Situation Post World War – II
Post-war, events that were most important was the INA trials and the RIN [royal Indian navy] mutiny.
Indian National Army:
It was formed in 1942 with Indian POW’s in Japan. Subhash Chandra Bose became the president of the Indian independence league and also the supreme commander of INA. He gave the country the slogan of Jai Hind. The names of the Indian brigades were Subhash brigade, Gandhi brigade, and Nehru brigade. The women’s brigade was the Laxmi Bai brigade. The INA won Kohima and marched towards Imphal but after the Japanese surrender, it failed to win. Subhash Bose went to Taiwan and on his way to Tokyo his plane crashed and he died in 1945.
Royal Indian Navy:
The naval ratings struck work due to the racial discrimination met to them, constant abuses, and unpalatable food. The people too joined in due to unpopular British sentiment. Shops were burnt; government establishments were looted and ransacked normal life was paralyzed. RIN mutiny was also seen in other parts of the nation. The revolt by the armed forces had a liberating impact on the public consciousness. Sardar Patel however was able to convince the ratings to surrender.
The British decision to give freedom to the people was hastened by two factors:
- The paucity of English recruits to ICS had led to parity between Indians and British. The Quit India movement and the subsequent RIN and INA protests had eroded the loyalty of the Indian officials. The ICS was considered as the steel frame of the raj was fast weakening.
- The war had taken its consequences and the war-weary bureaucracy was not keen on continuing the British policy in India.
- Loyalist officials were shaken when the government took no action against protestors of INA and RIN. The officials were already dismayed when the congressmen they suppressed in the civil disobedience became their masters in 1937 when the provincial elections took place.
- Officials were further affected when the congressmen demanded inquiries on the excesses committed by officials during the suppression of the 1942 movement.
Due to this, the British felt that if congress launched another movement after the provincial elections then the official machinery could not handle it. The virtual disappearance of loyalty amongst the bureaucracy, army, and police is what led the British to finally quit India. Hence a transfer of power was necessary and with this motive, a cabinet mission was sent to India in 1946.
Cabinet Mission Plan
The British wanted a united India which would be helpful in commonwealth defense and which would have friendly relations with Britain was needed. This thought was also reflected in Attlee’s announcement that a minority shall not be allowed to veto the progress of the majority. The cabinet mission was convinced too that minorities should be accommodated within the existing framework of united India.
Features of the cabinet mission plan:
- Provinces would be divided into three separate groups and each would meet to decide its own group constitutions.
- Union would be a common center controlling defense, foreign affairs, and communications.
- Constituent assembly to frame the constitution. It would have members from princely states, provincial governments [indirectly elected], and nominated members.
The congress interpreted the plan as positive to it since there was no provision for Pakistan and a single constituent assembly to be formed. The league accepted the plan interpreting it to have provisions for a separate Pakistan. However after Nehru declared the constituent assembly to be sovereign, Jinnah withdrew leagues acceptance of the plan.
Wavell’s “Breakdown Plan”
- Wavell presented this plan to the Cabinet Mission in May 1946 which visualized a middle course between “repression” and “scuttle”. This plan envisaged the withdrawal of the British Army and officials to the Muslim provinces of North-West and NorthEast and handing over the rest of the country to the Congress.
- Though superseded by the Cabinet Mission Plan, Wavell’s plan was evidence of British recognition of the impossibility of suppressing any future Congress-led rebellion.
- Desire in some high official circles to make a “Northern Ireland” of Pakistan.
The government however decided to continue with the formation of an interim government with only congress members and Nehru as the de facto head. Jinnah threatened Attlee with direct action day which was communal riots for wresting a separate Pakistan. This led to 5000 deaths and the British feared a civil war-like situation. To prevent this Viceroy invited league members to join the government even though they hadn’t accepted the cabinet mission plan.
ATTLEE’S STATEMENT-FEBRUARY 20, 1947
- A deadline of June 30, 1948, was fixed for the transfer of power even if the Indian politicians had not agreed by that time on the constitution.
- The British would relinquish power either to some form of central government or in some areas to the existing provincial governments if the Constituent Assembly was not fully representative i.e. if the Muslim majority provinces did not join.
- British powers and obligations vis-a-vis the princely states would lapse with the transfer of power, but these would not be transferred to any successor government in British
- Mountbatten would replace Wavell as the viceroy. The statement contained clear hints of partition and even Balkanisation of the country into numerous states and was, in essence, a reversion of the. Cripps Offer.
- The provision of transfer of power to more than one center was acceptable to Congress because it meant that the existing Assembly could go ahead and frame a Constitution for the areas represented by it, and it offered a way out of the existing deadlock.
- But the illusory hopes of a settlement were soon shattered as the statement proved to be a prelude to the final showdown. The League launched a civil disobedience movement to overthrow the coalition government in Punjab, as it felt emboldened by the statement.
Wavell was replaced by Lord Mountbatten who came to speed up the plan to transfer power to the Indians. The Mountbatten Plan of 3rd June 1947 was to transfer power to India and Pakistan. Initially, there would be dominion status for a while till the situation can be controlled. The dominion status was to keep India in the commonwealth as India’s economic strength and defense potential were deemed sounder and British trade and investment had higher potential here. A boundary commission by Radcliffe drew the boundary between India and Pakistan.
MOUNTBATTEN PLAN, JUNE 3, 1947
- Punjab and Bengal would meet into two, groups Hindus and Muslims, to vote for partition. If a simple majority of either group voted for partition, then these provinces would be partitioned.
- In the case of partition, two dominions and two constituent assemblies would be created.
- Sindh would take its own decision. Referendum: NWFP and Sylhet district of Bengal would decide the fate of these areas. Since the Congress had conceded a unified India, all their other points would be met
- Independence for princely states was ruled out, they would either join India or Pakistan. Independence for Bengal was ruled out.
- Accession of Hyderabad to Pakistan was ruled out (Mountbatten supported the Congress on this). Freedom would come on August 15, 1947.
- The British finally left the subcontinent, they chose to hand over power on 15 August 1947. This date was selected by the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, as it was the second anniversary of the Japanese surrender to the Allied Forces in the Second World War. He, and the politicians waiting to take office, were unwilling to delay until the date some others would have preferred – 26 January 1948.
The partition plan was accepted because of the failure of the congress to develop a connection with the masses and stem the surging waves of communalism. The direct action had led to riots and would have continued to do so. The interim government was powerless and had become a field of confrontation. The interim government had failed to check the governors and the provincial governments from abetting riots. The other advantage was that the princely states had to join India or Pakistan. Finally, on 15th August, the day of independence dawned.
The merger of the Princely state of Hyderabad
Hyderabad Freedom struggle [Operation Polo]:
Even though the majority of the population was Hindu it had a Muslim Nizam. The Nizam had appointed a Pakistani as prime minister. He also told Qasim Rizvi a leader of Rajakar to maintain Islamic domination in India. The army finally had to be sent to defeat the Nizam’s forces. In this freedom struggle, Swami Ramanand Teerth [second Shiv Chatrapati] played an important role. He was called the father of the Hyderabad freedom struggle.