Partition : Cabinet Mission

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Jinnah | Direct Action | Hindu Radicalism | Cabinet Mission | The Agony 

On 19th February, Attlee in the House of Commons announced the decision to dispatch the Cabinet Mission. The Secretary of State's new year statement and the British Prime Minister's decision to send a Cabinet Mission on 19th February 1946 spoke of Indian Independence coming soon. But rivers of blood were to flow before Indian independence became a reality in mid-1947.

The Cabinet Mission was convinced that Pakistan was not viable and that the minorities autonomy must somehow be safeguarded within the framework of united India. The Mission plan conceived three sections, A - comprising Madras, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, C.P. and Orissa; B - consisting of Punjab, NWFP and Sindh; and C - of Bengal and Assam - which would meet separately to decide on group constitutions. There would be a common center controlling defence, foreign affairs and communications. After the first general election a province could come out of a group.

The Congress and League interpreted the Mission plan in their own way, both seeing it as a confirmation of their own stand. The Interim Government was formed on 2nd September 1946 with Congress members alone with Nehru as the de facto head. This was against the League's insistence that all settlements be acceptable to it. With the battle cry, Lekar rahenge Pakistan, Larke lenge Pakistan Muslim communal groups provoked communal frenzy in Calcutta on l6 August 1946. Hindu groups retaliated in equal measure and the cost was 5000 lives lost. The British authorities were worried that they had lost control over the 'Frankenstein monster' they had helped to create but felt it was too late to tame it. They were frightened into appeasing the League by Jinnah's ability to unleash civil war.

Wavell quietly brought the League into the Interim Government on 26 October 1946 though it had not accepted either the short or long term provisions of the Cabinet Mission Plan and had not given up its policy of Direct Action. 'The Secretary of State argued that without the League's presence in the Government civil war would have been inevitable'.

Jinnah had succeeded in keeping the British in his grip. On 5th February 1947, harried by Muslim League's tactics, nine members of the Interim Government wrote to the Viceroy demanding that League members resign. The Leagues's demand for the dissolution of the constituent assembly that had met for the first time on 9th December 1946 had proved to be the last straw. The developing crisis was temporarily defused by the statement made by Attlee in Parliament on 20th February, 1947. The date for British withdrawal from India was fixed as 30th June 1948 and the appointment of a new Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, was announced.

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