J&K: Dilemma of Accession – Part IB
by Radha Rajan on 11 Dec 2016 2 Comments

Sheikh Abdullah and London got what they wanted; whose interests were Gandhi and Nehru serving?


The bigger questions remain:

-        Why did Sardar Patel, Rajaji and other leaders of the INC not speak up against Gandhi?

-        Why were they helpless in the face of unchecked ascendancy of the Muslim League in India and the rise of Sheikh Abdullah in J&K, and

-        Why could they not halt the disempowerment of the INC and by extension the Hindus of the country vis-a-vis the Muslim League’s stated position to achieve Pakistan?


The only explanation seems to be that Patel, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Rajaji, GD Birla, KM Munshi and Rajendra Prasad, despite serious reservations about Gandhi’s un-nuanced non-violence and experiments with women to test his brahmacharya even in 1946 and 1947 when the country was in turmoil, could not challenge or critique Gandhi’s politics or private life publicly for the real risk of weakening the INC vis-a-vis a determined Jinnah and the Muslim League.


Such was Gandhi’s absolute control of the Congress and his moral authority among ordinary people that, had Gandhi been publicly exposed or challenged, not only would the INC have been rendered leaderless and rudderless, the faith of the people in Gandhi’s infallibility and the hope that he would lead them to freedom would have been destroyed and the consequences of Hindu despair would have been nothing short of cataclysmic.  


Gandhi sabotaged the possibility of peaceful transfer of power; helped Sheikh Abdullah to seize control of J&K


The timing of the Cabinet Mission was a clear sign of surrender by the British government to the inevitable: India could no longer be held by force. Within a month of ending the siege of Imphal, London sent the Cabinet Mission to India in March 1946. The Cabinet Mission came to India ostensibly to devise a mechanism for smooth transfer of power. It comprised three members – Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India; Sir Stafford Cripps, President, Board of Trade; and AV Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty.


The Mission had twin objectives: to devise a Constitution for independent India, and form an interim government or executive council to assist the Viceroy to administer the country until the making of the Constitution, with the rider that the Viceroy would continue to enjoy overriding powers. The proposals were made public in the State Paper of May 16, 1946. It broadly set out the basis and mechanism of Constitution-making and the need for an interim government until the process of Constitution-making was complete. India would be a free country after the Constitution was in place. The important features of the State Paper are:


-        The British Government accepts the anxiety of Muslims to protect their religion, culture and language;

-        The British Government concedes fully the Muslim claim that they fear Hindu domination and hence cannot accept being ruled by Hindus;

-        The Cabinet Mission therefore provides for grouping of provinces into Groups A, B and C which permits grouping of provinces with sizeable Muslim population into Groups B and C allowing the Muslim League political control of sizeable territory;

-        The Cabinet Mission rules out a separate state of Pakistan not only to get the INC on board for the negotiations but also on the ground that the Pakistan of Jinnah’s demand would exist on two sides of partitioned India – Group B on India’s west and Group C on India’s east;

-        The Union of India would have only three subjects under its control – Foreign Affairs, Defense and Communications. All other subjects would vest with the provinces;

-        If any province wished to opt out of the Group into which it had been placed it could do so at the time of the first general elections in independent India;

-        No clause of the State paper could be modified or changed and nothing could be added or deleted without a majority of the representatives of the two major political formations, and a majority of the total representatives present in the Constituent Assembly, agreeing to it;

-        The Cabinet Mission had provided for the Princes and rulers of the Indian States to send 93 delegates to the Constituent Assembly to participate in the making of the Constitution.


Thus, all subjects other than Foreign Affairs, Defense and Communications would vest in the provinces, and the provinces would be free to form larger groups, with their own executives and legislatures, with powers to deal with such subjects as the provinces within that group might assign to them. In this manner, the provinces that Jinnah claimed for Pakistan in the Lahore Resolution of March 1940 could form groups or sub-federations and enjoy a large measure of autonomy approximating to but not quite Pakistan.


Notwithstanding Jinnah’s repeated insistence on carving out the Muslim state of Pakistan, Viceroy Wavell’s ultimatum, that if Jinnah insisted on Pakistan he would get only a truncated Pakistan (Punjab and Bengal would be partitioned too and Assam would be part of the Indian Union), persuaded Jinnah to accept the Mission’s proposal for a three-tier Constitution which allowed maximum autonomy for all provinces within the Indian Union, including the Princely States, which would be prevailed upon to join the Union by sending their representatives to the Constituent Assembly. Jinnah’s, and the Muslim League’s acquiescence to accepting the Mission proposal for maximum autonomy without Partition was a well-planned tactical gesture because Jinnah intended to water the seeds of Partition once the Muslim League came to power in these provinces and after the British quit India.


The State Paper dealt even-handedly with the INC and the Muslim League – it effectively averted the looming threat of vivisection and also gave enough to Jinnah and the Muslim League to force them to accept the proposals. It also issued a direct warning to both parties about the possible catastrophic consequences for the people if, because of the intransigence on the part of one or other of the parties, the Mission were to fail in its objective.


It is not as if Gandhi did not know the possible horrendous consequences of rejecting the proposals or failing to come to some kind of agreement with the Muslim League.


Gandhi welcomed Cabinet Mission proposals and then flipped


The Cabinet Mission came to Delhi in March 1946, and for two months held extensive discussions with the INC, the Muslim League and the Princely States. It made its proposals public on May 16, 1946. The Mission proposals came with the seeds of vivisection; Imperial London was sympathetic to and supportive of Muslim separatism and knew that all that the Cabinet Mission had to do was plant the seed and leave the rest to nature. And yet, within three days of the Mission proposals being made public, Gandhi welcomed it wholeheartedly and absolved the British of any mala fide intention and declared that when the British retreated, they wanted to leave behind a united India!


He said:

“After four days of searching examination of the State Paper issued by the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy on behalf of the British Government, my conviction abides that it is the best document the British Government could have produced in the circumstances. …. The Congress and the Muslim League did not, could not agree. We would grievously err if …we foolishly satisfy ourselves that the differences are a British creation. The Mission have not come all the way from England to exploit them. They have come to devise the easiest and quickest method of ending British rule. The authors of the document have endeavored to say fully what they mean.


“Their one purpose is to end British rule as early as may be. They would do so, if they could, by their effort, leave united India not torn asunder by internecine quarrel bordering on civil war. … Since in Simla the two parties, …., could not come to an agreement, nothing daunted, they descended to the plains of India, and devised a worthy document for the purpose of setting up the Constituent Assembly which should frame India’s charter of independence, free of any British control or influence. It is an appeal and an advice. It has no compulsion in it.”

(An Analysis, New Delhi, May 20, 1946, Harijan, 26-5-1946, CWMG Vol. 91, pp 1-3)


What Muslim League said in June 1946 even before the Cabinet Mission allegedly “failed”


“… The Muslim League having regard to the grave issues involved, and prompted by its earnest desire for a peaceful solution, if possible, of the Indian constitutional problem, and in as much as the basis and the foundation of Pakistan are inherent in the Mission’s plan by virtue of the compulsory grouping of the six Muslim provinces, in sections B and C, is willing to co-operate the constitution-making machinery proposed in the scheme outlined by the Mission, in the hope that it would ultimately result in the establishment of complete, sovereign Pakistan…”

(Resolution of Muslim League Council, June 6, 1946, The Transfer of Power 1942-47, Vol. VII, pp 836-8, CWMG, Vol. 91, Appendix V, page 439)


My book, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation: Gandhi and his Freedom Struggle (2009), was the first attempt to critically evaluate, from a Hindu nationalist point of view, Gandhi’s politics from 1915 when he returned from South Africa until August 1947 when the nation was vivisected. The RC Kak Paper compels me to extend my scrutiny of Gandhi’s politics until January 1948 when an enraged nationalist assassinated him because, after loss of national territory to the newly-created Pakistan in August 1947, and after Pakistan invaded and occupied large territories of J&K in October 1947, Gandhi undertook an indefinite fast to compel Sardar Patel to hand over Pakistan’s share of pre-Partition treasury funds.


My core submissions are that:

-        Total political independence was never the end objective of Gandhi’s so-called freedom movement

-        The three most celebrated political events of the freedom struggle – Civil Disobedience Movement, Salt Satyagraha, Quit India Movement – were only tokenisms and sloganeering in response to the return of Tilak from Mandalay, execution of Bhagat Singh and the meteoric rise of Subhash Bose and the INA – tokenisms for which ordinary people paid with their lives but which did not take a toll of Gandhi and did not further the quest for total political independence

-        That every move Gandhi made politically in three decades benefited only Muslims and Imperial London while Hindus lost their territory, liberty and lives.


Last stage in sabotaging the Cabinet Mission and its catastrophic consequences


While important leaders of the Congress Working Committee may have pretended to the country that they were negotiating actively with the Cabinet Mission on the proposals of May 16, the truth is Gandhi alone was making all decisions on behalf of the INC and by extension on behalf of all Hindus of the country. Muslims had the Muslim League; Hindus had only the INC but Gandhi said the Congress was not a Hindu party. Gandhi selected the President of the INC; had a decisive say in the selection of the CWC; forced Congress Ministers to act upon his advice; and drafted important resolutions of the CWC including the one on the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru when Nehru insisted on going to Srinagar.


After first welcoming the Mission proposals, Gandhi led the Indian National Congress and the Hindus on a wild goose chase, disagreeing first with one and then the second and then all clauses in the proposals. Knowing well that the Muslim League had declared on June 6 to achieve Pakistan by all and every means, Gandhi neither empowered the INC and the Hindus to resist Partition by force nor did he give peace the slightest chance to effect transfer of power. On June 24, Sardar Patel expressed his displeasure at Gandhi’s dilatory tactics.


-        Sardar Patel expresses displeasure to Gandhi about Gandhi’s needless obstructionism – June 24, 1946. “After the meeting…on the way Sardar asked Bapu: “There is a meeting of the Working Committee; what am I to tell them?” Bapu answered that he was not satisfied with the talk with the Cabinet Mission. The Sardar was irritated. “You raised doubts as regards para 19. They have given a clear assurance on that. What more do you want?” (Talk with Vallabhbhai Patel, CWMG Vol. 91, pp 189-190)

-        On June 24, Gandhi forced the CWC to reject the formation of an Interim Government and told the Viceroy to ask the  Muslim League to form the Interim Government; this after the Muslim League made its intention with regard to Pakistan unambiguously clear on June 6.

-        Congress sends letter to Lord Wavell rejecting the Interim Government proposals – New Delhi, June 24, 1946


“The decision was in fact taken yesterday but we felt that it would be better if we wrote to you fully on all aspects of the proposals made by you and the Cabinet Delegation. The Working Committee have been sitting almost continuously and will be meeting at 2 p.m again today. After full consideration and deliberation they have been reluctantly obliged to decide against the acceptance of the Interim Government proposals as framed by you. A detailed and reasoned reply will follow later.” (Draft Letter to Lord Wavell, June 24, 1946, The Indian Register, 1946, Vol. 1, page 173, CWMG, Vol. 91, page 190)


On returning from meeting the Viceroy, a visibly irritated Sardar again asked Bapu: “Were you satisfied?” Bapu replied, “On the contrary, my suspicion has deepened. I suggest that hereafter you should guide the Working Committee. The Sardar replied, “Nothing of the sort. I am not going to say a word. You yourself tell them whatever you want.” (Talk with Vallabhbhai Patel-II, June 24, 1946, Mahatma Gandhi – The Last Phase, Vol. 1, Book 1, page 227, CWMG, Vol. 91, page 193)


(To be concluded…)

Based on Part I of Radha Rajan’s detailed monograph, which may be read here:


Pandit Ramchandra Kak’s paper may be read here:


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