Unveiling the Freedom Movement
by Anurupa Cinar on 30 Jan 2013 2 Comments

Some sensitive and difficult-to-believe facts of the freedom movement merit our attention, particularly how the Congress, Mohandas Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru planted and nurtured the seed of Pakistan. They did this by actively promoting the Pakistan scheme; and by passively taking several wrong political decisions in their quest for total power in free India. Certainly the demand for Pakistan came from Jinnah and the Muslim League. But Congress gave the Pakistan demand body and shape in the politics of India, while espousing Hindu-Muslim unity. And having come to power, they have orchestrated one of the most successful cover-ups in world history.


The writer believes there are two major landmarks on the pathway to partition, the Khilafat Movement of 1921 which introduced a religious divide into politics; and the Communal Award of 1931 when Gandhi appointed himself as sole delegate to the Round Table Conference (in lieu of 16 delegates); Congress made no effort to oppose the Communal Award and religious divide now entered the Constitution of India. Hindus could only vote for Hindus, Muslims for Muslims and so on. Now, to gain a clear majority in elections, Congress needed to woo Muslims and Muslim appeasement reached new heights from here onwards.


Jinnah pitted his considerable political skills against the Gandhi-Nehru-led Congress, whose thirst for total power was no match for one of the most brilliant politicians of his day. Once Jinnah left the Congress, he had no option but to build a strong Muslim party. In so doing he compromised his secular and nationalist principles. He sacrificed India.


In 1937, Jinnah was extremely suspicious of Gandhi and Nehru, both of whom were riding high as Congress was the only national party of substance and had the support of the Hindu majority. It was bound to be the ruling party in free India. But Gandhi and Nehru always sought absolute power; within Congress itself they brooked no opposition they sought to extend this control over the whole of India. Of course, the communal constitution of India aggravated the Hindu-Muslim struggle. As Penderel Moon, ICS, said, “In essence the struggle [Hindu-Muslim communal struggle] is one for posts and political power between two communities distinguished by religion and culture” (Strangers in India, p 101).


How was power distributed in India in 1937? Congress was the only national Indian party of substance; Jinnah and the Muslim League had yet to develop clout; Savarkar had only just been released from bondage in 1937 and not really back in the political field. This was the moment for the Congress to embrace the Federation plan of the British and bind the whole country, including the Princely States, into one unified force. Viceroy Linlithgow pressed for this, but Congress decided otherwise.


In 1937, the Congress believed both Hindus and Muslims would help it get total control in governing India. But, as RC Majumdar observed, the 1937 elections belied the claims of both the Congress and the Muslim League. Congress was shown to have no contact or influence with the Muslim masses and could not advance any reasonable claim to represent Muslims. Curiously, the Muslim League had a “specially bad record of election success in those Provinces like Bengal, the Punjab, Sindh and North-West Frontier Province where the Muslims formed the majority community, and fared much better in the Provinces which had a strong Hindu majority with a significant and vocal minority.” (History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol. III, p. 551-52)


What is noteworthy is that the Muslims of the very provinces that were hived off to create Pakistan in 1947 had voted for nationalist Muslim parties in 1937. Clearly, a central federation, if created at this time, would have kept India united. The reason, Majumdar notes, is that the Muslim League had no programme distinct from that of other parties and no local influence in any province. Its platform of serving “as a bulwark of defense against Hindu attack” had no appeal in provinces with a Muslim majority. It was only when the Muslim masses learnt to look upon the problem from an all-India perspective that the Muslim League emerged as the most powerful Muslim organization. Jinnah succeeded in developing this political consciousness among Muslims within an incredibly short time.


Congress intransigence, its insistence that Congress represented the whole of India, helped the League. Majumdar believes Jawaharlal Nehru is especially guilty for refusing to come to terms with the Muslim League till the League had by dint of Congress folly attained a position where it could dictate its own terms: “In 1937 his [Nehru’s] outright rejection of Jinnah’s offer of Congress-League Coalition Ministry ruined the last chance of a Hindu-Muslim agreement.”


The years 1937 and 1938 were crucial in Indian history. Congress’ ambitions to acquire total power in India became crystal clear, not to the masses, but to Viceroy Linlithgow, Jinnah, and Savarkar. From this time onwards, the Congress’ chances of total control were on a downward spiral, which increased its desperation; Jinnah set himself against the Congress by wielding Islam as a very formidable weapon; and Savarkar swooped upon the political field to rouse Hindus to save their motherland. This led to Congress indulging in more scheming, creating a vicious circle.


RC Majumdar notes (p. 561) that it was taken for granted in the Report of the Simon Commission and the discussions at the Round Table Conference that the main communities, especially the Muslims, ought to and would be represented in the Provincial Ministries. Having accepted the Communal Award without a protest, it was incumbent upon Congress to accept its dictates. But the Congress High Command was used to ruling Congress like a dictatorship and sought to govern the Provinces in the same manner. So when the Congress decided to accept office it determined that in the Congress Provinces the Ministers should be selected solely from the Congress Party, and offered to include members of the Muslim League on conditions which practically meant its dissolution and merger with the Congress.


No wise statesman could seriously believe the Muslim League would give up its separate identity. The Congress mass contact movement for Muslims also had the approach that Congress alone could dispense patronage. But Jinnah out-maneuvered the Congress High Command and by 1938, Jinnah asserted that the pre-condition for negotiations was recognition that the Congress and the League were the only representative bodies respectively of Indian Hindus and Muslims. Jinnah also made it clear in a letter to Subhash Bose (2 August 1938) that the Congress committee to discuss Hindu-Muslim questions should not include Muslims, something Congress could not accept without stultifying its history as a national organization of Indians of all faith and communities.


Jinnah thus reduced Congress to a Hindu party. In the years that followed, Gandhi and Nehru sought to be rid of him through partition. Nehru wrote in his 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”. How was this seed of Pakistan planted?


The Government of India Act of 1935 called for the formation of a Central Federation. But Congress set itself against the Federation and resisted Viceroy Linlithgow in the endeavour to unite all the Provinces and Princely States, which incidentally would have nipped any thought of partition in the bud. Birla, Gandhi’s mouthpiece, put an unbelievable proposal before the Viceroy: “Birla said that the communal position in India was getting rapidly worse. Congress was aware of it and its leaders were deeply anxious. He then suggested that the best course might be to let the Muslims have their Federation of the North-West. This astonished Linlithgow, who thought at first that Birla was teasing him. When he saw that the suggestion was serious he asked Birla whether he envisaged the perpetuation of British military power to keep peace between Muslim and Hindu Federation…. This was a most interesting conversation. It showed clearly Linlithgow’s dread of partition and therefore his shock at encouragement for it coming from a Hindu.” (The Viceroy at Bay, John Glendevon, p 88)


This conversation took place in 1938. A Muslim Federation of the North-West is nothing but another name for Pakistan. Jinnah’s Pakistan Resolution came in 1940.


In 1939, with the Second World War under way, Linlithgow tried to keep all parties of India happy. He met 52 leaders of various parties to hear a cross-section of opinion and thought of an all-party meeting to make the Central Federation work and get cooperation for the war. He first met the Congress leaders, one by one, as Congress controlled eight out of the eleven provinces. The Congress High Command angled for total control at the center and threatened resigning from the ministries and boycotting of the all-party meeting as a way of twisting the Viceroy’s arm. Gandhi asked the Viceroy for a declaration of British intent and power-sharing with the Congress at the Centre (The Viceroy at Bay, John Glendevon, p 142)


The Viceroy could not do so as the army, critical to the war effort, comprised largely of Muslims, a point Congress never grasped as it continued to oppose the Central Federation. Congress also opposed an All-Party meeting holding that only Congress should be considered in Indian politics. Jinnah felt that a declaration would only increase communal tension. He saw no chance of unity unless Congress gave up the claim to speak on behalf of all parties and recognized the Muslim League as spokesman for the Muslims.


By 1939, Viceroy Linlithgow was in an unenviable position as he had to keep both Congress and the League happy. Walking a tightrope, his attitude toward Jinnah changed, which the latter astutely perceived. Congress was also in a strong position with the Viceroy but lack of political acumen cost it dearly. Congress demanded that India be declared an independent nation, but the British were not going to plan to leave India when they were in deathly combat with Hitler. VP Menon observed that if Congress had only discussed reconstitution of the Executive council, the Viceroy may have gone more than halfway meet it. But in wartime there was no question of converting the Executive Council into a national government. Had Congress joined the Viceroy’s Executive Council at this time, and with Congress ministries coming back into power in the provinces, the political situation would have changed to the advantage of the Congress. Once Congress rejected the offer the Viceroy was in no mood to continue parleys with it. (Transfer of Power, p 97)


On 17 October 1939, the Viceroy issued a statement reiterating that Dominion Status was the goal of British policy, but for the present the Act of 1935 would hold. The Congress Working Committee called this ‘an unequivocal reiteration of the imperialist policy’ and called upon the Congress Ministers to resign, which they subsequently did. Secretary of State Sir Samuel Hoare and the Viceroy offered more powers to Indians in the administration, but Congress was adamant and removed itself from the scene. The Viceroy canvassed the support of the Muslim League, which grew in strength and was joined by the waverers among the Muslims. In March 1940, the League at its Lahore session formally demand for a separate Muslim State.


Even within the Congress, the decision to resign was widely regretted, as it only weakened the bargaining power of the Congress. Henceforth, Jinnah had a veto on further constitutional progress.




By resigning from the Provincial Ministries in 1939, the Congress had put itself outside the political pale. Jinnah now emerged strong and powerful, in the Viceroy’s good books. In March 1940 the Muslim League formally demanded Pakistan. And no sooner than it did so, than the Congress began to push the Pakistan scheme, subtly, but surely.


While researching Gandhi, one noticed his talent for expressing two opposing ideas and making them seem reasonable. For instance: “As a man of nonviolence, I cannot forcibly resist the proposed partition if the Muslims of India really insist upon it.” This is followed by: “But I can never be a willing party to the vivisection. . . .” (Mahatma Gandhi, Dhananjay Keer, p 682)


The Pakistan plan was now insidiously launched. This is what Gandhi said to an Englishman (openly published in his Harijan, May 4, 1940): ‘I would any day prefer Muslim rule to British rule… The partition proposal had altered the face of Hindu-Muslim problem…’ He granted that, “Pakistan cannot be worse than foreign domination.”


By 1942, Congress was done with these oblique references to accepting Pakistan. Jinnah and the Muslim League were becoming a big hindrance in their path. The Congress High Command now made a drastic, treacherous move. “The Working Committee of the Indian National Congress proclaimed emphatically by a resolution at Delhi in April 1942, ‘that the Congress could not think in terms of compelling the people of any territorial unit to join the Indian Union against their declared and established will.’ This historic resolution brought into bold relief the fact that Congress favoured the right of self-determination or secession, i.e, ‘Pakistan.’


Dealing with Congress resolution four years later, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya admitted: ‘It is evident that the passage concedes the division of India into more than one State and gives the go-by to the Unity and integrity of India’. (Keer, p 307) So the Pakistan resolution was passed by the Congress Working Committee in April 1942, five years before Partition and independence. But the All-India Congress Committee was clueless about this treacherous resolution, so the party High Command had to ensure that the AICC also accepted the Pakistan resolution.


Rajagopalachari set to work. On 23 April 1942, Rajaji managed to get two resolutions passed by the Congress members in the Madras legislature. The first recommended to the AICC (which was about to meet in Allahabad) that Congressmen should acknowledge the Muslim League’s claim for separation should they persist at the time of framing the constitution of India. This resolution urged that ‘to sacrifice the chances of the formation of a national government for the doubtful advantage of maintaining a controversy over the unity of India is the most unwise policy’ and it had become necessary to choose the lesser evil. 


But the AICC opposed this sellout on 29 April and adopted a counter-resolution that any proposal to disintegrate India by giving liberty to any component State or territorial unit to secede from the Indian Union or Federation will be detrimental to the best interests of the people of the different States and provinces and the country as a whole and the Congress, therefore, cannot agree to any such proposal.’ (Transfer of Power, VP Menon, p 139)


The Congress High Command however, was adept in getting its way. Dr. Sayyid Abdul Latif of Hyderabad asked Maulana Azad to clarify the status and was told by Azad in his letter of August 6, 1942: ‘No part of the Delhi resolution to which you refer has in any way been affected or modified by any subsequent resolution of the AICC.’ Nehru assured Dr Latif that Babu Jagat Narayan’s ‘resolution does not in any way override the Delhi Working Committee resolution’. (Keer, p 700) Interestingly, all the Muslim members of the AICC opposed the Akhand Hindustan (united India) resolution of the AICC – like the Congress high command.


Two days later, on August 8, 1942, Congress launched the Quit India Movement. The same day, Gandhi wrote to Jinnah and to a Muslim businessman in Bombay that he had no objection to Britain handing over power to the Muslim League subject to certain provisos (Keer, p 708). At the same time, his mouthpiece, Rajagopalachari, was encouraging the idea of accepting Pakistan among the people.


As for the “Quit India” challenge to the Raj, Britain was being asked to go but leave behind her army! Was it independence that Indians run the civil government and some form of British military rule continue? (Keer, p 704). It was left to Rajaji to explain to Gandhi the folly of this stand.


By 1943, the provinces that Jinnah claimed for Pakistan, namely Assam, Sind, Bengal, and the North-West Frontier Province came under League ministries; he already controlled Punjab. Jinnah and the Muslim League were in a very strong position with the British and the Muslims in India. As an aside one may mention that Savarkar, too, had against all odds developed the Hindu Mahasabha into a party of some standing.


The Congress was not in a sound position and Nehru was indiscreet enough to record his frustrations in his jail diary (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; p 324)


Rajaji was actively promoting the Pakistan scheme everywhere. He met Gandhi in the Aga Khan palace and Gandhi blessed Rajaji’s scheme, after which Rajaji offered it to Jinnah in April 1943, but Jinnah did not pay much attention at this stage. Both Rajagopalachari and Gandhi kept this secret (Keer, p 716). By 1944, the whole ugly story spilled out in public, with statements from all the main actors. Rajaji issued a statement on July 16, 1944, from Panchgani: ‘It is now two years since I started work, even though I had secured Gandhi’s unqualified support to the scheme and it conceded all that the Muslim League had ever demanded in its resolution of 1940.’ Though shocked when the scheme became public, Congressmen kept culpably quiet and allowed Gandhi to vivisect the motherland. Gandhi’s personal genuflection before Jinnah makes sad reading, but Dhananjay Keer has done a sterling service in this regard.


When Wavell became the Viceroy, he convened a conference at Simla based mainly on the Bhulabhai Desai-Liaquat Ali pact of 1945, and kept the Hindu Mahasabha out. The Hindu Mahasabha made massive protests against the unjust Simla Conference all over India and even in Simla itself; the conference ended in failure.


Wavell then announced that elections would be held by end of December 1945 at the Central and later on at Provincial level to decide which parties would play a part in governing free India. The winners would negotiate the final deal of independence with the British. This was not a good time for Congress as Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha stood a good chance of capturing the Hindu seats while the League would get the Muslim seats.


But High Command found a way out of this bind, which we shall sum up briefly. Realising that Indians hated the idea of partition, Congress claimed to stand for a united India; it went out of its way to support the Indian National Army soldiers and defend them at their trials (after having called them ‘traitors’). They used dirty tricks to sabotage the Hindu Mahasabha, to the extent that the Hindu Mahasabha president withdrew from the elections! Savarkar being completely incapacitated by ill health could do nothing to campaign for the party and so the Congress foul play succeeded. In the end, Congress won the Hindu seats and the Muslim seats went to the Muslim League.


The Cabinet Mission plan for a Union of India embracing all the provinces and Princely States was the last chance for the united India. Formally accepted by both parties, it was gently sabotaged by Nehru suggesting to the CWC on 6 July 1946 that Congress could alter the plan using its strength at the Centre. Many objective historians concluded that Nehru had destroyed India’s last change of remaining united (RC Majumdar, Vol III, p 770). It was this that led to Jinnah calling for Direct Action and all the tragedy that subsequently unfolded…


Savarkar issued a fervent appeal to Congress leaders on May 29, 1947, urging them not to accept partition and to demand a plebiscite to decide such a momentous issue involving the life and death of the nation and the destiny of future generations (Keer, Veer Savarkar, p 381).


Anurupa Cinar is author of a historical novel, Burning for Freedom, Trafford Publishing, USA, 2012; she lives in Massachusetts and writes and researches for www.savarkar.org. She blogs at www.anurupacinar.blogspot.com and www.anurupacinar.com


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