INA Trial, RIN Mutiny and The Cabinet Mission Plan

INA Trial, RIN Mutiny and The Cabinet Mission Plan

Situation after Second World War:

  • Tortuous negotiations involving the Government, Congress and Muslim League, increasingly accompanied by communal violence and culminating in freedom and the partition.
  • Sporadic, localised and often extremely militant and united mass action by workers, peasants and states’ peoples which took the form of a countrywide strike wave. This kind of activity was occasioned by the INA Release Movement, Royal Indian Navy (RIN) revolt, Tebhaga movement, Worli revolt, Punjab Kisan Morchas, Travancore peoples’ struggle (especially the Punnapra-Vayalar episode) and the Telangana peasant revolt.
  • When the Government lifted the ban on the Congress and released the Congress leaders in June 1945, they expected to find a demoralised people. Instead, they found tumultuous crowds impatient to do something.
  • Popular energy resurfaced after three years of repression. People’s expectations were heightened by the release of their leaders. The Wavell Plan backed by the Conservative Government in Britain failed to break the constitutional deadlock.
  • In July 1945, Labour Party formed the Government in Britain. Clement Attlee took over as the new prime minister and Pethick Lawrence as the new secretary of state.
  • In August 1945, elections to central and provincial assemblies were announced.
  • In September 1945, it was announced that a constituent assembly would be convened after the elections and that the Government was working according to the spirit of the Cripps Offer.

Why a Change in Government’s Attitude?:

  • The end of the War resulted in a change in balance of global power the UK was no more a power while the USA and USSR emerged as superpowers, both of which favoured freedom for India.
  • The new Labour Government was more sympathetic to Indian demands.
  • Throughout Europe, there was a wave of socialist- radical governments.
  • British soldiers were weary and tired and the British economy lay shattered.
  • There was an anti-imperialist wave in South-East Asia—in Vietnam and Indonesia—resisting efforts to replant French and Dutch rule.
  • Officials feared another Congress revolt, a revival of 1942 situation but much more dangerous because of a likely combination of attacks on communications, agrarian revolts, labour trouble, army disaffection joined by government officials and the police in the presence of INA men with some military experience.
  • Elections were inevitable once the war ended since the last elections had been held in 1934 for the centre and in 1937 for the provinces.
  • The British would have had to retreat; the Labour Government only quickened the process somewhat.

Congress Election Campaign and INA Trials:

  • Elections were held during the winter of 1945-46. The most significant feature of the election campaign was that it sought to mobilise the Indians against the British; it did not just appeal to the people for votes.
  • The election campaign expressed the nationalist sentiments against the state repression of the 1942 Quit India upsurge. This was done by the glorification of martyrs and condemnation of officials.
  • The brave resistance of the leaderless people was lauded; martyrs’ memorials were set up; relief funds were collected for sufferers; the officials responsible for causing pain were condemned; and promises of enquiry and threats of punishment to guilty officials were spelt out.
  • The Government failed to check such speeches. This had a devastating effect on the morale of the services. The prospect of the return of Congress ministries, especially in those provinces where repression had been most brutal, further heightened these fears. A ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the Congress seemed necessary to the Government.

INA POWs Trial:

  • The Indian National Army trials, or the Red Fort trials, were the British Indian courts-martial of a number of officers of the Indian National Army (INA) between November 1945 and May 1946 variously for treason, torture, murder and abetment to murder.
  • The first, and most famous, of the approximately ten trials was held in the Red Fort in Delhi, against the backdrop of general elections in India, approximately ten courts-martial were held.
  • The first of these, and the most celebrated one, was the joint court-martial of Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon,Major General Shah Nawaz Khan. The three had been officers in the British Indian Army and were taken as prisoners of war in Malaya, Singapore andBurma. They had, like a large number of other troops and officers of the British Indian Army, joined the Indian National Army and later fought in Imphal and Burma alongside the Japanese forces in allegiance to Azad Hind. These three came to be the only defendants in the INA trials who were charged with “waging war against the King-Emperor” (the Indian Army Act, 1911 did not provide for a separate charge for treason) as well as murder and abetment of murder. Those charged later only faced trial for torture and murder or abetment of murder.
  • The decision was made to hold a public trial, as opposed to the earlier trials, and given the political importance and significance of the trials, the decision was made to hold these at the Red Fort. Also, due to the complexity of the case, the provision was made under the Indian Army Act rule for counsels to appear for defense and prosecution. The then Advocate General of India, Sir Naushirwan P Engineer was appointed the counsel for Prosecution.
  • Second trial were the trials of Abdul Rashid, Shinghara Singh, Fateh Khan and Captain Malik Munawar Khan Awan. In light of unrest over the charges of treason and glorification in the first trial, the charges of treason was dropped. The site of trial was also moved from the Red Fort to an adjoining building.
  • These trials attracted much publicity, and public sympathy for the defendants who were perceived as patriots in India, and outcry over the grounds of the trial, as well as a general emerging unease and unrest within the troops of the Raj.
  • The Indian National Congress and the Muslim League both made the release of the three defendants an important political issue during the agitation for independence of 1945-6.
  • Mass pressure against the trial of INA POWs, (Prisoner of War) sometimes described as “an edge of a volcano”, brought about a decisive shift in the Government’s policy. The British had initially decided to hold public trials of several hundreds of INA prisoners besides dismissing them from service and detaining without trial amund 7000 of them.
  • During the trial, mutiny broke out in the Royal Indian Navy, incorporating ships and shore establishments of the RIN throughout India from Karachi to Bombay and from Vizag to Calcutta.Another Army mutiny took place at Jabalpur during the last week of February 1946, soon after the Navy mutiny at Bombay. This was suppressed by force, including the use of the bayonet by British troops. It lasted about two weeks.
  • Another issue was provided by the use of Indian Army units in a bid to restore French and Dutch colonial rule in Vietnam and Indonesia which enhanced the anti-imperialist feeling among a section of urban population and the Army.

Congress Support for INA Prisoners:

  • At the first post­war Congress session in September 1945 at Bombay, a strong resolution was adopted declaring Congress support for the INA cause.
  • Defence of INA prisoners in the court was organised by Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Katju, Nehru and Asaf Ali. INA Defence Committee was formed.
  • INA Relief and Enquiry Committee distributed small sums of money and food, and helped arrange employment for the affected.
  • Fund collection was organised.

The INA Agitation—A Landmark on Many Counts:

  • The high pitch and intensity at which the campaign for the release of INA prisoners was conducted was unprecedented. The agitation got wide publicity through extensive press coverage with daily editorials, distribution of pamphlets often containing threats of revenge, grafitti conveying similar messages, holding of public meetings and celebrations of INA Day (November 12, 1945) and INA week (November 5-11).
  • Beyond the concurrent campaigns of noncooperation and nonviolent protest, this spread to include mutinies and wavering support within the British Indian Army. In spite of this aggressive and widespread opposition, the court martial was carried out and all three defendants were sentenced to deportation for life. This sentence, however, was never carried out, as the immense public pressure of the demonstrations forced Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, to release all three defendants.Most of the INA. soldiers were set free after cashiering and forfeiture of pay and allowance.On the recommendation of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and agreed by Nehru, as a precondition for Independence the INA soldiers were not reinducted into the Indian Army.
  • This movement marked the last major campaign in which the forces of the Congress and the Muslim League aligned together.
  • The campaign had a wide geographical reach and witnessed the participation of diverse social groups and political parties. While the nerve centres of the agitation were Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, UP towns and Punjab, the campaign spread to distant places such as Coorg, Baluchistan and Assam.
  • The forms of participation included fund contributions made by many people from film stars, municipal committees, Indians living abroad and gurudwaras to tongawallas; participation in meetings; shopkeepers closing shops; political groups demanding release of prisoners; contributing to INA funds; student meetings and boycott of classes; organising kisan conferences and All India Women’s Conference demanding release of INA prisoners.
  • Those who supported the INA cause in varying degrees, apart from the Congress, included the Muslim League, Communist Party, Unionists, Akalis, Justice Party, Ahrars in Rawalpindi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh League.
  • Pro-INA sentiments surfaced in traditional bulwarks of the Raj. Government employees collected funds. The loyalists— the gentlemen with titles—appealed to the Government-to abandon trials for good Indo-British relations. Men of the armed forces were unexpectedly sympathetic and attended meetings, received those released (often in uniforms) and contributed funds.
  • The central theme became the right of Britain to decide a matter concerning Indians. Britain realised the political significance of the INA issue, which with each day assumed more and more of an ‘Indian versus British’ colour.

Three Upsurges—Winter Of 1945-46:

  • The nationalist sentiment which reached a crescendo around the INA trials developed into violent confrontations with the authority in the winter of 1945-46.
  • There were three major upsurges:
    • November 21, 1945—in Calcutta over the INA trials.
    • February 11, 1946—in Calcutta against the seven-year sentence to INA officer Rashid Ali.
    • February 18, 1946—in Bombay, strike by the Royal Indian Navy Ratings.
  • All three upsurges showed a similar three-stage pattern.

(1) When A Group Defies Authority and Is Repressed:

Upsurge 1 (November 21, 1945):

  • A student procession comprising some Forward Bloc sympathisers, Student Federation of India (SFI) activists and Islamic College students who had tied together the League, Congress and red flags as a symbol of anti-imperialist unity marched to Dalhousie Square—the seat of government in Calcutta.
  • These protestors refused to disperse and were Lathi charged. They retaliated by throwing stones and brickbats. The police resorted to firing in which two persons died.

Upsurge 2 (February 11, 1946):

  • The protest was led by Muslim League students in which some Congress and communist students’ organisations joined. Some arrests provoked the students to defy Section 144. There were more arrests and the agitating students were Lathi-charged

Upsurge 3: (February 18, 1946): (Naval Mutiny or RIN Revolt)

  • The Royal Indian Navy mutiny (also called Bombay Mutiny) encompasses a total strike and subsequent revolt by Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments (the ratings of HMIS Talwar) at Bombay (Mumbai) harbour on 18 February 1946.From the initial flashpoint in Bombay, the revolt spread and found support throughout British India, from Karachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.
  • Main reasons of revolt were:
    • Racial discrimination (demanding equal pay for Indian and white soldiers)
    • Unpalatable food
    •  Abuse by superior officers
    • Arrest of a rating for scrawling “Quit India’ on HMIS Talwar
    • INA trials: The INA trials, the stories of Subhas Chandra Bose (“Netaji”), as well as the stories of INA’s fight during the Siege of Imphal and in Burma were seeping into the glaring public-eye at the time. These, received through the wireless sets and the media, fed discontent and ultimately inspired the sailors to strike
    • Use of Indian troops in Indonesia, demanding their withdrawal.
    • In January 1946 British airmen stationed in India took part in the Royal Air Force Revolt of 1946 mainly over the slow speed of their demobilisation, but also in some cases issuing demands against being used in support of continued British colonial rule.
      • The Viceroy at the time, Lord Wavell, noted that the actions of the British airmen had influenced both the RIAF and RIN mutinies
  • The immediate issues of the revolt were conditions and food. By dusk on 19 February, a Naval Central Strike committee was elected. Leading Signalman M.S Khan and Petty Officer Telegraphist Madan Singh were unanimously elected President and Vice-President respectively.
  • In Karachi, revolt broke out on board the Royal Indian Navy ship, HMIS Hindustan off Manora Island. The ship, as well as shore establishments were taken over by mutineers. Later, it spread to the HMIS Bahadur.
  • The strike found immense support among the Indian population, already gripped by the stories of the Indian National Army.Crowds brought food to the ratings and shop­keepers invited them to take whatever they needed.The actions of the mutineers was supported by demonstrations which included a one-day general strike in Bombay. The strike spread to other cities, and was joined by the Royal Indian Air Force and local police forces.
  • In Madras and Poona (nowPune), the British garrisons had to face revolts within the ranks of the Indian Army. Widespread rioting took place from Karachi toCalcutta. Notably, the revolting ships hoisted three flags tied together – those of the Congress, Muslim League, and the Red Flag of the Communist Party of India (CPI), signifying the unity and downplaying of communal issues among the mutineers.
  • An alarmed Clement Attlee, the British Prime Minister, ordered the Royal Navy to put down the revolt. Admiral J.H. Godfrey, the Flag Officer commanding the RIN, went on air with his order to “Submit or perish”.
    • The movement had, by this time, inspired by the patriotic fervour sweeping the country, started taking a political turn.The third day dawned charged with fresh emotions.
    • The Royal Air Force flew a squadron of bombers low over Bombay harbour in a show of force, as Admiral Arthur Rullion Rattray, Flag Officer, Bombay, RIN, issued an ultimatum asking the ratings to raise black flags and surrender unconditionally.
  • In Karachi, by this time, realising that little hope or trust could be put on the Indian troops, the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch had been called from their barracks.
    • The first priority was to deal with the revolt on Manora Island. Ratings holding the Hindustan opened fire when attempts were made to board the ship. By the morning, the British soldiers had secured the island.
  • Total fatalities arising from the mutiny were seven RIN sailors and one officer killed.
  • The revolt was called off following a meeting between the President of the Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC), M. S. Khan, andVallab Bhai Patel of the Congress, who had been sent to Bombay to settle the crisis.
    • Patel issued a statement calling on the strikers to end their action, which was later echoed by a statement issued in Calcutta by Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League. Under these considerable pressures, the strikers gave way.
    • However, despite assurances of the good services of the Congress and the Muslim League widespread arrests were made. These were followed up by courts martial and large scale dismissals from the service.

Lack of support:

  • The mutineers in the armed forces got no support from the national leaders and were largely leaderless.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, in fact, condemned the riots and the ratings’ revolt. His statement on 3 March 1946 criticized the strikers for revolting without the call of a “prepared revolutionary party” and without the “guidance and intervention” of “political leaders”.
    • He further criticized the local Indian National Congress leader Aruna Asaf Ali, who was one of the few prominent political leaders of the time to offer support for the mutineers, stating that she would rather unite Hindus and Muslims on the barricades than on the constitutional front.
    • Gandhi’s criticism also belies the submissions to the looming reality of Partition of India, having stated “If the union at the barricade is honest then there must be union also at the constitutional front.”
  • The Muslim League issued similar attacks on the mutiny which argued that the unrest of the sailors was not best expressed on the streets.
    • Legitimacy could only, probably, be conferred by a recognised political leadership as the head of any kind of movement. Spontaneous and unregulated upsurges, as the RIN strikers were viewed, could only disrupt and, at worst, destroy consensus at the political level.
  • It may have been the conclusion that the rapid emergence of militant mass demonstrations in support of the sailors would erode central political authority if and when transfer of power occurred.
  • It has been concluded by later historians that the discomfiture of the mainstream political parties was because the public outpourings indicated their weakening hold over the masses at a time when they could show no success in reaching agreement with the British Indian government.
  • The Communist Party of India, the third largest political force at the time, extended full support to the naval ratings and mobilised the workers in their support.
  • The two principal bourgeois parties of British India, the Congress and the Muslim League, refused to support the ratings. The class content of the mass uprising frightened them and they urged the ratings to surrender. Patel and Jinnah, two representative faces of the communal divide, were united on this issue.
  • The only prominent leader from nationalist ranks who supported them was Aruna Asaf Ali.
  • The literature of the communist party portrays the RIN Revolt as a spontaneous nationalist uprising that had the potential to prevent the partition of India, and one that was essentially betrayed by the leaders of the nationalist movement.
  • More recently, the RIN Revolt has been renamed the Naval Uprising and the mutineers honoured for the part they played in India’s independence.

(2) When the City People Join In:

  • This phase was marked by a virulent anti-British mood resulting in the virtual paralysis of Calcutta and Bombay.
  • There were meetings, processions, strikes, hartals, attacks on Europeans, police stations, shops, tram depots, railway stations, banks, and forcible stopping of rail and road traffic by squatting on tracks and barricading of streets.

(3)When People in Other Parts of the Country Express Sympathy and Solidarity:

  • While the students boycotted classes and organised hartals and processions to express sympathy with other students and the ratings, there were sympathetic strikes in military establishments in Karachi, Madras, Visakhapatnam, Calcutta, Delhi, Cochin, Jamnagar, Andaman, Bahrain and Aden.
  • There were strikes by the Royal Indian Air Force in Bombay, Poona, Calcutta, Jessore and Ambala. Patel and Jinnah persuaded the ratings to surrender on February 23 with an assurance that national parties would prevent any victimisation.

Evaluation of Potential and Impact of the Three Upsurges:

The three upsurges were significant in many ways:

  • Fearless action by masses was an expression of militancy in the popular mind.
  • Revolt in the armed forces had a great liberating effect on the minds of people.
  • RIN revolt was seen as an event marking the end of British rule.
  • These upsurges prompted the British to extend some concessions:
  1. On December 1, 1946, the Government announced that only those INA members accused of murder or brutal treatment of fellow prisoners would be brought to trial.
  2. Imprisonment sentences passed against the first batch were remitted in January 1947.
  3. Indian soldiers were withdrawn from Indo-China and Indonesia by February 1947.
  4. The decision to send Cabinet Mission was taken in January 1946.
  5. The decision to send a parliamentary delegation to . India (November 1946) was taken.

But could the communal unity witnessed during these events, if built upon, have offered a way out of the communal deadlock? Or, in other words, what was the potential of these upsurges?

  • These upsurges were distinguishable from the earlier activity because of their form of articulation. These were violent challenges to the authority while the earlier activity was a peaceful demonstration of national solidarity.
  • These upsurges were in the nature of direct and violent conflict with authority, which had obvious limitations. Only the more militant sections could participate.
  • These upsurges were short-lived and were confined to a few urban centres while the general INA agitation reached the remotest villages.
  • Communal unity witnessed was more organisational than a unity among the people. Muslim ratings went to the League to seek advice and the rest to the Congress and the Socialists.
  • Despite considerable erosion of the morale of the bureaucracy, the British infrastructure to repress was intact. They were soon able to control the situation. It was a Maratha battalion in Bombay that rounded up the ratings and restored them to their barracks.

Congress Strategy:

  • The Congress did not officially support these upsurges because of their tactics and timing.Negotiations had been an integral part of the Congress strategy, to be explored before a mass movement could be launched, especially when the British were seen to be preparing to leave soon.
  • Congress indifference to the revolutionary situation arose because of two considerations—that the situation would go out of its control and that disciplined armed forces were vital in a free India.
  • Also if the Congress leaders had not surrendered to power play, a different path to independence would have emerged.
  • But actually these upsurges were an extension of earlier nationalist activity fostered by the Congress through its election campaign, its advocacy of the INA cause and highlighting of the excesses of 1942.
  • Gandhi remarked that the mutiny was badly advised: if they mutinied for India’s freedom, they were doubly wrong; if they had any grievances, they should have waited for the guidance of leaders.

Election Results:

Congress’ Performance:

  1. It got 91% of non-Muslim votes.
  2. It captured 57 out of 102 seats in the Central Assembly.
  3. In the provincial elections, it got a majority in most provinces except in Bengal, Sindh and Punjab. The Congress majority provinces included NWFP and Assam which were being claimed for Pakistan.
  4. In Punjab,  A Unionist-Congress-Akali coalition under Khizr Hyatt Khan assumed power.

Muslim League’s Performance:

  1. It got 86.6% of the Muslim votes.
  2. It captured the 30 reserved seats in the Central Assembly.
  3. In the provincial elections, it got a majority in Bengal and Sindh.
  4. Unlike in 1937, now the League clearly established itself as the dominant party among Muslims.

Significant Feature of Elections:

The elections witnessed communal voting in contrast to the strong anti-British unity shown in various upsurges due to

  1. Separate electorates.
  2. Limited franchise—for the provinces, less than 10% of the population could vote and for the Central Assembly, less than 1% of the population was eligible.

1946 Cabinet Mission to India:

  • The United Kingdom Cabinet Mission of 1946 to India aimed to discuss and plan for the transfer of power from the British Government to Indian leadership, providing India with independence.
  • Formulated at the initiative of Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the mission consisted of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, and A. V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty. Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, did not participate.

Purpose and proposals:

  • The Mission’s purpose:
  1. Hold preparatory discussions with elected representatives of British India and the Indian states in order to secure agreement as to the method of framing the constitution.
  2. Set up a constitution body.
  3. Set up an Executive Council with the support of the main Indian parties.
  • The Mission held talks with the representatives of the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League, the two largest political parties in the Constituent Assembly of India. The two parties planned to determine a power-sharing arrangement between Hindus and Muslims to prevent a communal dispute, and to determine whether British India would be better-off unified or divided.
  • The Congress party  wanted to obtain a strong central government with more powers compared to state governments.
  • The All India Muslim League under Jinnah, wanted to keep India united but with political safeguards provided to Muslims such as ‘guarantee’ of ‘parity’ in the legislatures. This stance of the League was backed up by the wide belief of Muslims that the British Raj was simply going to be turned into a ‘Hindu Raj’ once the British departed; and since the Muslim League regarded itself as the sole spokesman party of Indian Muslims, it was incumbent up on it to take the matter up with the Crown.
  • After initial dialogue, the Mission proposed its plan over the composition of the new government on 16 May 1946.The announcement of the Plan on 16 May 1946 was preceded by the Simla Conference of 1945.

Plan of 16 May, 1946:

  1. A united Dominion of India as a loose confederation of provinces would be given independence.
  2. Muslim-majority provinces would be grouped – Sind, Punjab and North-West Frontier Province would form one group, and Bengal and Assam would form another.
  3. Hindu-majority provinces in central and southern India would form another group.
  4. The Central government, stationed in Delhi, would be empowered to handle nationwide affairs, such as defense, currency, and diplomacy, while the rest of powers and responsibility would belong to the provinces, coordinated by groups.
  • The consensus between the Congress and Muslim League ended since Congress abhorred the idea of having groupings of Muslim majority provinces and that of Hindu majority provinces with the intention of ‘balancing’ each other at the Central Legislature. The Muslim League could not accept any changes to this plan since the same ‘balance’ or ‘parity’ that Congress was loath to accept formed the basis of Muslim demands of ‘political safeguards’ built into post-British Indian laws so as to prevent absolute rule of Hindus over Muslims.
  • Reaching an impasse, the British proposed a second, alternative plan on 16 June 1946. This plan sought to arrange for India to be divided into Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority India that would later be renamed Pakistan, since Congress had vehemently rejected ‘parity’ at the Centre. A list of princely states of India that would be permitted to accede to either dominion or attain independence was also drawn up.

Reactions and acceptance:

  • The approval of the plans would determine the composition of the new government. The Congress Working Committee officially did not accept either of the plans.
  • The resolution of the committee dated 24 May 1946 in response to May plan concluded that: The Working Committee consider that the connected problems involved in the establishment of a Provisional Government and a Constituent Assembly should be viewed together… In absence of a full picture, the Committee are unable to give a final opinion at this stage.
  • And the resolution of 25 June 1946, in response to the June plan concluded: In the formation of a Provisional or other governance , Congressmen can never give up the national character of Congress, or accept an artificial and unjust parity, or agree to a veto of a communal group. The Committee are unable to accept the proposals for formation of an Interim Government as contained in the statement of June 16. The Committee have, however, decided that the Congress should join the proposed Constituent Assembly with a view to framing the Constitution of a free, united and democratic India.
  • On 10 July, Jawaharlal Nehru in Bombay declared that the Congress had agreed only to participate in the Constituent Assembly and “regards itself free to change or modify the Cabinet Mission Plan as it thought best.” The Congress ruled out the June 16 plan, seeing it as the division of India into small states.
  • Following consultations, the Viceroy invited 14 men to join the interim government on 15 June 1946. They were five from Congress( Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and Hari Krishna Mahtab); five from Muslim League (Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Mohammed Ismail Khan, Khwaja Sir Nazimuddin and Abdul Rab Nisthar); Sardar Baldev Singh (representing the Sikhs), Sir N.P. Engineer (representing the Parsis), Jagjivan Ram (representing the scheduled castes) and John Mathai (representing the Christians).
  • The Congress proposed Zakir Hussain among its quota of 5 nominees to the interim council. Objecting to this decision, on 29 July 1946, Jinnah announced that his party would not participate in the process to form the Constituent Assembly as he considered only Muslim League can nominate Muslim Candidate.

Formation of a government:

  • The Viceroy began organizing the transfer of power to a Congress-League coalition. But League president Muhammad Ali Jinnah denounced the hesitant and conditional approval of the Congress and rescinded League approval of both plans.
  • On 12 August 1946, the Viceroy announced that he was inviting Nehru to form the provisional government. After consulting with Nehru, the names of 12 members of the interim government were announced (Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Asaf Ali, C. Rajagopalachari, Sarat Chandra Bose, John Mathai, Sardar Baldev Singh, Sir Shafaat Ahmed Khan, Jagjivan Ram, Syed Ali Zaheer and C. H. Bhabha). The list contained 5 Hindus, 3 Muslims and one scheduled caste, Christian, Sikh and Parsi each.The Congress replaced the Muslim League candidates with its own party members.
  • Thus Congress leaders entered the Viceroy’s Executive Council or the Interim Government of India. Jawaharlal Nehru became the head, vice president in title, but possessing the executive authority. Vallabhbhai Patel became the Home member.
  • Congress-led governments were formed in most provinces – including in the NWFP, in Punjab (a coalition with the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Unionist Muslim League). The League led governments in Bengal and Sind. The Constituent Assembly was instructed to begin work to write a new constitution for India.

Coalition and breakdown:

  • Jinnah and the League condemned the new government, and vowed to agitate for Pakistan by any means possible. Disorder arose in Punjab and Bengal, including the cities of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.
  • On the League-organized Direct Action Day, (16 August 1946), also known as the Great Calcutta Killings, was a day of widespread riot and manslaughter between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Calcutta.The day also marked the start of what is known as The Week of the Long Knives.  The ‘Direct Action’ was announced by the Muslim League Council to show the strength of Muslim feelings both to British and Congress because Muslims feared that if the British just pulled out, Muslims would surely suffer at the hands of overwhelming Hindu majority.Communal riots spread throughout India.
  • Viceroy Wavell stalled the Central government’s efforts to stop the disorder, and the provinces were instructed to leave this to the governors, who did not undertake any major action. To end the disorder and rising bloodshed, Wavell encouraged Nehru to ask the League to enter the government. While Patel and most Congress leaders were opposed to conceding to a party that was organizing disorder, Nehru conceded in hope of preserving communal peace.
  • League leaders entered the council under the leadership of Liaquat Ali Khan, the future first Prime Minister of Pakistan who became the finance minister. But the council did not function in harmony – separate meetings were not held by League ministers, and both parties vetoed the major initiatives proposed by the other, highlighting their ideological differences and political antagonism.
  • At the arrival of the new (and proclaimed as the last) viceroy, Lord Mountbatten of Burma in early 1947, Congress leaders expressed the view that the coalition was unworkable. This led to the eventual proposal, and acceptance of the partition of India.

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