History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2009: Q.4 (a)
Q.4 (a) Discuss as to why the congress accepted the partition of India in 1947.
Congress had two fold task during freedom movements:
(a) Integrating diverse classes, communities, groups and regions into a nation.
(b) Securing independence from British rulers for this emerging nation.
While congress succeeded in building up a nationalist consciousness sufficient to exert pressure on British to quit India, it failed in completing the task of welding the nation, especially in the integrating Muslim community into the nation. This was Success-Failure dichotomy for Congress. It is this contradiction – the success and failure of the national movement – which is reflected in the other contradiction – independence but with partition.
The Congress accepted partition due to several prevailing circumstances and not becuase of its lust for immediate power.
Followings are the possible reasons which led to the acceptance of the partition by Congress in 1947:
(1) Acceptance was a final act of a long process
Acceptance of partition was a final act in the process of step by step concessions to League’s championing of a separate Muslim state.
(a) Congress had tacitly agreed for communal interests when they have agreed for reservation of seats in Communal award in 1909 and agreed for Lucknow Pact (1916) with Muslim League.
(b) During Cripps mission, autonomy of Muslim majority
provinces was accepted.
(c) C. Rajagopalachari’s formula in 1944 proposed to have a plebiscite on the issue of partition.
(d) During Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Gandhi accepted right of
self-determination of Muslim majority provinces.
(e) The cabinet mission, inspite of rejecting partition, had elements of partition, as it allowed groupings.
(2) Mountbatten Plan
The All-India Congress Committee finally accepted the Mountbatten Plan of independence with partition when Mountbatten promised minimum Pakistan. Also Mountbatten had virtually ruled out the independence of princely states which would have been greater threat to Indian unity. This led to compromise by the Congress.
(3) Mass mobilisation by Muslim League
The partition movement in earnest started only after the Muslim League’s under performance in the 1937 elections where congress and regional parties won majority of the seats even in Muslim majority areas and thus instilling fear in the Muslim elite of Hindu political domination.
Muslim League was able to mobilize the Muslim masses for a separate nation during the early 1940s while the congress leaders were busy with the Quit India Movement. They made the masses believe that Muslims will be treated as second class citizens in a Hindu dominated Independent India. The polarization of Muslims in India was evident in the 1946 elections where the Muslim League came to power in Muslim majority areas.
Mass politics phase with the cry ”Islam in Danger” by the Muslim League began along with implicit British support in the Wavell Plan, Cripps Mission and Cabinet Mission to give the League a veto in constitutional matters left no other choice for Congress.
(4) Unrelenting Muslim League
Failure of Cripps Mission, Shimla Conference, Cabinet Mission and the Interim government convinced the Congress that Muslim League will not relent. Also British had given virtual veto to the League at various stages of proposals.
(5) Communal violence
When the Congress had still not accepted the partition demand, the Muslim League launched the Direct Action Day on 16 August 1946, a day of rioting and violence in which thousands of people were killed. The whole country was engulfed with large-scale communal riots over the partition of India. The Congress was convinced that the only solution to the communal problem lay in the partition of India into India and Pakistan.
The British government did not do enough to check communal violence. The Congress leaders felt that freedom even with partition would at least give them power to check the violence.
(6) The Congress also understood that the only alternative to partition was a Federation with a weak centre. A smaller India with a strong central authority was better than a bigger State with a weak Centre.
The leaders felt that partition would evolve India as a secular and democratic polity as it would get rid of the Constitution of separate electorates.
(7) Chances of immediate independence
The Congress got ready for partition as it would lead to immediate independence from the British because any further continuation of British rule would mean a greater calamity for India as the British were instigating the rulers of the Indian States to remain independent and they were unable to check communal violence.
(8) Hope for reunification
Sections of the Congress including Gandhiji felt that once the British left, Indians could become united once bitterness between Hindu and Muslim are gone. Even if it does not happen, they hoped that once Pakistan is formed, there will be no more issues to fight for and peace would prevail.