Saturday, February 9, 2019

Crucial quarter of Indian History (16/5/1946 to 16/8/1946)

Crucial Quarter of Indian History (16/5/1946 to 16/8/1946)

Partition of India in 1947 became a dark chapter of human sufferings, displacement of 30 million people, death of more than a million innocent people in violence and loss of movable and immovable properties in billions. The division of Punjab and Bengal pushed the people from all the three groups to migrate out of their homelands. 50% of the Muslims of India preferred to stay in India but most of the Hindus and Shikhs of Pakistan chose to move to India. Punjab was the worst case of violence, in which except Malerkotla, no Muslim survived in East Punjab; and no Hindu or Shikh survived in West Punjab. The unity planned by Lucknow Pact (1916) was destroyed. 

Arab traders brought Islam in India in Malabar (Kerala) and built the first mosque in 629 AD, followed by settlements of trading communities on western coast. 17 years old Muhammad Bin Quasim with an army of Syrian cavalry and Iraqi Mawalis invaded and captured Sindh by capturing Port Debal (near Karachi) defeating the Hindu Raja Dahir at the battle of Aror (bank of Indus River) and established rule of Umayyad Caliphate in 712. He was executed by the successor Calipha in 715. Chachnama recorded his death by suffocation as he was caught, warped and stitched in oxen hides while sending to the Calipha. Thereafter it was the bloodiest part of 500 years of invasion by the Turk over Indian Subcontinent through the window of Khyber Pass. Muhammad Gazani invaded India for 17 times. Muhammad Ghori lost first battle but won second battle of Tarain against Prithviraj Chauhan by attacking them before dawn and laid the foundation of Muslim Rule in Delhi and ruled over the territory from Afghanistan to Bangladesh and was succeeded by his slaves. India was given to slave Qutbu I-Din Aibak. The Slave Dynasty rule was followed by Tughlaq, Khilji and the last by the Mughals. Allauddin Khilji, Akbar and Aurangzeb extended their power over the larger parts of Indian subcontinent. Area under Aurangzeb’s suzerainty was the biggest. During the invasions and rule of 1000 years, the inhabitants of Indian subcontinent were passed through many atrocities of the rulers and their forces, and in helplessness or understanding or under the force, thousands had changed their faith. With new faith, new customs the community consolidated into a force as the generations passed. In the name of Quran and oppose of idol worship many temples and sculptures created with the workmanship of hundreds of years by Hindu and Buddhist faiths were destroyed. To force conversion or suppression of non Muslim subjects, jizya tax was imposed. The atrocities of the rulers, destruction of temples and sculptures and jizya tax placed permanent mark of distrust and division in the minds and hearts of the Hindus against the Muslims. However, as most of the Muslims in India were Hindus or Buddhist before conversion, therefore, the blood of unity was flowing in thousands of veins. The fight of unity or division was going on all over the subcontinent for centuries. The events of atrocities didn’t allow them to merge like milk and sugar. 

1857 mutiny was fought by Hindu-Muslim together. But Census of India in 1871 first estimated the population of Hindu-Muslim majority areas and created a divide line. Then the seed of partition on religion line was planted by Viceroy Lord Curson on 16/10/1905 by dividing Bengal Presidency into Muslim Majority province of East Bengal and Assam and Hindu Majority province of West Bengal (with present day Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa). Swadeshi movement with slogan ‘Vande/Bande Mataram’ was started opposing the division of Bengal by the Hindus. That lead Muslim elite to meet the successor Viceroy Lord Minto and asked for separate electorates for Muslims and founded All India Muslim League in Dacca in December 1906. Morley Minto reforms in 1909 accepted the demand of separate electorate for Muslims. To safeguard Hindu interests a Punjab Hindu Sabha was established in Lahore in December 1909 and formally the All India Hindu Mahasabha was established in Haridwar Kumbh Mela on 13/2/1915. Gandhi was also present in the conference. The members of the League and the Mahasabha were the members of the Congress too. Congress was leading the freedom movement of all Indians against the British rule and the two religious organisations were working for safeguarding the interests of their communities. 

East India Company came for trading in India started building Cantonments near the seashore and established suzerainty over them and slowly reading the political division of the country established their direct and indirect rule over the Indian subcontinent. They started shaping India by their model of administration. The Acts of 1773 and 1784 were designed to establish a regular system of administration and justice under the East India Company. The Act of 1833 opened the door for Indians to public office and employment. When the execution of the policy of doctrine of lapse of the EIC by Lord Dalhousie created rebellion of 1857, the Act of 1858 transferred the administration from the Company to the Crown and laid the foundations of public administration on which India exist today. The Act of 1861 sowed the seed of representative institutions, and the seed was quickened into life by the Act of 1909. Separate electorate for Muslims were given in electing representatives to the Imperial and Provincial Councils. 

For combined movement of freedom of India and Hindu-Muslim unity, and to demand together the reforms and home rule; INC (headed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak) signed Lucknow Pact of 1916 with League (headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), accepted separate electorates for Muslims, 1/3 seats for the Muslims in the council and also agreed that that no act affecting a community should be passed unless three-quarters of that community's members on the council supported it. Jinnah earn the title of ‘the best Ambassdor of Hindu-Muslim unity’ from Gopal Krishna Gokhale. It was later considered Himalayan blunder, sown the seeds of division of minds. 

The Act of 1919 provided a dual form of government (a diarchy) for the major provinces. The control of some areas (transferred list) of government (agriculture, health, education and supervision of local government) were given to a Government of Ministers answerable to the Provincial Council. The Provincial Councils were enlarged but voting rights were given to the limited people who were paying tax to the government. UPSC was established. Motilal Nehru gave a draft constitution rejecting separate electorates for Muslims (Motilal Nehru Report-1928) created unrest amongst the Muslims and Jinnah, a nationalist felt frustrated. It was U turn of Congress from the agreement of Lucknow Pact. Jinnah demanded 14 points (the major one was demand of 33% representation against the Muslim population of 23%), Simon Commission came in 1929, Three round table conferences were held in London. Jinnah participated in the conferences but settled in England for five years (1930-35) to practice before the Privy Council, might had governed the terms of Communal Award. Gandhi and Congress were expecting dominion status like Canada and Australia but British declared Communal Award with separate electorates for Muslims and Depressed. Gandhi went on fast until death and somehow with the broad minded approach of Dr Ambedkar and with grant of reservations to the depressed, one more division was avoided. The Act of 1935 (commencement from 1/4/1937) was introduced as a step forward towards dominion status, widened the voting rights, formed Provincial Assemblies through direct elections and Central Assemblies through indirect elections. Separate electorates continued for Muslims and depressed were given reservations. Autonomy was introduced but the important reserve powers including suspension of responsible government were wasted with the British Authorities. The Federation of India with Deed of Accession was proposed for the Princely States but was not materialised due to WW-II. Sindh was separated from Bombay, new provinces of Bihar and Orissa were created, and Burma was separated from India. Federal Court was established. They started downsizing of British Bureaucrats and slowdown the process of recruitment of new ICS officers. 

In the elections of 1937, Congress emerged as the largest party in seven of the 11 provinces with a clear majority in five (Madras, UP, Central Province, Bihar, Orissa). The League secured 4.8% of the total Muslim votes (winning 25% of the seats allotted for Muslims) and did not acquire majority in any of the four Muslim predominant provinces (Punjab, Sind, NWF, Bengal). Unionist Party formed the Govt in Punjab and in Bengal, Congress formed coalition Govt. It didn’t include the League in formation Provincial Governments. To regain their importance, Muslim League and Jinnah took U Turn and propagated it as insecurity of Muslim interests and the Muslim way of life in the hands of Hindu majority. All their actions thereafter were for unifying Muslims as “one unified force” leading towards creating independent nation of Pakistan for Muslims. 

On 3rd September 1939, without consulting people’s representatives, the Viceroy Linlithgow announced India at war with Germany. In protest, Congress Ministries resigned from the Provincial Ministries in 1939. Jinnah extended his support to the British in war time and celebrated 22 December 1939 as “Day of Deliverance” from Congress. League was the happiest party passed Lahore resolution in March 1940, calling for an independent Muslim Nation carved out of British India. Viceroy Linlithgow made August Offer on 8/8/1940 to include more Indians in Viceroy Executive Council. Governors ran the administration during the war time. British Indian army was dominated by Muslims and Sikhs. Gandhi declared Jawaharlal Nehru as his successor on 15/1/1942. On 22/7/1941, Viceroy Executive Council was expanded to 12 members and again on 2/7/1942, in the enlarged Council of 15 members, Dr Ambedkar was inducted as Member Labour. 

The demand for Pakstan (land of the Pure) was coined in 1933 referring to the names of the five northern regions of British India: Punjab, Afghania (NWFP), Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. Bengal and East were not in demand. But after losing provincial elections of 1937, and premature registrations from Provincial Governments by Congress, League moved for ‘Lahore Resolution’ in March 1940 and demanded: “That geographically contiguous units are demarcated regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.” It was a demand of autonomous and sovereign States of Muslim Majority areas within the umbrella of India. 

In their difficult time of war, INC launched Quit India movement on 8/8/1942 and had annoyed the British authorities.  British Authorities put all the INC major leaders in Jail.  C Ragopalachari proposed resolution in INC supporting the proposal of Pakistan, was opposed and had resigned from Congress. He didn’t participate in Quit india movement. Gandhi was placed in Agakhan Palace Pune, where he lost his two manoj companions: Mahadev Desai (15/8/42) and Kasturba (22/2/44). Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad were placed in Ahmednagar Fort. British utilised the vacuum in promoting Jinnah and Muslim League. Nehru and Sardar Patel were in jail away from the mainstream politics for three years (1942-45). Viceroy Linlithgow retired in 1943, was replaced by Lord Wavell. He had four challenges: Bengal famine of 1943, Quit India Movement of Gandhi, Jinnah’s demand for independent state for the Muslims and Subhas Chandra Bose befriended with Japan was knocking doors of India from India’s eastern border. 

On medical grounds, Gandhi was released before the expiry of imprisonment on 5/5/1944. Gandhi held the talk with Jinnah 9-10 September 1944 to break the deadlock and proposed CR Formula of partition deferring it till after partition.  Their correspondence on 11-14, 24-26 September 1944 didn’t resolve the issue. Jinnah remained firm on his demand of new Country of six provinces resolved by Muslim League in 1940 before the British departure. Gandhi wanted Independence first and Jinnah wanted settlement of communal problem first and thereafter independence. 

Little Boy and Fat Man nuclear bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities of Japan by USA on 6th and 8th of August 1945. Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. The Allies won over the Axis. but the victorious PM of UK Sir Winston Churchill lost the Parliament Elections of July 1945. UK suffered heavy loss of human life (449,700) and financial resources ($120 billion) in WW-II. 

In June 1945, all members of Congress Working Committee were released from the Jain. In Shimla Conference of 25 June 1945, Viceroy Lord Wavell offered Wavell Pan for India’s Self Government (dominion status), all members excluding the Viceroy and Commander in Chief (defence) would be Indian. But he offered the seats on religion and caste lines. Jinnah wanted Muslim members of the council proposed by the league, as he believed League’s sole right to representative of Muslims of India. He considered Congress’s Muslim representatives as ‘show boys’. Jinnah rejected the plan by calling it a trap of the Government and the Hindus and a death warrant of the Muslims. Wavell Plan failed. Meanwhile, general elections were held in UK in July 1945, Churchill’s Conservative Party lost and Labour Party came in power.

British exploited India in terms of food, timber, raw materials and soldiers but on budget records, Indian was a debtor country to UK. Under the new PM of Labour Party, Clement Attlee British decided to Quit India in 1946. He sent a Cabinet Mission to India. The Cabinet Mission Plan (Lord Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and AV Alexander) tried to transfer the power with an aim of maintaining India’s unity by formation of Union of India comprising both the British India and the Princely States but failed. 

On 16/5/1946, the Cabinet Mission proposed three tier system: the provinces, provincial groupings and the centre. The centre's power was to be confined to foreign affairs, defence, currency and communications. The provinces would keep all the other powers and were allowed to establish three groups. Two groups would be constituted by the mainly Muslim western and eastern provinces. Group B would comprise Sind, Punjab, Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan. Bengal and Assam would make up Group C. The third Group A would comprise the mostly Hindu areas in the south and the centre, such as UP, CP, Bombay, Bihar and Madras. The Union would remain in charge of only foreign affairs, defence and communications leaving the residuary powers to be vested in the provinces. A proposal was envisaged for setting up an Interim Government, which would remain in office till a new government was elected on the basis of the new Constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly.

Jinnah was demanding parity between the two: Muslim India (group B&C) and Hindu India (group A). Muslim League accepted the proposal on 6/6/1946. Provincial Elections of Assemblies were held in January 1946. Separate electorates gave 90% of seats for Muslim to Muslim League in 1946 elections. INC won 90% of non-Muslim seats. Elections were held for the Constituent Assembly in July 1946. The members were elected by the provincial assemblies by a single, transferable vote system of proportional representation. Constituent Assembly was founded on 6/7/1946.

INC initially accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan of 16/5/1946, but had raised queries on interpretation of some of its provisions. The major one was regarding Assam. It had Congress rule and it was believed that it will be optional for Assam to join group C or not. Jinnah saw it mandatory. Weak Centre was not acceptable to Nehru, therefore, he held a Press Conference in Mumbai on 10/7/1946 declaring that although the Congress had agreed to participate in the Constituent Assembly, it reserved the right to modify the Cabinet Mission Plan as it saw fit. That created doubts in the minds of Muslim League that had withdrawn their approval of the Cabinet Plan on 29/7/1946. Jinnah declared Direct Action Day on 16/8/1946 with an aim of divided India or destroyed India to make his demand for Pakistan. On that day Great Culcutta killings took place, followed by riots in Noakhali, Bihar, United Provinces (UP), Punjab and North Western Frontier province. Master Tara Singh’s kirpan calling for “Death of Pakistan” outside the Punjab Assembly on 3/3/1947 turned out to be the death warrant of thousands of innocents in Punjab in communal violences. 

Meantime, Viceroy Wavell moves for forming the interim Government. Nehru’s Cabinet was installed on 2/9/1946. Nehru became the Vice President of Executive Council, Home Ministry was kept with Sardar Patel, Jinnah didn’t join but placed Liaquat Ali Khan on 29/10/1946 to hold Finance Ministry. Two more ministers of Muslim League were inducted. But during those 9 months of government (29/10/1946 to 15/8/1947) Liaquat Ali Khan as Finance Minister made the functioning of the Single Govt of United India difficult. In December 1946, Nehru, Jinnah and Wavell went to London to revive the Cabinet Mission scheme but the attempt failed. Wavell commenced Constituent Assembly on 9/12/1946. Muslim League joined the government but boycotted the Constituent Assembly. Wavell drew up a plan for gradual exit of British but he was replaced by Lord Mountbatten on 20 February 1947 with an aim to  overseeing transition of British India to Independence, no later than 30 June 1948. He preferred quick transfer instead of gradual transfer to avoid civil was as per his belief. He was comfortable with Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel but couldn’t persuade Jinnah for united India. In his words, “if it could be said that any single man held the future of India in the palm of his hand in 1947, that man was Mohammad Ali Jinnah." He then concluded to form independent nations of India and Pakistan, declared 3rd June Plan (Mountbatten Plan) and brought the date forward for transfer of power on 15/8/1947, 10.5 months before the deadline of 30/6/1948. India Independence Act 1947 was enacted on 18 July 1947. Jinnah failed in getting whole of Punjab and Bengal and Assam. The division of these provinces and uncertainty of the borders causes migration of people to move towards their majority area. Boundary Committee chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliffe mandated to draw boundaries to leave as many Hindus and Sikhs in India and as many Muslims in Pakistan as possible. Punjab and Bengal were divided. He submitted his map on 9/8/1947 and the new boundaries were formally announced on 14/8/1947. This left 14 million people on the "wrong" side of the border, and very many of them fled to "safety" on the other side when the new lines were announced. High scale rioting and violence broke out in Punjab. One man army Gandhi was holding Bengal for maintaining peace. Thousands were killed and millions were injured. The number of humans saved by Gandhi’s non violent freedom movement were sacrificed in the fire of communal violence. Migration made the innocent people refugees. After a month of independence, both the Govt signed the agreement of exchange of minorities from east and west Punjab. Central Emergency Committee was formed under the chair of Mountbatten to deal with the rescue, relief and rehabilitation of the refugees. 

On eastern border communal violence broke out in Noakhali and Kolkata but one man army Gandhi was holding them in peace. Gandhi returned to Delhi in September 1947 and wished to go to Punjab to bring peace but had to stop in Delhi because of communal violence broke out in the city. Gandhi went on fast on 13/1/1948 for communal peace. ₹ 55 crore payment to Pakistan was included in the list of demands. The Cabinet changed it earlier decision and passed the payment on 14/1/1948, though Sardar Patel’s will was against the decision. Gandhi continued his fast to bring peace in Delhi and ended the fast on 18/1/1948 after being given a pledge of harmony by leaders of different communities. A bomb was thrown on him on 20/1/1948 but was saved. Sardar Patel was in Mumbai that day, returned to Delhi on 23/1/1948, made arrangements of his protection. But Gandhi didn’t allow checking of visitors. On 30/1/48, Gandhi was assassinated. 

Sindhi Hindu migration from Sindh to India had low scale rioting but at Dargah Bazzar of Ajmer the arguments between Sindhi refugees and local Muslims on 6/12/1947 lead into riots, sparkled riots in Karachi, Hyderabad of Pakistan. It had forced the Sindhis of Karachi to migrate to Gujarat-Godhra where riots took place in March 1948, that led to emigration of Godhra Muslims to Pakistan. Nehru planned to go to Ajmer to review the ground reality but due to death of his nephew had sent his personal secretary Ayangar in December 1947. The Chief Commissioner of Ajmer Shankar Prasad objected to the review by MR Ayangar and complained to Sardar Patel. Sardar Patel too felt bad and that led into no-confidence correspondences between Nehru and Sardar. However, Gandhi’s assassination on 30/1/1948 bonded them together again. Riots and refugees had created the stress over the governments and their executives.

When Maulana Abdul Kalam expressed his concern over the likelihood of violent riots due to partition of India, Lord Mountbatten gave assurance that there would no bloodshed or riots and if there should be the slightest agitation, he should adopt the sternest measures to nip the trouble in the bud. He couldn’t meet his assurance. Government machinery failed. 

British came to India for trading but ruled and governed the country for 190 years and formed bigger India under central power, gave us organised administration and slowly brought the country under the democratic system of governance, whereby the revolutionary changes in economic and social life are brought about without bloodshed. But their departure took a toll on lives of thousands and displacement of millions. 

The failure of leaders in managing those three months of 16/5/1946 to 16/8/47 brought miseries and placed permanent wet scars over the hearts of millions to remind the darkness of those days for centuries. 

9 February 2019


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