Conquest of India
Early Resistance to British Rule
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33. Cabinet Mission 1946

Cabinet Mission-Background

  • The UK government was led by its Prime Minister Clement Atlee formed the Cabinet Mission to India in 1946 with a view to discuss the transfer of power and resolve the constitutional deadlock between the Indian political leaders.
  • Members of the Cabinet Mission: Lord Pethick-Lawrence, was the Secretary of State for India; Sir Stafford Cripps, was President of the Board of Trade; and A V Alexander was the First Lord of the Admiralty.
  • Lord Wavell was not a member but was involved.

Cabinet Mission-Objectives

  • Cabinet Mission obtain an agreement with the Indian leaders as to the framing of a constitution for India.
  • To formulate a constitution-making body (the Constituent Assembly of India).
  • To establish an Executive Council with the support of the major Indian parties.

Proposals & Reactions

Why did the Cabinet Mission fail?

  • The Congress Party wanted a strong centre with minimum powers for the provinces
  • The Muslim League wanted strong political safeguards for the Muslims like parity in the legislatures.
  • Since both parties had many ideological differences and could not find common ground, the mission came up with its own set of proposals in May 1946.
  • The Dominion of India would be granted independence, without any partition.

The provinces would be divided into three groups/sections:

Group A: Madras, Central Provinces, UP, Bihar, Bombay and Orissa

Group B: Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Baluchistan

Group C: Bengal and Assam

  • The Muslim-majority provinces were grouped into two groups and the remaining Hindu-majority in one of the groups.
  • The central government at Delhi would have powers over the defence, foreign affairs, communications and currency. The rest of the powers would be vested with the provinces.
  • A constituent assembly would be set up for writing a new constitution for the country. An interim government would be established until a new government was formed on the basis of the constitution written by the constituent assembly.
  • The Congress was not keen on the idea of the groupings of provinces on the basis of Hindu-Muslim majority and vying for control at the centre. It was also against the idea of a weak centre. The Muslim League did not want any changes to the proposals.
  • Since the plan was not accepted, a new plan was proposed by the mission in June 1946. Cabinet Mission proposed the division of India into a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority India later to be renamed Pakistan. A list of princely states was also made that could either join the union or remain independent.
  • The Congress Party under Jawaharlal Nehru did not accept the second plan. Instead, it agreed to be part of the constituent assembly.
  • The Viceroy invited 14 men to form the interim government. There were 5 from the Congress, 5 from the League, 1 member each representing the Sikh, Parsee, Indian Christian and scheduled caste communities.
  • Both the League and the Congress were given the right to nominate 5 members to the Viceroy’s interim council. The Congress nominated Zakir Hussain as one of the members to which the League objected saying only it represented by Indian Muslims and no other party. The Muslim League did not take part in it.
  • The Congress leaders entered the viceroy’s interim council and thus Nehru headed the interim government. The new government began the task of framing a constitution for the country.
  • Congress-led governments were formed in most provinces including the NWFP. In Bengal and Sind, the League formed the governments.
  • Jinnah and the League objected to the new central government. He geared to agitate for Pakistan and urged Muslims to demand Pakistan by any means. He called for ‘Direct Action Day on 16 August 1946.
  • This call led to widespread communal rioting in the country with 5000 people being killed on the first day in Calcutta. Communal riots spread to many other areas notably Noakhali and Bihar.
  • Cabinet Mission was a call for the partitioning of the country on account of the riots. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the first Congress leaders to acknowledge the inevitability of the partition to stop riots.

More read about:- 1946 Cabinet Mission to India on Wikipedia.