• v  Two Strands of National Upsurge

Two basic strands of national upsurge can be identified during the last two years of British rule.

(i) Tortuous negotiations involving the government, Congress and Muslim League, increasingly accompanied by communal violence and culminating in freedom and the partition.

(ii) Sporadic, localised and often extremely militant and united mass action by workers, peasants and states{sin-quite} 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{sin-quite} struggle (especially the Punnapra - Vayalar episode) and the Telangana peasant revolt.

·       Wavell Plan backed by the Conservative government in Britain failed to break the constitutional deadlock. In July 1945, the Labour Party formed the government in Britain. 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.

  • v  Why a Change in Government’s Attitude

§  End of the War resulted in a change in the balance of global power - the UK was no more a big power while the USA and USSR emerged as superpowers, both of which favoured freedom for India.

§  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 there.

§  Officials feared another Congress revolt, a revival of the 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.

  • v  Congress Election Campaign and INA Trials (election of 1946 in British India).

elections were held in the winter of 1945 – 1946.

  • Ø  Election Campaign for Nationalistic Aims:

§  The most significant feature of the election campaign was that it sought to mobilise the Indians against the British. The election campaign expressed the nationalist sentiments against the state repression of the 1942 Quit India upsurge.

§  This was done by glorifying martyrs and condemning officials.

    (The first trial was announced at the Red Fort in Delhi in November 1945).

  • Ø  Congress Support for INA Prisoners

§  At the first post-War 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 organized by Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Katju, Jawaharlal Nehru and Asaf Ali.

§  INA Relief and Enquiry Committee distributed small sums of money and

§  food and helped arrange employment for the affected.

§  Fund collection was organised

  • Ø  The INA Agitation—A Landmark on Many Counts

§  Celebrations of INA Day (November 12, 1945) and INA week (November 5-11).

§  The agitation got wide publicity through extensive press coverage with daily editorials, distribution of pamphlets.

§  The campaign spread over a wide area of the country and witnessed the participation of diverse social groups and political parties.

§  Nerve centres of the agitation were Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, United Provinces 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.

§  (British realised the political significance of the INA issue, with each day assumed more and ore of an ‘Indian versus British’ colour.

  • v  Election Results
  • Ø  Performance of the Congress

§  It got 91 per cent of non-Muslim votes.

§  It captured 57 out of 102 seats in the Central Assembly.

§  In the provincial elections, it got a majority in most provinces except in Bengal, Sindh and Punjab. The Congress majority provinces included the NWFP and Assam which were being claimed for Pakistan.

  • Ø  Muslim League’s Performance

§  It got 86.6 per cent of the Muslim votes.

§  It captured the 30 reserved seats in the Central Assembly.

§  In the provincial elections, it got a majority in Bengal and Sindh.

§  Unlike in 1937, now the League clearly established itself as the dominant party among Muslims.

§  In Punjab A Unionist-Congress-Akali coalition under Khizr Hayat Khan assumed power.

  • Ø  Significant Features of Elections

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

1.      Separate electorates; and

2.     Limited franchise - for the provinces, less than 10 per cent of the population could vote and for the Central Assembly.

  • v  Nationalist Upsurges After World – War II ( Winter of 1945-1946 )

There were three major upsurges

1.      November 21, 1945—in Calcutta over the INA trials.

2.     February 11, 1946—in Calcutta against the seven-year sentence to INA officer Rashid Ali.

3.     February 18, 1946—in Bombay, a strike by the Royal Indian Navy ratings.

  • Ø  Three-Stage Pattern

                      All three upsurges showed a similar three – stage pattern.

Stage I - When a Group Defies Authority and is Repressed

§  In the first instance of this stage (November 21, 1945), a student procession had joined up with the League and the Congress, tied flags as a symbol of anti-imperialist unity, marched to Dalhousie Square—the seat of government in Calcutta.

§  In the next step (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.

§  Rebellion by Naval Ratings - On February 18, 1946, some 1100 Royal Indian Navy (RIN) ratings of HMIS Talwar went on a strike to protest against racial discrimination, unpalatable food, abuse by superior officers, the arrest of a rating for scrawling {sin-quite}Quit India’ on HMIS Talwar, INA trials and the use of Indian troops in Indonesia, demanding their withdrawal.

Stage II - 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, and attacks on Europeans, and public places like police station, railway station and public offices, etc..

Stage III - When People in Other Parts of the Country Express Sympathy and Solidarity

§  the students boycotted classes and organised hartals and processions to express sympathy with other students and the ratings.

§  There were sympathetic strike 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.

(Sardar Patel and Jinnah persuaded the ratings to surrender on February 23 with an assurance that national parties would prevent any victimisation).

  • Ø  Evaluation of Potential and Impact of the Three Upsurges

§  Fearless action by the 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.

§  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.

§  Imprisonment sentences passed against the first batch were remitted in January 1947.

§  Indian soldiers were withdrawn from Indo-China and Indonesia by February 1947.

§  The decision to send a parliamentary delegation to India (November 1946) was taken.

§  The decision to send Cabinet Mission was taken in January 1946.

  • Ø  Congress Strategy

§  The leftists claim that the congress indifference to the revolutionary situation arose because of two considerations – that the situation would go out of its control and that a disciplined armed forces were vital in a free India.

§  The congress did not officially support these upsurges because of their tactics and timing.

  • v  The Cabinet Mission

o   Attlee government announced in February 1946 the decision to send a high - powered mission of three British cabinet members.

o   They were Pethick Lawrence, Secretary of state for India; Stafford Cripps, president of the Board of Trade; and A. V. Alexander, first Lord of Admiralty.

o   Pethick Lawrence was the chairman of the mission.

  • Ø  Why British Withdrawal Seemed Imminent Now

§  The success of nationalist forces in the struggle for hegemony was fairly evident by the end of the War. Nationalism had penetrated into hitherto untouched sections and areas.

§  There was a demonstration in favour of nationalism among the bureaucracy and the loyalist sections; because the paucity of European ICS recruits and a policy of Indianisation had ended the British domination of the ICS and by 1939, there existed a British-Indian parity.

§  British strategy of conciliation and repression had its limitations and contradictions.

§  After the Cripps’ Offer, there was little left to offer for conciliation except for full freedom.

§  When non-violent resistance was repressed with force, the naked force behind the government stood exposed, while if the government did not clamp down on ‘sedition{sin-quite} or made offers for a truce, it was seen to be unable to wield authority, and its prestige suffered.

§  Efforts to woo the Congress dismayed the loyalists. This policy of an unclear mix presented a dilemma for the services, who nevertheless had to implement it. The prospect of Congress ministries coming to power in the provinces further compounded this dilemma.

§  Constitutionalism or Congress Raj had proved to be a big morale-booster and helped in deeper penetration of patriotic sentiments among the masses.

§  Demands of leniency for INA prisoners from within the Army and the revolt of the RIN ratings had raised fears that the armed forces may not be as reliable if the Congress started a 1942-type mass movement, this time aided by the provincial ministries.

§  The Only alternative to all-out repression of a mass movement was an entirely official rule which seemed impossible now because the necessary numbers and efficient officials were not available.

§  The government realised that a settlement was necessary for burying the

§  ghost of a mass movement and for good future Indo-British relations.

  • Ø  On the Eve of Cabinet Mission Plan

§  The Congress demanded that power be transferred to one centre and that minorities{sin-quite} demands be worked out in a framework ranging from autonomy to Muslim- majority provinces to self-determination or secession from the Indian Union but, only after the British left.

  • Ø  Cabinet Mission Arrives

§  The Cabinet Mission reached Delhi on March 24, 1946. It had prolonged discussions with Indian leaders of all parties and groups on the issues of

1.      interim government; and

2.     principles and procedures for framing a new constitution giving freedom to India.

  • Ø  Cabinet Mission Plan—Main Points

§  Rejection of the demand for a full-fledged Pakistan, because

a)     The Pakistan so formed would include a large Non – Muslim population of 38% in North – West and 48% in the North East.

b)     Partition would entail economic an administrative problems, for instance, the problem of communication between the Western and eastern parts of Pakistan.

c)     The division of armed forces would be dangerous.

§  Grouping of existing provincial assemblies into three sections: Section - A: Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, United Provinces, Bihar and Orissa; Hindu-majority provinces) Section-B: Punjab, North - West Frontier Province and Sindh (Muslim-majority provinces) Section - C: Bengal and Assam (Muslim-majority provinces).

§  Three-tier executive and legislature at provincial, section and union levels.

§  A constituent assembly was to be elected by provincial assemblies by proportional representation. This constituent assembly would be a 389- member body (292 from provincial assemblies, 93 from princely states and 4 from chief commissioner’s provinces).

§  In the constituent assembly, members from groups A, B and C were to sit separately to decide the constitution for provinces and if possible, for the groups also. Then, the whole constituent assembly would sit together to formulate the union constitution.

§  A common centre would control defence, communication and external affairs (A federal structure was envisaged for India).

§  Communal questions in the central legislature were to be decided by a simple majority of both communities present and voting.

§  Provinces were to have full autonomy and residual powers.

§  Princely states were no longer to be under the paramountcy of the British government. They would be free to enter into an arrangement with successor governments or the British government.

§  After the first general elections, a province was to be free to come out of a group and after 10 years, a province was to be free to call for a reconsideration of the group or the union constitution.

§  Meanwhile, an interim government was to be formed from the constituent

§  assembly.

  • Ø  Different Interpretations of the Grouping Clause

Congress: To the Congress, the Cabinet Mission Plan was against the creation of Pakistan since grouping was optional; one constituent assembly was envisaged, and the League no longer had a veto.

Muslim League: The Muslim League believed Pakistan to be implied in a compulsory grouping.

  • Ø  Main Objections

Different parties objected to the plan on different grounds.


§  Provinces should not have to wait till the first general elections to come out of a group. They should have the option of not joining a group in the first place.

§  Compulsory grouping contradicts the oft-repeated insistence on provincial autonomy.

§  Absence of provision for elected members from the princely states in the constituent assembly was not acceptable.


§  Grouping should be compulsory with sections B and C developing into solid entities with a view to future secession into Pakistan.

  • Ø  Acceptance and Rejection

§  Muslim League on June 6 and the Congress on June 24, 1946, accepted the long-term plan put forward by the Cabinet Mission.

§  July 1946 Elections were held in provincial assemblies for the Constituent Assembly.

§  July 10, 1946, Nehru stated, that the big probability is that there would be no grouping as NWFP and Assam would have objections to joining sections B and C.

§  July 29, 1946, The League withdrew its acceptance of the long-term plan in response to Nehru’s statement and gave a call for "direct action" from August 16 to achieve Pakistan.

  • v  Communal Holocaust And The Interim Government.

§  From August 16, 1946, the Indian scene was rapidly transformed because of the “Direct Action” announced by the league. There were communal riots on an unprecedented scale, which left around several thousands dead.

§  The worst – hit areas were Calcutta, Bombay, Noakhali, Bihar, and Garhmukteshwar (United Provinces).

  • Ø  Changed Government Priorities

§  Wavell was not eager to somehow get the congress into the Interim Government, even if the league stayed out.

This attitude was against the league’s insistence.

  • Ø  Interim Government

§  A congress – dominated Interim Government headed by Nehru was sworn in on September 2, 1946, with Nehru continuing to insist on his party’s opposition to the compulsory grouping.

Note: - Wavell overruled the ministers on the issue of the release of INA prisoners in his very last cabinet meeting in March 1947.

§  Wavell quietly brought the Muslim League into the Interim Govt. on October 26, 1946.

§  The League was allowed to join the government: -

1.      Without giving up the ‘direct action’

2.     Despite its of the cabinet mission’s long – term and short – term plans.

3.     Despite insistence on compulsory grouping with decisions being taken by a section as a whole.

  • Ø  Ministers of Interim Government (September 2, 1946 – August 15, 1947)

There were 14 ministers in the government –

1.      Jawaharlal Nehru- vice President of executive council, external affairs and common wealth relations.

2.     Vallabhbhai Patel – Home, Information and Broadcasting.

3.     Baldev Sing – Defence

4.     Dr .John Mathai – Industries and supplies

5.     C .Rajagopalachari – Education

6.     C. H. Bhabha – works, mines and power

7.     Rajendra Prasad – Agriculture and Food

8.     Jagjivan Ram – Labour

9.     Asaf Ali – Railway

10.   Liaqat Ali Khan (Muslim League) – Finance

11.    Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar (Muslim League) – Commerce

12.   Abdur Rab Nishtar (Muslim League) – Communication

13.   Ghazanfar Ali Khan (Muslim League) – Health

14.   Jogendra Nath Mandal (Muslim League) – Law

  • Ø  Obstructionist Approach And Ulterior Motives Of The League

§  The league did not attend the constituent assembly which had its first meeting on December 9, 1946.

§  The assembly had to confine itself to passing a general ‘objective resolution’ drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru stating the ideals of an independent sovereign republic with autonomous units, adequate minority safeguards, and social, political, and economic democracy.

§  The league refused to attend informal meetings of the cabinet to take decision.

§  The league questioned the decisions and appointments made by the congress members.

§  Liaqat Ali Khan as the finance minister restricted and encumbered the efficient functioning of other ministers.

§  The league had only sought a foothold in the govt. to fight for Pakistan.

§  In February 1947, nine congress members of the cabinet wrote to the viceroy demanding the resignation of league members and threatening the withdrawal of their own nominees.

§  The league also wrote to the viceroy demanding the dissolution of the constituent assembly.

  • v  Growth of Communalism in India

§  Along with the growth of nationalism the communal feeling also got stronger towards late 19th century and early 20th century. Communalism soon became one of the biggest threats to national movement and the unity of the people in India.

  • Ø  Definition and Stages of Communalism

§  Communalism is basically an ideology on which communal politics is based. Communalism believes that the people of different religions have different interests in political and economic matters.

§  Communalism or communal ideology consists of three basic elements or stages in India: -

1.      Communal Nationalism - it is the belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests, that is, common political, economic, social and cultural interests.

2.     Liberal Communalism - The second element of communal ideology rests on the notion that in multi-religious society like India, the secular interests, that is the social, cultural, economic and political interests, of the followers of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another.

3.     Extreme Communalism - The third stage of communalism is reached when the interests of the followers of different religions or of different communities are seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile (two communists can not co-exist because the interests of one community come into conflict of others).

  • Ø  Communalism in India

§  The communalist asserts the third stage that Hindus and Muslims cannot have common secular interests, that their secular interests are bound to be opposed to each other.

§  It was also at this stage that both the Muslim and Hindu communalists put forward the theory that Muslims and Hindus constituted separate nations whose mutual antagonism was permanent and irresolvable.

§  Most of the communalists before 1937 the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League, the All Brothers after 1925, M.A. Jinnah, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lajpat Rai, and N.C. Kelkar after 1922 functioned within a liberal communal framework. However, after 1937 they increasingly veered towards extreme communalism.

  • Ø  Reasons for Growth of Communalism in India

Reasons for the growth of communalism –

1.   Socio-economic Reasons

§  As a result of underdevelopment due to colonial policies, there was lack of industrial development. Thus, unemployment had become a major problems and there was intense competition for existing jobs.

§  Because of the economic backwardness of India and rampant unemployment, there was ample scope for the colonial government to use concessions, favours and reservations to fuel communal tendencies.

§  It was easy for those desperately searching for jobs to fall prey to this colonial policy. The British officials and the loyalist Muslim leaders incited the educated Muslims against the educated Hindus.

2.   British Policy of Divide and Rule

§  Muslims were generally looked upon with suspicion initially, especially after the Wahabi and 1857 revolts, and were subjected to discrimination by the Government.

§  The introduction of English education had undermined Arabic and Persian learning which added further to the economic backwardness and exclusion of the Muslims from service.

§  After the 1870s, with signs of the emergence of Indian nationalism the Government reversed its policy of repression of Muslims, Now the government decided to rally them behind it through concessions, reservations and favours, and used them against nationalist forces.

§  The Government used persons like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to counter the growing influence of the Congress (talked separate interests of Hindus and Muslims).

3.   Communalism in History Writing

§  Initially imperialist historians and later some chauvinist Indian historians adopted the communal interpretation of Indian history. They portrayed the ancient phase as the Hindu phase and the medieval phase as the Muslim phase.

§  The conflicts of ruling classes during the medieval phase were distorted and exaggerated as Hindu-Muslim conflicts.

§  It was in the interest of the British and communal historians to refuse to acknowledge the notion of a composite culture in India.

4.   Side-effects of socio-religious reform movements

§  Reform movements such as Wahabi Movement among Muslims and Shuddhi among Hindus with their militant overtones made the role of religion more vulnerable to communalism.

§  Reforms, at times, were seen as a process of insulating one community from the influence of another religious community.

5.   Side-effects of militant nationalism

§  The early nationalists made conscious efforts to remove minority fears. E.g. the decision of the Congress not to raise socio-religious questions in its forums.

§  In 1889, the Congress decided not to take up any issue opposed by the Muslims.

§  Later, with the coming of militant nationalism, a distinct Hindu Nationalist tinge was palpable in the nationalist politics. For instance, Tilak{sin-quite}s Ganapati and Shivaji festivals and anti-cow slaughter campaigns created much suspicion.

§  Aurobindo{sin-quite}s vision of an Aryanised world, Swadeshi Movement with elements like dips in the Ganga and revolutionary terrorism with oath-taking before goddesses were hardly likely to enthuse Muslims into these campaigns in a big way.

§  The communal element in the Lucknow Pact (1916) and the Khilafat agitation (1920-22) was too visible to be of insignificant consequences.

6.   Communal Reaction by Majority community

§  The minority communalism met with a reaction from the majority community.

§  From the 1870s itself, many Hindu Zamindars and Moneylenders began to give expression to anti-Muslim sentiments.

§  They went to an extent to declare that the British had liberated the land from Muslim tyranny and saved the Hindus from oppressive rule of Muslims.

§  Many organisations were set up to promote communal outlook such as the Hindu Mahasabha (established in 1915) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS established in 1925).

  • Ø  Evolution of the Two-Nation Theory -

The development of the two-nation theory over the years is as follows:

§  1887: Syed Ahmed Khan appealed to the educated Muslims to stay away from the Congress, although some Muslims did join the Congress.

§  1906: Agha Khan led a Muslim delegation (called the Shimla delegation) to the viceroy, Lord Minto, to demand separate electorates for Muslims at all levels.

§  1909: Separate electorates were awarded under Morley-Minto Reforms. Punjab Hindu Sabha was founded by U.N. Mukherji and Lai Chand.

§  1915: The first session of All India Hindu Mahasabha was held under the aegis of the Maharaja of Kasim Bazar.

§  1912-24: During this period, the Muslim League was dominated by younger Muslim nationalists, but their nationalism was inspired by a communal view of political questions.

§  1916: The Congress accepted the Muslim League demand of separate electorates and the Congress and the League presented joint demands to the government.

§  1920-22: Muslims participated in the Rowlatt and Khilafat Non - Cooperation agitations but there was a communal element in the political outlook of the Muslims.

§  The 1920s: The shadow of communal riots loomed large over the country. The Arya Samajists started Shuddhi (purification) and Sangathan (organisation) movements. The Suddhi movement was aimed at reconverting to Hinduism those who had converted to Islam. The Muslims started the Tabligh and Tanzeen movements in retaliation.

§  1928: The Nehru Report on constitutional reforms as suggested by the Congress was opposed by Muslim hardliners and the Sikh League.

? By negotiating with the Muslim League, Congress made a number of


                                I.         It gave legitimacy to the politics of the League, thus giving recognition to the division of society into separate communities with separate interests.

                              II.         It undermined the role of secular, nationalist Muslims.

                           III.         Concessions to one community prompted other communities to demand similar concessions.

                             IV.         Launching an all-out attack on communalism became difficult.

§  1930-34: Some Muslim groups, such as the Jamaat-i- ulema-i-Hind, State of Kashmir and Khudai Khidmatgar participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement but overall the participation of Muslims was nowhere near the level of the Khilafat Agitation.

§  1932: The Communal Award accepted all Muslim communal demands contained in the 14 points.

§  After 1937: After the Muslim League performed badly in the 1937 provincial elections, it decided to resort to extreme communalism. There were several reasons for the advent of extreme communalism.

With increasing radicalisation, the reactionary elements searched for a social base through channels of communalism.

The colonial administration had exhausted all other means to divide nationalists.

Earlier failures to challenge communal tendencies had emboldened the communal forces.

§  1937-39: Jinnah blocked all avenues for conciliation by forwarding the impossible demand that the Congress should declare itself a Hindu organisation and recognise the Muslim League as the sole representative of the Indian Muslims.

§  March 24, 1940: The {sin-quite}Pakistan Resolution{sin-quite} was passed at the Lahore session of the Muslim League .

§  During Second World War: The British India Government gave a virtual veto to the League on a political settlement.

The league made full use of this privilege and stuck to its demand of a separate Pakistan throughout the negotiations under the August Offer, Cripps proposals, Shimla Conference and Cabinet Mission Plan.

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