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  • SURGE TOWARDS FREEDOM – 08

SURGE TOWARDS FREEDOM - 08

The Statesman described it as the ‘Great Calcutta Killing’. Neither the League Ministry in Bengal, nor the Governor and the Viceroy of India, took adequate steps to prevent the ‘bloody shambles to which the country’s largest city’ was reduced. Meanwhile the Viceroy was busy in trying to form the interim Government. On the Muslim Legue’s refusal to co-operate, the interim Government of 12 members, with Jawaharlal Nehru as Vice-President, took office on September 2, 1946. At this time, communal frenzy rose to fever pitch at many places, causing most dreadful outrages. The Hindus of a number of villages in the district of Noakhali and the adjoining district of Comilla (both in Bangladesh now) were subjected to atrocious tortures by the followers of the Muslim League. As a reaction against these, there were soon communal disturbances in different parts of Bihar in which the Muslims of this province suffered terribly through loss of lives and property. Jawaharala Nehru at once flew to Bihar and Dr. Rajendra Prasad also rushed there. Their efforts and influence and some vigorous steps on the part of the Congress Ministry served to put a stop to the tragic events.

By a subtle move, the Viceroy made a change in the interim Government. After his discussions with Jinnah, he told Jawaharlal Nehru that the Muslim League had agreed to join the Constituent Assembly, and five Muslim League nominees entered the interim Government on October 26, 1946. The new Government lacked team-spirit and the attitude of the Muslim league made it ‘bipartisan rather than a real coalition’.  The political situation in India was becoming more and more complicated. The London talks of the Viceroy early in December 1946, failed to effect any improvement and Jinna’s declaration that the Muslim League would not join the Constituent Assembly and that it had never agreed to do so, made matters worse . The British Government issued a statement on December 6 declaring that “should be Constitution come to be framed by a Constituent Assembly in which a large section of the Indian population has not been represented. His Majesty’s Government could not, of course, contemplate – as the Congress have stated they would not contemplate – forcing such a Constitution upon any unwilling parts of the country.”

The Congress was anxious that the constitution of free India should be framed ‘with the goodwill of all parties concerned’. The Constituent Assembly met on December 9, 1946, the elected members of the Muslim League absenting themselves from it though representatives of different provinces and communities participated in its work. The Constituent Assembly met again in the third week of January 1947, with Dr. Ranjendra Prasad as its President, when it passed Jawaharlal Nehru’s resolution on the declaration of objectives and appointed committees to draft several parts of the constitution. Meeting at karachi or January 31, 1947 the Working Committee of the Muslim League however, repudiated the proceedings and decisions of the Constituent Assembly. At this extremely tense and uncertain situation the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, made a momentous declaration of February 20, 1947 stating therein the intention of the British Government for transfer of power into ‘responsible India hand’ not later than June 1948. This announcement was received with enthusiasm in all circles, except in the Muslim League. It once again started ‘Direct Action’, as a result of which communal riots with arson, lootings, murders and violence broke out in the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province.

The irresistible force of circumstances accelerated India’s march to a new status. Gifted with keen political sagacity and statesmanship of a high order, the new Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten who had assumed office on March 24, 1947 issued a [;am pm June 3. 1947, containing the method by which power will be transferred from British to Indian Hands.’ This plan suggested India’s partition and expressed a desire on the part of the British Government to anticipate the date and month of June 1948 for ‘transference of power’ that year on a Dominion Status basis to one or two successor authorities according to the decisions taken as a result of this announcement.

The plan of June 3, 1947. had certain obvious limitations. Its proposal regarding partition shattered the ideal of a united and free India which had to pay for her freedom. The plan was accepted by the Congress leaders due to some very practical considerations. The Muslim League also agreed to it. Two Commissions, appointed by the British Government, with Sri Cyril Radcliffe as Chairman of both, arranged the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. According to the Indian Independence Act, passed by the British Parliament in July 1947, without any dissent, two independent dominions of India and Pakistan came into existence on August 15, 1947. Lord Mountbatten continued as the Governor – General of India and Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan. The first Indian Governor-General of the India was C. Rajagopalachari who took over form Lord Mountbatten.

August 15, 1947 is indeed a memorable day in the history  of India as it marked her deliverance from alien domination by the mutual consent of the British nation and the Indian statesmen. “It fills one with a feeling of gladness”, observed Ernest Bevin a member of the British Cabinet, to live in this generation and see the fate of 400 million people handled by discussion by reason by agreement and not by gun.”

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