Saturday, August 14, 2010

Independence of India and the Muslim League

On the eve of the anniversary of Indian Independence, I thought it to be worthwhile to post a reminder of just whom was responsible for attainment of Independence.  The following are excerpts from Volume X of the Transfer of Power 1942-47, edited by Mansergh and Moon.  These are all from the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, and are a record of Jinnah's request for Pakistan to have dominion status in the British Commonwealth.    Jinnah's arguments in that regard are revealing.

April 11, 1947, Viceroy's Staff Meeting (#119 in T.O.P), Uncirculated Record of Discussion No. 6

HIS EXCELLENCY said that there had come a moment in his interview with Mr Jinnah two days previously when the latter, with a smile on his face, had hesitantly mentioned that, although he did not suggest that it might affect the decision, the first act of the Pakistan Government would probably be to apply for admission to the British Commonwealth on Dominion status.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he had informed Mr Jinnah that his instructions were to do nothing which would in any way help towards the splitting-up of India.  It was the desire of His Majesty's Government, he had said, that there should be a strong unified India free to choose herself whether she wished to remain in the British Commonwealth or not.  He had explained that he could not possibly be a party to any suggestion that Pakistan should enter the Commonwealth, nor could he give any indication of what His Majesty's Government's attitude might be.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he believed that this had been a very rude shock to Mr Jinnah, who had apparently thought that His Majesty's Government would jump at his suggestion.

April 26, 1947, Record of Interview between Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Mr Jinnah (T.O.P #229)

"I then mentioned that Mr Suhrawardy had said that if Bengal remained united and independent, they would wish to remain within the Commonwealth.  Mr Jinnah replied, "Of course, just as I indicated to you that Pakistan would wish to remain within the Commonwealth".  I corrected him and said, "No, you told me that if the Pakistan Government was formed, its first act might well be to ask to be admitted to membership of the British Commonwealth."

"He corrected me and said I completely misunderstood the position; it was not a question of asking to be admitted, it was a question of not being kicked out.  He said that Mr. Churchill had told him: "You only have to stand firm and demand your rights not be to expelled from the British Commonwealth and you are bound to be accepted.  The country would never stand for the expulsion of loyal members of the Empire."

"Mr Jinnah told me that the had asked Sir Stafford Cripps what form legislation on the transfer of power was likely to take; could he count on the fact that it would be in the form that India or parts of India would be granted the same privilege as other members of the British Commonwealth; i.e., the right to secede if they so wished, failing which they would automatically still be in the Empire."

"Sir Stafford Cripps replied that he was not in a position to answer that question at that time. Mr Jinnah said "Thus like a true lawyer he evaded the question; but it is quite clear to me that you cannot kick us out; there is no precedent for forcing parts of the Empire to leave against their will."


May 1, 1947, Viceroy's Personal Report No. 5 (T.O.P. #276)

39. A new problem has now arisen, in that Jinnah has come into the open and pointed out to me that it is not a question of Pakistan applying for admission to the British Commonwealth, but on the contrary a question of whether the British Commonwealth is in a position to expel Pakistan against her wish.

In effect he says "All the Muslims have been loyal to the British from the beginning.  We supplied a high proportion of the army which fought in both wars.  None of our leaders has ever had to go to prison for disloyalty.  Not one member of the Muslim League was present in the Constituent Assembly when the Congress passed the resolution for an Independent Sovereign Republic of India.  In fact not one of us has done anything to deserve expulsion from the Empire.  And what about the other dominions - Australia and New Zealand - will they accept our being expelled against our will? Is there  anything in the Statute of Westminster that allows you to kick out parts of the Commonwealth because a neighboring state that used to be a member wishes to leave?  I asked Mr. Churchill and Sir Stafford Cripps for their views when I was in London.  Mr. Churchill assured me that the British people would never stand for our being expelled.  Sir Stafford Cripps informed me that he could not answer how the legislation would be framed and whether we should be given an opportunity of deciding whether to stay in on our own."

40. I replied "Emotionally and sentimentally I not only see your point of view but share it.  Rationally, I cannot support it; for if one part of India remained within the Commonwealth and you had British officers and British help, and civil war broke out with the other part of India, then the British would be in a quite impossible position and one they would never willingly accept".  In fact I warned him to prepare himself for a refusal.  He however relied on the power of public appeal over our heads, and expressed confidence in the support he would get.

No comments:

Post a Comment