The Cabinet Mission 1946- Full Text

Campaign For Indian Independence Aka Cabinet Mission At Work For Indian Independence

The United Kingdom Cabinet Mission of 1946 to India aimed to discuss and plan for the transfer of power from the British government to Indian leadership to provide India with independence .

The Cabinet Mission’s purposes were to hold preparatory discussions with elected representatives of British India and the Indian states to secure agreement as to the method of framing the constitution, to set up a constitution body and to set up an Executive Council with the support of the main Indian parties.

The Mission held talks with the representatives of the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League, the two largest political parties in the Constituent Assembly of India. The two parties planned to determine a power-sharing arrangement between Hindus and Muslims to prevent a communal dispute.and to determine whether British India would be better be being unified or divided.

 


1. On the 15th March last, just before the dispatch of the Cabinet Mission to
India, Mr. Attlee, the British Prime Minister, usedthese words:

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Clement Attlee 26 July 1945 – 26 October 1951

‘My colleagues are going to India with the intention of using their, utmost
endeavors to help her to attain her freedom as speedily and fully as possible.
What form of Government is to replace the present regime is for India to decide;
but our desire is to help her to set up forthwith the machinery for making that
decision……?

I hope that the Indian people may elect to remain within the British
Commonwealth. I am certain that she will find greatadvantages in doing so…….
‘But if she does so elect, it must be by her own free will. The British
Commonwealth and Empire is not bound together by chains of external
compulsion. It is a free association of free peoples. If, on the other hand, she
elects for independence, in our view she has a right to do so. It will be for us to
help to make the transition as smooth and easy as possible.’
2. Charged in these historic words, we—the Cabinet Ministers and the Viceroy
have done our utmost to assist the two main political parties, to reach agreement upon
the fundamental issue of the unity or division of India After prolonged discussions in
New Delhi we succeeded in bringing the Congress andthe Muslim League together in
conference at Simla. There was a full exchange of views and both parties were prepared
to make considerable concessions in order to try toreach a settlement, but it ultimately
proved impossible to close the remainder of the gap between the parties and so no
agreement could be concluded. Since no agreement has been reached, we feel that it is
our duty to put forward what we consider are the best arrangements possible to ensure a
speedy setting up of the new constitution. This statement is made with the full approval
of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom.
3. We have accordingly decided that immediate arrangements should be made
whereby Indians may decide the future constitution of India, and an interim Government
may be set up at once to carry on the administration of British India until such time as a
new constitution can be brought into being.

We have endeavored to be just to the smaller as well as to the larger sections of
the people and to recommend a solution which will lead to a practicable way of
governing the India of the future, and will give a sound basis for defence and a good
opportunity for progress in the Social, political and economic field.
4. It is not intended in this statement to review the voluminous evidence which
has been submitted to the Mission; but it is right that we should state that it has shown an
almost universal desire, outside the supporters of the Muslim League, for the unity of
India.
5. This consideration did not, however, deter us from examining closely and
impartially the possibility of a partition of India; since we were greatly impressed by the
very genuine and acute anxiety of the Muslims lest they should find themselves
subjected to a perpetual Hindu-majority rule. This feeling has become so strong and
widespread amongst the Muslims that it cannot be allayed by mere paper safeguards. If
there is to be internal peace in India it must be secured by measures which will assure to
the Muslims a control in all matters vital to theirculture, religion and economic or other
interests.
6. We therefore examined in the first instance the question of a separate and fully
independent sovereign state of Pakistan as claimed by the Muslim League. Such a
Pakistan would comprise two areas: one in the North-West consisting of the provinces of
the Punjab, Sind, North-West Frontier, and British Baluchistan; the other in the North-
East consisting of the provinces of Bengal and Assam. The League were prepared to
consider adjustment of boundaries at a later stage, but insisted that the principle of
Pakistan should first be acknowledged. The argumentfor a separate state of Pakistan was
based, first, upon the right of the Muslim majorityto decide their method or government
according to their wishes, and, secondly, upon the necessity to include substantial areas
in which Muslims are in a minority, in order to make Pakistan administratively and
economically workable.
The size of the non-Muslim minorities in a Pakistancomprising the whole of the
six provinces enumerated above would be very considerable as the following figures
show: North-Western Area

 

Muslim Non-Muslim
Punjab … 16,217,242 12,201,577
North-West Frontier Province- 2,788,797 249,270
Sind- 3,208,325 1,326,683
British Baluchistan- 438,930 62,701
North-Eastern Area : 22,653,294 13,840,231
Bengal 62.07 per cent 37.93 percent
Assam 33,005,434 27,301,091
3,442,479 6,762,254
36,447,913 34,063,345
51.69 per cent 48.31 per cent

The Muslim minorities in the remainder of British India number some 20 million
dispersed amongst a total population of 188 million.
These figures show that the setting up of a separate sovereign state of Pakistan on
the lines claimed by the Muslim League would not so lve the communal minority
problem; nor can we see any justification for including within a sovereign Pakistan those
districts of the Punjab and of Bengal and Assam in which the population is
predominantly non- Muslim. Every argument that can be used in favor of Pakistan can
equally, in our view, be used in favor of the exclusion of the non-Muslim areas from
Pakistan. This point would particularly affect the position of the Sikhs.
7. We, therefore, considered whether a small sovereign Pakistan confined to the
Muslim majority areas alone might be a possible basis of compromise. Such a Pakistan is
regarded by the Muslim League as quite impracticable because it would entail the
exclusion from Pakistan of (a) the whole of the Ambala and Jullundur divisions in the
Punjab; (b) the whole of Assam except the district of Sylhet; and (c) a large part of
Western Bengal, including Calcutta, in which city the percentage of the Muslim
population is 23.6 per cent. We ourselves are also convinced that any solution which
involves a radical partition of the Punjab and Bengal, as this would do, would be
contrary to the wishes and interests of a very large proportion of the inhabitants of these
provinces. Bengal and the Punjab each have its own common language and a long
history and tradition. Moreover, any division of the Punjab would of necessity to divide
the Sikhs, leaving substantial bodies of Sikhs on both sides of the boundary: We have
therefore been forced to the conclusion that neither a larger nor a smaller sovereign state
of Pakistan would provide an acceptable solution for the communal problem.
8. Apart from the great force of the foregoing arguments there are weighty
administrative, economic and military considerations. The whole of the transportation
and postal and telegraph systems of India have beenestablished on the basis of a United
India. To disintegrate them would gravely injure both parts of India. The case for a
united defense is even stronger. The Indian Armed Forces have been built up as a whole
for the defense of India as a whole, and to break them in two would inflict a deadly blow
on the long traditions and high degree of efficiency of the Indian Army and would entail
the gravest dangers. The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force would become much less
effective. The two sections of the suggested Pakistan contain the two most vulnerable
frontiers in India and for a successful defense in depth the area of Pakistan would be
insufficient.
9. A further consideration of importance is the greater difficulty which the
Indian States would find in associating themselves with a divided British India
10. Finally, there is the geographical fact that the two halves of the proposed
Pakistan state are separated by some seven hundred miles and the communications
between them both in war and peace would be dependent on the goodwill of Hindustan.
11. We are therefore unable to advise the British Government that the power
which at present resides in British hands should behanded over to two entirely separate
sovereign states.

12. This decision does not. However blind us to the very real Muslim
apprehensions that their culture and political and social life might become submerged in
a purely unitary India, in which the Hindus with their reality superior numbers must be a
dominating element. To meet this the Congress have put forward a scheme under which
provinces would have full autonomy subject only to a minimum of central subjects, such
as foreign affairs, defense and communications.
Under this scheme provinces, if they wished to take part in economic and
administrative planning on a large scale, could cede to the centre optional subjects in
addition to the compulsory ones mentioned above.
13. Such a scheme would, in our view, present considerable constitutional
disadvantages and anomalies. It would be very difficult to work a central executive and
legislature in which some ministers, who dealt with compulsory subjects, were
responsible to the whole of India while other ministers, who dealt with optional subjects,
would be responsible only to those provinces who had elected to act together in respect
of such subjects. This difficulty would be accentuated in the central legislature, where it
would be necessary to exclude certain members from speaking and voting when subjects
with whom their provinces were not concerned were under discussion. Apart from the
difficulty of working such a scheme, we do not consider that it would be fair to deny to
other provinces, which did not desire to take the optional subjects at the centre, the right
to form themselves into a group for a similar purpose. This would indeed be no more
than the exercise of their autonomous powers in a particular way.
14. Before putting forward our recommendations we turn to deal with the
relationship of the India States to British India. It is quite clear that with the attainment
of independence by British India, whether inside oroutside the British Commonwealth,
the relationship which has hitherto existed between the Rulers of the. States and the
British Crown will no longer be possible. Paramountcy can neither be retained by the
British Crown nor transferred to the new government. This fact has been fully
recognized by those whom we interviewed from the states. They have at the same time
assured us that the States are ready and willing tocooperate in the new development of
India. The precise form which their co-operation will take must be a matter for
negotiation during the building up of the new constitutional structure and it by no means
follows that it will be identical for all the States. We have not therefore dealt with the
States in the same detail as the provinces of British India in the paragraphs which follow.
15. We now indicate the nature of a solution which in our view would be just to
the essential claims of all parties and would at the same time be most likely to bring
about a stable and practicable form of constitutionfor All-India.
We recommend that the constitution should take the following basic form:
(1) There should be a Union of India, embracing both British India and the
States, which should deal with the following subjects: foreign affairs, defense and
communications: and should have the powers necessar y to raise the finances required for
the above subjects.

(2) The Union should have an executive and a legislature constituted from British
Indian and States representatives. Any question raising a major communal issue in the
legislature should require for its decision a majority of the representatives present and
voting of each of the two major communities as wellas a majority of all the members
present and voting.
(3) All subjects other than the Union subjects and all residuary power
should vest in the provinces.
(4) The States will retain all subjects and powers other than those
ceded to the Union.
(5) Provinces should be free to form groups with executives and
legislatures, and each group could determine the provincial subjects to be
taken in common.
(6) The constitutions of the Union and of the groups should contain a
provision whereby any province could by a majority vote of its legislative
assembly call for a reconsideration of the terms of the constitution after an
initial period of ten years and at ten-yearly intervals thereafter.
16. It is not our object to lay out the details ofa constitution on the above
programme but to set in motion machinery whereby a constitution can be settled by
Indians for Indians.
It has been necessary, however for us to make this recommendation as to the
broad basis of the future constitution because it became clear to us in the course of our
negotiations that not until that had been done werethere any hope of getting two major
communities to join in the setting up of the constitution-making machinery….
We hope that the new independent India may choose to be a member of the
British Commonwealth. We hope, in any event, that you will remain in close and
friendly association with our people. But these are matters for your own free choice.
Whatever that choice may be, we look forward with you to your ever increasing
prosperity among the greatest nations of the world to a future even more glorious than
your past.

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