25. National Struggle

For nine years after the Surat split the Congress was dominated by the moderates. The British Government took advantage of the dissensions in the ranks of the Congress to widen the gulf between the parties and to drive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims. The Morley-Minto Reforms were meant to rally the moderates. They also marked a decisive stage in the British policy of using Indians against Indians. By conceding separate electorates to the Muslims these reforms strongly entrenched communalism and hit the national movement below the belt. Another sympathetic gesture to the moderates was the reversal of the Partition of Bengal. A royal boon announced as the Durbar held at Delhi on the occasion of the visit of their majesties King George V and Queen Mary.
Morley-Minto Reforms
It was not long before the people saw through the imperialistic game. They found the reforms of 1909 quite unsatisfactory in their actual working. The substance of power was retained by the irresponsible executive while the farm was conceded to the legislature. They realised the danger inherent in the separate electorates granted to the Muslims. Hence they became more and more estranged from the Government.
The Muslim League continued its separate existence from the Congress for a long time. In 1916 the Conferences of the Congress and the Muslim League were held simultaneously at Lucknow and a pact known as Lucknow Pact was arrived at between the two. A joint plan with regard to constitution reforms was prepared and the Congress accepted the demand of the Muslims for separate electorate and increase in number of seats to them. This unity could not continue for a long time because the demands of the Muslims went on increasing day by day. Later on Mohd. Ali Jinnah advocate the principle of two nations and put forward the demand for formation of Pakistan.
Rawlett Act and Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy
The Indians extended their whole hearted support to the British in the I World War (1914-18). The Indians had to suffer on account of the increase in prices, low salaries, lack of goods, spread of Plague and Influenza etc. during the period of war. The freedom had also been restricted by the Indian Defence Rules. Inspite the this the British did not care for their sacrifice and co-operation and published Montague-Chelmsford Report in 1918 and declared that this was to be the basis of future reforms. The Indians were greatly disappointed. In the same year the Government passed Rawlett Act which provided for the speedy trial of offences without any right of appeal. It also provided that the search of a place and the arrest of a suspected person could be confined for a period of one year in the first instance and to there years in all.
There was a lot of agitation against this measure of the Government. Inspite of the warning of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru many innocent persons were arrested under Defence of India rules. Hartals were observed in the whole of the country. There were wide spread revolts in Punjab where Sat Pal and Dr. Kichlew were arrested. On April 12,1919 General Dyer declared that no meetings or gathering of people were to be held. Inspite of this declaration a meeting was organised at about 4.30 P.M. on April 13, 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh. The Government made no attempt to check the holding of the meeting but when the meeting was taking place in which about 10,000 persons were present Gen. Dyer reached there with troops. He closed all the gates except one of the Jallianwala Bagh and ordered the troops to fire. The firing continued till the whole of the ammunition was exhausted. Mass of humanity caught like rats in trap vainly rushing for the few narrow exists or lying flat on the ground to escape the rain of bullets. While giving evidence before the Hunter Enquiry Committee, Lala Girdhari Lal said that there must have been 1000 dead bodies in the garden. General Dyer contended that he wanted to teach them a lesson so that they might not laugh at him. He would have fired and fired longer if he had required ammunition. He had only fired 16,000 rounds because his ammunition had run out. According to Annie Besant, “I have been shocked to read the evidence given by the military authorities before the Hunter Committee. Nothing more then is recorded out of their own mouths was done by the Germans in Belgium.” The happening in the Punjab distressed Rabindra Nath Tagore so much so that he gave up the title of Knighthood which had been bestowed upon him by the government of India.
Mahatma Gandhi and the Non-Co-operation Movement
Mahatma Gandhi entered the scene of India politics in the year 1915. After the death of Lokmanya Tilak on 31st July 1920 the power of the Congress came into the hands of Mahatma Gandhi. Thus by 1920 his popularity and influence had considerably increased in Indian politics. In 1920, Gandhiji started Non-Co-operation Movement. Hitherto Gandhiji also believed in the justice of the British and he had extended his whole hearted support to the British in the first world war. But his faith was shaken on account of Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, Martial Law in Punjab and the Report of Hunter Enquiry Committee. On the other hand, the Muslims of India had started a Khilafat Movement on account of terms of treaty made by the Allied nations with Turkey with a view to strengthen the unity of Hindu- Muslims. Gandhiji also extended his support and Co-operation to the Khilafat Movement.
Programme of the Non Co-operation Movement
Gandhiji started the Non-Co-operation Movement and adopted the following programme :
Surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from the nominated posts in local bodies.
Refusal to attend Government duties, Durbars and other official and non official functions.
Withdrawal of children from Government Schools and Colleges and establishment of national schools and colleges in every province.
Boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants and establishment of private attribution courts for the settlement of private disputes.
Refusal on the part of military, clerical and labouring classes to offer themselves as recruits for service in Mesopotamia.
Withdrawal by candidates from election to the reformed councils and refusal on the part of voters to vote.
Boycott of foreign goods.
The movement aimed to inculcate a measure of discipline and self sacrifice among the people. Gandhiji believed that if people extended their whole-hearted co-operation and remained non-violent, they could get Swaraj within a year. The Hindus and Muslims both took active part in the movement. Foreign goods were burnt in different parts of the country and the students left their colleges. Gandhiji gave up the title of Kaisar-e-Hind. Hartals were observed in protest of the Prince of Wales visit of India. The Government tried to suppress the movement mercilessly. The Satyagrahis were mercilessly beaten and all the leaders were arrested. As many as 25,000 persons were sent to jails. In 1921 Gandhiji gave seven days notice to the Governor General to release the non-violent agitators.
Chauri Chaura Incident
In this incident, a mob of 3000 persons killed 21 policemen and one inspector and burnt the police post at Chauri Chaura. Gandhiji who stood for complete non-violence was shocked by this incident and ordered that the movement be suspended. The other Congress leader severely criticised Gandhiji for suspending the movement suddenly. Gandhiji was arrested and sentenced to six years imprisonment. But on account of illhealth he was released in February 1924.
The Swarjist Party
After the suspension of Non-Co-operation Movement, the Country had no programme for the time being. Chitranjan Das, Moti Lal Nehru and C.Kelkar formed the Swarajist Party with in the Congress and decided to enter the Legislative Assemblies in order to oppose the policies of the Government. But the resolution for entering the Assemblies could not be accepted in the Congress Session of Gaya in 1922.
But the resolution was accepted in the special session of Congress held in Delhi. Consequently elections were fourth and the Congress gained majority in several provinces in the elections of 1934. However, they could not achieve much by their opposition to the Government Policies. Lord Reading the contemporary Governor General in India offered a proposal for a Round Table conference in order to draft the constitution for India. But his proposal was rejected. The Swaraj Party declined after the death of Chitranjan Das in 1925. The Party was successful at least in convincing even the British conservatives that the system of dyarchy was unworkable.
Simon Commission
In 1927, the British Government appointed a Royal Commission headed by Sir John Simon to submit a report on the constitutional develop-ment in India after the enactment of the Government of India Act 1919. All parties boycotted the meetings of the Simon Commission because all its members were Britishers and not a single Indian was taken on the Commission. Where even the commission went it was welcomed with black flags and the slogans ‘Go back Simon’. Commission submitted its report in 1930 on the basis of which the Government of India Act, 1935 was passed.
Nehru Report
Lord Buckinhead, secretary of State for India asked the Indian leaders to draft a constitution of India which was acceptable to all. A committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Pt. Moti Lal Nehru and the report it prepared was called Nehru Report. The Committee had drafted a constitution which demanded Dominion Status for India. The report was considered by the Congress in its annual session of 1928 held at Calcutta. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose were in favour of complete Swaraj. However, some leaders were satisfied by Dominion Status for the time being. Efforts of Mahatma Gandhi brought about a compromise between the two groups and the Congress passed a resolution that if the said constitution was not accepted by December 1929 the Congress would not be bound to accept it and would start the non-violent Civil Disobedience Movement.
Civil Disobedience Movement of 1932 and the Dandi March
On 31st October 1929 Lord Irwin the Contemporary Governor General Lord Irwin declared that the object of the British Government was to grant Dominion Status to India but no definite date could be fixed. Hence the Congress passed the resolution of complete independence in 1929 at Lahore session under the Presidentship of Jawahar Lal Nehru. 26th January 1930 was declared as Independence Day. The programme of Civil Disobedience Movement was also fixed. Gandhiji wrote a letter to Lord Irwin informing him regarding his decision to break the law regarding salt along with his colleagues in the Sabarmati Ashram. On March 12, 1930 he started his famous Dandi March. It was a signal for the start of Civil Disobedience Movement all over the country. The Government arrested a large number of Congress workers and many persons were even shot dead. The British tried to suppress the Movement with a strong hand.
Gandhi-Irwin Pact The First Round Table conference was held in London on November 12, 1930, but the Congress refused to take part in it. The Government released the Congress leader on 16th February 1931. Gandhi-Irwin Pact was made on 31st March 1931. All the Congress workers were released and peaceful picketing of liquor shops was allowed. On his part Gandhiji agreed to participate in the Second Round Table conference and to stop the boycott movement. It was at this time that Bhagat Singh and colleagues were hanged to death. This sent a ware of resentment all over the country. Liberal Party came to power in England and Lord Willngdon was appointed as Governor-General.
Poona Pact
The experience of the Second Round Table conference clearly showed Gandhiji that the ways of the British Government were quite different. He decided to restart the Civil Disobedience Movement. But he and almost all the members of the Congress Committee and other leaders were arrested and sent to jails. The Indian National Congress was declared as an illegal institution. About one lakh persons were imprisoned. The British Prime Minister Macdonald announced the Communal Award which provided separate electorate for scheduled castes. But Congress refused to accept this decision. Gandhiji who was in prison under took a fast unto death as a protest against the provision of a separate electorate for the Scheduled Caste Hindus. But a timely compromise made by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the leader of the depressed classes saved the situation from growing worse. The outcome was the Poona Pact by which the number of seats reserved for the depressed classes was nearly doubled. These seats were to be filled up by a joint electorate out of the panel of names selected by the depressed classes. This arrangement hit hard the upper caste Hindus although it maintained the integrity of the Hindu Community. Gandhiji broke his fast and nationalist India heaved a sigh of relief.
Decline of Civil Disobedience Movement
The severe measures adopted by Lord Willingdon (1931-36) made the continuance of civil disobedience difficult and by the middle of 1934 the movement of India Act 1935 providing for an all India Federation. The scheme of federation never materialised owing to the opposition of the Congress and the Indian princes. But Provincial Autonomy came into operation from April 1937. On the assurance of the Provincial Governors that they would not ordinarily interfere with the work of the ministers, the Congress decided to work the provincial part of the new constitution. In the elections that took place in 1937 the Congress swept the polls in the general constituencies. The Muslim League fared badly even in provinces predominantly Muslim. Congress ministries were found in seven out of eleven provinces and coalition ministries were formed in Sind and Assam. It was only in Bengal and the Punjab that the League predominated. The Congress ministries did some commendable work relating to primary education, prohibition of liquor and the improvement of the villages and the peasants. But the Congress ministries lasted only for 20 months. The Second War broke out in 1939. On account of the War policy the British Government and on the question of giving support and cooperation to the British Government during war, the Congress Ministries resigned. The Governors took all the powers excepting those of High Courts into their hands.
Rift between the Congress and the League
The phenomenal success of the Congress in the election of 1937 alarmed Mr. Jinnah. He expected that Congress-League coalition ministries would be formed in all the provinces. But the Congress refused to form coalitions unless the Leagues ceased to function as a separate group. To this proposal of the Congress the League refused to agree. Mr. Jinnah openly declared, “Muslim can expect neither justice nor fair play under Congress Government.” The majority of Muslims accepted this view and began to rally round the league. Mr. Jinnah acquired a new personal authority and became the undisputed leader of his community. He now started a campaign of vilification against the Congress ministries. He began to complain against the unfair treatment of the Muslims in the Congress provinces and to circulate stories of atrocities never substantiated, against the Congress Governments. Even European officials have testified to the justice and efficiency of the Congress governments. But Mr. Jinnah was determined to give a bad name to the Congress and went on with his fulminations.
Split in Congress
About this time there was a split in the Congress Camp. The Rightist led by Rajaji and Vallabh Bhai Patel were devoted followers of Gandhiji. They counselled patience and were not as yet prepared to organise the forces to overthrow British imperialism. The leftist were led by Subhash Chandra Bose. He stood for a bold policy and thought that the time was rise for an all out National resistance against foreign rule. The two groups came to grips on the occasion of the election of the Congress President for the Tripuri Session of 1939. Subhash Chandra sought re-election for Presidentship but was opposed by the Rightists who at Gandhiji instance set up Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya as a rival candidate. Bose won the but was forced out by the Right wingers who prevented him from securing a favourable working committee. Subhash Chandra then formed a new group known as the Forward Bloc. This split discredited the old guard of the Congress. It was very tragic that Bose who had succeeded in winning the confidence of his country men failed to win the confidence of India’s greatest man.
Resignation of Congress Ministries
The Congress ministries did good work in the Provinces but were not destined to function long. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 and England declared War against Nazi Germany. India was dragged into belligerency even without the formality of consulting the wishes of the Congress. With great chagrin the working Committee of the Congress protested against this attitude and asked the British Government to declare clearly its war aims in regard to democracy in so far as India was concerned. A few days after the Congress demanded that “India be declared an independent nation and present application should be given to this status to the largest possible extent.” The British Government was neither explicit in the declaration of its war aims nor agreeable to the demand of the Congress. There upon the Congress Ministries in the Provinces resigned in November 1939. The Muslim League was very jubilant and Mr. Jinnah heaved a sigh of relief and asked the Muslims of the country to observe a day of deliverance. The resignation of the Congress Ministries was perhaps a serious tactical blunder. Through out the war the Congress was out of power and British Government had no alternative but to woo the Muslim League. Mr. Jinnah took full advantage of the situation.
India and the II World War
The rapid success of Germany and the fall of France in the Summer of 1940 caused perturbations in India. Gandhiji issued appeals to the people to remain quiet declaring, “We do not seek our independence out of Britain’s ruin”. The Congress though out of office offered to cooperate with the war efforts of the allies if a provisional national Government was set up at least at the centre. But the British Government would not yield. The viceroy Lord Linlithgow in a statement published on 8th August 1940 made in clear that the British Government could not contemplate the transfer of their present responsibilities for the peace and welfare of India to any system of Government whose authority was desired by large and powerful elements in India national life.
Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory
The capital which the British Government was making of the Communal disharmony encouraged Mr. Jinnah. He began to ignore all other Muslim organisations and demanded that the Muslim League should be recognised as the only authoritative organisation of the Muslims in India. He declared that in India democracy based on majority rule would not be workable, to cap the climax he declared at the Lahore Session of the Muslim League (March 1940) that the Muslims were not in minority but a separate nation and that they must have their separate home land with a separate state i.e, Pakistan. The two nation theory thus propounded dashed to the grounds all hopes of Hindu-Muslim unity. His ceaseless demand for Pakistan produced a peculiar psychosis among the Muslims and they were led to believe that in an independent India the Muslims would be in the minority and so would lose the preference which they now enjoyed under the British rule. Hence the “Partition of India is the only solution” declared Mr. Jinnah. To Mahatma Gandhi on the other hand the communal question was not an unbridgeable gulf between the Congress and the Muslim League. It was a domestic problem which would disappear if the British withdrew from India.
Meanwhile the international situation had become extremely serious. Japan had declared war against England and had joined resounding victories. The Japanese had captured Singapore and Rangoon and were about to knock at the eastern defences of India. A United War front against the Japanese menance was urgently needed. But it was a difficult task in view of the communal discard and Indian distrust of British sincerity. This distrust was recently intensified by Mr. Churchill’s declaration that the Atlantic Charter was not applicable to India. Realising this serious situation the British Government sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India, to resolve the Indian deadlock and rally at the forces of India’s life against the Japanese menance.
The Cripps Mission
The Cripps mission arrived at Delhi in March 1942. Sir Stafford Cripps opened negotiations with the representatives of various Indian parties and put forward his proposals in a Draft Declaration. It provided that India was to have Dominion status and a constitution making body after the end of the war. In the meantime, the British Government was to retain control of the Defence of India as part of their World War effort with the co-operation of the Indian people. His proposals were rejected by every single party or group and Mahatma Gandhi characterised the pledge about the future settlement of the constitution as a post-dated cheque on a bank that was obviously failing. The negotiations broke down and Sir Stafford left India.
Quit India Movement
The failure of Cripps mission produced a feeling of frustration in the mind of the Indian people at a time when they were alarmed and exited at the rapid approach of the Japanese army at their gates. The Congress leaders felt that only ‘a people’s War’ would avert the Japanese menance and in order to mobilise the full resources of the people a complete transfer of power to Indian hands was necessary. Accordingly the Working Committee of the Congress met at Wardha in July 1942 and published a resolution asking the British Government refuse to withdraw, a mass struggle on an All India scale would be started under Gandhiji’s leadership. The British Government replied to this challenge by immediately arresting Gandhiji and the members of the Working Committee.
Revolt all over India
Gandhiji and all the top Congress leaders were arrested. All Congress Committees were banned, The sudden removal of all the prominent leaders produced a terrible explosion of popular feelings. They were mass repulses and disorders in almost every part of the country and these took a very serious turn at Midnapur and other eastern districts of the United Provinces. The repressive measures spread a wave of violence through out the country. On account of the lack of guidance of the leaders, the people adopted violent means for the attainment of independence. Railways, telegraphs and government buildings were destroyed. Except the Communist Party and the Muslim League almost all the parties of the country took active part in the movement. Shri Jai Prakash Narayan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and Shrimati Aruna Asaf Ali made a significant contribution in the movement of 1942. Considerable government property was destroyed by the people. Crowds gathered in cities and rural areas and attacked what seemed to them symbols of British power such as police stations, post offices, railways etc. The unarmed and leaderless mobs faced police and military firing on not less than 538 occasions. The Government put down the disturbances with the exceptional ferocity. Gandhiji at the age of 73 undertook a fast for three weeks as a protest against Government atrocities. There was great anxiety felt all over the country. The Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow refused to listen to the wide spread demand for Gandhiji’s unconditional release and so the three Indian members of the Viceregal Executive Council resigned.
Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and the I.N.A.
Besides internal disturbances the British Government had to face a serious external danger while the August Movement was dying out, the battle of Indian freedom was going on in a different quarter and under different leadership. Subhash Chandra Bose a most gallant fighter for India’s freedom disappeared from his Calcutta house where he was interned and made his way to Germany. Then he went to Japan and finally reached Singapore. At the time of Japanese conquest of Malaya a large number of Indian soldiers in the British army had fallen into the hands of the Japanese. They were released and Subhash Chandra Bose who was now called Netaji organised them into Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj. He also set up the Azad Hind Government at Singapore in 1943. Netaji’s army marched up the frontiers of India and even penetrated into the Indian territory. Eventually the army was compelled to surrender to the British for want of Provisions. Netaji’s daring move gave a very bad headache to the British Government and is more significant that is usually realise. The case with which Indian soldier whose loyalty till now was unquestioned transferred their allegiance to a national leader must have convinced thoughtful Britishers that the Indian army was no longer dependable part of British imperialism.
Rajaji Formula, Wavell Plan and Simla Conference
The Muslim League had demanded the formation of Pakistan in the Lahore Session in 1940. But when the Congress started the Quit India Movement in 1942 Mohamad Ali Jinnah declared that this movement aimed not only to drive away the Britishers out of the country but also to usurp the rights of the Muslims that they could live in independence only after the division of India. In order to solve the problem C. Rajagopalachari made a plan which is known as Rajaji Formula. Although this plan gave many concessions to the Muslim yet Jinnah rejected this plan. In the summer of 1945 the contemporary Viceroy Lord Willingdon Wavell went to London to have consultations with the members of British Cabinet. After his return, he organised Simla Conference in order to solve the constitutional tangle of India. Both the Congress and the Muslim League took part in the Simla Conference but the conference could not succeed on account of the attitude of the Muslim League. The proposals of the plan offered by the Governor-General are known as Wavell Plan.
The last phase of the struggle
The Advent of the Labour Party : In August 1945 Mr. Churchill the arch imperialist fell from power and the Labour Government headed by Mr. Atlee took office. It was an important factor which expedited the solution of Indian constitutional dead lock. Mr. Atlee took a realistic view of events in India and realised that the demand for national independence had become irrestible. The trial of some of the officers of the Azad Hind Fauj produced a bitter feeling of resentment all over the country. More serious was the mutiny of the R.I.N. ratings in Bombay (1946). These happenings convinced Mr. Atlee of the necessity of taking early action and he announced the despatch of the Cabinet Mission to discuss with Indian leaders as to the best way in which political power could be eventually transferred to Indian hands.
The Cabinet Mission
The Cabinet mission was composed of Lord Pethic Lawrence, Secretary for State, Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade and Mr. A.V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admirality. The Mission held a series of conference with the Congress and the Muslim League delegates but failed to find common ground between the two irreconcilable parties. As the leaders of the two parties agreed to differ the Cabinet Mission issued a statement on the 6th May 1946 lying down the basic lines of the future political set up of India. It recommended that there was to be a Union of India, embracing British Indian and the Indian states. The Union, that is the Federal Centre should have exclusive control of foreign affairs, defence and communications. Provinces were to have complete autonomy and were to exercise all powers except those vested in the centre. The Provinces of British India were to form three groups.
Groups A comprising the Hindu majority provinces of Madras. Bombay, C.P., U.P., Bihar and Orissa.
Group B comprising the Muslim-majority provinces of the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Sind.
Group C consisting of Bengal and Assam.
Each group was to settle its own constitution, the representatives of all of them together with the representatives of such Indian states as would join the Union were to meet in a constituent Assembly to draft a constitution for the Union. Any province could withdraw from any of the groups after the first general election under the new constitution. The entire set up may, if thought necessary, be revised after ten years or periodically every ten years.
For the administration of India during the period of constitution making the Mission emphasised the immediate need of an interim Government backed by the major political parties. The constitutional plan of the Cabinet Mission thus consisted of
(a) Federation
(b) Provincial Autonomy
(c) Grouping of States
(d) Constituent Assembly
(e) Interim government
The elections were held in September 1945. Inspite of many obstacles a large number of Congress candidates were elected unopposed in provincial and Central Assemblies. In April 1946 Congress formed Ministries in all the provinces having Hindu majority and North-Western Frontier Province. The Muslim League formed ministry in Bengal and Sindh. In Punjab a joint ministry of he Congress, Akalis and the Unionist was formed. It was now obvious that the Congress was the largest party in the country. On 15th March 1946, the British Prime Minister Lord Atlee made a significant declaration in the House of Commons India’s right.
Interim Government and the Direct Action
The proposal of the Cabinet Delegation was an honest attempt at balancing Hindu and Muslim interests. They sought to effect a compromise between the Union of India and its division. He delegation definitely rejected The Muslim claim for a separate constituent Assembly and a separate state. But it tacitly conceded the two nation theory of the League by grouping the provinces on communal lines. The Muslim League accepted the proposals of the Mission for it found that the foundation of Pakistan was inherent in them. The Congress rejected the proposals for an interim government but agreed to participate in the constituent Assembly. The Muslim League pressed the Viceroy to form an interim government without the Congress members. But Lord Wavell refused to accede to this demand. At this the Muslim League became furious and reversed its decision to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan and threatened Direct Action.
Matters came to a crisis when the results of elections for the Constituent Assembly were announce. The return of the overwhelming majority of the Congress members alarmed Mr. Jinnah. He called it brute majority of the Congress. He threw his constitutional methods to the winds and called the Muslims to ‘direct action’ to secure their rights. The direct action was directed not against the British Government which enslaved the Indians but against the possible Hindu domination. The Muslims observed August 16 as the ‘Direct Action Day.’ The communal frenzy resulted in the ‘Great Calcutta Killings.’ The Muslim League Government under the premiership of H. Suhrawardy played havoc with the civic life of the habitants of Calcutta. The League gangsterism started with stabbing or brutal murders of which the Hindus were the victims. But soon the Hindus began to retaliate with effect. The orgy of murder and arson continued for four days resulting in the loss of 5000 lives and 15,000 injured. It was a most shameful chapter in the annals of India. Neither the League ministry not the English governor and English Viceroy took any steps to check the law-lessness.
Riots in Bihar and Noakhali
The killings in Calcutta was followed by similar happenings in Noakhali and Tipperah (East Bengal) where the Muslims formed an overwhelming majority of population. Violence begot violence. The Hindus of Bihar were swept off their feet by the account of atrocities committed on their kith and kins in Calcutta. They broke into terrible riots in several places in which the Muslims were the principal sufferers. The Congress in Bihar unlike the League Ministry in Bengal took prompt steps to bring the situation under control.
Interim government
Lord Wavell formed the Interim Government with Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as Vice President (2nd September). At first the League refused to join it but was eventually persuaded by the Viceroy to do so. Lord Wavell, in pact wanted to use the Muslim members as a counter poise to the Congress influence. Five League members entered into to interim Government and began to play the part of the King’s party destroying all team spirit by their disruptive technique. The absence of co-operation made the interim Government bi-partism rather than a real coalition. Worse still, the League refused to join the Constituent Assembly and went to declare that it was not a properly constituted body and that its decisions were invalid.
Atlee’s announcement
On 20th February 1947, Mr. Atlee declared that the existing state of tension and uncertainty in India, is fraught with danger and could not be indefinitely prolonged. Hence he made the momentous announcement that it was the definite intention of her Majesty’s Government to effect the transfer of power to responsible Indian hands by a date not later than June 1948. This declaration was followed by a series of League fomented riots all over the Punjab. They were attended with a degree of ferocity and cruelty which pen shrinks from recording. Against the organised might of the Muslim police backed by the Muslim frenzied Muslim masses the Sikhs and the Hindus had no chance. Some six million Hindu and Sikh refugees streamed out of the West Punjab leaving a tale of misery and slaughter unequalled in the history of the human race. These harrowing incidents led the Hindus and Sikhs demand to partition of the Punjab and Bengal so that the Hindu majority districts in those provinces might be separated from those were the Muslim had a majority.
Division of India and the attainment of Independence
Mountbatten Plan : In March 1947 Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India succeeded Lord Wavell. He came here commissioned to accelerate the pace of India’s march to freedom. In his broadcast of 3rd June 1947, he outlined the procedure to be followed for the transference of power into Indian hands. It was decided to partition India into two nations—India and Pakistan. Both the Congress and the Muslim League accepted the plan of partition. The British Parliament soon passed the India Independence Act according to which the Dominions of India and Pakistan became independent with effect from the midnight of 15th August, 1947. There were communal riots after the independence in Pakistan as well as in India. The constituent Assembly completed the work of drafting the constitution of India on 26th January, 1949. The new constitution of India came into force from 26th January 1950. India became a sovereign Democratic Republic standing for justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected the President of the Indian Republic while Mr. Jinnah became the first Governor General of Pakistan.
India is free again but she lost the unity which had ever been the cherished ideal of her great poets, philosophers and statesmen. It was a heavy price which she had to pay for her internal dissensions.

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