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The Decisive Decade of Freedom Movement (1937-1947).

Byline: Fakhr-ul-Islam


The struggle for freedom in the Indian Subcontinent can not be confined to a specific era, personality or an organization. It was certainly the culmination of many factors. Nevertheless, some years, months and days did play important role in shaping up of momentous developments. In this connection the 1937-47 decade stands out very significant among different stages of the freedom movement of India. In this paper, the writer has endeavored to analyze the events of this particular period. Broadly, the developments and issues dominating those ten years can be divided into various sets of events: completion of constitutional development; issues affecting Hindu-Muslim relations; and formal articulation of Muslims quest for identity in the shape of the historic Lahore Resolution of 1940.

Additionally, various political and constitutional schemes presented by the British colonial power, the last moments of partition and two elections to the Central Legislature and provincial assemblies held in 1937 and 1946 have also been examined.

Keywords: Sub-continent, Freedom Movement, Lahore Resolution

Culmination of constitutional development

The British-sponsored constitutional reforms in Indian Sub Continent reached their climax during the period from 1937 to 1947. Following the abortive War of Independence, the British rulers, realizing the need for gradual introduction of parliamentary democracy in India, promulgated the Acts of 1858, 1861, 1892, 1909, 1919 and finally the landmark Act of 1935. Although the constitutional bill was passed by the British parliament in 1935 it took almost two years to be enforced in India on April 1, 19371 . Some of the salient features of the 1935 Act are discussed below:

i) The Act provided for reorganization of Indian federation to comprise provinces, chief commissionerates and princely states.

ii) Dyarchy was abolished in provinces but retained in the centre. Like wise the Council of the Secretary of State for India was also abolished.

iii) Since the Act offered federal form of Government, therefore it provided three lists of subjects: Federal list, Provincial list and Concurrent list on which the, both provincial and central legislatures could legislate.2

iv) The bicameral Federal Legislature comprised Upper House or Council of the State with 260 members, of whom 156 were elected from the provinces and 104 were nominated from the princely states. The Lower house or Federal Assembly, with a life span of five years, was also a combination of elected and nominated members. Out of a total of 375 members 250 were supposed to be elected by the provincial Assemblies and 125 were to be nominated from the princely sates.

v) Under the Act, the provinces were made separate legal units where necessary institutions such as Provincial Assemblies and Councils of Ministers (Cabinet) were established. The strength of provincial legislatures varied from province to province keeping in view the size of a province. As a few rare examples, bicameral legislatures were provided in some provinces such as Assam, Bombay, Bihar, Bengal, Madras and United provinces.

vi) The Act also introduced a few territorial readjustments. Sind got the status of a full-fledged province after detaching it from Bombay Presidency. The North West Frontier Province was also given provincial status. Similarly the combined province of Orissa and Bihar was divided into two. Some areas of the adjacent UP and Madrass provinces were annexed to the newly created province of Orissa

vii) The Government of India Act was way ahead of the previous laws in terms of introducing Superior Judiciary in India with federal court in the Centre and Chief courts in the provinces

However, the Government of India Act 1935, suffered from several defects. It could not realize the dreams and aspirations of the Indian people. The concentration of powers in the office of Governor General and Governors cast a shadow over the entire edifice of the Act. The All India Muslim League was not happy with the law as it fell short of guaranteeing full self Government. Nonetheless the Muslim League leaders hesitantly reconciled themselves to give a positive response to it.

To them it could be "some thing better than nothing" in the given circumstances. The All India National Congress was also critical of the Act and Jawaharlal Nehru termed it a' motor car with no brakes'. However both Muslim League and Congress enthusiastically participated in the first elections held under the Act in 1937.

The Act comprised 14 parts and 10 schedules. Part I that dealt with all India Federation could never be enforced. The reason was that an accession of a specific number of Indian states to the federation was a prerequisite for activation of this Part. Since this goal could not be achieved, Part I remained non-functional.

Out of 260 members of the Upper House of Federal Legislature, 104 were to be nominated from the princely states which was against the spirit of democracy On one hand the British Government was paving the way for responsible Governments in the provinces of India but on the other hand she denied political rights to the natives of princely states Some analysts objected to the principle of indirect election to the Federal Assembly thereby making the provincial Assemblies as Electoral College and keeping away the general public from electing the Federal assembly directly. The critics of the Act also took exception to the retaining of diarchy in the centre.

One of the administrative anomalies found in the Act was introduction of two different systems in the federation, comprising Indian Provinces and Princely States. The provinces were administered democratically while the States were under despotic rulers. Ideally all the federating units should have uniform administrative system.

Hindu Muslim Relations: Parting of ways

The Hindus always considered Muslims as alien and strangers to India. Their religious books, literature and social behaviour painted Muslims as impure or malacha. The memories of Muslim rule over India and conversion of millions of Hindus to Islam could not be scratched from Hindu mind easily. About the Hindu-Muslim relations, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, the joint authors of Freedom at Midnight opined: "The root of the Indian problem was the age-old antagonism between India's 300 million Hindus and 100 million Moslems. Sustained by the traditions, by antipathetic religions, by economic differences, subtly exacerbated through the years of Britain's own policy of divide and rule, their conflict had reached a boiling point"3

The Hindus' point of view about the widening gulf between them and Muslims has been explained by RC Majumdar, who held many academic and administrative posts in various universities of India. He is of the view that Indian Muslims were proud of their past history and achievements. As such they harbored the ambition of playing vital role in the affairs of India. Since the new situation was not conducive for the fulfillment of their ambitions, therefore they suffered from inferiority complex. 4 He also shares the analysis of British and Muslim writers about the incompatibility of the two communities with each other.

He admits that although Hindus and Muslims lived together, side by side, in India for more than seven hundred years, yet the deep rooted causes, political, social and religious, made them two distinct units. But in the final analysis, Majumdar comes up with a typical Hindu outlook by arguing: "The fundamental consideration that kept them apart in the political evolution of the twentieth century was the disparities between the two communities in point of number and educational progress. A community {Muslims} which formed only one-forth of the total population was bound to occupy subordinate position in any democratic constitution. Whatever might have been their past position and status vis a vis Hindus, under the modern condition, there was every chance that it would be reversed under any form of Government in Free India"5

The Muslim view about their relation with Hindus was crystal clear. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Allama Iqbal, Quaid-i-Azam and other Muslim leaders and intellectuals illustrated this view unambiguously. Nevertheless, Chowdhery Khaliquzzaman blamed the All India National Congress for worsening relations. Addressing the second annual session of Punjab Muslim Students Federation in Rawalpindi on 8th March 1942, he said that during the previous 25 years, Congress did not take care of the Muslims' rights. According to him, it was that indifferent attitude of All India National Congress which led the Muslim League to formulate its demand for separate homeland.6 The anti-Muslim sentiments of Hindus disseminated into politics as well and their strand relations cast a shadow on the entire freedom struggle. Unfortunately during the eighty years political struggle after 1857, barring a short period which produced the 1916 Lucknow Pact, the rest of the years were marred by Hindu- Muslim conflicts.

Hindus' agitation against he Partition of Bengal (1905-11), Congress withdrawal from Khilafat Movement (1920), the Nehru Report (1928) and severe differences over constitutional formulas presented by the British before the partition were the major causes of relentless deterioration in Hindu-Muslim relations. Developments like these ultimately led to a point of no return as the two communities continued to drift apart with every passing day. Last but not the least, the 1937 elections and formation of provincial Congress Governments proved to be the last nail in the coffin of Hindu-Muslim relations.

Although, both the Congress and Muslim League were not satisfied with provisions of Government of India Act 1935 but both of them took part in the elections that were held in the winter of 1936-37. The Indian National Congress emerged victorious achieving clear majority in five provinces: Madras, UP, CP, Bihar and Orissa. The following table shows results in the 11 province which were announced in February 1937:

####Name of###No. of Won by###No. of Muslim###Other

###Province seats###Congress Muslim seats won Muslim

###Seats###by League Groups













The results of provincial elections reflected a different picture:

a) To some extent, the above table and largely the pro-Congress writers give the impression as if the All India National Congress got land slide majority in the elections. This is not the case. A careful analysis of the results show that on the whole, the Congress won 706 (or hardly 40%) out of total 1771 seats. Of the Hindu seats, 211 went to the non-Congress Hindu groups. Besides, the Congress contested on 58 Muslim seats and secured only 26(50%). 8 These figures reveal that Congress was neither sole representative of Hindus nor it had the right to claim representing Indian Muslims.

b) No doubt the performance of the All India Muslim League was also far from satisfactory. It could win 108 out of the total 484 seats reserved for Muslims securing 22 % of these seats. Ironically "it won substantial number of seats in the Hindu majority provinces but in the Muslim majority provinces it did not create much of an impression"9

There were several reasons responsible for such a dismal performance of Muslim League in these elections. The track record of Muslim League as an organized mass party was not so illustrious. It was more of a club of a few leaders. No wonder, with the exception of Lucknow Pact in 1916, the All India National Congress always ignored the League in public matters especially in the formation of coalition Governments after the 1937 election.

The All India National Congress overwhelmed by the victory in these elections lost its balance and started letting down the Muslims. In a post-election press statement Jawahar Lal Nehru announced that there were only two powers in India: British Imperialism and Indian nationalism. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave a befitting rejoinder by saying that there was a third force too and that was Muslim nation.10 There were differences between All India National Congress and the British Government over the question of formation of ministries. Congress was reluctant to form governments until she was assured by the governors not to use their special powers with regard to constitutional activities of the ministries. After assurance from Viceroy Lord Linlithgow, Congress agreed to accept invitation of Governments formation in June, 1937 and within a month the Governments were in place.

In the process of forming ministries, the Congress could take Muslim League on board. Coalition Governments could be formed in the provinces especially where Muslim League had bagged sizable seats. Nevertheless, the Congress missed that opportunity by putting forward a condition that "the League members should become part of the Congress party"11 which, of course, Muslim League did not accept. Hudson portrays the situation as: "The League was thus left in wilderness in six provinces. But it had been taught a lesson, and thenceforward accepted the Congress as its mortal foe"12 Even the Hindu writers like V.P Menon, Mujumdar and H.M Sewai are of the view that the decision of All India National Congress not to form coalition Governments with Muslim League was suicidal. The Muslims reached the conclusion that there was no future for them in united India. The attitude of Congress widened the gulf between the two communities.

Abul Kalam Azad, who remained president of Congress during 1939-46, also endorsed these iews. He opined that in case of forming coalition Government with Muslim League in UP, it would have certainly merged into Congress. But denial of Congress gave a new life to the League. Jinnah exploited the situation fully and the reorganization campaign of the League was launched from UP.

Out of 11 provinces, Congress came into power in seven. In Bengal and Punjab too, the non-leaguers Muslims such as Mulvi Fazlul Haq and Sir Fazal Hussain formed Governments. Resultantly Muslim League could not form ministry in any province. 14 The table below shows Congress Ministries:

S.No.###Province###Chief Minister###Other Ministers

1###Madras###Rajgopalacharia###P. Subraroyan, T. Parkasam,

###Muniswami Pilali, K. Raman

###Memon, V. Girir

2###BOmbay###B.G Kher###K.M Munshi, A.B.lathe,D.

###Gilder, L.M.Patel, M.V. Noori

4###Cp###N.B Krisna Shinha N. Sinha, S. Mahmood, Jaglal###


5###UP###G.B Pant###K.N.Katju, Mrs. V.L. Pandit,

###Rafi Kidwai, Pyary Lal

###Sharma, M. IbraheemA.,

6###Orissa###Biswanath Das###N. Kamungo, B. Dubey

7###NWFP###Dr. Khan Sahib###B. Gandhi, Qazi Ataullah, M.

###Abbas Khan

Source: K.K.Aziz, Muslims Under The Congress Rule, Islamabad : National Commission on Historical And Cultural Research, , 1979, Pp. 153-54

For Indian National Congress, there were equal chances either to show magnanimity and befriend Muslim League or subject the latter to repression. Sadly the Congress resorted to pettiness and not only the Muslim League but the entire Muslim Community was systematically persecuted. S.M Shahid while describing the attitude of Congress ministries wrote: "An important element that brought this simmering Muslim nationalism in the open was the character of the Congress rule in the Muslim minority provinces during 1937-39. The Congress policies in these province hurt Muslim susceptibilities. There were calculated aims to obliterate the Muslims as a separate cultural unit"15 In order to investigate the atrocities and ant-Muslim policies of the All India National Congress provincial governments, the Muslim League appointed a committee of eight members with Raja Sayyid Muhammad Mehdi of Pirpur as its chairman.

The committee submitted a 47-page report in November 1938, which was known as Pirpur Report.16 Apart from Pirpur Committee the Shareef Report and AK Fazlul Haq's pamphlet titled Muslim Sufferings under Congress Rule were other detailed descriptions of All India National Congress Governments' policy towards Muslims. The Pirpur Committee Report identified many areas where the Congress Governments committed excesses.

As reported by Stacey International London, a summary of discrimination against Muslims and suppression of their culture is given below: "The Congress flag flew on the public buildings; Bande Mathram (a song from the anti-Muslim Bengali Novel, Anand Nath) was made the national anthem; Hindi replaced Urdu; Cow slaughter was banned; Muslim r presentation in the services was reduced; the Wardha system of education which had pronounced overtones of Hindu revivalism was sought to be enforced; Gandhi's portrait was worshipped and school text books extolled the virtues of Hindu culture."17

Muslims quest for identity: the 1940 Lahore Resolution

The March 1940, Lahore Session of All India Muslim League was the largest ever gathering in which more than one hundred thousand Muslims participated.18 The Lahore Resolution embodied five main points: firstly, rejection of scheme of federation given in the Government of India Act 1935; secondly, declaring approval and consent of Muslims as pre-requisite for future constitutional plan; thirdly, demand for Independent states in North-Western and Eastern Zones of India; fourthly, call for safeguards to minorities' rights; fifthly, authorization of All India Muslim League Working Committee regarding framing of a scheme of constitution. These points are elaborated as under:

(i) The All India Muslim League emphatically reiterated that the scheme of Federation embodied in the Government of India Act 1935, was totally unsuited to, and unworkable in, the peculiar conditions of India. To be more precise, the scheme was altogether unacceptable to the Muslims of India.

(ii) As the then Viceroy declared on 18th October, 1939 that the British Government intended to reconsider the policy and plan on which the Government of India Act 1935 was based, in consultation with Indian parties, therefore the Lahore Resolution touched upon this issue as well. It was reiterated that Muslims of India will not be satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered. They further resolved that no revised plan would be acceptable to the Muslims unless that was framed with their approval and consent.

(iii) The Muslims League resolved that no constitutional plan would be workable in India or acceptable to the Muslims unless it was designated on the basic principle "That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute 'Independent States' in which the constituent units were to be autonomous and sovereign"19 .

(iv) The Lahore Resolution asked for adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards in the future constitution for minorities. The safe guards were aimed at protection of religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights of minorities... The Muslim League wished that these safeguards should be available to the non-Muslim minorities living in the North-Western and Eastern Muslim zones and other parts of India where Muslims were in a minority.

(v) The Lahore session of the All India Muslim League authorized its Working Committee to frame a scheme of constitution in accordance with the basic principles given in the resolution. The scheme of constitution was expected to provide for the assumption of all powers such as defense, external affairs, communications and customs by the respective regions.

The key note address of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the Lahore session was further explanation of the adopted resolution... The speech may be divided into the following logical parts:

a) Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah expressed his astonishment over lack of understanding on the part of Hindus, about the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. He said that both Islam and Hinduism were not only religions but in fact different and distinct social orders. He urged upon Hindus not to dream about common nationality of both the communities in India. He warned that the misconception of one Indian nation was the cause of many troubles and was about to lead to further destruction.

b) He stressed that the Hindus and the Muslims belonged to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literature. They could neither intermarry, nor inter dine together and indeed they belonged to two different civilizations which were based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. "Their aspects on life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Musalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, their heroes are different and they have different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and like wise, their victories and defeats over lap," he added

c) Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah warned the British and Hindus to desist from keeping the two communities together, otherwise the country would be faced with destruction. He said, "To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to a growing discontent".

d) The last part of his speech was an unambiguous declaration of Muslims, distinction in India. Very logically presenting the case of a separate homeland for the Muslims of India, he said, "Muslamans are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homeland, their territory and their state. We wish to live in peace and harmony with our neighbors as a free and independent people. We wish our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and in consonance with our own ideal and according to the genius of our people".23

Even the British public opinion was in favor of the Lahore Resolution.

The widely read weekly UK magazine Nature wrote in its 6 April 1940 issue: "Apart from the fact that voice of a minority of some 80 million or more, sectional differences for once forgotten, can not be ignored, it is based upon a very real difference in cultural tradition, as every student of In ian civilization is aware; for the Muslim tradition fosters democratic outlook while fearing and resenting Hindu domination in an independent India, which would from its immemorial tradition of caste be essentially oligarchic in practice. However, impracticable the Muslims demand may be, no solution will secure the future of India in world affairs or internally which attempts to ignore or override this fundamental difference of culture and tradition".

While going through the text of the Lahore Resolution, one comes across an independent state in the Muslim majority eastern zone. How was that proposal changed? Justice Muhammad Munir answers this question saying: "The Lahore Resolution moved by Mr. Fazlul Haq, a Bengal leader, had envisaged an independent and sovereign state in the eastern zone where the Muslims were in a majority but before Pakistan came into existence, the Muslim League had agreed to accept that Zone as part of the Federation of Pakistan" 25 Similarly Allen McGrath has disclosed another fact about eastern zone or Bengal in his book The Destruction of Pakistan's democracy. He writes that Bengal was not mentioned in the text of the Lahore resolution. The exclusion of Bengal by the Muslim League leadership was perhaps because of the distance from the north western zone and cultural dissimilarities.

Mcgrath wrote: "The Muslim leaders in Bengal, such as Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardi and A.K. Fazlul Haq, argued before partition for n undivided independent Bengal which would be part of neither India nor Pakistan. They did not prevail."26

British Offers and the 1945-6 Elections

British reforms and various schemes for solution to the problem of India make up an important component of the freedom struggle. As a matter of fact almost all the schemes and proposals till 1945 were aimed at winning the support of Indians in World War II. Moreover, through these reforms packages the Britons also wanted to preempt any mass movement or agitation against the British. In all the schemes presented during 1940-46, they tried to introduce a responsible government in India with a dominion status. Both Muslim League and All India National Congress responded in their own way to these schemes. The first package that was announced by Viceroy Lord Lilinlithgow27 in 1940 is known as "August Offer of 1940". The aim of August Offer was to expand the Executive Council to introduce a system of government in India that would remain in force during the Second World War.

The package also included expansion in the existing Governor General's Council and introducing a new body "Adv sory War Council". For formulation of new constitution, the setting up of a representative body was proposed but that was to be done after the war.28

The All India Muslim League appreciated the offer. Jinnah met Viceroy in order to ascertain further clarifications. The League Working Council held its meeting in Bombay from 31st August to 2nd September 1940 and another at Delhi on 28 September to discuss the offer.29 The League Council wanted to incorporate changes in the proposed scheme in the light of the Lahore Resolution, to which the Viceroy did not agree. The Muslim League responded by rejecting the Offer altogether. The response of the All India National Congress was the same but with a different view. They rejected the Offer because it completely ignored their demand for the acknowledgement of independence and the establishment of a provisional National Government at the centre.30

The August Offer 1940 was followed by Cripps' Mission in 1942. On arrival in India, Mr. Stafford Cripps announced a declaration of proposals summerised below:

i). The Creation of new Indian Union with a dominion status.

ii). After the cessation of WWII, the creation of a constitution making body and transfer of power from British Government to Indians.

iii). Installation of Interim Government consisting of representatives of major political parties for the conduct of war

iv). Recognition of the right of every province to remain aloof from the proposed union or to enter into a separate agreement with the British Government.31

The All India Muslim League took keen interest in the proposals. The Leaguer Muslims could see the blurred picture of Pakistan in the Cripps formula which gave provinces the option of staying away from the proposed Indian union. But at a latter stage the Muslim League Working Committee in its meeting on April, 13, 1942, rejected the Cripps proposals on two grounds. Firstly, though the provinces were given option of separation but the very proposal of Indian Union was actually negation of the idea of Pakistan. Secondly a Constitutional Assembly to be elected on the basis of joint electorate was not acceptable to the Muslims.32

The All India National Congress termed the package as post-dated cheque drawn on a bank that was falling. She rejected the proposals "on the grounds that it did not bring immediate independence to India as defense was not to be transferred to Indian hands during the war, and because the Executive Council consisting of popular representatives would formally and legally remain subordinate to the Governor General"33 The Congress was also afraid that the Muslim-majority provinces would accede to the proposed union which was in fact the right of self-determination guaranteed to them.

In the words of Talbot: "The (Cripps) mission failed to the relief of Churchill because of Gandhi's opposition within the Congress. Its rejection led to British repression of the ensuing Quit India Movement. Many of the Congress leaders spent the final three years of the war in jail. Jinnah was able to take advantage of this in consolidating the Muslim League's position". 34

The Cripps Mission was followed by the Wavell Plan. Lord Wavell 35 devised a plan to solve the political deadlock. As a confidence building measure; he announced the release of the members of Congress Working Committee. Some of the salient features of Wavell's Plan included:

e) Reconstitution of the Central Executive Council in a manner to accommodate Indian political parties and balanced representation to the main communities.

f) Convening of Conference by the Viceroy to be attended by all political parties. Their agreement to the proposal and list of members of the respective communities to be ascertained.

g) In case the proposed Conference was a success, popular ministries were to be installed in all provinces consisting of main political parties36 On 25th June 1945, Wavell convened a conference at Simla which was attended by prominent leaders of All India National Congress and Muslim League. On 29th June, the conference participants agreed: firstly, to have effective prosecution of war against Japan; secondly, to recommend names for the Executive Council; thirdly to take steps after the formation of the council to resolve long-term problems; thirdly, work under the present constitution till the new constitution comes in force.37 However the conference ended in fiasco on the question of representation of the main communities in the Executive Council. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared that the All India National Congress has the right to nominate only Hindu members to the proposed Council.

He further suggested that Muslim League had the right to nominate members against the Muslim quo a in the Council. The stand taken by Jinnah was commented upon by Ian Stephens thus: "Against the Congress past proud unrealistic claim that it alone represented the Indian people, he [Jinnah] re- emphasized his counter claim: that the League alone represented the Muslims. Nothing would budge him from it; and on the rock of his refusal to allow either the Congress nominee, Azad, or the head of the Punjab provincial Unionist Party Sir Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana, to join a proposed Interim Government in the centre, the conference collapsed".38

In August 1945, the Second World War took a new turn. As consequence of targeting Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Atomic Bombs by USA, the war came to an end. Resultantly, Japan surrendered unconditionally in the wake of the such an enormous destruction. The end of the War presented urgency on the part of British Government regarding solution of the Indian problem. The Viceroy Lord Wavell announced new elections while proceeding to London on 21st August 1945 for consultations with His Majesty Government.39 The All India Muslim League announced that it would fight the elections on the question of Pakistan.

Elections to the Central Legislative Assembly were held by the end of 1945. The party position is reflected in the table below:


1###Muslim League###30



4###Akali Sikhs###02



Source: Fazali Kareem, The Emergence of Pakistan, Islamabad:National Book Foundation, 1996, p. 209

The above election results show that All India Muslim League swept polls in the entire country by securing all 30 seats reserved for Muslims. The Muslim League celebrated 11th January 1946 as Victory Day. Elections to the provincial Assemblies were held in early 1946. As the table below indicates, the Muslim League did a phenomenal job by securing a huge majority of seats reserved for the Muslims.

Province###Total Muslim Seats###Won by Muslim League













The results of 1946 elections proved beyond any doubt that Muslim League had emerged as the sole representative party of the Indian Muslims. Just nine years ago, it was a party with little following among the Muslims. In the 1937 elections it bagged only 108 out of the total 484 seats reserved for Muslims securing 22 % of these seats. In the 1946 elections, however, its score was more than 87 % of the total seats reserved for Muslims. The credit for this outstanding performance surely goes to the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his trusted companions. However, the attitude of All India National Congress towards the Muslims had also major contribution to the popularity of the League.

The other significant development, after the celebration of Victory Day, was a 3-day convention of all elected Muslim League legislators at Delhi on 7-9n April 1946. It is commonly known as Delhi Convention but one writer termed it as "Muslims Constituent Assembly".41 While addressing the Convention Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said that the Muslims will not accept diluted Pakistan and "while we hope for the best", he said, "we are prepared for the worst". 42 The convention passed a resolution tabled by Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardi. Through the resolution, the participants demanded "a sovereign independent state comprising Bengal and Assam in the north-east zone and the Punjab, the NWFP, Sind and Baluchistan in the north-west zone"43. Moreover, every member of the provincial and central assemblies took an oath of allegiance to the idea of Pakistan.44

Going ahead with its reforms programme, the British Government decided in January 1946 to send a Cabinet Mission to India consisting of three cabinet ministers Pethick Lawrence, Stafford Cripps and AV Alexander. The Mission put forward the following plan:

(i) There should be a Union of India, embracing both British India and the Princely States which should deal with subjects such as foreign affairs, defense, and communications, and should have the powers necessary to raise the finances required for these subjects.

(ii) The hallmark of the Cabinet Mission plan was grouping of provinces. India was to be divided into three Zones - A, B, and C. Zone B was to consist of the Punjab, Sindh, and North West Frontier Province. Zone C was to consist of Bengal and Assam. Zone A was to consist of the rest of the provinces of India. These zones were to settle the provincial constitution for the provinces included in each section. They were also to decide whether group constitution should be set up for these provinces and, if so, with what subjects it should deal. The representatives of these zones of India and the Princely States were then to re-assemble and settle the Union Constitution..

(iii) The Union should have an executive and a legislature comprising representatives from British India and the Princely States. 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 minor communities as well as a majority of all the members present and voting.

(iv) All subjects other than the Union subjects and all residuary powers would vest in the provinces.

(v) The states would retain all subjects and powers other than those ceded to the Union.

(vi) The Constitution of the Union and of the Group would 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.45

The response of Muslim League and All India National Congress to this Plan has been summerised thus: "The Muslim League had accepted the scheme because of the autonomy it gave to the six Muslim provinces, although this fell short of a sovereign Pakistan. The Congress wanted a much stronger centre and Nehru's hedging around the future working of the grouping element led the League to withdraw its acceptance on July 29, 1946"46

The responsibility of failure of the Cabinet Mission can be put on the shoulders of Jawahar Lal Nehru who had declared that his party could change the scheme through its majority in the Constituent assembly.

The Cabinet Mission Plan envisaged that an Interim Government representing the major parties had to be formed by the Viceroy to carry on the administration. On 25th June 1946, when the Viceroy Lord Wavell invited All India National Congress to form interim Government without reference to the Muslim League, the later felt offended and betrayed. For a couple of month the League tried to prevail upon the Viceroy to include them in the interim set up. However their cry fell on the deaf ears of the Viceroy, Jinnah therefore announced after the July, 28 League Council meeting at Bombay, " I feel we have exhausted all reason. It is no use looking to any other source for help or assistance. There is no tribunal to which we can go.

The only tribunal is the Muslim nation"47 So the invitation of British Government to Congress for the formation of interim Government sparked up Muslim League agitation and Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared 16 August 1946 as Direct Action Day. Mr. G. Allana reported the happenings on of the day as follows: "The 16th of August was observed as 'Direct Action Day' by the Muslims of India. Processions were taken out in all important towns; public meetings were held; resolutions were passed dwelling upon the stand of the League.

Governments of Bengal and Sind declared the day as a public holiday, and Suhrawardy, the premier of Bengal, came out with the challenging statement in which he said if the Congress were to be inducted into office by the Viceroy at the Centre, he would declare Bengal to be completely independent with a parallel Government in his province"48

The resentment among the Muslims of India and severe criticism of British Government by its own Parliamentarians and civil society forced them to include Muslim League in the Interim set up. On 25th October 1946, the following ministers were inducted into the cabinet:

Muslim League###Congress Ministers###Minorities ministers


Liaquat Ali Khan,###Jawaharlal Nehru, VB###John Matthal, C.H.

I.I. Chundrigar,###Patel, Rajendra Parsad, Bhabha, Baldev

Abdur Rab Nishtar, Rajgopalacaharia,###Singh

Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Jagjeewanram, Asif Ali


Partition at last

As clear from the table above, the Muslim League selected its team very carefully under the leadership of Liaquat Ali Khan so as to work for party objectives from within the Interim Government. However the

Interim Government could not sail smoothly and very soon differences surfaced between the two coalition partners.50 The gulf between the two political parties was so widened and the post-world war II situation compelled the British Government to call it a day. During his speech in the British Parliament on February 1947, the Prime Minister of Great Britain announced that His majesty Government will leave India by June 1948 and power will be transferred to Indians subsequently.51 The next step was to replace Viceroy Lord Wavell. The reason of his replacement was: "Lord Wavells's Viceroyalty ended on a question mark and that understates it. There is mystery here which has given rise not merely to gossip but to honest speculation and misgiving. The impression remains that he and the British Government came into fundamental disagreement on policy that they could not see eye to eye over the method, and in particular the timing of the end of British rule".52

In a farewell speech broad cast from All India Radio Delhi on 21st March 1947, Lord Wavell recalled his pleasant memories of stay in India. He assured Indians that his successor Lord Mountbatten would do better as Viceroy. He said: "My successor is known to many of you personally and to all by reputation as a great leader in war and ardent supporter of progress. I can assure you of his goodwill towards India and of his vigor in showing it"53

Lord Mountbatten54 arrived at Delhi on 22nd March 1947 and assumed charge as Viceroy on 24th.He was sent to India to work out a system under which he could transfer power to Indians. Giving a pen picture of Mountbatten's personality, the authors of British Raj in India wrote: "Mountbatten was a highly gifted person. He was a youthful 46, possessed a fine presence, an intelligent mind, the faculty of quick decision, and the resilience to take setbacks in his strides. He was also a hard and methodical worker and kept himself well- informed by incessant discussions with interested parties and his own advisors. At the same time he was inordinately vain and ambitious and had a burning desire to succeed and project himself in the best possible light"55

After preliminary discussions with leaders of All India National Congress and Muslim League, the new Viceroy was able to draft partition scheme with the help of his advisers. After three weeks, the first drat of the partition plan was ready which was discussed in a two-day Governors conference opened on 15th April 1947.56 In the beginning of May 1947, the plan was taken to London by Lord Ismay. It should be noted that V.P Menon was against the Plan and he sketched out his own plan. In the meantime the Viceroy continued discussions and consultations in Simla. The draft plan taken to London was approved by the British cabinet but when it was brought to India and shown to Nehru, he rejected it out rightly. Consequently, Mountbatten asked Menon to draw a new plan.

He himself visited London on 18th May along with a new plan and was able to get that approved from the British Government 57 It is worth mentioning that in the whole process of preparation and alteration of the p rtition plan, Nehru was constantly consulted but Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was completely ignored. 58 The indifferent attitude of Mountbatten towards Muslim League speaks volumes of his intentions which unfolded in the days to come.

On return to India, Mountbatten convened a meeting of Indian leaders on 2nd June 1947. The meeting was attended by the All India National Congress leaders Nehru, Patel and Kripalani. From the Muslim League side, Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan and Sardar Nishtar participated while Baldev Singh represented Sikhs in the meeting...59 The next Day the Viceroy announced the plan which is known as 3rd June Plan. Points of the plan are summarized as follow:

(a) The Muslim majority areas that would be unwilling to participate in the existing Constituent Assembly would be allowed to convene similar Assembly for themselves.

(b) It was decided that in the event of Muslim majority areas' decision to convene a separate Legislative Assembly, then Bengal and Punjab provinces were to be partitioned as per the given mechanism.60

(c) In order to demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab and of the Bengal, a Boundary Commission was supposed to be appointed.

(d) Keeping in view peculiar situation in NWFP and District Sylhet of Eastern Bengal, it was agreed to hold referendum in those areas61 Earlier on, the British Premier Mr. Attlee had announced the cessation of British rule over India by June 1948, but on 3rd June, he hinted that the transfer of power may take place at an earlier date. The earlier date was then fixed as 15th August 1947. To legalize the 3rd June Plan, the British parliament passed "The Indian Independence Act" on 18th July 1947 When it came to the demarcation of boundaries, Jinnah favored the involvement of United Nations but Nehru did not agree on the plea that it would cause intolerable delay.62 . Subsequently the Boundary Commissions for Bengal and Punjab were set up which comprised the following members:

Province###Muslim League nominees Congress nominees

Bengal###Js. Abu Saleh M. Akram,###Js. B.K. Mukherji,

###Js. S.A. Rahman###Js. CC Biswas,###

Punjab###Js. Din Muhammad,###Js. M.C. Mahajan

###Js. Muhammad Munir###Js. Teja Sing

Source: S.M. Burke, Salim Al-Din Qureshi, The British Raj in India: A

Historical Perspective , Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1995 p. 537

Sir Cyril Radcliffe was appointed as Chairman of both the commissions. The conduct of the Chairman of Boundary Commission raised many eye brows. Following are some pertinent points:

(i) In drawing the boundary lines, the commission was supposed to take into account population and geographical contiguity but an ambiguous mandate i.e. "Other Factors" was also added to the terms of reference.

(ii) Radcliffe, who had little knowledge about India, was not enthusiastic in attending various meetings. He presided over only two of the four procedural meetings and did not bother even to attend a single session of the regular public sittings. 63

(iii) The award of Muslim majority tehsils i.e. Ferozpur, Zira, Ajnala, Batala, Gurdaspur Nakodar Julundar and Fazilka to India was unjust. Ironically, Radcliffe had informally conveyed to the Muslim members of the Punjab Boundary commission that three tehsils of Frozpur District (Ferozpur, Zira and Fazilka) were being included in Pakistan but in the final award, they were allotted to India. The percentage of Muslim population in these area was:

Name of tehsilPercentage of Muslims









Source: Muhammad Zahid Khan Lodhi, Mountbatten's Anti-Pakistan Role, Islamabad : National Book Foundation,,1995, p.38-39

(iv) Many writers such as Alastair Lamb,Chodhri Muhammad Ali, Zahid Lodhi, Fazli Kareem and SM Burke are of the view that including the Muslim majority district Gurdaspur in India was an attempt to provide India an easy access to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. 64

Despite all the injustices, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah accepted the award simply because the Muslims of India could not afford any new controversy. In a broad cast speech he said "The division of India is now finally and irrevocably effected. No doubt, we feel that the carving out of this great independent Muslim state has suffered injustices. We have been squeezed in as much as it was possible and the latest blow that we have received was the award of Boundary Commission. It is an unjust, incomprehensible and even perverse award. It may be wrong, unjust and perverse and it may not be judicial but a political award, but we have agreed to abide by it and it is binding upon us as honourable people we must abide by it. It may be our misfortune, but we must bear up this one more blow with fortitude, courage and hope".65

At last, a fifth most populous state of the world came into existence. Lord Mountbatten came to the capital of Pakistan, Karachi on 13th August 1947, and the next day he addressed the first Constituent Assembly. Latter in the night Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah hosted a dinner in his honour in which Jinnah paid rich tribute\s to the British Government for transferring power to the native people. Showering praises on British Government "showed that though Pakistanis were angry with Mountbatten personally for his partiality to the Indians, they retained their admiration for the British people and their political system".66 . The next day Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah assumed the charge of first Governor General of the newly born state of Pakistan.


The defining moments during 1937-47 bears testimony to the fact that it was a Decisive Decade in the real sense of the term. The constitutional development initiated in 1858 ultimately culminated into Government of India Act 1935. Both the 1937 and 1946 elections were held under it. The 1858-1935 Constitutional development also witnessed some novel political and legislative models These models included entry of army officers in administrative and legislative bodies, restricted franchise, nominations in the otherwise elected bodies and introduction of Dyarchy. Obviously these concepts were not in consonance with democratic norms. Nevertheless, that process built the capacity of Indians regarding establishing institutions and constitution making. The same capacity was felt during the 1937-47 decade.

The Hindu-Muslim antagonism was not one-sided as both the communities horboured ill will for one another but much of the blame may be put on the shoulders of Hindus; the reasons being that they were in majority and remained in power in 1937-39. Their good attitude towards Muslims could change the tide of history but they failed to do so. Resultantly division of India became inevitable. The decade in question saw unprecedented come back of All India Muslim League. Considering the 1937 and 1946 elections as gauge for that popularity, we notice that a party which could hardly bag 1/5th of the Muslim seats in 1937, recoded a land slide victory in 1946.

Various schemes presented by the British colonial power were prompted by the Second World War and change of Government in Britain itself. Some analysts are of the view that replacement of Churchill by Attlee facilitated the transfer of power. They maintain that"had Churchill still been Prime Minister, the transfer of power would have been a more complicated, controversial and prolonged affair"67 Lord Mountbatten was the centre of attraction to the last leg of the Decisive Decade. No doubt, credit can be given to him for keeping both the major political parties of India on board and finally getting their consent to the partition plan. However, the Muslim League was angry with him for his inclination to the All India National Congress, tampering the Radcliff Award, manipulating the transfer of assets and Kashmir issue. The tussle between him and the League resulted in plain refusal by Jinnah to accept him as the joint Governor General of India and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, however, this refusal cost Pakistan dearly and much of the early problems of Pakistan cropped up as consequence of it.

End Notes

1 Fakhr-ul-Islam Political Development in NWFP Since 1947.(Peshawar, PhD thesis Area Study Centre University of Peshawar 1998): P.112

2 Ibid p.114

3 Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight, (New York: Simon and Schuster, ,1975): p. 18

4 R.C Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in India(vol: ii), (Lahore : Book Traders, 1979): P.277

5 Ibid, p. 276

6 Prof. Dr. Riaz Ahmad, The All India Muslim League and the Creation of Pakistan: A Chronology(1906-1947), (Islamabad: National Institute of Historical and Cultural research, Centre of Excellence Quaid-i-Azam University,2006): pp, 112-13

7 Justice Sayed Shameem Hussain Kadri, Creation of Pakistan, (Rawalpindi: Army Book Club1983): P.97

8 Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, The Struggle for Pakistan, (Karachi: University ofKarachi, 1984): Pp. 74-75

9 Khalid Bin Sayyid, opcit, p.83

10 H.M Sewai, Partition of India: Legend and Reality(Urdu translation by Dr. Safdar Mahmood), Lahore: Jang publications, , 1993, P.32

11 H.V Hudson, The Great Divide, (Karachi: Oxford University press, 1985), P. 67

12 Ibid

13 HM, Seerwai, opcit, p.32

14 Imtiaz Shahid, An Advanced Study in Pakistan Affairs, (Lahore: Carwan Books, 2005): P. 131

15 S.M. Shahid

16 Dr. Sultan Khan, Pakistan: Past, Present and future, (Lahore: Famous Books, 1995): P.192

17 Stacey International Pakistan Past and Present (London: Arka Graphics, 1977) P. 114

18 Dr. Riaz Ahmad, Quaid-i-Azam's perception of Islam and Pakistan , (Rawalpind: Alvi publishers i, 1992): p. 13

19 Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, The Deoband school and the demand for Pakistan, (Lahore Progressive Books, 1962): p.93

20 Ibid, p. 93

21 Riaz Ahmad, opcit, p.42

22 Ibid

23 ibid

24 The Weekly Nature London, 6 April 1940, quoted by Quotes, opcit,p.131

25 Muhammad Munir, From Jinnah to Zia. (Lahore: Vanguard Books, 1980): pp.90-91

26 Allen McGrath, The Destruction of Pakistan's Democracy, (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2004): p. 3

27 Lord Linlithgow remained Viceroy from 1936 to 1942. His tenure was quite eventful during which some important developments took place such as(a) The enforcement of the Government of India Act 1935 in provinces in 1937 (b) Congress ministries were formed in 8 provinces of India (c) The Second World War broke out in 1939 (d) Resignation of Congress ministries in 1939 on the question of war (e) The arrival of Cripps Mission in 1942 (f) The launching of Quit India Movement by All India National Congress in 1942(Jagdesh Sharma, India's Struggle for Freedom, (New Delhi: S. Chand and Company, 1971) p.132

28 Imtiaz, Opcit, p.142

29 Dr. Riaz, opcit, pp. 98-99

30 Jagdesh Sharma, op.cit, P.17

31 Berriedalle Keith, Constitutional History of India(100-1935), (Lahore: Fisco Publishers, 1965): Pp. 5-6

32 P. Ashiq Hussain Batalvi, Hamaari Jad-o-Jihd(Urdu), (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publication 1995): 672

33 Ibid, p. 6

34 Yuri V. Gankovsky, Hafeez Malik, The Encyclopedia of Pakistan, (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2006): P.59

35 Lord Archibald Percival Wavell who ruled over India during 1943-1947. He replaced Lord Linthlithgow. He was born in 1883 at Colchester. The main events of his tenure were

(i) The Wavell Plan 1945

(ii) End of the World war II

(iii) The Cabinet Mission Plan 1946

(iv) Formation of Interim Government in 1946 and

(v) The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly.. Lord wavell resigned from his office in March 194735 .

The reason for his resignation was that he and the British Government could not see eye to eye over the method, and in particular the timing of the end of British rule(See 35Ian Stephens, Pakistan, London:Earnest Benn Limited, , (Third Edition) 1967, pp. 78-79 36 Fazali Kareem, The Emergence of Pakistan, (Islamabad:National Book Foundation , 1996): pp. 194-95 37 Jagdesh, op cit, P. 230 38Ian Stephens, Pakistan, (London: Earnest Benn Limited, , (Third Edition) 1967): pp. 78-79 39 Fazli Kareem,. Opcit, Pp. 207-208

40 Razaul Haq opcit, p. 155

41 Qurishi, op.cit, p.242

42 Prof. Dr. Riaz, op.cit, p.16

43 Qurishi, op.cit, p.242

44 Ibid, p. 243. The oath comprised of the following pledges:

(a) I do herby solemnly declare my firm conviction that the safety and security, the salvation and destiny of the Muslim nation inhabiting the subcontinent of India lie only in the achievement of Pakistan which is the only equitable, honorable and just solution of the constitution problem and which will bring peace freedom and prosperity to the various nationalities and communities of this great subcontinent.

(b) I most solemnly affirm that I shall willingly and unflinchingly carry out all the directions and instructions which may be issued by the all India Muslim League in pursuance of any movement that may be launched by it for the attainment of the cherished national goal of Pakistan. Believing as I do in righteousness and justice of my cause, I pledge to undergo any danger, trial or sacrifice which may be demanded of me.

45 Rao Arif Ali The Encyclopedia of Pakistan, New Delhi: Anmol Publishers, 2007, pp, 42-43,

46 Yuri Gankovsky, opcit, , p. 42

47 A. Aziz, The Discovery of India, (Lahore: Sheikh Ghulam Ali and Sons, 1957) P.339

48 G. Allana, Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah: The Story of a nation , (Lahore: Feroz Sons, 1988) P.415

49 Razaul Haq, opcit P. 180

50 K.M. Sharif, Pakistan Almanac(Essential Data on Pakistan), (Karachi,Royal Book Company, 2006): P.24 51

51 Jagdesh, opcit, P. 17

52 Ian Stephens, opcit , P.122

53 Nicholas Mansergh, Penderel Moon, The Transfer of Power(1942-47), (London: Her majesty Stationary House, 1980): pp1003-1004

54 Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, commonly known as Lord Mountbatten, was a British admiral, statesman and the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. He was the youngest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and His royal ancestry can be dated back to the Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He was the last Viceroy of India. The main developments of his viceroyalty were: (a) Preparation and approval of the 3rd June Plan 1947. (b) Partition of India was recommended in order to satisfy Muslims. (c) The British Parliament passed Indian Independence Act in July 1947 as a result of which India was divided into two dominions India and Pakistan He became the first Governor-General of Independent India in 1947. Mountbatten was assassinated on 27 August 1979 by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). (www./ mountbatten-15.php accessed on 30th April, 2010. Also see Jagdesh, op.cit, p. 148)

55 S.M. Burke, Salim Al-Din Qureshi, The British Raj in India: A Historical Perspective , (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1995): P. 485

56 Razaul Haq, op. cit, pp. 186-187

57 Burke, Qureshi, op.cit, pp. 499-504

58 Qureshi, op.cit, P.393

59 Ibid, 506

60 The mechanism of partitioning the two provinces was as follows:

(i) Each of the Legislative Assemblies of Bengal and Punjab would meet in two parts, one representing the Muslim majority districts and the other rest of the province.

(ii) If any of the two parts of the provincial Assembly decided by a simple majority vote in favour of the partition of the province, division would be accordingly take place and each of the [part would join whichever of the two Constituent Assemblies (India or Pakistan) liked.( Razaul Haq, op. cit, p. 189)

61 Hodson, op. cit, pp. 315-321

62 Ibid, P. 346

63 Muhammad Zahid Khan Lodhi, Mountbatten's Anti-Pakistan Role, (Islamabad : National Book Foundation, ,1995): p.37 64 For details see S.M. Burke, Salim Al-Din Qureshi, The British Raj in India: A Historical Perspective , (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1995): p. 552; Chodhri Muhammad Ali, The Emergence of Pakistan p. 215; Zahid Lodhi Mountbatten's Anti-Pakistan Role, (Islamabad: National Book Foundation, 1995): p.37 and Fazali Kareem, The Emergence of Pakistan,( Islamabad: National Book Foundation , 1996): p. 364

65 Burke, Qureshi, op.cit, p.560

66 Ibid, p. 652

67 Ibid

Dr. Fakhr-ul-Islam, Associate Professor, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Peshawar, Pakistan
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