Independence and Partition Notes


Evolution of the Two-Nation Theory

The development of the two-nation theory over the years is as follows:

  • 1887: Syed Ahmed Khan appealed to the educated Muslims to stay away from the Congress, although some Muslims did join the Congress.
  • 1906: Agha Khan led a Muslim delegation (called the Shimla delegation) to the viceroy, Lord Minto, to demand separate electorates for Muslims at all levels
  • 1909: Separate electorates were awarded under Morley-Minto Reforms. Punjab Hindu Sabha was founded by U.N. Mukherji and Lal Chand.
  • 1915: First session of All India Hindu Mahasabha was held under the aegis of the Maharaja of Kasim Bazar.
  • 1912-24: During this period, the Muslim League was dominated by younger Muslim nationalists, but their nationalism was inspired by a communal view of political questions.
  • 1916: The Congress accepted the Muslim League demand of separate electorates and the Congress and the League presented joint demands to the government.
  • 1920-22: Muslims participated in the Rowlatt and Khilafat Non-Cooperation agitations but there was a communal element in the political outlook of the Muslims.
  • 1920s: The shadow of communal riots loomed large over the country.
  • 1928: The Nehru Report on constitutional reforms as suggested by the Congress was opposed by Muslim hardliners and the Sikh League.
  • 1930-34: Some Muslim groups, such as the Jamaati- ulema-i-Hind, State of Kashmir and Khudai Khidmatgars participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement but overall the participation of Muslims was now here attended all three of them.
  • 1932: The Communal Award accepted all Muslim communal demands contained in the 14 points.
  • After 1937: After the Muslim League performed badly in the 1937 provincial elections, it decided to resort to extreme communalism.
  • 1937-39: Jinnah blocked all avenues for conciliation by forwarding the impossible demand that the Congress should declare itself a Hindu organization and recognize the Muslim League as the sole representative of the Indian Muslims.
  • March 24, 1940: The ‘Pakistan Resolution’ was passed at the Lahore session of the Muslim League.


Attlee’s Statement of February 20, 1947

  • deadline of June 30, 1948 was fixed for transfer of power even if the Indian politicians had not agreed by that time on the constitution.
  • British would relinquish power either to some form of central government or in some areas to the existing provincial governments if the constituent assembly was not fully representative, i.e., if the Muslim majority provinces did not join.
  • British powers and obligations vis-a-vis the princely states would lapse with transfer of power, but these would not be transferred to any successor government in British India.
  • Mountbatten would replace Wavell as the viceroy.
  • The statement contained clear hints of partition and even Balkanization of the country into numerous states and was, in essence, a reversion of the Cripps Offer.

Mountbatten Plan, June 3, 1947

  • Suggested transfer of power on dominion basis with right to secession.
  • Punjab and Bengal Legislative Assemblies would meet in two groups, Muslims and general population, to vote for partition.
  • If a simple majority of either group voted for partition, then these provinces would be partitioned.
  • In case of partition, two dominions and two constituent assemblies would be created.
  • Sindh would take its own decision.
  • Referendums in NWFP and Sylhet district of Bengal would decide the fate of these areas.

Since the Congress had conceded a unified India, all their other points would be met, namely,

  1. independence for princely states ruled out—they would join either India or Pakistan
  2. independence for Bengal ruled out
  3. accession of Hyderabad to Pakistan ruled out
  4. freedom to come on August 15, 1947
  5. a boundary commission to be set up if partition was to be effected.

Why Congress Accepted Dominion Status?

  • it would ensure a peaceful and quick transfer of power
  • it was more important for the Congress to assume authority to check the explosive situation
  • it would allow for some much needed continuity in the bureaucracy and the army.


  • The legislative assemblies of Bengal and Punjab decided in favour of partition of these two provinces.
  • Thus, East Bengal and West Punjab joined Pakistan; West Bengal and East Punjab remained with the Indian Union.
  • Sylhet incorporated in E Bengal.
  • NWFP, Sindh and Baluchistan went with Pakistan.

Indian Independence Act

  • On July 5, 1947 the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act which was based on the Mountbatten Plan, and the Act got royal assent on June 18, 1947.
  • Act was implemented on August 15, 1947.
  • Act provided for the creation of two independent dominions of India and Pakistan with effect from August 15, 1947.
  • As per the provisions of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, Pakistan became independent on August 14 while India got its freedom on August 15, 1947.
  • Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan.
  • India, however, decided to request Lord Mountbatten to continue as the Governor- General of India.
  • Till the new constitution was adopted, dominions would be governed by GOI Act, 1935.
  • The office of SOS was abolished and his work was taken up by Secretary of Commonwealth affairs.
  • Dominions could walk out of commonwealth as per their wish.
  • Mountbatten rushed the transfer of power to avoid all responsibilities which led to near lawlessness in country.
  • On 15th August 1947 British imperial raj ended and independent India rose up.
  • Nehru said “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…’’.

Why Congress Accepted Partition?

  • Congress was only accepting the inevitable due to the long-term failure to draw the Muslim masses into the national movement.
  • The Congress had a two fold task—(i) structuring diverse classes, communities, groups and regions into a nation, and (ii) securing independence for this nation.
  • Only an immediate transfer of power could forestall the spread of ‘direct action’ and communal violence.
  • The virtual collapse of the Interim Government also made the notion of Pakistan appear unavoidable.
  • While loudly asserting the sovereignty of the Constituent Assembly, the Congress quietly accepted compulsory grouping and accepted the partition most of all because it could not stop the communal riots.

Integration of States

  • During 1946-47 the process of integrating states began.
  • Nehru presided over the All India State People’s Conference sessions in Udaipur (1945) and Gwalior (April 1947) and declared that the states refusing to join the Constituent Assembly would be treated as hostile.
  • In July 1947, Vallabhbhai Patel took charge of the new States Department and his chief aide VP Menon appealed to the sense of patriotism of Indian prices and urged them to join the Indian union on the basis of surrender of three subjects of Defence, Foreign affairs and communication.
  • Under Patel, the incorporation of Indian states took place in two phases.
  • 1st Phase: By August 15, 1947, all states except Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagarh had signed an instrument of accession with the Indian government, acknowledging central authority over defence, external affairs and communication.
  • 2nd Phase: The process of ‘integration’ of states was done with neighbouring provinces or into new units like the Kathiawar Union, Vindhya and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan or Himachal Pradesh along with internal constitutional changes in states which for some years retained their old boundaries (Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Cochin).
  • This phase was accomplished within a year. The principal bait offered was a generous privy purse while some princes were made governors and rajpramukhs in free India.