POST WAR UPSURGES
Two Strands of National Upsurge
Two basic strands of national upsurge can be identified during the last two years of British rule —
- tortuous negotiations involving the government, Congress and Muslim League, increasingly accompanied by communal violence and culminating in freedom and the partition.
- sporadic, localized and often extremely militant and united mass action by workers, peasants and states’ peoples which took the form of a countrywide strike wave.
- This kind of activity was occasioned by the INA Release Movement, Royal Indian Navy (RIN) revolt, Tebhaga movement.
- Wavell Plan backed by the Conservative government in Britain failed to break the constitutional deadlock.
- In July 1945, Labour Party formed the government in Britain.
- In August 1945, elections to central and provincial assemblies were announced.
- In September 1945, it was announced that a constituent assembly would be convened after the elections
Why a Change in Government’s Attitude?
- End of the War resulted in a change in balance of global power—the UK was no more a big power while the USA and USSR emerged as superpowers, both of which favoured freedom for India.
- The new Labour government in England was more sympathetic to Indian demands.
- There was an anti-imperialist wave in South-East Asia—in Vietnam and Indonesia—resisting efforts to replant French and Dutch rule there.
- Officials feared another Congress revolt, a revival of the 1942 situation.
- The last elections had been held in 1934 for the Centre and in 1937 for the provinces.
Three Upsurges—Winter of 1945-46
There were three major upsurges—
- November 21, 1945—in Calcutta over the INA trials.
- February 11, 1946—in Calcutta against the seven year sentence to INA officer Rashid Ali.
- February 18, 1946—in Bombay, strike by the Royal Indian Navy ratings.
Rebellion by Naval Ratings
On February 18, 1946 some 1100 Royal Indian Navy (RIN) ratings of HMIS Talwar went on a strike to protest against racial discrimination, unpalatable food, abuse by superior officers, arrest of a rating for scrawling ‘Quit India’ on HMIS Talwar, INA trials And use of Indian troops in Indonesia, demanding their withdrawal.
Origin and First Phase of the Indian National Army-(INA)
- Idea of creating an army out of the Indian prisoners of war (POWs) was originally that of Mohan Singh
- The Japanese handed over the Indian prisoners of war to Mohan Singh who tried to recruit them into an Indian National Army.
- INA got a boost with the outbreak of the Quit India Movement in India.
- The second phase began with the arrival of Subhash Bose in Singapore.
- In Japan, Rashbehari Bose eventually became a naturalized citizen.
- He founded the Indian Club of Tokyo, and gave lectures on the evils of Western imperialism.
- Subhash Bose became Supreme Commander of the INA on August 25.
- On October 21, 1943, Subhash Bose formed the Provisional Government for Free India at Singapore with H.C. Chatterjee (Finance portfolio), M.A. Aiyar (Broadcasting), Lakshmi Swaminathan (Women Department), etc.
- The famous slogan—“Give me blood, I will give you freedom” was given in Malaya
- The INA headquarters was shifted to Rangoon (in Burma) in January 1944, and the army recruits were to march from there with the war cry “Chalo Delhi!” on their lips.
- On November 6, 1943, Andaman and Nicobar islands was given by the Japanese army to the INA; the islands were renamed as Shahid Dweep and Swaraj Dweep respectively.
- On July 6, 1944, Subhas Bose addressed Mahatma Gandhi as ‘Father of Nation’— from the Azad Hind Radio (the first person to call Gandhi, ‘Father of Nation’).
- Azad Hind Fauz crossed the Burma border, and stood on Indian soil on March 18, 1944.
- The INA units subsequently advanced up to Kohima and Imphal.
- On April 14, Colonel Malik of the Bahadur Group hoisted the INA flag for the first time on the Indian mainland at Moirang, in Manipur (where the INA Memorial Complex stands today) to enthusiastic cries of “Jai Hind” and “Netaji Zindabad”.
- On August 15, 1945 the surrender of Japan in the Second World War took place and with this the INA also surrendered.
- On August 18, 1945, reportedly, Subhash Bose died mysteriously in an air-crash at Taipei (Taiwan).
Congress Support for INA Prisoners
- At the first post-War Congress session in September 1945 at Bombay, a strong resolution was adopted declaring Congress support for the INA cause.
- Defence of INA prisoners in the court was organized by Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Katju, Jawaharlal Nehru and Asaf Ali.
- INA Relief and Enquiry Committee distributed small sums of money and food, and helped arrange employment for the affected.
- Fund collection was organized.
The INA Agitation— A Landmark on Many Counts:
- celebrations of INA Day (November 12, 1945) and INA week (November 5-11).
- The forms of participation included fund contributions made by many people
Evaluation of Potential and Impact of the Three Upsurges
Fearless action by the masses was an expression of militancy in the popular mind.
- Revolt in the armed forces had a great liberating effect on the minds of people.
- RIN revolt was seen as an event marking the end of British rule.
These upsurges prompted the British to extend some concessions:
- On December 1, 1946, the government announced that only those INA members accused of murder or brutal treatment of fellow prisoners would be brought to trial.
- Imprisonment sentences passed against the first batch were remitted in January 1947.
- Indian soldiers were withdrawn from Indo-China and Indonesia by February 1947.
- Decision to send Cabinet Mission was taken in January 1946.
Performance of the Congress
- It got 91 per cent of non-Muslim votes.
- It captured 57 out of 102 seats in the Central Assembly.
- In the provincial elections, it got a majority in most provinces except in Bengal, Sindh and Punjab.
- The Congress majority provinces included the NWFP and Assam which were being claimed for Pakistan.
Muslim League’s Performance
- It got 86.6 per cent of the Muslim votes.
- It captured the 30 reserved seats in the Central Assembly.
- In the provincial elections, it got a majority in Bengal and Sindh.
- Unlike in 1937, now the League clearly established itself as the dominant party among Muslims.
- In Punjab : Unionist-Congress-Akali coalition under Khizr Hayat Khan assumed power.
The Cabinet Mission
- Attlee government announced in February 1946 the decision to send a high- powered mission of three British cabinet members
- After the Cripps’ Offer there was little left to offer for conciliation except full freedom.
On the Eve of Cabinet Mission Plan
The Congress demanded that power be transferred to one centre and that minorities’ demands be worked out in a framework ranging from autonomy to Muslim majority provinces to self-determination or secession from the Indian Union—but, only after the British left. The Cabinet Mission reached Delhi on March 24, 1946.
- Rejection of the demand for a full-fledged Pakistan
- Grouping of existing provincial assemblies into three sections:- 1) Section-A: Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, United Provinces, Bihar and Orissa (Hindu-majority provinces). 2) Section-B: Punjab, North West Frontier Province and Sindh (Muslim-majority provinces). 3) Section-C: Bengal and Assam (Muslim-majority provinces).
- A constituent assembly was to be elected by provincial assemblies by proportional representation.
- This constituent assembly would be a 389-member body.
- In the constituent assembly, members from groups A, B and C were to sit separately to decide the constitution for provinces and if possible, for the groups also.
- Then, the whole constituent assembly would sit together to formulate the union constitution.
- A common centre would control defence, communication and external affairs.
- A federal structure was envisaged for India.
- Communal questions in the central legislature were to be decided by a simple majority of both communities present and voting.
- Provinces were to have full autonomy and residual powers.
- Princely states were no longer to be under paramountcy of the British government. They would be free to enter into an arrangement with successor governments or the British government.
- After the first general elections, a province was to be free to come out of a group and after 10 years, a province was to be free to call for a reconsideration of the group or the union constitution.
- Meanwhile, an interim government was to be formed from the constituent assembly.
Different Interpretations of the Grouping Clause
- Congress: To the Congress, the Cabinet Mission Plan was against the creation of Pakistan since grouping was optional; one constituent assembly was envisaged; and the League no longer had a veto.
- Muslim League: The Muslim League believed Pakistan to be implied in compulsory grouping.
- Provinces should not have to wait till the first general elections to come out of a group. They should have the option of not joining a group in the first place.
- Absence of provision for elected members from the princely states in the constituent assembly was not acceptable.
- Grouping should be compulsory with sections B and C developing into solid entities with a view to future secession into Pakistan.
Acceptance and Rejection
- July 1946 Elections were held in provincial assemblies for the Constituent Assembly with INC having overwhelming majority.
- July 10, 1946 Nehru stated : “We are not bound by a single thing except that we have decided to go into the Constituent Assembly. The big probability is that there would be no grouping as NWFP and Assam would have objections to joining sections B and C.”
- July 29, 1946 : The League withdrew its acceptance of the long-term plan in response to Nehru’s statement and gave a call for “direct action” from August 16 to achieve Pakistan.
- Fearing mass action by the Congress, a Congress-dominated Interim Government headed by Nehru was sworn in on September 2, 1946
- Wavell quietly brought the Muslim League into the Interim Government on October 26, 1946.
- The League was allowed to join: a) without giving up the ‘direct action’, b) despite its rejection of the Cabinet Mission’s long term and short-term plans.
- The League did not attend the Constituent Assembly which had its first meeting on December 9, 1946.
- Consequently, the Assembly had to confine itself to passing a general ‘Objectives Resolution’ drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru.
- In February 1947, nine Congress members of the cabinet wrote to the viceroy demanding the resignation of League members and threatening the withdrawal of their own nominees.