Published in 1986, ‘Facts are Facts’ by the late Wali Khan was an instant hit. ‘Facts are Facts’ is an attempt to contest text book versions of Pakistan’s history. In a bid to generate debate, the Viewpoint is serializing this text
It was 16 August 1946. In Calcutta, Suhrawardy’s policy turned the city into thousands of funeral pyres. On this very day Jawaharlal Nehru tried to get Jinnah’s cooperation in forming the Interim Government. Nehru's scheme was that fourteen ministers would be appointed at the centre: six Congress, five Muslim League, three Christian and one Parsi. Jinnah was obdurate. He insisted that no Muslim could be appointed to the Cabinet unless he was a member of the Muslim League, and, if Nehru did not promise to abide by this, he would not agree to conciliation. On this one issue the entire agreement broke down. Jinnah's logic was hopelessly convoluted. Two provinces had a Muslim majority: the Punjab and the Frontier. The Frontier had 93 per cent Muslims but it was represented by the Khudai Khidmatgars and not the Muslim League. How could Jinnah and his party represent this province? But the basic anomaly was that the Muslim League wanted more than its share in the Central Government. What right did the Muslim League have to demand that the Congress should not allow any Muslim to represent it?
The person in a tight spot was Wavell, whose Breakdown Plan had collapsed. He asked Nehru to leave five cabinet positions vacant in case the Muslim League agreed to come in. When Nehru did not agree, Wavell decided to talk to Jinnah. When Jinnah declared that there was no room for further discussion, Wavell gave up. Finding his patience wearing thin, he called Gandhiji and Nehru to discuss the forthcoming session of the Legislative Assembly. He continued to try to stop the Congress from forming the Government. Finally the Government of Great Britain strictly forbade him to interfere. On 24 August 1946, the first Interim Government of India was announced under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru announced the formation of his Government. He left two places vacant for Muslims so that the Muslim League could represent Bengal and Sind. On the same day, that is, 26
August, in a message broadcast to the nation, Wavell, once again, invited the Muslim League. He stated that if the Muslim League wanted to come in even at this late hour, they would be accorded their old status and the previous conditions would still apply to them.
Wavell could not bear to see Jawaharlal Nehru form the Government. He openly confronted the British Government with the issue of the Muslim League. Lord Pethick Lawrence, the Secretary of State, opposed all his policies. Despite severe reprimands Wavell did not change his stand. Another event which Wavell wanted to avoid at all costs was calling the Assembly into session. The Congress made several efforts to convince him that following the establishment of the Interim Government, the Assembly should be called. Wavell was unwilling to comply. He knew that once the Assembly was called into session the last part of the Cabinet Mission Plan would be complete. And then the British would be left with no choice other than handing over the entire control to the same Assembly. And once the State Legislative Assemblies got down to business, the implication would be that the British Government had accepted India's federal polity. Wavell was not prepared to accept this. On his own he had made the decision that if the Congress insisted on calling the Assembly he would, then, not even bother to seek the cooperation of the Congress, "The Viceroy, who was being pressed by the Congress to call the Assembly, felt he would rather lose their cooperation than go ahead with constitution making on a one- party basis."
Wavell saw partition as the most advantageous way for the British to conclude the Indian chapter of their colonial magnum opus. He was trying to create a political impasse which would assume the dimensions of the collapse of constitutional machinery, hoping that the British Government would be forced to ask him to implement his Breakdown Plan. Wavell’s proposals greatly perturbed his superiors and they concluded that they could not justify to the parliament so drastic a policy and that on this ground alone his plan was impossible. They said that if withdrawal from India became unavoidable then withdrawal should take place from India as a whole.
Meanwhile, Wavell continued his two-pronged effort. First, to include the Muslim League in the Interim Government, in order to create an impediment for the Congress. Secondly, to make every effort not to call the Constituent Assembly. It was quite obvious that Wavell was trying to withhold from the Indian people what the Cabinet Mission had given away as their right. Directives to the contrary kept arriving from London but Wavell paid no heed.
On the one hand, Wavell was greatly perturbed that the Muslim League had gone out of hand. On the other hand, the League was having a rough time. The leaders of the Muslim League were individuals who had received some forms of titles or decorations from the British. Sycophants such as these lack moral courage and intellectual fiber. They are obedient to whoever happens to be in power. If they could serve the British Government, it was possible, provided they became disappointed with the Muslim League. They would then promptly align themselves with the Congress if it meant personal gain. Some of them would happily hold cabinet positions as members of the Congress Party. They were firm believers in "he who pays the piper calls the tune!"
When Wavell reopened discussions with the Muslim League, and summoned Jinnah, he wrote, "Jinnah was less aggressive and aggrieved than I had expected, and easier to talk to." [Wavell. p. 351]
When the Congress took the oath of office it was agreed that the Viceroy would not interfere in matters pertaining to the cabinet. Earlier, Wavell had written a strongly worded letter to the British Government stating that the Congress should not be allowed to form the Government by itself. The Secretary of State had replied reminding Wavell that since the Muslim League had reversed its decision regarding the 16 May proposal, they could not enter the cabinet. The Government gave further specific instructions to Wavell that if it was essential to talk to Jinnah he should be approached through Nehru, the leader of the Interim Government Wavell’s stubbornness becomes apparent in the following remark. "Nehru complained that the approach to the Muslim League to form the Interim Government, had been made over his head." [Wavell. p. 3901].
After several meetings and discussions held by Wavell it was agreed that the Muslim League should be allowed to participate in the Interim Government, on condition that they withdraw their decision against the proposal of the Cabinet Mission. They were asked to accept the 16 May proposal. In order to obtain positions in the Interim Government the Muslim League had to bite its tongue! The Pakistan proposal was abandoned and they agreed to join the Government of Indian Federation. Another issue that had been a thorn in their sides for several years suddenly became a non-issue, namely that no Muslims other than ones belonging to the Muslim League could sit in the Central Cabinet. Barrister Asaf Ali remained a Minister in the Central Cabinet. In one case, however, the Muslim League acted on principle. Of the five Muslim League Ministers one was a Hindu by the name of Joginder Nath Mandal. A Harijan by caste, he represented the Muslim League.
On 15 October 1946. the Muslim League joined the Interim Government. Three members of the Nehru Government, Sarat Chandra Bose, Sir Shafaat Ahmed Khan and Syed Ali Zaheer submitted their resignations. Nawabzada Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar were appointed Ministers. Wavell’s keenness to see the Muslim League join the Government is proved by his disregard for the requirement imposed by the Secretary of State that they repudiate their statement of July and accept the l6 May proposals for a united India. Wavell gave the following assurance to Nehru:
Jinnah had undertaken, in reply, to call a meeting of the Muslim League Council and to reverse its decision against the statement of May the 16th.... The Working Committee Meeting was not summoned until more than three months later, and then they declined to call the League Council to reconsider their decision of July 1946. [Hudson, p, 174]
(To be continued)
The book in PDF form can be accessed at: http://www.awaminationalparty.org/books/factsarefacts.pdf