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
The Muslim League was still embroiled in its Direct Action. The Viceroy did not consider it necessary to warn them that now that they had become a part of the Government they better withdraw this policy, since it would then become Direct Action against their own Government. On the question of the Constituent Assembly, Jinnah said that it should not be called in the near future. Postponement would give a breather to the Interim Government. Wavell would also get a respite, as he would not have a confrontation with the Congress. This statement makes it apparent that the British and the Muslim League had a common objective and, therefore, were fighting on the same side.
It was sad to see that while the Congress and the Muslim League were parceling out the Ministries, India was burning in the fire of Direct Action. Frequent riots were taking place in different parts of the country. In October, Hindu- Muslim riots occurred in the Noakhali district of East Bengal. Thousands of innocent people were killed. Stories of the riots in Calcutta and Noakhali spread in the country. While Hindus were killed in Noakhali, Muslims were slaughtered in Bihar.
These riots, which occurred in the month of November, are associated with the most horrendous stories. The whole of India was aflame with communal hatred, enmity and prejudice. Wavell was confident that the increased hatred between these two communities would result in the British becoming indispensable for India. His plan would then materialize, i.e. the British would move their entire belongings to the Muslim majority provinces, namely, Pakistan. The Muslim League, too, wanted to prove to the world that it had become impossible for the Hindus and Muslims to co-exist. Partition was the only recourse left.
The Congress was trying to bring in the Federal Court to resolve the differences arising between the Congress and the Muslim League on the proposal of 16 May. Jinnah, as usual, rejected this proposal. Wavell wrote:
They [Congress] were apparently prepared to agree that the question of whether the sections make the constitution for the provinces or the provinces make their own, should be referred to the Federal Court, but this Jinnah would not accept. [Wavell,p.371]
The Congress and the Central Government became concerned about the communal riots. Nehru warned Wavell that while the entire country was being destroyed, the Muslim League, claiming to be the sole representative of Muslims, was participating in the Interim Government, and using its Direct Action policy against its own Government. The Congress made a last ditch attempt to force Wavell to make the Muslim League agree to the 16 May proposal and become a part of the Constituent Assembly. If they did not agree then Wavell should compel them to get out of the Government. If Wavell did not agree then the Congress was left with no option other than resigning and handing over the entire country to Wavell and the Muslim League! They also demanded that the Viceroy should call the Assembly into session.
Wavell was stuck. He could see no way out. The Constituent Assembly of India was called into session on 9 December 1946. Jinnah immediately announced that the Muslim League would not participate. He announced that the Muslim League rejects the proposal of the Cabinet Mission. After this announcement it became impossible for the Muslim League to remain part of the Government. Although Wavell was disappointed, he was still not angry with Jinnah. He sent a complete report of the prevailing situation to London. He said that if the Congress proposal was accepted the country would be plunged in a civil war. He proposed that two representatives, one each of the Congress and the Muslim League, should personally go to London and discuss these matters with the British Government.
Jinnah and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan accepted this invitation. But the Congress declined saying that this was a waste of time. The British did not want a solution; they were playing these political games and gambling with the future of a country to please their favourite party! When the Prime Minister of Britain found out that Nehru had refused, he sent him a personal invitation. Wavell wrote that when Jinnah was told that Nehru had declined the invitation, he, too, withdrew his acceptance and announced that he would go only if personally requested by the Prime Minister. "Perhaps he [Jinnah] thought that as Nehru had a personal appeal from the Prime Minister, it behoved his dignity to have one too." [Wavell, p. 385]
Nehru left for England but the second candidate Sardar Patel refused to go. Wavell was playing games only so that the Muslim League remained a part of the Interim Government. After Jinnah's refusal to accept the 16 May proposal there was no rationale for the Muslim League to remain with the Government. But Wavell always remembered the advice given by Sir Winston Churchill. Just as he was taking leave of Churchill, before leaving for India, the Prime Minister has said, "Keep a bit of India!"
With these words still ringing in his ears he had prepared his Breakdown Plan. Wavell arrived in London on 3 December accompanied by the Indian leaders. In a note submitted to the cabinet, he stated that after reviewing the situation in detail, he reached the conclusion that since there was no question of reconciliation, their only option was confrontation with the Congress. For this combat Wavell offered his Breakdown Plan. The provinces with Congress majority should be given autonomy, and the British, accompanied by their entire army, should move to the Muslim majority provinces.
They [Congress] are not ready yet for an open breach with His Majesty's Government. Such a breach is, however, a possibility, and we can only face it if we have a definite policy and a Breakdown Plan.
It becomes obvious that Wavell had brought the leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League all the way to England for only one reason. He first wanted to have his proposal approved by the Government, then have it announced to the leaders, and finally, let them engage in a round-table discussion. Wavell considered his proposal foolproof, because all he wanted was to save one portion of India for the British; the portion which had a strategic location, the USSR border on one side and the Chinese border on the other. Predictably, the meeting was a failure. The leaders departed. Wavell tried to stay behind to elaborate his viewpoint but the British Government asked him to return immediately. He left his Secretary, George Abel, behind so that he could explain the proposal in greater detail:
George Abel telegraphed to say that The cabinet at home has gone back completely, and refuses to have returning at once. [Wavell. 8 January 1947].
As a result of these negotiations the British Government conceded one point. They announced that they were prepared to accept the Muslim League's idea about grouping; thus ended the individual status of the provinces. It was explained that the groups would make collective decisions. For example, Punjab was given the responsibility of group B and Sind and the Frontier were given a secondary status. Similarly, in the East, Bengal became responsible while Assam became a political non-entity.
As planned, the Constituent Assembly of India was convened on 9 December. The Muslim League did not participate. The Assembly passed a resolution declaring its aims and objectives. It also articulated its policy regarding the provinces and the Princely States. With the exception of three Central Departments, all the other rights were given to the provinces. Committees were formed for various departments, leaving a few seats vacant for the Muslim League.
A meeting of the All India Congress Committee was held on 5 January 1947. The meeting accepted the decision of the British Government to give the right to the groups rather than to the individual provinces. The Muslim League did not have any excuse left now. On 29 January 1947, the Muslim League Working Committee Meeting was held in Karachi. After a discussion and delineation of parameters it was decided that since the Congress did not accept the Cabinet Mission Plan, it would be unacceptable to the Muslim League as well. They stated that since the Mission Plan was unsuccessful, all activities proposed in it and underway should be stopped at once. In view of that the Constituent Assembly should be dissolved.
It is ironical that whereas the Muslim League refused to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan and sit in the Constituent Assembly, it was shamelessly eager to participate in the Interim Government, which was part and parcel of the same proposal. Wavell had turned a blind eye to this absurdity.
(To be continued)
The book in PDF form can be accessed at: http://www.awaminationalparty.org/books/factsarefacts.pdf