BECK index

Liberating India and Pakistan 1934-1950

by Sanderson Beck

Indian Politics 1934-39
India during World War II
India Divided 1945-47
Indian Independence 1947-48
India and Pakistan 1948-50

This chapter has been published in the book SOUTH ASIA 1800-1950.
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Indian Politics 1934-39

Gandhi and India 1919-1933

The individual civil disobedience campaign gradually faded, and in May 1934 the All-India Congress endorsed Gandhi’s proposal to call off the civil disobedience campaign except for specific grievances. Gandhi resigned from Congress in October in order to devote himself to his constructive program, which included communal unity, removal of untouchability, prohibition, khadi (spinning), other village industries, sanitation, Basic Education, adult education, health and hygiene education, equality for women, provincial languages, national language (Hindi), economic equality, kisans (peasants), labor unions, care of lepers, and guidelines for students. Gandhi said that he learned from bitter experience the supreme lesson to conserve his anger and transmute the energy into a power that can move the world.

The Congress conference at Delhi in March 1934 revived the All-India Swarajya party, and Congressmen were urged to campaign for legislative offices. After civil disobedience was cancelled in May, the Government lifted the ban on Congress in June except in Bengal and NWFP. Malaviya and Aney opposed the Communal Award, and they formed the Congress Nationalist party. By 1935 they had 11 votes in the Central Legislature, and Congress had 44 compared to 50 nominated by the Government and elected by Europeans; the 22 independents were mostly Muslims. Thus with the Muslims led by Jinnah the Congress had a majority. They threw out the budget twice and defeated the Criminal Law Amendment bill, but these were certified by the Governor-General anyway.

After the three Round Table Conferences a Joint Committee held 159 meetings and produced a White Paper for reforming India that was opposed by Conservatives such as Winston Churchill, who had called Gandhi a “half-naked fakir.” The Government of India Act was passed by Parliament and approved by the Crown in August 1935. Burma was separated from India, and Orissa and Sind became provinces. Madras, Bombay, Bengal, the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), Bihar, and Assam were given bicameral legislatures, and they were popularly elected with some seats allocated to minority communities. The franchise was still limited by property, but in the lower houses the number of voters increased from 7 million to 35 million, including wives of voters. The provinces gained more autonomy. The federation of India would be inaugurated after princes ruling states with half the population acceded. However, the Governor-General retained the responsibility for defense and external affairs. Also Section 93 of the Act authorized provincial governors to take over all powers if they judged the constitutional machinery had broken down. The ruling princes met and refused to accept British paramountcy, especially the “special responsibility” of the Governor-General. Yet the Congress and the Muslim League considered the princes reactionary autocrats, and Congress urged them to introduce representative government. The princes were afraid that if they joined the federation, their subjects would demand reforms.

The All-India Peasants’ Organization (Kisan Sabha) was led by Sahajananda Saraswati, and they marched hundreds of miles through villages under the Communist flag. The All-India Students’ Federation was also centralized, and the All-India Trade Union Congress was reunited after having been split by the Communists in 1929 and 1931. The younger members of Congress made the Socialist party influential. Because the Red Trades Union Congress had organized a major strike by textile workers in April 1934, the Government had banned the Communist party. So they joined the Congress Socialist party led by Jayaprakash Narayan, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Subhas Chandra Bose. In a public statement in December 1933 Nehru had announced that he preferred Communism over Fascism, which he considered the two choices. S. N. Roy had been expelled from the Communist Party in 1929, and he was imprisoned for the Kanpur conspiracy for nearly four years until November 1936.

Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin appointed the Marquess of Linlithgow to be viceroy in 1936. The Indian National Congress met at Lakhnau in April and elected Nehru president. Gandhi still attended the meetings of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) and the Working Committee. Nehru called Gandhi the “permanent super-President of Congress” and usually followed his advice. President Nehru was re-elected in December and announced that Congress stands for full democracy in India, not socialism. Nehru and the Socialists opposed Congress members cooperating with the British government by entering legislatures. However, Congress did well in the national elections, gaining majorities in the legislative assemblies of Madras, the United Provinces (UP), the Central Provinces (CP), Bihar, and Orissa. In Bombay they were only two short of a majority, and they were also the largest party in Bengal, Assam, and the NWFP. In March 1937 the AICC agreed with Gandhi and voted to permit acceptance of offices in the provinces where Congress could control the legislature. The Working Committee appointed three Gandhians—Abul Kalam Azad, Vallabhbhai Patel, and Rajendra Prasad—to the Parliamentary Sub-Committee, and they influenced the provincial Congress ministers. The Working Committee formulated the following goals:

1) Substantial reduction in rent and revenue.
2) Assessment of income-tax, on a progressive scale,
  on agricultural incomes, subject to a prescribed minimum.
3) Fixity of tenure.
4) Relief from the burden of rural debt and arrears of rent
  and revenue.
5) Repeal of all repressive laws.
6) Release of political prisoners, internees and detenus.
7) Restoration of lands and property confiscated or sold
  by Government during Civil Disobedience Movements.
8) Eight hours day for industrial workers, without reduction
  of pay. Living wage.
9) Prohibition of intoxicating liquor and drugs.
10) Unemployment relief.
11) Reduction of high salaries, allowances, and cost of
  administration of Government.1

At a meeting in Calcutta in October 1937 the AICC supported the peoples’ resistance in Mysore over the objections of Gandhi and Nehru. Congress also passed a resolution confirming the fundamental rights of free expression and association, freedom of religion, culture and language, and equality before the law regardless of “religion, caste, creed, or sex.” Congress met in Gujarat on February 18, 1938 and unanimously elected Subhas Bose president. The kisans in the Haripura Congress defied the Working Committee by independently voting to support free and compulsory education for seven years nationwide with instruction in the mother tongue and the manual training that became known as Basic Education. The Haripura Congress also announced its opposition to an imperialist war. President Bose organized the National Planning Committee for industrialization, which was opposed by Gandhi. When Congress met in March 1939 Gandhi chose Pattabhi Sitaramayya to be president, but the ill Bose defeated him by 95 votes. Congress once again resolved to work for democratic independence and expressed its disapproval of British foreign policy that led to “the Munich Pact, the Anglo-Italian Agreement, and the recognition of rebel Spain.” Congress opposed aiding Fascist powers that destroyed democracies. Gandhi was officially elected dictator of Congress. Bose resigned from the AICC on April 29, and Rajendra Prasad was elected president the next day. Subhas Bose formed a new party called the Forward Bloc to unite the left wing in Congress against Gandhi.

In Bengal the nationalist Muslim Fazl-ul-Huq was elected chief minister by a coalition that did not include Congress, but more than two thousand people were released from prison by 1939. The population of the Punjab was 57% Muslim, but they suffered communal conflicts with the Sikhs and Hindus. The Village Panchayat Act encouraged local government there. Sind was 71% Muslim, but a battle over a mosque at Sukkur in August 1939 resulted in the death of 151 Hindus and 14 Muslims. This was the only time the Governor-General used his special power during this period. In the provinces where Congress had a majority they selected ministers only from the Congress party, thus alienating Muslims. Political prisoners were released, and bans on Communists and other organizations were lifted. During this period the Government of India vetoed only four legislative bills. The oppressive land revenue system in Bihar caused riots in late 1938, and armed police were used to protect the spring harvesting in 1939. To help the peasants the Congress ministries passed a series of Money-lenders or Debtors’ Relief Acts. Although the left wing in Congress opposed using state power to control violent outbreaks, Gandhi argued that criminal liberty is different than civil liberty. Nehru disagreed with Gandhi but went along with him.

The three main Congress reforms implemented in this era were for primary education, prohibition of alcohol, and protecting the rights of untouchables. Basic Education was called the Wardha Scheme and implemented manual training in elementary schools, enabling children to learn through activity and even sell products they made. Gandhi was president of the All-India National Education Conference held at Wardha in October 1937 that passed resolutions for seven years free and compulsory primary education nationwide, instruction in the mother tongue, and manual training in a craft. The literacy rate in India rose from eight percent in 1931 to twelve percent in 1941. Imposing prohibition in Congress ministries caused sharp reductions in the excise duties on alcohol and drugs in Bombay, Madras, UP, Bihar, and Orissa. The Bombay government imposed a tax on urban property, but this was resented as encroaching on the municipalities.

M. A. Jinnah was president of the Muslim League, and his address at Lakhnau in October 1937 blamed Congress leaders for excluding Muslims where Congress had a majority. He urged Muslims to organize themselves, and he raised the stature of the Muslim League. That day Sikander Hyat Khan urged his Unionist Party in the Punjab to join the League, and soon Fazl-ul-Huq in Bengal and Muhammad Saadulla in Assam did the same. Within three months the Muslim League had 170 new branches, including 90 branches with 100,000 members in the United Provinces. In November 1938 a League committee led by the Raja of Pirpur criticized the words of Bande Mataram, the tri-color Indian flag, the Wardha Scheme of education, using Hindi instead of Urdu, and Hindu-Muslim riots. The Pirpur report also alleged numerous cases of persecution and injustices against Muslims in Bihar, the United Provinces, and the Central Provinces.

By the end of 1938 Muslims had formed three quasi-military organizations, mostly in the United Provinces. Muslims complained about the Hindu Mahasabha that was led by the revolutionary V. D. Savarkar. During the Hindu Mahasabha session in 1938 at Nagpur they had recommended universal military training to counter-act the Muslims in the Indian army. In September 1939 the Working Committee of the Muslim League declared its opposition to any federal system that would result in majority rule, and in February 1940 Jinnah said that India was not one nation but two and that the Muslims of India must determine their own destiny. The League met at Lahore in March and resolved that the Muslims should have “independent states” in the northwestern and eastern zones of India.

Gandhi had become confirmed in his pacifist principles in regard to war. He pointed out how Abyssinia could have used nonviolence against Mussolini, and he recommended it to the Czechs and China. He suggested, “If it is brave, as it is, to die to a man fighting against odds, it is braver still to refuse to fight and yet to refuse to yield to the usurper.”2 As early as 1938 he exhorted the Jews to stand up for their rights and die if necessary as martyrs so that a degrading manhunt could be turned into a calm and determined stand. Gandhi even recommended the British use nonviolent methods to fight Hitler; no longer could he support any kind of war or killing. On December 24, 1938 he wrote,

How can nonviolence combat aerial warfare,
seeing that there are no personal contacts?
The reply to this is that behind the death-dealing bomb
there is the human hand that releases it,
and behind that still is the human heart
that sets the hand in motion.
And at the back of the policy of terrorism is the assumption
that terrorism if applied in a sufficient measure
will produce the desired result,
namely, bend the adversary to the tyrant’s will.
But supposing a people make up their mind
that they will never do the tyrant’s will,
nor retaliate with the tyrant’s own methods,
the tyrant will not find it worth his while
to go on with this terrorism.3

He even wrote an open letter to Hitler himself, asking him not to go to war. In April 1939 Gandhi prophesied that before the war ended, the democracies would have adopted the tactics of the Fascists and Nazis, including conscription and methods of force to compel and exact obedience.

In 1939 Krishnalal Shridharani published War without Violence, an excellent study of Gandhi’s methods and campaigns. While the world was teetering on the brink of another catastrophic war, he suggested that conflicts can be resolved more effectively with much less violence. He described the stages of satyagraha campaigns as negotiations and arbitration, agitation, demonstrations and the ultimatum, self-purification, strikes, dhurna (sitting in), boycott, not paying taxes, hizrat (migration), non-cooperation, ostracism, civil disobedience, assertive satyagraha (establishing alternative institutions), and parallel government. He also discussed how to extend nonviolent action to resist a nation invading one’s country, as Gandhi had recommended to the Czechs when the Germans took over their country in 1938. In the second part he gave examples from Gandhi’s life how an individual can practice satyagraha toward other individuals or groups. Gandhi had faced his teacher, his father, his caste, a bully, a mob, his followers, professionals, and had even gone so far as to threaten fasting to death. Then Shridharani analyzed Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaigns in South Africa, Champaran, for labor, peasants, social justice, at Bardoli, in the native states, and the larger non-cooperation campaign of 1920-22 and the civil disobedience campaign of 1930-34.

Shridharani reviewed how nonviolence had developed from the Upanishads, Jainism, Buddhism, Jesus, Tolstoy, and Thoreau to Gandhi. Although nonviolent direct action is obviously different from war in regard to the use of violence, they are similar in various ways. They both actively oppose the position of their adversaries and can be aggressive or offensive as well as defensive. Both use the power of suffering; while war attempts to persuade the enemy to change by inflicting suffering, the satyagrahis attempt to awaken the conscience of their adversaries by accepting suffering. Both are alluring as romantic campaigns. Both may become permanent institutions, and both attempt to coerce or compel someone else to change. Shridharani argued that nonviolent direct action can be more effective than war in bringing about lasting social change because people are really transformed by the process, and the healing and recovery from the damage of the process is much easier.

India during World War II

The Indian National Congress had expressed its opposition to an imperialist war as early as 1936, and the Working Committee directed provincial ministers not to assist with war preparations. When the British declared war against Germany on September 3, 1939, the other ministers in the Punjab, Bengal, and Sind pledged their support. The Indian States, the National Liberal Federation, and the Hindu Mahasabha also backed the Government, but Congress refused to cooperate. At first Gandhi and Nehru were reluctant to take advantage of England’s peril, but Subhas Bose adamantly declared that Congress should not cooperate with Britain’s war. On September 15 the Working Committee condemned Fascism and Nazism but took the “gravest view” of the Viceroy’s proclamation of war and the war ordinances being promulgated without India’s consent. They would not “permit their resources to be exploited for imperialist ends.” India could not support a war for democracy and freedom while they were being denied democratic freedom. They asked if the British war aims included treating India as a free nation. Three days later the Muslim League promised cooperation with Britain under two conditions. First, the Muslims must be assured of justice in Congress provinces, and second, the British must not adopt any new constitution without the approval of the Muslim League. All the Congress ministries had resigned by November 15. The governors took control of these provinces, and so Viceroy Linlithgow felt he could support the Muslim League.

At the Congress session in March 1940 President Maulana Abul Kalam Azad made clear that Congress was not a pacifist organization and that it was opposing the British war effort to achieve its main goal of freedom for India. In July the Working Committee renewed their demand for full independence and promised to defend the country once this was gained. Gandhi complained that the Muslim League wanted to divide India into two parts, and he asserted that the only two parties were those who supported Congress and those who did not. Viceroy Linlithgow made an offer on August 8, 1940 that promised to form an advisory war council of thirteen with eight Indians, protect minorities, and after the war let a representative Indian body frame a new constitution. Within two weeks the Working Committee of Congress had rejected this offer as inadequate. The Muslim League replied that the only solution was the partition of India. In his autobiography Toward Freedom, which he wrote while he was in prison and completed in 1940, Nehru wrote,

That is the goal of India—a united free, democratic country,
closely associated in a world federation
with other free nations.
We want independence,
but not the old type of narrow, exclusive independence.
We believe that the day of separate
warring national states is over.4

In 1940 the Congress Socialist party had expelled the Communists. The Communist Party of India (CPI) favored the proletarian path and proposed a general strike and country-wide rent and tax refusal before the next “phase of armed insurrection.” When 150,000 textile workers went on strike in Bombay, the Government arrested 480 Communists. In December at a conference they challenged the Congress claim to speak for India and supported voluntary federation of regional states to try to win over Muslims. When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, the Comintern ordered the CPI to back the “people’s war,” and most of the Communists in India started supporting the Government.

Congress decided to launch a civil disobedience campaign under Gandhi’s leadership. He selected the ban on propaganda against the war as the main issue. The campaign began on October 17, 1940, and individuals speaking against the war were arrested one at a time. Defense of India Rules prohibited the press from reporting on the protests. Gandhi promised Congress he would stay out of jail; but his disciple Vinoba Bhave was arrested, and about 14,000 were in prison by May 1941. The Atlantic Charter issued by Britain and the United States stated that as part of their war policy

They respect the right of all peoples to choose
the form of Government under which they will live;
and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-Government
restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.5

Indians agreed with this, but Churchill on September 9 in the House of Commons stated that it did not apply to India. Indians believed that British dishonesty had been exposed, and even the Liberal leader, Sikandar Hayat Khan, who supported the war effort, was shocked. Three Indians on the Council requested the release of Nehru and Azad and threatened to resign. Churchill objected; but the Cabinet went along with Viceroy Linlithgow, and all the satyagrahis were released on December 3, 1941.

General Claude Auchinleck became commander-in-chief in January 1941, and his successful recruiting helped increase the Indian armed forces from 190,000 at the start of the war to two million by 1943. Indian troops made up a large part of the British army in the successful African campaign against the Italians in Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In Burma the British forces retreated from Rangoon as the Japanese invaded in March 1942. Thousands of Indian refugees died as they fled to India. The Japanese navy sank many Indian ships and controlled the Bay of Bengal. Japanese planes bombed India on April 6, and their navy seized the Andaman Islands.

In March 1942 US President Franklin Roosevelt urged Churchill to settle the differences with India in order to gain their support in the war. So Churchill sent Stafford Cripps to India with a declaration that promised the “earliest possible realization of self-government in India” by a constitution-making body “after the cessation of hostilities” under similar conditions as offered before. This offer was rejected by all the major parties and minorities in India because Indians did not trust the British, because they believed that they were losing the war to Germany, and because India was likely to be partitioned. Gandhi especially objected to what he called the “vivisection of India.” Roosevelt’s envoy, Col. Louis Johnson, tried to bring the two sides together, but Churchill refused to alter the proposal. The British blamed the failure on Gandhi’s pacifism; but Gandhi called that “a tissue of lies,” and the British did not produce the evidence of his telephone conversation they claimed they recorded.

In 1942 Gandhi wrote,

Supposing that the women and the children of Europe
became fired with the love of humanity,
they would take the men by storm and reduce militarism
to nothingness in an incredibly short time.6

In April he suggested ways to resist the Japanese nonviolently. He also said that if India had a national government, it should ally itself with the United Nations against the Fascist powers. He criticized the Japanese for attacking China and predicted that their ambition would fail and might prevent the “world federation and brotherhood without which there can be no hope for humanity.”7 He wrote that India had no enmity toward Japan or any nation and that a free India could negotiate with the Japanese. Gandhi was concerned that the British presence would invite the Japanese to invade India. He wanted the British to “entrust India to God or in modern parlance to anarchy.” If the Japanese did invade India, the Congress would organize nonviolent non-cooperation. The Americans eventually persuaded Gandhi that Japan’s occupation of India would cause China to fall also. Gandhi argued that India in bondage could not fight effectively against the Nazis and that the Allies’ subjection of India as well as Africans and Negroes damaged their moral cause.

After several days of discussion Gandhi persuaded the Congress Working Committee to adopt his famous “Quit India” resolution on July 14, 1942 “not only in the interest of India but also for the safety of the world and for the ending of Nazism, Fascism, Militarism, and other forms of imperialism.”8 Gandhi sent his disciple Mira Ben (Madeleine Slade) to the Viceroy, who said he would not tolerate any rebellion, whether violent or nonviolent. Gandhi called it an open revolt and said they should “free India or die;” but either he thought he had time to plan the campaign later, or he decided to leave it up to spontaneous action. The Government planned severe repression but waited until the AICC met and made a decision. The AICC passed the resolution on the night of August 8 with only a few Communists opposed, and before dawn the British arrested Gandhi, Azad, and the Working Committee. Within a week all the eminent leaders of the Congress were in prison. The British quickly declared Congress illegal, seized their headquarters at Allahabad, and confiscated their funds. The paper Harijan was put under a ban and was not allowed to publish again until 1946. Thus for three and a half years we have little or no writing from Gandhi.

News of the arrests of Gandhi and the Congress leaders immediately touched off nonviolent protests in Bombay, Ahmadabad, and Poona. On August 10 Delhi and towns in the United Provinces were aroused, and on the following day the disruptions spread across most of India with strikes, demonstrations, and even mob violence. Systems of communication and transportation were attacked and sabotaged. The UP alone reported that more than a hundred railway stations were damaged, and railway tracks were sabotaged a hundred times. Mobs attacked trams, buses, motor vehicles, and government buildings. The report found more than 425 cases of sabotaging telephone and telegraph wires, and 119 post offices were destroyed or severely damaged. The  Government quickly cracked down and arrested 16,089 people while 16 police officers were killed with 332 injured. The mass lawlessness spread in the Central Provinces and Bihar as well. Bombs were used, especially in Bombay.

Altogether in India 330 post offices were burned or seriously damaged; over 250 railways stations were destroyed or damaged; and more than two hundred police stations were attacked. Officials later estimated that the police and military fired at crowds 538 times, killing 940 and injuring 1,630. Nehru believed that even higher figures were “gross underestimates.” Some said that as many as 25,000 were killed, but Nehru estimated 10,000. Officials calculated that 60,229 persons were arrested with about 26,000 convicted and 18,000 detained without trial by the end of 1942.

Most of those demonstrating were students, peasants, and persons from the lower middle class. The military occupied Benares University and regained control of most districts by the end of August, and open protests were quelled by September 21. The police and the military reacted aggressively because of the sabotage and mob violence, and there were many atrocities. The revolt was violent in the sense that force was used to destroy communication lines, railways, bridges, and post offices. Some took over courts, jails, and government buildings, burning records. Yet at first this was not an armed uprising, and efforts were made to be nonviolent and not harm people. Heroic demonstrators were shot for trying to raise the Indian flag. In October some freedom fighters led by Jayaprakash Narayan went underground, but their more violent revolutionary efforts faded away by February 1943.

The Muslim League led by Jinnah remained aloof from the Quit India campaign and appealed to the United Nations to help them establish Pakistan. In 1942 Pir Pagaro led a violent revolt by gangs of Hurs in north-eastern Sind. The British imposed martial law in June 1942 for a year, by which time the Pir had been executed. In Bengal the Muslim League party persuaded Fazl-ul-Huq to resign in March 1943, and K. Nazimuddin formed a ministry in April. The Muslim League also gained power in Assam, NWFP, and Sind, but the Unionist party maintained its hold on the Punjab. At Karachi in December 1943 the Muslim League adopted the slogan “Divide and Quit.”

The British considered Subhas Bose a dangerous revolutionary and had arrested him on July 2, 1940. When his hunger strike showed dangerous symptoms, they released him on December 5. He was kept under surveillance at his home in Calcutta but escaped on January 17, 1941 and made his way to Kabul and Moscow. On March 28 he flew to Berlin. He met with Ribbentrop, and the Germans helped him to broadcast anti-British propaganda and to raise Free Indian troops from the Indian prisoners of war in Germany. Bose founded Free India Centers in Rome and Paris while recruiting 3,000 soldiers.

Rash-behari Bose had fled to Japan in 1915, married a Japanese woman, and became a Japanese citizen. He organized a conference at Tokyo in March 1942, and they formed an Indian Independence League for Indians in Japanese Asia. A hundred delegates met at Bangkok in June and elected Rash-behari Bose chairman. They invited Subhas Bose to East Asia. Meanwhile Captain Mohan Singh had surrendered to the Japanese, and at Bangkok the holy man Giani Pritam Singh and Major Fuzihara persuaded him to fight for Indian independence. When the Japanese captured Singapore on February 15, 1942, Fuzihara gained 40,000 Indian prisoners of war. Mohan Singh used volunteers from them and formed the Indian National Army (INA). By August about 40,000 Indians were being trained physically and mentally with lectures on Indian history under British rule.

A German U-boat took Subhas Bose to a Japanese submarine, and he reached Tokyo on June 13, 1943. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo encouraged Bose’s plans for a provisional government and promised India “full independence.” On July 4 Rash-behari Bose turned over the presidency to Subhas Bose, who was named the supreme leader (Netaji). The INA trained men and women intensively for six months. On October 23 the Netaji announced on radio the Provisional Government of Azad Hind’s declaration of war against Britain and the USA. Within a few days Azad Hind (Free India) was recognized by Germany, Italy, Croatia, Burma, Thailand, Nationalist China, the Philippines, and Manchuria. On November 6 Tojo turned over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government.

Field Marshal Terauchi allowed the Subhas Brigade to join the Japanese invasion of Burma to prove their worth. They went to Rangoon in February 1944 and marched along the Kaladan River. In May the INA entered Indian territory, and some Japanese troops were even put under Captain Suraj Mal. They occupied Mowdok and fought British forces until September. As the Japanese retreated, the INA stayed at Rangoon until they were captured by the British in May 1945. The Netaji fled to Bangkok and Saigon. The Japanese claimed he was killed in an airplane crash; but others believe he was eventually captured by Russians in Manchuria and sent to Siberia. When the British tried the INA officers for treason, they were shocked that most Indians considered them patriotic heroes. Nationwide demonstrations for the release of the INA prisoners in the winter of 1945 resulted in the police killing forty people and wounding more than three hundred in Calcutta; in Bombay 28 were killed, and more than two hundred were wounded.

While Gandhi was detained at the Aga Khan palace, he complained that the Government was spreading rumors that he was encouraging violent activities. He noted that the Government’s violence was on a gigantic scale compared to the protests. He announced a three-week fast to seek justice from God because the Viceroy had denied him justice. Although Viceroy Linlithgow warned him that he would consider a fast by Gandhi “political blackmail” and would let him die, Gandhi disagreed and began fasting on February 10, 1943. If he had not taken some lime juice with his water, he probably would have died.

The first Japanese air raid on Calcutta was on December 20, 1942. The loss of rice imports from Burma caused a food shortage in Bengal in 1943. Inefficient government caused a delay in food rationing, and more than a million people died from starvation and disease. The Famine Enquiry Commission estimated 1.5 million deaths, but the economist Chattopadhyaya of Calcutta University used surveys that showed it was about 3.5 million. India’s commander-in-chief Wavell became viceroy in October 1943. His proposal to appoint an Indian as finance minister was blocked by the Home Government, but he did manage to implement a Ministry for Planning and Development in 1944. The Japanese army invaded Manipur in March 1944, but they withdrew in August. Gandhi was released unconditionally from prison on May 5, 1944 because of a bad case of malaria. Wavell refused to meet with Gandhi or with the Working Committee. Rajagopalachari persuaded Gandhi to negotiate with Jinnah the partition he was determined to have. They held talks for eighteen days in September, but Jinnah refused to compromise on his demand for all of the Punjab, NWFP, Sind, Baluchistan, Bengal, and Assam.

Bhulabhai Desai was the Congress leader in the Central Legislative Assembly, and he negotiated an agreement with Liaquat Ali Khan of the Muslim League. Viceroy Wavell was interested, but Jinnah and the Congress leaders rejected the plan. After the Congress members were released from prison, Khan Sahib was able to form a ministry in NWFP. New ministries favorable to Congress were also formed in Assam and Sind by March 1945. That month Nazimuddin was defeated in Bengal, and the Governor took over under Section 93. Indian troops entered Mandalay on March 8 and regained Rangoon on May 4.

Viceroy Wavell’s efforts to find a constitutional solution were delayed or blocked by Churchill, and Wavell visited London in the spring of 1945. After returning to Delhi, the Viceroy announced on June 14 his proposals that called for an Executive Council made up of Indians except for the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief. The Council’s goals were to prosecute the war against Japan and carry the government until a permanent constitution was implemented. Gandhi, Jinnah, and the Hindu Mahasabhas objected to how the Council would be selected. Members of the Congress Working Committee were released on June 15 and decided that the Congress should participate in the conference at Simla. The Viceroy invited 21 Indian leaders to the conference, and Gandhi remained in town as an advisor. Jinnah refused to cooperate unless all five Muslims on the Council were from the League; Wavell refused to go forward without Jinnah’s consent.

India Divided 1945-47

World War II ended when Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945. Gandhi hoped for a real peace based on freedom and equality for all races and nations. He contrasted nonviolence to the horrible violence of the atomic bomb, and he called the use of this weapon on Japan cowardice. In his last years he became more of a socialist, believing that inequality breeds violence while equality produces nonviolence. He went on a pilgrimage to Noakhali to help the poor.

Just before the war ended, Churchill’s government was replaced by Labor with Clement Attlee as prime minister. They worked to fulfill the pledge that India would be granted dominion status after the war. The concern that an independent India would repudiate its foreign debt no longer existed because the war expenses had resulted in Britain owing India one billion pounds. Also there were now 15,000 trained Indian officers in the military. India had not had provincial elections since 1937 nor a general election since 1934. After visiting London, Viceroy Wavell on September 19 announced elections in December. The Congress party gained popularity by providing a legal team to defend three Indian National Army (INA) officers—a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Sikh—on trial for treason, murder, and torture before a military tribunal. The sentences of transportation to life were remitted, and they were merely cashiered. In the elections Congress got 91% of the vote in the non-Muslim constituencies, and in the Muslim areas the Muslim League received 87%. Congress had a majority in Assam and in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) as well as in Bombay, Madras, the United Provinces (UP), Bihar, Orissa, and the Central Provinces (CP). The Muslim League declined to join a coalition in the Punjab, but they did so with independents in Bengal.

Indians in the Royal Indian Navy, who were suffering hardships in Bombay, revolted with strikes that led to looting, and more than two hundred people were killed by police and the army in February 1946. During these disturbances Attlee and Secretary of State Pethick-Lawrence announced that a Cabinet mission would visit India. On March 15 Attlee said in the House of Commons that minorities would be protected, but a minority would not be allowed to veto the advance of the majority. Pethick-Lawrence, Stafford Cripps, and A. V. Alexander arrived in New Delhi on March 24 to set up a process to write a constitution for an independent India. Giani Kartar Singh wanted the state of Khalistan for Sikhs. Jinnah and the Muslim League held a conference on April 10 and demanded a sovereign Pakistan formed from the Punjab, NWFP, Sind, and Baluchistan in the west with Bengal and Assam in the east. Jinnah indicated that he could accept a Pakistan that might exclude districts where Muslims were not a majority, but he insisted on retaining Calcutta. In April the Factories Amendment Act was passed that reduced the work week from 54 to 48 hours and from 60 to 50 hours in seasonal factories. The Indian National Government also passed important acts in industrial relations, social insurance, and improvement in working conditions.

Congress and the Muslim League could not agree, and on May 16, 1946 the Cabinet Mission announced their recommendation for a Union of India in regard to foreign affairs, defense, and communications with all other powers held by the provinces. Legislative seats were to be proportioned by population. However, the plan was complicated by a controversial grouping of provinces into three sections. The general public received the plan favorably, and Gandhi said it was worthy of acceptance. The Council of the Muslim League accepted the proposals on June 6, but their negotiator Jinnah and Congress leaders could not agree on who should be in the Interim Government. Gandhi left Delhi on June 28, and the Cabinet Mission left India the next day. The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) met on July 6, ratified the statement, and elected Nehru president of the Congress.

Nehru said they could not accept British interference in the new government, and Jinnah considered this a repudiation of the agreement. The Council of the Muslim League withdrew its acceptance on July 29 and planned a day of direct action for August 16. In the provincial elections at the end of July the Congress won all the general seats except nine, and the Muslim League won all but five of the seats reserved for Muslims. The Congress Working Committee accepted the scheme and tried to satisfy the Muslim League on August 8. Four days later Viceroy Wavell asked Congress to form a provisional government. Nehru accepted and offered Jinnah five seats out of fourteen in the Interim Government, but Jinnah rejected this.

The British Government did little in Calcutta to stop the Muslim violence against Hindus that began on August 16. After a week of communal conflict some 5,000 people were dead with more than 15,000 injured, and about 100,000 were homeless. Chief Minister Suhrawardy and the Muslim League cabinet were blamed for declaring Direction Action Day a public holiday and not stopping the violence. Viceroy Wavell visited Calcutta and then met with Gandhi and Nehru. Wavell wanted to postpone the Constituent Assembly, but the Home Government insisted the Interim Government be inaugurated on September 2. The Muslim League urged people to protest by calling that day a Black Day, and hundreds died in the communal violence that broke out in Bombay and Ahmadabad. Gandhi learned in October that 5,000 people had been killed and 50,000 injured in Noakhali. The 77-year-old peacemaker went on a “village-a-day pilgrimage,” walking 116 miles in seven weeks.

Jinnah suggested a compromise that was accepted, and on October 13 the Muslim League agreed to join the Interim Government. League members took office on October 26, but Jinnah still held back. Pethick-Lawrence invited the leaders to meet in London in December. Jinnah gained some assurances and stayed on to give speeches warning the English that if they did not grant Pakistan, there would be civil war in India. Muslims refused to attend the Constituent Assembly on December 9. Rajendra Prasad was elected president, and they adjourned until January 20, 1947. Then they met for six days, passed Nehru’s objectives resolution, and appointed some committees. The Working Committee of the Muslim League met at Karachi on January 31 and declared the decisions of the Constituent Assembly “invalid and illegal” and said it should be dissolved.

On February 20, 1947 Prime Minister Attlee announced that the British would transfer power to the most responsible Indians no later than June 1948 regardless. The Congress Working Committee welcomed this, but Jinnah still demanded Pakistan. Muslim attacks on Hindus in Noakhali in eastern Bengal provoked Hindus in Bihar to seek revenge against Muslims. At least 5,000 were killed in Bihar, and 120,000 were refugees. Direct action by the Muslim League in the Punjab spread violence from Lahore to Multan, Rawalpindi, and Amritsar. A coalition broke up in the Punjab when Khizar Hyat Khan resigned on March 2. Governor Evan Jenkins asked a Muslim to form a ministry, but the Sikh leader Tara Singh held up a sword and shouted “Death to Pakistan.” For the next two weeks communal clashes disturbed the Punjab, killing at least two thousand. Demonstrations in the NWFP protested the Congress ministry of the Muslim Dr. Khan Sahib. Nehru visited there and was met by hostile crowds during his tour. The Governor had to take over under Section 93. In a new election the Muslim League also won a majority in Sind.

In the Interim Government the Muslim Liaquat Ali Khan had been made the finance minister, and he could block spending by any other department. On February 28 Liaquat Ali presented a budget to the Central Assembly for the fiscal year that would begin in April.  He said that the current taxes would leave a deficit of Rs. 485 million on the military expenditure of Rs. 1,887 million and the Rs. 1,392 million spent on civil administration. He also proposed abolishing the salt tax and raising the minimum exemption on income tax from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,500. To balance the budget he made the following proposals: a special income tax of 25% on business profits over Rs. 100,000 would yield an estimated Rs. 300 million; a graduated tax on capital gains over Rs. 5,000 would bring in Rs. 35 million; doubling the corporate tax would raise Rs. 40 million; lowering the point for the maximum supertax rate would yield Rs. 25 million; and doubling the export duty on tea would raise Rs. 40 million. Abul Kalam Azad said that Congress policy favored removing economic inequalities, and the cabinet unanimously approved the new budget. The Congress party had been financed by Hindu capitalists who had greatly benefited from the boycott on foreign goods, and Patel and Rajagopalachari vehemently objected to the new budget. Liaquat Ali agreed to some amendments, and the Assembly approved the budget on March 25. However, the conflicts between the League and the Congress convinced Patel and other Congress members that creating Pakistan was the only way to avoid chaos.

Viscount Louis Mountbatten succeeded Wavell as viceroy on March 23, 1947. In a last-ditch effort to salvage Indian unity, on April 1 Gandhi proposed that Jinnah and his Muslim League control the new government; but this was rejected by Congress leaders as impractical. Two weeks later Mountbatten and Gandhi did get Jinnah to sign with them the following statement:

We denounce for all time
the use of force to achieve political ends,
and we call upon all the communities of India,
to whatever persuasion they may belong,
not only to refrain from all acts of violence and disorder,
but also to avoid both in speech and writing, any word
which might be construed as an incitement of such acts.9

Gandhi prayed for unity and tolerance, and he even read from the Qur’an at his prayer meetings in the most troubled areas. Hindus attacked him because they thought he was partial to Muslims; but Muslims demanded he let them have Pakistan.

Viceroy Mountbatten developed a plan for partition, and after persuading the Congress leaders he presented it to the governors on April 15. Congress leaders insisted that non-Muslim areas in the Punjab and Bengal must be allowed to remain in India, but Jinnah naturally opposed that. How the problems of mixed areas would be solved was rarely even discussed, and only Jinnah suggested that population could be exchanged. The Muslim leaders demanded that the Congress ministry in the NWFP resign, and trains were attacked. Mountbatten did little to quell the communal violence, but on May 2 he sent a tentative plan to London. The Cabinet approved with modifications, and Mountbatten showed it to Nehru on May 10. He vehemently refused to accept it because it would allow provinces and the princely states to secede and thus would “Balkanize” India. V. P. Menon gave the Viceroy a plan in which the partition would be into only two states with dominion status. The non-Muslim areas in the Punjab and Bengal could vote to be excluded from Pakistan. The 1941 census would be used to determine the Muslim-majority districts. Mountbatten met with Congress leaders Nehru and Patel, League leaders Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, and with Baldev Singh of the Sikhs, and they all approved. The Viceroy went to London on May 18, and the Cabinet approved the new plan.

Mountbatten returned to India and met with leaders again on June 2, 1947. The next day Attlee announced what became known as the June 3rd Plan. That day All-India Radio also broadcast speeches by Mountbatten, Nehru, Jinnah, and Baldev Singh, and they all urged their followers to accept the plan peacefully. The next day at a press conference Mountbatten moved up the transfer of power to August 15. The Muslim League abandoned their mass movements and accepted the plan on June 10, and the All-India Congress Committee did so on June 15. Communal violence in Gurgaon near Delhi lasted until late June and took about a thousand lives. Violence also continued in Lahore and Amritsar, and the politicians in Delhi called for martial law. Nehru publicly criticized the British officers. This outburst discouraged some officers from staying on in India, though many continued to serve in Pakistan. A Boundary Force of 50,000 was authorized for the new border in the Punjab, and the governments of both India and Pakistan announced that violence would not be tolerated in either territory.

In divided provinces if either side voted to partition the province, that was to be determinative. On June 20 legislators in western Bengal voted 58-21 to partition the province and remain in India. In the Punjab the joint session voted 91-77 for Pakistan, but those in eastern Punjab voted 50-22 to stay in India. On June 26 the Sind Assembly decided 33-20 to be in Pakistan. In the mostly Muslim Sylhet 239,600 people voted to leave Assam and join East Bengal in Pakistan while 184,000 cast their ballots to stay in India. Baluchistan also decided to join Pakistan. On June 19 Gandhi had asked the Congress and the Muslim League to let the Pathans in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) establish their own constitution before deciding to join Pakistan or India. On June 24 Abdul Ghaffar Khan made a plea for a free Pathanistan, and the next day he announced that his Red Shirts would boycott the referendum. In the polling on July 6 out of three million people in the NWFP 289,200 voted for Pakistan while 2,800 voted the other way.

Patel announced on July 5 that the new government of India would ask princely states to accede only on defense, foreign affairs, and communications while respecting their autonomy on all other issues. Jinnah announced the same policy for the few states in Pakistan. The House of Commons passed the Indian Independence Bill on July 15, and King George VI approved it three days later. On July 25 Mountbatten persuaded almost all the states to sign accession agreements, but Hyderabad and Kashmir remained significant exceptions. India asked Mountbatten to be their governor-general, and Jinnah was determined to be governor-general of Pakistan. The provisional government of Pakistan began moving from Delhi to its new capital at Karachi on August 1.

Two Boundary Commissions for the Punjab and Bengal each included two judges appointed by the Congress and two by the League. They could not agree, and their chairman Cyril Radcliffe was authorized to draw the lines that partitioned the Punjab, Bengal, and Assam. West Bengal still had 16% Muslims while East Bengal had 42% non-Muslims. East Punjab had 38% of the area and 45% of the population but three out of five rivers. Sikhs resented losing Lahore and the canal colonies to West Punjab, and the Muslims complained that the Mandi hydro-electric plant went to East Punjab.

The United Nations agreed with Congress that India should continue its international personality. Gandhi went to Calcutta on August 9 to help preserve harmony, and Mountbatten, who had 55,000 soldiers unable to stop the rioting in the Punjab, called him a “one man boundary force.” The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan met on August 11 and elected Jinnah president. On August 14 Mountbatten rode in an open car with Jinnah through the streets of Karachi. On August 15, 1947 Pakistan and India officially became dominions in the British commonwealth. Nehru, who led the cabinet of India and had spent nine years in prison during the nonviolent struggle for freedom, at midnight spoke the following words:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny,
and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge,
not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps,
India will awake to life and freedom.
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history,
when we step out from the old to the new,
when an age ends and when the soul of a nation
long suppressed finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment
we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India
and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity….
We end today a period of ill fortune,
and India discovers herself again….
Freedom and power bring responsibility.
That responsibility rests upon this Assembly,
a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India.10

Rajendra Prasad was elected president of the Assembly. Prasad noted their own sufferings and sacrifices but also recognized “the historic tradition and democratic ideals of the British race.” Lord and Lady Mountbatten were cheered by enormous crowds in Delhi, and a new era of good will between England and India began.

Indian Independence 1947-48

The new border that separated India from Pakistan in the Punjab divided the Sikh population of four million in half. Nehru refused to let the British soldiers participate in the Boundary Force, and by August 15, 1947 less than 10,000 troops were in place in the Punjab. In the largest movement of people in world history about ten million Punjabis migrated in 1947. Muslims left East Punjab to go to Pakistan, and the Hindus and Sikhs departed from West Punjab to move to India. Indian intelligence estimated that at least 198,000 people were killed and that 100,000 were forcibly converted to Islam. However, Governor Francis Mudie of West Punjab estimated that half a million Muslims were killed, and the British High Commissioner in Karachi said the total was 800,000. As a result of the disruptions over the partition of India and Pakistan a total of fourteen million people lost their homes. Mountbatten and Jinnah met with the Joint Defense Council on August 29, and they abolished the Punjab Boundary Force. The soldiers went to their regiments in India and Pakistan, and these two dominions were to be responsible for law and order in their own territories. Pakistan formed the Ministry of Refugees and Rehabilitation at the beginning of September. British troops began withdrawing from India on August 17, and the last regiment left on February 18, 1948. The Indian Army was divided by religion with 270,000 soldiers going to India and 140,000 to Pakistan.

On August 15, 1947 Gandhi had fasted and prayed in a Muslim area of Calcutta instead of going to the ceremonies at Delhi. On the first of September he fasted again, and he only broke it three days later after municipal officials assured him that there had been no violence for 24 hours. While he was recovering from this fast, riots broke out in Delhi on September 7. In four days about two thousand people were killed. Gandhi went to Delhi to stop the pogroms against Muslims. When he was asked for a message, he wrote simply, “My life is my message.” Meanwhile a caravan of 800,000 people was moving from West Punjab to India.

The small state of Junagadh had announced its accession to Pakistan on August 15, 1947; but it is not contiguous with Pakistan, and the tiny states inside Junagadh had already acceded to India and asked for protection. India took over the administration of Junagadh on November 9, and in the plebiscite on February 20, 1948 out of 190,870 votes only 91 favored joining Pakistan rather than India.

In 1947 the Indian National Trade Union Congress was founded on Gandhian principles, and they represented 577 unions. Women began to be appointed to important positions. Sarojini Naidu became governor of the United Provinces. Vijayalakshmi Pandit was ambassador to Moscow and Washington.

Most of the people in Jammu and Kashmir were Muslims; but the Sikh conqueror Ranjit Singh had annexed it in 1819, and from 1846 it had been ruled by Hindu kings from the Dogra tribe. Their laws respected Hindu religion, and Muslims suffered discrimination. Maharaja Hari Singh began ruling in 1925, and he kept his capital at Jammu without going north to the summer center at Srinagar. In 1931 the school-teacher Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah began asking for more state services for Muslims. In April 1932 the Glancy Commission reported that real grievances needed redress. A new constitution enabled Hindus and Muslims to be elected to the legislature, but the Maharaja still held autocratic power. In his presidential address to the Muslim Conference on March 26, 1938 Sheikh Abdullah called for an end to communalism, hoping that all the communities would fight for freedom. They endorsed the political struggle in June 1939 and changed their name to the National Conference.

Ghulam Abbas revived the Muslim Conference in 1941 with the support of the religious leader Yusuf Shah. Jinnah visited Kashmir for two months in the summer of 1944, and the Congress party held a conference a year later with Nehru, Azad, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan attending. The Maharaja refused to give up power and arrested the leaders of the National Conference. In 1946 Sheikh Abdullah demanded the abrogation of the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar that had established the Dogra dynasty, but the Congress party policy was not to displace Indian princes but to allow them to head constitutional democracies. The Muslim Conference did not support the Quit Kashmir campaign of the National Conference; but when they defied a ban on holding a conference in Srinagar, the Maharaja had their leaders arrested on October 25. The Government called an election for January 1947, and the National Conference with its leaders in jail boycotted the election. Only 182,000 voted out of the 707,400 who were eligible. The Muslim Conference participated and won 16 of the 21 Muslim seats. Congress party president Acharya Kripalani visited Kashmir in May. He pleaded for the release of Sheikh Abdullah and warned the Maharaja that he would have trouble if he did not join the Indian Union. Abdullah and most of the National leaders remained in jail until late September after India’s Independence.

Pakistani leaders complained that Gurdaspur, which had the only road connecting India to Kashmir, had been awarded to East Punjab, and they believed that the Border Commission chairman Radcliffe was unfairly influenced by the Indians through Mountbatten. Sikhs were also upset that they lost some of their shrines to Pakistan. Sikhs and Hindus fled from West Punjab to the Kashmir Valley, and Muslims refugees went from East Punjab to Jammu. Maharaja Hari Singh signed standstill agreements with Pakistan and India, and a minister visited Delhi. The usual methods of repression by the Maharaja of Kashmir could not control the communal violence, and Muslim peasants in Poonch began a revolt. Then armed raiders from Pakistan crossed the border near Jammu, attacked villages, and stole cattle. Patel persuaded the Maharaja to release Sheikh Abdullah, and on October 3 Abdullah urged Kashmir to join India. He considered Nehru his best friend, and he revered Gandhi. Meanwhile the Muslims formed the Azad Kashmir government with the local barrister Muhammad Ibrahim as president.

Mehr Chand Mahajan replaced General Janak Singh as prime minister of Kashmir on October 15, and on that day he held a press conference and sent a telegram to Pakistan protesting the raids. One week later about five thousand tribesmen in British trucks and jeeps from the Pakistan army sacked Muzaffarabad and began pillaging and raping inside Kashmir. The Maharaja’s army of 8,000 was defeated and fled. British officers in Pakistan informed their British counterparts in India of the raids. The deputy prime minister of Kashmir went to Delhi, and on October 25 he asked the Indian Defense Committee for help. That day the Pakistan army notified New Delhi that “tribal volunteers” had entered Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah went to Nehru’s house and also asked for aid. V. P. Menon flew to Jammu and persuaded the Maharaja to sign a letter of conditional accession to India; a plebiscite was to be held when conditions returned to normal. Kashmir Prime Minister Mahajan returned with Menon to New Delhi and met with Nehru and Patel. Menon later wrote that Kashmir had signed the accession papers before India sent troops, but Mahajan’s report contradicted this. Nehru telegraphed Liaquat Ali Khan on October 26 that India was sending troops to Kashmir.

Governor-General Mountbatten wrote a letter to accept Kashmir’s accession. More than a hundred planes carried troops and supplies from India, and 329 soldiers arrived on October 27 just in time to save Srinagar. By the end of October they had been joined by three battalions, and the raiders retreated. Jinnah ordered General Gracey to move Pakistani troops into Kashmir, but he refused to do so without the approval of Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, who flew to Lahore on October 28 and persuaded Jinnah to withdraw his invasion order. The next day Nehru and Patel refused to go to Lahore, and Mountbatten went only with his chief of staff Ismay and met with Liaquat and Jinnah. Meanwhile Gandhi was telling his prayer meetings that the kings and maharajas of the Indian states had been puppets of British imperialism, but now the people had become the real rulers.

In a broadcast on November 2 Nehru asked how the tribesmen crossing the frontier had been “armed so effectively,” but Pakistani prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan condemned the “illegal ownership” of Kashmir by the infamous Amritsar Treaty. Sheikh Abdullah inspired the popular resistance to the raiders, and by November 8 they had taken Baramulla. Pakistan refused to withdraw its forces and suggested the United Nations. Patel decided to stop honoring India’s financial commitments to Pakistan until they stopped supporting the raiders. On December 22 the Indian cabinet demanded that Pakistan stop aiding the raiders and warned that they would appeal to the UN Security Council. By the end of 1947 the Indian army had cleared the invaders out of the Kashmir Valley. India’s appeal to the UN on the first day of 1948 mentioned that their forces were opposed by 34,000 raiders. At a press conference the next day Nehru asked Pakistan to withdraw their personnel from Kashmir. Pakistan replied on January 15, accusing India of genocide against Muslims in East Punjab. Two days later the UN Security Council adopted a resolution establishing the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). India wanted the Security Council to recognize Pakistani aggression in Kashmir; but Pakistan believed the accession was not legally valid, and they would not withdraw unless India did so too.

Gandhi was criticized for approving India’s action in Kashmir; but he believed it was justified because not to stand one’s ground to defend oneself against an aggressor would be cowardice. Although he may not help one retaliate, Gandhi believed that he must not let a coward find shelter behind the guise of nonviolence. However, he advised that India should transfer the money due to Pakistan. Gandhi began a fast on January 13, 1948 and said he would continue until people stopped killing each other or he died. On the third day Patel and the Indian cabinet gave in and agreed to pay the £40 million from India’s assets that they had withheld from Pakistan because of Kashmir. Hindu refugees outside the gate chanted “Let Gandhi die,” and the visiting Nehru angrily challenged them to kill him first, causing them to disperse. Azad learned from the physically weakened Gandhi his demands that Muslims be allowed to move freely, live where they want with no economic boycott, and that 117 mosques should be returned to them. Gandhi’s kidneys were not functioning well. A Congress committee got 130 leaders that included Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and others to sign a peace agreement, and 200,000 people took a written pledge to protect Muslims. So on January 18 he ended his fast. Although this religious hatred saddened Gandhi, India had gained independence, accomplishing the greatest nonviolent revolution in the history of the world.

Gandhi held open prayer meetings in Delhi for all faiths, and anyone could attend. A small conspiracy of Hindus in the extremist Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSSS) plotted to assassinate him, but their first attempt with a bomb on January 20 failed. Nehru and Patel urged Gandhi to accept police protection, but he refused, saying that he trusted God and would not submit to anger or fear. Police learned the names of those who would carry out the assassination, but they were unable to stop them. On January 30 at a prayer meeting Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi three times at close range; with his last breath the Mahatma chanted the name of God. More than a million people attended his funeral. Because the assassin was a Maharashtrian Brahmin, assaults in Maharashtra were made against the Brahmin and Bania communities; but most of the communal violence stopped. After a trial the assassin Nathuram Godse and one accomplice were hanged, and five other conspirators were sentenced to life imprisonment. The RSSS and other organizations of communal violence were banned.

India and Pakistan 1948-50

The Eastern States merged into the provinces of Orissa and the Central Provinces. In March and April 1948 many of the smaller states were integrated into Mataya, Kathiawar, Rajasthan, and Vindhya Pradesh. In May, the Madhya States Union was formed from Gwalior, Indore, and Malwa. The Patiala and East Punjab States Union began in July. Junagadh and some adjoining states joined Kathiawar on the last day of 1948. The Greater Rajasthan Union was inaugurated as the largest union of states with 13 million people in March 1949. Baroda merged into Bombay in May, and Bhopal, Cooch Behar, Tripura, and Manipur joined the Central administration. By November all the states had become integrated except for Hyderabad and Kashmir. A total of 554 states were dissolved and integrated into the Union of India.

Hyderabad had a population of 16 million, who were mostly Hindu, but since the Mughal reign of Aurangzeb they had been ruled by the Nizam and elite Muslims. The seventh Nizam, Mir Usman Ali Khan, wanted to remain independent. When India withheld Pakistan’s Rs. 550 million share of the treasury in September 1947, the Nizam approved a Rs. 200 million loan to Pakistan. Hyderabad made a standstill agreement with the Indian Union in November to maintain its status quo before independence. The Nizam’s private force of Razakars were led by Kasim Razvi, and they caused border incidents with Madras, the Central Provinces, and Bombay. The Government of India demanded that the Nizam disband them, but he refused and appealed to the United Nations. Two days after a final letter of warning on September 11, 1948, Indian troops entered Hyderabad. Major-General El Edroos surrendered Hyderabad to Major-General J. N. Chaudhury of the Indian Army on September 18. Kasim Razvi was arrested, and the Nizam withdrew his case from the UN Security Council. Chaudhury became the military governor, and Hyderabad acceded to the Indian Union on January 26, 1950.

The Kashmir Maharaja appointed Sheikh Abdullah prime minister in March 1948. He was a socialist and proposed radical land reform without compensating land-owners. Pakistan’s military leaders allowed soldiers to desert their army in order to raid in Kashmir, and in April their British commander-in-chief approved their sending in troops for “self-defense.” India also launched an offensive in the spring, and neither side was able to advance much. On April 21 the UN Security Council resolved to send five commissioners to oversee the withdrawal by Pakistani and Indian troops. A Plebiscite Administration was to be set up to supervise the police. However, both Pakistan and India refused to accept the resolution. Mountbatten left India in June 1948, and Rajagopalachari became the first Indian governor-general.

Mediation efforts in Kashmir failed, and the UNCIP commission did not arrive in Kashmir until July. UNCIP learned on the first day that Pakistan had sent in regular troops, but they did not inform the Security Council nor India until much later. The Commission told Pakistan that they had violated international law. Sheikh Abdullah agreed with Nehru that the best solution was to partition Kashmir, but Pakistan rejected this. On August 13 the UN Security Council proposed a cease fire. India agreed with minor modifications, but Pakistan demanded conditions that the Commission would not accept. On October 12 delegates of Kashmir passed a National Conference resolution recommending permanent accession to India. At the very end of 1948 a cease-fire agreement was signed, and US Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was appointed UN Administrator for the plebiscite.

The Maharaja passed on restricted power to his son Karan Singh when he left Kashmir for health reasons in June 1949. UNCIP invited the two governments to meet at Karachi in July, and the cease-fire line was established. The Commission proposed an arbitrator, and Pakistan accepted; but India refused, fearing they would be at a military disadvantage if Pakistan invaded again with Azad Kashmir forces. On December 17 the UN Security Council appointed the Canadian General McNaughton to mediate, but India’s B. N. Rau argued that Pakistan made the plebiscite problematic by sending troops into Kashmir, occupying the northern areas, and building up the Azad forces. Pakistan’s representative Zafrulla Khan pointed out that Muslims made up 77% of Kashmir. The UN Security Council appointed the Australian Owen Dixon the next mediator on April 12, 1950, but he concluded that only bilateral talks between India and Pakistan could solve the problem of Kashmir.

In January 1948 a food shortage caused the refugee camps in West Punjab to become more permanent, and in April the camps had 750,000 people. Jinnah made a broadcast to the United States in February and said that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state but would have a democratic constitution with equal rights for all religions. On February 28 Pakistan’s finance minister Ghulam Muhammad presented an annual budget to the Karachi assembly calling for £27.8 million in military spending out of total expenditures of £39.4 million. A deficit of £25.1 million was expected. India also allocated more than half its budget for defense and projected a deficit of £20 million. In March the governments of India and Pakistan declared each other foreign nations in regard to customs and excise duty. Governor-General Jinnah only visited East Pakistan once, and he made his last major public address at Dacca on March 21 in English. His audience spoke Bengali, but he announced that Pakistan’s official language would be “Urdu and no other language.” East Pakistan was much smaller in area than West Pakistan, but it had a larger population. It would become Bangladesh in 1971.

On March 7, 1949 the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan adopted the Objectives Resolution that called for a constitution that would allow the state to exercise its power through the people’s chosen representatives with principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice in accord with the teachings of Islam with provisions to protect minorities and depressed classes by guaranteeing equal rights with freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, and association, with the independence of the judiciary secured, and the rights of the Federation’s territories safeguarded.

The canals in the divided Punjab were a source of dispute. When Pakistan did not renew the agreement, on April 1 the East Punjab Government cut off the water supply from the canals going into Pakistan from the Ravi and Sutlej rivers. Pakistan made another agreement on May 4; but later they complained that they had accepted it under duress. India believed that Pakistan had enough water from their rivers, and at the Inter-Dominion Conference in August 1949 they pressed for a joint survey of the water resources of the Indus rivers. India followed the British government in devaluing the pound sterling by 30% in September, but Pakistan declined to do so. So the Indian Government refused to recognize the Pakistani rupee, and trade between the two countries stopped for seven months.

In the first three months of 1950 a half million refugees went from East Pakistan to India. The prime ministers Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan met, and on April 8 they made a general agreement on minorities and trade-related issues. The problem of evacuee property had not been solved yet because Hindu refugees had left behind property worth 14 billion rupees, while Muslims had left property valued at only 2 billion rupees in India. The Pakistan Ministry of Refugees calculated that West Pakistan had 7,900,000 Muslim refugees. An agreement was made at the fifth Inter-Dominion Conference at Karachi in January 1949, but the next month Pakistan ordered rent slashed on urban evacuee property by up to 80%. The Indian Government considered this a subtle way of undermining the agreement, and Pakistan accused India of not implementing the agreement. By the end of 1950 they still could not agree. That year 600,000 more refugees entered Pakistan from India.

India adopted a new constitution on November 26, 1949, and it came into force on January 26, 1950. The Constitution established a democratic republic to secure justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity and to guarantee all citizens equality before the law and freedom of speech, expression, assembly, conscience, and worship regardless of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth. English would continue to be the official language for fifteen years, but thereafter the official language would be Hindi. A president and vice president are elected for five-year terms. The Council of States is elected by the legislators in each state, but voters elect the House of the People directly. Governors of the states are appointed by the President for five-year terms, and the chief ministers in each state are appointed by the governors. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over disputes between states and hears appeals from any High Court in a state.

The first elections were conducted without major difficulties, and the Congress party was victorious. On January 24, 1950 Rajendra Prasad was elected the first President of India. Socialists had left the Congress party and formed their own party in March 1948. Their policy statement in October 1949 explained that they stood for democratic socialism and individual rights while they rejected totalitarian Communism. After the conservative Deputy Prime Minister Patel died in December 1950, Nehru’s influence became even greater.

In a speech on foreign policy on December 4, 1947 Nehru affirmed that India stands for peace as well as freedom from imperialistic control. He began the policy that led the non-aligned movement when he stated that they avoid foreign entanglements by not joining either power bloc of the US or the USSR. He wrote in his 1949 book Independence and After that India’s long history is significant. Although India had little military power he argued that India could have much influence because of the “world situation in which force as a factor in international affairs will be reduced to the absolute minimum.”11 On January 18, 1950 Prime Minister Nehru wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan proposing a joint declaration by their governments “for the avoidance of war,” but the Government of Pakistan rejected his terms as “too vague.”


1. The History of the Indian National Congress, Volume 2 by Pattabhi Sitaramayya, p. 42.
2. The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer, p. 344-345.
3. M. K. Gandhi in Harijan, December 24, 1938 quoted in The Gandhi Reader ed. Homer A. Jack, p. 339.
4. Toward Freedom by Jawaharlal Nehru, p. 387.
5. Quoted in Struggle for Freedom, p. 632.
6. Women and Social Justice, p. 100 quoted in Gandhi’s Technique of Mass Mobilization by M. M. Verma, p. 135.
7. The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer, p. 383.
8. Quoted in Struggle for Freedom, p. 646.
9. Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Volume 7 by D. G. Tendulkar, p. 377.
10. India 1947-50, Volume 1 Internal Affairs, p. 4.
11. Quoted in India 1947-50, Volume 2 External Affairs, p. xix.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book SOUTH ASIA 1800-1950.
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Gandhi's Nonviolent Revolution


British India 1800-1848
British India's Wars 1848-1881
India's Renaissance 1881-1905
India's Freedom Struggle 1905-1918
Gandhi and India 1919-1933
Liberating India and Pakistan 1934-1950
Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1950
Burma, Malaya and the British 1800-1950
Siam, Cambodia, and Laos 1800-1950
Vietnam and the French 1800-1950
Indonesia and the Dutch 1800-1950
Australia to 1950
New Zealand to 1950
Summary and Evaluation


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Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
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