Cabinet Mission

Cabinet Mission arrived in India on 24 March 1946 to make negotiations with the recognised party leaders towards self-government for India. Comprised of three members of the British Cabinet - Secretary of State Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and AV Alexander - the Mission proposed a two-tiered federal plan, which was expected to maintain national unity while conceding the largest measure of regional autonomy. There was to be a federation of the provinces and the states with the federal centre controlling only defense, foreign affairs and communications. At the same time, individual provinces could form regional unions to which they could surrender, by mutual agreement, some of the powers. The existing provincial assemblies were to be grouped into three sections while electing the constituent assembly: Section 'A' for the Hindu majority provinces, Section 'B' and 'C' for the Muslim majority provinces of the Northwest and Northeast (including Assam). The sections would have the power to set up intermediate level executives and legislatures of their own.

Both the indian national congress and the All India Muslim League accepted this plan. But the two could not agree on the plan for an interim government, which was to convene a constituent assembly to frame a constitution for the free, federal India. The two also put different interpretations on the Cabinet Mission scheme to which they had agreed earlier. The League wanted grouping to be compulsory, with Sections 'B' and 'C' developing into solid entities with a view to future entry into Pakistan. The Congress argued that compulsory grouping contradicted provincial autonomy, and was not satisfied with the Mission's clarification that grouping would be compulsory at first, but provinces might opt out after the constitution had been framed and new elections held under it.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who replaced Maulana abul kalam azad as President of the Indian National Congress, declared at a press conference on 10 July that the only commitment made by his party was to participate in the Constituent Assembly elections, and 'there will be no grouping'. The League responded on 29-30 July by withdrawing its earlier acceptance of the long-term plan and calling on the 'Muslim nation' to go for a 'Direction Action' from 16 August to achieve Pakistan. Meanwhile, Lord Wavell's efforts to set up a short-term coalition/interim government at the centre had also broken down. mohammed ali jinnah wanted a ratio of five Congress Hindus, five League Muslims, one Sikh, and one scheduled caste representation in the proposed government. The Congress rejected it.

lord wavell, consequently, had to set up a caretaker government of officials alone on 4 July. But within a few weeks the Viceroy began endeavouring to somehow get the Congress in the Interim Government for fear of possible 'mass action', even if the League stayed out. On 2 September 1946 a Congress-dominated interim government headed by Nehru was sworn in, who was still opposing compulsory grouping. The Muslim League joined the Cabinet after some hesitation, but decided to boycott the constituent assembly. So the Cabinet Mission Plan failed and on 20 February 1947 Clement Attlee, the British Premier, declared the British intention to leave India by June 1948 resulting in the partition of India in August 1947. [Mohammad Shah]