Cabinet Mission Plan

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(16 May 1946)

The last viable attempt to come to a peaceful solution to Indian independence and partition. The Indian elections of 1945–6 were won in the Hindu‐dominated constituencies by the nationalist Indian National Congress (INC), and in the Muslim‐dominated areas by the Muslim League. This raised the issue of whether independence was to result in a united India (as favoured by the INC), or one divided into Hindu and Muslim areas (as demanded by the Muslim League). On 23 March 1946, three representatives of the Attlee Cabinet, Lord Pethick‐Lawrence, Stafford Cripps, and A. V. Alexander, went to India to find a solution. Their plan envisaged a three‐tier government structure for a united India, with the lowest being the provincial level. The second tier would have created three zones consisting of the Muslim‐dominated areas of the north‐west and the north‐east, and the Hindu‐dominated rest of the subcontinent. Finally, the third tier bound these structures together into a loose federation. To lay to rest Muslim fears against Hindu domination, it provided also that after fifteen years, each individual zone was free to leave the union. Originally accepted by both parties, it was effectively scuppered by Nehru's careless remark shortly afterwards, whereby he denied some of the Muslim rights negotiated so painstakingly, especially the right of the Muslim‐dominated zones to secede after fifteen years. This killed off any residual goodwill with Jinnah, and led to the overhasty and acrimonious division between India and Pakistan.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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