Why Congress Accepted Partition?

The age old Hindu-Muslim rift and failure of the two communities to come to an agreement on how and whom the power was to be transferred resulted in the partition of the country, the most unfortunate consequence of the British rule in India.

Why did the Congress accept Partition? It was one thing for the League to demand Pakistan and the British to concede it because it was in harmony with the politics they had pursued in the part. But why did the Congress, which had fought for unity for long years, give up its ideal of a united India. Over the years, this question has been subjected to many debates and opinions.

Reasons for acceptance of partition by Congress

  • The Congress was only accepting the inevitable due to its failure over the years to bring the Muslim masses into the nationalist mainstream.
  • This was also due to congress failure to stem the surging waves of Muslim communalism, especially, since 1937. This failure was evident from results on 1946 elections in which Muslim League won 90 per cent of Muslim seats.
  • However, the point of no return was reached a year later when the battle for Pakistan was no longer confined to the ballot box but came to be fought on the streets.
  • While the congress leaders were adamant on not surrendering to the blackmail of violence, they finally accepted Partition most of all because they could not stop communal riots.
  • By June 1947, the Congress leaders had realized that only an immediate transfer of power could check the menace of the communal violence which was spreading quickly due to the Muslim League s call for Direct Action.
  • Immediate transfer of power would at least mean the setting up of a government which could exercise the control it was now expected to wield, but was powerless to exercise.
  • The breakdown of the Interim Government only confirmed the inevitability of Pakistan. The congress leaders were dismayed at the turning of the Interim Government into an arena of struggle.
  • Another consideration in accepting partition was that it firmly ruled out the specter of the 'balkanisation' of the country. The partition plan laid out by Lord Mountbatten had ruled out independence of the princely states which would have had the prospect of balkanisation of the country.
  • Princely states standing out would have meant a graver blow to Indian unity than Pakistan was.

Thus, the acceptance of Partition in 1947 was nothing but culmination of the step by step concession granted to the League in its rhetoric of a sovereign Muslim state.

  • Autonomy of Muslim majority provinces was accepted in 1942 at the time of the Cripps Mission.
  • Gandhiji in his talks with Jinnah in 1944 went a step further and accepted the right of self-determination of Muslim majority provinces.
  • In June 1946, Congress finally conceded the possibility of a separate constituent assembly formed by the Muslim majority provinces (included under the Group B and C of the Cabinet Mission Plan).
  • At first, congress opposed compulsory grouping and upheld the right of NWFP and Assam not to join their groups if they so wished. Later, Congress accepted without demur that the groping was compulsory.
  • Official reference to Partition came in early March 1947 when the Congress Working Committee passed a resolution that Punjab and Bengal must be partitioned if the country was divided.
  • Congress accepted the partition formula laid in 3rd June Plan of Lord Mountbatten

Why Gandhi Accepted Partition

  • It is common knowledge that Gandhi was distressed when partition became an imminent reality.
  • Gandhiji s unhappiness and helplessness have often being pointed out in regard to the partition.
  • Gandhi's unhappiness was also about the fact that his advice was ignored by his disciples, Nehru and Patel, who wanted power at any cost.
  • However, he did not wish to condemn them publicly because they had been his faithful followers.
  • Most of all Gandhiji was distressed by the communalization of people of India and the overwhelming violence in every nook and corner of India.
  • The desire of the Hindu and Sikh community for Partition forced Gandhiji to a position of a mass leader without any masses to back him in his struggle for unity.
  • The Muslims had already declared him to be their enemy.
  • When different segments of people wanted partition, what could be or the Congress do but to accept it?

At his daily prayer meeting on 4th June 1947 Gandhi said, "The demand has been granted because you asked for it. The Congress never asked for it.... But the Congress can feel the pulse of the people. It realised that the Khalsa as also the Hindus desired it".

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