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Indian Independence: Partition Source 6

Minutes of the Meeting of the Viceroy with the Indian Leaders, 3 June 1947.

[L/P &J/10/81:ff 379-85]


Speeches of Recrimination

His Excellency The Viceroy asked those present at the meeting to request their subordinate leaders to refrain, from now on, from speeches of recrimination which were likely to produce violent reactions. If the past could now be buried, the prospect of building a fine future would be opened up.
All those present at the meeting signified concurrence.

Mr. Gandhi

Mr Liaquat Ali Khan said that he fully agreed that it might be possible to control the speeches of subordinate leaders. In addition, however, there should be a request for restraint on the part of "super leaders" - for example Mr. Gandhi at his prayer meetings. It was true that Mr. Gandhi preached "nonviolence", but that many of his speeches could be taken as an incitement to violence.

The Viceroy said that he had talked to Mr. Gandhi the previous day. He had laid before Mr. Gandhi, very clearly, the steps which had led up to the present situation. He had pointed out those steps taken as a result of Mr. Gandhi's advice; those points on which it had not been possible to follow his advice; and the reasons for this. Mr. Gandhi's emotions were those of a man who had worked, lived and prayed for the unity of India. He (The Viceroy) thoroughly understood and responded to Mr. Gandhi's feelings. He had made clear to Mr. Gandhi the immense effect which the speeches at his prayer meetings had. It had been Mr. Gandhi's day of silence but he had written a friendly note at the meeting. It was to be hoped that he would help the situation. He always made it very clear that he was not even a 4 anna member of the Congress Party.

Mr Kripalani said that he was surprised at Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan's complaint, as all that Mr. Gandhi said was in advocation of non-violence. All members of Congress held to the idea of a united India. All Mr. Gandhi's activities were non-violent.

The Viceroy said that he was ready to agree with this if Mr. Gandhi's speeches were analysed carefully. But surely the emotion engendered by Mr. Gandhi, particularly in the more unintelligent people, was to the effect "this partition is wrong; we must resist it; we must not give in".

Sardar Patel said that he considered that, once the decision was taken, Mr. Gandhi would accept it loyally.

The Viceroy said that he too was sure that Mr. Gandhi would re-emphasize the principle of non-violence, whatever the decision might be.

Mr Liaquat Ali Khan pointed out that Mr. Gandhi had recently employed words to the effect that the people should not look to the Viceroy and the leaders for a decision. They were told instead to "do as they felt". That kind of statement was bound to give an indication to the people that they should go ahead on their own lines if they personally felt that India should not be divided.

Sardar Patel thought that no such inference could be drawn.

Mr Jinnah gave his view that, if Mr. Gandhi went on with his present line, the impression would be created that the people should not submit to what was being decided by the present conference. He himself did not think that Mr. Gandhi's intentions were bad. They might be of the best, but in fact the language which he had adopted recently had insinuated that the Muslim League were going to get Pakistan by force. Mr Jinnah said that he had deliberately refrained from criticizing Mr. Gandhi in public.

The Viceroy said that he thought that this particular subject had now been ventilated sufficiently. On the one hand he accepted the special position of Mr. Gandhi; but on the other he was sure that the Congress Leaders would see the point of what had been said and use their best endeavours.

The Administrative Consequences of Partition

Copies of a paper entitled "The Administrative Consequences of Partition" were handed round. His Excellency The Viceroy suggested that there might now be preliminary consideration of this paper before it was put up to a Cabinet Meeting. (In using the word "Cabinet" The Viceroy was referring to the Indian "Cabinet" or Interim Government. This was not realized by Mr. Jinnah but was cleared up as a result of a question).

Mr Liaquat Ali Khan asked how the Cabinet was concerned with the questions raised in this paper.

His Excellency suggested that this seemed the only sensible procedure. It was obviously undesirable to set up an ultra vires body outside the Cabinet. He considered that his own responsibility was to give all possible assistance, backed up by his own small staff. Delegations and representatives of what were to be the two new States would have to be brought together to decide the various points. He emphasized the necessity for speed. Not a day should be wasted. He, on his part, would continue to draw attention to those points which would have to be settled and to be of what service he could.

Mr Jinnah said that he did not wish to express any definite opinion on this paper before he had studied it more carefully, but one general principle did strike him. The proposals would be examined between the parties, but finally it would be the Cabinet which would decide. Possibly, there would be complete agreement. On the other hand there might be differences of opinion. He asked whether the Cabinet would over-rule any points on which there was agreement. The Viceroy said that this was, of course, not the intention. Mr Jinnah then expressed the view that, if there were points of disagreement, the Cabinet in the United Kingdom was too far away to be the deciding authority.

It was then explained to Mr. Jinnah that The Viceroy was referring to the Indian Cabinet or Interim Government. Mr Jinnah complained that he had been misled. "You mean the Viceroy's Executive Council!" A spade should be called a spade. His mind worked in constitutional terms.

Mr Liaquat Ali Khan referred to the suggestion on Page 3 of this paper that an Inter-Party Partition Committee should be set up, consisting of two members of the Congress, two of the Muslim League and one minority representative. He asked how a decision would be taken if there was disagreement within this Committee. Would a majority vote decide the issue?

His Excellency replied that it would not. There would have to be negotiation on the basis of what was fair. The representatives of what were to be the two new States would come together with sovereign rights, and meet as an international conference would meet. He did not want to begin by assuming that impasses would be reached, but that negotiations would go forward on a basis of friendship. After the main issue of partition had been finally settled, he was sure that a new spirit would enter into the discussions.

Mr Liaquat Ali Khan said that he did not think that it was a question of a new spirit. There were unquestionably likely to be serious differences of opinion.

His Excellency explained that he had put this paper to the present meeting so that the party leaders, Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Kripalani, could give their views before it went up to the Interim Government. He suggested that they might all meet again on the morning of Thursday, 5th June at 10 a.m. in order to get the broad principles settled. This suggestion was agreed to.
Finally, Mr Jinnah emphasized his view that a machinery would have to be devised whereby somebody would be empowered to make a definite and final decision in the event of differences of opinion.

His Excellency The Viceroy said that he would consider this point and asked the leaders to do so also.

Division of the Armed Forces

The Viceroy then turned to the question of the division of the Armed Forces. The previous day he had held a conference with the Commanders-in-Chief and the Army Commanders, and pointed out to them that, if the votes in the Provinces produced partition, the logical consequence would be the division of the Armed Forces; and this would have to take place in such a way as not so far to weaken the Armed Forces that the maintenance of internal security would be compromised. All the officers whom he had met had emphasized the serious danger that the present feeling of uncertainty among the Armed Forces might have a most damaging effect on their morale. It had therefore been suggested that Field Marshal Auchinleck should make a broadcast to set their minds at rest on certain questions. His Excellency pointed out that nothing restored confidence so quickly as taking people into one's confidence. With this Lord Ismay agreed. There was general agreement that it would be desirable for Field Marshal Auchinleck to make a broadcast.

His Excellency The Viceroy said that the sort of question on which Field Marshal Auchinleck would be able to announce a decision might be whether the Army was to be divided on a communal or on a territorial basis.

Mr Kripalani pointed out that this was intimately connected with the question of nationality. With this Mr Jinnah agreed. He said that it would be his intention in Pakistan to observe no communal differences. All those who lived there, regardless of creed, would be fully-fledged citizens.

Mr Kripalani signified that the same principle would apply to their territory too. The Viceroy said that he was sure that this was the right principle. It was after all only elementary justice and common sense. However, the question of the transfer of citizenship was one which would have to be settled.

The Viceroy suggested, and it was agreed, that Sardar Baldev Singh should circulate a list of questions on which the Commander-in-Chief would require guidance, together with suggested answers. This list could be considered at the meeting on Thursday, 5th June. The following basis might be taken:-
(i) There would be an appeal for discipline in units, and loyalty to their Command, wherever the units were, and until they were split up and serving their new countries;
(ii) The division would be made on the basis of citizenship, which in its turn would be based on geographical considerations;
(iii) An opportunity might be given to volunteers, if they were now resident in that part of India in which their community was in a minority, to transfer their homes and citizenship to the other part.