The Mountbatten Plan:
When Lord Mountbatten came to India as the Viceroy in March 1947 the situation was very tense. In the course of his talks with party leaders, he was convinced that there was absolutely no chance of a solution on the basis of the Cabinet Mission Plan and that the partition of India was inevitable.
The Viceroy held a conference attended by seven leaders- Nehru, Patel and Kripalani on behalf of the Congress. Jinnah, Liaqat Ali and Abdur Rab Nishtar on behalf of the League and Baldev Singh representing the Sikhs. On June 3, 1947, Mountbatten announced his plan.
Main Clauses of The Mountbatten Plan:
- The Hindus and Muslim MLAs of Punjab and Bengal Legislative Assembly would sit separately to decide their fate. If by a simple majority either group votes for partition, then these provinces would be partitioned.
- Two dominions- India and Pakistan, and two constituent assemblies would be created if partition takes place.
- In the case of Sind and Baluchistan, a straightforward decision was to be taken by their respective Provincial Legislatures.
- A referendum would be organized in NWFP and the Sylhet district in Bengal to decide on the remaining in the Indian Union or the other Union.
- The Indian Princely States were to either join Pakistan or the Indian Union. They were no longer allowed to remain independent.
- A boundary commission would be set up to demarcate the boundaries of the two Dominions if and when partition would take place.
- Both the dominions would be independent in determining their foreign relations and about the nature of their relations with the Commonwealth countries and Britian.
Lord Mountbatten also announced that the transfer of power would be effected by August 15, 1947.
Congress Accepts the Plan:
The Congress accepted the Mountbatten Plan for several reasons-
- The Congress felt that by accepting the plan, they would get the time to settle in and would ensure peaceful and immediate transfer of power.
- The communal situation of the country was very precarious. According to Nehru, “murder stalks the streets and the most amazing cruelties are indulged in by both the individual and the mob”. The party felt that accepting the partition was the only way to come out of this situation.
- The Congress had realized that to work with the Muslim League after the British left India would be an impossible task. The choice the country had to make was “partition or constant battles”.
- The leaders realized that any further delay in the transfer of power could lead to a civil war. Rulers of native states were also being instigated to claim their freedom. Though the acceptance of partition meant “surrender of nationalism in favour of communalism”.
The Partition Plan was implemented with unprecedented speed and with ten weeks of the announcement of the plan, partition became a reality. The Provincial Assemblies of East Bengal, West Punjab and Sind Voted for Pakistan. In Baluchistan, the decision to join Pakistan was made by a meeting of the Shahi Jirga and the non-official members of Quetta Municipality. In the NWFP, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his followers boycotted the referendum; as a result, only 50.49% of the voters took part in it, the majority of them voting in favour of joining Pakistan. In another referendum held in the Muslim-majority district of Sylhet, the majority voted for joining the Muslim-majority province of East Bengal. The non-Muslim majority areas in Punjab and in Bengal, as also the entire province of Assam (except a part of Sylhet) remained within the boundaries of India.