Quaid-i-Azam and the Simla Conference 1945
The Simla Conference, held in 1945, enjoys immense political importance. It established Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the sole and undisputed leader of the Indian Muslims. Further, the Muslim League emerged as the single authoritative representative body of the Muslims. At the same time, the All India congress was established as a Hindu communal party. In order to prove the authenticity of such statements, a study of Simla Conference is of vital importance.
The Muslim League had demanded in its Lahore session a separate homeland for the Muslims of India on the basis of Two-Nation Theory on March 23, 1940. Since then it remained the inflexible creed and conviction of the Muslim League. The success of this new move became obvious when in the Cripp’s proposals of 1942 the possibility of Pakistan, though by implication, was conceded.
The proposals were rejected due to the some loopholes and also because they were proposals not decision. The Muslim League succeeded partially as the British were reluctant to give up efforts for leaving behind a united India. On 18 April 1942, Gandhi, in his article, published in the Harijan, suggested that if the vast majority of Muslims regarded itself as a separate nation…..and wanted to partition India on that basis, they must have the partition. But at the same time be doubted the representative capacity of Quaid-i-Azam and the Muslim League. Mr. Rajagopal achariar saw Gandhi in jail in February 1943 and received his blessings for his plan of negotiating with Jinnah on the basis of Pakistan, Jinnah turned down Rafgopalachariar’s proposal as offering a shadow and a husk, a maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan.
The Gandhi-Jinnah talks commenced on September 9 1944, and continued until 27 September. The main point of difference between the two leaders was Gandhi’s refusal to accept Jinnah’s claim that the Muslims formed a separate nation in India and they had the right to establish a new state through self-determination.
In August 1944, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, with the support of Gandhi, called a session of the Standing Committee of the Non-Party Conference and set up a new committee of people, who did not belong to the major political parties to examine the whole communal question from a constitutional and political point of view. Both Jinnah and Dr. Ambedkar refused to cooperate with Sapru. The recommendations of the Sapru Committee were opposed by the Muslims League because it rejected Pakistan and reverted to uphold the concept of joint electorate. One constructive recommendation was the formula to adopt party between the Muslims and the caste Hindus. Hindu leaders, however opposed the parity principle.
Mr. Bhulabhai Desai, the leader of the Congress Party in the Central Assembly brought to the Viceroy a plan which he claimed had been discussed with Liaquat Ali Khan. Deputy Leader of the Muslim League party in the Central Assembly and Gandhi, and both had agreed to it. He claimed that Liaquat Ali Khan also had the support of Jinnah on this proposal. The Desai-Liaquat Formula recommended an interim government of Jinnah and Desai under the existing constitution. It recommended Congress-League parity, and it was of the view that no new election in the centre or in the provinces should be held. Coalition ministries were to be formed in the province etc.
Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India sincerely took up the task of finding a solution to India’s political impasse. He had been keeping a vigilant eye on the political situation in India. He appreciated the Desai-Liaquat pact as it was akin to his own views. On his behalf the Governor of Bombay asked Jinnah of his opinion about it. Jinnah denied all knowledge of the Desai-Liaquat pact. Except Gandhi, the congress leaders also repudiated it. On the advice of the principal governors. Lord Wavel took the initiative to address a cu a communication to his superiors in London outlining certain measure of pacifying the Congress without alienating the League. Amery, the Secretary of State for India, did not like Wavell’s plan and suggested Dominion status for India under the Westminster system. Lord Wavell considered it as premature and wrote directly to Churchill, the Prime Minister, pleading for a charge of spirit which could convince the Indians of Britain’s good will. Lord Wavell was asked to visit London in March 1945 to explain the main features of his plan to the cabinet. However, he found it. Very difficult convince Mr. Churchill and his cabinet, and his plan was considered as undemocratic. Wavell recorded that the people at the top in Britain did not have alternative plan nor did they make a careful examination of the Indian situation and the nature of the plan. The fact was that whereas in 1942 they had been desperately anxious to secure Indian cooperation in the War, the were not ready to grant India some kind of self-ruler or interim government as envisaged in Wavell’s plan. In may, the war with Germany ended and on May 23. Churchill’s government was replaced, by a care-taker administration. It was under the influence of Sir Stafford Cripps and Lord Amery, Secretary of State for India that despite difference of opinion in the coalition government Wavell was allowed to carry out his plan.
On June 14, 1945, Amery announced in the House of Commons Lord Wavell’s Plan. Later, in a broadcast speech Wavell announced his decision to convene a conference at Simla on June 25, 1945, in which he planned to invite Indian political leaders with a view to form a new Executive Council which would be more representative of organized political opinion. It was to include an equal number of Muslims and caste-Hindus. Except for the Viceroy and the Commander –in-Chief it was to be an exclusively Indian Council. The Council would work within the framework of existing constitution, and one of its main tasks would be to prosecute the war against Japan to a successful conclusion. But its members, when they thought possible, would also have to consider the means by which agreement could be reached on a new, permanent constitution. If such cooperation could be achieved at the centre it would make possible the formation of responsible governments in provinces with a coalition of the main political parties. Except for Defence. Home, Finance, and Foreign Affairs, all portfolioes would be independent for the first time. A British High Commissioner for Indian would safeguard specific broad based interests of Britain.
The following political leaders of Indian were invited in their the respective capacity to participate in the conference:
- The Leader of the Congress and the deputy leader of the Muslim League in Central Assembly.
- The leader of the Muslim League and the Congress in the Council of State.
- The leader of the Nationalist party and the European Group in the Assembly.
- Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Gandhi as the recognized leaders of two main political parties.
- Rao Bahadur N. Siva Raj to represent the scheduled caste.
- Master Tara Singh to represent Sikhs.
- Those who were holding offices as premiers in provincial government.
- All those who lost offices of premiership.
Almost all political circles of Indian hailed the Viceroy’s speech. Those who were not invited tried to get invitation from the viceroy but failed. The invitations were extended to the leaders and was accepted by all but Mr. Gandhi. He thought of having enough material for twisting it to suit his own convenience and turn it to the best advantage of Hindu interests. He raised two objections against the plan and required explanation before the Conference. Further, he refused to acknowledge himself as the leader of the Congress party and proposed the name of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then President of that body. He raised serious objection to the word Caste-Hindu and was able to obtain from Lord Wavell and declaration that it meant Hindus other than the scheduled caste. He suggested to the Viceroy that instead of caste-Hindu he would have preferred non-scheduled Hindu. Although Mr. Gandhi did not participate in the Conference yet he was a Simla to advise the Viceroy. Why did he getting so much importance from the Viceroy even after having refused to be considered as member of any political party is a big question.
Mr. Jinnah also had same reservations about the Wavell plan and wanted clarifications before the Conference. They Viceroy turned down the requests of Mr. Jinnah and Gandhi to postpone the conference at least for a fortnight Mr. Jinnah wanted to discuss Wavell plan with the Working Committee of the Muslim League before the Conference which however could not be convened. Mr. Gandhi held that the term of parity between Muslims and caste-Hindus be determined first. After Viceroy’s useful to postpone the conference, the leaders arrived at Simla on June. The Congress members of the Working committee arrested in 1942 were released to attend the conference.
The Viceroy had invited Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah for personal meeting on June 24 to exchange views on the proposed plan, Maulana Azad came first to see Lord Wavell and was accompanied by Mr. Pant (ex-Premier U.P.) as interpreter for Azad could understand English but was shy of speaking it. After him came Mr. Gandhi to express his point of view. Both Azad and Gandhi accepted parity between Muslims and caste-Hindu, as a temporary settlement. The demanded that they must have a right in the representation of communities, other than caste-Hindu. They also made clear that they would not accept the nomination of Muslims by only one communal organization. Gandhi demanded that in the provinces minorities should be represented in the Government by the members belonging to the Congress. They Viceroy expressed the opinion that they should be represented by the people they trusted.
Mr. Jinnah began by saying that parity between Muslim and caste-Hindu would adversely affect the Muslim as the Sikhs and Scheduled Caste would always support the Congress. He demanded that matter should be decided in the Executive Council by vote the majority of the Muslim. Also, the demand that the Muslim League should have the right to nominate all Muslim members of the Executive Council of the Viceroy. He objected to the inclusion of representative of the Punjab Public Party or the Congress Muslims. The Viceroy refused to accept his demand.
The Simla Conference started on June 25, 1945 at the Viceregal lodge, Lord Wavell explained the purpose and scope of the proposals embodied in his plain, After the Viceroy’s opening remarks come up the turn of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to express his party’s point of view. He maintained that the proposal were accepted only for an interim settlement. The Congress could not be a party to anything however temporary, that prejudiced its national character, or reduced it directly or indirectly, to the level of a communal body. Quaid-i-Azam advocated the case for the Muslim League. He said that he looked on the proposals as a stopgap but in no way affecting the Congress demand for independence or the Muslim League stand for Pakistan. The League could not agree to a constitution on any basis other than that of Pakistan. Anyhow, he recognized that the framing of a constitution on the basis of Pakistan was a complex problem which would take time. He held that if the Congress represented 90 percent of the Hindus, the League represented 90 percent or more of the Muslims. He gave the impression that proposals were acceptable to him provided he had his way on communal parity.
The Viceroy observed that the first days proceedings went pretty well, though Jinnah was a little difficult, he remarked.
Jinnah has a good legal brain. So I think has Rajagopalachariar. Of the rest perhaps Khare for the Congress and Saadullah for the League are the best. But they are second class. The remainder are poor stuff. I think if we build a self-governing Inida on this sort material we shall be emulating the legendary rope trick.
The next day, on the advice of Evan Jankins, Private Secretary to the Viceroy, Lord Wavell put up a detailed agenda in the conference for decision under two heads.
- If we could reach agreement on the composition of the Council, principle of parity of caste-Hindus and Muslims, upkeeping present constitution etc. would be acceptable:
- If above principles were acceptable could we reach agreement on composition of the Council and names to be recommended.
The Scheme was approved and there was a general agreement on part A. Then the Conference was adjourned until the next day, so that the two major parties could reach an agreement on the head B.
Part B was the crux of the whole matter, for it was to decide the strength and composition of the Council by parties and communities, and the method by which panels of names would be submitted to the Viceroy for his selection. In the next session, which took place on 27 June, it became obvious that no progress had been made. After about three-quarters of an hour during which some skirmishing between the League and Congress almost burst into open conflict twice, the Viceroy adjourn the session till 29th June to give parties opportunities of private negotiation.
The talks between Mr. Jinnah and Pandit Govind Pant, a Congress spokesman, failed as there was no flexibility on either side. The Congress had claimed the right to nominate two Muslims out of the quota to the Council whereas Mr. Jinnah’s proposition was that they must all the nominated by the League and must all be Leaguers.
When the Conference reopened on June 29, it was known to everybody that there was no consensus between the Congress and the League. Therefore, Lord Wavell proposed his own alternative line of approach. He suggested that party leaders should send in panels of names to him, and he would try to from an acceptable Council from them. After some discussion all agreed to do so except Jinnah and Siva Raj, who said they could not agree to submit a list of names to the Viceroy without consulting their Working Committee. The Conference was adjourned for a fortnight.
Afterwards, Wavell sent a written statement to Jinnah outlining the procedure he had suggested at the letter’s request. The Working Committee of the Muslim League held a session on July 6 at Simla. After careful deliberations on the Viceroy’s proposals it resolved that the President be authorized to send a suitable reply to the Viceroy. Mr. Jinnah informed the latter that the League did not approve of the plan for submitting a panel of names but preferred the procedure which had been agreed to by the former Viceroy Linlithgow, in connection with his offer of August 1940, according to which the selection of representatives, while resting with the Governor General, should be based on confidential discussion between the leaders of the parties concerned and the Viceroy. Secondly the Muslim members should be chosen from the Muslim League. Thirdly, while the League appreciated the Secretary of State’s remarks that the Viceroy’s power of veto would be exercised to protect the minority interest it felt that some other effective safeguard against unfair decisions of the majority would be necessary.
Lord Wavell saw Jinnah on July 8, and discussed matter with him for almost one and a half hours. Jinnah tried his best to convince him to agree that none except Jinnah as head of the Muslim League could nominate the Muslim League members on the new Council. The Viceroy refused to accept it. Despite Jinnah’s refusal to go ahead with Wavell, proposals, the Viceroy got the approval of his shadow Council from his Majority’s Government.
On July 11, the Viceroy again invited Mr. Jinnah for talks. He told the latter about the proposed composition of the Council and the names of the four Muslim Leaguers and one Muslim of the Punjab from the Unionist Party, Mr. Jinnah stood by his previous stand and refused even to submit or discuss any names unless he was given absolute right to select all Muslims and was given some guarantee to the effect that any decision which the Muslim League opposed in Council could only be passed by a simple two-third majority.
The final session of the Simla conference took place on July 14. Azad and Raja gopalacharia exhorted the Viceroy to form a government without the League which he declined. Lord Wavel announced the failure of the Conference and took responsibility on his shoulder for its failure. But as a matter of fact it was not that he was the sole cause: there were many other factors also which caused its failure. The Congress first rejected and then accepted the principle of parity with the hope that even that they would command majority in the cabinet for the Sikh and the scheduled caste would vote in their favour. Before the Conference Rajagopalacharia. Bhullabhai Desai and Taj Bahadur Sapru had acknowledge this principle of parity. If they had been sincere to accommodate Muslim League or to reach on agreement they might have gone one step forward and accepted parity between Muslims and the non-Muslims certainly if had to be a temporary settlement.
In Bengal Fazal-ul-Haq, the Premier since 1937, had dared to defy the Quaid-i-Azam and had been overthrown in 1943 by Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din a whole-hearted Muslim Leaguer. In Sind and Assam there were League’s governments. And even in the North West Frontier Province, the one Muslim province attached to the Congress, a League’s ministry was formed during the absence in Jail of congress allies, the Red Shirts. Above all, between 1937 and 1943, of the sixty-one by-elections for Muslim seats in various provincial assembles the League had won 47, independent Muslims four and the Congress only two seats. In the Central Legislature, the League won all the 7 seats. The results of the by-elections between 1943 and 1945 were even more impressive, Mr. Jinnah rightly claimed that the League was an authoritative representative of over 90 percent of the Muslims of India.
After the failure of 1942 civil disobedient movement the Congress reviewed its policy towards the government. In Lord Wavell’s proposals they visualized the establishment of Hindu Raj. Thus the Conference proved purposeless. Likewise, Lord Wavell failed to bring a rapprochement between Hindus and Muslims.
Like his predecessor Linlithgown, Wavell declared India a natural unit and called upon the two major nations to make arrangements to live together in spite of different cultures and religions.
On June 30, the Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill realizing that Jinnah was likely to prove intransigent, consulted all the governors of India through telegram on the advisability of going ahead without the League. The governors of the important Muslim provinces of Bengal and the Punjab sated that it would be extremely unwise to form the government without the League.
If the British government had gone without the League the communal problem was likely to become worse. It might have resulted n bloodshed, chaos and civil war, as it happened later, when Wavell handed over the interim government to the Congress party in August 1946. Quaid-i-Azam withdrewthe acceptance of the Cabinet Mission plan and decided to observed the Direct Action day. In his press conference, while elaborating the stand of the Muslim League he said:
On the final examination and analysis of the Wavell plan we found that it was a snare. There was the combination consisting of the Gandi-Hindu Congress, which stands of India’s Hindu national independence as one India, and latest exponent of geographical unity. Lord Wavell and Glency – Khizr axis who are bent upon creating disruption among the Muslims in the Punjab, and we were sought to be pushed into this arrangement, which if we had agreed to as proposed by Lord Wavell, we should have signed our death warrant.
In brief, the Simla Conference ended in smoke. It enhanced the popularity and prestige of Mr. Jinnah, although Jinnah’s claim that the Muslim League was an authoritative of the Indian Muslim had yet to be established. The position was made pretty clear in this respect. That is why he asked the Viceroy to announce the holding of the general election. The Congress opposed the idea. But the entire political situation was obvious. The League stood as a firm rock and its leader captained the course of the Muslims. Hindus and Muslims would get freedom but the League wished not to be bypassed. To be brief, the Conference had negative success. In its failure many of the issues were clarified including the strength of the demand for the creation of Pakistan which marked the Simla conference as a milestone in the march of freedom of Muslim India for a separated homeland.
- Full text Jinnah’s speech on March 23, 1940 will be found in Jamil-ud-Din, Ahmad (ed). Speeches and Writings of Mr., Jinnah, vol. i, Lahore, 1960, pp.143-162
- Nicholas Mansergh and Penderal Moon, The Transfer of Power, vol.i, Cripps Mission. Jan. April, 1942, London.
- Quaid-i-Azam at a press conference in April 1942, while giving other reasons said: In effect Pakistan was not conceded unequivocally and the right the Mulsim self-determination was denied. We, therefore, did not Muslim self-determination was denied. We, therefore, did not accept the proposals regarding the future. Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, op. cit., p. 379.
- Cf. R.C. Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in India, vol. iii, Calcutta, 1963, pp. 678-79
- Ibid., p. 679.
- Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom Movement, Lahore 1970. Pp. 44-C-70.
- H.V. Hodson, The Great Divide, London 1969.p. 118.
- Bhullabhai Desai saw the Viceroy on January 20, 1945 and explained to him the nature of his pact with Liaquat Ali Khan. See Penderal Moon. Wavell the Viceroy’s Journal,x, Univeristy Press; Karachi, 1974, pp. 110-11
- Hodson, op. cit., p. 118.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., p. 111
- Abdul Hamid, Muslim separation in India, A Brief survey 1858-1948, Lahore 1967 p. 235.
- Hodson. Op. cit., p. 117.
- Wavell’s letter to Churchill, Prime Minister of England, October, see Penderal Moon, op. cit., pp.94,99.
- Ibid., p. 119.
- Ibid., p. 130.
- G.A Allana, Pakistan Movement: Historic documents, Karachi 1988, pp. 385-89.
- Penderal Moon., op. cit. , pp. 141-42.
- (i) They included: Mr. Jinnah, Mr. Gandhi, Pant, Abul Kalam Azad, Dr. Khan Sahib. Premier of NWFP, B.G. Khare, ex-Premier of Bombay, Bhullabhai Desai, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hiayatullah. Premier of Sindh, Hussain Imam, Leader of Muslim League in the Council of State, Malik Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana, Premierof the Punjab. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. Khwaja Sir Nazim-ud-Din, Ex-Premier of Bengal, G.S. Motilal, Leader of the Congress Party in the Council of State, Govind Ballabh Pant, Ex-Premier of U.P, Maharaja of Parla of Kimedit, Ex-Premier of Orissa. C. Rajagopalachariar, Ex-Premier Madras,. Pandit R.S. Shukla Sir Krishna Sinha, Ex-Premier of Bihar, Rao Bahadur Siva Raj. Representative of the scheduled castes, Sir Henry Richardson Leader of Europeon group central Assembly P N Banner-i-Leader of the Nationalist Party in the Central Assembly.
(ii) Secretaries: Sir Jenkin Evan. Private Secretary to Viceroy, Rao Bahadur V. P. Menon, Reform Commissioner.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., 141.
- Gandhi’s letter to the Viceroy, June 16, 1954. Cf. in H.N. Mitra and M.N Mitra (eds). The Indian Annual Register. Vol. i, 1945, New Delhi, p. 244.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., 145.
- Gandhi telegram to Viceroy, June 17, 1945.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., p. 144.
- Ibid. p, 146.
- Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman, Cambridge, 1985, p. 130.
- Hodson, op. cit., p. 122.
- Penderal Moon op. cit. p. 147.
- Head B, actually became a matter which caused deadlock as none, Viceroy, or Azad or Jinnah was ready to alter his stand.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., p. 148.
- Ibid., p. 150.
- Sharifuddin Pirzadah, ed., Foundations of Pakistan: All India Muslim League Movement, 1906-1947. Vol. ii, Karachi, 1970, p. 501.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., pp 152-53.
- Ibid., p. 154.
- Letter, dated 9 July 1945, from Mr. Jinnah of the Viceroy.
- Penderal Moon, op. cit., pp. 155-56.
- Penderal Moon, Wavell: The Viceroy Journal, p. 157.
- Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, The Emergence of Pakistan, Lahore, Research Society of Pakistan, 1989, pp. 75-76.
- M.H. Saiyid, Muhmmad Ali Jinnah: A Political Study, 2nd ed., Karachi; 1970. p. 281.