845.00/2–1447: Telegram

The Chargé in India ( Merrell ) to the Secretary of State


113.1. Factors which might suggest possibility of a split in League in event of forced withdrawal of League members from interim government and continuation opposition (reference Department’s telegram 78 Feb 111) are (a) desire of Muslim business interests—particularly in Sind and Bengal—for settlement of political deadlock one way or another; (b) current feeling among some League supporters that Karachi resolution2 went too far and amounted to League’s burning bridges; (c) the super-desire of Sind and Bengal League politicians to avoid situation which might increase difficulties of League in Ministries.

On other hand (a) Jinnah’s influence with Muslim masses is such that if he declared League participation in Cabinet Mission plan impossible, Embassy questions whether League politicians would dare court his wrath by attempting formation of new party; (b) Muslims who resigned from League to serve in Central Government would undoubtedly [Page 142] be branded by most Muslims as “traitors to Islam” and “Congress stooges”; (c) There is reason to believe, particularly in light of recent successes in Sind elections and remarkable discipline in provincial Muslim League civil disobedience campaign in Punjab, that League organization has never been stronger. Embassy attaches no importance to nationalist Muslims’ efforts to organize non-League Muslims in united front; and feels Jinnah’s apparent success in stigmatizing non-League Muslims would prevent such an organization from gathering effective numbers of followers.

No evidence that recent Muslim student demonstration against Bengal Premier signifies any abnormal discord in Bengal League.

2. Embassy believes strength and trouble making potentialities of League are such that His Majesty’s Government will endeavor avoid if possible instructing Viceroy to dismiss League members. Scott3 told Embassy officer yesterday that while Viceroy had as yet received no clear indication of what His Majesty’s Government’s decision would be it seemed unlikely League members would be dismissed immediately, Scott thinks wisest approach would be to endeavor persuade Congress to alter January 6 AICC resolution sufficiently to enable Viceroy to tell League Congress had accepted December 6 statement unconditionally and League would have to join CA or withdraw from interim govt.

3. Embassy believes course favored by Scott would be worth trying but in view of Nehru’s difficulty in obtaining support of AICC even for conditional acceptance December 6 statement questions whether suggested “concession” could be obtained. Further efforts to bring League into CA would then have to be based on argument that AICC resolution in effect constituted acceptance December 6 statement and that League in interest of welfare of India as whole should enter CA and thresh out differences of interpretation there. If Jinnah still refused in hope that he might obtain Pakistan by default Viceroy and His Majesty’s Government would probably feel they had no choice but to allow Congress and Princes to proceed with constitution-making in which case League opposition whether “violent” or non-violent would almost certainly result in disorders.

4. Embassy believes that if British Congress and Princes agree on constitutional plan Congress dissidents might well find it more difficult to promote civil strife since such agreement might represent a concrete step toward Indian independence and rob of some of its weight dissidents’ argument that there must be a “final struggle” against Britain.

Until such time as tangible constitutional progress is made, however, Narain’s4 anti-British propaganda will undoubtedly continue to be effective among substantial numbers of Indians.

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5. Scott informed Embassy officer yesterday that on or about February 18 a critical situation will probably develop as a result of Viceroy’s intention to use his special powers to prevent release of 15 INA officers convicted last year of “gross brutality”. Scott says Viceroy has already overruled decision of Council in which both League and Congress members favored release of prisoners. Central Assembly is expected to vote for their release on February 18 but Viceroy with agreement of C–in–C and His Majesty’s Government intends to use his veto power. This will give both League and Congress politicians new stick with which to beat British.

Please repeat London.

  1. Not printed.
  2. January 31 resolution of the Muslim League Working Committee.
  3. Ian Scott, Assistant Private Secretary to the Viceroy.
  4. Jayprakash Narain, also known as Narayan.