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

No. 1061


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The foregoing paragraphs leave no doubt as to Mr. Jinnah’s official League policy. The demand for Pakistan or nothing, and the allegation that there is not the slightest possibility of the League’s entering the Constituent Assembly are bargaining points which are a logical outcome of events of the past year. While in the light of Mr. Jinnah’s past performance it would be rash to predict that there is now no possibility of compromise on the question of the League’s associating itself with a Union Center, the League’s declared fears of Congress domination are, unfortunately, not without a rational basis.

It is difficult to condone provocative, if not frenzied, outbursts in which League leaders, including Mr. Jinnah, have indulged during the past twelve months, and it may be argued that Congress has made certain concessions to the League. Perhaps the most important of these concessions was acceptance of the principle of “equal representation” of Muslims and caste Hindus in the Interim Government, though Congress knew that in practice it would control the majority of votes through its Sikh, Christian, Parsi, and Scheduled Castes appointees. So far as acceptance of the Cabinet Mission plan is concerned, however, the League is on logical ground when it maintains that Congress has never agreed unconditionally to the plan as interpreted by the British Government.

It will be recalled that in June 1946 the Muslim League Working Committee went on record as accepting the May 16 statement without reservations, while the Congress Working Committee accepted only the long-term portion of the statement. It will also be recalled that in July Mr. Nehru and other Congressmen made statements indicating [Page 153] quite clearly that Congress had no intention of adhering strictly to the provisions of the Cabinet Mission plan affecting the Constituent Assembly. As a result the League withdrew its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission plan. There followed the acceptance by the Congress Working Committee with reservations of the short-term provisions of the Plan and the formation late in August of the Interim Government which the League decided to join in October.

As has been indicated in previous reports, I am willing to believe that if the All-India Congress Committee, meeting January 6, 1947 had accepted unconditionally the British Government’s statement of December 6 regarding the Cabinet Mission plan, Mr. Jinnah would have agreed to enter the Constituent Assembly. In any case, if Mr. Jinnah had then refused to enter the Constituent Assembly, Congress could have said with a clear conscience that they had done everything in their power to make it possible for the League to participate. Congress, however, fearful of losing its hold on Assam and its position among the Sikhs and the Pathans, and frightened by Jai Prakash Narain’s efforts to wreck the Cabinet Mission plan, released a resolution which made it clear they were unwilling to commit themselves to the interpretation of the provincial grouping clause which had been accepted by both the British Government and the League.

Even though the British Government took the stand that Congress had, in effect, accepted the Cabinet Mission plan, the League was in a position to justify its claim that the January 6 resolution did not constitute unconditional acceptance, and in its meeting at the end of January the League Working Committee called for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. Annoying as Mr. Jinnah and his followers have been in many of their statements and declarations, I feel the Congress leaders have not only failed to show the magnanimity which so many observers have felt would have led to a peaceful settlement, but have demonstrated remarkable ineptitude as politicians. I question seriously whether their fear of a Muslim majority of two (36 Muslims, 34 non-Muslims) in the proposed Bengal-Assam Constituent Assembly, can be justified in the light of the larger issues involved. Had they been willing to agree to the British Government’s interpretation of the grouping clause the League’s civil disobedience campaigns in the Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Province, and Assam might never have materialized. As it is, the provincial League organizations concerned have demonstrated sufficient strength to encourage Mr. Jinnah in his demand for Pakistan, and the likelihood of his obtaining it in one form or another seems to be growing daily.

Most Congressmen with whom officers of the Embassy have talked during the past three months appear to have resigned themselves to [Page 154] the prospect of the League’s staying out of the Constituent Assembly, and recently more and more Congress supporters have indicated that they feel some sort of Pakistan is inevitable. In their effort to make Pakistan as unattractive as possible—by demanding partition of the Punjab and Bengal—Congress leaders have in effect abandoned the tenets which they have supported for so many years in their campaign for a united India. They have also agreed by implication with Mr. Jinnah’s allegation that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together, a charge which in the past Congress has—quite rightly I believe—denied.

I cannot help feeling, therefore, that the present unhappy situation is as much a result of Congress leaders’ political ineptitude and lack of vision as of Mr. Jinnah’s intransigence. Had Congress leaders put aside their fears regarding the effect of the Cabinet Mission plan on their party’s position in Assam, the Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province, Mr. Jinnah would not have been provided with a logical basis for the Muslim League’s current stand, and India might today be laying the ground-work for a united country instead of facing the prospect of Balkanization.

Respectfully yours,

George R. Merrell