The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence

By Anthony Read; David Fisher | Go to book overview
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25
'If India Wants Her Blood-bath She Shall Have It'

Cripps, Pethick-Lawrence and Alexander believed they could feel satisfied with what they had achieved in three months of tortuous negotiations. Certainly, they had left the viceroy and the Indian political leaders a basic framework around which the future of India could be built. But there was too much that had been left unresolved, too much that could be interpreted in different ways. All the Indian leaders apart from Azad were barristers, and barristers make their living by interpreting the law as it suits their cause. They immediately began doing just that with the plan. Wavell, by contrast, was not a lawyer but, as he was fond of saying, a plain soldier, and he was soon out of his depth.

Things began promisingly enough, with Azad persuading the AICC to ratify acceptance of the plan by a massive majority on 6 July 1946, in spite of vehement opposition from the Congress socialists. It was Azad's final act as president, before he handed over to Nehru, a fitting climax to six turbulent years in office. The following day, however, in his speech wrapping up the session, Nehru acknowledged the strong criticisms from the left wing by assuring them that Congress had not in fact accepted any plan, either short or long term. 'We are not bound by a single thing,' he told them, 'except that we have decided to go into the Constituent Assembly.' 1 At a press conference three days later, he underlined this astonishing statement by saying that the Constituent Assembly would be a sovereign body, free to do whatever it chose. 'In regard to the minorities,' Nehru went on, 'we accept no outsiders' interference in it - certainly not the British Government's.' He dismissed the idea of grouping, which he said would probably never happen: the NWFP, Bengal and Assam would all reject it. He envisaged a much more powerful central government than that which had been proposed. Congress, he concluded, regarded itself as free to change or modify the Cabinet mission's plan exactly as it pleased. 2

Azad was mortified by this demolition of the plan on which he had

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