Chapter 10
Independence Attained

TH E situation in India at the beginning of 1947 was perhaps without parallel in history, inasmuch as Britain was determined to hand over power, but could find no generally acceptable transferee. Hindus and Muslims agreed that any long continuance of British rule was out of the question, but disagreed about almost everything else. The Congress claim to represent the people of India was indignantly repudiated by the leaders of the Muslim League, who pointed to the solidarity of the ninety million Muslims of India in support of partition. Law and order had broken down in important areas and the present writer recorded about that time that 'life in Calcutta and the other big cities of India to-day is life on the edge of a volcano which is already giving the premonitory signs of a great eruption'. Effective power had, as we have seen, been transferred to Indian hands when the Interim Government was formed in 1946, but the complete disunity of that Government deprived it of all moral authority and heightened communal tension throughout the country.

The attitude of the major parties was mainly negative. The Congress would not have partition and the Muslim League would not accept a unitary Government. One reason for this negative attitude was the belief held by many Hindus that Britain would never completely part with authority, but would always reserve some measure of control. There was therefore no need for them to find a constructive solution. The resulting stalemate might have continued indefinitely, but for an act of great moral courage on the part of Attlee's Government, which, on February 20, 1947, declared that India must govern herself by June 1948, whether agreement as to the form of the constitution had been reached or not. The wording of the announcement was significant. It stated that 'His Majesty's Government will have to consider to whom the power of the Central Government in India should be handed over on the

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