'A Landmark in the Future History of India'
The 1940 session of Congress was held in the Bihar village of Ramgarh on 19 and 20 March. In an effort to woo and reassure Muslims, Gandhi had finally persuaded Maulana Azad to stand as president. And to further the cause, Azad chose three other Muslims, including 'the Frontier Gandhi', Abdul Gaffar Khan, to join him on the 14-strong Working Committee. He also brought Nehru back on to it. No one knew it then, of course, but it was to be the last election for six years, during which time Azad and his committee were to remain in office.
There was only one resolution at Ramgarh, and it consisted of just three paragraphs. The first called for the start of civil disobedience, but only when the organization and the people were ready; the second declared that Congress would accept 'nothing short of complete independence', rejecting 'dominion or any other status within the imperial structure'; the third called again for a 'constituent assembly elected by adult suffrage'. Its final sentence was an unequivocal blast aimed at the Muslim League and its allies: 'India's constitution must be based on independence, democracy and national unity, and the Congress repudiates attempts to divide India or to split up her nationhood.' 1
The League's response came four days later in Lahore. Jinnah was a sick man - he had collapsed on his way to the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi barely a week earlier, suffering from what had been diagnosed as pleurisy. But he rose from his bed and travelled to the Punjab capital, in a train festooned with garlands and green flags bearing the League's crescent and star emblem. Whatever the state of his health, he was determined to preside over a session which, he told newsmen at the station, 'is going to be a landmark in the future history of India'.
Lahore was seething with unrest after clashes two days earlier between Sir Sikander Hayat Khan's police and a paramilitary Muslim organization known as the Khaksars — the name literally means 'humble workers' — wielding razor-sharp spades. At least 30 Khaksars had been killed, and two British police officers