Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution, 1921-47 - Vol. 2

By A. Appadorai; Maurice L. Gwyer | Go to book overview

future of India should have been made clear long ago by using definite, certain and unambiguous language, so that India may fed sure that after the war, in the event of victory, her position shall be the same as that of Britain and the Dominions. In short, the Committee are strongly of the opinion that after victory the position of India in regard to her status and powers shall not be that of a dependency but shall be one of perfect equality.


III. THE CRIPPS MISSION, 1942

(1) Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, 11 March 19421

The crisis in the affairs of India arising out of the Japanese advance has made us wish to rally all the forces of Indian life, to guard their land from the menace of the invader. In August 1940 a full statement was made about the aims and policy we are pursuing in India.2 This amounted, in short, to a promise that, as soon as possible after the war, India should attain Dominion Status, in full freedom and equality with this country and the other Dominions, under a Constitution to be framed by Indians, by agreement among themselves and acceptable to the main elements in Indian national life. This was, of course, subject to the fulfilment of our obligations for the protection of Minorities, including the Depressed Classes, and of our treaty obligations to the Indian States, and to the settlement of certain lesser matters arising out of our long association with the fortunes of the Indian sub-continent.

However, Sir, in order to clothe these general declarations with precision and to convince all classes, races and creeds in India of our sincere resolve, the War Cabinet have agreed unitedly upon conclusions for present and future action which, if accepted by India as a whole, would avoid the alternative dangers either that the resistance of a powerful Minority might impose an indefinite veto upon the wishes of the majority or that a majority decision might be taken which would be resisted to a point destructive of internal harmony and fatal to the setting-up of a new constitution. We had thought of setting forth immediately the terms of this attempt by a constructive British contribution to aid India in the realization of full self-government; we are, however, apprehensive that to make a public announcement at such a moment as this might do more harm than good. We must first assure ourselves that our scheme would win a reasonable and practical measure of acceptance, and thus promote the concentration of all Indian thought and energies upon the defence of the native soil. We should ill serve the common cause if we made a declaration which would be rejected by essential elements in the Indian world, and which provoked fierce constitutional and communal disputes at a moment when the enemy is at the gates of India.

Accordingly, we propose to send a member of the War Cabinet to India to satisfy himself upon the spot by personal consultation that the conclusions upon which we are agreed, and which we believe represent

____________________
1
Cmd. 6350, pp. 3-5.
2
See pp. 504-5 above. [Ed.]

-519-

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