King without Crown: Jawaharlal Nehru- A response

By Nalinaksha 


Allow me to present a contrary opinion about Nehru. Nehru was an anglophile who just used the language of socialism to get a political mileage. When Subhash Bose organized INA, Nehru said that he would meet Subhash with an open sword. Yet after the war, during the trial of the INA prisoners, he appeared as their counsel in order to take advantage of the tremendous popular sympathies for the INA prisoners. INA prisoners were however not inducted back into the army of a free India -this reveals the imperialist nature of the Indian army. Worse fate had befallen the mutineers of the Indian navy. Congress leaders promised that they would not be punished- a promise which was soon forgotten.

Perhaps the most heinous act of Nehru was to derail the Cabinet mission plan-a plan that would have preserved the Federal unity of the south Asian subcontinent and which would have saved us the thousands of lives lost in the partition riots and would have saved millions the trauma of displacement.

Let me quote from Maulana Azad:

" The Muslim League Council had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan. So had the Congress Working Committee. It however needed the approval of the AICC. .... A meeting of the AICC was called at Bombay on 7 July, 1946.....When the AICC met I invited Jawaharlal to take over as Congress President from me. Then I moved the resolution on the Cabinet Mission Plan and briefly spoke about its main features....I ...pointed out that the Cabinet Mission Plan had accepted in all essentials the Congress point of view. It guaranteed the unity of India while at the same time it held out the necessary assurances to the minorities...... My speech had a decisive influence on the audience. When the vote was taken, the resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority. Thus the seal of approval was put on the Working Committee's resolution accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan. .....

Now happened one of those unfortunate events which change the course of history. On 10 July, Jawaharlal held a press conference in Bombay in which he made an astonishing statement. Some press representatives asked him whether, with the passing of the Resolution by the AICC, the Congress had accepted the plan in toto, including the composition of the Interim Government. Jawaharlal in reply stated that the Congress would enter the Constituent Assembly 'completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all situations as they arise'. Press representatives further asked if this meant that the Cabinet Mission Plan could be modified.

Jawaharlal replied emphatically that the Congress had agreed only to participate in the Constituent Assembly and regarded itself free to change or modify the Cabinet Mission Plan as it thought best.

The Muslim League had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan only under duress. Naturally, Mr.Jinnah was not very happy about it. In his speech to the League Council, he had clearly stated that he recommended acceptance only because nothing better could be obtained.......

...Jawaharlal's statement came to him as a bombshell. He immediately issued a statement that this declaration by the Congress President demanded a review of the whole situation. He accordingly asked Liaqat Ali Khan to call a meeting of the League Council and issued a statement to the following effect. The Muslim League Council had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in Delhi as it was assured that the Congress also had accepted the scheme and the Plan would be the basis of the future constitution of India. Now that the Congress President had declared that the Congress could change the scheme through its majority in the Constituent Assembly, this would mean that the minorities would be placed at the mercy of the majority.....

The Muslim League Council met at Bombay on 27th July. Mr.Jinnah in his opening speech reiterated the demand for Pakistan as the only course left open to the Muslim League. After three days' discussion, the Council passed a resolution rejecting the Cabinet Mission Plan. It also decided to resort to direct action for the achievement of Pakistan. ....Mr. Jinnah declared 16 August the Direct Action Day, but he did not make it clear what the programme would be.

....16th August was a black day in the history of India. Mob violence unprecedented in the history of India plunged the great city of Calcutta into an orgy of bloodshed, murder and terror....Soon the whole city was in the grip of goondas of both the communities.

.....(At Dum Dum) I found ...a large contingent of the millitary waiting in trucks. When I asked why they were not helping in restoring order, they replied that their orders were to stand ready but not to take any action. Throughout Calcutta, the millitar y and the police were standing by but remained inactive while innocent men and women were being killed. Sixteen august, 1946 was a black day not only for Calcutta but for the whole of India. The turn that events had taken made it almost impossible to expect a peaceful solution by agreement between the Congress and the Muslim League. This was one of the greatest trajedies of Indian history and I have to say with the deepest of regret that a large part of the responsibility for this development rests with Jawaharlal."

[Source: India Wins Freedom by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad,(Complete version), Orient Longman, India, 1988, pp 163-170]

[For more references on partition see my essay on Partition of India and Bengal and some Myths available at  ]

On the domestic front, after independence Nehru presided over the further colonial exploitation of Eastern India by the comprador trader capitalists through measures like Freight Equalisation. Refugees from Bengal were discriminated against vis a vis the refugees from the Western border. For further details see Ranajit Roy's book The Agony of West Bengal. Also see my website on the Colonial Exploitation of Eastern India [  ]

With best wishes.

Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya
Nov 17, 2004


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