India After World War II

India After World War II

The World War II had approached the Indian frontiers with the Japanese conquest of Burma. The occupation of the Andaman (23 March 1942) and sporadic aerial bombardments on the east coast and on Calcutta, were of little importance. The only serious invasion attempt (at least local) took place in March 1944, when the Japanese troops, supported by the units of Bose, entered the state of Manipur, interrupting its communications with the rest of India. A counter-offensive conducted in May-June with overwhelming forces drove the Japanese far beyond the Burmese border. With this the danger of an invasion was definitively eliminated. Moreover, the war brought many advantages to India, which became one of the main suppliers of raw materials to the Allies. The Indian public debt in pounds was completely reabsorbed internally and India from a debtor country became a creditor country. The railways made huge budget surpluses; on this occasion the government, at the expiry of the agreements with the individual companies, took over the direct management of all the great Indian railway networks (1942-44).

The approaching end of the war produced a loosening of brakes on the English side and a resumption of political activity. Gandhi, who became seriously ill, was released unconditionally on May 6, 1944. In September he had a series of meetings with the Muslim leader Jinnāḥ to try to reach an agreement, but to no avail. During the war the situation had undergone a shift. Although Congress refused to recognize it, the Muslim League had gradually managed to win over the vast majority of Muslims to the idea of ​​Pakistan. As it was now clear that the achievement of independence was a matter of time, the main problem became that of Hindu-Muslim relations, that is: united India or partition into two states?

The end of the war in Europe and the coming to power of the Labor government in England had an immediate repercussion in India. On June 14, 1945, the viceroy announced his intention to appoint a greatly expanded executive council made up almost entirely of Indian members. At the same time, the heads of Congress arrested in August 1942 were released; this resulted in the gradual but rapid replacement of Nehrū for Gandhi in the practical direction of congressional politics. However, the concessions of June 14 were by now insufficient and both Congress and the League refused to propose their own members for vacant posts in the new council. The viceroy took a step forward, announcing his intention to convene a constituent assembly. To discussions on the League’s assertion that it was the only legitimate representative of Muslims brought elections to the central legislative assembly (December 1945) and provincial parliaments (March 1946) to an end. Almost all the seats reserved for Muslims were won by the League, while almost all the remaining seats were in Congress. The indication was very clear and both Gandhi and the Congress had no choice but to resign themselves to the inevitable; their dream of a united India was unattainable. On the other hand, a very serious symptom of the tension of minds was constituted by the triumphal welcome given to the veterans of the Indian national army of Bose and by the strike, immediately degenerated into mutiny, by the Indian navy in Bombay and Karachi (18-22 February 1946). It was mainly the result of communist propaganda, became very active in the last years of the war. The revolt was suppressed, and Congress took a clear stand against it and its inspirers.

In the meantime, the British government had decided to seriously address the Indian question, and sent a mission made up of ministers Lord Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and AV Alexander to India. The mission arrived in Delhi on March 24, 1946 and immediately began discussions with the Indian leaders. Almost immediately, however, it was impossible to reach an agreement between the conflicting Muslim and Hindu theses, and on 12 May the mission declared it useless to continue discussions. At the same time, however, it published its proposals, leaving it to the Indians themselves to find an agreement on them. These proposals briefly contemplated the maintenance of the unity of the country in the form of a Union of India, strongly decentralized and having a state of dominion; the convening of a constituent assembly, elected by the eleven provincial assemblies; the formation of a purely Indian interim government. Severely criticized by Gandhi, these terms were rejected by Congress (June 14). The mission and the viceroy then attempted to directly appoint 14 representatives of the various communities as members of the Executive Council, but most of them refused their membership. On 25 June, in a definitive clarification, the League accepted the formation of an interim government; the Congress in turn rejected it, while accepting instead the other points of the proposal (Union, constituent, etc.). The mission left India on June 29, without having resolved the matter. Elections to the constituent assembly took place in July, in which the conditions existing in the provincial assemblies were naturally reflected. The situation was becoming more and more complex. On July 29, the League withdrew its acceptance and declared that it was preparing for direct action to obtain Pakistan. This turnaround in turn caused Congress to change its decision; on 12 August the viceroy could invite Nehrū to set up a cabinet, which, made up exclusively of congressmen, came into operation on 2 September 1946. The League had refused to occupy the seats reserved for it and had called for 16 August, in all India, a “day of direct action”. This led to a terrible explosion of sectarian hatred in Calcutta; in three days of massacres and looting there were more than 4000 dead and 10,000 wounded among Muslims and Hindus. This tragedy, however, had the salutary effect of producing a certain detente, and on 15 October the League agreed to participate in the interim government. However, the bloody unrest in Bengal continued throughout October, despite the concerted efforts of the League and Congress, and especially Gandhi, to put an end to it.

The following months were occupied by continuous and tiring efforts to reach a compromise. Neither the visit of the viceroy, of Nehrū and of Jinnāḥ to London in December, nor the works of the constituent, boycotted by the Muslims, produced appreciable results. The decisive step was taken by the British Prime Minister Attlee who, on February 20, 1947, declared his government’s intention to hand over power to the new Indian government at the latest in the summer; the high British sovereignty over the native states would come to an end and the princes would have to come to direct agreements with the Union. At the same time Lord Louis Mountbatten took over from Wavell as viceroy. After long negotiations Nehrū had to adapt to accepting the idea of ​​Pakistan (April 21). The waiting became intolerable and the bloody disorders repeated themselves with increasing frequency. Finally, after a trip by the viceroy to England and a series of his talks with Gandhi, the last resistance of the Congress was overcome. The proposed partition of the country was accepted in June by the Congress, the League and the provincial parliaments. On July 15, the British parliament approved the law for the independence of India and Pakistan, also contemplating the division of the Panjab into the east (to India) and the west (to Pakistan), the division of Bengal into the east (to Pakistan) and western (to India), and plebiscites in the Northwest Frontier Province and the Sylhet District (Assam), both of which later succeeded in favor of Pakistan. For India 2016, please check

On August 15, 1947, with a solemn ceremony, the two new states (dominions) came into life: Pakistan, capital Karachi, governor general Moḥammed ‛Alī Jinnāḥ, prime minister Li‛āqat‛ Alī Khān; and the Union of India, with Delhi as its capital, the last viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and Prime Minister Nehrū. The Indian army was divided between the two new states; on February 28, 1948 the last British troops left India. All these changes did not happen without a painful settlement crisis. The partition was accompanied in northern India by a frightening explosion of popular fury. Several tens of thousands of people lost their lives, and millions had to flee their homes in one of the largest and most tragic forced exchanges of peoples in history. The economic losses were incalculable and various cities, especially Lahore and Amritsar, were devastated by the fires. Gandhi had carried out continuous and tireless work of conciliation in Bengal and Delhi, resorting to fasting twice despite his old age. This cost him his life, cut off on January 30, 1948 by the gunshots of a Hindu orthodox fanatic. His death gave rise to drastic measures taken by the Indian government against confessional paramilitary organizations, both Hindu and Muslim. The fact that the killer belonged to an organization closely connected with the Hindū Māhāsabhā, led to the complete discredit of this party, which in many areas broke up by itself. Congress thus became more than ever the arbiter of India’s political life. L’

Except for the Muslim states of the north-west (states of the Frontier and of Belūchistān, Eahawalpur and Khairpur) which entered Pakistan, all the others entered at various times and in various forms to be part of the Indian Union. The majors became members of the Union; the minors grouped into new large units (Saurashtra, Rajasthan, Matsya, Vindhya Pradesh), or were annexed to the provinces (states of eastern India, Deccan and Madras). The mahārāja of Kashmir joined the Union, but this produced a revolt of the Muslim majority of the residents, supported by volunteers from Pakistan, as Indian troops entered the state. A protracted civil war ensued as the matter was referred to UN judgment The largest state, Hyderabad, with a Muslim ruler (Nizam) and a largely Hindu population, it remained at first almost completely independent. But the tension with the government of India gradually increased, leading to a break. On September 13, 1948, Indian troops crossed the border and four days later the Nizam capitulated, and neither Pakistan nor the UN had time to intervene.

A visible sign of complete Indian independence was the departure of the last British governor general in June 1948. His successor was the old congressman Chakravarti Rājagopālāchāriar.

Pakistan is laboriously building, it can be said out of nowhere, its state structure. Still in its infancy, the young state had the misfortune of losing its founder and chief Jinnāḥ, who died on 11 September 1948. The Bengali Khwājā Nāẓim ud-dīn was appointed governor general in his place.

India After World War II