Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 5 : 7 July 2005

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai

M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.


Sitaramayya (1947) draws a vivid picture of the situation - The Second World War drew Britain into it officially on the 1st September 1939. The British also drew India into it on the 3rd September 1939; the people of India were not consulted and were asked to fight a war with which they really did not have anything to do, except sympathizing with the plight of the nations that stood for democracy. India was not consulted by Britain as the Dominions were. There were elected representatives in the Central Legislative Assembly and there were eleven provinces with elected representatives with Cabinets of their own. None of these had been consulted, but Britain ordered Indians to fight a war in which they had no interest, even though the nation at large sympathized with those powers that stood for democracy.

As Sitaramayya pointed out, the Congress Working committee met on September 14th, 1939 and felt that its own country had been the victim for over a century and a half of the negation and denial of that very democracy for which England affected to be fighting on the side of Poland. The Committee noted with regret that the participation of India in the war was taken for granted by the alien rulers. It characterized the situation as one in which the War was forced upon India, much against the wishes of the people.

Thus began an intense political phase in the history of the Indian National Congress.


This intensive political phase focused its attention on the ways and means of achieving political freedom, with the integrity of the then India intact. This political phase did not have much to offer for an elaboration of the language policy of the Organization except for the reiteration of the previously declared policies of language and script as well as culture.

The political goal of the Congress was to avoid vivisection of the country and towards that extent it was willing to go with the All India Muslim League short of disintegration. The language policy declared thus far fully reflected this concern. This phase continues almost until the attainment of political freedom in August 1947, and even beyond because the scar left on the body politic of India by its vivisection could not be cured easily and instantaneously.

The inevitability, complexity and the blood bath of the vivisection, in fact, however, began to radically alter the thinking of men, both the lay public and the opinion leaders at the middle and lower rungs in the Indian National Congress and this had its own impact on the formulation or subsequent modification in certain respects of language and culture policies, of which we will see in another article.


During this phase of intensive political activity immediately prior to independence, the elected Congress Ministries in eight provinces (Madras, Central Provinces, Bihar, U.P., Bombay, Orissa, and North Western Frontier Province) resigned in 1939. An example of the best "positive" position of the British, which was all the same detrimental of Indian Unity, could be found in Sir Samuel Hoare's speech in the Commons. He was an ex-Secretary of State for India. He declared, 'There are no two kinds of Dominion Status as some people seem to think. … Dominion Status is not a prize that is given to a deserving community but recognition of facts that actually exist. … If there are difficulties in the way, they are not of our making … It must be the aim of Indians themselves to remove these divisions just as it should be our aim to help Indians in their task. … We showed our good faith when we made the communal award … but in spite of our award, these divisions still exist and until they are removed, we have responsibilities to the minorities, that we cannot repudiate. … The princes are afraid of domination by British India, the Muslims are firmly opposed to the Hindu Majority of the Center. The Depressed classes and other minorities genuinely believe that responsible Government, meaning a Government, dependent on the Hindu majority, will and as long as they exist, it is impossible for Government to accept the demand for immediate and full responsibility at the center on a particular date.'


On this Gandhi remarked, 'Has Dominion Status for India any meaning unless it is synonymous with Independence? Has the India of his imagination the right to secede from the Commonwealth? … If the British have shed imperialistic ambition, the proof for it should be forthcoming even before it is statutorily declared independent.' Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the President of the Indian National Congress in 1939, demanded, 'Let the British Government throw on Indians the responsibility of producing an agreed constitution without any interference from outside and promise to give statutory effect to it. That will be a genuine offer. Without it all talk of protection to minorities looks like an excuse for perpetuating the status quo.'


The perception of the Muslim League was, however, different. The All India Muslim League's position was well illustrated in the amendment their legislators proposed for the Congress resolution in State Assemblies before the Congress Ministries tendered their resignation. The Muslim League Amendment stated:

This Assembly recommends to the Government to convey to the Government of India and through them to His Majesty's Government that they should, when considering the question of India's constitution, either during the duration of the War or after it is concluded, bear in mind that the democratic parliamentary system of Government under the present constitution has failed, being utterly unsuited to the condition and genius of the people and, therefore, apart from the Government of India Act of 1935, the entire problem of India's future constitution should be wholly reviewed and revised de novo and that the British Government should not make any commitment in principle or otherwise without the approval and consent of the All India Muslim League, which alone represents, and can speak, on behalf of the Mussalmans of India, as well as without the consent of all important minorities and interests.


The Viceroy's statement of November 5, 1939 stated, 'During all the time I have been in India there is nothing I have been more anxious to secure than unity, and unity matters far more to India than is perhaps always realized. Unity, too, means that Indians, whatever their community or whatever their party allegiance, and whether they dwell in British India or in the Indian States, must work together in a common schemes… We are dealing with a problem that has defeated the united endeavors of the greatest organizations in this country. There are grave differences of view which have to be taken into account which should be bridged. There are strong and deeply-rooted interests which are entitled to the fullest consideration and whose attitude is not a thing lightly to be brushed aside. There are minorities which are great in numbers as well as great in historic importance.

Gandhi commented,

The pronouncements hitherto made, whether here or in Great Britain, are after the old style, suspected and discredited by freedom-loving India. If imperialism is dead, there must be a clear break with the past-language suited to the new era has to be used. If the time has not yet come for the acceptance of this fundamental truth, I would urge that further effort at reaching a solution should be suspended.

Always language use reflected the inner thought, for Gandhi, and there was no exception to this basic principle even in politics for him!


At the end of the year 1939, the political situation, thus, was tenser than ever, with the experiment of working in Legislative Assemblies having come to an abrupt end. At the end of 1939, the Working Committee decided to reframe the Independence Pledge for the year 1940, falling on January 26, to help in the preparation for a greater struggle of non-violence to attain independence. The Working Committee called upon all Congress Committees and individual Congressmen to take the pledge prescribed below in public meetings called for the purpose. Where they could not attend a public meeting, the Congressmen were called upon to take the pledge in their homes, individually or in groups.

We believe that it is an inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any Government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it. The British Government is India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually.
We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence.
We recognize that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence. India has gained strength and self-reliance and marched a long way to Swaraj following peaceful and legitimate methods, and it is by adhering to these methods that our country will attain Independence.
We pledge ourselves anew to the Independence of India and solemnly resolve to carry out non-violently the struggle for freedom till Purna Swaraj is attained.
We believe that non-violent action in general and preparation for non-violent direct action in particular, require successful working of the Constructive Programme of Khadi, communal harmony and removal of untouchability. We shall seek every opportunity of spreading goodwill among fellowmen without distinction of caste or creed. We shall endeavor to raise from ignorance and poverty those who have been neglected and to advance in every way the interests of those who are considered to be backward and suppressed. We know that though we are out to destroy the imperialistic system we have no quarrel with Englishmen, whether officials or non-officials. We know that the distinction between the caste Hindus and Harijans must be abolished, and Hindus have to forget these distinctions in their daily conduct. Such distinctions are a bar to non-violent conduct. Though our religious faith may be different, in our mutual relations we will act as children of Mother India, bound by common nationality and common political and economic interest.
Charkha and Khadi are an integral part of our constructive Programme, for the resuscitation of the seven hundred thousand villages of India and for the removal of the grinding poverty of the masses. We shall, therefore, spin regularly, use for our personal requirements nothing but Khadi, and so far as possible, products of village handicrafts only and endeavor to make others do likewise.
We pledge ourselves to a disciplined observance of Congress principles and policies and to keep in readiness to respond to the call of the Congress, whenever it may come, for carrying on the struggle for the independence of India."


Note that this Pledge does not make any reference to language issue at all, unlike the mention of it in the other versions of Constructive Programme. Note also that the earlier Independence Pledge and other Pledges during Civil Disobedience movement, etc., did not contain any clause on Hindustani, even though the Constructive Programme was emphasized; the pledge sought to be administered in 1940 also did not contain that. The pledge was sought to be administered as part of preparation for a greater struggle for independence did not contain any mention of the learning of the lingua franca or of the National Education of which, now at 1940, the learning of the lingua franca, and primary school education through mother-tongue became an integral part.

In other words, the Indian National Congress being an Organization also of pragmatic people, did not want to club with the pledge the likely controversial matters such as its language policy, which had just then come into serious trouble in the Tamil region of the Madras Presidency, which opposed introduction of Hindi in its schools. Pragmatics, and a realization or shift in favor of first attaining political freedom, and a desire to treat the language policy as not immediately contributing to the attainment of political freedom would have led the Working Committee to decide on the non-mentioning of any point regarding language learning, etc., in the pledge.

Although untouchability and communal harmony were matters primarily of the social plane, their impact on the political front and their use as a potent weapon for the division of the country were recognized and as such these two had to remain in the pledge. However, the retention of Khadi became more a symbol of Congress Organization; language did not have any such function to perform. The potential of the language to become a unifying force was highly desired, but already the potential of Hindi or Hindustani to bring in dissensions/divisions among the people of India was demonstrated in the Madras presidency, and to some extent in Bengal. And hence the cautious approach - it was better not to mention language in the Pledge.

Note also that the Constructive Programme which was given a go-by in preference to radical economic policies of mass production, etc., bounced back to life as the most important tool for the political agitation envisaged.

The differences of opinion among the leaders as regards the role of Constructive Programme and nonviolent means were implicitly acknowledged when the Working Committee hoped that 'none who did not believe in the contents of the pledge would take it merely for the sake of form'.


The Indian National Congress met in March 1940 at Ramgarh, Bihar. The session had something to offer toward an illustration and understanding of the language policy of the Organization for the entire country. The Congress asserted that it was opposed to the Dominion status or anything similar to it because linkage with British policies and economic policies was not acceptable to the nation. Self-determination through a Constituent Assembly provided the only solution, it declared. Communal harmony could be secured by immediate independence. The Congress further declared that the withdrawal of the Congress Ministries from the Provinces, was a preliminary step for a mighty Civil Disobedience under Gandhi's leadership at a time chosen by him.

Gandhi addressed the AICC at Ramgarh after the resolution authorizing him to lead a Civil Disobedience movement was passed. He accepted the responsibility and said

Our internal difficulty is that we have a large number of Congress members on our Register. People have joined us because they find the Congress has acquired power. Many people who did not join the Congress before have now joined it. They have harmed it because they have joined with selfish motives. In a democratic organization we cannot prevent such people from joining unless our organization is so strong that sheer weight of public opinion would compel them to remain out. That cannot happen so long as our contact with primary Congress members is only for voting purpose. There is no discipline in the Congress … You must fulfill the conditions set down in the Independence Pledge. You must allow me to tell you that if you do not fulfill those conditions it will not be possible for me to launch a struggle. You will have to find another General. You cannot compel me to lead you against my will. When you appoint me as your general, you must obey my command. There can be no argument about it. Because my own sanction is love, I argue with you, for love must be characterized by patience. I have heard friends criticizing the Charkha. I know you are all ready to go to jails but you must earn the right and pay the price for going to jails. You will not be going to jails, as criminals. This condition about Charkha and Khadi has been there since 1920. Our programme and policy have been the same all these days. You might have grown wiser in this matter since then, but I must tell you I have not. The more I think about non-violence, the greater virtues I find in it ... I do not read all that appears in the Urdu Press, but perhaps I get a lot of abuses there. I am not sorry for it. I still believe that without Hindu-Muslim settlement there can be no Swaraj. ... Let me therefore warn you that not those who shout 'Sathyagraha', 'Satyagraha', will do Satyagraha but those who will work for it. ... If, therefore, you do not believe in the charkha in the sense I believe in it, I implore you to leave me. The charkha is an outward symbol of truth and non-violence, and unless you have them in your hearts you will not take to the charkha either. … Correspondents tell me that though they have no faith in me or the Charkha, they ply the latter for the sake of discipline. I do not understand this language. Can a general fight on the strength of soldiers who, he knows, have no faith in him? The plain meaning of this language is that the correspondents believe in mass action but do not believe in the connection I see between it and the Charkha, etc., if the action is to be non-violent. They believe in my hold on the masses but they do not believe in the things which I believe have given me that hold. They merely want to exploit me and will grudgingly pay the price which my ignorance or obstinacy (according to them) demands. I do not call this discipline. True discipline gives enthusiastic obedience to instructions even though they do not satisfy reason (Sitaramayya 1947:173-177).

Note that of all the points in the Constructive Programme, Charkha was now chosen to be the symbol of nation building, and national struggle. It was not as if other points were dropped as not essential or even as impractical but Charkha plying was chosen perhaps because it could be done more easily and at all places and times. Thus convenience of performance perhaps weighed more with Gandhi in this regard.

Language learning and propagation of a language are time-consuming steps. While language learning could be and is generally an individual act, propagation of language is a social act whereas charkha plying is decidedly individual, although it could lead to social uplift. But both involve several other factors of convenience/faculty for their adoption. Charkha is a tool for manual work, which Gandhi valued very highly. He had argued in favor of prescribing manual labor as well as literacy, a cognitive and cultural artifact, as criterion for franchise.

Language learning or language attainment is largely an individual act and is patently a cognitive effort that requires a deliberate culture support. Note also that ultimately the Congress in free India chose to ignore literacy as criterion for franchise rights.


Based on the resolution and authorization of the Working Committee, preparations were afoot for the launching of the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1940 or 1941. The organizational and preparatory measures included circulating a questionnaire to gather information covering the steps taken to popularize Khadi, establish contacts with Harijans and minorities, and the efficiency in office work. The questionnaire solicited information on the reaction of Congress members as well as of the public to the preparations for Satyagraha, the cooperation of the subordinate committees as well as the local boards in this behalf, propaganda work carried on and training camps held in the provinces.

Note that this circular did not elicit information on activities relating to the propagation of the lingua franca, or information relating to mother tongue education, etc. This was yet another indication that policies regarding language use were not to be mixed with immediate performance of political agitations.

Sitaramayya (1947:245) answers our observation above indirectly by pointing out to the thinking of the Congressmen in general then:

The fact is that in India while social, religious and cultural rights are guaranteed to all minorities, the whole population is evolving and must be trained to evolve, common political programme in which the economic interest of the whole nation would constitute the basis of the conflicting issues that determine the division into competing parties.

Thus political programmes linked with economic interests were to be highlighted, which naturally, would not encourage a culture tool such as language to be used as dominant reason/aid for an agitation.


In 1941, the British introduced an Amending Bill to amend the Government of India Act of 1935 so that the elections to the Central Legislative Assembly and Provincial Legislative Assemblies could be postponed. This was necessitated because of the failure of the 1935 Act. Britain was then simultaneously toying with the idea of framing a future Constitution for India. Mr. Amery, Secretary of state for India referred earlier in 1940 to 'the problem of finding an English Constitution which could reconcile Indian differences and preserve India united in essential. … (to remove the deadlock in India caused by) the instinctive developments along the lines which her peculiar history and local conditions have made successful in this country and the dominions, in the wholly different and far more complex conditions of India' He suggested as the key to the deadlock a further increase in the powers of the provinces, possibly re-arranged and regrouped, subject to a minimum control to secure some measures of unity in foreign, defensive and economic policy, and he also suggested functional representation and an executive on the American line (Sitaramayya 1947 : 250, 251).

Mr. H. V. Hodson, Reforms Commissioner, toured the country and sounded public opinion on composite cabinets, irremovable executive, redistribution of provinces, not necessarily on a linguistic basis and federation or confederation as the case might be (Sitaramayya 1947 : 250).


Things were fast changing during the late thirties and early forties, with the declaration of Mr. M. A. Jinnah that creation of Pakistan as the homeland of Mussalmans of India was the non-negotiable goal of the All India Muslim League. The British, on their part, were in the process of trying out several ideas such as a federal set up, confederation, provincial autonomy, linguistic or minimally/maximally linguistic redistribution of the provinces. The British began to reveal their thinking that linguistic consideration could play some significant role in the then prevailing political confusion. Fortunately for the nation, events occurred so fast in quick succession that any formulation of and tampering with the linguistic loyalties toward achieving the political goals of the British could not take a firmer shape.

In general, for everyone in the political arena, the late thirties and early forties of the twentieth century happened to be a period of acute conflict between the Indian National Crongress and All India Muslim League, with issues such as those relating to language use, language loyalty, and language policy of the Government both at the Centre and the provinces receding to the background. This was also the fate met with by the other items on the Constructive Programme of the Indian National Congress. There were proposals and counter proposals for a Constitution meant for a United India, but the demand for Pakistan was also becoming more intense and insistent than ever.


The Congress was left with no alternative except resorting to Satyagraha since the British were rather prevaricating on the issue of according complete Independence to India - the various alternatives suggested by them such as dominion status, federal set up with provincial autonomy, etc., were only in the nature of attempts to gain more time to indulge in causing further divisions among the peoples of India, the Congress felt. So, the Satyagraha Movement began on the 17th October 1940. It was rather peaceful all through the nation. From time to time the progress of the movement was very carefully watched both by the Governments and the Indian National Congress. Acharya Kripalani, General Secretary of the A.I.C.C. issued on June 17th , 1941 following instructions for the guidance of Satyagrahis and Congress Committees after consultation with Gandhi:

1. A released Satyagrahi must seek to offer Satyagraha as soon as possible. If for any reason he is unable to do so he must apply through the President or Officer in charge of the P.C.C. for exemption from Mahatma Gandhi, and he should state the reasons for such exemption being granted.
2. From the date on which the name of a prospective Satyagrahi is forwarded to Mahatrma Gandhi for sanction, he is to suspend his private activities and devote himself wholly to working out one or more items of the following thirteen-fold items of the Constructive Programme:
A. Hindu-Muslim or Communal Unity
B. Removal of Untouchability
C. Prohibition
D. Khadi
E. Other Village Industries
F. Village Sanitation
G. New or Basic Education
H. Adult Education
I. Uplift of Women
J. Education in hygiene and health
K. The Propagation of Rashtrabhasha
L. Cultivating love of one's own language
M. Working for economic equality
3. Every prospective Satyagrahi is expected to keep a diary in which he will enter the work done by him during the day this diary will be submitted to the P.C.C. concerned at fortnightly intervals. Permission to offer Satyagraha shall be granted only to such workers who have proved their worth by their every-day work.
4. The new restrictions in passing lists of Satyagrahis are considered necessary in the interest of the struggle as it is likely to develop in future and will become progressively more arduous. New Satyagrahis that come in should, therefore, be such as that can stand the new test. Complaints have been received in the office of undue delay in passing names. Those who have given their names need not, however, feel impatient at the delay. They should devote the interval to carrying out the Constructive Programme. If any Satyagrahi who has enrolled himself on the original basis feels unable to accept the new terms he is free to withdraw his name and there will be no disgrace attached to any such withdrawal. He may continue to render whatever other services he can to the country. He remains Congressman as before.
5. Enrolled Satyagrahis cannot contest elections to the local bodies. Those who have put in their candidature for such elections before being enlisted as Satyagrahis, have either to withdraw from the election or from the election, or from offering Satyagraha. As Satyagrahis they cannot be in both the places.
6. No released Satyagrahi, who is a member of a Local Board, unless specially exempted by Mahatma Gandhi, can attend its meeting. If he does, his name will be expunged from the list of Satyagrahis.
7. Unarrested Satyagrahis who are touring in their districts and those whose names have been approved are not to attend meetings of local bodies.
8. During the monsoons, a Satyagrahi may, if necessary, establish himself in a village, not his own, or group of villages, and carry on Satyagraha and constructive activities.
9. Unarrested Satyagrahis who either touring in their districts or marching in the direction of Delhi, should send fortnightly reports of their work to the provincial office. The Provincial Congress Committee in turn will send a consolidated report of their work to the All India Congress Committee office at stated intervals, fortnightly or monthly.
10. Complaints have been received about the intemperance of language of certain Satyagrahis. Satyagrahis should know that vituperation and abuse are against both the spirit and letter of Satyagraha and must, therefore, be invariably avoided.

Note that the list of items under the Constructive Programme was now further expanded. Propagation of National Language and Cultivation of love for one's own language were included as part of the Constructive Programme, even as several other subjects such as adult education and work for sanitation and hygiene were made part of the Constructive Programme along with Khadi, prohibition and Hindu-Muslim Unity. Thus, the original complexion of the Constructive Programme was now changed into a broader basis. In fact, the Constructive Programme would now include any nation building rural activity.

The most interesting thing for us to note was the formal recognition that love for one's own language was recognized to be a Constructive Activity and not an activity aimed at disunity. The love for one's own language was clubbed with the interest in learning and propagation of Hindustani as the lingua franca. This provision was in the nature of according recognition to the growing assertion of major linguistic groups of their own identity even as the Congress had already recognized the linguistic rights of the minorities.

In October and November 1941, the Government of India started not arresting the Satyagrahis and those who were arrested and jailed earlier were being released in batches. Gandhi, while acknowledging in his statement dated the December 5, 1941 that 'the conduct of the campaign has been rendered difficult by the Govt. action in discharging Civil disobedience prisoners,' had strongly urged the pursuance of the Constructive Programme.

Prosecution of Constructive Programme means constructing structure of Swaraj. The whole theme of corporate non-violence, as I have conceived it, falls to pieces if there is no living faith in the Constructive Programme. To my mind, Swaraj, based on non-violence is fulfillment of Constructive programme; hence, whether the authorities jail us or not we must pursue the Constructive programme.

The Working Committee of the Indian National Congress which met at Wardha did not, however, explicitly state anything about the continuation of the Constructive programme as the means to attain Complete Independence. The resolution passed by it contained an appreciatin of Ghandhi's leadership and assured him 'that the policy of non-violence adopted under his guidance for the attainment of Swaraj, and which has proved so successful in leading to mass awakening and will be adhered to by the Congress. The Working Committee further assures him that it would like to extend its scope as far as possible even in a free India. The Committee hopes that Congressmen will tender him full assistance in the prosecution of his mission including the offering of Civil Disobedience.'

The Working Committee, instead of explicitly asking for the continuation of the Constructive Programme as a political strategy to attain Complete Independence, concluded that 'Congress can help and serve people in the difficult times ahead (war times) only if its organization is strong and disciplined and Congressmen individually and Congress Committees are able to command confidence in their respective localities. Congress Committees and Congressmen should, therefore, address themselves immediately to the task of strengthening organization and reviving and maintaining contacts with people in villages and towns. Every village should as far as possible, receive the message of Congress and be prepared to face such difficulties as might arise'.

Note that from an emphasis on the implementation of the Constructive Programme which included a strong component of Indian language use, we now reached a stage of Congressmen preparing themselves to face the war-situation, now knocking at Indian doors. Non-violence and consequent implementation of the Constructive Programme as demanded by Gandhi was agreed and sworn to, but the pragmatists within the Congress, who were also idealists in their own right, had carried the day with them. This consequence should also be seen as a further step toward removing the language policy purely from a Constructive Programme base to a political base.


On January 13, 1942, the Working Committee issued instructions to Congressmen on the celebration of the Independence Day on 26 January. The Committee amended the Independence Day Pledge by deleting from the pledge portions relating to the Individual Civil Disobedience Movement:

We believe that it is an inalienable right of the Indian people as of any other people to have freedom and enjoy the fruits of their toil and have necessities of life so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any Government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it. The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but also has based itself on the exploitation of the masses and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence.
We recognize that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence. India has gained strength and self-reliance and marched a long way to Swaraj following peaceful and legitimate methods and it is by adhering to these methods that our country will attain independence.
We pledge ourselves anew to independence of India and solemnly resolve to carry out non-violently the struggle for freedom till Purna Swaraj is attained.
We believe that non-violent action in general and preparation for non-violent direct action in particular require successful working of the Constructive Programme of Khadi, communal harmony and removal of untouchability. We shall seek every opportunity of spreading goodwill among fellowmen without distinction of caste or creed. We shall endeavour to raise from ignorance and poverty those who have been neglected and to advance in every way the interests of those who are considered to be backward and suppressed. We know that though we are out to destroy imperialistic system, we have no quarrel with Englishmen whether officials or non-officials. We know that the distinction between caste Hindus and Harijans must be abolished and Hindus have to forget these distinctions in their daily conduct. Though our religious faith may be different, in our mutual relations we will act as children of mother India, bound by common nationality and common political economic interest.
Charkha and Khadi are integral parts of our Constructive Programme for the resuscitation of seven hundred thousand villages of India and for the removal of the grinding poverty of the masses. We shall, therefore, spin regularly and use for our personal requirements nothing but Khadi and so far as possible products of village handicrafts only and endeavor to make others do likewise. We pledge ourselves to the disciplined observance of Congress principles and policies and to keep in readiness to respond to the call of the Congress whenever it may come for carrying on the struggle for the independence of India.

Note that in this Pledge, Khadi becomes the symbol, perhaps as a sop to Gandhi's insistence on Charkha. Language did not find a place. In fact, the Constructive Programme was to be reviewed only as an elastic affair.


The Prime Minister of Great Britain made a statement in the House of Commons on March 11, 1942 which more or less reiterated Britain's earlier position only: '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. 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 other Dominions under a Constitution to be framed by Indians, by agreement among themselves and acceptable to the main elements in the Indian National life. This was, of course, subject to the fulfillment 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 lesser matter arising out of our long association with the fortunes of the Indian sub-continent.'

Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the War Cabinet, who was the Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons, was on a mission to work out the details and modalities, following the above announcement of the British Prime Minister. Sir Stafford Cripps' Proposal was published on the 30th April 1942. It contained proposals for the accord of Dominion Status to India; it gave also a right to secede from the Common wealth. It provided for a Constituent Assembly for India; however there was also a provision that could be exercised by any Province if it so decided which would enable it to secede from the Indian Union itself. The Princes were not only left free to join or not to join the Indian Union but were also given the sole right to send representatives to the Constituent Assembly. Also the Defence forces would continue to be commanded by the Viceroy. The proposals were rejected by all shades of opinions and parties in India:

The Congress rejected the Cripps offer in the main because there was no responsibility of the Executive to the legislature. The freedom of a province to cut out of the Union, the exclusion of the States' people from the picture and the virtual reservation of Defence and War, were doubtless additional material factors but they relatively occupied a secondary place. The Muslim League which was ready to accept if the Congress accepted, rejected the offer because the freedom of a province to cut out of the Union as embodied in the offer was neither clear not full to the point of conceding the segmentation of India as desired by it in the demand of Pakistan. The Hindu Mahasabha rejected the Officer because of the principle of dismemberment of Hindustan even in a rudimentary form. The Sikhs opposed it tooth and nail because their own community would be distributed over two Unions and they claimed the right to form autonomous unit themselves. To the Depressed Classes there were not, they said, adequate safeguards. The Indian Christians and the Labour leaders spoke in the tone and terms of the Congress. The Radical Democratic Party alone accepted the offer. The states would not have it because whether they joined the Indian Union or not, the new situation would involve a revision of their Treaty Rights. The States people did not figure in the picture at all and therefore would not look at it (Sitaramayya 1947: 332).

Gandhi declared in April 1942 that 'whatever the consequences, therefore, to India, her real safety, and Britain's too, lies in the British orderly and timely withdrawal from India'. Even earlier he had demanded, 'Why do no British statesmen admit that it is after all a domestic quarrel? [Gandhi was referring to the differences between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.] Let them withdraw from India and I promise that the Congress and the League and all other parties will find it to their interest to come together.'


The Working Committee met in July 1942 at Wardha and made an earnest appeal to the British Government to accept the proposal to quit India. The A.I.C.C. met in Bombay on August 7 and 8, 1942 and repeated the demand for the withdrawal of the British Power from India.

It resolved that on the declaration of India's independence, a Provisional Government would be formed and Free India would become an ally of the United Nations, sharing with them in the trials and tribulations of the joint enterprise of the struggle for freedom. The Provisional Government would be a composite government, representative of all important sections of the people of India. The Provisional Government would evolve a scheme for a Constituent Assembly to prepare a constitution for the Government of India acceptable to all sections of the people.

This constitution, according to the Congress view, would be a federal one, with the largest measure of autonomy for the Federating Units, and with the residuary powers resting in these Units. The A.I.C.C. resolved also that since the future peace, security and ordered progress of the world demanded a World Federation of free nations, it was no longer justified in holding the nation back from endeavoring to assert its will against an imperialist and authoritarian government which dominates over it and prevented it from functioning in its own interest and in the interest of humanity. The Committee resolved to start a mass struggle on non-violent lines to demand that the British quit Indian forthwith.


Several interesting points need to be noted here in comparison to the later position of the Congress. Later on, once it became clear that India will be partitioned, ideas as regards federal set up, which were agreed to by the Congress in order to avert the vivisection of India, changed dramatically. The concept of Nationhood and the constituents that were assumed to be forming part of a Nation changed dramatically, and Congressmen veered around to the position that the Central Government should have the residuary powers, once the partition of India was effected. However, in order to avoid the partition of India, the Indian National Congress than was willing to accept a Provisional Government at the Centre and a Constituent Assembly leading to a Federal India and a World Federation. (Note the romanticism/idealism of the Congress leadership for one World Government.)

Note also that if, as envisaged at that time, constituting units would retain the residuary powers, the nation would have established a language policy of a different sort than the one we finally arrived at in our current Constitution of India. This was not to suggest, however, that the Congress would have given up its policy of Hindustani being the lingua franca at the Centre, but, all the same, at least one or two of the federating units such as the presidencies of Bengal and Madras might have put up a greater effort to include the use of their languages as well in the administration of the Centre, thus necessitating a change in the language policy of the Indian National Congress.

The resolution as passed by the AICC had added three elements to the original suggestion made by the Working Committee-(i) the primary functions of the Provisional Government were to defend India and resist aggression with all the armed as well as the non-violent forces at its command (a compromise between the positions of Gandhiites and non-Gandhites in the Indian National Congress), (ii) the Federal set up with the largest measure of Autonomy for the Federating Units and with the residuary powers resting in these Units (a compromise suggested to the All India Muslim League which had by then taken a strong position in favor of creating Pakistan as an independent country outside India), and (iii) the freedom of India should be the symbol of and prelude to the freedom of Burma, Malaya, Indo-China, Dutch Indies, Iran and Iraq, which must not be placed under the rule or control of any other colonial power (revealing the influence of emerging Congress leadership under Jawaharlal Nehru and Socialists who saw Indian freedom only in the perspective of freedom of all the nations). Thus the stage was set for the commencement of the Quit India Movement.


Ghandhi asked the country to follow all the thirteen points contained in the Constructive Programme and added that (i) the Press should discharge its obligation and duties freely and fearlessly; (ii) the Princes should rise to the occasion. They should read the signs of the times and part the responsibility of the administration to their subjects and inform the Political Department accordingly. (iii) Let the struggle be open. There should be no underground activity. (iv) The students and professors should imbibe the spirit of Freedom. They should stand by the Congress. Should the emergency arise, they should abandon their occupation and careers, and (v) there is no need for the Government servants immediately to resign but they should write to the Government to say that they were with the Congress.

Note that Gandhi, even in the heightened and charged atmosphere of the Second World War arriving in India and intense political agitation, was not prepared to give up the stress on the Constructive Programme.


The Constructive Programme, as it stood then, had 13 items under it and two of these 13 items related directly to the selection of language and language use for culture, profession and education. Thus, for Gandhi, language always had an important role not only in non-political construction of the country but also in the intense political agitations against the British.

Language, in fact, had a role to play in most of the 13 items in the Constructive programme: in Hindu-Muslim or Communal Unity it was the development of Hindustani as the Rashtrabhasha which was held to be an essential item to preserve the culture and script of the Muslims; under New or Basic Education, mother tongue medium up to seven years of schooling was also guaranteed by the Indian National Congress; Adult Education was to be imparted in the mother tongue; Propagation of Hindustani was a direct policy on language use whereas emphasis on Cultivating Love of One's Own Language was a guarantee given to major linguistic groups as well as linguistic minorities. Propagation of all other items except perhaps the working for economic equality had something or the other to do with the use of Indian languages. Thus, in a way, both explicitly and implicitly, the Constructive Programme centering around the 13 items, had something to do with choice and use of Indian languages, at the time of the commencement of the Quit India Movement.


Gandhi was arrested and this became the signal for the intensification of the Quit India Movement. In the midst of the event, the Viceroy spoke in December 1942, elucidating once again the British refrain of safe guarding the interests of the minorities in India. The speech, when now read with the hindsight of history, was, indeed, ominous, even as it had some lessons for the culture and language policy of free India.

I have spoken often to you in my earlier addresses of the importance of unity in this country. Geographically, India, for practical purposes, is one. I would judge it to be important as it ever was in the past, nay more important, that we should seek to conserve that unity in so far as it might be built up consistently with full justice for the rights and the legitimate claims of the minorities, whether those minorities be great or small. That would be a desirable aim no one gentleman can doubt who tests that pro-position in terms of foreign policy, of tariff policy, of defence policy, of industrial development. Can India speak with the Authority that she is entitled to claim, can she play her part effectively at international discussions, at discussions with the other parts of the Empire if she is to speak with two voices? Indian unity, subject as I have said to full and sufficient provision for the minorities, accepted as such by those minorities, is of great and real importance if India is to carry the weight, which she ought to carry in the counsels of the Empire and of the world. But these are hard practical issues that have got to be faced before any true solution can be found. Political opinion in all responsible quarters must discover a middle road along which all men of good will may march. That indeed is the difficult but essential task which must be performed if India is to achieve the great position we all desire for her. The policy of H. M.'s Government in respect of the future status of India is clear beyond any question. But the achievement of the particular status carries with it heavy obligations. In the modern world, whether we like it or not, a readiness to accept heavy financial burdens, to accept liability for defence on whatever scale one's geographical position demands, at whatever cost, all those are essential. So many today found their hopes and their plans on the confident assurance that the post-war world will be a safe world. I sincerely hope that it will be so. But if that end is to be achieved, and maintained, constant vigilance, constant effort, constant fore thought, will be needed. And all that is relevant to what I have just said about the unity of India. A divided people cannot carry the weight that it ought to carry or make its way in the world with the same confident expectation of success.
But equally, mere artificial unity, without genuine agreement between the component parts may well be a danger rather than an advantage. For fissures that reveal themselves under pressure from outside are more dangerous than fissures the existence of which is well-known and can be provided against. It is only by understanding between party and party, between community and community, understanding that begets trust and confidence, that is based on a liberal acceptance by the parties to it of the historic traditions, the legitimate claims of the other to a place in the scheme of things, that there comes that truly welded result which is able to stand shocks from whatever corner of the compass. Is not the result worth asking for? Is it not worth some sacrifice, if some sacrifice must be its price? (Lord Linlithgow, in his address on 17 December 1942 to the Federation of Chamber of Commerce)

Note that although at that time the Viceroy's speech was considered to be a homily characterized by an absence of coordination between word and deed, some of the desires/perceptions of post-independence Indian leadership were fully reflected in it. Accommodation of minorities, both religious and linguistic, had become the hall mark of modern post independence India.


In its annual session held in Madras in 1941, the All India Muslim League demanded Pakistan, or a separate autonomous Union of Muslim majority provinces as an integral territory having nothing to do with the Indian Union beyond the obligations and rights as between two independent but neighborly countries. The Working Committee of the All India Muslilm League which met on August 22, 1942 expressed its willingness to negotiate with other parties for the formation of a provisional government - on a condition: the British should 'guarantee to the Muslim the right of self determination and assure them, without delay, that they would abide by the verdict of a plebiscite of the Muslims in favor of Pakistan.' It expressed its willingness to negotiate with any party for the setting up of a provisional government based only on the acceptance of their demand for a separate Pakistan.


When this struggle revolved around future constitutional set up, a proposal was adumbrated in Aligarh on August 25th 1942 by Sir Firoze Khan Noon, Defence member of the Central Executive Council, a Muslim Leaguer, to divide India into five dominions:

I should like British India to be divided into five dominions: (i) Bengal and Assam, (2) C.P., U.P., and Bihar, (3) Madras (Dravidian), (4) Bombay (Maharatha) and (5) Punjab, Baluchistan, Sind and North-West Frontier. These five dominions could be completely independent like New Zealand with her million and half men and Australia and South Africa with their seven or eight million men each. But there are certain matters for which a central authority and a united effort on the part of all dominions is essential. These are, in my opinion, Defence, Customs, Foreign-relations and Currency. For the administration of these four subjects, only I would recommend the creation of a central authority which will consist of delegates who will hold office so long as the appointing authority held office in their respective dominions, but with this great reservation that if any time any dominion were dissatisfied with the working of the central authority that dominion shall have the power to secede, but that there shall also be a provision for such a seceding dominion to come back to the center when the points of differences were removed. If you tell a State that once you come into federation you will never be able to get out of it, the authorities of that State will do their utmost to keep out of that federation, but if you give this freedom of secession, you may induce them to come in and have a trial ...

Note that demands for Pakistan and demands for division of India into several units on one ground or the other were all made taking into consideration the geographic continuity, presumed culture unity, religious diversity and, in general, the presumed similarity in the ethos, but not based on language specificity. The Noon proposal presented above is a good example of the arguments in favor of the division of India based on perceived identity in culture ethos.


In February 1944, Mr. M. A. Jinnah once again reiterated his position and plea for immediate creation of Pakistan as a sovereign state based on religion:
If the British Government is sincere in its desire for peace in India it should now frame a new constitution dividing India into two sovereign nations Pakistan for Muslims, representing one quarter of the country, and Hindustan for Hindus, who would have three - quarters of All-India. ... I don't agree that India would be any safer under a forced unity. In fact she might be more vulnerable because Hindus and Muslims will never be reconciled with each other. Any agreement between Muslims and Hindus to work together as a single unit or even in a Federation is an impossibility. ... there would be under the new Constitution a transitional period for settlement and adjustment during which time British authority, so far as armed forces and foreign affairs, would remain paramount: The length of the transitional period would depend on the speed with which the two peoples and Great Britain adjusted themselves to the new constitution' (Janab M. A. Jinnah in his interview to the News Chronicle, London, quoted in Sitaramahyya 1947).


Gandhi, who was arrested on the 9th August 1942, was released on the 6th May, 1944. The Congress said that it had no faith in Britain's capacity to defend India even as she could not defend Burma, Malaya and Singapore by herself and without the aid of the people of the country. To get such cooperation and aid from the people of India, Congress declared, the country should be made free immediately.

After release from prison, Gandhi gave an interview to the News Chronicle, London, in which he stated explicitly that he could do nothing without consulting the Congress Working Committee (which the Government of India did not agree to). He further said that he had no intention of offering Civil Disobedience, even as there was no intention of withdrawing the call for Quit India resolution of August 8, 1942. He would be satisfied at that moment in 1944 with a National Government in full control of Civil administration and that he would advise Congress participation in a National Government, if formed. Also after independence was assured, he would probably cease to function as adviser to the Congress.

Even in the midst of such intense political atmosphere, and during this interview, which, in fact, performed the function of revealing the mind of Gandhi in public for both the Indian people and the Government of India after his jail term for nearly two years, Gandhi swore by the Constructive Programme and he recounted the items of that programme. Such was Gandhi's commitment to the Constructive programme in which language played a crucial role. Gandhi used every opportunity to emphasize that the thirteen points of his Constructive Programme should be pursued.


On April 8, 1944, Rajagopalachari, a great leader from the South, proposed a scheme of compromise, apparently with the approval of Gandhi, which suggested:

1. Subject to the terms set out below as regards the construction for a free India, the Muslim League endorses the Indian demand for Independence and will cooperate with the Congress in the formation of a Provisional Interim Government for the transitional period.
2. After the termination of the war, a commission shall be appointed for demarcating contiguous districts in the north-west and east of India wherein the Muslim population is in absolute majority. In the areas thus demarcated a plebiscite of all the inhabitants, held on the basis of adult franchise or other practicable franchise, shall ultimately decide the issue of separation from Hindustan. If the majority decides in favor of the formation of a Sovereign State separate from Hindustan, such a decision shall be given effect to without prejudice to the right of the districts on the border to choose to join either state.
3. It will be open to all parties to advocate their points of view before the plebiscite is held.
4. In the event of separation, a mutual agreement shall be entered for safeguarding defence, commerce and communication and other essential purpose.
5. Any transfer of population shall only be on an absolutely voluntary basis.
6. These terms shall be binding only in case of transfer by Britain of full power and responsibility for the governance of India.


There had been some apparent inconsistencies among the leaders and organizations, not excluding even the leaders of All India Muslim League, as regards the creation of Pakistan. When explaining whether advocacy of his proposals did not run counter to his earlier statements against partition and vivisection of India, Gandhi explained that in the first place his proposals should be examined on their merits apart from his own inconsistencies and, in the second, his proposals were not inconsistent with what he had said. He then distinguished between the division of India into Pakistan and Hindustan and the vivisection of India by a permanent dismemberment of the States from the Indian Union - as was possible under Cripps' proposals. In other words, he stated that an Independent India could not be an Indian Union divested of the Indian States.

All India Muslim League earlier had passed a resolution in its meeting at Lahore in June 1940 that 'no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims, unless it is designed on the following basis principles, viz., that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute "Independent States" in which the Constituent Units shall be autonomous and sovereign."

The Congress Working Committee meeting at Delhi in April 1942 passed a resolution that 'the Congress has been wedded to Indian freedom and unity and any break in that unity, especially in the modern world when people's minds inevitably think in terms of even larger federations, would be injurious to all concerned and exceedingly painful to contemplate. Nevertheless the Committee cannot think in terms of compelling the people in any territorial unit to remain in an Indian Union against their declared and established will. Each territorial unit should have the fullest possible autonomy within the Union.'

Form the above quotations it is evident that the parties were changing their positions, for various reasons. The Indian National Congress was under compulsion to make a compromise with the Muslim League; the latter was changing its position from time to time realizing that the British were indeed in a way supporting its position. Gandhi and the Indian National Congress did not have much scope to stand firmly on their original position against the partition/vivisection of India.


The growing insistence of the Muslim leadership, which finally stood firm on its assumed two-nation theory, forced the leadership of the Indian National Congress to seek some accommodation of the Muslim League even as it would very much like to preserve the integrity of India.

The resolution of the Working Committee which met in Delhi in April 1942, quoted above, in a way conceded the division of India into more than one political State and in a way gave 'the go-by to the unity and integrity of India' as Sitaramayya (1947:635) puts it.

The offer of Sir Stafford Cripps was already there when the Working Committee resolved in April 1942 as above: 'His Majesty's Government undertake to accept and implement forthwith the Constitution so framed subject only to the right of any province of British India that is not prepared to accept the new constitution to retain its present constitutional provision, provision being made for its subsequent accession if it so decides. With such non-acceding provinces, should they so desire, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to agree upon a new constitution giving them the same full status as the Indian Union and arrived at by a procedure analogous to that here laid down.'

The Indian National Congress rejected the proposal, but in its resolution of April 1942, however, conceded the rights of constituent states to secede saying that nevertheless the Committee cannot think in terms of compelling the people in any territorial unit to remain in an Indian Union against their declared and established will. The A.I.C.C. was of the opinion that any proposal to disintegrate Indian by giving liberty to any component State or territorial Unit to secede from the Indian Union or Federation would be highly detrimental to the best interests of the people of different States and provinces and the country as a whole, and "the Congress therefore cannot agree to any such proposals."

In actual terms, every party in the Indian drama of independence was fast changing and updating its position, at times in conflicting postures, based on the pressures of the times. Even the ruling British were no exception to this - from their self-government in installments position to total autonomy but for defence, finance and foreign affairs, and from which they were readying themselves to a posture of reluctance to divide the country into several autonomous or free constituent units.

In June 1945, Mr. Amery, the Secretary of State for Indian reiterated the British position:

More than three years ago, we made clear that we wish India to enjoy after the war complete independence within the British Common wealth or even without it, if she so decided, on condition that the main elements in India's national life should first agree upon India's future constitution. … if, however, no complete or logical answer to the problem (if the transfer of power without recognized and generally acceptable successors to take over) is possible today, there is no reason for not seeking some way out of the deadlock which Indians and the British alike wish to see eased, even if it cannot be completely resolved. Clearly we must try again.

The Members of the Working Committee were released on the 16th June, 1945, from Ahmednagar Fort. The Indian National Congress held its session in Meerut, in November 1945. Acharya J. B. Kripalani was the President. He delivered his Presidential inaugural address in Hindi and his concluding address in English.

The Congress declared that it stood for an Independent Sovereign Republic to signify that India's future lay wholly outside the British Empire. The Congress declared emphatically that it considered the struggle for freedom in the Princely States an essential part of the larger struggle in India. It disapproved of any schemes of merger of federation among States without reference to and without the approval of the people concerned.

The British elections were declared and the Labor Party came into power on the 10th July, 1945. Lord Pethick-Lawence took over as Secretary of State for India. The King's speech on the occasion of the opening of the new British Parliament had a paragraph on India:

In accordance with the promises already made to my Indian peoples, my Government will do their utmost to promote in conjuction with the leaders of Indian opinion, every realization of full self-government in India.

Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, announced in September 1945, that 'it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to convene as soon as possible a Constitution making Body, and as a preliminary step they have authorized me to undertake, immediately after the elections, discussions with representatives of Legislative Assemblies in the Provinces, to ascertain whether the proposals contained in the 1942 Declaration are acceptable or whether some alternative or modified scheme is preferable.' He said that he would also ascertain the views of Indian Princely States about their participation in the Constitution-Making Body.

While these statements were not adequate, all the same, the AICC meeting in Bombay in September 1945 formed a committee for the ensuing elections. The A.I.C.C. concluded its deliberations with support to the Constructive Programme. Note that even in the midst of intense political activity and political suspense, the Indian National Congress made it a point (or rather observed it as a ritual?) that its member adhere to the success of the Constructive Programme, of which Indian language use played a crucial function and formed a major part.

Note that none of the three parties involved in the drama for Indian independence had time to devote to language issues. For one thing, in the intense political drama language issues automatically receded to the background as something which had already been settled and/or which had to be handled after obtaining independence.


The Congress Manifesto issued for the elections announced in 1945 was significant in many respects. In place of the Constructive Programme, of which choice and use of an Indian language as lingua franca formed a major part, Constitutional rights with regards to language, culture, script and religion were offered. There was no mention of the role of lingua franca, assuming perhaps that lingua franca would be taken up based on the earlier declarations regarding the Constructive Programme. The Manifesto, among other things, included the following:

For sixty years the National Congress has laboured for the freedom of India. During this long span of years, its history has been the history of the Indian people, straining at the leash that has held them in bondage, every trying to unloose themselves from it. ... The career of the Congress has been one of both constructive effort for the good of the people and the unceasing struggle to gain freedom. The Congress has stood for equal rights and opportunities for every citizen of India, man or woman. It has stood for the unity of all communities and religious groups and for tolerance and goodwill between them. It has stood for full opportunities for the people as a whole to grow and develop according to their own wishes and genius; it has also stood for the freedom of each group and territorial area within the nation to develop its own life and culture within the larger framework, and it has stated that for this purpose such territorial areas or provinces should be constituted, as far as possible, on a linguistic and culture basis. (Italics mine.) It has stood for the rights of all those who suffers from social tyranny and injustice and for the removal of them of all barriers to equality. The Congress has envisaged a free democratic state with the fundamental rights and liberties of all its citizens guaranteed in the Constitution. This Constitution, in its view, should be a federal one with autonomy for its constituent units, and its legislative organs elected under universal adult franchise. The Federation of India must be a willing union of its various parts. In order to give the maximum of freedom to the constituent units there may be a minimum list of common and essential federal subjects which will apply to all units, and a further optical list of common subjects which may be accepted by such units as desire to do so.
The Constitution shall provide for fundamental rights, among them the following:
  1. Every citizen of India has the right of free expression of opinion, the right of free association and combination, and the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, for a purpose not opposed to law and morality.
  2. Every citizen shall enjoy freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practice his religion, subject to public order and morality.
  3. The culture, language and script of the minorities and of the different linguistic areas shall be protected. (Italics mine.)
  4. All citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, or sex.
  5. No disability attaches to any citizen by reason of his or her religion, caste or creed or sex, in regard to public employment, office of power or honour, and in the exercise of any trade or calling.
  6. All citizens have equal rights in regard to wells, tanks, roads, schools and places of public resort, maintained out of state or local funds, or dedicated by private persons for the use of the general public.
  7. Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms, in accordance with regulations and reservations made in that behalf.
  8. No person shall be deprived of his liberty, nor shall his dwelling or property be entered, sequestered, or confiscated, save in accordance with law.
  9. The state shall observe neutrality in regard to all religions.
  10. The franchise shall be on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
  11. The state shall provide for free and compulsory basic education. (Italics mine.)
  12. Every citizen is free to move throughout India and to stay and settle in any part thereof, to follow any trade or calling, and to be treated equally with regard to legal prosecution or protection in all parts of India.

The Congress further declared,

The State shall further provide all necessary safeguards for the protection and the development of the backward or suppressed elements in the population, so that they might make rapid progress and take a full and equal part in national life. In particular, the State will help in the development of the people of the tribal areas in a manner most suited to their genius, and in the education and social and economic progress of the scheduled classes.
...Industry and agriculture, the social services and public utilities must be encouraged, modernized and rapidly extended in order to add to the wealth of the country and give it the capacity for self-growth, without dependence on others. But all this must be done with the primary object of benefiting the masses of our people and raising their economic, cultural and spiritual level, removing unemployment, and adding to the dignity of the individual. For this purpose it will be necessary to plan and coordinate social advance in all its many fields, to prevent the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of individuals and groups, to prevent vested interests inimical to society from growing, and to have social control of the mineral resources, means of transport and the principal methods of production and distribution in land, industry and in other departments of national activity, so that free India may develop into a co-operative commonwealth. The State therefore own or control key and basic industries and services, mineral resources, railways, waterways, shipping and other means of public transport, Currency and exchange, banking and insurances, must be regulated in the national interest.
Though poverty is widespread in India, it is essentially a rural problem, caused chiefly by overpressure on land and lack of other wealth-producing occupations. India, under British rule, has been progressively ruralized, many of her avenues of work and employment closed, and a vast mass of the population thrown on the land, which has undergone continuous fragmentation, till a very large number of hoardings have become uneconomic ... Planning must lead to maximum employment, indeed to the employment of every able-bodied person. Landless labourers should have opportunities of work offered to them and be absorbed in agriculture or industry.
... Industry should not be concentrated in particular provinces, so as to give a balanced economy to each province, and it should be decentralized, as far as this is possible without sacrifice or efficiency…. Adequate arrangements should be made for the education of the masses with a view to raising them intellectually, economically, culturally and morally, and to fit them for the new forms of work and services which will open out before them………. Science, in its innumerable fields of activity, has played an every-increasing part in influencing and moulding human life and will do so even in greater measure in the future. Industrial, agricultural and cultural advance, as well as national defence, depend upon it. Scientific research is therefore a basic and essential activity of the State and should be organized and encouraged on the widest scale ...
In international affairs the Congress stands for the establishment of a world federation of free nations. Till such time as such a federation takes shape, India must develop friendly relations with all nations and particularly with her neighbours. In the Far East, in South-East Asia and in Western Asia, India has had trade and cultural relations for thousands of years and it is inevitable that with freedom she should renew and develop these relations ... She will also champion the freedom of all other subject nations and peoples for only on the basis of this freedom and the elimination of imperialism everywhere can world peace be established ... In these elections, petty issues do not count, nor do individuals, nor sectarian cries - only one thing counts : the freedom and will flow to our motherland, from which all other freedoms will flow to our people. (Italics mine). Many a time the people of India have taken the pledge of independence; that pledge has yet to be redeemed, and the well-beloved cause for which it stands and which has summoned us so often, still beckons to us. The time is coming when we shall redeem it in full. This election is a small test for us, a preparation for the greater things to come. Let all those who care and long for freedom and the independence of India meet this test with strength and confidence and march together to the free India of our dreams.

Note that the Congress Manifesto did not make any reference to the Constructive Programme as such, although the items of the Constructive Programme have been incorporated in several ways in the Manifesto. Thus, in one sense, the Manifesto makes a greater provision for the linguistic, religious and culture minorities including the tribals.

In another sense, the party's earlier insistence on the learning and adoption of Hindustani was conspicuous by its absence. Also absent was the role and function of Indian languages as media of instruction in the various levels of education. With the country facing division/vivisection, the Indian National Congress emphasized more on the cohesive and unifying factors of culture, religion, script and language. Also we should note that this method of keeping several things under one category of items for programmatic action, and several other things under still another category of items for future consideration has been a practice with the Indian National Congress all along. For example, the list of items in the Constructive Programme had been changing and/or elaborated from time to time with emphasis on certain item at one time and on certain other items at another time. Likewise, the items in the Constructive Programme could be extended, or even a new list prepared and propagated. However it must be said that the Indian National Congress never failed to vouchsafe for what it had resolved in the meetings of the Working Committee and / or the A.I. C.C. It was only the relative emphasis that differed from one exigency to another, which gave an impression, not only of the on-going conflicts within the Congress, but also of a drift from and of lip-service to the items listed. It was largely a tendency to have a compromise between the Gandhi-items, Socialists and even Communists, apart from linguistic, religious and caste-based interest groups that had led to this state of affairs in the recorded proceedings of the Indian National Congress.


In early 1946, Lord Pethic-Lawrence, the Secretary of State of India, made an announcement in the British parliament (House of Lords):

The House will recall that on 19th September, 1945, on his return to Indian after discussions with the British Government, the Viceroy made a statement of policy in the course of which the outlined the positive steps to be taken immediately after the Central and Provincial elections to promote, in conjunction with leaders of Indian Opinion, early realization of full self-Government in India.
These steps include : first, preparatory discussions with elected representatives of British India and with Indian states in order to secure the widest measure of agreement as to the method of framing a constitution.
Second, the setting up of a Constitution-Making Body and third, the bringing into being of an Executive Council having the support of the main Indian parties.
Elections at the Centre were held at the end of last year and in some of the Provinces they are also over, and responsible Governments are in the process of formation.

In other Provinces, polling dates are spread over the next few weeks. With the approach of the end of the electoral campaign, the British Government have been considering the most fruitful method of giving effect to the programme to which I have referred.

In view of the paramount importance not to India and to the British Commonwealth but to the peace of the world of the successful outcome of the discussions with leaders of Indian opinion, the British Government have decided, with the approval of His Majesty the Kind, to send out to India a special mission of Cabinet Ministers, consisting of the Secretary of State for India (Lord Pethick-Lawrence), the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps) and the First Lord of Admiralty (Mr. A.V.Alexander), to act in association with the Viceroy in this matter.
This decision has the full concurrence of Lord Wavell.

The Cabinet Mission, headed by Lord Pethic-Lawrence, arrived in India on 23rd March, 1946, and stayed in India for about three months. The Cabinet Mission began its work with a series of interviews with the leaders of communal and political parties. By 27th April, 1946, Lord Pethic-Lawrence wrote a letter to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the President of the Indian National Congress, giving the Cabinet Mission's proposals as follows:

A Union Government dealing with the following subjects: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Communications.
There shall be two groups of Provinces, the one of the predominantly Hindu Provinces and the other of the predominantly Muslim Provinces, dealing with all other subjects dealt with in common. The Provincial Governments will deal with all other subjects and will have all the residuary sovereign rights.
It is contemplated that the Indian States will take their appropriate place in this structure on terms to be negotiated with them.
I would point out that we do not think it either necessary or desirable further to elaborate these principles al all other matters could be dealt with in the course of the negotiations.

Lord Pethic-Lawrence in his letter of 27th April, 1946 stated that he had been asked to invite the Muslim League to send four negotiators to meet the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy together with a similar number from the Congress Working Committee with a view to discussing the possibility of agreement on the scheme, which we have quoted above.

The President of the Indian National Congress, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, wrote back in his letter of 28th April, 1946 assuring the Secretary of State for India and Leader of the Cabinet Mission, Lord Pethic-Lawrence, that the Congress had always been willing to discuss fully any matters concerning the future of India with the representatives of the Muslim League or any other organization, but desired some amplification and elucidation of the "fundamental principles" given in Lord Peghic-Lawrence's letter:

As you are aware, we have envisaged a Federal Union of autonomous units, Such a Federal Union must of necessity deal with certain essential subjects of which defence and its allied subjects are the most important. It must be organic and must have both an executive and legislative machinery as well as the finance relating to these subjects and the power to raise revenues for these purposes in its own right. Without these functions and powers it would be weak and disjointed and defence and progress in general would suffer. Thus among the common subjects in addition to Foreign Affairs, Defence and Communications there should be Currency, Customs, Tariffs and such other subjects as may be found on close scrutiny to be intimately allied to them.
Your reference to two groups of provinces, the one of the predominantly Hindu Provinces and the other of the predominantly Muslim Provinces, is not clear. The only predominantly Muslim Provinces are the North West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchisten. Bengal and Punjab have a bare Muslim majority. We consider it wrong to form groups of Provinces under the Federal Union and more so on religious or communal basis. It also appears that you leave no choice to a Province in the matter of joining or not joining a group. It is by no means certain that a Province as constituted would be wholly wrong to compel a Province to function against its own wish. While we agree to the Provinces having full powers in regard to all remaining subjects as well as the residuary powers, we have also stated that it should be open to any Province to exercise its option to have more subjects with the Federal Union. Any sub federation within the Federal Union would weaken the Federal Centre and would be otherwise wrong. We do not, therefore, favour any such development.
Regarding the Indian States we should like to make it clear that we can consider it essential that they should be parts of the Federal Union in regard to the Common subjects mentioned above. The manner of their coming into the Union can be considered fully later.
You have referred to certain "fundamental principles" but there is no mention of the basis issue before us, that is, Indian Independence and the consequent withdrawal of the British army from India It is only on this basis that we can discuss the future of India, or any interim arrangement.

Mr. M.A. Jinnah, President of the All India Muslim League reiterated the League's position by enclosing a copy of the resolution passed by the All India Muslim League Legislators' Convention in April 1946. This resolution called for constituting a sovereign independent State comprising Bengal and Assam in the North-East zone and the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan in the North-West zone. It further called for two separate constitution-making bodies to be set up by peoples of Pakistan and Hindustan for the purpose of framing their respective constitutions. It asked for provisions assuring safeguard for all the minorities in Pakistan and Hindustan.

During the Simla talks, in May, 1946, the Cabinet Mission suggested the following points for agreement between the representatives of Congress and the Muslim League :

  1. There shall be an All-India Union Government and Legislature dealing with Foreign Affairs, Defence, Communications, Fundamental Rights (italics ours) and having the necessary powers to obtain for itself the finances it requires for these subjects.
  2. All the remaining powers shall vest in the Provinces.
  3. Groups of Provinces may be formed and such groups may determine the Provincial subjects which they desire to take in common.
  4. The groups may set up their own Executives and Legislatures.
  5. The Legislature of the Union shall be composed of equal proportions from the Hindu-majority Provinces whether or not these or any of them have formed themselves into groups together with representatives of the States.
  6. The Government of the Union shall be constituted in the same proportion as the Legislature.
  7. The constitutions of the Union and the groups (if any) shall contain a provision whereby any province can by a majority vote of its legislative assembly call for a reconstruction of the terms of the constitution after an initial period of 10 years and at 10 yearly intervals thereafter. 'For the purpose of such reconsideration a body shall be constituted on the same basis as the original Constituent Assembly and with the same provisions as to voting and shall have power to amend the construction in any way decided upon.'
  8. The constitution - making machinery to arrive at a constitution on the above basis shall be as follows:
    1. Representatives shall be elected from each Provincial Assembly in proportion to the strengths of the various parties in that assembly on the basis of 1/10 of their numbers.
    2. Representatives shall be invited from the States on the basis of their populations in proportion to the representation from British India.
    3. The Constituent Assembly so formed shall meet at the earliest date possible in New Delhi.
    4. After its preliminary meeting at which the general order of business will be settled it will divide into three sections, one section representing the Hindi-majority Provinces, one section representing the Muslim-majority Provinces and one section representing the States.
    5. The first two sections will then meet separately to decide the Provincial constitutions for their group and if they wish, a group constitution.
    6. When these have been settled it will be open to any Province to decide to opt out of its original group and into the other group or to remain outside any group.
    7. Thereafter the three bodies will meet together to settle the constitution for the Union on the lines agreed in paragraphs 1 to 7 above.
    8. No major points in the Union constitution which effects the communal issue shall be deemed to be passed by the Assembly unless a majority of both the two major communities vote in its favour.
  9. The Viceroy shall forthwith call together the above constitution-making machinery which shall be governed by the provisions stated in paragraph 8 above.


The All India Muslim League did not agree to the proposal that there should be a single constitution-making body; nor did it agree to the method of formation of constitution-making machinery suggested in the Cabinet Mission proposal outlined above. The President of the Indian National Congress stated that the Congress laid stress on the necessity of having a strong and organic Federal Union and that it did not approve of sub-federation of grouping of Provinces in the manner suggested, that the Congress was wholly opposed to parity in executives or legislatures as between wholly unequal groups. However, the Congress did not wish to come in the way of Provinces or other units cooperating together, if they so chose, but it ought to be entirely optional. 'The only reasonable course appears to us is to have a Constituent Assembly with perfect freedom to draw up its constitution, with certain reservations to protect the rights of minorities. Thus we may agree that any major communal issue must be settled by consent to the parties concerned, or, where such consent is not obtained, by arbitration ... If an agreement honourable to both the parties and favourable to the growth of free and united Indian cannot be achieved we would suggest that an interim Provisional Government responsible to the elected members of the Central Assembly to formed at once and the matters of dispute concerning the Constituent Assembly between the Congress and the League referred to an independent tribunal.'

The All India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress, despite serious differences in almost every other sphere, agreed on having a provision for fundamental rights in the Central and Provincial Constitutions. The Muslim League said that in Group and Provincial Constitution fundamental rights and safeguards concerning religion, culture and other matters affecting the different communities will be provided for (Memorandum by the President of the Muslim League embodying minimum demands by way of an offer in accordance with the Conference decision, dated 12th May 1946). The Indian National Congress in its points as basis for agreement between parties, dated 12th May 1946, stated that it was 'entirely agreeable to the inclusion of Fundamental Rights and safeguards concerning religion, culture and like matters in the Constitution'. It suggested further that 'the proper place for this is the All-India Federal Union Constitution. There should be uniformity in regard to these Fundamental Rights all over India.'


Since the differences between the positions taken by the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League could not be bridged and a compromise worked out, a statement was released in New Delhi on 16th May, after the talks in Simla broke down on May 12, 1946, by the Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy. The Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy issued a statement as follows :

Since no agreement has been reached we feel that it is our duty to put forward what we consider are the best arrangements possible to ensure a speedy setting up of the new constitution……. Immediate arrangements should be made whereby Indians may decide the future Constitution to India and an interim Government may be set up at once to carry on the administration of British India until such time as a new Constitution can be brought into being…… (We were not deterred) from examining closely and impartially the possibility of a partition of India; since we were greatly impressed by the very genuine and acute anxiety of the Muslim lest they should find themselves subjected to a perpetual Hindu-majority rule. This feeling has become so strong and widespread amongst the Muslims that it cannot be allayed by mere paper safeguards. If there is to be internal peace in India it must be secured by measures which will assure to the Muslims a control in all matters vital to their culture, religion, and economic or other interests.
We therefore examined in the first instance the question of a separate and fully independent sovereign State of Pakistan as claimed by the Muslim League. Such a Pakistan would comprise two areas; one in the north-west consisting of the Provinces of the Punjab, Sind, North-West Frontier, and British Baluchistan; the other in the north-east consisting of the provinces of Bengal and Assam…….. The argument for the separate Pakistan was based, first, upon the right of the Muslim majority to decide their method of Government of according to their wishes, and secondly, upon the necessity to include substantial areas in which Muslims are in a minority, in order to make Pakistan administratively and economically workable.
The size of the non-Muslim minorities in a Pakistan comprising the whole of the six Provinces enumerated above would be very considerable ... The Muslim minorities in the remainder of British Indian number some 20 million dispersed amongst a total population of 188 millions. These figures show that the setting up of a separate sovereign State of Pakistan on the lines claimed by the Muslim League, would not solve the communal minority problem; nor can we see any justification for including within a sovereign Pakistan those districts of the Punjab and of Bengal and Assam in which the population is pre-dominantly non-Muslim. Every argument that can be used in favour of Pakistan can be used in favour of the exclusion of the non-Muslim areas from Pakistan. This point would particularly affect the position of the Sikhs.
We therefore considered whether a smaller sovereign Pakistan confined to the Muslim majority areas alone might be a possible basis of compromised. Such a Pakistan is regarding by the Muslim League as quite impracticable because it would entail the exclusion from Pakistan of (a) the whole of Ambala and Jullundur Division in the Punjab: (b) the whole of Assam except the District of sylhet; and (c) a large part of Western Bengal, including Calcutta, in which City the Muslims form 23.6 per cent of the population. 'We ourselves are also convinced that any solution which involves a radical partition of the Punjab and Bengal, as this would do, would be contrary to the wishes and interests of a very large proportion of the inhabitants of these Provinces. Bengal and the Punjab each has its own common languages and a long history and a long history and tradition. (Italics ours.) Moreover, any division of the Punjab would of necessity divide the Sikhs leaving substantial bodies of Sikhs on both sides of the boundary. We have therefore been forced to the conclusion that neither a larger nor a smaller sovereign State of Pakistan would provide an acceptable solution for the communal problem.
Apart from the great force of the foregoing arguments there are weighty administrative, economic, and military consideration…….. We are therefore unable to advise the British Government that the power which at present resided in British hands should be handed over to two entirely separate sovereign States ...
We recommend that the constitution should take the following basic form:
  1. There should be a Union of India, embracing both British India and the States, which should deal with the following subjects: Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Communications; and should have the powers necessary to raise the finances required for the above subjects.
  2. The Union should have an Executive and Legislature constituted from British Indian and States Representatives. Any question raising a major communal issue in the Legislature should require for its decision a majority of the representatives present and voting of each of the two major communities as well as a majority of all the members present and voting.
  3. All subjects other than the Union subjects and all residuary powers should vest in the Provinces.
  4. That States will retain all subjects and powers other than those ceded to the Union.
  5. Provinces should be free to form Groups with executives and legislatures, and each group could determine the Provincial subjects to be taken in common
  6. The constitution of the Union and of the Groups should contain a province whereby any Province could, by a majority vote of its legislative Assembly, call for a reconsideration of the terms of a constitution after an initial period of 10 yearly intervals thereafter.


The Indian National Congress responded by saying that it looked upon 'this Constituent Assembly as a sovereign body which can decide as it chooses in regard to any matter before it can give effect to its decision. The only limitation we recognize is that in regard to certain major communal issues the decided should be by a majority of each of the two major communities. ... You contemplate that British troops will remain in India till after the establishment of the Government in accordance with the instrument produced by the Constituent Assembly ... the presence of foreign troops in India will be a negation of India's independence. Indian should be considered to be independent in fact from the moment that the National Provisional Government is established' (Letter of the President of the Indian National Congress, Janab Abul Kalam Azad to Lord Pethic-Lawrence, dated 20th May, 1946). The final resolution passed by the Congress Working Committee on 26th June 1946 stated :

The kind of independence Congress has aimed at is the establishment of a United, democratic Indian Federation, with a central authority, which would command respect from the national of the world, maximum provincial autonomy, and equal rights for all men and women in the country. The limitation of the central authority as contained in the proposals, as well as the system of grouping of provinces, weakened the whole structure and was unfair to some provinces such as the N.W. P. Province and Assam and to some of the minorities, notably the Sikhs.

The Working Committee disapproved of this. They felt however that taking the proposals as a whole, there was sufficient scope for enlarging and strengthening the central authority and for fully ensuring the right of a province to act according to its choice in regard to grouping, and to given protection to such minorities as might otherwise be placed at a disadvantage. Hence it decided that the Congress should join the proposed Constituent Assembly, with a view to framing the constitution of a free, united and democratic India.


The All India Muslim League announced its disapproval :

Once the Constituent Assembly has been summoned and met, there is no provision or power that could prevent any decision from being taken by the Congress with its over whelming majority, which would not be complete for the Assembly to take or which would be ultra vires of it, and however repayment it might be to the letter and the spirit of the scheme, it would rest entirely with the majority to take such decision as they may think proper to suit them; the Congress has already secured by sheer number an overwhelming Hindu Caste majority and they will be in a position to use the Assembly in the manner in which they have already declared, that is, that they will wreck the basis form of the grouping of the provinces and extend the scope, powers and subjects of the Union Centre which is confined strictly to three specific subjects. ... in these circumstances the participation of the Muslims in the proposed constitution making machinery is fraught with danger and the Council, therefore, hereby withdraws its acceptance of the Cabinet Missions proposals.


The Muslim League simultaneously called upon the Muslims to resort to direct action:" ... whereas it has become abundantly clear that the Muslims of India would not rest content with anything less than the immediate establishment of an independent and full sovereign state of Pakistan and would resist any attempt to impose any constitution, long-term or short-term, or setting up of any Interim Government at the Centre without the approval and consent of the Muslim League, the Council of lthe All-India Muslim League is convinced that now the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to direct action to achieve Pakistan and assert their just rights and to vindicate their honour and to get rid of the present slavery under the British and the contemplated future Caste Hindu domination."

The Muslim League fixed August 16, 1946 as the day of "Direct Action". In the words of Janab Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the day had been fixed for the purpose of explaining to the Muslim public all over India the resolutions passed by the Council of the All India Muslim League on July 19 at Bombay and for the purpose of resorting to "Direct Action." In Sylhet and Calcutta, Direct Action ended in bloodshed.

Amidst the charged atmosphere, the Interim Government was formed on 2nd September, 1946. At first, the Muslim League refused to join the Interim Government, but later on joined it and declared, however, that it would not join the Constituent Assembly and that it adhered to the two nation theory. Further its representative leader in the Interim Government declared that the Government would be run on the basis of Cabinet responsibility resting with all the members as a single whole.


Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. The Congress won all but 7 of the 210 General seats and the League all but 5 of the 78 Muslim seats. The Interim Government was formed on September 2, 1946 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru. In the beginning the League stayed out of it but ultimately on October 26, 1946 the League Members took their seats on it. League's mode of operation made it impossible for the Interim Government to function effectively. Lord Pethic-Lawrence wrote, 'there were only three possible courses that events might take. The first was that the British would decide to stay on in India and resume their dominance, by force if necessary. The second was partition. The third was civil war.' There was not much of a choice for Indian Nationalists, and the Indian National Congress. The best available solution was to agree to the partition, which had in some fashion or other already been agreed to in various formulae since the declaration of the Working Committee in 1942 that it cannot think in terms of compelling the people in any territorial unit to remain in an Indian Union against their declared and established will.

In a statement issued by the British Cabinet dated the 6th December 1946, the British Government appeared to reverse its position as regards the Cabinet Mission award. The British Cabinet statement said that the main difficulty had been over the interpretation of Paragraph 19 (5) and (8) of the Cabinet Mission's statement of May 16, 1946.

According to the British Cabinet statement of December 6, 1946, the Cabinet Mission had throughout maintained the view that the decision of the sections of Provinces should, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, be taken by a simple majority of vote of representatives in the sections. This view had been accepted by the Muslim League, but the Congress had put forward a different view. They had asserted that the true meaning of the statement, read as a whole, was that the provinces had the right to decide both as to grouping and as to their constitutions. Since the sections of Provinces has already been made only with the eye of forming Groups which had been visualized based on religious majority, the Muslim League could easily get what it had been demanding all along - a separate sovereign state of Pakistan for the Muslim dominated provinces/areas of India. Moreover the Muslim League, under this scheme of British Cabinet, would also have within Pakistan, entire Assam which was dominantly non-Muslim, the Punjab areas dominantly inhabited by the Sikhs and even West Bengal, the parts of which were identified as areas which could not be ceded to Pakistan concept even by the Cabinet Mission.

Let us read what Sitaramayya, an active participant in the drama, himself a Working Committee member in the crucial days prior to Independence, says on the situation, in his own characteristic manner:

The New Year opened with great events for the Congress and the country. On the 5th January (1947), the All-India Congress Committee held its first sitting in order to consider the momentous issue, namely whether the statement of 6the December by the British Cabinet should or should not be accepted. The different phases relating to this question have already been dealt with. They may be briefly reviewed nevertheless as they emerged from the discussions at the sitting of the A.I.C.C. in New Delhi. Strangely enough, the sitting took place in the hall of the Constitution Club which was attached to the Constitution House, the place where most of the members of the Constituent Assembly were assigned residential quarters. The friends from Assam figures prominently in the discussions. They were anxious to see the pledges made solemnly by the "Congress High Command" that Assam would not be forced into the "C Section, honoured in the spirit in which they were made. They were upset obviously by the fact that having stated in the statement of May 25th last that the Working Committee did not agree to the provinces dividing up into Sections, the Leader President of the Congress in his capacity as Vice President of the Interim Government gave a broadcast in September 1946 as already referred to, in which he straightaway agreed to the Provinces dividing up into sections. (The reference here is for Jawaharlal Nehru,-- Thirumalai). This, they considered, was a breach of understanding. Again they remembered how the Vice-President, may be, much against his own wishes, but wholly against the wishes of his wiser colleagues went to England and entangled himself and the country in a development from which it was not easy for him or the country to escape. Both these facts shook the faith of Assam friends in their firmness of the assurances and promises offered to them by the "Congress High Command". Again Assam friends believed that the last paragraph of the December 6th Statement might not save them for it was primarily meant for the Muslims and even if by some stretch of imagination and reasoning it was made applicable to every or any other section or to any other situation which might develop later, the fact remained that it was doubtful whether the presence of the Assamese in the 'C' Section in the earlier stages would not tantamount to the representation of the Province in the section. The words in the (British Cabinet) statement are as follows:-
Should the Constitution come to be framed by a Constituent Assembly in which a large section of the Indian population has not been represented. His Majesty's Government could not of course contemplate forcing such a constitution upon any unwilling parts of the country."
The word used is "represented". The Assam friends honestly thought that when they were only present, it would be interpreted that Assam was represented and therefore the saving clause in the sentence quoted above might not be made applicable to Assam that was how they felt' (Sitaramayya 1947 :820). The people of Assam, a non-Muslim province, were afraid that if the Congress agreed to the grouping of Assam in the section in which Bengal was grouped there was a likelihood of Assam being given to Pakistan.
The A.I.C.C. resolved that it was firmly of opinion that the Constitution for a free independent India should be formed by the people of India on the basis of as wide an agreement as possible. There must be no interference whatsoever by any external authority and no compulsion of any province or part of a province by another province. The A.I.C.C. realizes and appreciates the difficulties placed in the way of some provinces, notably Assam, Baluchistan and the N.W.F.P. and the Sikhs in the Punjab, by the British Cabinet's scheme of may 16, 1946, and more especially by the interpretation put upon it by the British Government in their statement of December 6, 1946. The Congress cannot be a party to any such compulsion or imposition against the will of the people concerned, a principle which the British Government have themselves recognized.
The A.I.C.C. is anxious that the Constituent Assembly should proceed with the work of framing a constitution for free India with the goodwill of all parties concerned and, with a view of removing the difficulties that have arisen owing to varying interpretations, agree to advise action in accordance with the interpretation of the British Government in regard to the procedure to be followed in the sections. It must be clearly understood, however, that this must not involve any compulsion of a province and that the rights of the Sikhs in the Punjab should not be jeopardized. In the event of any attempt at such compulsion, a province or part of a province has the right to take such action as may be deemed necessary in order to given effect to the wishes of the prople concerned. (italics ours) The future course of action will depend upon the developments that take place and the A.I.C.C. therefore directs the Working Committee to advise upon it, whenever circumstance so require, keeping in view the basic principle of provincial autonomy.

The League characterized this All India Congress Committee's resolution as 'a dishonest truck, a piece of verbal jugglery intended to deceive the British Government, the Muslim League and public opinion.' It called upon the British Government to declare that the Constitutional plan formulated by the Cabinet Mission had failed.


In view of the deadlock, the then British Prime Minister Attlee invited Nehru and Jinnah to come to London for a fresh round of talks. The talks held in the first week of December 1946, however, did not yield any positive result, and Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Baldev Singh returned on time to attend the first and inaugural session on December 9, 1946, in which the members elected on the League's ticket did not participate. The Constituent Assembly met on the appointed day and elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its President and Jawaharlal Nehru moved the historic "Objects Resolution" speaking briefly first in Hindustani and then elaborately elucidating the objects resolution in English.

On February 20th, 1947 the British Premier made a dramatic announcement that the British were leaving India by June 1948.

Lord Mountbatten was sworn in as Viceroy of India on March, 1946. He was to undertake the task of transferring the power to Indian hands. His negotiations with different political parties led him to recommend to the British the partition of the country as the most practical solution. The Mountbatten Plan of June 3, 1947 was given effect in the Indian Independence Act of 1947 which in effect advanced the date of freedom to August 15, 1947 from the originally planned date in 1948. India thus won freedom from the British yoke with determination and resolve never to lose again its freedom.

In all these intense political activities, language, its function and role in nation-formation, was relegated to the background. There was no mention of the possibility of organizing the provinces and the states on a linguistic basis and achieving a united India since religious loyalties, rather than linguistic loyalties, gained command over the conduct of the nation; such a thought was missing both in the resolutions and deliberations of the Congress Working Committee as well as the scheme formulated and announced by the Cabinet Mission.

That language could form a basis for retention of all the sections of Indian people has not been insistently put forward perhaps because the thought of unity under a single religion was upper most in the minds of the members of the All India Muslim League. There was also no mention specifically of the lingua franca in all the deliberations. It was assumed that the previous resolutions and action taken in favour of lingua franca and reorganization of provinces would hold good after independence. Likewise there was no mention of the choice of language as media of education. Here again the parties had already resolved on several occasion and hence it was perhaps assumed that matters such as these would be given attention only after attaining independence from the British.

One important aspect of the political debates and commonly agreed upon decisions (both by the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League) was that the residuary powers would rest, not with the Centre, but with the participating Provinces in the Federal Union, even as they all insisted upon a strong Centre/Union.

Note, however, that once these nations attained independence from the British, the situation totally changed. Not only the residuary powers but even many other subjects that were agreed upon to be left to the spheres of Provinces were usurped by the Centre, if one is permitted to use a strong word. Provincial autonomy was perhaps used as a ruse to attract the provinces to remain somehow within the proposed federal union set-up for undivided India, by the Congress, and within Pakistan by the Muslim League. Once partition became a reality, the need for such extensive provincial autonomy was not felt; in fact, such wide provincial autonomy, if given, came to be regarded as working against what were obliquely referred to as national unity, integrity and interests of the countries concerned. Indian National Congress appeared to have agreed upon the scheme of provincial autonomy only with a view to retaining the Muslim Provinces within United and undivided India.

Note also that both the Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League agreed to secure fundamental rights for the minorities, etc. However, both the parties did not include specifically language and script in their correspondences and deliberations with the Viceroy and with the Cabinet Mission. Whereas the Indian National Congress included specifically language, script, culture, and religion in the list of Fundamental Rights in its earlier resolutions, the Congress was merely responding to suggestions of the Viceroy and the Cabinet mission when the latter wanted fundamental rights to be ensured to the minorities. The latter asked for inclusion of culture and religion, and both the contending parties agreed to do so in the proposed constitution.

Whether language and script were to be considered an integral part of culture could not be assessed. However, the Congress, on its part, had clearly stated earlier that the language, script, religion and culture were matters to be brought under the Fundamental Rights clause of the Constitution, to be enshrined in the Federal part of the Constitution, and to be implemented equitably in all provinces, Culture, perhaps, was seen as a cover term to include language, script and ways of life and belief systems, when the Congress agreed to include culture a matter of fundamental rights in the constitution.

It is important for us to note that the past resolutions of the Indian National Congress are indeed more detailed and deliberate on the subject than the resolutions passed by organizations involved in liberation struggles elsewhere in the world.

The most interesting point that we should note during this period of intense political struggle was that language, which was not considered seriously by the British as contributing to the unity of masses with different religious professions, came to be used by the Cabinet Mission against the demand for creating Pakistan from out of India. The Cabinet Mission said that the Pakistan regarded by the Muslim League was quite impracticable because "any solution which involves a radical partition of the Punjab and Bengal ... would be contrary to wishes and interests of a very large proportion of the inhabitants of these Provinces. Bengal and the Punjab each has its own common language and a long history and tradition" (Italics mine). Note also that while language was seen to be a barrier to partition, no thought was given to furthering the use of language as a cohesive force. The irony was that the British, who in 1906 did not recognize the indivisibility of the Bengali linguistic ethos when they forced upon the nation the Partition of Bengal, did now speak in favor of the retention of linguistic identities.


While the Muslim League emphasized the importance of Urdu, the Congress aimed at the evolution of a national lingua Franca based on Hindustani. For the Indian National Congress, since the advent of Gandhi, Hindustani was the lingua franca unifying both the Hindus and Muslims, the former generally preferring to write it in Devanagari and the latter writing it only in the Perso-Arabic, according to the underlying perceptions and assumptions of the Congress.

Even in the height of the intense political drama, both Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League did not, however, fail to recognize the fact that for a success of their respective ideologies, guarantees needed to be extended to the minorities not only in terms of religion, but also in terms of culture, language and script. There was a progressive hardening of the attitudes of the Hindus in Hindustani speaking provinces which came to insist upon writing Hindustani only in Devanagari, to the exclusion of the use of the Perso-Arabic. This growing assertion finally got the official seal of approval in the Constituent Assembly of India, of which we shall discuss in greater detail in another article.

One of the major reasons/causes for the divide between the Hindus and the Muslims in the Hindustani-speaking provinces was the conflicting loyalties of these two communities toward the scripts used to write the same language. The divide between the Hindus and Muslims which was growing from within based on the Hindu psychic's resistance of the Moghul/Muslim rule which saw conversions, both forced and voluntary, into Islam, and such other activities that were perceived to be belittling, if not eliminating, Hindu ways of life, found an early manifestation and a new tool to assert itself, when these provinces were brought under the British rule, in the form of agitations in favor of restoring Hindi/Hindustani in Devanagari script to its original position as obtained under the Hindu kingdoms of these religions.

On the other hand, the elitist Muslims, who had by now lost to the British their pre-eminent position in the hitherto Muslim ruled provinces, saw in these agitations in favor of Hindi/ Hindustani to be written in Devanagari, a threat to their own identity. In other words, the already prevalent divide based on religious loyalties was further strengthened because of differences in loyalties to the scripts and the diction.


Language has never been a mere tool for communication to any society; even when the speech styles used by different sections came from the same language source, even when both the styles are mutually intelligible, subjective values came to be associated with them in Hindi/Urdu and the differences in styles began to be associated with differences in religious faiths. As Brass points out, 'the Hindi-Urdu controversy by its very bitterness demonstrates how little the objective similarities between language groups matter when peoples subjective significance to their languages. Willingness to communicate through the same language is quite different thing from the mere ability to communicate' (Brass 1974).

Professor Paul Brass identifies three factors as having mainly contributed to an increasing divergence between Urdu and Hindi both linguistically and emotionally. First of all the fact that the Muslim rulers of north India chose to write the language not in the then prevalent Devanagari but in the Perso-Arabic script with which they were more familiar led to the association of the Hindi in Perso-Arabic to Muslim identity.

The second factor which contributed to the divergence between Hindi and Urdu was the development of the Hindi movement in north Indian in the late nineteenth century, which promoted both the use of the Devanagari script in administration and education and the Sanskritization of Hindi by drawing vocabulary from Sanskrit rather than Hindi (Brass 1974).

Note, however, that Hindi was continually written in Devanagari for various purposes even at the height of fashion and power that encouraged the use of Perso-Arabic script for Hindi, and use of Devanagari was attested much earlier than the use of Perso-Arabic script for Hindi. Note also that use of Sanskrit words in Hindi, and for that matter in all major Indian languages, except to much lesser degree in Tamil, was considered to be the most natural thing for Hindi (and other major Indian languages except to a much lesser degree in Tamil).

The Perso-Arabic interlude was sought to be replaced by a revival, a vigorous revival, of the use of Devanagari in wider domains. The British replaced Persian with English as the language of administration, when they assumed power. In 1837 Persian lost its pre-eminent position as language of administration in all Muslim ruled provinces which were under the British. The vernaculars found a place in the scheme of things, but not Persian.

In north India, the British chose Hindustani/Urdu in Perso-Arabic script as the court and official language. Between 1868 and 1900, Hindus of the Northwestern Provinces and Oudh agitated through pamphlets and deputations to the government for the replacement of Urdu in Persian script with Hindi in Devanagari script as the official language. The Hindi movement in the North-Western Provinces received significant encouragement in 1881 when Hindi in Devanagari script replaced Urdu in Persian Script as the official language of the neighboring province of Bihar (Brass 1974), then part of Bengal. By the turn of the century, the arrangement on behalf of Hindi, which began as a movement to replace Persian characters by Devanagari characters in the courts and schools of the provinces, had been transformed by Hindu Memorialists into a conflict between Hindus and Muslims over the use of a "national" versus a "foreign" language, and implicitly, if not always explicitly, into a competition for government jobs' (Brass 1974). By 1900, Hindi in Devanagari had an equal position with Urdu in Perso-Arabic script as an official language of the provinces. The Muslims also began their defence of Urdu script (Perso-Arabic) as a defence of their identity and Muslim privilege in these provinces, which soon got on as a general tendency among most Muslims in non-Hindustani-speaking provinces as well.

The tendency to identify Hindi in Devanagari script as the culture language of the Hindus, and to identify Hindustani in Perso-Arabic script as the culture language of the Muslims in the Hindi-speaking provinces were well settled. The conflict between the identities led also to a divergence in styles used in the same language - mostly in diction, but also in the syntactic and semantic nuances as well as literary genres.

Thus the religious divide between the two, based on the perceived notions of a subjugated people in opposition to the alien rule, took a firmer root in the growing divergence between the two styles of the same language revolving around the use of two different script systems. This divide was further aggravated by the intense struggle for jobs in the British administration between the Hindus and Muslims, in which, according to the Muslim perception, the Hindu had a better and larger share.

That linguistic behavior added to and strengthened the divide between the Hindus and Muslims in the Hindustani-speaking areas cannot be denied. However, we will not be justified in assigning the reasons for the divide solely to the tendencies to preserve each other's linguistic style. For, in Bengal, where the people spoke the very same script and were using speech styles shared by both Hindus and Muslims, the phenomenon of Muslim separatism was growing strong, rather, much stronger than the separation then coming into existence in the Hindustani-speaking provinces.

Religion, economic interests and linguistic identity were all involved in the growth of Muslim separatism - a general ethos that had inherent in itself the seeds of separatism was further accentuated by the interplay of other factors such as personal ambitions and personalized perception of the leadership on both sides of the divide.

In addition, the revivalism, mainly a reaction to the growth of British influence and power in India, even as the British culture and methods of education created in the natives an urge to understand their own culture and their past in an appreciative perspective, took opposite directions. As Brass (1974) points out, 'revivalism turned the Hindus in their historical orientation either to the great empires and Hindu civilization of the pre-Muslim period or to the regional Hindu kingdoms of the Mahrattas and the Sikhs, who fought against the Muslim power. Muslims, for their part, found their inspiration in history from the period of Muslim dominance in India and, before that, from Muslim achievements in Arabia.' Thus the divide which was already there and was dormant could now be nurtured by the British rulers to perpetuate their own dominance in India.

Whereas the Indian National Congress, since its very inception in 1885, always emphasized the unity between the two communities, there were powerful sections, even in 1885, which were unwilling to consider that the Indian National Congress represented also the Muslim interests. The Central Mohammedan Association in Calcutta opposed the Indian National Congress in 1888 itself.

As the years rolled by, Muslim participation in the Indian National Congress was either dwindling or stagnant, and was limited to only a section of the Muslims who were bold and courageous to see that Muslim interests could be safeguarded by their participation in the Indian National Congress and that Muslim and Hindu interests could be identical in nation-building and freedom struggle against the British rule.

The cow protection movement started by the Hindus, growth of Hindu militant assertion in ways of life and the Muslim cultural revivalist movement all added to the widening of the divide in Northern India by the turn of the twentieth Century. There were also Hindu-Muslim riots in 1893 and 1894.

The simmering differences between the Hindus and Muslims were fully exploited by the alien rulers to their advantage when the British partitioned Bengal in 1906. When in 1906, Lord Morley, the Secretary of State for India declared in the British Parliament that the British were ready to increase representation of the natives in the legislative councils, the Muslim leadership asked for separate electorates for Muslims. A deputation of Muslims met Lord Minto, the Viceroy, in October 1906 and submitted a memorandum requesting for a separate electorate since, in their view, in any democratically elected council the Hindus would always be in a majority because of their numerical strength and thus Muslim interests would not be protected. In the very same year, in December 1906, the All India Muslim League was formed as a body of Muslims, as a counter to the Indian National Congress, supposedly a Hindu organization in the eyes of the majority of Muslim leadership. When the Minto-Morley Reforms proposals were made law in 1909, the British ensured a provision for a separate Muslim electorate, thus paving the way for a divide between the two communities.

In the evolution and adoption of the two nation theory propounded by the Muslim leaders not belonging to the Indian National Congress, language was but a minor issue only. Cultural and religious beliefs dominated the reasoning of the Muslim leadership. It was due mainly because a two nation theory needed only the differences between the two communities.

Although Urdu was a contentious issue between the two communities, there was a readymade solution offered by the Indian National Congress under the influence and leadership of Gandhi that Hindustani could be written in both Devanagari and Perso-Arabic scripts. Furthermore, almost all the languages of India were spoken by both Muslims and Hindus, a fact that would rather unite them than divide them. Punjabi was the mother tongue of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Sindhi was the mother tongue of both Hindus and Muslims. Bengali was the mother tongue of both Hindus and Muslims.

Language, thus, was a unifying force, and hence the pre-partition Muslim leadership was forced to establish the differences between Hindus and Muslims mostly on grounds other than linguistic. Janab Muhammed Ali Jinnah, who was once vehemently opposed to the two nation theory, came to be the most ardent supporter of the theory in due course. He declared in the Lahore session of the All India Muslim League in March 1940 that 'Islam and Hinduism are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality. ... The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They neither intermarry nor inter-dine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life and of life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and, likewise, their victories and defeat overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state.'

Fortunately for India, the test of time since Indian independence has proved the falsity of such an approach beyond doubt. Indian Muslims have demonstrated that they are in no way less patriotic or appreciative of India as their mother land. Their contribution to India in every field is stupendous since independence. And their participation with their Hindu neighbor in all walks of life is ever growing in positive directions. Indian leadership has done well in keeping in mind the need to have unity and understanding between these two great communities of India.

Janab Jinnah also declared that 'it has always been granted mistakenly that the Mussalmans are a minority and of course we have got used to it for such a long time that these settled notions sometimes are very difficult to remove. The Mussalmans are not a minority. The Mussalmans are a nation by any definition.'

It was not as if only the pre-partition Muslim leadership subscribed to the two-nation theory. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and several other groups, not excluding some within Congress itself and in the just emerging Dravidian Movement in the South, also subscribed to somewhqt similar thinking at least implicitly, if not directly by conceding the demand of the Muslim League. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar described Muslims as a nation calling for a home, even as he acknowledged the numerous bonds existing between the Muslims and Hindus. He felt that these bonds, however, failed to create that feeling of oneness among them, which was the essence of being together as a nation: 'As a matter of historical experience, neither race, nor language, nor country has sufficed to mould a people into a nation'. For Ambedkar, 'a nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which is truth are but one, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is the common possession of a rich heritage of memories; the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to preserve worthily the undivided inheritance which has been handed down'. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar asserted that 'in the absence of common historical antecedents, the Hindu view that Hindus and Mussalmans form one nation falls to the ground. To maintain is to keep up a hallucination. There is no such longing between the Hindus and the Mussalmans to belong together as there is among the Mussalmans of India.'

In essence, the two-nation theory of All India Muslim League chose to emphasize the differences that existed between the two communities whereas the Indian National Congress always emphasized the obvious points of unity between the communities.

In both the positions, language had only a minimal role a play. Whereas the position of the All India Muslim League could be traced also to the refusal of the legitimate rights of the Urdu language in the nineteenth century, the Indian National Congress attended to this problem very ably and very efficiently in the beginning of the political phase of the agitations conducted by it in the 1920s, when it offered to have both Devanagari and Perso-Arabic scripts for writing Hindustani.

Note also that, whereas the two-nation theory ignored language as a cementing force, it chose religion as the rallying point for communities with diverse language backgrounds. The single-nation theory ignored religion as well as language loyalties. But in both the countries, India and Pakistan, after independence, insistence on a common language for purposes of national-building was clearly uppermost in the agenda of points for nation-building, cultivation of a national identify and consciousness.

Both the theories, thus, recognized the potential language has as a social institution for wrecking the models they had placed before their respective peoples before partition, and, thus, were in a hurry to accept and insist on only one language as the language of federal power.



M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Bethany College of Missions
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite C
Bloomington, MN 55438

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