Soon after his release Gandhiji took the initiative of opening negotiations with Lord Wavell, the Viceroy to break the deadlock. But in his reply on 27 July, 1944 the Viceroy only repeated the Cripps Proposal and pointed out that Indian leaders could be invited to form an interim government only if proper safeguards could be made to protect the interests of the racial and religious minorities, depressed classes and princely states.
Gandhiji also approached Jinnah to evolve some solutions to the communal tangle. In this attempt, C. Rajgopalchari acted as a mediator. He evolved a formula known as ‘C.R. Formula1 which was to form the basis of a Congress-League settlement. The formula proposed for the formation of Interim Government jointly by the congress and the League; Muslim dominated areas were to decide for separation by plebiscite after the war. In the event of separation, a mutual agreement shall be entered into for jointly safeguarding defence, commerce, communication and other essential purposes. Any transfer of population should only be on an absolutely voluntary basis. But the proposal was rejected by Jinnah.
Wavell plan was announced in June 1945 which proposed an Interim government consisting of both Hindus and the Muslims. Except defence all other subjects would be handed over to the Indians. Only Viceroy and commander-in-chief would be free from the control of the ministers and the framework of the Act of 1935 would continue till a new constitution was framed after the war. A conference was called at Simla to discuss the plan but it failed because the League did not agree for the inclusion of any Muslim in the Interim government as representative of the congress.
General elections were held in 1945-46. The results were quite revealing in many ways. The congress swept the polls and captured almost all general seats and even some Muslim seats. The success of the Muslim League was also phenomenal. The congress and the Muslim League emerged as the two strongest political contenders to stake claim in power-sharing in case of transfer of power. Congress still wanted Independence to come before settling the communal problem, but Jinnah and the League reiterated their demand that the first step must be to accept Pakistan in principle, since the Muslim electorate had given a clear mandate for Pakistan.
Sir Clement Atlee, the British premier announced in the House of Commons to send India a special mission of three Cabinet Ministers (Pethick Lawrence, Stafford Cripps and A.V. Alexander) to find out means for the transfer of power to Indian hands. The Cabinet Mission arrived in Karachi on 23 March, 1946. After prolonged discussions, a Tripartite conference was held in New Delhi between the Government, the Congress and the Muslim League.
As they could not arrive at an agreement, the Mission with approval of the British government announced their own plan for solving the constitutional dead lock. It proposed a federal government including native states to look after Defence, Foreign Affairs and communication. Residuary powers would be with provinces. Right was given to the provinces to change their constitutions after ten years. It provided for the formation of a constituent Assembly and an interim government. The Cabinet Mission Plan was a definite land mark in the history of our freedom struggle, as it conceded the demand of complete independence and gave to the people of India the right to frame their own constitution.
The Constituent Assembly was formed, but the Muslim League abstained from participating in its activities. The Direct Action Day was observed on 16 August, 1945 by the Muslim League leading to the great Calcutta killing. Hindu, Muslim riots broke out. Mahatma Gandhi went to Begal to restore communal harmony there. On 3 September, 1946 the provisional National Government was announced. Both Wavell and Nehru continued their efforts to bring in the Muslim League to join the government. The first coalition government was formed on 24 October, 1946.The League joined the government without any intention to cooperate, rather to prove that any collaboration between the Congress and the League was impossible.
The League continued to lauch a high pressure compaign for its demand for Pakistan. In view of the prevailing deadlock between the Congress and the League over the long-term plan of constitution-making, the British Primier Atlee felt that transfer of power to Indian hands might resolve the Congress-League deadlock. On 20 February 1947 he announced that the British would leave Indian by June 1948. Lord Mountbatten was sent to India as the Viceroy to expedite the transfer of power.
After having discussions with various leaders, Mountbatten felt convinced that there was no hope of arriving at an agreed solution on the basis of a united India. He felt that partition was inevitable. He offered his plan in June, 1947. He proposed in the plan the following principles. Firstly, the provinces of the Punjab and Bengal were to be partitioned and a commission to demarcate the boundaries to be set up. Secondly, the Muslim majority areas which would not participate in the constituent Assembly would form a separate constituent Assembly of their own. Thirdly, the members of the Legislative Assemblies of Bengal, Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan were to decide whether to join Pakistan or India.
Fourthly, a referendum would be held in the North West frontier province, Baluchistan and the sylhet District of Assam to ascertain the wishes of the people whether they would be included in Pakistan or in India. According to the Mountbatten plan, Northwest Frontier Province, Sind and sylhet voted for Pakistan, The Western districts of Pubjab voted for India and the Eastern districts of Bengal voted in favour of Pakistan, while the Western districts voted in favour of India. The plan was accepted by the Muslim League although Jinnah was not happy with a truncated Pakistan. The congress also accepted it by passing a formal resolution on 15 June, 1947.
On the basis of the Mountbatten plan, the Independence Bill was passed by the British Parliament in July, 1947. The Act constituted two independent Dominions of India and Pakistan with effect from 15 August 1947. At midnight of 14-15 August, 1947 the British rule in India came to an end. Thus, on 15 August, 1947 the glorious freedom struggle came to an end with the tragic event of partition.
Undoubtedly, the Indian national movement was the biggest and the most widespread anti-imperialist movement in the world history. It was the first non-violent freedom movement. India has demonstrated to the world for the first time that a great and mighty revolution can be brought by non-violence and peaceful means. To quote Bimal Prasad,”To win freedom from a nation is a great thing but to win the same nation in the process of struggle is something much greater and this is what our national movement achieved.” Although the congress was the mainstream but not the only stream of our national movement. The Pre-congress peasant and tribal movements, the Revolutionism, the Peasant and working class struggle, the state peoples’ movement etc. were other streams.
There were a number of persons and movements outside the congress fold who played a notable role in the freedom struggle. Mention can be made of Bhagat Singh, Chandra Sekhar Azad, Surya Sen, INA led by Subash Bose, the socialists, the liberals, the communists, and other activists who worked ceaselessly among the peasants, labour and students organisations. All of these played a crucial role in spreading political consciousness and in mobilising the masses and the youth. They all became an integral part of India’s freedom struggle.