Monday, December 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India





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Gandhi responsible for Partition: Datta
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, December 29
In a sensational twist to the history of the freedom struggle, Mr V.N. Datta, a renowned historian, has held Mahatma Gandhi responsible for thwarting the Cripps mission and losing the last opportunity for preserving the unity of India.

Mr Datta, who is here to attend the 63rd session of the Indian History Congress being organised by Guru Nanak Dev University, told The Tribune that he had based his research regarding the failure of the Cripps mission on the unpublished diary of Reginald Coupland, assistant to Sir Standford Cripps, who was authorised by the war cabinet in the UK to get Indian support for the war by negotiating a constitutional settlement for self-government. He said his study was based on research conducted through primary sources in India and the UK, apart from the invaluable unpublished diary of Reginald Coupland preserved in Rhodes House, Oxford, UK.

Mr Datta pointed out that from the British angle, they failed due to Mahatma Gandhiís commitment to non-violence and his determination to keep India out of the World War II.

However, according to Indiaís view, the mission also failed because the British war cabinet was dominated by diehard conservatives who had no intention of advancing Indiaís power for self-governance. Ironically, when Cripps visited India in 1939-40, he was viewed as pro-Congress and Nehruís friend. The negotiations were wrecked as the Indian National Congress rejected the proposals.

In view of Gandhiís commitment to non-violence, there was no possibility of accepting the Cripps proposals, which included support for war from India. Thus the negotiations held by Azad and Nehru with Cripps appeared to be an exercise in futility.

Mr Datta of the view that Gandhiís Quit India Movement was a response to the Cripps proposals. The rejection of the Cripps proposals left the Congress without a friend among the British and American statesmen and served a useful propaganda for Churchill, who was the real gainer. With the Congress leaders languishing in prison for about three years, the field was left open for the Muslim League to consolidate itself. He said the Congress remained outside the constitutional politics for six years. At the Simla conference in June, 1945, Jinnah claimed parity with the Congress and emerged as the sole spokesman for Muslims.

He said it had also been argued that the mission failed because the British could not give what the Congress wanted and the Labour Party was not interested in Indiaís cause of self-government. He said the missionís failure was also attributed to Vallabhbhai Patel who scuttled it because its success would have made his rival Nehru the Prime Minister.

He said it seemed that there would be an agreement, but then Nehruís attitude changed. During the negotiations, Gandhi left Delhi. The Congressí final rejection of the proposals was influenced by Gandhiís adherence to non-violence for which we have to understand the Congress policy on war and non-violence since 1939. From 1939 the Congress was anxious to support the war effort, but almost in every meeting of the Congress Working Committee till early 1942 the issue of participation in war led to political wrangling. Mr Datta said Gandhi was convinced that the British were going to lose the war. In the Congress Working Committee meeting in Wardha from July 3 to 7, 1940, even Vallabhbhai Patel stood up against Gandhi on non-violence. Gandhi withdrew from the Congress and threatened to go on fast-unto-death, which alarmed Patel and Rajagopalachari.

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