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Muharram 12, 1440

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Britian Achieves Solution in India; Leaders Accept It

The New York Times - June 4, 1947

The procedure for dividing India, an offer of dominion status and the transfer of British power this summer, and the fact that the Indian leaders had accepted these proposals were all announced today in New Delhi and London.

It was one of the most momentous days in India's long history. But overshadowing all details of the new plan is the astonishing fact that India, and almost certainly Burma -- has been kept, at least temporarily, within the framework of the British Commonwealth.

It may well be necessary for the world to reverse its belief that the British Empire is melting away, since India is for all practical purposes, the heart and guts of Britain's Empire. This development seemed impossible only four months ago. Today, there is exultation in London.

English troops leaving India in 1947 when the jewel in the crown of the British Empire was removed

Even Winston Churchill, sometimes called the most die-hard of all British believers in the Empire and its historic links to India, got up in the House of Commons and congratulated Prime Minister Attlee and the Viceroy Viscount Mountbatten, on their accomplishment. He conceded that they had succeeded in doing what he had sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India in 1942 to do: to keep India within the British Commonwealth and to get the consent of the major Indian communities to an agreed procedure for the transfer of power.

History Being Made

History was being made fast and furiously today. First, the great news came from New Delhi that the Indian leaders had agreed to work within the new plan. Then came the simultaneous announcements and the reading of the British Government's White Paper containing the details of the plan to both Houses of Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Viceroy, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Sardar Baldev Singh were all making broadcasts in India, while here this evening Mr. Attlee also made a brief radio introduction to a rebroadcast of the Viceroy's radio talk. Press conference headlines and stories spread the news like wildfire.

The text of the plan is contained in a brief Government White Paper. It begins by referring to past hopes that the Indians would agree among themselves and by giving credit to the Hindus and Sikhs for setting up a Constituent Assembly in New Delhi and trying to make the Cabinet mission's plan work. It is pointed out that the Moslem League and the Moslems generally refused to participate in the Constituent Assembly.

Won't Frame Constitution

Hence "the task of devising a method by which the wishes of the Indian people can be ascertained has devolved on His Majesty's Government," says the White Paper. It adds that there is no intention to frame an ultimate Constitution for India or to prevent unification in the future.

It goes on to say that present Constituent Assembly will continue, but that its decisions cannot apply to those regions unwilling to accept its jurisdiction.

Hence a plan is offered to ascertain whether the people in those other regions want to form a separate Constituent Assembly.

The procedure is then suggested for getting the Legislative Assemblies of Bengal and the Punjab to decide whether those provinces should be divided, with western Punjab and eastern Bengal going to Pakistan. Rough boundary divisions are suggested for voting purposes, but the final boundaries, if there is partition, would be settled by boundary commissions.

The Legislative Assembly of the Province of Sind will make its decision whether to join Pakistan. The North-West Frontier Province, which although overwhelmingly Moslem has a Congress party Government and participates in the Constituent Assembly, will have a popular referendum to choose Pakistan or Hindustan.

Baluchistan will likewise receive an opportunity to make a similar decision but the procedure for this is still being studied.

In Assam the Sylhet District, which is Moslem, will get an opportunity to join eastern Bengal in Pakistan, if Bengal decides upon partition.

The plan then briefly details the voting procedure for Constituent Assemblies so far as Bengal and the Punjab are concerned, supposing that they decide upon partition.

The next section of the White Paper touches on the administration consequences that will have to be faced in so far as the British Government and the Indian Central and Provincial Governments are concerned.

In one sentence it is stated that the tribes of the northwest will have to deal with the appropriate Indian authority later, and another sentence, tells the Princely rulers that this plan has nothing to do with them.

One paragraph is devoted to the "necessity for speed." Then comes the fateful announcement offering dominion status "as the most efficacious and indeed the only practical way of effecting an immediate transfer of power.

"This will be without prejudice to the right of the Indian Constituent Assemblies to decide in due course whether or not the part of India in respect of which they have authority will remain within the British Commonwealth," says the White Paper in conclusion.

Quick Action Stressed

Today's tremendous mobilization of energy was calculated, for one of the keynotes of the whole situation is quick action. That is stressed in the plan, it was emphasized by every speaker and driven home to Britons and Indians alike.

Speed is needed here to prepare the legislation for the transfer of power and for Dominion Status. Speed, above all, is needed in India where the communities are almost waging civil war and where one of the most complicated administrative tasks in history faces Indian and British leaders.

The Provinces will have only three, or at most four, weeks to decide whether the Punjab Bengal and Assam will be partitioned and whether the Northwest Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan really want to join Pakistan -- which they undoubtedly do.

The British Parliament goes into recess at the end of July and therefore it is in the next month that all these developments must get legal sanction. Mr. Churchill promised today that the Conservatives would not make the new India bill a source of controversy, but even so it is a heavy task to complete in so short a time.

Change of Mind Feared

Above all, the British want to rush things through before the Indian leaders have too much time for second thoughts. As always with India, one must inject notes of caution.

Acceptance of general principles has proved much easier in India than the working out of practical details. None of the three great communities -- Hindu, Moslem and Sikh -- is fully satisfied. Each is hoping to gain advantages; each will be suspicious of the other; all will be importuning Britain.

For today's remarkable achievement two men received the heartfelt thanks of the British people. Tributes to Louis Mountbatten came from Mr. Attlee, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Jinnah, Pandit Nehru and many others. He is credited with having performed a virtual miracle.

But today's triumph goes in an even greater measure to Mr. Attlee and his Labor party advisers whose policies have saved India for Britain.

The House of Commons today was a mutual admiration society. For those who remembered Mr. Churchill's frequent and bitter references to the Labor party's Indian policy his statement today was very impressive.

When he said that the "conditions of the Cripps mission, which were set up under my administration, seem to have been fulfilled" the Labor benches broke into applause.

Hope for Eventual Unity

"The many nations and states of India may find their unity within the mysterious circle of the British Crown," Mr. Churchill continued, "just in the same way as the self-governing Dominions have done for so many years after all other links with the mother country, save those of sentiment, have been dissolved. It may therefore be that through a form of partition the union of all India may none the less be preserved."

Referring to the debate that will have to take place later, Mr. Churchill said:

"It would not be right that such legislation should be deemed contentious or that any long delay should elapse after it has been introduced before it is passed into law."

The leader of the Opposition paid this remarkable tribute to the head of the Labor party.

"If the hopes which are enshrined in this statement should be borne out, great credit will, indeed, be due to the Viceroy and not only to him but to the Prime Minister who advised His Majesty to appoint him.

DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.

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