Sunday, November 29, 2009


Viceroy Linlithgow was convinced that there was no necessity to make any concessions during the war. But with the international situation getting increasingly ominous. President Roosevelt of the US and President Chiang Kai-Shek of China as also Britain’s Labour Party leaders pressurized Churchill to seek Indians ‘cooperation. Moreover, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 and invaded Burma, reaching closer to India. The British Cabinet was forced to make a declaration of its war aims so as to obtain India’s full support. When Lintithgow saw the draft declaration, he tendered his resignation, which the Cabinet did not want to accept then. Churchill was in a fix. He was saved from making a difficult choice when Sir Stafford Cripps offered to go India as representatives of the War Cabinet. Cripps was credited with having won over the Soviet Union as an ally during his term in Soviet Union as the British Ambassador. His success in India would have presented him as serious rival to Churchill. Churchill could hardly have wished Cripps to solve the Indian problems. However, Winston Churchill announced on March 11, 1942 that British Cabinet was sending a mission to India under Sir Stafford Cripps. Cripps announced that the aim of the British policy was the earliest possible realisation of self-government in India. But the Draft Declaration he brought with him repeated the promise of granting Dominion Status and a Constitution-making body after the war whose members would be elected by provincial assemblies and nominated by the rulers in case of the princely states . On the demand for Pakistan, a provision stated that any province unwilling to accept the new Constitution would be able to have a separate agreement with Britain regarding its future status. But for the present, the British would have sole control over India’s defence.
Negotiations between Cripps and Congress leaders were unsuccessful. Cripps had been told not to go beyond the Draft Declaration. The congress objected to the provision granting Domination Status rather complete independence; the representation of the princely status in the constituent assembly not by the states’ people but by rulers’ nominees; and provision for India’s partition.Britain refused the Indian demand for immediate transfer of power to them and for a real share in the responsibility for the defenCe of India. The Cripps offer (called a ‘post-dated cheque’ by Gandhi) was rejected.

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