Mains Answer Writing
The constitutional impasse in the path towards India’s freedom from colonial rule refers to the failure of various plans for accommodating demands of diverse groups. As a result, India’s freedom from colonial rule in 1947 came at the cost of the country’s partition into two irreconcilable nations.
The factors that contributed to the constitutional impasse were as follows:
- Divide-and-Rule Policy: The British had a policy of creating divisions among Indian communities and exploiting them to maintain their control. E.g., the partition of Bengal (1905), the formation of the All-India Muslim League (1906).
- Communalism: Communalism, or the belief that people of different religions cannot coexist, was a major factor in the constitutional impasse. E.g., the Lahore Declaration of 1940 or the Direct Action Day violence of 1946.
- Muslim mobilisation: The Indian National Congress, which was the main proponent of Indian independence, had limited appeal among Muslims. There was also a relative lack of secular political consciousness among Muslim masses who did not relate to the politics of the Congress.
- Short-sightedness: The Congress ministries formed after the provincial elections of 1937 were short-sighted in further alienating the Muslim league through their exclusion from the new governments. This contrasted with the days of Lucknow Pact (1916) which presented a united stand in demanding self-rule.
- Collective failure: The failure of Indian leaders to come to a consensus in addressing the demands of different communities contributed to the impasse. E.g., Nehru report and Jinnah’s 14 points in response to the all-white Simon commission.
Efforts to solve the constitutional impasse failed due to the following reasons:
- Cripps Mission (1942): The Congress rejected the Cripps Mission’s proposal of dominion status after the war as it offered nothing in the short-term.
- C. Rajagopalachari’s Formula (1944): This formula professed a tacit acceptance of the Pakistan demand through plebiscite in Muslim-majority districts in exchange for Muslim League’s support to Congress in demanding independence. Jinnah rejected the CR Formula in the Gandhi-Jinnah talks as an offer of ‘a maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan.’
- Desai-Liaqat pact (1945): It proposed parity between Hindus and Muslims through equal representation from the Congress and the League in an interim government. But it failed due to deep distrust between the League and the Congress, the secret nature of negotiations and the lack of support from the British.
- Shimla Conference (1945): Viceroy Lord Wavell offered a plan to immediately reconstruct the Governor-General’s Executive Council. It failed due to Leagues’ insistence on the sole right to nominate Muslims in the executive council.
- Cabinet Mission Plan (1946): It proposed a three-tier federal system of government with parity between Hindus and Muslims through provincial groups. Despite initial acceptance by the League and the Congress, it failed due to the different interpretations of the clause of groups and the binding nature of the plan for a sovereign constituent assembly.
The constitutional impasse that led to the partition of the country was rooted in the communal problem. The refusal of the Muslim League to accept anything less than the creation of Pakistan made freedom with partition the unavoidable way forward
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