Modern Indian History - Post-War Struggle

  • The Revolt of 1942 and INA had revealed the heroism and determination of the Indian people.

  • The new struggle took the form of a massive movement against the trial of the soldiers and officers of the INA.

  • The Government decided to put on trial in the Red Fort at Delhi to Generals Shah Nawaz, Gurdial Singh Dhillon, and Prem Sehgal of the INA, who had earlier been officers in the British Indian Army.

  • On the other hand, the Indian people welcomed INA soldiers as national heroes. Huge popular demonstrations demanding their release were held all over the country.

  • This British Government was this time in no position to ignore Indian opinion; even though the Court Martial held the INA prisoners guilty, the Government felt it expedient to set free.

  • The changed attitude of the British Government is explained by the following factors −

    • The war had changed the balance of power in the world; United States of America and the Soviet Union emerged as the big powers and both supported India’s demand for freedom;

    • Even though Britain was on the winning side in the war, its economic and military power was shattered;

    • Having fought and shed their blood for nearly six years (i.e. World War II), they had no desire to spend many more years away from home in India suppressing the Indian people’s struggle for freedom;

    • The British Indian Government could no longer rely on the Indian personnel of its civil administration and armed forces to suppress the national movement. One of the most significant examples was the famous revolt of the Indian naval ratings at Bombay in February 1946. The ratings had fought a seven-hour battle with the army and navy and had surrendered only when asked to do so by the national leaders;

    • The confident and determined mood of the Indian people were now evident that they would no longer in mood to tolerate the humiliation of foreign rule; and

    • There was large-scale labor unrest and mass strikes all over the country.

Cabinet Mission

  • The British Government, therefore, sent Cabinet Mission in March 1946 to negotiate with the Indian leaders; the terms for the transfer of power to Indians.

  • The Cabinet Mission proposed a two-tiered federal plan, which was expected to maintain national unity while conceding the largest measure of regional autonomy.

  • There was to be a federation of the provinces and the states, with the federal center controlling only defence, foreign affairs, and communications.

  • Both the National Congress and the Muslim League accepted this plan. But the two could not agree on the plan for an interim government, which would convene a constituent assembly to frame a constitution for the free, federal India.

  • The National Congress and the Muslim League also put differing interpretations on the Cabinet Mission scheme to which they had agreed earlier.

  • In September 1946, Interim Cabinet, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, was formed by the Congress.

  • The Muslim League joined the Cabinet in October after some hesitation; but it decided to boycott the constituent assembly.