June 14, 1947: The Day Congress Approved Partition

In June 1947, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) had given its approval to Mountbatten's Plan for partition of the country. While giving reasons for accepting the partition by Congress Party, Jawaharlal Nehru told the British author Leonard Mosley in 1960, "The truth is that we were tired men and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect of going to prison again and if we would have stood out for a united India, as we wished it, prison obviously awaited us…………"

This statement unravels Nehru's own state of mind at that time and not that of the Congressmen in general. There were many Congressmen who were older than Nehru, but they were neither tired, nor exhausted. They were still committed to continue struggle for independence of United India. The chair, on which Nehru's eyes were riveted, was of course not in the field of vision of these people. Nehru knew that if the Partition plan was accepted he would be the prime minister of India within next 2-3 months. The grandeur and glamour of the office were binding his eyes. He did not want to lose this opportunity. If this was lost, there was no guarantee that it will come again, or even if it comes, it would be in his life-time. Nehru had read history. He was aware of this unique opportunity of finding a place in history as India's first Prime Minister. So he put everything on stake including country's integrity and Congress's goal of attaining "Poorna Swaraj".

In January 1930, Congressmen under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru had taken vow on the banks of river Ravi to struggle for Complete Independence (Poorna Swaraj) of India. But when last Viceroy of India, Mountbatten threw bait to Nehru that 'Dominion Status' under the British Crown could be granted within 2-3 months, whereas for granting complete independence it may take a year or so, Nehru buckled. Prime Ministership within 2 months!! Nehru could not resist lure of office. Forgetting the vow taken on the banks of river Ravi, he grabbed 'Dominion Status'. 'Let the country be partitioned', --he must have thought, 'Prime Minister ship of half the country is better, than none at all.'

It is correct that it was not only Nehru, but many others members of Congress Working Committee also, who had agreed to the partition, but it is also correct that it was Nehru who was first to give in. Mountbatten before sending his partition plan to London for approval had obtained Nehru's informal assent to it. Nehru had assented without consulting or obtaining concurrence from any other Congress leader. He knew that he will be able to obtain the consent of other Congress leaders later on. Such was his clout and position in the party.

And Nehru did successfully persuade other members of Congress Working Committee (CWC) to agree to the partition and the dominion status, when the matter comes up for decision. But approval for the same from All India Congress Committee was not easy. Most members of A.I.C.C. were opposed to the vivisection of the mother-land. They were inspired by the slogan 'Vande Matram' (Salutation to the Mother) during freedom movement. How could they agree to a proposal that sought the axing the 'Mother' whom they have been 'Saluting' all these years? Hence Nehru looked up to Gandhi for deliverance.

The partition proposal came up on 14th June in A.I.C.C. meeting for approval, which had been accepted earlier by C.W.C. Had A.I.C.C. withheld its approval, there would have been no partition and no Prime Ministership for Nehru. Nehru did not want to take any chance. He persuaded Gandhi to be present in the meeting to ensure that partition is approved by A.I.C.C.

Gandhi participated in the meeting of 14th June 1947 as a special invitee. Most of the members of the committee were against the acceptance of the proposal. Many members openly assailed it and expressed their anguish. Rajarshi Purushottam Das Tandon was in the forefront of those opposing the move. He categorically said that he does not want freedom that disintegrates the country and that he was prepared to continue the struggle. He was widely and wildly applauded. Their applauds were loud and proclaiming their resolve against the partition. Gandhi was the last to speak. He said, "….You will not doubt agree that no one could be as much hurt by the division of the country as I am. But what has happened has happened….The Working Committee has on your behalf accepted partition. Now we have to consider what our duty is. If the Congress Working Committee has done this, it has done so deliberately and for certain weighty reasons. And this decision has been taken jointly by the Congress, the Muslim League and the British Government. The working committee does not approve of the scheme in its entirety. But even so it has accepted it…. If you reject it, the world will call you irresponsible. You must therefore go along with those who have acted on your behalf…. It is most important that you should understand the times. The demand of the times is that we should bridle our tongues and do only what will be for India's good….We have to draw something good out of this bad thing ….. If there is gold in mud, even if there is lot of the mud and very little gold it should not be thrown away. We should draw out gold and diamonds even from mud…. It does not matter if the land is divided. But if we divide the hearts then what the Congress Working committee has done has been well done…"(The Collected works of Gandhi: Vol 88…page..)

Gandhi silenced everybody. The voices were muzzled in their throats. Gandhi was worshipped like a god by all countrymen. It was Gandhi who had on many occasions earlier voiced his opposition to the partition. It was Gandhi who had said that country could not be partitioned only on his dead body. And when the very same Gandhi pleaded in favor of the partition, they did not know how to react. They were astounded. They were shocked. They gave in. They, as advised by Gandhi, voted in the favor of the partition, much against their will.

Gandhi was not a member of the Congress party since 1934. He was also not a member of the All India Congress Committee. Then why did he decide to attend the 14th June meeting of the A.I.C.C.? If he was really opposed to the partition, as he had earlier declared, he should not have attended the meeting, convened to approve the partition.

Nehru was always Gandhi's weakness. When Nehru invited Gandhi to participate in the A.I.C.C. meeting of 14th June, he could have refused. But he could not do so, for the reason he had told to Manu, just before the meeting: "I can see as through a crystal the sincerity and love in Jawahar…. He would be heart-broken if I hesitated to attend the A.I.C.C. He has made me a captive of his love." (The Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi: Vol 88…page..150)

This was the reason why Gandhi attended the meeting. Gandhi 'the captive of love' of Nehru did not want to breach the 'heart of Nehru', by not attending the meeting. For this reason he attended the meeting and ensured the approval for partition, paving way for Nehru to become Prime Minister.

Sometimes very personal reasons change the course of history. If Gandhi did not have blind infatuation for Nehru, the type, that blind king, Dhritrashtra of Indian epic 'Mahabharata' had for his son Duryodhan, the country might have been spared of the trauma of the partition that took the toll of over a million lives in its wake.

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