The ‘Quit India’ Movement temporality removed the Congress from the field of constitutional politics. The leaders, kept in confinement, lost touch with the workers who were demoralised. This was an important factor in strengthening the Muslim League in Bengal, Sind and Assam. In Bengal and Sind, Muslim League Ministries were formed. In Assam a pro-Muslim League Ministry came into office. In the provinces under Governor’s rule, the administration was anti- Congress and pro-Muslim League.
Jinnah described the Quit India Movement as “a most dangerous mass movement intended to force Congress demands at the point of the bayonet”, which, if conceded would mean the sacrifice of all other interests, particularly those of Muslims in India. Jinnah and provincial Muslim Leagues concentrated on using their influence to keep Muslims away from the Movement. During this period, when all Congress leaders were behind the bars in connection with the Quit India Movement, the rapid advance of Muslim League was the most striking political development of the closing years of the Second World War. Simultaneously, Jinnah centralised the authority of the League in his own person.
(a) C. Rajagoplachari Formula
In 1943, C. Rajagopalachari, who had resigned from the Congress in 1942, devised a formula, in his personal capacity, to hold talks with Jinnah on his demand for Pakistan. The main features of this formula were :
- Muslim League endorses the Indian demand for independence and cooperation with the Congress in the formation of the Provisional Interim Government for the transitional period.
- After the termination of Second World War, a Commission shall be appointed for demarcating contiguous districts in the North-West and East of India where the Muslim population is in absolute majority. In the areas thus demarcated, a plebiscite of all the inhabitants, held on the basis of adult suffrage or any other form of practical franchise, shall ultimately decide the issue of separation from the Indian Union. If the majority decide in favour of forming a separate and sovereign state, such a decision shall be given effect to without prejudice to the right of the border areas to choose between either state.
- It will be open to all parties to advocate their points of view before the plebiscite is held.
- In the event of separation, mutual agreement shall be entered into for jointly safeguarding certain common services like defence, communication, and commerce.
- Any transfer of population shall only be on an absolutely voluntary basis.
- Implementation of the whole scheme only after the transfer of power by the British.
Jinnah turned down Rajagopalachari’s proposal as “offering mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan”; but he agreed to discuss the issue with Gandhi, leading to the Gandhi-Jinnah Talks.
(b) Gandhi-Jinnah Talks
It is to be mentioned that Gandhi requested Jinnah to hold talks on the basis of Rajagopalachari Formula. Gandhi’s offer to negotiate with Jinnah on the basis of partioning India created a sensation and particularly provoked the indignation of the Hindu and Sikh minorities in the Punjab and the Hindus of Bengal. As could be expected, the most bitter criticism was made by the Hindu Mahasabha. Savarkar asserted that ‘the Indian provinces were not the private properties of Gandhiji and Rajaji so that they could make gift of them to anyone they liked’.
The Gandhi-Jinnah talks commenced on 9 September, 1944, and continued till the 27 September, but the two failed to reach an agreement. The main points of difference may be summed up as follows :
- Gandhi did not accept the view that the Indian Muslims constituted a separate nation which Jinnah regarded as the fundamental principle on which the claim for Pakistan rested. Gandhi would regard India as one family consisting of many members, and the Muslims were merely one of them.
- Gandhi proposed that only the Muslims living in Baluchistan, Sindh, N. W. F. P. and parts of the Punjab, Bengal and Assam, who desired to live in separation from the rest of India, should from the new State. Jinnah insisted that Pakistan should include all the six Provinces mentioned above, subject to territorial adjustments that might be agreed upon as indicated in the Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League in 1940.
- Gandhi held that the separate Muslim State should be formed after India was free; but Jinnah urged for an immediate and complete settlement.
- Gandhi “suggested that there should be a treaty of separation to provide for the efficient and satisfactory administration of foreign affairs, defence, communications, customs, commerce and the like, as matters of common interests; but Jinnah was clear that all these matters, which were the life-blood of any State, could not be delegated to any common central authority or government. “
The Gandhi-Jinnah talks did not bring the two communities nearer each other, but two results followed. In the first place, Jinnah was placed on a high pedestal and there was an inordinate accession of strength to the Muslim League.
Jinnah argued that India contained two nations i. e., Hindu and Muslims and both should have their “homelands” in this subcontinent. Gandhi’s repudiation of this theory was unequivocal. He wrote: ‘I find no parallel in history for a body of converts and their descendants to be a nation apart from the parent stock. If India was a nation before the advent of Islam, it must remain one in spite of the change of faith of a very large body of her children’. Yet he was prepared to accept the partition of India into two separate States if they bound themselves by a treaty providing for the satisfactory management of matters of common interest such as foreign affairs, defence, communications, customs, commerce, etc. No common Central authority was mentioned; but in the absence of such an authority, treaty provisions could not be implemented. Jinnah rejected this scheme, for in his opinion there would be no real partition if Pakistan had to share with India control of these vital subjects. Gandhi explained his reaction as follows: ‘If partition means utterly independent sovereignty so that there is to be nothing in common between the two, I hold it to be an impossible proposition’.