(Last Updated on : 07/10/2011)
The failure of the Cabinet Mission was followed by the collapse of the Interim Government
. Furthermore, by the end of 1946 communal violence increased in the country and the British feared that India would settle for a civil war. In such a tumultuous situation, Lord Mountbatten replaced Lord Wavell as Viceroy of India in 1947. He was the thirty-fourth and last of the British Governors-General of India. His appointment as the Viceroy in India by His Majestys Government was mainly for transferring power to the Indian leadership by June 1948. Moreover, certain problems, such as, administrative questions and new constitutional arrangements were to be resolved by the new Viceroy as well.
One of the immediate problems that appeared before the Viceroy was the communal tension prevailing in the country. Lord Mountbatten wanted to bring about a truce between the two major communities, the Hindus and the Muslims. This peaceful settlement between the two communities was vital for a peaceful transfer of power. The two leaders Mahatma Gandhi
and Jinnah both signed a joint appeal for peace to the Viceroy and pointed out the recent acts of lawlessness and violence that had brought the utmost disgrace on India. However, this appeal also failed to bring about any peace in the country. On the other hand, the His Majestys Government put forth the objective of obtaining a unitary Government for British India and the Indian States, if possible within the British Commonwealth. According to the British Government this aim was to be achieved by forming a Constituent Assembly
that would be set up in accordance with the Cabinet Mission
plan. Moreover, Lord Mountbatten was directed that the transfer of power from British in India must be in accordance with Indian defence requirements.
Thus, Lord Mountbatten was required to find an agreed solution for a united India on the basis of the Cabinet Mission plan. He held a meeting with the party leaders, particularly with Jinnah and his colleagues. However, the Viceroy was convinced that there was no prospect of an agreed solution. Thus, he decided for an alternative plan for the transfer of power and its implementation, in order to ease the growing political tension. An alternative plan was laid down by His Majestys Government in its statement and it put forth that if a constitution based on the Cabinet Mission plan was not likely to be worked out by a fully representative Constituent Assembly, by June 1948, 'His Majesty's Government will have to consider to whom the power of the central Government in British India should be handed over on the due date, whether as a whole to some form of central Government for British India, or in some areas to the existing provincial Governments, or in such other way as may seem most reasonable and in the best interests of the Indian people.'
This alternative plan by Lord Mountbatten provided that the members of the Legislative Assemblies of Bengal and the Punjab
should meet separately in two parts, such as the representatives of the predominantly Muslim areas, and representatives of the predominantly non-Muslim areas. If both sections of each of these Assemblies voted for partition, then that province would be partitioned. This plan further stated that in the event of the partition of Bengal, the predominantly Muslim district of Sylhet in Assam
would have the option of joining the Muslim province. According to the plan, holding of an election in the North-West Frontier Province was also envisaged.
This was the first stage towards the transfer of power by Lord Mountbatten. The first proposed solution for the Indian subcontinent; known as the 'May Plan' by Lord Mountbatten was rejected by Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru
. Nehru pointed out that this plan would cause the 'balkanisation of India'. The May plan was postponed till June and another plan was formulated which came to be known as June 3rd Plan or Mountbatten Plan.
The Mountbatten Plan, with the following salient features, was sent for agreement of the three parties:
That the leaders agree to the procedure laid down for ascertaining the wishes of the people whether there should be a division of India or not;
That in the event of the decision being taken that there should only be one central authority in India; power should be transferred to the existing Constituent Assembly on a Dominion Status basis;
That in the event of a decision that there should be two sovereign States in India, the central Government of each State should take over power in responsibility to their respective Constituent Assemblies, again on a Dominion Status basis;
That the transfer of power in either case should be on the basis of the Government of India Act of 1935, modified to conform to the Dominion Status position;
That the Governor-General should be common to both the Dominions and that the present Governor-General should be reappointed;
That a Commission should be appointed for the demarcation of boundaries in the event of a decision in favour of partition;
That the Governors of the provinces should be appointed on the recommendation of the respective central Governments;
In the event of two Dominions coming into being, the Armed Forces in India should be divided between them. The units would be allocated according to the territorial basis of recruitment and would be under the control of the respective Governments. In the case of mixed units, the separation and redistribution should be entrusted to a Committee consisting of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck and the Chiefs of the General Staff of the two Dominions, under the supervision of a Council consisting of the Governor-General and the two Defence Ministers. This Council would automatically cease to exist as soon as the process of division was completed.
Thus, the actual division between the two new dominions took place according to the 3 June Plan or Mountbatten Plan. The border between India and Pakistan was determined by a British
Government-commissioned report which was referred to as the Radcliffe Line after the London lawyer, Sir Cyril Radcliffe. The existence of Pakistan was acknowledged with two non adjacent territories. Bangladesh (East Pakistan) and West Pakistan was geographically divided by India.