The period when the elections were in progress, the Viceroy in correspondence with the Secretary of State decided for the formation of an Interim Government to replace the caretaker Government at the Centre. As agreed, the Viceroy wrote to the presidents of the Congress and the Muslim League. According to the Viceroy, there will be an interim Government with 14 members. Six members (to include one Scheduled Caste representative) will be nominated by the Congress and five members will be nominated by the Muslim League. Three representatives of minorities were to be nominated by the Viceroy. One of these places was kept for a Sikh.
The situation at that moment in India was quite tense. Communal tension had increased in the towns as a result of the Muslim League's call for ' direct action'. Moreover, there was widespread labour unrest in the country. Lord Wavell wanted a representative central Government urgently, but as it was not possible in the instant circumstances he was anxious, even though he was against the idea of a Government dominated by one party. He wanted to get the Congress in while keeping places for the Muslim League and the Sikhs in the interim government.
After accepting the proposal of the Interim Government, the Congress Working Committee also emphasized the fears expressed by the Sikhs in regard to their position in Punjab. Objection of Sikhs continued as they had reacted adversely to the Cabinet Mission's proposals
The Congress High Command called upon the Congress Sikhs to file their nominations for elections to the Constituent Assembly. The Akalis, a communal organization of the Sikhs nominated their own candidates. However, all the Sikh nominations were withdrawn and no Sikh was elected to the Constituent Assembly. In this regard, Baldev Singh wrote to Prime Minister Attlee seeking his personal intervention for the remedying of the wrong that had been done to the Sikh community by the Cabinet Mission.
Baldev Singh highlighted that the Mission had admitted the injustice of including predominantly non-Muslim areas, mainly Sikh, within a sovereign Pakistan State. The Mission had also recognized the magnitude of Sikh fears against Muslim majority domination. However, the Mission had not made any provision for the Sikh areas to opt out of this domination, or for the protection of Sikh cultural, social, or even religious rights, on the basis assured to Hindus and Muslims. The Sikh community felt that this was deliberate injustice. The Sikhs were also against as a constructive provision was made for resolving major communal issues in the Constituent Assembly between Hindus and Muslim. But the Sikhs, who were among the three main communities of India, had been ignored. Baldev Singh urged that this provision should be extended to the Sikh community also. Nevertheless, objection of Sikhs would continue to create unrest in the country.
In response to Baldev Singh's letter Attlee stated that the Statement of 16 May could not be altered in the way the Sikhs desired. He hoped that in any event the Sikh community would decide to co-operate in the process of constitution-making. It even put forth that, the Sikh community would commit a mistake if they refuse to use the opportunity which had been offered to them. Prime Minister Atlee assumed that the Constituent Assembly would face its problems in quite a different spirit. The Congress Working Committee, noting all these factors, passed a resolution assuring the Sikhs that the Congress would give them all possible support in removing their legitimate grievances and in securing adequate safeguards for the protection of their just interests in the Punjab.
The Panthic Board advised the Sikh M.L.As to elect their representatives to the Constituent Assembly. By another resolution the Congress Working Committee sought to enlist the co-operation of the Muslim League. However, as there was no provision for the by-election, the election took place much later. The Viceroy and Nehru proceeded with their discussions further in regard to the strength and personnel of the interim Government. Nehru wanted to increase the strength to fifteen members by the inclusion of an Anglo-Indian, but the Viceroy did not want to increase any seat as it would make difficult for the Muslim League to join the government. It was ultimately decided to keep the strength at fourteen. The names of six Congressmen, a Sikh, an Indian Christian and a Parsi, as well as three out of five Muslims, were agreed upon. The Sikhs finally agreed to join the interim government. The Viceroy was glad that the Sikhs had decided to participate in the Constituent Assembly and in the Interim Government.
(Last Updated on : 11-05-2009)
|More Articles in Interim Government (2)|