India: Constitutional Problem

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India: Constitutional Problem

On 5 June 1946 (C.M. 55(46)) the Cabinet discussed the difficulties which were occurring in reaching an agreement on the proposals for a constitution put forward by the UK government. It was possible that the Moslem League and/or the Congress might reject the proposals in which case the Cabinet Mission in India wanted the views of the Cabinet as to what the next step should be. The Cabinet discussed the options which the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy had already rejected which were whether the current form of government could exist for a further period by suppressing any opposition or to withdraw completely from India and or by a certain date. The Cabinet disliked these options and looked at the option which both the Mission and the Viceroy had recommended which was that the six Hindu Provinces should become self-governing and to maintain, for the time being, the existing Constitution in the rest of India. This would mean that independence was given to Southern and Central India whilst the rest of India remained in the same position. The Cabinet, after much discussion, decided that if the Missions proposals were rejected that it should be made clear that the UK government was keen that India should have her independence. However, because no agreement had been reached by the Indian people the UK government could not allow a situation to develop leading to chaos and famine and would therefore retain their responsibilities until agreement had been reached. In meantime, the proposals remained open.

The Cabinet again discussed the situation in India at its meeting on 31 December 1946 ((C.M. 108(46)(2)). The Viceroy had suggested that there needed to be a plan if the Moslem League decided not to work with the Constituent Assembly thus preventing the work the Cabinet Mission being carried out. The Cabinet discussed when it would be announced that the UK was withdrawing from India and the difficulty and dangers of making such an announcement when there was no agreement on the future. They also discussed whether any such announcement would be regarded as the beginning of the liquidation of the British Empire rather than the logical conclusion of a policy which had been followed for many years.