Plan for partition: 1946–1947

Plan for partition: 1946–1947

The British Prime Minister Attlee appointed Lord Louis Mountbatten as India's last viceroy, giving him the task to oversee British India's independence by June 1948, with the instruction to avoid partition and preserve a United India, but with adaptable authority to ensure a British withdrawal with minimal setbacks.

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Mountbatten hoped to revive the Cabinet Mission scheme for a federal arrangement for India. But despite his initial keenness for preserving the centre, the tense communal situation caused him to conclude that partition had become necessary for a quicker transfer of power.

Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the first Congress leaders to accept the partition of India as a solution to the rising Muslim separatist movement.

He had been outraged by Jinnah's Direct Action campaign, which had provoked communal violence across India, and by the viceroy's vetoes of his home department's plans to stop the violence on the grounds of constitutionality.

Patel severely criticized the viceroy's induction of League ministers into the government and the revalidation of the grouping scheme by the British without Congress approval.

Although further outraged at the League's boycott of the assembly and non-acceptance of the plan of 16 May despite entering government, he was also aware that Jinnah enjoyed popular support amongst Muslims, and that an open conflict between him and the nationalists could degenerate into a Hindu-Muslim civil war.

The continuation of a divided and weak central government would in Patel's mind, result in the wider fragmentation of India by encouraging more than 600 princely states towards independence.

Between the months of December 1946 and January 1947, Patel worked with civil servant V. P. Menon on the latter's suggestion for a separate dominion of Pakistan created out of Muslim-majority provinces.

Communal violence in Bengal and Punjab in January and March 1947 further convinced Patel of the soundness of partition.

Patel, a fierce critic of Jinnah's demand that the Hindu-majority areas of Punjab and Bengal be included in a Muslim state, obtained the partition of those provinces, thus blocking any possibility of their inclusion in Pakistan.

Patel's decisiveness on the partition of Punjab and Bengal had won him many supporters and admirers amongst the Indian public, which had been tired of the League's tactics.

Still, he was criticized by Gandhi, Nehru, secular Muslims, and socialists for a perceived eagerness for the partition.

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