Lord Mountbatten: Last Viceroy of India (1947-1948)

Lord Mountbatten served as last Viceroy of India from 12 February 1947 – 15 August 1947; and then first Governor General of Free India from 15 August 1947 – 21 June 1948. During his tenure, India got independence in the form of two dominions of India Pakistan. Two Boundary Commissions were set, Pakistan raided Kashmir and Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead.

Pakistan Day

Upon his arrival, Lord Mountbatten immediately began the procedure to transfer the power. On March 27, 1947 Muslim League observed Pakistan Day, which resulted in riots, massacre and atrocities. The Interim government, which was in existence since 2 September 1946 had failed in controlling the riots, and later uselessness of opposition of demand for a separate Pakistan by the Muslim league was realized by the leaders of the Interim Government Including Nehru.

Dickie Bird Plan, 1947

Mountbatten prepared “Dickie Bird Plan” for India’s independence. The main proposal of this plan was to that provinces should become first independent successor states rather than an Indian Union or the two dominions of India & Pakistan.

As per this plan all the provinces viz. Madras, Bombay, United Provinces of Bengal, Punjab & North West Frontier etc. were proposed to be declared Independent. The states later would decide whether to join constituent assembly or not.

This plan was not discussed in details with leaders of India and Mountbatten discussed just informally. He gave the plan a final touch and sent to London. Later when he moved to Shimla, Nehru joined him as a guest. Here the details of the plan were put by Mountbatten before Nehru. Nehru rejected the plan right away and told him that this plan would invite Balkanization of India and would provoke conflict and violence. Consequently, Mountbatten cabled to England that this plan was cancelled.

June 3 Plan: June 3, 1947

By June 1947, Congress had given consent to partition. On June 3, 1947, Prime Minister Atlee announced the Partition Plan or June 3 Plan in the House of Commons. The plan laid down the following provisions.

  • The provincial legislative Assemblies of Bengal and Punjab would meet in two parts separately, one representing Muslim majority districts and another representing the Hindu Majority districts to decide by the vote on partition.
  • In case of Sind and Baluchistan, the provincial assemblies would take the decision.
  • In case of NWFP, the decision had to be taken on the base of referendum.
  • A referendum was to be organized in Sylhet region of Assam which was Muslim majority.
  • The Paramount of the princely states will not be transferred to either of India or Pakistan. So, they would in theory become sovereign when India is partitioned.

Congress accepted the plan. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan called the Congress treacherous which has thrown the Khudai Khidmatgars to wolves. The partition became realty soon. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan rejected the referendum but the voting was done in favour of Pakistan.

Partition Committee and Partition Council

Partition Committee was formed which was chaired by Lord Mountbatten and its members were Vallabh Bhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Liaqat Ali Khan and Abdur Rab Nishtar. Later this committee was replaced by a Partition Council. In this council, Congress was represented by Sardar Patel and Dr. Rajendra Prasad, with C. Rajgopalachari as alternate member. Muslim league was represented by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan and Abdur Rab Nishtar as alternate member. Please note that even after 15 August 1947, this partition council was in existence, but the composition was changed as 2 members from each dominion. Patel and Dr. Prasad kept representing Indian Domain even at that time.

Indian Independence Act 1947

The Indian Independence Act was based upon the Mountbatten plan of 3rd June 1947 and was passed by the British parliament on July 5, 1947. It received royal assent on July 18, 1947.  It provided for two dominion states: India and Pakistan.  The boundaries between the two dominion states were to be determined by a Boundary Commission {under Sir Cyril Radcliff}.  It provided for partition of Punjab & Bengal and separate boundary commissions to demarcate the boundaries between them.  The authority of the British Crown over the princely states ceased and they were free to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent. Both the dominions of India and Pakistan were to have Governor Generals to be appointed by the British King. The act also provided for a common Governor General if both of them agreed. The constituent assemblies of both the states were free to make constitutions of their respective countries.  For the time being till the constitution was made, both of them would be governed in accordance with the Government of India act 1935.  Any modification or omission could be done by the Governor General. British Government would not continue any control on any dominion. The Governor General was invested with adequate powers until March 1948 to issue orders for effective implementation of the provisions of the Indian independence act 1947. Those civil servants who had been appointed before the August 15, 1947, will continue in service with same privileges.

Aftermath

Jinnah left for Karachi on August 7, 1947. Here the Constituent assembly of Pakistan met on August 11, 1947 and elected him the President. Three days later, he was sworn in as Governor General of Pakistan. On the midnight of 14 August and 15 August 1947, India and Pakistan came into existence. The Constituent assembly then appointed Lord Mountbatten as the First Governor General of the Indian Dominion. In the Morning of August 15, 1947, a new cabinet headed by Jawahar Lal Nehru was sworn in. India paid a heavy price, thereafter in the form of thousands of lives that got burnt in the fire of partition.

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