One of the significant events in the history of India’s colonization is Cripps Mission. Due to the loss of ground by Great Britain in World War II, Britain found itself in a very critical position in international politics and military affairs. Due to this, Britain needed India’s support to gain its economic, political and military stability. Considering this objective, India’s British government decided to make the necessary decision on India’s constitutional and political future. Different proposals and missions were presented to leading parties of India
The Cripps Mission
Arrival of Cripps
Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India on 22nd March 1942, intending to stay for a fortnight and complete the business he got himself into. Cripps’s arrival was assumed hopeful and pleasant by Congress’s supporters considering Cripps’s close affiliation with Nehru’s family. They expected things to turn in favor of Congress and wanted the Proposal to avoid Pakistan as the solution. Cripps invited all the leading parties of India to join him in the meeting where he was to present his Proposal. Some prominent leaders from different parties who attended the meeting with their representatives included:
- Gandhi from Congress
- Jinnah from Muslim League
- Sapru from Liberals
- Bengal Premier Fazlul Haq from Muslim non-League
- Savarkar from Hindu Mahasabha
- Joshi from Labour Party
- Recommended members by Punjab Governor from the Sikhs
The Main Proposal
Cripps presented the Proposal to all the representatives from state and political parties and tried to bring them to one page. Cripps’s Proposal can be summarized on the following four points.
- British would retain their hold on India during the course of the war. When the war ends, India will be given dominion, having complete internal and external autonomy. However, India will still be associated with Britain and the other Dominions that align with the Crown.
- Once the war ends, the Constituent Assembly would frame the constitutional structure of India. The proportional representation from the provincial assemblies will elect the members of this assembly. The constituent assembly will also include the members from the princely states.
- The provinces will have full freedom to either agree or disagree with the Proposal. Those provinces that conflicted with the new constitution will have a right to keep themselves away from the proposed unions. However, they can join the commonwealth on the invitation of the British government.
- An interim government will be constituted in India during the war that will comprise different parties. Viceroy will be appointed to look after the defense and external affairs.
Importance of Cripps Mission
Stafford Cripps was the first person to give the Indian sub-continent the status of dominion. India had been a British colony since the nineteenth century. Another nation ruled over the Indian people. The Cripps mission also proposed the Indian states formulate their constitution. The Constitution assembly would primarily be having Indian representatives, which had never been done before. India was given the advantage to frame its form.
Cripps’s Proposal of providing a free hand to provinces to be a separate union made the pathway for Indians to gain independence. India was given a large share in the administration. Memberships were offered to Indians in the executive council, National Defense Council, imperial Defense Council, etc.
Why did Cripps Mission fail?
The plan proposed by Cripps could not only satisfy the Indian leaders but the English government too. Congress rejected the proposals as they sensed India’s disintegration since India was only be given the status of dominion, not complete sovereignty. They also disliked the intervention of provinces in the constitution. Considering “Majority is Authority”, Congress wanted to rule the state.
The Muslim League demanded a separate authority for the Muslims in India. The Cripps proposals, although ambiguously hinted at the formation of independent states but it was not penned down clearly, hence got rejected by the Muslim League.
The Britain government did not want to transfer the rule to the Indian Nation. The viceroy turned down the subject of moving the defense to Indians. The viceroy did not wish his powers to be restricted, so he never supported the proposals. Cripps could not even gain the confidence of the war cabinet. None of the leadership was ready to step down from their stubborn attitude. Hence the “Cripps Mission” faced a massive failure, as he was unable to bring all the leading parties to a single page. This left Cripps with no choice but to leave India. The blame for the plan’s failure was put on Congress because the demand of transferring without election was utterly impractical.
The Aftermath of Cripps Mission
Cripps’s mission’s failure made the British government realize that it is nearly impossible to bring down both nations on a single page. India was in a state of communal frenzy which could no longer be controlled. Indians started to realize their rights, and no sooner or later they will begin to fight for independence.
The history of Indian politics took a new turn. Indians had now started their demand for their right in administration and other political affairs. Indian National Movement began to work at an increased pace. The minor states gained importance and became an essential subject in Indian affairs. The demands of the Congress and the Muslim League became even vivid and clear. Due to this mission, the stage was all set for the Indian Constitution.
The demand of Pakistan was placed as an obstacle by Jinnah, and Cripps wanted to resume the Indian constitutional future by removing that obstacle. Punjab and Bengal’s politicians had the majority of non-Muslim populations, wished to retain Punjab for Punjabis and Bengal for Bengalis, and wanted to close their doors for anyone from outside. Indians were offered memberships in National Defense Council, executive council, etc., which satisfied Indian co-operation in important bodies.
To conclude, the Cripps Mission failed, but it had a significant effect on the mid-twentieth century. During this period, the Indian National Movement accelerated its powers to gain the independence of India. However, some essential factors of a failed Cripps Mission worked in favor of Indian independence. These critical factors include the Proposal of Cripps Mission to associate Indians with defense. An optional scheme for provinces was also proposed. And the transformation of the Executive Council into the National Government was also a key factor. On the other hand, Cripps Mission also changed the attitude of Indian leaders, especially Gandhi. All this made an easy path for India to gain independence.