The passing of the Pakistan Resolution was a turning point in the history of Indian Muslims; it brought about a qualitative change in their status as a minority in India. By the middle of 1940, the war had brought disaster for the allies, as France fell in June 1940, the British Government made renewed appeals for co-operation to all parties in India. In the middle of 1941, the war situation had become more serious for the allies, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America was involved in the war, the initial success of the Japanese armies in South-East Asia brought the war to India’s doorstep.
Quaid-i-Azam shaking hands with Stafford Cripps at Delhi in 1942
The British under the leadership of the die-hard imperialist Churchill were most reluctant to make any firm commitment regarding Indian independence. Sir Stafford Cripps, who had recently joined the government as Lord Privy Seal and become a member of the War Cabinet and leader of the House of Commons, had decided to proceed to India. Churchill gave the genesis of this new policy, “The crisis in the affairs of India arising out of the Japanese advance has made Britain wish to rally all the forces of Indian life to guard their land from the menace of the invader.” The American President Roosevelt urged Churchill to settle matters with India that finally persuaded Churchill to send Cripps to India.
Cripps flew into Karachi on March 22, 1942, and touched down at New Delhi’s airport the following day,the “Pakistan Day”, the second anniversary of the Lahore resolution that was celebrated in Delhi by a public meeting addressed by Jinnah. During his stay, Cripps met with Maulana Azad, Jinnah , Gandhi and Nehru to discuss the issues regarding India. He met Jinnah on March 25 and explained to Jinnah that he had changed his view about the Muslim League and Pakistan because of the “change in the communal feeling in India and the growth of the Pakistan movement.”
Cripps publicly disclosed the contents of the Declaration at a press conference on March 29. The object was “the creation of a new Indian Union which shall constitute a Dominion, associated with the United Kingdom and other Dominions by a common allegiance to the Crown, but equal to them in every respect.” The said goal would be achieved in the following manner: immediately after the war, an elected body would be set up to frame a new Constitution for India. Any province of British India not prepared to accept the new Constitution would have the right to retain its present constitutional position. To such non-acceding provinces, his Majesty’s Government would be prepared to give the same full status as to the Indian Union.
The proposals brought by Cripps were not received very enthusiastically by any section of Indian opinion. Gandhi and other Congress leaders were against it because they believed that Britain had already lost the war that it had nothing to offer for the future of India and therefore they looked to Japan and other Axis powers who appeared to them to have the key to their future. Hindu chauvinists to whom Pakistan had become a nightmare smelt the germ of the idea of Pakistan, even if it was not the Pakistan of the Muslim League’s conception. Jinnah, in his presidential address to the Allahabad session of the League, analyzed the Cripps proposals and expressed the disappointment that their main objective was the creation of a new Indian Union and Pakistan was treated only “as a remote possibility.’
The formal rejection of the Cripps proposals took the form of a Congress Working Committee resolution dated 11 April 1942. The Muslim League too rejected Cripps’ proposals by a Working Committee resolution of the same date. It expressed gratification that the possibility of Pakistan was “recognized by implication” but stated that “the only solution of India’s constitutional problem is the partition of India into independent zones; and it will therefore be unfair to Muslims to compel them to enter such a constitution-making body whose main object is the creation of a new Indian Union.” The Committee concluded that as “the proposals for the future are unacceptable, it will serve no useful purpose to deal further with the question of the immediate arrangements.’