Gandhi and the problem of Indian unity, 1944-48.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The last four years of Gandhi's life saw the end of British rule in India and the emergence of the sovereign states of India and Pakistan. This thesis examines Gandhi's political progress during the period. It provides an account of how and why it came about that the independence of India was accompanied by partition. As late as 1946, the partition of India seemed an unlikely prospect: the British preferred a unitary India, Congress was committed on principle to Indian unity, and the Muslim League leaders intended to use their demand for "Pakistan" as a means of securing separate representation for Indian Muslims in an all India Union. However, while partition seemed unlikely, independence was known to be imminent: from mid-1945, H.M.G. was increasingly determined to effect a rapid transfer of power. The central argument of this study is that Gandhi played an important role in determining the outcome of Indian independence. At a profound level, the spirit of Gandhianism had long informed the Indian political culture within which the independence debate took place. In the period 1944 to 1948, the impact of Gandhianism contributed to the rise of sentiments which eventually compromised Indian unity. Furthermore, changing political conditions during this turbulent period often brought Gandhi to the front rank of the Congress leadership. On such occasions, fired by the Gandhian vision of an idealized future Indian society, his was a voice raised in consistent opposition to proposals likely to promote an equal, or nearly equal, distribution of power between Congress and the League at the Centre. Moreover, Gandhi's enthusiasm in this respect impelled him to attempt to subvert British intermediary efforts when, from time to time, such efforts appeared likely to succeed in reconstructing the power structure so as to accommodate the essence of the demands of the Muslim political separatists. By early 1947, in the absence of a power-sharing arrangement, the only alternative was partition: H.M.G. had placed a time limit on the Raj, and communalist forces were so aroused at the social level as to require that independence be informed by some form of Muslim separatism. This thesis contends that the Congress leaders settled upon partition as the preferred form of separatism to be implemented in the independence scheme. It analyzes the nature of Gandhi's eventual acquiescence to the Congress leaders' decision for partition, and examines the Mahatma's militant response to the reality of Pakistan.