Independence Draws Nearer

In 1940, the Muslim League negotiated with the British over the terms of the constitution and representation in return for Muslim support in the war, but negotiations soon broke down when the British denied Muslims the support they demanded. Unrest spread, and Muslim extremists waged jihad war against the British, and the British declared martial law as a result, establishing internment camps and razing villages and farms. In 1940 and 1941, the British had arrested some 20,000 people, killing and injuring countless others.

As 1942 came and conflict in the Pacific theater intensified, the British worried that Japan might invade India and realized that local support needed to be increased. In March 1942, Richard Stafford Cripps was sent to India on a high-priority mission to appease Muslim, who composed most of the 1 million men fighting for the British from the subcontinent. Cripps offered independence for the subcontinent at the war’s end, an assembly to draft a constitution, choices for provinces about whether to join the new Indian state, and protection for minorities; however, the Muslims rejected the offer because of the lack of reassurance about the creation of a separate Muslim state. Congress rejected the plan as well, and meanwhile, the war took its effects on the subcontinent, and in 1943 famine hit Bengal, killing some 3 million people from starvation.

In 1943, when Gandhi got out of jail, he met with Jinnah to convince him to drop his demands for a separate state. By this time, thanks to its adamant demand for independence, the Muslim League was gaining more support and was now the dominant power in Sind, Assam, Punjab, and Bengal. Gandhi was worried that is the Muslims sued for independence, other minority groups would follow.

In May 1945, with World War II drawing to a close, the British were less apt to placate the Muslims, and reverted to positioning Congress as the sole political representative of the subcontinent. They held a conference in Simla to discuss the upcoming elections, but many minorities groups had trouble agreeing with the election, which they saw as a step towards an independent Pakistan, and too many disagreements and concerns blighted the conference and in mid-July of 1945, Archibald Wavell, then viceroy of India, declared the conference a failure. Elections went ahead as planned, and the Muslim League won all 30 seats reserved for Muslims, and Congress won 80 percent of the general seats.

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