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Spectrum: Summary of Post-War National Scenario - History for UPSC CSE

Two Strands of National Upsurge

  • Two basic strands of national upsurge can be identified during the last two years of British rule.
    (i) Tortuous negotiations involving the government, Congress and Muslim League, increasingly accompanied by communal violence and culminating in freedom and the partition.Spectrum: Summary of Post-War National Scenario | History for UPSC CSE(ii) Sporadic, localised and often extremely militant and united mass action by workers, peasants and states' peoples which took the form of a countrywide strike wave. This kind of activity was occasioned by the INA Release Movement, Royal Indian Navy (RIN) revolt, Tebhaga movement, Worli revolt, Punjab Kisan Morchas, Travancore peoples' struggle (especially the Punnapra-Vayalar episode) and the Telangana peasant revolt.
  • Wav ell Plan backed by the Conservative government in Britain failed to break the constitutional deadlock. In July 1945, the Labour Party formed the government in Britain. In August 1945, elections to central and provincial assemblies were announced. In September 1945, it was announced that a constituent assembly would be convened after the elections

Why a Change in Government’s Attitude

  • End of the War resulted in a change in the balance of global power—the UK was no more a big power while the USA and USSR emerged as superpowers, both of which favoured freedom for India.
  • New Labour government was more sympathetic to Indian demands.
  • Throughout Europe, there was a wave of socialist radical governments.
  • British soldiers were weary and tired and the British economy lay shattered.
  • There was an anti-imperialist wave in South-East Asia—in Vietnam and Indonesia— resisting efforts to replant French and Dutch rule there.
    ⇒ Officials feared another Congress revolt, a revival of the 1942 situation but much more dangerous because of a likely combination of attacks on communications, agrarian revolts, labour trouble, army disaffection joined by government officials and the police in the presence of INA men with some military experience.
  • Elections were inevitable once the war ended since the last elections had been held in 1934 for the Centre and in 1937 for the provinces.

Congress Election Campaign and INA Trials

1945 INA Trials1945 INA Trials

Election Campaign for Nationalistic Aims: 

  • The most significant feature of the election campaign was that it sought to mobilise the Indians against the British The election campaign expressed the nationalist sentiments against the state repression of the 1942 Quit India upsurge.
  • This was done by glorifying martyrs and condemning officials.

Congress Support for INA Prisoners

  • At the first post-War Congress session in September 1945 at Bombay, a strong resolution was adopted declaring Congress support for the INA cause.
  • Defence of INA prisoners in the court was organized by Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Katju, Jawaharlal Nehru and Asaf Ali.
  • INA Relief and Enquiry Committee distributed small sums of money and food and helped arrange employment for the affected.
  • Fund collection was organised

The INA Agitation—A Landmark on Many Counts

  • Celebrations of INA Day (November 12, 1945) and INA week (November 5-11).
  • Nerve centres of the agitation were Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, United Provinces towns and Punjab, the campaign spread to distant places such as Coorg, Baluchistan and Assam. The forms of participation included fund contributions made by many people

Three Upsurges—Winter of 1945-46

There were three major upsurges

  • November 21, 1945—in Calcutta over the INA trials.
  • February 11, 1946—in Calcutta against the seven-year sentence to INA officer Rashid Ali.
  • February 18, 1946—in Bombay, a strike by the Royal Indian Navy ratings.

Three-Stage Pattern

Stage I. When a Group Defies Authority and is Repressed

  • In the first instance of this stage (November 21, 1945), a student procession had joined up with the League and the Congress, tied flags as a symbol of anti-imperialist unity, marched to Dalhousie Square—the seat of government in Calcutta.
  • In the next step (February 11, 1946), the protest was led by Muslim League students in which some Congress and communist students’ organisations joined. Some arrests provoked the students to defy Section 144.
  • Rebellion by Naval Ratings- On February 18, 1946, some 1100 Royal Indian Navy (RIN ) ratings of HMIS Talwar went on a strike to protest against racial discrimination, unpalatable food, abuse by superior officers, the arrest of a rating for scrawling 'Quit India’ on HMIS Talwar, INA trials And the use of Indian troops in Indonesia, demanding their withdrawal.

Stage II. When the City People Join In 

This phase was marked by a virulent anti-British mood resulting in the virtual paralysis of Calcutta and Bombay.

Stage III. When People in Other Parts of the Country Express Sympathy and Solidarity

While the students boycotted classes and organised hartals and processions to express sympathy with other students and the ratings, there were sympathetic strikes

Evaluation of Potential and Impact of the Three Upsurges

  • Fearless action by the masses was an expression of militancy in the popular mind.
  • Revolt in the armed forces had a great liberating effect on the minds of people.
  • RIN revolt was seen as an event marking the end of British rule. These upsurges prompted the British to extend some concessions:
  • On December 1, 1946, the government announced that only those INA members accused of murder or brutal treatment of fellow prisoners would be brought to trial.
  • Imprisonment sentences passed against the first batch were remitted in January 1947.
  • Indian soldiers were withdrawn from Indo-China and Indonesia by February 1947.
  • The decision to send a parliamentary delegation to India (November 1946) was taken.
  • The decision to send Cabinet Mission was taken in January 1946.

Election Results

Performance of the Congress

  • It got 91 per cent of non-Muslim votes.
  • It captured 57 out of 102 seats in the Central Assembly.
  • In the provincial elections, it got a majority in most provinces except in Bengal, Sindh and Punjab. The Congress majority provinces included the NWFP and Assam which were being claimed for Pakistan.

 Muslim League’s Performance

  • It got 86.6 per cent of the Muslim votes.
  • It captured the 30 reserved seats in the Central Assembly.
  • In the provincial elections, it got a majority in Bengal and Sindh.
  • Unlike in 1937, now the League clearly established itself as the dominant party among Muslims.
  • In Punjab A Unionist-Congress-Akali coalition under Khizr Hayat Khan assumed power.

 Significant Features of Elections- 

  • Elections witnessed communal voting in contrast to the strong anti- British unity shown in various upsurges due to
  • Separate electorates; and
  • Limited franchise—for the provinces, less than 10 per cent of the population could vote and for the Central Assembly.

The Cabinet Mission

Attlee government announced in February 1946 the decision to send a high-powered mission of three British cabinet members

 Why British Withdrawal Seemed Imminent Now

  • The success of nationalist forces in the struggle for hegemony was fairly evident by the end of the War. Nationalism had penetrated into hitherto untouched sections and areas.
  • There was a demonstration in favour of nationalism among the bureaucracy and the loyalist sections; because the paucity of European ICS recruits and a policy of Indianisation had ended the British domination of the ICS and by 1939, there existed a British-Indian parity.
  • British strategy of conciliation and repression had its limitations and contradictions
  • After the Cripps’ Offer, there was little left to offer for conciliation except for full freedom.
  • When non-violent resistance was repressed with force, the naked force behind the government stood exposed, while if the government did not clamp down on sedition' or made offers for a truce, it was seen to be unable to wield authority, and its prestige suffered.
  • Efforts to woo the Congress dismayed the loyalists. This policy of an unclear mix presented a dilemma for the services, who nevertheless had to implement it. The prospect of Congress ministries coming to power in the provinces further compounded this dilemma.
  • Constitutionalism or Congress Raj had proved to be a big morale-booster and helped in deeper penetration of patriotic sentiments among the masses.
  • Demands of leniency for INA prisoners from within the Army and the revolt of the RIN ratings had raised fears that the armed forces may not be as reliable if the Congress started a 1942-type mass movement, this time aided by the provincial ministries.
  • The Only alternative to all-out repression of a mass movement was an entirely official rule which seemed impossible now because the necessary numbers and efficient officials were not available.
  • The government realised that a settlement was necessary for burying the ghost of a mass movement and for good future Indo-British relations

On the Eve of Cabinet Mission Plan- 

  • The Congress demanded that power be transferred to one centre and that minorities' demands be worked out in a framework ranging from autonomy to Muslim- majority provinces to self-determination or secession from the Indian Union—but, only after the British left.

Cabinet Mission Arrives

  • The Cabinet Mission reached Delhi on March 24, 1946. It had prolonged discussions with Indian leaders of all parties and groups on the issues of (i) interim government; and (ii) principles and procedures for framing a new constitution giving freedom to India.

Cabinet Mission Plan—Main PointsSpectrum: Summary of Post-War National Scenario | History for UPSC CSE

  • Rejection of the demand for a full-fledged Pakistan,
    (i) Grouping of existing provincial assemblies into three sections: Section- A: Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, United Provinces, Bihar and Orissa; Hindu-majority provinces) Section-B: Punjab, North
    (ii) West Frontier Province and Sindh (Muslim-majority provinces) Section-C: Bengal and Assam (Muslim-majority provinces).
  • Three-tier executive and legislature at provincial, section and union levels.
  • A constituent assembly was to be elected by provincial assemblies by proportional representation. This constituent assembly would be a 389-member body.
  • In the constituent assembly, members from groups A, B and C were to sit separately to decide the constitution for provinces and if possible, for the groups also. Then, the whole constituent assembly would sit together to formulate the union constitution.
  • A common centre would control defence, communication and external affairs. A federal structure was envisaged for India.
  • Communal questions in the central legislature were to be decided by a simple majority of both communities present and voting.
  • Provinces were to have full autonomy and residual powers.
  • Princely states were no longer to be under the paramountcy of the British government. They would be free to enter into an arrangement with successor governments or the British government.
  • After the first general elections, a province was to be free to come out of a group and after 10 years, a province was to be free to call for a reconsideration of the group or the union constitution.
  • Meanwhile, an interim government was to be formed from the constituent assembly.

Different Interpretations of the Grouping Clause

  • Congress: To the Congress, the Cabinet Mission Plan was against the creation of Pakistan since grouping was optional; one constituent assembly was envisaged, and the League no longer had a veto.
  • Muslim League: The Muslim League believed Pakistan to be implied in a compulsory grouping.

Main Objections


  • Provinces should not have to wait till the first general elections to come out of a group. They should have the option of not joining a group in the first place.
  •  Compulsory grouping contradicts the oft-repeated insistence on provincial autonomy.
  • Absence of provision for elected members from the princely states in the constituent assembly was not acceptable.


  • Grouping should be compulsory with sections B and C developing into solid entities with a view to future secession into Pakistan.

Acceptance and Rejection

  • Muslim League on June 6 and the Congress on June 24, 1946, accepted the long-term plan put forward by the Cabinet Mission.
  • July 1946 Elections were held in provincial assemblies for the Constituent Assembly.
  • July 10, 1946, Nehru stated, "We are not bound by a single thing except that we have decided to go into the Constituent Assembly. The big probability is that there would be no grouping as NWFP and Assam would have objections to joining sections B and C.”
  • July 29, 1946, The League withdrew its acceptance of the long-term plan in response to Nehru’s statement and gave a call for "direct action" from August 16 to achieve Pakistan.

Communal Holocaust and the Interim Government

  • From August 16, 1946, the Indian scene was rapidly transformed. There were communal riots on an unprecedented scale, which left around several thousand dead. The worst-hit areas were Calcutta, Bombay, Noakhali, Bihar and Garhmukteshwar (United Provinces).
  • Changed Government Priorities-Wavell was now eager to somehow get the Congress into the Interim Government, even if the League stayed out
  • Interim Government-Fearing mass action by the Congress, a Congress-dominated Interim Government headed by Nehru was sworn in on September 2, 1946, Wavell quietly brought the Muslim League into the Interim Government on October 26, 1946. The League was allowed to join
    (i) without giving up the ‘direct action’;
    (ii) despite its rejection of the Cabinet Mission’s long term and short-term plans; and
    (iii) despite the insistence on compulsory grouping with decisions being taken by a majority vote by a section as a whole

Obstructionist Approach and Ulterior Motives of League- 

  • The League did not attend the Constituent Assembly which had its first meeting on December 9, 1946. Consequently, the Assembly had to confine itself to passing a general 'Objectives Resolution' drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru. 
  • In February 1947, nine Congress members of the cabinet wrote to the viceroy demanding the resignation of League members and threatening the withdrawal of their own nominees.

Characteristic Features of Indian Communalism

Communalism (more accurately ‘sectarianism') is basically an ideology, which gives more importance to one’s own ethnic/religious group rather than to the wider society as a whole, evolved through three broad stages in India.

 Communal Nationalism

  • The notion that since a group or a section of people belong to a particular religious community, their secular interests are the same, i.e., even those matters which have got nothing to do with religion affect all of them equally.

 Liberal Communalism

  • The notion that since two religious communities have different religious interests, they have different interests in the secular sphere also (i.e., in economic, political and cultural spheres).

 Extreme Communalism

  • The notion that not only do different religious communities have different interests but also that these interests are incompatible, i.e., two communities cannot co-exist because the interests of one community come into conflict with those of the other.

Reasons for Growth of Communalism

  • Socio-economic Reasons
  • British Policy of Divide and Rule
  • Communalism in History Writing
  • Side-effects of socio-religious Reform Movements-Reform movements such as the Wahabi Movement among Muslims and Shuddhi among Hindus with their militant overtones made the role of religion more vulnerable to communalism.
  • Side-effects of Militant Nationalism Communal Reaction by Majority Community-The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was established in 1925

Evolution of the Two-Nation Theory- The development of the two-nation theory over the years is as follows:

  • 1887: Syed Ahmed Khan appealed to the educated Muslims to stay away from the Congress, although some Muslims did join the Congress.
  • 1906: Agha Khan led a Muslim delegation (called the Shimla delegation) to the viceroy, Lord Minto, to demand separate electorates for Muslims at all levels
  • 1909: Separate electorates were awarded under Morley-Minto Reforms. Punjab Hindu Sabha was founded by U.N. Mukherji and Lai Chand.
  • 1915: The first session of All India Hindu Mahasabha was held under the aegis of the Maharaja of Kasim Bazar.
  • 1912-24: During this period, the Muslim League was dominated by younger Muslim nationalists, but their nationalism was inspired by a communal view of political questions.
  • 1916: The Congress accepted the Muslim League demand of separate electorates and the Congress and the League presented joint demands to the government.
  • 1920-22: Muslims participated in the Rowlatt and Khilafat Non-Cooperation agitations but there was a communal element in the political outlook of the Muslims.
  • The 1920s: The shadow of communal riots loomed large over the country.
  • 1928: The Nehru Report on constitutional reforms as suggested by the Congress was opposed by Muslim hardliners and the Sikh League.

By negotiating with the Muslim League, Congress made a number of mistakes:

  • It gave legitimacy to the politics of the League, thus giving recognition to the division of society into separate communities with separate interests.
  • It undermined the role of secular, nationalist Muslims.
  • Concessions to one community prompted other communities to demand similar concessions.
  • Launching an all-out attack on communalism became difficult.
  • 1930-34: Some Muslim groups, such as the Jamaat- ulema-i-Hind, State of Kashmir and Khudai Khidmatgar participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement but overall the participation of Muslims was nowhere attended all three of them.
  • 1932: The Communal Award accepted all Muslim communal demands contained in the 14 points.
  • After 1937: After the Muslim League performed badly in the 1937 provincial elections, it decided to resort to extreme communalism. There were several reasons for the advent of extreme communalism.
  • With increasing radicalisation, the reactionary elements searched for a social base through channels of communalism.
  • The colonial administration had exhausted all other means to divide nationalists.
  • Earlier failures to challenge communal tendencies had emboldened the communal forces.
  • 1937-39: Jinnah blocked all avenues for conciliation by forwarding the impossible demand that the Congress should declare itself a Hindu organisation and recognise the Muslim League as the sole representative of the Indian Muslims.
  • March 24, 1940: The 'Pakistan Resolution' was passed at the Lahore session of the Muslim League
  • During Second World War The British India Government gave a virtual veto to the League on a political settlement.
The document Spectrum: Summary of Post-War National Scenario | History for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
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FAQs on Spectrum: Summary of Post-War National Scenario - History for UPSC CSE

1. What were the main objectives of the Congress Election Campaign during the INA Trials?
Ans. The main objectives of the Congress Election Campaign during the INA Trials were to mobilize public support by highlighting the injustice faced by the soldiers of the Indian National Army (INA), to demand their release, and to use their trial as a platform to raise nationalistic sentiments among the masses.
2. How did the three-stage pattern of the upsurges in Winter of 1945-46 unfold?
Ans. The three-stage pattern of the upsurges in Winter of 1945-46 unfolded as follows: - Stage I: The initial upsurge began with the participation of students and the working class in protests and demonstrations. - Stage II: The second stage witnessed the active involvement of city people in the movement, which further escalated the scale of protests. - Stage III: The final stage saw people from other parts of the country expressing sympathy and solidarity with the movement, resulting in widespread support and momentum.
3. What were the main objections raised against the Cabinet Mission?
Ans. The main objections raised against the Cabinet Mission were: - The Muslim League objected to the plan's proposal for a weak central government, as they wanted a stronger center with more power devolved to the provinces. - The Hindu Mahasabha opposed the plan's provisions for the grouping of provinces based on religious majority, as they feared it would lead to the creation of separate Hindu and Muslim nations. - The Congress objected to the plan's composition of the Constituent Assembly, as they believed it did not adequately represent the Indian people and their aspirations.
4. What are the characteristic features of Indian communalism as summarized in the post-war national scenario?
Ans. The characteristic features of Indian communalism as summarized in the post-war national scenario include: - The emergence of religious identities as primary markers of political allegiance. - The rise of communal organizations and leaders who mobilized communities based on religious affiliations. - The increasing polarization and conflicts between different religious communities. - The demand for separate nations based on religious lines, particularly by the Muslim League. - The deepening of communal tensions and violence, leading to the partition of India in 1947.
5. How did the election results reflect the impact of the Congress Election Campaign and INA Trials?
Ans. The election results reflected the impact of the Congress Election Campaign and INA Trials as they showcased the growing popularity and support for the Congress party. The success of the campaign in mobilizing public sentiment and highlighting the injustice faced by the INA soldiers translated into electoral gains for the Congress. This demonstrated the effectiveness of their strategy in galvanizing public support and solidifying their position as the leading political force in the country.
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