Assess the role of British imperial power in complicating the process of transfer of power during the 1940s. (250 words)

The 1940s were a critical period in the Indian National Movement, as British imperial power sought to transfer power to India while simultaneously seeking Indian cooperation in World War II. However, the British were unwilling to transfer any real power to Indian hands, and their actions during this period were instrumental in complicating the transfer of power.

  • August Offer 1940: The Viceroy, Linlithgow, proposed the expansion of the viceroy’s executive council with mostly Indians and a constituent assembly post-war with mostly Indians. However, the terms were unacceptable as it did not allow for full powers to be in Indian hands and made future constitutions dependent on the consent of minorities. This offer was rejected by Indian leaders.
  • Cripps Mission 1942: The Cripps Mission proposed inflexible offers that were again mostly unsatisfying for Indians. The terms offered included Dominion status, a partly elected and partly nominated constituent assembly, provision for provinces to have a separate constitution if they wish, and defense portfolio remaining in British hands. These provisions were again objected by Indians, and the failure of the Cripps mission only proved that the British had sent this mission to pretend they were interested in Indian Independence.
  • Wavell Plan and Shimla Conference: Proposed by Viceroy Lord Wavell in 1945. Its proposals were the formation of a new Executive Council at the center in which all members except the Viceroy and the Commanders in Chief would be Indian. All portfolios except Defence were to be under the control of Indian members. The plan proposed over-representation of Muslims in the Executive Council. Congress rejected this demand.
  • Cabinet Mission 1946: Aim of the mission was to form an interim government and formation of the constituent assembly. The contentious issue of the mission’s proposal was to have a grouping of provinces that was compulsory. While Congress interpreted it to be optional, the Muslim League wanted it to be compulsory. This made Congress reject the offer again, while the Muslim League complicated the situation by announcing “direct action”.

All these actions of British imperial power ultimately fueled communal sentiments, which eventually led to the partition of India. It is clear that the British tried to delay independence deliberately in order to prevent the imminent fall of their empire. The 1940s thus turned out to be a period of instability that gave rise to a new world, where the British lost their glory permanently.

Mind map notes for UPSC
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