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Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—They are busy with interviews. Yesterday’s visitors included the ruler of Bhopal, and they are meeting Azad, Gandhi, and Jinnah today and tomorrow. Is dining with Jinnah tonight. He and Alexander may fly to Agra on Sunday to see the Taj.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
April 3. 46

My dear.

We are in the thick of it. Yesterday we started interviews at 10 AM & finishing @ 5 went on to a social gathering of the Press (off the record) which lasted 1¾ hours of which for one hour I answered questions. This was followed by a dinner in our house for 3 prominent Moslem league supporters. The conversations lasted till 11.30 PM during which I had to break off to have ¾ hr talk with an emissary from Gandhi.

Today is not quite so busy, but I am to have Jinnah to dine tonight.

I am exceptionally well.

Among our visitors yesterday was the ruler of Bhopal {1}[,] who is the “Chancellor” of the Princes[,] who seemed to me a particularly efficient man. Today we are seeing Azad & Gandhi separately & tomorrow Jinnah.

Sunday {2} Alexander & I are thinking of flying over to Agra to see The Taj.

I have been so pleased to get your second letter written I think last Monday {3}. They take about a week to come. The other way viz the India Office takes about 4 days.

All my love to you & all
Boy

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{1} Nawab Sir Hamidullah Khan.

{2} 7 April.

{3} 25 March. The letter is not extant.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

Reports on the progress of the Cabinet Mission, and alludes to the possible arrest of Aung San in Burma.

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Transcript

7th April, 1946.

Secret and Personal

My dear Clem,

I expect you will like me from time to time to send you a letter reviewing the situation.

As I think you know, we have arranged a programme of interviews covering the 1st–15th April. The representatives include the Premiers and Leaders of Oppositions from all Provinces and also representatives of the principal political parties. By giving an additional two or three days to these interviews and by allowing some of the minor parties to come and be heard by Cripps and Alexander only, we have managed to meet all claims to be heard which have any reasonable substance. This is a lengthy process, but I think it is proving of value even though all we are doing at this stage is to hear the statement of existing views.

This week our interviews have included Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Jinnah, and the Sikhs, and also a meeting with a deputation of the Chamber of Princes.

There is, I am afraid, no sign of any accommodation at present as between the Congress and the Muslim League. The Congress are, however, prepared to consider the widest provincial autonomy. Their proposal is that there should be a minimum list of compulsory federal subjects which might be foreign affairs, defence, communications and probably customs. There would then also be an optional list of federal subjects which in practice only the Hindu provinces would be likely to adopt, but they appear to set great store on immediately setting up an Interim Government which will be responsible for bringing into being a constitution-making body charged with making a constitution on these broad principles. Their proposal is that this Interim Government should be formed by inviting the eleven Provincial Governments to nominate one person each. These nominees need not be drawn from the Province itself, or be members of legislatures. In reply to a question, Azad said that he thought that if it were desired, more than one nominee could be put forward by each Province and that he personally would not be opposed to a panel of nominees being put forward. The Minorities would be represented by selection to the extent of three seats in a total of fifteen.

I put it to Azad that, in view of the results of the elections, the Muslim League would under this procedure not have more than two or possibly three representatives in a Council of fifteen. Azad seemed to admit the force of this and thought, speaking personally, that arrangements may be made whereby four Muslim League representatives would be included. He said definitely that Congress would not under the present constitution agree to parity with the Muslim League. Cripps asked Azad whether, in view of the fact that the Hindu Provinces only would in fact take optional federal subjects, the Congress would agree to a separate list of optional subjects for the Muslim Provinces which would enable them to come into closer co-operation among themselves for subjects within the special list. At first Azad seemed wholly opposed to this idea but subsequently said that it was a matter which might be considered.

Jinnah, on the other hand, in a three-hour interview insisted that eastern and western Pakistan must be sovereign States and that there could be no relations between those States and Hindustan except by way of treaty or agreement. Anything else would be a surrender of sovereignty. On the question of areas, he made it clear that he was willing that substantial Hindu areas in Bengal and the Punjab should go into Hindustan, but he insisted that limitation of Pakistan to the areas in which Muslims constitute 50 per cent or more would be quite unacceptable since such a Pakistan would not be economically viable. In particular, he said that Calcutta must be in Pakistan. We put to him the possibility that Calcutta might be a free port and, while he did not reject this positively, he raised no objections to it. Jinnah made a fairly good case for Pakistan on cultural and religious grounds, but he was completely unyielding and showed no signs of any intention of making a proposition to meet the Congress. We went for him on the question of defence and, although Cripps made a strong attempt to pin him down as to what he contemplated should be the subject matter of a treaty between Hindustan and Pakistan, we got very little out of him.

The Sikhs were, of course, opposed both to Hindustan and Pakistan. They wanted a united India but in the event of a divided India a separate autonomous state for Sikhs. They based their case for that on the high proportion of land revenue paid by the Sikhs in a substantial area of the Punjab even though nowhere are they in a majority of the population.

We also had a satisfactory meeting with the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes and four other members of the Standing Committee of the Chamber. I gave them full replies to a series of questions they had put to me and in the course of doing so I made it clear that Paramountcy was coming to an end when a fully self-governing constitution came into operation in British India. I also made it clear that in those circumstances we should not be able to provide troops for the internal protection of the States and that therefore the States on their part would be liberated from their obligations under the treaties. They took this quite well. I was a good deal impressed with Bhopal and I think he may be a helpful factor though there is no sign of the States showing any desire to take an initiative which might ease the British Indian situation.

You will see from this that so far as interviews go we are getting on, but from the point of view of reaching any solution we have not really yet got started. In addition to the official interviews we have had a number of private talks including Gandhi, Jinnah, Vallabhai Patel, Nehru and many others, but these have only served to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s of the official discussions. Gandhi is at the moment inclined to be generally helpful but I never feel sure what line he may adopt. The Indian Press has ceased to be actively hostile.

We shall probably be seeing the main parties again in about 8 or 9 days time and may lay before them some suggestions for agreement but I think that the critical phase will come in the week after Easter {1} and we may then formulate some definite course of action, and lay it before you.

I am keeping very well in spite of the heat, and the doctor here gives me a clean bill of health. Alexander has been slightly indisposed but is now fully recovered. We have decided definitely not to go to Simla though we may go away for the Easter week-end to Kashmir.

With all personal wishes,

Sincerely yours,
PETHICK.

From telegrams I have received I am afraid Burma is giving you anxiety especially on the question of the possible arrest of Aung San on a murder charge. My personal feeling is that if we start probing into what happened during the Japanese occupation we shall stir up mud which may well give us a lot of trouble.

The Rt. Hon. The Prime Minister. {2}

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{1} 21 April.

{2} This direction is at the foot of the first sheet.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

The Cabinet Mission have been refreshed by their stay in Kashmir. Encloses a copy of a proposal put before Jinnah, and gives an account of negotiations on the composition of an interim Government.

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Transcript

25th April, 1946.

Personal and Secret

My dear Clem,

Your good wishes for our Kashmir trip were amply fulfilled. We had a thorough break physical and mental and a most enjoyable time. The Maharaja and his Prime Minister were most assiduous in providing us with entertainment.

While there, we made up our minds to try one more expedient to achieve agreement which Stafford put before Jinnah informally last night. I enclose a copy of this and you will see that it is a partial return to the Cripps proposals of 1942. Jinnah was noncommittal and there is a remote possibility that it will find acceptance by both sides. Otherwise it will go into the limbo of fruitless efforts.

Failing success in that we shall revert to the need for formulating proposals of our own. These will recite our attempts to obtain agreement and make an award which we shall submit to you before publication.

Apart from the communal difficulty over Pakistan, there will arise certain grave difficulties over the Interim Government which I feel it is important you should appreciate in advance. The first point is the composition of the Executive (communally and otherwise) on which I need not dilate. The second point is the quantum of power which the Executive will possess.

I have told Congress that in the interim period the existing constitution must remain. That is to say that constitutional safeguards will continue—the Viceroy’s discretionary powers and his power of veto and the Secretary of State’s overriding authority. The reaction of Maulana Azad (President of Congress) to this announcement was one of violent dissent. “Plenary power must be transferred immediately”. “The India Office must cease to exist forthwith”. “All contracts must be instantly transferred to the ministerial Government”.

I explained very politely to Azad (too politely the Viceroy told me afterwards) and later to Gandhi how unreal their attitude was. Not only must the Government of India operate under the existing constitution until it is changed by Parliament, but the vast machinery of Government of the India Office could not physically be transferred to a newly installed Government in India in a moment. I could not divest myself of my responsibility for the I. C. S. and others without a proper agreement. Other matters will also require adjustment etc. One of the functions of the Interim Government will be to reach a settlement for orderly transfer of powers at the proper time. I appeared to make no impression and I am convinced this matter is likely to be a serious bone of contention when the Pakistan issue is finally settled.

On the principle of the matter I do not see how we can possibly give way particularly if Jinnah does not come into the Executive or is in a minority on it for in such a case the Viceroy’s veto will be essential to protect Muslim interests in the interim period. But it may be that Congress would be willing to accept some comforting assurances regarding the use of the powers of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State. Stafford and I are disposed, when the time arrives, to consider carefully how far we can go to meet Congress susceptibilities in this matter. Alexander will probably not dissent from our view. The Viceroy appears to think that he can stand pat on an unequivocal refusal to budge an inch.

It is plain to me that if and when the Interim Executive comes into being (with or without any such assurances) the position of the Viceroy during the year or more of its existence will be one of extraordinary delicacy. He may be periodically threatened with the resignation of his ministers, and all the time the essential administration will have to be carried on.

(SGD.) PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

P.S. Since the above was typed Nehru has told Stafford that there would not be the least chance of Congress agreeing to the enclosed proposal.

Letter from Humayun Kabir to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

2 York Place, New Delhi.—Asks him to contribute an article to a volume to be presented to Maulana Azad on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.

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Transcript

2, York Place,
New Delhi,
22 NOV 1957

Dear Lord Pethick Lawrence

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a great national leader of India, will be completing his 70th year in November 1958. It is proposed that on this occasion, an Abhinandan Granth (Birthday Volume) be presented to him as a mark of our appreciation of his services to the nation for nearly fifty years.

Maulana Azad attained eminence as a brilliant writer and theologian in his early youth. The spirit of free enquiry and search for truth which characterised him from those days soon led him into the political movement as he realised that man cannot attain a true and full development except in an atmosphere of freedom. From his early twenties, he has been a fighter for Indian freedom and his contribution to the cause of Indian nationalism has been widely acknowledged. The Indian nation did him the honour of electing him the President of the Indian National Congress when he was 35. Later during the most critical period of the struggle for freedom, he guided the destinies of the Congress for six momentous years and conducted the negotiations with Sir Stafford Cripps, Lord Wavell and the British Cabinet Mission which resulted in the attainment of Indian independence in 1947.

Apart from his contribution to the Indian national struggle, Maulana Azad has also been an outspoken champion of rationalism and progressiveness in all spheres of Indian life. He has sought to approach religious, moral, social, economic and political questions from a detailed and dispassionate point of view and worked for securing justice and fairplay for all sections of the Indian people.

It is proposed that the Abhinandan Granth should include assessments of his contribution to different aspects of Indian life or studies in various fields in which he has taken a keen interest. On behalf of the Committee, I have great pleasure in requesting you to be so kind as to make a contribution either on some aspect of Maulana Azad’s life and personality or in a subject of your special study. The articles should ordinarily be from 2000 to 3000 words and should reach the undersigned by the 31st March 1958 at the latest.

I shall be grateful for a line in reply indicating your consent and the title of the subject on which you would like to write.

Yours sincerely {1}
Humayun Kabir
(HUMAYUN KABIR)

Lord Pethick-Lawrence,
C/o Rashtrapati Bhavan,
NEW DELHI.

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Letter-head of the Maulana Azad 70th Birthday Committee. The letter is typed, except the opening and closing greetings, which are handwritten, and the date, which is stamped. Presumably the same message was sent to other potential contributors to the projected volume. At the foot has been added ‘Ld P will send a short message of tribute.’ (‘Ld P’ is a conjectural reading; what is written is indistinct.)

{1} These two words are indistinct.

Copies of a paper entitled ‘Maulana Azad: A Tribute by Lord Pethick Lawrence’

(Two carbon-copies of a typed fair-copy of 1/89a.)

Transcript

Maulana Azad
A Tribute by Lord Pethick-Lawrence.

It was a great shock to me to hear of the death of my old friend Maulana Azad. As recently as December of last year he had entertained my wife and myself to lunch at his house in New Delhi. He seemed then to be in good health and was looking forward to his 70th birthday. As Minister of Education he was able to give me facts and figures of great interest to me regarding the progress of literacy throughout India, of the educational advance of women and of the growing numbers of schools for children in the villages and rural areas.

In 1946 when I led the Cabinet Mission to India to arrange for the transference of power I saw him nearly every day for a large part of the period of my visit. He was then President of Congress and as a distinguished and learned Moslem he had a unique and sometimes a difficult role to play. But I formed a high opinion of his character and intellectual gifts and he always bore himself with great dignity and discretion.

Not only in India but also in other parts of the Commonwealth where he was known he will be mourned as a public servant of high repute who devoted his great talents to securing the freedom of his country and to building up among her people high traditions of learning and integrity.