Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
INTERVIEW WITH SIR STAFFORD CRIPPS
I gave Mr. Gandhi the document to read after a few short introductory remarks, and he impressed upon me that he had not, of course, anything to do with Congress officially and that any views he expressed would not necessarily be those of the Congress. In the first instance he expressed the very definite view that Congress would not accept the document, basing this upon two main points firstly, the paragraph dealing with the Indian States, secondly, that dealing with accession or non-accession of Provinces. Curiously enough, he also, in rather a vague way, questioned the point as regards the retention of Defence in the British hands. So far as the Indian States point was concerned, he stated that Congress took the view that they could not tolerate the continuance of those autocratic States under the aegis of the British Government with the right to call upon the British armed forces to enforce the arbitrary power of their rulers. He elaborated a number of instances of the arbitrary action of the rulers against the States’ peoples and suggested that the document envisaged the continuance in perpetuity of a regime in the case of those States that did not actually come into the new Indian Union.
I pointed out that this was not so, but that the first basis for any reform in State administration was the setting up of an independent British India which by its influence and its economic power would inevitably set up a movement of democratization in the States, immediately in so far as they came into the new Indian Union and more gradually so far as those that stayed out were concerned; that beyond this the question was an administrative one and that I was certain once the new basis was laid down for British India that it would be the object of the British administration to encourage the States in the direction of a greater amount of democratic government in order that they might more easily associate themselves with British India. I asked him what his solution was, whether he suggested that we should immediately force all the States into the Indian Union; and he replied that he was against any such idea, he would like to see them all converted immediately into independent States having no reliance upon the paramountcy of the British Government as he felt certain that this would accelerate a movement for power by the States’ peoples. He did not wish to see the States’ rulers disappear immediately but he wished them to convert their States, in the case of the larger ones into constitutional democracies, while the smaller States would have to be absorbed into the larger ones or into the Indian Union. After a very lengthy argument on this subject, he seemed inclined rather to moderate his view as to the difficulties raised by the document in this relation, though he did not withdraw it. As regards the second point, he started by asserting that the document was an invitation to the Moslems to create a Pakistan. He acknowledged the great influence of Jinnah and that the movement for Pakistan had grown tremendously in volume during the last two years, though he was inclined to agree, when I expressed a doubt as to whether, when it came to the question of practical application, there would be as much support for the Pakistan idea as there was at the present time.
I went through the document with him, pointing out that it was primarily based upon the conception of a united India and that it was only in the case of Congress being unable to come to an agreement with the Moslems in the Constitution-making body that any question of non-accession would arise. I told him that I had always understood the attitude of Congress was that, once the British Government were out of the way, as they would be in the Constitution-making body, it would be possible for the Congress and Moslems to come to an agreement. I also stressed my belief that agreement was more likely if we did not force the Moslems in but gave them the option of not coming in if they so desired when negotiations had been tried over the Constitution-making period. Again, after very lengthy discussion, he seemed to be rather less certain of the antagonism of Congress on this point. I then asked him frankly as a friend and not as a member of the Congress Working Committee or as the direct adviser of Congress to tell me what he thought was the best method of proceeding. He said he thought it would have been better if I had not come to India with a cut and dried scheme to impose upon the Indians, but when I reminded him that the first time I had met him he had told me that once it was made absolutely clear that India would achieve self-government on some ascertained date, what happened in the intervening period was of comparatively small importance, he seemed inclined to accept the view that this document was merely a finalizing of the date and of the method which might be adopted pending the agreement of the parties upon any other or better one. He accepted, I think, this approach to the document and then said that he thought it was extremely inadvisable to have the document published in any way whatsoever unless first agreement had been obtained from both the major communities.
I told him that the intention was that it should be published on Monday and he asked me many time to see that it was not so published. He asked me what Jinnah’s views were as to publication. I told him that he had suggested that, in view of the danger of leakage, it would be wise to publish it before too long; and he interpreted this as being an indication that Jinnah would accept the scheme. I rather formed the view myself that the desire he expressed that it should not be published was because he was afraid of the pressure of public opinion upon Congress to accept the scheme against, perhaps, their wishes, and as to some extent depriving them of an opportunity of bargaining for a better position. I then asked him how, supposing Jinnah were to accept the scheme and Congress were not to, he would himself advise me to proceed. He said that in these circumstances the proper course would be for me to throw the responsibility upon Jinnah and tell him that he must now try to get Congress in either by negotiating direct with them or by meeting them in association with myself. He thought that if it was pointed out to Jinnah what a very great position this would give him in India if he succeeded, that he might take on the job and that he might succeed. Similarly, if Congress accepted and Jinnah refused, he though the onus should be thrown upon Congress to get in Jinnah.
I told him quite definitely that I should have to make up my mind as regards acceptance or not within the next few days and that, if this scheme was not accepted, there would be no question of any other scheme, anyway before the end of the war, and that those people who had taken the Congress point of view in the past, like myself, would not be in a position to exercise further influence in England as regards the solution of the Indian problem, as it would generally be thought that this offer was one which Congress should have accepted and that it was no good making any further offer until the Moslems and Hindus agreed. He expressed, I think quite sincerely, his hopes that I should succeed in spite of what he had said, but more I think, as a personal matter than as an indication that he wanted the scheme to go through. He stated that he would be remaining in Delhi until Sunday night as the Working Committee was meeting tomorrow, and that he would be most willing to come and see me again at any time I liked if I thought it would be of any assistance. I thanked him and indicated that I would either come and see him or ask him to come and see me some time on Sunday.