We have got Independence from British on 15th August 1947. Most of us living today are born after independence. And, not so familiar with the history behind the independence. 1st August to 15th August 1947 are significant days in history. After 71 years, it makes sense for us to recollect the history of those days. Sri Prashant Pole will be writing a series to present this history to us. This will be a series of 15 articles. We will be publishing them all for you. Search them under the blog section of samvada.org tagged as Those 15 days.
August 2, 1947
The house at ‘17, York Road ‘ had become important not only for the people of Delhi but for the whole country. It was the residence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for last few years. The residence of the designated Prime Minister of India! And there were only 13 days for this word ‘designated’ to go away. Jawaharlal Nehru would start working as the first Prime Minister of independent India from August 15.
The visits of officers and the citizens were started getting more and more at the 17, York Road. York Road was, in fact, an important road. When the British decided to move capital from Calcutta to Delhi because of the unrest in Bengal in 1911, they entrusted the work of designing Delhi to the British architect Edwin Lutyens. It was this York Road that Lutyens started his work from. And the bungalow at 17, York Road where Nehru stayed was built in 1912.
Nehru’s morning on August 2 in this bungalow arose with a hustle. Only thirteen days were left for the transfer from the British. The preparation for that program was on agenda, but many other issues also fell on Nehru literally like a waterfall. There was a heavy list of works from national anthem to cabinet’s choices. Amidst all this, a trifling problem was also there that nudged Nehru as to what he would wear on August 15…!
Some Congress leaders and senior officials of the administration had arrived at 17, York Road. Discussions on different issues were to be held with them. Therefore, Nehru got over his breakfast hurriedly and prepared himself to face the busy day ahead.
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Somewhere else, the events for merging the princely states in India had gathered momentum. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel himself kept an eye on each of the states. He had inducted V. K. Menon, a sharp administrator, in his department for this work.
On the instructions of Sardar Patel, V. K. Menon had written a letter to the Sir Patrick, the Deputy Secretary of India Affairs in Britain, on the morning of August 2. In the letter, he informed that ‘The princely states in India that are big in size and economy such as Mysore, Baroda, Gwalior, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaipur are ready for ascension with India. However, the decision of the States like Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Indore is yet to be known…”
These states had actually made their mind. Bhopal, Hyderabad and Junagarh did not want to stay with India in any way. In this connection, the Nawab of Bhopal wrote a letter to Jinnah on August 2. Jinnah and Nawab Hamidullah were both very good friends. Thus, Nawab Hamidullah writes to his friend, “Bhopal stands alone with an 80% Hindu majority in the midst of Hindu India, surrounded by my personal enemies as well as by the enemies of Islam. Pakistan has no means of helping us. You rightly made this point to me last night”.
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Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who resided at 1, Queen Victoria Road, was also busy. He had a long time to become future President. However, everyone was seeing him as a patriarch (Father figure). Obviously, there was a beeline of people coming to him form consultations or exchanging information on specific subjects at this critical juncture.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was originally from Bihar. Therefore, many people from Bihar came to him with various issues and various problems. He was writing one such letter in the afternoon of August 2 to Defence Minister Sardar Baldev Singh.
It was a letter about ceremony on August 15. The letter said, “Military should also participate in the ceremony along with citizens and administration in the Patna city so that the ceremony will assume grandeur”.
Sardar Baldev Singh was the minister who was inducted in the Cabinet from Akali Dal. He respected Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Therefore, it was certain that he would appropriate action on Rajendra Babu’s letter.
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A different drama was taking place in the United Province (today’s Uttar Pradesh) since the morning of August 2. The government had arrested the local Hindu Mahasabha previous night and charge laid against them was that ‘they were to start direct action against the government’. The term “Direct Action” was a much-maligned one in the Indian politics. Just a year ago, the Muslim League goons had massacred five thousand Hindus in Bengal, and raped thousands of women. The reason why the Congress executive accepted the partition in later period was in a way fall out of this word ‘Direct Action’. Therefore, picking up Hindu leaders and imprisoning them in the name of ‘direct action’ seemed a bit strange, because the word ‘direct action’ was linked to the Muslim League.
Even Indian Daily Mail, a newspaper published from Singapore, picked up this news. It carried this news on the front page on the issue dated August 2nd. It also published ten demands of the Hindu Mahasabha. This news created discomfort among Hindu Mahasabha’s supporters.
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A report came from the faraway Kohima on the eastern front on Saturday, August 2nd that was not good for the Indian federal state. Independent League of Kohima had announced that they would not join the August 15th. They would form an independent Naga government that would cover the entire area inhabited by the Naga tribes.
Mountains of challenges were coming up before the Indian federal state that was being shaped on August 15th.
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In spite of all these tension, Indian movies were entertaining people in the country and abroad. Aath Din, a movie starring Ashok Kumar and Veera was attracting crowds in the Diamond Theatre in Singapore. Noted Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto had written the story of the movie while music director S. D. Barman entered the movie world through it…!
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Even Sardar Patel’s residence at Delhi (today’s 1, Aurangzeb Road) was brimming with activities. The Home Ministry had a testing time on the issues of merger of princely states as well as riots in Sindh, Baluchistan and Bengal.
In the meantime, Sardar received a letter in the afternoon written by Pandit Nehru. The letter was brief. It said –
“This letter is occasioned for fulfilling some formalities. I am extending invitation to join my cabinet. Actually, this letter has no meaning because you are already a strong pillar of my cabinet.”
Patel took the letter. He looked at it for a while and smiled lightly. And he continued talking with his secretary about the raging riots on the yet to be announced India – Pakistan border.
Far far away from this whole atmosphere, a group of leftists in Congress had gathered at Devachi Alandi in Maharashtra. They had decided two months ago to organize a convention of the group some day or other. All of them had gathered on the appeal of Shankarrao More and Bhausaheb Raut. They could see that India was gaining independence and Congress was to get the key to power of independent India. However, the question that nagged them was – what about their left, communist ideology…? They had gathered to brainstorm on this issue. They included noted and heavyweights like Tulashidas Jadhav, Krushnarao Dhulupa, Dnyanoba Jadhav, G. D. Lagoo, Datta Deshmukh, R. K. Khandilkar, Keshavrao Jedhe etc. The plan to form a separate group in the party for the peasants and labourers was taking shape there.
Nobody thought at least then that this meeting would give birth to a big left-wing party of peasants and workers…
These famous personalities did not utter a single word about the partition of India and inhuman riots in this meeting of August 2nd.
Elsewhere in Egmore area of Madras, Food, Medicine and Health Minister of the Madras Presidency T. S. S. Rajan was interacting with the anglo- Indian community in a meeting held in the evening. Many of them had a question in their hearts as to what would happen to their community after British left India. Responding to the same, the Minister said, “This small community of yours has mixed well in the society. Now, even after independence, this community has to play the role of a responsible citizen.”
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Far away in Pune, a public meeting was being held at S. P. College in honour of Veer Savarkar. Tatyarao (Savarkar) himself was to speak on the prevalent situation of the country, on the country’s independence and the partition.
Huge crowd had gathered in the meeting. This was a grand rally in true sense. In his fiery speech, Veer Savarkar said , “We are all Hindus. Then what is so shameful in calling oneself ‘a Hindu’…? Even though Congress is the main culprit for today’s situation, the people at large are equally responsible. This is the outcome of the support they have given to Congress from time to time. A class was successful in dividing this country since it was repeatedly appeased.”
Meanwhile in Srinagar, the second day of Gandhiji’s first visit to Kashmir was about to set. This day was not filled with any especial important events. Begum Akbar Jahan came to Kisori Lal Sethi’s house, where Gandhiji stayed, in the morning after the prayer itself with her daughter. In this meeting also, she told Gandhiji many times how crucial it was that her husband (Sheikh Abdullah) was to be released from the prison. Even today, Gandhiji was surrounded by the National Conference’s Muslim leaders. However, Gandhiji today met many people including a lot of Hindu leader.
Gandhiji was to go to meet Maharaja Hari Singh tomorrow, on August 3rd, as per the invitation given by Ramchandra Kak.
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Hindu-Muslim skirmishes continued all day in Lahore, Pindi, Peshawar, Chitgaon, Dhaka, Amritsar etc. However, as the darkness of the night engulfed this whole region, large flames of fires became visible on the horizon.
The night of August 2nd too was going to be in full of turmoil…!
– Prashant Pole