Freedom and Partition 1945–1947

  • Sumit Sarkar
Part of the Cambridge Commonwealth Series book series (CAMCOM)


Two basic strands emerge from the maze of events during the last two years of British rule: tortuous negotiations between British, Congress and League statesmen, increasingly accompanied by communal violence, and culminating in a freedom which was also a tragic partition; and sporadic, localized, but often extremely militant and united mass actions—the I.N.A. release movement and the R.I.N. Mutiny in 1945–46, numerous strikes throughout the period, and, in 1946–47, the Tebhaga upsurge in Bengal, Punnapra-Vayalar in Travancore and the Telengana peasant armed revolt in Hyderabad. A mass of historical literature exists on the first theme, along with some collections of documents: the books of V.P. Menon, Campbell Johnson, H.V. Hodson, Penderel Moon, Wavell’s Journal, Mansergh’s volumes, Pyarelal’s detailed study of Gandhi’s last years, Sardar Patel’s correspondence from 1945—to mention only the leading works. On popular movements, in very sharp contrast, there are some useful accounts by participants but hardly any systematic historical research so far. Yet, as always throughout the history of modern India, the decisions and actions of leaders, British or Indian, cannot really be understood without the counterpoint provided by pressures from below.


Indian Leader Working Committee General Strike Princely State Bombay City 
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Further Readings

  1. The large number of secondary works on 1945–47, overwhelmingly focussed on top-level negotiations, include V. P. Menon, Transfer of Power, perhaps the most convenient summary; V. P. Menon, Story of Integration of Indian States (Bombay, 1956);Google Scholar
  2. A. Campbell Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten (London, 1951);Google Scholar
  3. H. V. Hodson, The Great Divide (London, 1969);Google Scholar
  4. Penderel Moon, Divide and Quit (London, 1961), a moving account of the Punjab riots;Google Scholar
  5. Maulana Azad, India Wins Freedom (Bombay, 1959);Google Scholar
  6. Pyarelal, Mahatma: The Last Phase, 2 vols. (Ahmedabad, 1956–58); M. Brecher, Nehru and S. Gopal, Nehru; C. Khaliquzzaman, Pathway;Google Scholar
  7. Sudhir Ghosh, Gandhi’s Emissary (London, 1967);Google Scholar
  8. N. K. Bose, My Days with Gandhi (Calcutta 1953) as well as Collins and Lapierre’s journalistic best-seller, Freedom At Midnight (Delhi, 1976). Popular movements, in sharp contrast, have attracted little scholarly attention so far. Accounts by participants include The RIN Strike (by a group of victimized ratings, New Delhi, 1954; reptd. New Delhi 1981);Google Scholar
  9. Sunil Sen, Agrarian Struggle in Bengal 1946–47 (New Delhi, 1972);Google Scholar
  10. P. Sundarayya, Telengana People’s Struggle and Its Lessons (Calcutta, 1972);Google Scholar
  11. Ravi Narayan Reddi, Heroic Telengana — Reminiscences and Experiences (New Delhi, 1973);Google Scholar
  12. S. V. Parulekar, ‘Liberation Movement among Varlis’, in A. R. Desai (ed.), Peasant Struggles in India (Bombay, 1979); andGoogle Scholar
  13. K. C. George, Immortal Punnapra-Vayalar (New Delhi, 1975). See alsoGoogle Scholar
  14. G. Chattopadhyay, ‘The Almost Revolution’, in Essays in Honour of S. C. Sarkar (New Delhi, 1976);Google Scholar
  15. D. H. Dhanagare, ‘Social Origins of Peasant Insurrection in Telengana, (Contributions to Indian Sociology, 1974), reptd. in A. R. Desai, Peasant Struggles and R. Jeffrey, ‘A Sanctified Label—Congress in Travancore Politics, 1938–48’, in D. A. Low, (ed.), Congress and the Raj.Google Scholar
  16. P. C. Joshi’s For the Final Bid For Power (Bombay, 1945) is useful for understanding Communist tactics during these years.Google Scholar
  17. It will be clear from the text that my account is heavily based on published first-hand sources: Mansergh, Transfer of Power, Vols. VI–VIII, above all; also Wavell, The Viceroy’s Journal [(ed.) Moon Oxford, 1973]; Durga Das’s multi-volume edition of Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, 1945–50 (Ahmedabad, 1971);Google Scholar
  18. Manibehn Patel and G. M. Nandurkar, Sardar’s Letters—Mostly Unknown, Vol. IV (Ahmedabad, 1977);Google Scholar
  19. and G. D. Birla, Bapu: A Unique Association—Correspondence, 1940–47 (Bombay, 1977). I have also used Home Political (Internal) and A.I.C.C. files. See also my ‘Popular Movements, National Leadership, and the Coming of Freedom with Partition’, 1945–47 (N.M.M.L. seminar, December, 1980; reprinted, EPW Annual Number, 1982).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sumit Sarkar 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sumit Sarkar
    • 1
  1. 1.Delhi UniversityIndia

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