The Cabinet Mission to India was consisted of the Secretary of state Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps, and the President of the Board of Trade and A.V. Alexander, First lord of the Admiralty.
They arrived on 24th of March and held extensive discussions during April with virtually all major leaders of the country.
The Cabinet Mission was to seek an agreement, on the constitutional issue with the Indian political leaders. In the election of 1945-46 Muslim League had own most of the Muslim seats in the Central Assembly and the Provincial Legislatures.
The Congress owns the general seats. Only in the North-West Frontier Province the pro-Congress elements led by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan won majority of the Muslim seats. The Congress formed Ministry in all Provinces except Bengal and Sind. In the Punjab a coalition Ministry was formed by the Congress, the Akali Sikhs and Unionist Hindus and Muslims. The political situation thus in India remained complicated. The Cabinet Mission failed to reach an agreed settlement on the Constitutional issue.
The League and Jinnah however stood firm in its demand for Pakistan while the Congress vigorously opposed the two nation theory. Jinnah even opposed the formation of Pakistan consisting of the areas demanded by him earlier if it was to be a separate federation of the Indian Union. In the absence of any unanimous solution the Cabinet Mission announced its own recommendation on 16th May 1946.
The main provisions of the recommendation were:
(1) The whole of India including the Princely States should form a Federation.
(2) The Central Government should be in charge of foreign affairs, defence and communication.
(3) The provinces and the states should enjoy all other powers.
(4) The British Indian Provinces and the territories should be divided into three groups, the first group should contain Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan. The second group should contain Bengal and Assam. The third group should contain the rest of the Provinces.
These first two groups should contain the Muslim majority areas and the third group the Hindu areas.
(5) A Constituent Assembly should be elected to frame a constitution for the Indian Union.
(6) The three groups of Provinces should also possess their separate constitution.
(7) A Province should have the right to leave the Union in future if it so liked after elections under its new constitutions.
(8) There should be an Interim National Government with leaders of the Indian parties to take charge of the administration.
The Cabinet Mission thus upheld the unity of India and rejected the idea of independent Pakistan. These provisions however provided much autonomy to the Muslim Majority Provinces, to run their own affairs. It was thus a compromise formula between Indian unity and the interests of Muslim majority areas.
The Congress President felt delighted that the Cabinet Mission rejected the partition proposal. But the Congress as a whole was unhappy on the formation of a Weak Central Government. Moreover the right of the province to leave the union in future was considered a dangerous proposal. The Muslim League while accepting the plan reasserted its goal of sovereign Pakistan and urged on the Viceroy to proceed with the plan of an Interim Government.
The Viceroy refused to do so in the absence of Congress participation in the Interim Government and he insisted on the formation of the Interim Government with the representation of both the Congress and the League.
The Muslim League then withdrew its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan. Jinnah felt alarmed. As a desperate means of protest he appealed the Muslims throughout India to observe 16th August 1946 as the “Direct Action Day”. The call of Jinnah opened path for violent communal disturbances which influenced the political history of India in surprising manner.