The Gandhi-Jinnah Conversations

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (seated in carriage on the right with black flat-top hat) receives a big welcome in Karachi in 1916 after his return to India from South Africa.

TWENTY-EIGHT years ago, in the autumn of 1916, representatives of Hindus and Moslems met at Lucknow and concluded what was known as the Lucknow Pact, in an attempt to settle the differences between the two major Indian communities. This agreement, which among other matters accepted the principle of separate electorates for Hindus and Moslems, beyond doubt helped to bring about the British Government's declaration of August 1917, that its policy was "the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire," and the Government of India Act of 1919, which ushered in the first stage of this program. For the next twenty years the two communities gradually drifted apart. As it became more and more obvious that Dominion status for India was the logical end of British policy, so the question who was to succeed to the British authority in India became more and more pressing, not unnaturally engendering suspicion between the possible heirs. In 1935 the new Government of India Act became law. Another long step forward toward self-government had been taken and the end of the journey was in sight. In 1936, just before the first elections under the new constitution, the Moslem League published a manifesto which contained a clear offer of coöperation with the Indian National Congress Party. If the Congress leaders had accepted the offer, the subsequent course of Hindu-Moslem relations and of the whole constitutional controversy would have been very different. For reasons which doubtless seemed to them good, they rejected it.

The League took this as a declaration of war and formal relations between the two parties ceased and have never been renewed. There was one man, however, who was not content to drift. Mr. Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (affectionately -- and conveniently -- known throughout India as C. R. or Rajaji) had been one of the leading men of the Congress Party for many years. He was second only to Jawaharlal Nehru in general Indian esteem and without rival in his own south.

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