Monday, March 10, 2014

On sources - 1

"Mountbatten : A Biography" by Philip Ziegler (published in 1985) contains this passage about when Viceroy Mountbatten first met Mahatma Gandhi.

(Chapter 29, The End of Unified India, pages 369-370)
It did not take Mountbatten long to conclude that Gandhi was committed to the concept of a united India and that any step in the direction of partition would be resolutely opposed.   It was with this in view that on 1 April Gandhi put forward a plan which he had aired from time to time in the past; that Jinnah be invited to form an interim central government.  Congress, said Gandhi, should be prepared to accept government by the Muslim League if by so doing they could ensure the unity of their country.   Mountbatten, encountering the idea for the first time, found it bold, imaginative, splendidly far-fetched.   He saw in it, as he had seen in Habbakuk, the iceberg aircraft-carrier, the appeal of the outrageous yet remotely feasible.   In his staff meeting he described the proposal as 'undoubtedly mad, except for the fact that Gandhi's amazing personal influence...might induce Congress to accept it' (in the final record the word 'mad' was watered down to 'wild'). [33]
[33] Viceroy's Staff Meeting, 5 April 1947. Transfer of Power, Vol. X, p 124.  Early draft on BA D15.

Here, BA = Broadland Archives.

In this case "mad" to "wild" does not change much.  It does raise the question though, about how much the official record has been edited. 

Just in case you didn't know how the story turned out:
The plan never had the remotest chance of success.  All Mountbatten's advisers told him that such an administration would be unworkable, and the Congress leadership rejected it with alacrity.  

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