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Main points outlined in British PM’s statement were:

  1. It was in the context of the enthusiasm generated by the INA trials and the deteriorating communal situations that on February 20, 1947, Clement Attlee made the historic announcement regarding the British Government’s “definite intention to take necessary steps to effect the transfer of power to responsible Indian hands by a date not later than June 1948.”
  2. Attlee did realize that the situation was full of uncertainty and fraught with danger and could not be indefinitely postponed.
  3. He pointed out that if by June 1948, an agreed constitution was not framed, the British Government would have to consider to whom power was to be transferred-whether as a whole to some form of Central Government for British India or in some areas to the existing Provincial Government or in such other ways as may seem most responsible and in the best interests of the Indian people.
  4. His statement was at first unbelievable, in the context of the previous betrayals by the British leaders.
  5. But soon it became clear that Attlee’s pronouncement was meant to undo what had been done by Clive, Wellesley, Dalhousie, Curzon and Churchill.
  6. On March 6, 1947, Attlee said in the House of Commons: “The national feeling runs right through all the Indian class and that is why you cannot carry on against the will of the people.”
  7. Partition of the country was implicit in the provision that if the constituent assembly were not fully representative then power would be transferred to more than one central government.

The statement contained clear hints of partition and even Balkanisation of the country into numerous states and in essence, a reversion of Cripps Offer.    ATTLEE’S STATEMENT: FEB 20 (1947)


  • The Government hoped that a fixed date would shock parties into an agreement on the main question. It was keen to avert the developing constitutional crisis.
  • Government hoped to convince the Indians of British sincerity.                          ATTLEE’S STATEMENT: FEB 20 (1947)
  • Government could not deny Wavell assessment that an irreversible decline of Government’s authority had taken place

Congress’ Stand :  

  • The provision of transfer of power to more than one centre was acceptable to congress because it meant the existing assembly could go ahead and frame a constitution for areas represented by it, and it offered a way out of the existing deadlock.
  • But the illusionary hopes of settlement were soon shattered as the statement proved to be a prelude to the final showdown. The league launched Civil Disobedience Movement to overthrow the coalition government in Punjab as it felt emboldened by the statement.                              ATTLEE’S STATEMENT: FEB 20 (1947)


Modern History

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