After the failure of the Cripps Mission to secure Indian support for the British war effort, Gandhi made a call to Do or Die in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay on 8 August 1942 at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. The All India Congress Committee launched a mass protest demanding what Gandhi called “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India.
Even though it was at war, the British were prepared to act. Almost the entire leadership of the Indian National Congress was imprisoned without trial within hours of Gandhi’s speech. Most spent the rest of the war in prison and out of contact with the masses. The British had the support of the Viceroy’s Council of the All India Muslim League. The Hindu Mahasabha, the princely states, the Indian Imperial Police, the British Indian Army, and the Indian Civil Service.
Golden Jubilee of the Quit India Movement
Many Indian businessmen profiting from heavy wartime spending did not support the Quit India Movement. Many students paid more attention to Subhas Chandra Bose, who was in exile and supporting the Axis Powers. The only outside support came from the Americans, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressured Prime Minister Winston Churchill to give in to some of the Indian demands. The British refused to grant immediate independence, saying it could happen only after the war had ended.
Sporadic small-scale violence took place around the country and the British arrested tens of thousands of leaders. Keeping them imprisoned until 1945. In terms of immediate objectives, Quit India failed because of heavy-handed suppression. Weak coordination, and the lack of a clear-cut program of action. However, the British government realized. The postwar era became how to exit gracefully and peacefully. In 1992, the Reserve Bank of India issued a 1 rupee commemorative coin to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Quit India Movement.
Suppression of the movement
One of the important achievements of the movement was keeping the Congress party united through all the trials and tribulations that followed. The British, already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India-Burma border, responded by imprisoning Gandhi. All the members of the Party’s Working Committee (national leadership) were imprisoned as well.
Due to the arrest of major leaders, a young and until then relatively unknown Aruna Asaf Ali presided over the AICC session on 9 August and hoisted the flag. Despite the lack of direct leadership, large protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent in large groups and strikes were called. Not all demonstrations were peaceful, at some places bombs exploded. Government buildings were set on fire. Electricity was cut and transport and communication lines were severed.
Opposition to the Quit India Movement
Several political groups active during the Indian Independence Movement were opposed to the Quit India Movement. These included the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Communist Party of India, and princely states.
Resolution for immediate independence
The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha (14 July 1942) passed a resolution demanding complete independence from the British government. The draft proposed massive civil disobedience if the British did not accede to the demands. However, it proved to be controversial within the party. A prominent Congress national leader, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. Quit the Congress over this decision, and so did some local and regional level organizers.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad were apprehensive and critical of the call, but backed it and stuck with Gandhi’s leadership until the end. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, and Anugrah Narayan Sinha openly and enthusiastically supported such a disobedience movement, as did many veteran Gandhians and socialists like Ashoka Mehta and Jayaprakash Narayan.
Factors contributing to the movement’s launch
In 1939, with the outbreak of war between Germany and Britain, India became a party to the war by being a constituent component of the British Empire. Following this declaration, the Congress Working Committee at its meeting on 10 October 1939, passed a resolution condemning the aggressive activities of the Germans.
At the same time, the resolution also stated that India could not associate herself with war unless it was consulted first. Responding to this declaration, the Viceroy issued a statement on 17 October wherein he claimed that Britain is waging a war driven to strengthen peace in the world. He also stated that after the war, the government would initiate modifications in the Act of 1935, following the desires of the Indians.
World War II and Indian involvement
In 1939, Indian nationalists were angry that British Governor-General of India, Lord Linlithgow, brought India into the war without consultation with them. The Muslim League supported the war, but Congress was divided. At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had passed a resolution during the Wardha meeting of the working committee in September 1939, conditionally supporting the fight against fascism, but were rebuffed when they asked for independence in return.
In March 1942, faced with a dissatisfied sub-continent only reluctantly participating in the war and deterioration in the war situation in Europe and with growing dissatisfaction among Indian troops and the civilian population in the sub-continent, the British government sent a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps, the Leader of the House of Commons, in what came to be known as the Cripps mission.
The purpose of the mission was to negotiate with the Indian National Congress a deal to obtain total co-operation during the war, in return for devolution and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy to an elected Indian legislature. The talks failed, as they did not address the key demand of a timetable of self-government and the powers to be relinquished, essentially making an offer of limited dominion status that was unacceptable to the Indian movement.
Britain threw India into the war
During the Second World War, the British forces were beginning to be defeated in South-East Asia. Japan was constantly being attacked by the Allied countries. During this time the Allied countries started pressurizing Britain to take some initiative to get the support of Indians. Because the cooperation of Indians in the war was very important to Britain.
Britain threw India into the war without any consultation. This led to a standoff between Congress and the British government. After the failure of the Cripps Mission, the Congress Committee called a meeting on 8 August 1942 at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Mumbai. In this meeting, a resolution was passed that for the complete independence of India, it has become necessary that the British rule should be overthrown from India.
Interesting facts related to this movement
1- Gandhiji gave the slogan ‘Do or Die’ in this meeting. That is, through this movement, we will either get freedom or we will give our lives. This slogan covered the tongue of every Indian.
2- The term ‘Quit India’ was coined by the freedom fighter and socialist leader Yusuf Meher Ali. Yusuf Meher Ali had also served as the Mayor of Mumbai.
3- Following Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Do or Die’ slogan, the leaders of the Indian Congress were arrested and imprisoned without trial.
4- Young Aruna Asaf Ali presided over the remaining session of the Congress in the absence of prominent leaders. On 9 August, he unfurled the Indian flag at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay (present-day Mumbai).
5- Here, as soon as the news of the arrest of Congress leaders spread, the Indian people started firing in rebellion against the British colonial state. Angry people damaged railway lines, cut telephone wires, robbed banks. Apart from this, government buildings and police stations were set on fire.
6- To suppress the movement, the British imposed a massive fine on the public. Along with this, the protesters were beaten with a public whip and even opened fire on the crowd. Apart from this, the British government had banned public processions, meetings.
7- Despite this, Ram Manohar Lohia, JP Narayan, Sucheta Kriplani Biju Patnaik, and other leaders continued the movement inside. This was the reason that later these leaders emerged as prominent figures in the political scene of India.
8- After this, parallel governments were established in Ballia (Uttar Pradesh), Satara (Maharashtra), Tamluk (West Bengal), and Talcher (Orissa) to compete with the British. Although India did not get independence from this movement, this movement had an important role in India’s independence in 1947.
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