The Quit India Movement, also called the August Kranti Movement, was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee on 8th August 1942. It aimed to end British rule in India and was launched during World War II, following the failed Cripps Mission to gain Indian support for the British war effort. Gandhi’s famous “Do or Die” speech was delivered at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay on 8 August 1942, marking the start of the movement.
The All India Congress Committee launched a mass protest under Gandhi’s call for “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India. Despite being in the midst of war, the British government reacted swiftly. Within hours of Gandhi’s speech, the majority of Indian National Congress leaders were arrested without trial. They remained imprisoned for the rest of the war and were cut off from the public.
The British had support from the Viceroy’s Council, the All India Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, princely states, Indian Imperial Police, British Indian Army, and Indian Civil Service. Many Indian businessmen benefiting from war spending did not support the Quit India Movement. The only significant external support came from the US, as President Roosevelt pressured Churchill to consider Indian demands.
The Quit India Movement came to an end in 1945 with the release of imprisoned independence activists. Martyrs of this freedom struggle include Matangini Hazra, Kanaklata Barua, and others. In recognition of the movement’s 50th anniversary, the Reserve Bank of India issued a 1 rupee commemorative coin in 1992.
Background Of Quit India Movement
Ongoing World War II and Indian Participation
In 1939, Indian nationalists were dissatisfied with British Governor-General of India, Lord Linlithgow’s decision to bring India into the war without their consultation. The Muslim League supported the war, but the Congress Party was divided. At the start of the war, the Congress Party passed a resolution at the September 1939 Wardha meeting of the working-committee, expressing conditional support for the fight against fascism. However, their request for independence in return was rejected.
Gandhi did not initially support the war effort, as he was a staunch advocate of non-violent resistance, even against leaders such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. However, during the Battle of Britain, Gandhi expressed his support for the fight against racism and the British war effort, and stated that he did not aim to destroy Britain to create an independent India. Despite this, opinions remained divided.
The long-term British policy of underinvesting in India, using the country as a market and source of revenue, had left the Indian Army weak and poorly equipped, leading to the British becoming net contributors to India’s budget and increased taxes and prices. While some Indian businesses benefited from increased war production, the overall business community felt rebuffed by the British government and was dissatisfied with the lack of Indian involvement in organizing and mobilizing the economy for wartime production.
Failure Of Cripps Mission
In March 1942, British government sends a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps to negotiate with Indian National Congress. The aim of the mission, called Cripps Mission, is to get total co-operation during the war. The deal involves devolution and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy to an elected Indian legislature.
The talks failed as the key demand of a timetable of self-government and powers to be relinquished was not addressed. The offer made by the British was limited dominion-status, which was unacceptable to the Indian independence movement.
Factors Contributing to Starting Quit India Movement
The Outbreak of World War II and the Indian Response
- India declared a party to the war as a constituent component of the British Empire.
- The Congress Working Committee passed a resolution condemning the German aggression and stating India’s stance on the war.
- The Viceroy issued a statement claiming that Britain is fighting the war to strengthen peace in the world and promising changes in the Act of 1935 after the war.
- Gandhi responded to the statement, calling it a “policy of divide and rule”.
- Congress ministers resigned following the instructions from the Congress Working Committee.
- The Muslim League celebrated the resignation of the ministers as “The Day of Deliverance”.
- Jinnah declared in his presidential address that Muslims in India want a separate electorate (Pakistan).
The Political Scenario in England and the August Offer
- Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister in England.
- The Conservatives, who assumed power, did not have a sympathetic stance towards the Congress demands.
- The Viceroy issued an “August Offer” in an attempt to pacify the Indians.
- The offer was rejected by both Congress and the Muslim League.
Gandhi’s Plan for Individual Civil Disobedience
- In response to widespread dissatisfaction over the rejection of the Congress demands, Gandhi revealed his plan for individual civil disobedience.
- Satyagraha was widely used as a mark of protest against the British.
- Vinoba Bhave was selected by Gandhi to initiate the movement.
- Anti-war speeches and satyagrahi campaigns were widespread.
- The consequence was the arrest of nearly 14,000 satyagrahis.
- The Viceroy ordered their acquittal on December 3, 1941.
- The movement was withdrawn due to the critical war situation in Europe and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Cripps Mission and its Failure
- In March 1942, the British government sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India to secure support in Britain’s war efforts.
- A draft declaration was presented, which included terms like the establishment of Dominion and a Constituent Assembly, but only after the cessation of the war.
- Congress rejected the declaration, calling it a “post-dated cheque on a crashing bank”.
- The Cripps Mission failure contributed to Gandhi’s call for The Quit India Movement.
- Other factors that contributed were the threat of Japanese invasion and the realization of the national leaders about the incapacity of the British to defend India.
Gandhi’s Call To Action
Mahatma Gandhi’s call to action took place at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee in 1942, during World War II. In his speech, Gandhi addressed the growing dissatisfaction among the Indian population and troops, who were only reluctantly participating in the war effort.
He called for an end to British rule in India and made a passionate call to the Indian people to fight for their independence, with the famous slogan “Do or Die”. This speech marked the official launch of the Quit India Movement, which aimed to bring about a nonviolent resistance against British rule in India.
The movement received widespread support from the Indian people and Gandhi’s powerful words inspired a new wave of nationalistic fervor. Despite being met with resistance from the British government, the Quit India Movement continued to gain momentum and became a turning point in the Indian independence struggle.
British Government Response To Quit India Movement
- Immediate arrest of Indian National Congress leaders: The British government saw the Quit India Movement as a direct challenge to their rule and swiftly arrested the top leaders of the Indian National Congress including Gandhi. This was done to quell the mass movement and maintain control over India.
- Support from the Viceroy’s Council: The Viceroy’s Council, composed of high-ranking British officials, backed the government’s actions in response to the Quit India Movement. They believed that the demands made by the Congress were unreasonable and that the government had to take strong measures to maintain order.
- Support from the All India Muslim League: The Muslim League, which represented Indian Muslims, supported the British government during the Quit India Movement. They saw the Congress’s demands as a threat to their interests and believed that British rule was necessary to protect their rights.
- Support from the Hindu Mahasabha: The Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist organization, also supported the British government during the Quit India Movement. They saw the Congress’s demands as a threat to Hindu interests and believed that British rule was necessary to maintain stability.
- Support from the Princely states: Many of the Princely states, which were independent states within India, supported the British government during the Quit India Movement. They believed that the British provided them with protection and stability and saw the demands made by the Congress as a threat to their independence.
- Support from the Indian Imperial Police: The Indian Imperial Police, which was responsible for maintaining law and order in India, supported the British government during the Quit India Movement. They were tasked with quelling any unrest and maintaining control over the population.
- Support from the British Indian Army: The British Indian Army also supported the British government during the Quit India Movement. They were responsible for maintaining order and saw the demands made by the Congress as a threat to their duties.
- Support from the Indian Civil Service: The Indian Civil Service, composed of British officials responsible for administering India, supported the government’s actions in response to the Quit India Movement. They believed that the demands made by the Congress were unrealistic and that strong measures were necessary to maintain stability in India.
Reactions From Different Groups On Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement, launched by Gandhi in 1942, evoked diverse reactions from various groups, which are as follows –
|1. INDIAN BUSINESSES|
Indian businesses, for instance, were affected by the nationwide strikes and protests that characterized the movement. While some business owners supported the movement, others felt that the unrest disrupted their operations and negatively impacted their profits.
|2. PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT’s EXERTING PRESSURE ON CHURCHILL|
In the international arena, the United States, led by President Roosevelt, exerted pressure on Prime Minister Churchill to consider some of the demands put forth by the Indian independence movement. Roosevelt believed that granting India greater freedom would enhance the country’s contribution to the war effort, and help the Allied cause.
These differing reactions to the Quit India Movement reflected the diverse perspectives and interests of the various groups involved. Some supported the cause of independence, while others were more concerned about the impact of the movement on their businesses or strategic interests.
End Of Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement came to an end in 1945, following the end of World War II and the release of jailed freedom fighters. The movement, which lasted for three years, was a nonviolent resistance campaign led by the Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, to demand independence from British rule.
Martyrs of the freedom movement include Matangini Hazra, Kanaklata Barua, and others who made sacrifices for the cause of Indian independence. These brave individuals are remembered and honored to this day, serving as an inspiration to generations of Indians who continue to work towards a free and democratic India.
The end of the Quit India Movement marked a turning point in India’s independence struggle, paving the way for the eventual withdrawal of British colonial rule in 1947. The movement remains a significant chapter in India’s history, remembered as a testament to the power of nonviolent resistance and the strength of the human spirit.
Legacy Of Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement was a significant event in India’s fight for independence from British rule. Its impact can still be felt today, both in terms of the country’s continued struggle for freedom and its cultural and political heritage.
One lasting legacy of the movement is the issuance of a 1 rupee commemorative coin by the Reserve Bank of India in 1992 to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Quit India Movement. The coin serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters and the role played by the movement in India’s journey towards independence.
It is a symbol of the country’s history and its commitment to preserving its heritage, as well as its continued pursuit of freedom and self-determination.