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The Quit India Movement
The Indian National Congress at its Bombay session (August 1942) passed the famous Quit India resolution, calling for a mass struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. "Do or Die" was the mantra which Gandhiji gave to the people of India. However, even before the Congress could start the movement, the British administrative machinery came down heavily on the protesters. All the major leaders of India were arrested and the Congress itself was declared illegal. A dismayed India reacted spontaneously against this repressive act. Popular revolts broke out across the length and breadth of the country, with the battle cry of "British Leave India", and the civil disobedience movement has come to be known as the "Quit India Movement"
K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
The Quit India Movement, 1942 ---------
Quit India Movement
the Quit India Resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). was put into confinement less than twenty-four hours after Gandhi's speech. the British had entered India into World War II. some Indians wanted to support the British during the Battle of Britain. the British. . 1942. The British responded with mass detentions. World War II and Indian Involvement In 1942. entered India into World War II. 1947. 1942. in response to Mahatma Gandhi's call for the immediate independence of India. Others were enraged by the British disregard for Indian intelligence and civil rights. large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. In a speech entitled. 1942. On July 14. they cited revolts and growing dissatisfaction among Royal Indian Armed Forces during and after the war as the driving force behind Britain's decision to leave India. and were unsympathetic to the travails of the British people. but passive resistance.000 arrests. The response in India was divided. both at the national and local levels. which they saw as rightful punishment for their subjugation of Indians. the political experience gained by the Indian people through activities such as the Quit India movement laid the foundation for the strongest enduring tradition of democracy and freedom in post-colonial Africa and Asia. unilaterally and without consultation. and when the British granted independence on August 15. Its aim was to bring the British government to the negotiating table through determined. "Do or Die. Despite lack of direct leadership. including revolutionaries who were not necessarily party to Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence.Procession view at Bangalore The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan or the August Movement) was a civil disobedience movement in India launched in August 1942. On August 8. His call found support among a large number of Indians. Gandhi urged the masses to act as an independent nation and not to follow the orders of the British. arousing the indignation of large numbers of Indian people. Within a few months the Movement had died down. Unilaterally and without consultation. and the greater number of the Congress leaders spent the rest of the war in jail. However. the Indian National Congress passed a resolution demanding complete independence from Britain and massive civil disobedience. Almost the entire Congress leadership. making over 100. hoping for eventual independence through this effort." given on August 8.
however. and among the civilian population in India. channeling it into a united.  Bose's audacious actions and radical initiative energized a new generation of Indians. the talks failed to address the key demands of a time frame for self-government.Andrews* Opinions on the War At the outbreak of war. stating he did not seek to raise a free India from the ashes of Britain. Cripps' Mission In March. but ultimately failed owing to disrupted logistic. Bose organized the Indian National Army with the help of the Japanese. and a lack of support and training. the Congress Party had passed a resolution conditionally supporting the fight against fascism . and.F. the British government sent a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps. but were rebuffed when they asked for independence in return. Bangalore with Late C. solicited help from the Axis Powers. faced with an increasingly dissatisfied Indian sub-continent which participated in the war only with reluctance. in what came to be known as the Cripps' Mission. a committed believer in non-violent resistance. After the onset of the war. 1939. with deterioration in the war situation in Europe and South East Asia. had not supported this initiative. because he could not support an endorsement of war. Gandhi. and Tojo). and of a clear definition of the powers to be relinquished. At the height of the Battle of Britain. during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September. essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement. The purpose of the mission was to negotiate with the Indian National Congress to obtain total co-operation during the war.Public lecture at Basavanagudi. Gandhi expressed his support for the fight against fascism and the British War effort. Mussolini. in return for progressive devolution and distribution of power from the Crown and the Viceroy to an elected Indian legislature. However. and with growing dissatisfaction among Indian troops in Europe. only a group led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose took any decisive action. The Quit India Movement tapped into this energy. The INA fought hard in the forests of Assam. Bengal and Burma. . he advocated nonviolent resistance even against the tyranny of Hitler. opinions remained divided. 1942. inadequate arms and supplies from the Japanese. cohesive action. However.
Resolution for Immediate Independence On July 14. the Quit India Resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Dr. it proved to be controversial within the party. At the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay. However. He told the masses to act as an independent nation and not to follow the orders of the British. and the Muslim League obtaining power in the Imperial provincial governments. The Congress had less success in rallying other political forces under a single flag. It also found support among Indian revolutionaries who were not necessarily party to Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence. 1942. Suppression of the Movement . A prominent Congress national leader. and so did some local and regional level organizers. Chakravarti Rajgopalachari. Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad were apprehensive and critical of the call. Muhammad Ali Jinnah's opposition to the call led to large numbers of Muslims cooperating with the British. On August 8. His call found support among a large number of Indians. but backed it and followed Gandhi's leadership until the end. since re-named August Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Ground). as were many veteran Gandhians and socialists like Asoka Mehta and Jaya Prakash Narayan. Gandhi gave a speech urging Indians to follow non-violent civil disobedience. Smaller parties like the Communist Party of India and the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the call. massive civil disobedience would be launched. quit the Congress over this decision. The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands. the Indian National Congress passed a resolution demanding complete independence from Britain. 1942. Rajendra Prasad were openly and enthusiastically in favor of such a disobedience movement.
These actions only created sympathy for the cause among the population. Kasturbai Gandhi. and establishing parallel governments. The British sense of crisis was strong enough that a battleship was specifically set aside to take Gandhi and the Congress leaders out of India.000 arrests were made nationwide. Many national leaders went underground and continued their struggle by broadcasting messages over clandestine radio stations. Despite lack of direct leadership. The entire Congress leadership was cut off from the rest of the world for over three years. The British swiftly responded with mass detentions. Despite this. responded the next day by imprisoning Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune.Picketing in front of Medical School at Bangalore The British. government buildings were set on fire. Due to the arrest of major leaders. All the members of the Congress Party's Working Committee (national leadership) were arrested and imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Fort. large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. a young and till then relatively unknown Aruna Asaf Ali presided over the AICC session on August 9. distributing pamphlets. died in a short space of months. electricity was cut. Not all the demonstrations were peaceful. Gandhi's wife. out of fear of intensifying the revolt. but such a step was ultimately not taken. and his personal secretary. and hoisted the flag. mass fines were levied. Mahadev Desai. Later. At some places bombs exploded. and transport and communication lines were severed. Gandhi went on a 21-day fast and maintained a superhuman . A total of over 100. the Congress party was banned. and Gandhi's own health was failing. possibly to South Africa or Yemen. and demonstrators were subjected to public flogging. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India/Burma border. Hundreds of resisters and innocent people were killed by police and army fire.
When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement. which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Contributions Towards Indian Independence The successes and failures of the Movement are debated. It did. the movement may be deemed to have ultimately failed in its aim of bringing the Raj to its knees and to the negotiating table for immediate transfer of power. who as the British Prime Minister in postwar years was responsible for India’s freedom.V. was the loyalty of the army. Why then did they do so?’ In reply Attlee cited several reasons. however." However much it might have disconcerted the Raj. while the entire Congress leadership was incarcerated. as well as Congress opponents like the Communists and Hindu extremists. ‘Minimal’. Although the British released Gandhi on account of his failing health in 1944. Within five months of its inception. ascribing greater importance to the revolts and growing dissatisfaction among Royal Indian Armed Forces during and after the war as the driving force behind Britain's decision to leave India. sought to gain political mileage. This certainly was also the view of the British Prime Minister. the Movement had almost come to a close. Chuckraborty. slowly. the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India. Which phase of our freedom struggle won for us Independence? Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 Quit India movement or the INA army launched by Netaji Bose to free India. By March 1943. An extract from a letter written by P. it was the INA and the RIN Mutiny of February 18-23. reads: "When I was acting as Governor of West Bengal in 1956. and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realize that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British." . Atlee deemed the contribution of "Quit India" movement as minimal. 1946. at the time of transfer of power. By early 1944. the movement had petered out. former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court. 1976. Clement Atlee. Gandhi kept up the resistance. during whose regime India became free. Analysis of the campaign obtained by Military Intelligence in 1943 came to the conclusion that it had failed in its aim of paralyzing the government. or the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny of 1946? According to the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee. demanding the complete release of the Congress leadership.resolve to continue his resistance. Lord Clement Attlee. A sense that the movement had failed depressed many nationalists. India was mostly peaceful again. Some historians claim that it failed. it appears. even in places where the local and native police came out in sympathy. criticizing Gandhi and the Congress Party. cause enough trouble and panic among the War administration for General Lockhart to describe India as an "occupied and hostile country. at the time saw it as failure. visited India and stayed in Raj Bhavan Calcutta for two days`85 I put it straight to him like this: ‘The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time. Attlee’s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered. Even the Congress. and was nowhere near achieving its grandiose aim of toppling the Raj. that made the British realize that their time was up in India. The primary underlying reason. on March 30. while Jinnah and the Muslim League.
The rebellion definitely put a strain on the economic and military resources of the British Empire at a time when they were heavily engaged I World War II. The INA trials in 1945. the resulting militant movements. On August 15. all political prisoners had been released. until Gandhi personally requested the leaders to disband in 1944. 1947. whose trials and tribulations sowed the seeds of the strongest enduring tradition of democracy and freedom in post-colonial Africa and Asia. and every act of defiance only increased this sentiment. India was declared independent. and the Bombay mutiny had already shaken the pillar of the Raj in India. however. the local populace were successful in establishing parallel governments. the Azad Hind Government under Netaji Subhash Bose in Berlin deemed these an early indication of success of their strategy of fomenting public rebellion. the British people and the British Army showed unwillingness to back a policy of repression in India and other parts of the Empire. What is beyond doubt. from intelligence reports. Britain openly adopted a political dialogue with the Indian National Congress to prepare for the eventual transfer of power. In addition. to say ultimately that independence was a non-negotiable goal. the ability to galvanize rebellion was limited. even as their own country lay shattered by the war's ravages. . as it never had been before. Indians who lived through Quit India formed the first generation of independent Indians. new generation responded to Gandhi's call. It may ultimately be a fruitless question whether it was the powerful common call for resistance among Indians that shattered the spirit and will of the British Raj to continue ruling India. argue that. Talcher. however. At the time. the movement had succeeded. the movement is notable for regional success especially at Satara. and Midnapore. is that a population of millions had been motivated. this can be termed one of the greatest examples of prudence of humanity. Although at the national level. By early 1946. in fact. Some Indian historians. A young. which continued to function. When considered in the light of the turbulence and sectarianism which surfaced during the Partition of India. or whether it was the foment of rebellion and resentment among the British Indian Armed Forces. In the Tamluk and Contai subdivisions of Midnapore.
All the three movements were structured following the celebrated political ideologies of Gandhi. bears a close relationship to the roles that he discharged in the three National Movements.Quit India Movement Celebrating the 138th birth anniversary of Gandhiji in association with Gandhi Smriti The ascendancy of Mahatma Gandhi in the political scenario of pre Independence India."We shall either free India or . namely The Non Co-Operation Movement. However. Nevertheless. The Quit India Movement departed significantly from the preceding movements in that it lacked organization and widespread violence became a common feature of the movement. Satyagraha or passive civilian resistance and ahimsa or non violence became the unique weapons of Indian National Movements. The Civil Disobedience Movement and The Quit India Movement. Gandhi's inspiring statement . The Quit India Movement occupies a special place in the history of Indian struggle for freedom for taking the final step towards India's independence under the able leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi's reaction to this statement was. However. It was widely used as a mark of protest against the unwavering stance assumed by the British. . the Congress rejected the offer followed by the Muslim League. He called the day of 22nd December. the weapon of satyagraha found popular acceptance as the best means to wage a crusade against the British. Gandhi at the meeting of the Congress Working Committee in Wardha revealed his plan to launch Individual Civil Disobedience. the Viceroy ordered the acquittal of all the satyagrahis. Congress ministers from eight provinces resigned following the instructions. did not have a sympathetic stance towards the claims made by the Indians. The resignation of the ministers was an occasion of great joy and rejoicing for leader of the Muslim League. He also stated that after the war. The consequence of this satyagrahi campaign was the arrest of almost fourteen thousand satyagrahis. In the context of widespread dissatisfaction that prevailed over the rejection of the demands made by the Congress. Gandhi urged Jinnah against the celebration of this day. who assumed power in England. Factors Contributing to the Launch of Quit India Movement In 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 as it was against Fascism. Pakistan. Following this declaration. in accordance to the desires of the Indians. Vinoba Bhave. the Congress ministers were directed to resign immediately.die in the attempt. 1941. Chamberlain was succeeded by Churchill as the Prime Minister and the Conservatives. There was hardly any difference between British colonialism and Nazi totalitarianism. India was announced to be a party to the war for being a constituent component of the British Empire. The Congress has asked for bread and it has got stone. On August 8th. In order to pacify the Indians in the circumstance of worsening war situation. with the outbreak of war between Germany and Britain. however. 1939. 1939 'The Day of Deliverance'. Subsequently. At the Muslim League Lahore Session held in March 1940. crucial political events took place in England. it was futile. Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Once again. we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery" ignited the sentiments of Indians across the nation. On 3rd December. the government would initiate modifications in the Act of 1935. Responding to this declaration." According to the instructions issued by High Command. was selected by him to initiate the movement. the Congress Working Committee at its meeting on 10th October. Jinnah declared in his presidential address that the Muslims of the country wanted a separate homeland. a follower of Gandhi. In Europe the war situation became more critical with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Congress realized the necessity for appraising their program. Anti war speeches ricocheted in all corners of the country. the Viceroy issued a statement on October 17th wherein he claimed that Britain is waging a war driven by the motif to strengthen peace in the world. with the satyagrahis earnestly appealing to the people of the nation not to support the Government in its war endeavors. the Conservatives were forced to concede some of the demands made by the Indians. the movement was withdrawn. "the old policy of divide and rule is to continue. In the meanwhile. the Viceroy issued a statement that has come to be referred as the "August Offer".
eminent Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. This ruined the atmosphere of non violence in the country. Lord Linlithgow. Their withdrawal removes that bait. 1942. The very next day.". on 9th August.. Gandhi realized that the time was ripe to take some strong and quick actions. These would be. Unlike the other two movements. The Congress Working Committee adopted the well known 'Quit India' Resolution. This phase lasted for a period of three to four days and commenced from the day of Gandhi's arrest on August 9th ." Other factors that contributed were the threat of Japanese invasion of India. rule of terror in East Bengal and realization of the national leaders of the incapacity of the British to defend their India. post offices and railway stations were attacked and set ablaze. the casualties included large number of women and children. Commenting on this Gandhi said.. on July 14th 1942 at Wardha. In the first phase there were strikes.. In order to give effect to the Mahatma's views. The factory and mill workers rose to the cause and displayed maximum vigor and enthusiasm.. which included terms like establishment of Dominion. The government took recourse to repressive measures to subdue the movement. inaugurated at the call of the Mahatma. He was in favor of resorting to direct action. In an incident of open fire in Bombay. the Non-Co-Operation and the Civil Disobedience Movement that unleashed under the aegis of Mahatma Gandhi. Raids of municipal and government buildings characterized the second phase of the movement. 1942. Vallabhbhai Patel. Police stations. Gandhi's Call for Quit India Sir Stafford Cripps left the country amidst unprecedented excitement. unfolded in four phases. the Quit India Movement captures the quintessence of a 'spontaneous' rising by the people. Gandhi's 'do or die' call for the people created an upheaval in the country. processions. Jaeaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad were arrested. Gandhi announced 'Quit India' as the war cry for the Indians. He wrote a series of articles in Harijan where he urged the people to rise in action.. A Draft Declaration of the British Government was presented. Immediately after the return of Sir Stafford Cripps. The masses were left without any guidance.. however. sent Sir Stafford Cripps to talk terms with the Indian political parties and secure their support in Britain's war efforts. establishment of a Constituent Assembly and right of the Provinces to make separate constitutions. The Viceroy. "The presence of the British in India is an invitation to Japan to invade India. To quote Gandhi. the British government on 22nd March. adopted a policy of harsh repression all over the country and gory instances of British atrocities abounded all over. 1942 in Bombay. The Quit India Movement.. granted after the cessation of the Second World War. In order to end the deadlock. Troops fired to control .The Cripps' Mission and its failure also played an important role in Gandhi's call for The Quit India Movement. But at the same time.. on 8th August. Gandhi mentioned specifically that mass movement should be conducted following non violent means. According to the Congress this Declaration only offered India a promise that was to be fulfilled in the future.. "It is a post dated cheque on a crashing bank. Attempts were made by the agitated mobs to capture court buildings. The All India Congress Committee accepted this resolution with some modifications.. demonstrations and processions..
and Karo Ya Maro (“Do or Die”) in the cause of ultimate freedom. and others felt that Gandhi wasn’t doing enough. without consultation of the people’s representatives. saying that the “ordered anarchy” around him was “worse than real anarchy. With the emergence of the movement into the fourth phase. He was released before the end of the war on May 6. All Congressmen elected to resign from office en masse. Although the Quit India movement had moderate success in its objective. Gandhi had favored offering “non-violent moral support” to the British effort. Gandhi declared that India could not be party to a war ostensibly being fought for democratic freedom. Quit India movement was Gandhi's final bid to secure India's independence. After lengthy deliberations. It is said that during this phase of the movement. India was at the very threshold of Independence by the end of the Quit India movement and Gandhi's long cherished dream was about to be realized. Gandhi intensified his demand for independence. 1944. 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery. Bombay and Uttar Pradesh. six weeks later Gandhi suffered a severe malaria attack. the ruthless . yet it was the satyagraha adopted by Gandhi that finally had the most telling effect in challenging the British authorities. 1942. marks the beginning of the third phase of the movement. Gandhi was held for two years in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune.mob fury. the mob threw bombs on the police in Madhya Pradesh. and Gandhi's role as the chief moving force behind India's Independence came to be universally accepted. Quit India became the most forceful movement in the history of the struggle. It was here that Gandhi suffered two terrible blows in his personal life. 1944. although dark clouds of a communal fissure still lurked in the background. with mass arrests and violence on an unprecedented scale. Mahatma Gandhi – World War II and Quit India World War II broke out in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Although. the Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. but other Congressional leaders were offended by the unilateral inclusion of India into the war. This was Gandhi’s and the Congress Party’s most definitive revolt aimed at securing the British exit from Indian shores. Gandhi was criticized by some Congress party members and other Indian political groups. Gandhi and his supporters made it clear they would not support the war effort unless India were granted immediate independence. while that freedom was denied to India itself. drafting a resolution calling for the British to Quit India. and hundreds of thousands were arrested. Initially. Some felt that opposing Britain in its life or death struggle was immoral. Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Bombay by the British on August 9. September 1942. His 50-year old secretary Mahadev Desai died of a heart attack 6 days later and his wife Kasturba died after 18 months imprisonment in February 22. many diverse political ideologies crowded the scenario of Indian National Movement at that time. Thousands of freedom fighters were killed or injured by police gunfire. He even clarified that this time the movement would not be stopped if individual acts of violence were committed. it gained back its peaceful character and extended till Mahatma Gandhi was released from prison in May. both proBritish and anti-British. As the war progressed.” He called on all Congressmen and Indians to maintain discipline via ahimsa. Quit India movement sealed the success for satyagraha as a policy of political resistance.
and around 100. the British gave clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands.000 political prisoners were released.suppression of the movement brought order to India by the end of 1943. At the end of the war. including the Congress’s leadership. . At this point Gandhi called off the struggle.
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