Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Quit India Movement - An Important Milestone on our journey to Independence

The Quit India Movement - The Background

The Quit India movement was carried out in the backdrop of a rapid escalation in tensions - both with the british, and societal communal tension. Also in the background was American pressure against The British to free India,  as well as the increasing tensions caused by an attack by Japan. On top of all this came the Cripps Mission - which no nationalist would accept in his right mind. None except Jinnah, that is. 

By April 1942, it was looking as if the British would lose the war; they were under severe strain across the entire spectrum of WW2. Japan was already knocking on India's gates, while Malaya was lost, with a humuliating British withdrawal. Everywhere one looked, from an Indian standpoint, defeat had seemed imminent. The Empire had never looked as weak as it did then

The was moving hand-in-hand with the the increasing anger in the people, as wartime restrictions began to impact the people - in a war that was basically forced onto them. The dissatisfaction rose rapidly with news from Bengal - of the confiscation of food, boats, etc in the middle of a famine - to create high levels of Anger and Dissatisfaction in the people

The final straws came in 2: first, The Atlantic Charter - when the freedom to all peoples clause was expressly denied to India by the British in the House of Commons; and the Second was the Cripps Mission, with its clear and undisguised partition agenda. The Congress was unequivocally against Partition in any form; and the Cripps agenda was a clear invitation to disaster, with its pre-condition that any state could have the option of staying out of the Indian Union. In the words of Cripps himself - "I think he {Jinnah} was rather surprised in the distance that it {the british offer} went to meet the Pakistan Agenda - Stafford Cripps, 25 March 1942". This proved to be the last straw, in combination with a rapid deterioration in problems and escalation in provinces. 

1) The British would have to clear out forthwith
2) If the British could not be persuaded to go, they would have to be thrown out
3) Once The British were removed, India would avoid being invaded because Japan;s quarrel was with Britain, not India
4) If Japan invaded India, it would be met with non-violent resistance
5) The stationing of foreign soldiers, including Americans, on Indian soil was a grave menace to Indian Freedom

Under pressure from a lot of ,moderates the clause relating to Japan was subsequently altered - due to the logical view that you cannot fight an invader with non-violent resistance, and subsequently the following text added in the final draft:

In places wherein The British and the invading forces are fighting, our non-cooperation will be fruitless and unnecessary. Not to put any obstacles in the way of the British forces will often be the only way to demonstrate our non-cooperation with the invader

This, then, was the complete Quit India movement. which was adopted on 8th August 1942

Treason. Sweet and simple. The draft resolution, which was sent to a closed door meeting of the Congress Working Committee at Allahabad a fortnight after the return of Stafford Cripps, fell into the hands of British Intelligence - Courtesy 2 communist members of the congress {Available in the unsealed British archives}. The Indian Communist Party had switched loyalty to the British after the attack on The Soviet Union. Thus, the plan failed before it could be officially adopted; or preparations made for its implementation. All leaders were subsequently arrested immediately. 

The plan was simple: Do, or Die. This is evident from The Mahatma's speech o 7th August 1942. We shall either free India, or die in the attempt. There was a specifc idea of implementation in The Mahatma's mind - government servants to openly declare allegiance with Congress; Soldiers to refuse to fire on our own people; students to give up studies etc. Unfortunately, it never got a chance to get off the ground. 

The immediate impact was a massive set of disturbance across the length and breadth of India - Mumbai, Ahemedabad, Pune, Kanpur, Delhi, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna, Jamshedpur etc. The spill-over effects lasted for quite a bit of time, as city after city and people after people set about letting their views known in no uncertain terms. There were rampant attacks on a huge numbers of Government offices and all signs of Government authority. There were also physical attacks on Europeans.

In the first week, 250 railway stations were destroyed or damaged, 500 post offices and 150 police stations were attacked. In Karnataka alone, there were 1600 incidents of cutting of telegraph wires. Unarmed crowds faced police and military firing on 538 occasions. They were also machine-gunned by low flying aircraft.

There was an all-India underground leadership - Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia. Biju Patnaik, RP Goenka, JP Narayan etc. There was a vast and coordinated attack cycle by the people. The movement got support from a vast variety of people; it was a national uprising. Students, teachers, labourers, business people, villagers, government officials, policemen, ladies - all took part in it. 

Most critically, The Quit India movement was an important milestone since it established that The Mahatma had got the nation together as one - for the first time since 1857 in a demand for the immediate ouster of the British, and made clear that India could now only be held through brute power as the repression, with the use of brute military force, further established : that now India could only be held by Military might, It set the stage for the Indian Army Mutiny of 1945-46, and the Indian Naval Mutiny of 1946, as a result of the INA trials. From this experience during the Quit India Movement, The Raj knew that once the Armed Forces were taken, away- India was anyway out of their hands. And that, in my opinion, was the foremost achievement of the Quit India Movement


1) The Shadow Of The Great Game - Narendra Singh Sarila
2) India's Independence Struggle - Bipin Chandra et al
3) Jinnah, India, Partition, Independence - Jaswant Singh

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