QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT
CWC meeting at Wardha (July 14, 1942) accepted the idea of a struggle.
- Failure of the Cripps Mission to solve the constitutional deadlock
- There was popular discontent because of rising prices and shortage of rice, salt, etc., and because of factors such as commandeering of boats in Bengal and Orissa.
- The Japanese troops were approaching the borders of India.
- There were fears of Britain following a scorched earth policy in Assam, Bengal and Orissa against possible Japanese advance.
- News of reverses suffered by the British in South- East Asia and an imminent British collapse enhanced popular willingness to give expression to discontent.
- British behavior towards the Indian subjects in South-East Asia exposed the racist attitude of the rulers.
The ‘Quit India’ Resolution
Quit India Resolution was ratified at the Congress meeting at Gowalia Tank, Bombay, on August 8, 1942. The meeting also resolved to:
- demand an immediate end to British rule in India.
- declare commitment of free India to defend itself against all types of Fascism and imperialism.
- form a provisional Government of India after British withdrawal.
- sanction a civil disobedience movement against British rule.
Gandhi’s General Instructions to Different Sections
- Government servants: Do not resign but declare your allegiance to the Congress.
- Soldiers: Do not leave the Army but do not fire on compatriots.
- Students: If confident, leave studies.
- Peasants: If zamindars are anti-government, pay mutually agreed rent, and if zamindars are pro-government, do not pay rent.
- Princes: Support the masses and accept sovereignty of your people.
- Princely states’ people: Support the ruler only if he is anti-government and declare yourselves to be a part of the Indian nation.
Congress Working Committee, the All India Congress Committee and the Provincial Congress Committees were declared unlawful associations under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908.
Spread of the Movement
- Public on Rampage- The general public attacked symbols of authority, and hoisted national flags forcibly on public buildings.
- Underground Activity- Many nationalists went underground and took to subversive activities. The participants in these activities were the Socialists, Forward Bloc members, Gandhi ashramites, revolutionary nationalists and local organizations .
- Ex: Rammanohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Aruna Asaf Ali, Usha Sharma, Sucheta Kriplani, Biju Patnaik etc.
Parallel governments were established at many places:
- Ballia (in August 1942 for a week)—under Chittu Pandey.
- Tamluk (Midnapore, from December 1942 to September 1944)—Jatiya Sarkar
- Satara (mid-1943 to 1945)—named “Prati Sarkar”, was organized
Extent of Mass Participation
- Youth, especially the students of schools and colleges, remained in the forefront.
- Women, actively participated, and included Aruna Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kripalani and Usha Mehta.
- Workers went on strikes and faced repression.
- Peasants of all strata were at the heart of the movement. Even some zamindars participated.
- Government officials, especially those belonging to lower levels in police and administration, participated resulting in erosion of government loyalty.
- Muslims helped by giving shelter to underground activists.
- There were no communal clashes during the movement.
- The Communists did not join the movement; in the wake of Russia (where the communists were in power) being attacked by Nazi Germany, the communists began to support the British war against Germany and the ‘Imperialist War’ became the ‘People’s War’.
- The Muslim League opposed the movement, fearing that if the British left India at that time, the minorities would be oppressed by the Hindus.
- On March 23, 1943 Pakistan Day was observed
- The Hindu Mahasabha boycotted the movement.
- The Princely states showed a low-key response.
- Although martial law was not applied, the repression was severe.
- Left without leaders, there was no restraint and violence became common.
- Main storm centres of the movement were in eastern United Provinces, Bihar, Midnapore, Maharashtra, Karnataka.
- Students, workers and peasants were the backbone of the movement while the upper classes and the bureaucracy remained largely loyal.
- Loyalty to government suffered considerable erosion.
Impact of Quit India
- Movement established the truth that it was no longer possible to rule India without the wishes of Indians.
- Great significance was that the movement placed the demand for independence on the immediate agenda of the national movement. After Quit India, there could be no retreat.
- In this struggle, the common people displayed unparalleled heroism and militancy.
- The repression they faced was the most brutal, and the circumstances under which resistance was offered were most adverse.
Famine of 1943
- Horror and inconveniences of war were increased by the famine of 1943.
- The worst-affected areas were south-west Bengal.
- The fundamental causes of the famine were as follows
- The need to feed a vast Army diverted foodstuffs.
- Rice imports from Burma and South-East Asia had been stopped.
- The famine got aggravated by gross mismanagement and deliberate profiteering; rationing methods were belated and were confined to big cities.
C. Rajagopalachari (CR), the veteran Congress leader, prepared a formula for Congress-League cooperation in 1944.
The main points in the CR Plan were:
- Muslim League to endorse Congress demand for independence.
- League to cooperate with Congress in forming a provisional government at centre.
- After the end of the war, the entire population of Muslim majority areas in the North-West and North-East India to decide by a plebiscite, whether or not to form a separate sovereign state.
- In case of acceptance of partition, agreement to be made jointly for safeguarding defence, commerce, communications, etc.
- Above terms to be operative only if England transferred full powers to India.
- Jinnah wanted the Congress to accept the two-nation theory.
- Hindu leaders led by Vir Savarkar condemned the CR Plan.
- Bhulabhai Desai, met Liaqat Ali Khan and both of them came up with the draft proposal for the formation of an interim government at the centre, consisting of—
- an equal number of persons nominated by the Congress and the League in the central legislature.
- 20% reserved seats for minorities.
- No settlement could be reached.
Wavell Plan, 1945
Viceroy Wavell decided to start negotiations with the Indians.
- General election in England was scheduled for mid-1945.
- The Conservatives wanted to be seen as sincere on reaching a solution.
- Although the war came to an end in Europe, the Japanese threat was still looming.
- There was pressure from the Allies to seek further Indian cooperation in the war.
- A conference was convened by the viceroy, Lord Wavell, at Shimla in June 1945.
- The main proposals of the Wavell Plan were as follows.
- With the exception of the governor-general and the commander-in-chief, all members of the executive council were to be Indians.
- Hindus and Muslims were to have equal representation.
- Reconstructed council was to function as an interim government within the framework of the 1935 Act (i.e. not responsible to the Central Assembly).
- Governor-general was to exercise his veto on the advice of ministers.
Rejection of Wavell Plan
- Jinnah wanted ML to be the sole representative of Indian Muslims in order to not lose representation in the Viceroy’s executive council.
- The Congress objected to the plan as “an attempt to reduce the Congress to the status of a purely caste Hindu party and insisted on its right to include members of all communities among its nominees”.
- Wavell announced a breakdown of talks.