- In March 1939 the Congress session took place at Tripuri, in the Central Provinces (near Jabalpur in present Madhya Pradesh).
- A resolution was moved by Govind Ballabh Pant, reaffirming faith in Gandhian policies and asking Bose to nominate the working committee “in accordance with the wishes of Gandhiji”, and it was passed without opposition from the socialists or the communists.
- Gandhi was not willing to lead a Congress struggle based on the radical lines preferred by Bose, even as Bose was not willing to compromise on his ideas.
- They preferred a united Congress led by Gandhi, as the national struggle was of utmost importance
- Bose resigned from the president’s post in April 1939.
Second World War and Nationalistic Response
On September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland – the action that led to the Second World War. On September 3, 1939, Britain declared war against Germany. Indian offer to cooperate in the war effort had two basic conditions:
- After the war, a constituent assembly should be convened to determine political structure of a free India.
- Immediately, some form of a genuinely responsible government should be established at the Centre.
- The offer was rejected by Linlithgow, the viceroy.
CWC Meeting at Wardha
- Official Congress position was adopted at the Wardha session of the Congress Working Committee
- Gandhi, who had all sympathy for Britain in this war because of his total dislike of the fascist ideology, advocated an unconditional support to the Allied powers.
- Subhas Bose and other socialists- In their opinion, the war was being fought by imperialists on both sides; each side wanted to protect its colonial possessions and gain more territories to colonize, so neither side should be supported by the nationalists.
- Jawaharlal Nehru was not ready to accept the opinion of either Gandhi or of the socialists.
The CWC resolution condemned Fascist aggression.
- India could not be party to a war being fought, on the face of it, for democratic freedom, while that freedom was being denied to India
- If Britain was fighting for democracy and freedom, it should be proved by ending imperialism in its colonies and establishing full democracy in India Government should declare its war aims soon and, also, as to how the principles of democracy were to be applied to India after the war.
Government Attitude and Congress Ministries’ Resignation
Viceroy Linlithgow, in his statement, made on October 17, 1939, tried to use the Muslim League and the princes against the Congress.
- refused to define British war aims beyond stating that Britain was resisting aggression
- said it would, as part of future arrangement, consult “representatives of several communities, parties and interests in India, and the Indian princes” as to how the Act of 1935 might be modified
- said it would immediately set up a “consultative committee” whose advice could be sought whenever required.
Government’s Hidden Agenda
- In May 1940, a top secret Draft Revolutionary Movement Ordinance had been prepared, aimed at launching crippling pre-emptive strikes on the Congress. Congress Ministries Decide to Resign-On October 23, 1939, the CWC meeting
- rejected the viceregal statement as a reiteration of the old imperialist policy
- decided not to support the war
- called upon the Congress ministries to resign in the provinces.
Debate on the Question of Immediate Mass Satyagraha
- Gandhi and his supporters were not in favor of an immediate struggle because they felt that the allied cause was just
- Communal sensitiveness and lack of Hindu-Muslim unity could result in communal riots
- Congress organization was in shambles and the atmosphere was not conducive for a mass struggle
- Masses were not ready for a struggle.
- The Ramgarh session of the Congress was held in March 1940 with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in the president’s chair.
- All agreed that a battle must be waged but there was disagreement over the form.
Pakistan Resolution—Lahore (March 1940)
The Muslim League passed a resolution calling for “grouping of geographically contiguous areas where Muslims are in majority (North-West, East) into independent states.
Linlithgow announced the August Offer (August 1940) which proposed:
- dominion status as the objective for India
- expansion of viceroy’s executive council which would have a majority of Indians
- setting up of a constituent assembly after the war where mainly Indians would decide the constitution according to their social, economic and political conceptions, subject to fulfilment of the obligation of the government regarding defence, minority rights, treaties with States, all India services
- no future constitution to be adopted without the consent of minorities.
- The Congress rejected the August Offer.
- The Muslim League welcomed the veto assurance given to the League
- In July 1941, the viceroy’s executive council was enlarged to give the Indians a majority of 8 out of 12 for the first time, but the British remained in charge of defence, finance and home.
The aims of launching individual satyagraha were—
- to show that nationalist patience was not due to weakness
- to express people’s feeling that they were not interested in the war and that they made no distinction between Nazism and the double autocracy that ruled India
- to give another opportunity to the government to accept Congress’ demands peacefully.
- If the government did not arrest the satyagrahi, he or she would not only repeat it but move into villages and start a march towards Delhi, thus precipitating a movement which came to be known as the ‘Delhi Chalo Movement’.
- Vinoba Bhave was the first to offer the satyagraha and Nehru, the second.
In March 1942, a mission headed by Stafford Cripps was sent to India with constitutional proposals to seek Indian support for the war.
Why Cripps Mission was Sent?
- Because of the reverses suffered by Britain in South- East Asia, the Japanese threat to invade India seemed real now and Indian support became crucial.
- There was pressure on Britain from the Allies (USA, USSR, China) to seek Indian cooperation.
- Indian nationalists had agreed to support the Allied cause if substantial power was transferred immediately and complete independence given after the war.
The main proposals of the mission were as follows:
- An Indian Union with a dominion status would be set up; it would be free to decide its relations with the Commonwealth and free to participate in the United Nations and other international bodies.
- After the end of the war, a constituent assembly would be convened to frame a new constitution.
- Members of this assembly would be partly elected by the provincial assemblies through proportional representation and partly nominated by the princes.
- British government would accept the new constitution subject to two conditions: i) Any province not willing to join the Union could have a separate constitution and form a separate Union. ii) The new constitution making body and the British government would negotiate a treaty to effect the transfer of power and to safeguard racial and religious minorities.
- In the meantime, defence of India would remain in British hands and the governor-general’s powers would remain intact.
Departures from the Past and Implications
The proposals differed from those offered in the past in many respects—
- The making of the constitution was to be solely in Indian hands now (and not ‘mainly’ in Indian hands—as contained in the August Offer).
- A concrete plan was provided for the constituent assembly.
- Option was available to any province to have a separate constitution—a blueprint for India’s partition.
- Free India could withdraw from the Commonwealth.
- Indians were allowed a large share in the administration in the interim period.
Why Cripps Mission Failed?
Various parties and groups had objections to the proposals on different points —
Congress objected to:
- offer of dominion status instead of a provision for complete independence
- representation of the princely states by nominees and not by elected representatives
- right to provinces to secede as this went against the principle of national unity
- absence of any plan for immediate transfer of power
- absence of any real share in defense
- the governor-general’s supremacy had been retained, and the demand that the governor-general be only the constitutional head had not been accepted.
- criticized the idea of a single Indian Union
- did not like the machinery for the creation of a constituent assembly and the procedure to decide on the accession of provinces to the Union
- thought that the proposals denied the Muslims the right to self- determination and the creation of Pakistan.