The 76th anniversary of Quit India movement was observed across India on August 8, 2018. On this day in 1942, father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi gave the famous clarion call of ‘Do or Die’ to all Indians to drive the British away from the country.
The movement, also known as the August Kranti Diwas, was launched at the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), at the height of the Second World War.
• As the World War II progressed, Mahatma Gandhi intensified his protests for India’s complete independence.
• He drafted a resolution calling for the British to Quit India. On August 8, 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed at the Mumbai session of AICC. The draft proposed that if the British did not agree to the demands, a massive civil disobedience movement would be launched.
• It was followed by Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Do or Die’ Quit India speech at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay.
• The All-India Congress Committee launched a mass protest demanding what Gandhi called "an orderly British withdrawal" from India. The movement was the most aggressive one launched by the Indian National Congress.
• Despite the ongoing world war and increasing Japanese aggression on the India-Burma border, within hours of Gandhi's speech, the British responded by imprisoning almost the entire leadership of the Indian National Congress including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Vallabhbhai Patel without trial and kept most of them there till the war ended in 1945.
• The INC was declared an unlawful association and its offices all over the country were raided and their funds were frozen.
• The leaderless protest took a violent turn and saw widespread acts of sabotage such as raids and setting fire at post offices, government buildings and railway stations and severing of electricity, transport and communication lines.
• However, the disruptions were under control in a few weeks and had little impact on the war effort and by 1943, Quit India movement had worn out.
In March 1942, faced with an increasingly dissatisfied sub-continent only reluctantly participating in the war, and deteriorations in the war situation in Europe and South East Asia, the British government sent a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps, in what came to be known as the Cripps' Mission.
The purpose of the mission was to negotiate a deal with the Indian National Congress to obtain total co-operation during the war, in return of progressive transfer and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy to the elected Indian legislature.
However, the talks failed, as they failed to address the key demands of INC, which included a definite timeframe towards self-government and definition of the powers to be transferred.
The mission essentially portrayed an offer of limited dominion-status to India, which was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement.
Hence, in order to force the British Raj to meet its demands and to gain immediate independence, the INC took the decision to launch the Quit India Movement.
About Quit India Movement
• The movement was a civil disobedience movement, which commenced in response to Gandhi's call for immediate self-rule by Indians and against sending Indians to fight on behalf of Britain in World War II. The movement called for India’s immediate independence.
• The aim of the movement was to force the British Government to the negotiating table by holding the Allied war effort hostage.
• Mahatma Gandhi asked all teachers to leave their schools and other Indians to leave their respective jobs and take part in this movement.
• The Indian National Congress led the Quit India Movement to demand the British to leave India immediately and to transfer the political power to INC.
• However, the British refused to grant immediate independence and stated that it could only be granted after the war ended.
Why did Quit India Movement fail?
• Despite such a strong call from Gandhi, the movement failed to pick up momentum as firstly most of the opposition leaders were behind bars and most of them remained there till the war ended in 1945.
• Besides, the British had the support of the Viceroy's Council (which had a majority of Indians), All India Muslim League, Princely states, Indian Imperial Police, British Indian Army and the Indian Civil Service.
• Many Indian businessmen profiting from heavy wartime spending also did not support the Quit India Movement.
• On the other hand, many students were more focused on Subhas Chandra Bose, who was in exile and supporting the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) with his Azad Hind Fauj.
Though the Quit India movement was crushed because of weak coordination and the lack of a clear-cut programme of action, the British Government realised that India was ungovernable in the long run due to the cost of World War II, and the question for postwar became on how to exit the nation gracefully and peacefully.
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