Quit India Movement

The students walked out of the universities and started a campaign of sabotage. Cases of arson and bomb throwing also became common. In U.P. three police stations were burnt, four post offices attacked and 79 village records totally burnt. In the Princely State of Mysore, 32,000 workers remained on strike for two weeks, while 80% of all university students walked out. Eight students were killed in Patiala State while they were trying to raise the national flag on public buildings; 100 were shot dead in Mysore procession. But the most brutal atrocities were those which were perpetrated in Chanda district of Bengal. In the Ballesore district of Orissa, 200 were reported killed. Far more significant were the arrests of 100,000 nationalists within a few months. In short, everywhere, Government repression was very harsh and police state was established to deal with the danger which constituted the gravest threat to the British rule since the Rebellion of 1857.

The Quit India Movement was short-lived but was, indeed, intensive. By the end of August, the rebellion was broken, though incidents continued to disturb the British for some months more. No doubt, the campaign failed in the face of overwhelming armed strength, yet the feelings of politically conscious India was expressed. Moreover, the movement lent strength to the flame of anger which could not be extinguished by the British might and which ultimately led to the withdrawal of the British from India. According to Ishwari Prasad : “All talk of dominion status was consumed in the fires of the revolt. India would have nothing short of independent. Quit India had come to stay. It was a terrific blow to the Imperial India.”

A careful and candid scrutiny of facts, however, reveals that the Government was, in the main, guilty of large scale violence which began after the arrest of the Congress leaders. However, from that point onwards, the clash could not be averted. It gave rise to a chain reaction for which the two parties shared responsibility. The Viceroy charged that Gandhi was partly responsible for the violence because of his ‘Do or Die’ statement of 8th  August, 1942. Gandhi denied this charge categorically saying that it was within the context of non-violence, since non-violence was the growing passion of his life, there is no reason to doubt his intent. Besides, Gandhi’s last instructions to his followers (just before his arrest), were unambigious: “Let every non-violent soldier of freedom write out the slogan “Do or Die” on a piece of paper or cloth and stick it on his clothes, so that in case he died in the course of offering Satyagraha, he might be distinguished by this sign from other elements who do not subscribe to non-violence.”

In the meantime, Gandhi undertook a 21-days fast in February, 1943 which went off peacefully. The C.R. Formula of 1944 was an example of the Congress’s appeasement policy Gandhi, while, addressing Jinnah as Quid-i-Azam (a great leader) gave Jinnah a position which strengthened his status in the eyes of the Indian Muslims. The C.R. Formula had the following features:

  1. The League was to accept the Indian demand for independence and co-operate with the Congress in the formation of provisional interim government.
  2. After the war, a commission would be appointed for demarcating contiguous districts in the north-west and east of India, where the Muslims were in a majority. In these areas a plebiscite of all inhabitants on the basis of adult franchise would be held to decide the issue of separation.
  3. In the event of separation, a mutual agreement, safeguarding defence, commerce and communication would be entered into.
  4. These terms would be binding only if full power was transferred by Britain The Wavell-Amery proposals (1945) was an attempt to break the Indian deadlock. Its chief feature were as:
  5. The offer proposed a reconstitution of the Viceroy’s Executive Council pending the preparation of a new constitution.
  6. All the members of the Executive Council except the Governor General and the Commander-in-Chief were to be nominated from amongst the leaders of Indian political life.
  7. The Council would have a balanced representation of main communities, including equal proportions of Muslims and ‘Caste Hindus.’
  8. The portfolio of External Affairs (other than those of tribal defence of India) was to be transferred from the Governor General to an Indian Minister of the Council
  9. It was expected that co-operation at the Centre would be reflected in the Provinces and responsible government would be restored, on the basis of coalition of the main parties.

To discuss the new proposals, Wavell called a Conference of prominent Indian leaders at Simla. The conference started in a hopeful atmosphere, but eventually broke down because the Muslim League would not allow the Congress to nominate a nationalist Muslim on the new Executive Council. Mr. Jinnah contended that the League was the sole representative of the Muslims, and as such only those Muslims it approved of should be included in the Executive Council. “The Simla Conference”, writes Azad “marks a breakwater in Indian political history. This was the first time that negotiations failed not on the basic political issue between India and Britain, but on the communal issue dividing different Indian groups.”

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