Cripps Proposals, 1942

In the beginning of the year 1942, the British Government felt�it difficult to remain indifferent towards the Indian problem�any longer. The turn of events rather obliged the authorities�in England to effect an amicable settlement with the Indian�leaders. Even Churchill, an advocate of imperialism, realised�the urgency of making an effort to break the Indian deadlock.�Consequently, the idea of sending a mission to India with�fresh proposals found favour with the British Cabinet, and�Cripps was considered the most suitable man to be entrusted�with this job. Stafford Cripps was a socialist leader and had�earned a great reputation for his successful handling of the�most delicate mission in Moscow. Besides, he was accredited�with sympathies for India and her demand for freedom. He�was believed to be on friendly terms with Jawaharlal Nehru.

The other leaders of Indian national life were also known�to him as he had already visited the country twice after the�outbreak of war. Cripps arrived in Delhi on March 23, 1942�and left for England twenty days later. During his short stay in�India, he had series of interviews with the Indian leaders. The�Congress was represented by Nehru and Azad. Jinnah spoke�for the Muslim League, Savarkar for the Hindu Mahasabha.�Ambedkar and M.C. Rajah for the Untouchables, and Sapru�and Jayakar for the Liberals. Other minorities and the Princes�were also represented in the talks. The task of negotiations�caused Cripps a great strain and he also strove hard to achieve�success. But, unfortunately, his efforts came to nothing and�he had to go back disappointed.

The proposal which Cripps brought with him were�embodied in a Draft Declaration of British Government. It�embodied both interim and long term settlements and hence�can be studied under two heads:-

(a) Proposals relating to long term settlement (Post-war�arrangements)

  1. The British Government proposed that India would be�offered a full Dominion status after the war with the right�of secession from the Commonwealth.
  2. On the cessation of hostilities, a constitution-making�body would be set up to frame a new constitution of India.
  3. The constitution-making body was to consist of�persons partly elected by the members of the Provincial�Legislative Assemblies on the basis of proportional�representation and partly nominated by the Princes in�proportion to the population of their States.
  4. The British Government would accept the constitution�framed by it provided:

(i) That any Province or Provinces which were not�prepared to accept the new constitution, should�be entitled to form a separate Union and that the�States should be similarly free to adhere to the new�constitution; and

(ii) that the treaty should be negotiated between the�British Government and the constitution making�body to cover all matters arising out of the complete�transfer of authority by the British Government to�the Indians.

(b) Proposals relating to the interim settlement (Immediate�present)

In the interim period, the British Government would retain�control of the Defence of India “as a part of their world wareffort.” But the task of organising the full military, moral and�material resources of India would be the responsibility of the�Indian Government in which it was hoped once again that the�party leaders would join.

Almost all the political parties of India finally rejected the�proposals, though with different reasons. The Congress, to�its dismay, found in them the vicious seeds of the partition of�India, the malicious designs of the British to the reactionary�elements to stabilise the Britishers’ vested interests in India.�The Muslim League welcomed the implied recognition of�Pakistan but criticised the vague procedure of achieving it. It�also condemned the rigid character of the offer, either to be�accepted or rejected as a whole. Like the Congress, it termed the�interim arrangements vague and refused to express an opinion�untill the whole picture was clarified.

Other Political parties and groups were also dissatisfied�with the Cripps Offer: the Sikhs because of the fear that a�Muslim majority in Punjab who would opt out of the Indian�Union; the Hindu Mahasabha because of the implied danger�of partition; and the Untouchables on the ground that they�would be at the mercy of the caste Hindus. Consequently, Tej�Bahadur Sapru and M.R. Jaykar, the prominent leaders of the�liberals, denounced the proposals as repugnant to the interests,�integrity and security of the country. The Sikhs and the Hindu�Mahasabhites described them as anti-national and undemocratic.�The Cripps Offer, thus, had an unfavouable response from all�quarters and met a tragic end. To quote, Maulana Abul Kalam�Azad: ‘The only thing that Cripps offered was a promise which�would be valid after the war. In the existing circumstances such�a promise had little value because no body was certain about�the consequences of war.’ Despite his friendship with Cripps,�Nehru was too unhappy with the proposals. He said: “-that�there were limits beyond which I could not carry the Congress�and there were limits beyond which the Congress could not�carry the people.” Gandhi is said to have described the Cripps�proposals as “a post-dated cheque on a failing bank”.

Between the Two Missions: Quit India Movement, C.R. Formula, Wavell Plan

The years intervening the departure of the Cripps Mission�in April, 1942 and the advent of the Cabinet Mission in�March, 1946 constituted a significant period in the history�of freedom movement in India. It was marked by thrilling�developments like the ‘Quit India’ campaign, August Revolt,�Wavell Plan etc. etc.

The failure of the Cripps Mission led to widespread�disappointment and anger in the country. Many Indians felt�that the British Cabinet had sent Stafford Cripps only because�of the American and Chinese pressure, but that Churchill�had no intention of recognizing the Indian freedom. The long�drawn-out negotiations with many parties were intended merely�to prove to the world outside that the Congress was not the�true representative of India and that disunity of the Indians�was the real reason why the British Cabinet could not hand�over power to Indian hands. A sense of indignant frustration�seized many millions in our country. In utter anguish Gandhiji�wrote : “Leave India to God and if that be too much leave her to�anarchy.”

The atmosphere, on the whole, was gloomy, and the�future, dark. But one thing was certain. The situation could not�be allowed to drift. Total inaction was suicidal, both for the war�efforts and the struggle for independence. Therefore on July 14,�1942, the Congress Working Committee at Wardha passed a�resolution which was termed as “Quit India Resolution”. The�resolution was ratified and endorsed by the Bombay resolution�of All India Congress Committee held on�7th��and�8th��August,�1942. The resolution demanded the immediate, complete and�unconditional withdrawal by the British regardless of the�consequences. It was, however made clear that the intent was�not to embarrass the war efforts of Britain and the Allies nor�to encourage the Japanese. If these proposals were rejected “the�Congress will then be compelled to utilize all the non-violent�strength it might have gathered since 1920.”

Much against Gandhi’s expectation, the Government of�India reacted within a few hours. On the morning of August, 9,�1942 (the day after the Congress Working Committee concluded�its session), Gandhiji and all members of the Congress Working�Committee were arrested. The Congress High Command�members were bundled into a special train for journey to prison.�Gandhiji was detained at the Aga Khan’s Palace in Poona, while�the Committee members (viz. Jawaharlal, Sardar Patel, Abul�Kalam Azad, Asaf Ali, G.B. Pant, Pattabhi Sitaramya, Syad�Mahumd, Acharya Kripalani and Profulla Ghosh) were taken to�Ahmednagar fort, a Mughal relic in a remote corner of Bombay�Province. Rajan Babu was also a member of the Working�Committee. As he did not attend the meeting at Bombay, he�was arrested in Patna and detained there. All the Congressmen�had to remain in the prison until June 15, 1945.

The arrest of the Congress leaders set off a nationwide�political explosion. As the news spread over, the rank and file�rose in fury against the Government. There was no need for�directives and planning. People at large were galvanized into�immediate and spontaneous action. For more than a week,�business life was paralysed in Ahmedabad, Bombay, Delhi,�Madras, Bangalore and Amirtsar. In almost every major city,�mass demonstration mushroomed from the bazaars. Students�and workers, and shopkeepers and housewives marched�through the streets, singing nationalist songs and demanding the�release of Gandhi and the Working Committee. The movement�was peaceful in the beginning.

At the sight of this peaceful but nationwide campaign,�the authorities became nervous and adopted the policy of�repression. In Delhi the police fired on 47 separate occasions�during 11 and 12 August. In U.P. they fired 29 times between 9�and 21 August. Other Provinces and places also witnessed the�dreadful scenes of firing. According to the Secretary of State�for India, the casualties from 9 August to 30 November, 1942�were 1,028 killed and 3,215 seriously injured. These figures�were almost certainly an underestimate, because according to�Congress account of August Movement, about 600 men were�killed by police firing during the first few days. The total amount�of collective fines exceeded ` 28 lakhs. Worse still, the brutality�with which vengeance was taken passed all beliefs. Men were�tortured to death, women were dishonoured and propetty was�confiscated.

Written by princy

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