Quit India Movement, August 1942
The meeting of the Congress Working Committee was held on 14 July, 1942 at Wardha, where they criticised the policy of the British Government on the war front and accepted the idea of a struggle.
The Congress had to decide its course of action in the wake of following reasons:
- The failure of Cripps Mission.
- The defeat of British by Japanese in South-East Asia and the arrival of Japanese Armies at Indian borders.
- The steeply rising inflation and the acute shortage of foodstuffs caused by the war.
- The arrogant behaviour of most of the foreign soldiers station in India.
Although this movement theoretically led by Gandhiji but in practice it was in the hand of revolutionaries and the local leader. There was a change in stance of Gandhiji during the movement. The did not advocate violence but did not condemn it also. He did not stop the movement due to the violence activities as he did in Non-cooperation Movement.
Gandhiji asked the British ‘to leave India in God’s hands.’
The Congress also renewed the demand that “British rule in India must end immediately and reiterated the view that the freedom of India was not only in the interest of India, but also fr Britain and to the cause of freedom to, which the United Kingdom proclaim it’s adherence.”
The Congress made it clear that the quit India demand meant an immediate acknowledgement of India’s independence by the British. The historic August meeting took place at Gowalia Tank in Bombay and this place is now known as the August Kranti Maidan.
Course of Movement
- The AICC meeting ended at around midnight on 8th august, 1942. On the morning of 9th August, police arrested Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other eminent Congress leaders.
- Within a week, the members of the entire Congress organisation were arrested. The news of the arrest of the leaders shook the people and they came to the streets protesting against it. The movement thereafter became directionless and leaderless.
- From 9th-13th August, 1942, there were widespread disturbances in Bomaby, Ahmedabad, Poona, Delhi, etc and the events of these four days in August, 1942 are known as the Great August Uprising.
- A parallel government was established in Satara (Maharashtra), which continued to function for a long time. In Bengal, Tamluk Jatiya Sarkar functioned Functioned for a long time in Midnapore district.
- Balia, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh was the first place where a parallel government was proclaimed under Chittu Pande in August, 1942, but the government could not survive for long.
- This National Government had various departments like law and order, health, education, agriculture etc. People established Swaraj in Talcher in Orissa.
- In many parts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (Azamgarh, Balia, Ghazipur, Monghyr, Muzaffarpur etc) police station were run over by the people and government authority uprooted.
- This movement witnessed the emergence of a large number of National Government lasting for a few days in many parts of United Province and Bihar. After September, 1942, an account of increasing British repression, the movement went underground.
- It now took the shape of revolutionary activities directed against blowing up of communication networks and attack on police personnel. The prominent members of underground movement were Achyut Patwardhan, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia, Sucheta Kripalani, Chootubhai Puranik, Biju Patnaik, Ram Prasad Goenka etc.
- Later, Jaiprakash Narayan and Ramnandan Mishra joined the underground movement after escaping from Hazaribagh Jail on 9th November, 1942.
- The most significant act of the underground movement was the establishment of Congress Radio with Usha Mehta as its announcer. Ram Manohar Lohia would regularly broadcast on this radio and the radio continued till November, 1942, when it was discovered and confiscated by the police. Subhash Chandra Bose speaking over Berlin radio (31st August, 1942) described this movement as non-violent Guerilla Warfare.
Regional Participation in Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement got a massive response from the people of Bombay, Andhra, Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Assam, Bengal, Karnataka etc but the responses in Punjab, Singh, NWFP etc were weak. Peasants of all strata – rich as well as poor participated in the movement. Some big zamindars maintained a stance of neutrality and refused to assist the British in crushing the rebellion. The most spectacular of these was the Raja of Darbhanga, who refused to let his armed retainers be used by the government and even instructed his managers to assist the tenants who had been arrested.
Some government officials, especially those at the lower level of the police and the administration were generous in their assistance to the movement. The socialists and Bose follower charged the communists with treachery (because of their support to the Allies, including Soviet Union).
Reaction of Other Parties
The Muslim League kept aloof from the movement, but some members of the Muslim Community helped in providing shelter to the underground workers. The Hindu Mahasabha condemned the movement. The Communist Party of India opposed the movement. The princes and landlords supported the British War effort and did not sympathies with the movement. Some Congressmen like Rajagopalachari and Bhulabhai Desai did not participate in the movement. Dr Ambedkar opposed the movement.
Suppression of Quit India Movement
The government since 1940, had been ready with an elaborate Revolutionary Movement ordinance. Arrests, detention, police firing, burning of Congress office etc. were the methods adopted by the government. The government used airplanes to gun people at various places. There were countless lathicharge, floggings and imprisonments.
Gandhiji commenced a fast on 10th February, 1943 in jail. He declared the fast would last for 21 days. Groups of people secretly reached Poona to offer Satyagraha outside the Aga Khan Palace, where Gandhiji was being held in detention. (some other Congress leaders were kept in the Fort of Ahmedabad).
Some newspaper, which demanded the release of Gandhiji were Manchester Guardian, New Statesman, Nation, New Chronicle and Chicago Sun etc.
The British Communist Party too demanded his release. The demand of Gandhiji’s release also came from the citizens of London and Manchester, the Women’s International League, the Australian Council of Trade Union and the Ceylon State Council.
A conference was held in Delhi on 19-20th of February and was attended by prominent men, politicians and public figures.
They all demanded Gandhiji’s release. The severest blow to the prestige of the government was the resignation of the three Indian members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. MS Aney, NR Sarkar and HP Mody to press the demand of quick release of Gandhiji. During the imprisonment of Gandhiji , his personal secretary Mahadeo Desai and his wife Kasturba died.
The Native State of Aundh near Pune, whose ruler was pro-nationalist and got the Constitution of his state drafted by Gandhiji, provided invaluable support by offering shelter to the Prati Sarkar activist.
KG Mashruwala took over as editor of Harijan after Gandhiji’s arrest. In 1944, Gandhiji was released and Quit India Resolution was withdrawn. The other congress leaders were also released to participate in the Simla Conference in June, 1945.