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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

The Quit-India Movement

The Quit India Movement is one of the India’s most important freedom struggle movements that led to the end of the British rule in India. Quit India was launched by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi at the All India Congress Committee session in Bombay on August 8, 1942. The next day, Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, and many other leaders of Indian National Congress were arrested by the British government. Disorderly and non-violent demonstrations took place throughout India. The main cause for starting the Quit India movement was the collapse of the Cripps Mission. The British assumption of unconditional support from India to British in World War II was not taken well by the Indian National Congress. The anti-British sentiments and demand for full-independence had gained popularity among Indian masses.

By the middle of 1942, Japanese troops were approaching the boards of India. Pressure was mounting from China, the United States and Britain to solve the issue of the future status of India before the end of the war. In March 1942, the Prime Minister dispatched Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the bar cabinet, to India to discuss the British Government’s Draft Declaration. The draft granted India Dominion status after the war but otherwise conceded few changes to the British Government Act of 1935. The draft was unacceptable to the Congress working committee who rejected it. The failure of the Cripps Mission further estranged the Congress and the British government. Gandhi seized upon the failure of the Cripps Mission, the advances of the Japanese in South-Asia and the general frustration with the British India. He called for a revolutionary British withdrawal from India. From April 29 to May 1, 1942 the All India Congress Committee assembled in Allahabad to discuss the resolution of the working committee. The most significant resolution was commitment of non-violence and Gandhi was authorized to take the charge of the non-violence mass movement.

The All India Congress Committee met in Bombay on August 7 and 8, 1942 and rectified the “ Quit India “ resolution. Gandhi called for “Do or Die“. The next day, on August 9, 1942, Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad, and other members of Congress Working Committee and other Congress leaders were arrested by the British Government under the defence of India rules. The arrest of Gandhi and the Congress leaders led the mass demonstrations throughout India. Thousands were killed and injured in the wake of the Quit India movement. Strikes were called in many places. The British swiftly suppressed many of the demonstrations by mass detentions; more than 65 thousand people were imprisoned. The princely states, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, communist party, the Indian imperial police, the British Indian Army, Indian civil service, and some Indian businessmen did not support the Quit India Movement. The United States supported Indian independence, however Churchill threatened to resign if the United States supported Indian independence.

This movement united the Indian people against the British rule. Although, most of the demonstrations had been suppressed by 1944. The movement had failed and depressed many nationalists, while Muslim League, Jinnah, as well as Congress opponents like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Hindu Mahasabha sought to gain political mileage, criticizing Gandhi and the Congress Party. Gandhi was released in 1944 and he continued his resistance and went on a 21 day fast. By the end of the Second World War, Britain’s place in the world had changed dramatically and the demand for the independence could no longer be ignored.

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