Quit India Movement:
With the failure of the Cripps mission, the Congress again turned to Gandhi. In an article written on April 19th 1942, which appeared in Harijan on April 26th, Gandhi first gave public expression to his plan, which was to take shape into Quit India Movement.
The first sitting of the All-India Congress Committee commenced at 2-45 p.m. on the 7th August 1942 in a spacious and beautifully decorated pandal on the Gowallia Tank Maidan, Bombay. Nearly 250 members of the AICC and 10,000 visitors were present.
The President, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad addressed the House
After Maulana Azad had spoken, Mahatma Gandhi addressed the session.
Gandhi’s Address at the Gowalia Tank:
He said: ” Before you discuss the Resolution, let me place before you one or two things. I want you to understand two things very clearly and to consider them from the same point of view from which I am placing them before you. I ask you to consider it from my point of view because, if you approve of it, you will be enjoined to carryout all I say. It will be a great responsibility.
There are people who ask me whether I am the same man that I was in 1920 or whether there has been any change in me. You are right in asking that question. I may tell you that I am the same man today that I was in 1920.
The only difference is that I am much stronger in certain things now than what I was in 1920.1 may explain it by pointing out that a man goes about heavily clothed in winter. But the same man may be found without much clothing in summer. This outward change does not make any difference in the man. There are people who may say that I say one thing today and another thing tomorrow. But I must tell you that there is no change in me. I stick to the principle of non-violence as I did before. If you are tired of it then you need not come with me.
It is not necessary or incumbent upon you to pass this Resolution. If you want Swaraj and independence and if you feel that what I place before you is a good thing and right thing, then only accept it. It is only that way you can give complete support.
Another point I want to impress upon you is your great responsibility. Members of the AICC are like members of a parliament. The Congress represents the whole of India. The Congress, from its very inception, has not been of any particular groove or any particular colour or caste or of any particular province. It has claimed, ever since its birth, to represent the whole nation and on your behalf, I have made the claim that you represent not only the registered members of the Congress but the entire nation”.
The only slogan he gave was ‘do or die’. He added, ” We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. He, who loses his life, will gain it; he, who will seek to save, shall lose it. Freedom is not for the coward or faint hearted”.
Following Mahatma Gandhi’s speech, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who moved the resolution,
said that the formation of the resolution was not narrow nationalism but it had international background…. If by demanding freedom we are called blackmailers then surely our understanding of the English language has been wrong. Whatever may happen in Whitehall it is not going to stop us from working for independence. We live for it and will die for it…”
Speaking in English on the Working Committee’s resolution, in the AICC Jawaharlal Nehru declared: “This resolution is not a threat. It is an invitation. It is an explanation. It is an offer of co-operation. It is all that. But still behind it, there is a clear indication that certain consequences will follow if certain events do not happen. It is an offer of co-operation of a free India. On any other terms there will be no co-operation. On any other terms, our resolution promises only conflict and struggle”.
Arrest of Gandhi and Commencement of Quit India Movement:
Early in the morning at 2 O’clock of 9th August, the Police Commissioner knocked at the gates of the Birla house where Gandhi stayed. The police produced arrest warrant based on Defence of India rules.
Gandhi did not disobey it but entered into car waiting outside calmly. G.D.Birla, the noted industrialist, was present and garlanded him.
He was taken to Victoria station, Bombay where other leaders Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Asaf Ali, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, Dr.Prafulla Ghose, G.B. Pant, Dr. Pattabhi, Syed Mohammad, Kripalani and others had already arrived and kept in the train.
All were dropped at Ahmednagar fort except Gandhi and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu who were placed in the Aga Khan’s palace at Poona as house arrest. A few days later Kasturbai, Gandhi’s wife, too joined him for having addressed a prohibited meeting at Shivaji Park in Bombay.
Events in QuiT India
- The arrests of leaders of the Congress was a clear indication for the outbreak of an ‘open rebellion’ against the British Government almost in every nook and comer of the country.
- The arrests of their leaders like Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru greatly agitated their minds, and the retaliation in various forms erupted instinctively.
- As soon as the news reached cities and towns, there were strikes and bandhs, and these strikes varied from place to place.
- At prominent commercial towns like Ahmedabad, Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Kanpur and Amritsar, the strikes were observed from one week to two weeks. There was thus an expression of so much excitement and sympathy that it appeared a complete and persistent identification of the common people with the cause Congress had taken up. This kind of identification was to be shown at any kind of sacrifice-both physical and financial suffering.
- Another prominent feature of showing resentment, anger and dissatisfaction against the British Government was holding large-scale demonstrations and taking out processions with placards inscribed in patriotic language. The response of the people in terms of their attendance of mass meetings was enormous.
- People of all professions crowded in thousands to join the mass rallies and meetings.
- The participation by students in these processions and meetings was a remarkable happening in this regard. Schools and Colleges were closed and students organized mass demonstrations with patriotic zeal. As a result of these activities, numerous students suffered massively in terms of loss in their educational career.
- The zeal and enthusiasm shown by the industrial workers was unparallel in the chronicles of our country. They struck work and came out of their mills and factories in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Madras, Delhi, Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Nagpur and other towns. They organized mass meetings, arranged demonstrations and educated their brethren about the fundamentals of independence.
- The crowds of people carried national flags and shouted national slogans in cities and towns. Their purpose was to hold these flags at several public places and government buildings. Many of them succeeded in hoisting national flags on the buildings of schools, colleges, municipal boards, district courts and government secretariats. The task indeed was risky, but the challenge the Satyagrahis posed to the British Government was fall of complexities, which created difficulties for the police to control and maintain law and order.
- The Quit India Movement clearly reflected the frame of mind of the nation and clarified the fact that the awakening amongst them for a common cause i.e., to free India from the bondage of the British Government was a reality and its practicality was to be realized with a deep sense of patriotism tinged with mass action in all the regions of the country.
- In some areas policemen were very much affected by the movement.They refused to open fire on the people. In such cases, British sergeants were commissioned to do the job, but they were too few to suppress the movement, which had engulfed the larger areas. The new recruits failed to cope with the situation, which had taken a serious turn.
- It indeed was a serious challenge to the British Government, which had deep influence on the functioning of the administration. Although well-formed on the soil of India, it gave it the realization of the fast that it was, at this point of time, was somewhat difficult to ignore a great spontaneous national upsurgewhich was found to be uncontrolled on account of a huge mass support.
- This kind of mass support to a common political aim i.e. to attain independence had frightening effect on the day-to-day functioning of the machinery of the government in India and this fact was seriously realized by the Viceroy and the Home Government in England.
Salient Features of Quit India Movement:
- An important feature of the 1942 struggle was the “underground movement“. The extraordinary network was consolidated in various parts of the country in view of the termination of the mass phase of the struggle due to brutal official repression. Some of the prominent leaders including Achyut Patwardhan, Rammanohar Lohia, Arana Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kripalani, Biju Patnaik, and later Jayaprakash Narayan also joined them after his release fromjail.
- Most of the underground leaders and functionaries of the Congress Office had adopted code names Sucheta Kripalani was known as Bahanji,Dr.Rammanohar Lohia as doctor, Achyut Patwardhan as Kusum, and Arana Asaf Ali as Kadam.
- They collected and distributed money and material for underground groups. At the local level, however, the initiative rested with the local people for following the exact pattern of activities.
- The local underground organizations were active in Bombay, Poona, Baroda, and parts of Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. The main credit for this underground movement goes to Congress socialists, though some ashramaits (GandhiAshram), revolutionary terrorists, and members of Forward Bloc also participated.
- Another significant element of the 1942 straggle was the operation of Congress Radio by a group of young workers in Bombay, including a couple of students and businessmen. The radio had its own wavelength and call sign. It operated secretly from different locations in Bombay on 42.34 meters and relayed messages from Congress leaders.Every evening people waited impatiently for the Congress news bulletin. The radio broadcast could be heard as far as Madras. It continued till November 1942 when it was discovered and confiscated by the police. Usha Mehta, an ardent Gandhian, was an important member of the team, which conducted the radio broadcast and actively participated in the Quit India Movement.
- Yet another important feature of the 1942 movement was the running of parallel governments at many places for varying periods. The first one was proclaimed in Ballia in Uttar Pradesh in August 1942 but it could not survive for long. The best example of the national parallel governments was that of Jatiya Sarkar in Tamluk subdivision, which continued from December 1942 to September 1944. Its activities included the running of people’s courts and constructive work along Gandhian lines. A parallel government existed in Satara in Maharashtra from mid- 1943 to late 1945. It was also known as Prati Sarkar under the leadership of Nana Patil.24 These national governments in a few cases returned the mortgaged land to poor peasants and took effective measures against dacoit. It enforced prohibition and set up people’s courts to dispense justice.
- A survey of the available literature and government records regarding the impact of the movement on various provinces reveals that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Bombay (viz, Maharashtra, Karnataka), Bengal (Midnapur) were the main centers of the movement. It was also intense in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Central Provinces (Ashti and Chimur) and Delhi. In Madras, Punjab, North-West Frontier Province and Sind the movement was relatively weak.
- Women also played a spectacular role in the Quit India Movement. Their participation was no longer confined to picketing and salt manufacturing as was done in the earlier movements launched by Gandhi. This movement involved them in a variety of jobs. They came forward to carry on processions, hoist the national flag, and act as couriers and helpers in underground activities etc. Young girls left schools and colleges to participate in the freedom struggle. These women belonged not only to the upper strata of society or mere wives, daughters, and sisters of Congress leaders as per the earlier practice, but women from the middle class also came out in thousands to contribute their share to the national movement. Aruna Asaf Ali arid Sucheta Kripalani were two major women organizers of the underground movement. Usha Mehta was an important member of the small ground that ran the Congress radio. All India Women’s Conference in a public statement in August 1942 expressed their concern on the arrest of Gandhi and other Congress leaders and criticized the government for its repressive policies and for rejecting Congress proposals for settlement.
- Peasants of all the strata constituted the heart and soul of the movement in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Midnapur (Bengal), Satara (Maharashtra), and some other areas. At some places, Zamindars also participated in the movement.Freedom loving labourers played a significant role in the struggle. In Ahmedabad and in Gujarat generally not a single spindle clattered for about three months. In Bombay, Sholapur, Tata Nagar and Dalmia Nagar mills remained closed for days together. The strike in Gujarat and at many other places spread like wild fire but it was more or less peaceful.
- In February 1943, the government issued a booklet entitled “Congress Responsibility” for the disturbances indicting Gandhi and the Congress, Gandhi, however, held the British government responsible for violence as he considered it to be the result of the untimely arrest of Congress leaders. It is not wrong to say that had Gandhi been free, his influence would have controlled the people from indulging in violence and sabotage.Moreover, Gandhi argued that it was the government, which forced the people to the point of madness by its repressive policies. People’s violence was just a reaction to the much bigger violence of the state, considered as “Leonine violence” by Gandhi. The government, however, did not accept Gandhi’s countercharge. To prove his innocence, Gandhi observed a purificatory fast for twenty-one days starting from 9th February 1943.
The movement continued during 1943-44, though by the end of 1942, the British government had come out victorious in their confrontation with Indian nationalism. By the use of overwhelming force, the government was able to put down the struggle but the spirit of freedom could not be suppressed.
Consequences of Quit India Movement:
- The economic and physical loses were immense: casualties-fatal and non-fatal, defections from police and other government departments, imposition of collective fines, sufferings caused to women and children and firing from air were the glaring phenomenon during the movement.
- The damage to government property was immense. The government buildings, police stations, municipal schools, hospitals and private buildings were severely damaged. The cases of bomb explosions were also evident in various regions.
- Special courts were set up to deal with criminal cases. The Government records stated that ordinary courts convicted 23,358 persons, by military courts and 41 death sentences were confirmed out of 67 persons who were sentenced to death.
- The Congress propaganda with the media of cyclostyled literature was a forceful device among the masses of India. These machines operated by small and big shopkeepers proved instrumental in circulating handbills and sheets, which came secretly in hands of numerous Satyagrahis. This kind of style was a glaring phenomenon in cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Lahore, Patna, Allahabad and elsewhere, such persons were actively hunted of houses led to the arrests and convictions of numerous inmates. Thus official efforts were made to stop all possible sources of publicity and propaganda.
- The nationalist press was an eyesore for the British Government. It was brought under strict government regulations. The prominent news papers which stopped publications as a result of government’s restrictions on them were the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, Hindustan Standard, Hindustan Times, Basumati, Jugantar, Matrubhoomi, Telegraph, Lokamanya, Jagrati, Daily Krishik, Bharat,Andhra Times, Dinamani, Hindustan and others. In all 69 Newspapers closed down. Devadas Gandhi, editor of the Hindustan Times was arrested for breach of the order of the government that not more than three columns be devoted to news about the national movement.
- The part played by the Praja Mandal in states like Hyderabad, Mysore, Baroda, Gwalior, Indore, Travancore and Udaipur afforded much support to the movement. They informed the rulers to realize the fact that the time was fast changing and they must value the sentiments and political demands of the people of their states. In some smaller states, people were in total rebellion. In some states, the rulers were reluctant to adopt repressive measures against Satyagrahis but the British residents stationed in their states did not approve of their policy, and they recommended repressive measures against the Satyagrahis.
- The prominent political parties like Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, the Communists and the Akalis and the pressure groups having linkage with princes, depressed classes, Europeans in India, women organizations, the Khakasars and others reacted in accordance with the ideology of their organizations.
- In this regard, the Muslim League reacted at once and called a meeting of its Working Committee, which had its sessions from 16-20 August1942. It passed a long resolution condemning the action of the Indian National Congress by launching the Quit India Movement. The Working Committee resolution also made it clear that the League was wilBng to consider proposals for setting up a provisional government on the basis of equality. It asked the Muslims to keep aloof from the movement and appealed to the British Government to comply with the demand of Pakistan.
- Thus for three days, the district administrative machinery was completely paralyzed. The calculated plan of the people was to bring about the maximum physical damage to the smooth functioning of the machinery of the government.
Gandhi had no direct hand in the movement but everything went in his name and for his sake. Excessive frustration, desperation and emotion made them to loose their self-control and the movement rose from ordinary level to emotional and became a spontaneous one and passed the greatest physical challenge to the British Government.
When Gandhi heard of this, he became unhappy both mentally and physically. He could not read newspapers, meet visitors or see his Secretary Mahadev Desai’s samadhi in the Aga Khan’s palace or celebrate his 74th birthday. Only the jail superintendent was kind enough to present him a garland of 74 one-rupee notes on that day.As the movement scaled to heights, violence also exceeded. But Gandhi was unhappy because it was differing to his principles of Satyagraha and further those who did the destruction, happened to be his own admirers. He should undertake full moral responsibility for all their misdeeds and purify the land from their sins. In the tradition of ancient rishis he felt that fasting was the only solution.
Evaluation of :
- The movement was able to draw the attention of world public opinion on the question of Indian freedom. It is correct to say that in the Quit India Movement the Indian revolution reached its culmination. Success of such movements cannot be measured by short-term gains but by its long-term impact, namely in the arousal of the strength of the people and their determination to be free. We can conclude that the movement was a success, in so for as India had already declared herself to be independent and Indian people had demonstrated their will and capacity to be free.
- To reconstruct the gains of the movement, it can be said that the movement was able to remove the illusion of the British government that their empire was morally justified, and that the majority of them were loyal subjects of the British.
- In fact, the most striking aspect of the Quit India Struggle was the wearing away of whatever loyalty the offices of the British government might have had till then. As a matter of fact, jail and other government officials at the lower level had been openly sympathizing with the movement. Moreover, the British in their hearts were unwillingly obliged to admit that Gandhi had succeeded by his nonviolent efforts in making them realize that time had come for them to quit and they were no more welcome in India.
- The wide social base of the movement established beyond doubt the fact that the real hero of 1942 was the common mah who came out victorious by his own efforts helped by many other national and international events. The overall impact of the movement was thus very momentous.
- The Quit India Movement convinced even Churchill, the conservative prime minister, one of the great opponents of India’s independence, that the British could not keep their hold over India for long. He confessed before the king only a few days before the commencement of the movement.” The idea of the transfer of power in India has become an admitted inevitability in the minds of British party leaders”.
Linlithgow, the Viceroy, admitted that “Quit India Movement was by far the most serious rebellion since that of 1857, the gravity and extent of which we have so far concealed from the world for reasons of militaiy security”.
The movement can be termed both as a rebellion and as a revolution. It might have failed as a rebellion but it was successful as a revolution. The impact of the rebellion was also significant, keeping in view Linlithgow’s statement cited above.