Quit India Movement Platinum Anniversary: Role Of The Movement In Indian Independence
Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan), the watershed movement that has been one of the most vehement appeals in the history of India against the British Raj. This Movement helped India gain independence from the colonial rule of the British in the long-run.
Also known as the India August Movement (August Kranti), the civil disobedience movement, demanding an immediate end to the British Rule, was launched on August 8, 1942 at the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee by Mahatma Gandhi. This movement closely followed the failure of the Cripps Mission in March, 1942.
The British government had thrown India into the World War II unilaterally, and without consultation with the Indian people. To pacify the frayed nerves of the political leaders, and to garner full support of India in their efforts in World War II, the British Government then sent Sir Stafford Cripps, a minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The plan of the British Government was to secure full Indian cooperation in World War II, with the promise of full self-government, a dominion status for India, as well as elections to be held after the war. These proposals were Cripp’s own idea, and both the Indians as well as the British Government found it too radical to accept, and neither found a middle course.
The major parties of India refused to accept this proposal, with Mahatma Gandhi quoting that Cripps’ offer of Dominion Status after the war was a “post-dated cheque drawn on a crashing bank”, and the Cripps Mission failed. A resolution was passed by the Congress Working Committee declaring the “urgent” need for ending the British rule in India on July 14, 1942.
Quit India Movement, 1942
On 8 August 1942, Gandhi made a call to Do or Die in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. The historical Quit India Movement was announced and played out in the backdrop of World War II.
In his Quit India speech Gandhi reiterated that the movement was a determined passive resistance, for the movement was solely directed towards the independence of India, and not a struggle for power or a military coup to set up a dictatorship . The power, when it came, would belong to the people of India.
This rebel cry ultimately pushed India towards its freedom. Gandhi’s slogan of “Quit India” did not have any room for doubts. It was a message loud and clear that the British were no longer welcome, that they just had to leave. And to add on to this slogan, Gandhi’s call of “do or die” infused the masses with a life of its own.
The movement saw the alarmed British imprisoning Gandhi along with all the leaders of Congress, But this did not deter the Indians and despite lack of direct leadership, large protests and demonstrations were held all over the country led by women and students in the absence of adult male leaderships. Not all demonstrations were peaceful and finally the British banned the Congress. However this only worked towards creating further sympathy among the population and workers remained absent en-masse and strikes were called. The movement ended in more violence with hundreds of civilians killed in violence, many shot by the police army.
It is true that the Quit India Movement ended in failure in 1944. However, this was the final nail on the coffin. It helped unify Congress leadership and placed the demand for independence on the immediate agenda of the national movement. After Quit India, Independence was no longer a matter of bargain, and there was no question of any further negotiations with the British Government. There was one and only one demand, and that was the transfer of power. It was only 3 years later, in 1947, that the British Raj finally handed over the reins of power to India and moved out.
75 Years Hence
It has been 75 years since the call for Quit India by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942. Both the Congress as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party paid their respects to a movement which was the beginning of the end of the British Raj. The BJP’s youth wing is planning to launch a ‘Bharat Jodo Abhiyan’ (Unite India Campaign) to mark the 75th anniversary of Quit India Movement.
The words of Mahatma Gandhi resonate even today, and are pertinent even in the current political world. In his words, “The power, when it comes, will belong to the people of India, and it will be for them to decide to whom it placed in the entrusted.”