Timeline History

Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan or the August Movement) was a civil disobedience movement in India launched in August 1942 in response to Mahatma Gandhi's call for immediate independence of India. The aim was to bring the British government to the negotiating table. The call for determined, but passive resistance that signified the certitude that Gandhi foresaw for the movement is best described by his call to Do or Die , issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay, since re-named August Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Ground). However, almost the entire Congress leadership, and not merely at the national level, was put into confinement less than twenty-four hours after Gandhi's speech, and the greater number of the Congress leaders were to spend the rest of the war in jail.

On July 14, 1942, the Indian National Congress passed a resolution demanding complete independence from Britain. The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, massive civil disobedience would be launched.
However, it proved to be controversial within the party. A prominent Congress national leader Chakravarti Rajgopalachari quit the Congress over this decision, and so did some local and regional level organizers. Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad were apprehensive and critical of the call, but backed it and stuck with Gandhi's leadership till the end. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Dr. Rajendra Prasad were openly and enthusiastically in favor of such a disobedience movement, as were many veteran Gandhians and socialists like Asoka Mehta and Jaya Prakash Narayan.
The Congress had lesser success in rallying other political forces under a single flag and mast. Smaller parties like the Communist Party of India and the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the call. Mohammed Ali Jinnah's opposition to the call led to large numbers of Muslims cooperating with the British, and the Muslim League obtaining power in the Imperial provincial governments.
On August 8, 1942 the Quit India Resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). At Gowalia Tank, Bombay, Gandhi urged Indians to follow non-violent civil disobedience. He told the masses to act as an independent nation and not to follow the orders of the British. His call found support among a large number of Indians. It also found support among Indian revolutionaries who were not necessarily party to Gandhi's philosophy non-violoence.
The British, already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India/Burma border, responded the next day by imprisoning Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. All the members of the Congress Party's Working Committee (national leadership) were arrested and imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Fort. Due to the arrest of major leaders, a young and till then relatively unknown Aruna Asaf Ali presided over the AICC session on August 9 and hoisted the flag. Later, the Congress party was banned. These actions only created sympathy for the cause among the population. Despite lack of direct leadership, large scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. However, not all the demonstrations were peaceful. Bombs exploded, government buildings were set on fire, electricity was cut, and transport and communication lines were severed.
The British swiftly responded by mass detentions. A total over 100,000 arrests were made nationwide, mass fines were levied, bombs were air-dropped and demonstrators were subjected to public flogging[citation needed]. Hundreds of resisters and innocent people were killed in police and army firings. Many national leaders went underground and continued their struggle by broadcasting messages over clandestine radio stations, distributing pamphlets, and establishing parallel governments. The British sense of crisis was strong enough that a battleship was specifically set aside to take Gandhi and the Congress leaders out of India, possibly to South Africa or Yemen, but such a step was ultimately not taken out of fear of intensifying the revolt[citation needed.

The entire Congress leadership was cut off from the rest of the world for over three years. Gandhi's wife Kasturba Gandhi died and personal secretary Mahadev Desai died in a short space of months, and Gandhi's own health was failing. Despite this, Gandhi went on a 21-day fast and maintained a superhuman resolve to continuous resistance. Although the British released Gandhi on account of his failing health in 1944, Gandhi kept up the resistance, demanding the complete release of the Congress leadership.
By early 1944, India was mostly peaceful again, while the entire Congress leadership was incarcerated. A sense that the movement had failed depressed many nationalists, while Jinnah and the Muslim League, as well as Congress opponents like the Communists and Hindu extremists, sought to gain political mileage, criticizing Gandhi and the Congress Party.
How much did Quit India contribute to the decision to relinquish the Raj?. Some historians claim it failed . By March 1943, the movement had petered out Even the Congress, at the time saw it as failure . Analysis of the campaign obtained by Military Intelligence in 1943 came to the conclusion that it had failed in the aim of paralysing the government. It did however cause enough trouble and panick among the War administration for General Lockhart to describe India as an "Occupied and hostile country". However, much as it might have disconcerted the Raj, the movement may be deemed to have ultimatel failed to bring the Raj to it's knees and the negotiating table for immediate transfer of power, as it aimed to. It came to all but a close whithin five months of it;s inception, and was nowhere near it's grandiose aim of toppling the Raj. The sole underlying reason, it seems, was the loyalty of the army, even where the local and native police came out in sympathy. . This certainly, was also the view of the British Prime Minister at the time of transfer of power, Clement Atlee. Atlee deemed the contribution of Quit India as minimal, ascribing stupendous importance to the revolts and growing dissatisfaction among Royal Indian Armed Forces during and after the war as the driving force behind Britain's decision to leave India Some Indian historians however argue that,in fact, the movement had succeeded. In support of the latter view, without doubt,the war had sapped a lot of the economic, political and military life-blood of the Empire.At the time, from intelligence reports, , the Azad Hind Government under Netaji Bose in Berlin deemed this an early indication of success of their strategy of formenting public rebellion.
It may ultimately be a fruitless question whether it was the powerful common call for resistance among Indians that shattered the spirit and will of the British Raj to continue ruling India,or whether it was the forment of rebellion and resentment among the British Indian Armed Forces. What is beyond doubt, however, is that a population of millions had been motivated as it never had been before to say ultimately that independence was a non-negotiable goal, and every act of defiance and rebel only stoked this fire.In addition, the British people and the British Army seemed unwilling to back a policy of repression in India and other parts of the Empire even as their own country lay shattered by the war's ravages. The INA trials in 1945, the resulting militant movements, and the Bombay mutiny had already shaken the pillar of the Raj in India. By early 1946, all political prisoners had been released. British openly adopted a political dialogue with the Indian National Congress for the eventual transfer of power. On August 15, 1947, India was declared Independent.
A young, new generation responded to Gandhi's call. Indians who lived through Quit India came to form the first generation of independent Indians-whose trials and tribulations may be accepted to have sown the seeds of establishment of the strongest enduring tradition of democracy and freedom in post-colonial Africa and Asia- which, when seen in the light of the torrid times of Partition of India, can be termed one of the greatest examples of prudence of humanity.


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