In a war cemetery in Kohima, there is a grave which has the epitaph “Go back and tell them- For your today, we gave up our tomorrow”. India celebrates its 74th Quit India Movement anniversary which was launched on 9th August 1942. The Quit India ended in the culmination of the British leaving India but in between, it martyred countless people. Some were famous, some were just memories in their families and some not even that.
Significance of 9th August
During India’s struggle for independence, lot of people, known and unknown, gave their life for our today. It is the time not only to remember them but to take some lesson from them. How important for them was the freedom of the country, not in the sense that British had to be shunted out but freedom in wider sense of social, economic, political independence and equality for all. Thus, it is important to remember such freedom souls and take cues from their martyrdom.
On 9th August 1942, the final event for independence of India was launched- the Quit India Movement, under the leadership of Gandhiji. Its resolution was adopted on 8th August at All India Congress Committee session at Bombay. In this movement, Gandhiji declared that from that day onwards, the people of India should consider themselves as free and not dependent on anybody else. For that purpose, he gave them three slogans-
Forget that they are Hindu or Muslim. They have to consider themselves as Indian.
Don’t have any hate against anybody. Their struggle is not against any Britisher or Englishmen but against imperialism and colonialism.
The British people made us part of WW-II against Fascism and Nazism. If Fascism and Nazism is bad, then imperialism is equally bad. And hence, British colonial power has to leave India.
Thus, Gandhiji said that it was inherent duty of Britishers to quit India at that point of time honourably or Indians will throw them out. For that, he said it was time for ‘Do or Die’, where either they will achieve independence or die in its struggle. Thus, 9th August was the beginning of that period of national movement which ultimately led to India’s freedom.
Remembering the freedom fighters
Gandhiji’s genius lay in taking along masses with him including people who did not agree with him. Some disagreed actively and stayed out of movement while some who joined him reluctantly but did not agree with everything he was doing. Within national movement, there were many streams. Within congress there were liberals who were following the path of petitions and peaceful protests and there were extremists who believed in bold means like non-cooperation, boycott of government institutions etc. Also, there were revolutionaries who believed in armed struggle. The revolutionaries particularly became active from 1924 onwards when freedom fighters like Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Jogesh Chatterjee, Batukeshwar Dutt, Bajaj Kumar Singh were emerging. It was time after 1917 Russian revolution, the Bolshevik revolution when the Indian revolutionaries were influenced by Marxist and Communist ideologies. At the same time, the revolutionaries had disagreements with methods of Gandhiji like peaceful agitations which they believed were not adequate to gain independence. But, they all respected Gandhiji. Neither were they against Congress. They all were looking towards one aim, though the means were different.
Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad are given little more importance in history. Before 1924, the revolutionary activities had started from Bengal. But then epicentre became in Kanpur. Soon, the revolutionaries like Ram Prasad Bismil, Azad, Yogendra Shukla formed Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) in 1924. On 9th August 1925, the members of HRA attacked train carrying British treasure which they considered Indians’, at Kakori. Four of the members- Shafat Ali Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri- were caught and hung in a quick decision. They all belonged to different religions but fought for a same cause. Later in Delhi, a new group was formed which was called the Hindustan Socialist Rrepublican Association. Azad was Commander in Chief of HRA and Bhagat Singh was given task of ideological leadership. Thus, they became more known. There were three revolutionary groups- in Bengal, Punjab and Kanpur. Subhash Chandra Bose was earlier a part of Congress, but he too fell apart. He organised Indian National Army in 1942.
World during Quit India movement
WW-II is a very crucial period in world history. The world stage was very different at that time and there were several traumatic developments taking place very fast. One of them was WW-II which had already started and which was having crippling effect on global industries, especially British industries and therefore many argued that seeds were already sown for the destruction of British Empire. Britain as a country was more concerned about winning the war against Hitler. At that time Indians had to decide which side they were taking.
WW-II was on one hand a very serious war, but at the same time there was an ideological war. Nazism and Fascism were popular, Bolsheviks had become successful through Russian revolution. At the same time, USA had emerged as a power. It was not an imperial power. They wanted to have their hegemony on the world and hence they supported colonisation. They were giving the idea of ‘right to self-determination’. This situation was very useful for Indian national movement as they were getting force from idea of self-determination from USA leadership and from Bolshevik people.
Though India being under imperial rule, the national leaders like Gandhiji, Nehru had sympathy for British as they were attacked by Fascists’ and Nazis’ forces. India wanted to support British ideologically but the question before them was if they were supporting the cause against fascism and Nazism, then why they were under imperialism? Therefore, the Indian leadership was very clear that ideologically, they were against fascism and Nazism but India’s first goal will be its independence.
Even for that, there were difference of approaches. One section was prepared to cooperate with Congress on promise that India will get freedom. Leaders like Bose had no trust on Britishers and hence did not support congress. Revolutionaries thought that Britishers are complete progenies of capitalism so, they were not in favour of supporting them.
There always exist what ifs in history. One among them is what if Mahatma Gandhi had not been there? Would India still had been a part of British Empire?
After WW-II, many countries which were part of imperial power started liberating themselves from colonialism. So, there was beginning of a period of decolonisation after 1945 and by 1956, almost all countries were free. So, India would nevertheless have been independent. This was a part and parcel of national movement in every country and at the same time international political organisation. But, Gandhiji’s importance remains very much in international fora for his contribution to world for embracing peace and non-violence. Not many political leaders of other national movements are widely known and remembered all over world as Gandhiji. Thus, there is no doubt about the vast role of Gandhiji in India’s national freedom struggle.
Gandhiji not only gave freedom but also provided a sense of unity to Indians. Considering the diversity of India, it is very important to be united. He made masses the part of national movement. The result of these efforts were consolidation of India after independence. India is one of the successful countries where it still continues to be democratic, though there was emergency during 1975-1977 but it was a part of constitutional system. Thus, one has to understand for what the freedom has been given to us by our freedom fighters. India has been against imperialism and colonialism because of not only the political impact but also the social and economic consequences. Poverty, illiteracy, social backwardness still persist in India. India wanted freedom- first from Britishers, then freedom from wants. Therefore, the idea was to build an egalitarian society. This remains an important goal for which India has to work together.
Connecting the dots:
India has entered 70th year of its independence. Are the goals of freedom fighters of India’s national movement still relevant? Examine.