In News: On this day 80 years ago — on August 9, 1942 — the people of India launched the decisive final phase of the struggle for independence.
- It was a mass upsurge against colonial rule on a scale not seen earlier, and it sent out the unmistakable message that the sun was about to set on the British Empire in India.
- Mahatma Gandhi, who had told the Raj to “Quit India” on the previous day (August 8) was already in jail along with the entire Congress leadership, so when August 9 dawned, the people were on their own — out on the street, driven by the Mahatma’s call of “Do or Die”.
- This truly people-led movement was eventually crushed violently by the British, but by then it was clear that nothing short of their final departure was acceptable to India’s masses.
Build-up to August 1942
- While factors leading to such a movement had been building up, matters came to a head with the failure of the Cripps Mission.
- With World War II raging, the beleaguered British government needed the cooperation of its colonial subjects.
- With this in mind, in March 1942, a mission led by Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India to meet leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League.
- The idea was to secure India’s whole-hearted support in the war, and the return offer to Indians was the promise of self-governance.
- Despite the promise of “the earliest possible realisation of self-government in India”, Cripps only offered dominion status, not freedom.
- Also, there was a provision for the partition of India, which was not acceptable to the Congress.
- The failure of the Cripps Mission made Gandhi realise that freedom would come only if Indians fought tooth and nail for it.
- The Congress was initially reluctant to launch a movement that could hamper Britain’s efforts to defeat the fascist forces.
- But it eventually decided on mass civil disobedience.
- At the Working Committee meeting in Wardha in July 1942, it was decided the time had come for the movement to move into an active phase.
Gandhi’s address: Do or Die
- On August 8, 1942, Gandhi addressed the people in the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay (Mumbai).
- “Here is a mantra, a short one that I give you. Imprint it on your hearts, so that in every breath you give expression to it,” he said.
- “The mantra is: ‘Do or Die’. We shall either free India or die trying; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery,” Gandhi said.
- Aruna Asaf Ali hoisted the Tricolour on the ground. The Quit India movement had been officially announced.
- The government cracked down immediately, and by August 9, Gandhi and all other senior Congress leaders had been jailed.
The people vs. the Raj
- The arrest of their leaders failed to deter the masses. With no one to give directions, people took the movement into their own hands.
- In Bombay, Poona, and Ahmedabad, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Indians clashed with the police.
- There were strikes, demonstrations and people’s marches in defiance of prohibitory orders in Kanpur, Patna, Varanasi, and Allahabad.
- The protests spread rapidly into smaller towns and villages.
- Till mid-September, police stations, courts, post offices, and other symbols of government authority came under repeated attack.
- Railway tracks were blocked, students went on strike in schools and colleges across India, and distributed illegal nationalist literature.
- In some places, the protests were violent.
- Bridges were blown up, telegraph wires were cut, and railway lines were taken apart.
The slogan ‘Quit India’
- While Gandhi gave the clarion call of Quit India, the slogan was coined by Yusuf Meherally, a socialist and trade unionist who also served as Mayor of Bombay.
- A few years ago, in 1928, it was Meherally who had coined the slogan “Simon Go Back”.
- Underground activities were taken by leaders that included Ram Manohar Lohia, J.P. Narayan, Aruna Asaf Ali, Biju Patnaik, Sucheta Kriplani, etc which later emerged as prominent leaders.
- Women took active participation in the movement. Female leaders like Usha Mehta helped set up an underground radio station which led to the awakening about the movement.
- Muslim League, the Communist Party of India and the Hindu Mahasabha did not support the movement. The Indian bureaucracy also did not support the movement.
- The League was not in favour of the British leaving India without partitioning the country first.
- The Communist party supported the British since they were allied with the Soviet Union.
- The Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the call for the Quit India Movement and boycotted it officially under the apprehension that the movement would create internal disorder and will endanger internal security during the war.
Brutal suppression of protests
- The Quit India movement was violently suppressed by the British — people were shot and lathicharged, villages were burnt, and backbreaking fines were imposed.
- In the five months up to December 1942, an estimated 60,000 people had been thrown into jail.
However, though the movement was quelled, it changed the character of the Indian freedom struggle, with the masses rising up to demand with a passion and intensity like never before: that the British masters would have to Quit India.
Source: Indian Express
Previous Year Question
Q.1) With reference to 8th August 1942 in Indian history, which one of the following statements is correct? (2021)
- The Quit India Resolution was adopted by the AICC.
- The Viceroy’s Executive council was expanded to include more Indians.
- The Congress ministries resigned in seven provinces.
- Cripps proposed an Indian Union with full Dominion Status once the Second World War was over.