The Indian National Movement 1940-1947 was a period of immense political and social upheaval. With the Quit India movement in 1942, the Indian National Congress adopted a more confrontational approach towards the British Raj. Along with the Muslim League, it demanded the creation of a sovereign and independent India. However, the communal differences between Hindus and Muslims overshadowed the movement, leading to the Partition of India in 1947.
The National Movement also saw the emergence of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Subhash Chandra Bose, who played a decisive role in shaping India’s struggle for freedom. The Quit India movement was one of the largest and most violent protests in India’s history, and independence finally came after years of struggle on August 15, 1947. The National Movement is an essential chapter in Indian history and marks the shift towards self-governance, democracy, and freedom.
World War II and India
World War II was fought between the Fascist forces of Nazi Germany and the Axis Power. Britain needed support from India in fighting the War. But the Congress had two demands:
- To Form Constituent Assembly after War for deciding the Political Structure of Free India.
- Some form of Responsible Government to be established
Linlithgow was the Viceroy from 1936-1944. He out rightly rejected Congress’s above demands.
|Linlithgow tried to use Muslim League and the Princes against Congress.
He declared that the Government aimed to resist aggression at present.
The government will set up a Consultative committee to seek advice whenever required.
A Promise was made to have consultations with representatives of several communities, Princes for modification of the Government of India Act 1935.
|The reaction of Congress:
|It rejected the Viceregal’s statement stating it as a repetition of Old Imperialist Policy.
It decided not to support the war and called for congress Ministers to resign.
Congress leadership was against the Immediate and Anti Imperialistic mass struggle.
- India was denied freedom itself. Hence it could not be part of a war for Democratic Freedom
- Britain should end Imperialism and establish democracy in its own colonies
- Government should declare the method of applying the principle of Democracy to India.
Hidden agenda of the Government: to suppress any voices which rose against the Government and gain support in the war.
- Even before the declaration of war emergency powers were acquired for the center by amending the Government of India Act 1935. This was done with respect to Provincial subjects.
- The defense of the India Ordinance was enforced to restrict Civil Liberties.
- Draft Revolutionary Movement Ordinance was prepared to prevent Congress’s Movement.
- The Government could call Allied troops from India to support in War.
Pakistan Resolution (23rd March 1940)
- On 23rd March 1940, the All India Muslim League passed a Resolution for the Partition of the Country in Minto Park. It Proposed Two Nation Theory. The Resolution did not have the name Pakistan.
- It was rejected by Congress, with Jawaharlal Nehru calling it a ‘Mad idea’ and Gandhiji rejecting the ‘Two Nation theory.’
During the course of the 2nd World War, in order to secure the cooperation of the Indians, the British Government made an announcement on 8 August 1940, which came to be known as the ‘August Offer’, which proposed –
- Dominion status is the objective for India.
- Expansion of the viceroy’s executive council and setting up of a constituent assembly after the war consisting of Indians to decide their constitution according to their social, economic, and political conceptions subject to fulfillment of the obligation of the Government regarding defense, minority rights, treaties with states, and all India services.
- No future constitution is to be adopted without the consent of minorities.
India’s Reaction to August Offer
- Congress rejected the August Offer.
- Nehru said, “Dominion status concept is dead as a doornail.”
|Dominion Status as an Objective for India. It was discussed for the first time.
Expansion of Viceroy’s Executive Council.
Setting up of a Constituent Assembly after War in which mainly Indians would decide the constitution based on Socio, Economic, and Political Situations.
But Defense, minority Rights, Treaties with states, and All India Services were to be under Government’s Rule.No future Constitution is to be adopted without the consent of minorities.
|Stand of Congress
|Congress rejected the Dominion Status
|Stand of Muslim League
|Muslim League welcomed the Veto assurance. It reiterated that Partition was the only solution.
|It was the first time the demand of Congress for a Constituent Assembly was admitted in principle and the Rights of Indians to Frame a Constitution was recognized.
Dominion Status was mentioned explicitly for the first time.
|Viceroy Executive Council was expanded with 8 out of 12 members being Indians.
National Defense Council was set up with its role being advisory in nature.
Defense, Finance, and Home were in charge of the British.
- To give them another chance to the Government to accept the demands of Congress peacefully.
- To show that they were not interested in the war and the Nationalists don’t differentiate between Nazism rule and Double Autocracy.
- The nationalist patience was not due to weakness.
- Delhi Chalo Movement to march towards Delhi if the Government doesn’t stop the Satyagraha.
- To seek Freedom of the Press through the propagation of the Anti-War Declaration.
- Vinobha Bhave was the first one to start Individual Satyagraha from Panvar, near Wardha in Maharastra. He was followed by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru.
- Congress Working Committee (CWC) members along with 25000 people were arrested in May 1941 and arrested in December 1941. They wanted to defend Indian territories from Japanese aggression.
- Congress Working Committee had the following demands for cooperation in the war:
- Full independence after the war
- The substance of Power is to be transferred immediately.
NOTE: Gandhi ji declared Pt Nehru as his successor after this rather than the much-speculated C. Rajagopalachari.
Cripps Mission (1942)
In the midst of the worsening wartime international situation, the British Government in its continued effort to secure Indian cooperation sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India on 23rd March 1942. This is known as Cripps Mission.
The Main Recommendations of Cripps Mission were:
- The Promise of Dominion Status to India.
- Protection of minorities.
- Setting up of a Constituent Assembly in which there would be representatives from the Princely States along with those of the British Provinces.
- There would be provision for any Province of British India not prepared to accept this Constitution.
- Either to retain its present constitutional position or frame a constitution of its own.
- Gandhi called Cripps proposals a “Post-dated Cheque”.
- The Muslim League was also dissatisfied as its demand for Pakistan had not been conceded in the proposal.
|CWC was willing to support the Government subject to its above demandsIn May 1942 Japan invaded Rangoon and hence the threat of invading India seemed eminent.
There was pressure on the U.K. from Allies like the U.S.A., U.S.S.R., and China for India’s cooperation.
|Indian union with a Dominion status would be set up and it would be free to decide its relation with the UN and the Commonwealth.
After the war Constituent Assembly would be formed with members from Provinces (elected through proportional representation) and Princely states (nominated).
Conditions of accepting the New Constitution:
– Any Province not willing to join the Union can have a separate Constitution and form a separate union.
– New Constitution-making Body and the Government would negotiate a treaty for the Transfer of Power.
Reasons for failure of Cripps Mission: It was mere Propaganda to satisfy the Allies’ Power.
|AUGUST OFFER 1940
|CRIPP’S MISSION 1942
|First-time demand for Constituent Assembly agreed upon. No talk about the provision of selecting members.
|After the war Constituent Assembly with Members from Provinces was elected and Princely states were nominated.
|First time Dominion Status was discussed explicitly. No talks of forming a separate Union.
|Gave the option to form separate Unions. Thus, laying the Framework of Partition.
Free India could draw away from the Commonwealth.
|Viceroy Executive Council expanded with an 8/12 majority of Indians.
|The larger share of Indians in Administration during the Interim Period.
Objectives of Congress and the Muslim League
|It wanted complete Independence.
It had Objections against the representation of States by nominees rather than Elected Representatives.
The right to secession was against the Principle of National unity.
No immediate Transfer of Power and absence of Real share in defense.
Demand for Governor General to be Constitutional Head has not been acknowledged –> Governor General’s supremacy was retained.
|It was against the Idea of a Single Indian union.
It was unsatisfied as the Provisions denied Muslims the Right of Self Determination.
It did not approve of the machinery for the creation of the Constituent Assembly.
It also did not approve of the procedure for the accession of Provinces to the Union.
Quit India Movement (1942-1944)
- After the failure of Cripps’s Mission, a Resolution was framed by Gandhi ji for British withdrawal and a non-violent Non-Cooperation Movement against the Japanese Invasion.
- The resolution was accepted in the CWC meeting in Wardha on July 14, 1942.
Reasons for Quit India Movement Struggle
- Failure of Cripps Mission exposed the unchanging attitude of the British Government.
- The Congress leadership wanted people to be prepared for a probable Japanese invasion.
- The decline of faith in the stability of British rule due to loss in the war.
- “Scorched Earth Policy” adopted by Britain in Bengal, Orissa, and Assam.
- Rising prices of Salt, Rice, and the seizing of Boats in Bengal-Orissa, were accompanied by the exposure of Racist policies and tendencies of the Ruler.
- Scorched Earth Policy: It is a military strategy of destroying anything that might be of use to the enemy nation. E.g.: seizing of Boats in Bengal and Orissa.
|Major activity after the Quit Indian Movement resolution was passed:
|Destruction of symbols of Public Authority.
Underground activities. Usha Sharma started an underground Radio to give fuel to the movement.
Parallel Government: established in Ballia (UP), Tamluk (Bengal) –> organized “Bidyut Bahini”, Satara (Maharashtra) –> “Prati Sarkar” was organized by Y. B. Chavan, Nana Patil, etc.
Youth, Women, Workers, Peasants, Government officials especially of lower levels, Muslims, and Communists participated in the movement. The upper class remained Loyalists.
There were no communal clashes during the movement. But there was severe government repression with up to 10,000 beings killed.
- SIGNIFICANCE: Demand for Independence was added to the agenda for the National movement.
- 23rd March 1943: Pakistan Day was observed.
Famine of 1943
- It occurred in the South West Region of Bengal.
- To feed the vast army food grains were redirected.
- Imports from Burma and South East Asia were stopped.
- It got aggravated by the mismanagement on the part of the Government.
Personalities Related to Quit Indian Movements
|In Gowalia Tank he gave the proclamation of Do or Die.
He was arrested on August 9, 1942, after that.
Undertook a Fast of 21 days against the Government’s repression of Indians involved in the Quit India Movement.
|Popularly called JP. He scaled Hazaribagh Central Jail with Yogendra Shukla to start the Underground Movement of Freedom.
|Ram Manohar Lohia, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kriplani, Chhotubhai Patnaik, R.P. Goenka, Achyut Patwardhan
|Leaders associated with Underground activities.
|He formed a parallel Government in Ballia (UP). He called himself a Gandhian.
|She was part of a small group that ran the Congress radio. She started an Underground Radio in Bombay.
|Initially, he supported arch-moderates who were opposed to Gandhi ji’s Plan. He later moved the Quit India Resolution on August 8, 1942.
|Rash Bihari Bose:
|He was elected as the President of the Indian Independence League on June 1942. He mobilized the Indian Prisoner of War taken by Japanese forces and formed an armed rebellion against the British Government.
|Captain Mohan Singh:
|He was the Commander in Chief of the Indian National Army (INA).
|Subhash Chandra Bose:
|Joined Indian National Army in 1943, he gave the famous proclamation “Tum mujhe khoon do, Mai tumhe Azaadi Doonga”.
He addressed Gandhiji as the “Father of the Nation” in a speech by Azad Hind Radio.
INA under Subhash Chandra Bose played an important role in India’s Independence.
|C. Rajagopalachari and Bhulabhai Desai:
|They were against Muslim’s Rights to secede through a Plebiscite after independence. They resigned from the Congress in July 1942 from AICC.
|After the arrest of Mahadev Desai on 8th August 1942, he brought out two militant issues of Harijan to arouse popular sentiments.
|He was a Local Congress leader and the first Sarbadhinayak of Tamluk’s National Government called Tarnalipta Jatiya Sarkar in the Tamluk subdivision of Midnapore.
|Led large tribal population from Koraput (Orissa) to protest against the Jaypore Zamindari and attack Police Stations.
|Led a rebellion in Satara.
C. Rajagopalachari Formula (1944)
To solve the deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League C. Rajagopalachari came up with a formula. It was to come to solve the Constitutional Crises. Following were the highlights of it:
- Muslim League to Endorse Congress’s Demand for Independence.
- ML to cooperate with Congress in forming a Provisional Government in the Centre.
- The plebiscite of all the people from Muslim majority areas of North West and North East for the formation of a separate Sovereign Nation.
- Agreement to be made jointly for Defense, Commerce, and Communications jointly if demands of partition are accepted.
- The above terms were to be operative in case full Powers were given to India by the British.
- Importance: it accepted the Muslim League’s demand for a Separate Pakistan.
- Muslim League wanted only Muslims of North West and North East India to vote. It was also in opposition to the Common Centre.
Desai-Liaquat Pact (1945)
- Bhulabhai Desai, leader of the Congress with Liaquat Ali Khan, leader of the Muslim drafted a proposal for the formation of an interim government at the center, consisting of:
- an equal number of persons nominated by the Congress and League in the central legislature
- 20% reserved seats for minorities
- No settlement could be reached between Congress and the League on these lines
- But the fact that a sort of parity between the Congress and the League was decided upon, which had far-reaching
Wavell Plan (1945) – Shimla Conference
- All members of the Executive Council are to be Indians except the Governor General and Commander in Chief.
- Caste Hindu and Muslim to have equal Representation.
- Reconstructed Council to work as an Interim Government under the Provisions of Government of India Act, 1935. It shall not be responsible to the Central Assembly.
- Reconstruction of Governor General’s Executive Council. This was an interim arrangement till a new Constitution is formed.
|Muslim League’s Stand:
|It failed in meeting M. A. Jinnah’s Demands for Veto power. He wanted only Muslim League to choose the Muslim members of the Executive Council. It feared this arrangement would reduce the Muslim League to a one-third minority. Wavell wanted Khizr Hyatt Khan as the Muslim representative from Western Punjab.
The Muslim League wanted decisions opposed to Muslims needing a two-thirds majority for approval.
|The Congress objected to the plan as an attempt to reduce the Congress to the status of a pure-caste Hindu party.
It insisted on its Right to include members of all communities among its nominees.
Subhash Chandra Bose & Indian National Army
- He left India in 1941 in disguise and lived in Germany from 1938-45.
- In Berlin, he established the “Free India Radio”.
- Raised a unit of Indian Prisoners of War under the name “Freedom Army (Mukti Sena)”
- Berlin Radio was used by him and it was called Azad Hind Radio. Its Headquarters was shifted to Singapore and then to Rangoon.
Tokyo Conference: March 1942
- Rash Bihari Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru formed an organization by the name “Indian Independence League” in 1928.
- The new chapter of the Indian Independence League was formed at Tokyo Conference.
- Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauz) was to be formed for the liberation of India.
- Mohan Singh Deb was going to be the Commander in Chief of the Army.
- Result of the Conference: All Indians residing from Burma to Malaya came. But they were apprehensive of the Vested interests of the Japanese government. Hence nothing substantial resulted. The decision of meeting in Bangkok on a future date was taken.
- All Malayan Indian Independence League – 1942, Singapore: It was organized by Rash Bihari Bose. It mainly took issues of local Indians engaged in plantations.
- Bangkok Conference- June 1942: It was chaired by Rash Bihari Bose. It passed the 34-point resolution. Indian National Army was made subordinate to Indian Independence League.
|Japanese Government should explicitly recognize India as an Independent Nation.
Japanese Government should recognize the League as India’s National Representative and guardian.
Indian National Army should be recognized as an Allied army and Prisoners of War should be handed over to it.
It Demanded assurance of India’s relations with Japan, and respect for its Freedom, and Sovereignty post-Independence.
Subhash Chandra Bose in Japan
- He came to Japan in May 1943 to garner support and the Promise of the Japanese Government for expelling the British and to achieve India’s Independence.
- After Mohan Singh’s differences with the Japanese Government, he was arrested and subsequently removed from INA.
- He was later repatriated to India. He also became a Member of Parliament under the Congress Regime.
- In June, Subhash Chandra Bose was given the premiership of the Indian Independence League. He also took command of the Indian National Army.
- Azad School: for training Recruits (POW)
- Rani Jhansi Regiment: first-time women’s regiment in Asia under Captain Laxmi Swaminathan
- Officer’s Training School under Habib Ur Rehman.
Provisional Government of Free India, Singapore (October 1943)
- On 21st October 1943 Provisional Government of Free India was formed in Singapore.
- In March 1944 INA under the banner of Subhash Chandra Bose started a
- military campaign against Burma. “Delhi Chalo” became the battle cry.
- Japan, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Burma, Thailand, Nationalist China, Philippines recognized this Provisional Government.
- Andaman and Nicobar Island were given by the Japanese Government to it; later renamed Shaheed Dweep and Swaraj Dweep.
- 30th December 1943: National flag was hoisted.
- Battle of Imphal: From March- July 1943, Japan along with INA tried to invade Imphal and destroy allied Forces. Were driven back to Burma by Allied forces.
- Battle of Kohima: Another unsuccessful attempt to encircle the British.
- May 1945: Rangoon was captured by the British.
- September 1945: Japan surrendered after Atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Indian National Army Trials/ Red Fort Trials
The officers of the INA were taken to court martial at the Red Fort of Delhi from November 1945 and May 1946. Around ten courts-martial were held.
General Election 1945
Labor Party under Clement Atlee came to Power. Sir Patrick Lawrence was the new Secretary of State for India.
|Major steps are taken:
|Announcement of General Elections in India after 10 years. The last one was held in 1936.
91% of non-Muslim seats were won by Congress –> In Madras, United Province, Bihar, Orissa, Central Province it had an absolute majority.
Muslim League secured all Muslim seats –> It had an absolute majority in Sindh and Bengal.
|Muslim League was established as a dominant Muslim party unlike in the Elections of 1935.
Separate Electorates and Limited franchises contributed to communal voting in the elections. E.g.; For Provinces <10% of people could vote. For Central Assembly <1% were eligible.
Wavell Breakdown Plan: He planned of withdrawing British Army and Officers to 6 Muslim Provinces of North East and North West. It was superseded by the Cabinet Mission Plan.
Rin Mutiny (1946)
- Due to poor Pay, Food, and Racial Discrimination, a mutiny under the Ratings of HMIS Talwar was started.
- Flags of Congress, the Muslim League, and the Red flag of CPI were hoisted.
- Mutiny was ended by the intervention of Sardar Patel. Despite assurances, the mutineers faced trials.
- This led to Violence in Bombay, with the loss of 200 lives.
- Significance: Cabinet Mission was sent on 19th February 1946 to India.
Cabinet Mission (1946)
- Composition: Sir Patrick Lawrence (Secretary of State for India) + Sir Stafford Cripps (President of Board of Trade) + V. Alexander (the first lord of Admiralty).
- Objectives were:
- To make arrangements for Interim Government.
- Devise a mechanism for the Formation of the Constitution of Free India.
- The Congress and the League could not come to a consensus. Therefore, the Mission furthered with its own Plans.
The objective of the Cabinet Mission Plan
- Common Centre with control of Defense, Communication and External Affairs was proposed. It gave limited Powers to the Centre, thus proposing a Weak Centre.
- All members of the Interim Government to be India and minimum interference from the Viceroy. Interim Government to be formed from the Constituent Assembly.
- Formation of the Constituent Assembly on Democratic principles, with:
- Voting in 3 groups of General, Muslims and Sikhs through Proportional Representation.
- 389 members were to be in Constituent Assembly: 292 from Provinces, $ chief Commissioner Province and the Princely states sending 93 members.
- All subjects (except Union and Residuary) were to be allocated to the Provinces.
- Princely states were to retain all Subjects and Residuary Subjects. They were no longer under British paramountcy and free to join either India or Pakistan.
- Three tier executive, legislature at Provincial, Section and Union level.
- Grouping of the existing Provinces under three Sections:
- Section A: Madras, Bombay, Central Province, United Province, Bihar, Orissa (Hindu majority Provinces).
- Section B: Punjab, North West Frontier Province and Sindh (Muslim Majority provinces).
- Section C: Bengal and Punjab (Muslim Majority Provinces)
- Members of Groups to decide constitution of the Provinces separately. Constitution of the Union was to be devised by the whole Constituent Assembly.
- After first General Elections, a Province would be Free to Come out of the Grouping.
- After 10 years, Province would be free to call for Reconsideration of the Group or the Union.
- In June, Muslim League accepted the Plan.
- 24th June: Congress accepted the Long-term Plan.
- July 1946: Elections held in Provincial Assembly for Constituent Assembly.
- July 10, 1946: Nehru implied Constituent Assembly as Sovereign and would decide on Rules of Procedure on its own.
- July 29, 1946: League rejected the Plan in response to Nehru’s statement. Direct Action day from August 16, 1946 to achieve Independent Pakistan.
Direct Action Day
- August 16, 1946, was fixed as Direct Action Day. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister of Bengal, Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Khwaja Nizamuddin fiery speeches were given to the already enraged communal masses. 5000 people were killed in the violence that followed.
- From August 16 communal riots started in India in unprecedented level.
- Garmukteshwar (U.P), Calcutta, Bombay, Noakhali, and Bihar were the most affected areas.
Atlee Statements (1947)
- On 20th February 1947, Prime Minister Clement Atlee released a statement. It declared a deadline of June 30, 1948, for the Transfer of Power.
- Transfer of Power to be made to:
- Either to some form of Central Government.If Constitutional Assembly was not fully Representative it would transfer the Powers to the existing Provincial Government in some areas (if the Muslim-majority provinces did not join the Union.)This Transfer of Power would end British’s power and obligation w.r.t Princely States. The Power would also not be transferred to successive states automatically.
- Lord Mountbatten to be the new Viceroy of India replacing Lord Wavell. He was the Last Viceroy of British India.
- Muslim ‘league launched Civil Mass Disobedience after this.
|Fixed date was set to:
|To prevent the growing Constitutional Crises.
So the concerned parties come into agreement on major issues.
To convince Indians of British’s Sincerity
Mountbatten Plan (1947)
- On 20th February 1947, Prime Minister Atlee announced in the House of Commons the definite intention of the British Government to transfer power to responsible Indian hands.
- Thus, to effect the transference of that power Atlee decided to send Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy to India.
- Lord Mountbatten armed with vast powers became India’s Viceroy on 24th March 1947.
- The partition of India and the creation of Pakistan appeared inevitable to him.
- After extensive consultation, Lord Mountbatten put forth the plan of partition of India on 3rd June 1947.
- Congress and the Muslim League ultimately approved the Mountbatten Plan. Indian Independence Act, 1947.
- The British Government accorded formal approval to the Mountbatten Plan by enacting the Indian Independence Act on 18 July 1947.
- The partition of the country into India and Pakistan would come into effect from 15 August 1947.
- The British Government would transfer all powers to these two Dominions.
- A Boundary Commission would demarcate the boundaries of the provinces of the Punjab and Bengal.
- The Act provided for the transfer of power to the Constituent Assemblies of the two Dominions, which will have full authority to frame their respective Constitutions.
- The Radcliffe Boundary Commission drew the boundary line separating India and Pakistan.
- On 15th August 1947 India, and on the 14th August Pakistan came into existence as two independent states.
- Lord Mountbatten was made the first Governor General of Independent India.
- Whereas Mohammad Ali Jinnah became the first Governor General of Pakistan.
- The most tragic incident occurred on 30th January 1948, when Mahatma Gandhi – the father of the nation on his way to a prayer meeting was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947
Mountbatten Plan was ratified as the India Independence Act of 1947 by the British Government. It was implemented on 15th August 1947.
- Independent dominion of India and Pakistan to be formed.
- Each Dominion to have a Governor General for overseeing the implementation of the Act. Mountbatten was for Indian Dominion and M.A. Jinnah for Pakistan.
- Constituent Assembly of Each Dominion to exercise powers of Legislature. Existing Assemblies to Dissolve.
- Till New Constitution was adopted, Governance was carried out in accordance with the Government of India Act, of 1935.
Integration of States
Integration of States was done in two phases. Nehru presided over the All-India States People’s Conference sessions. He declared that the States refusing to join the Constituent Assembly would be considered hostile. In July 1947, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel took charge of the New States Department.
|All states except Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Junagarh signed an “Instrument of Accession” with India. They acknowledged central authority over Defense Communication and External Affairs.
Reasons for acceptance:
– No changes in Political Structure.
– Giving up of powers that were never possessed.
|Integration of states into the nearby province or into New regions (Himachal Pradesh, Kathiawar region, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh).
Internal Constitutional changes in states which retained their old boundaries for some years (Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore- Cochin.) Privy Purse was given or some kings were made Governors/ Rajpramukh.