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The Quit India Movement           [1942 AD - 1945 AD]

 

The Congress at its Bombay session passed the famous Quit India resolution, calling for mass struggle on non-violent lines on the widest possible scale, under the leadership of Gandhiji. He stressed that "We shall either free India or die in the attempt; We shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery"; popularly known as "Do or Die". But before the Congress could start the movement, the government arrested all the major leaders and the Congress was declared illegal. Spontaneous popular revolts broke out with the battle cry of 'British Quit India'.

The urban middle class was extremely prominent in the first phase, spearheaded by the students. In the middle phase the focus shifted to the countryside, with militant students. Weakened by the brutal repression, the movement entered the last phase by the end of September and was characterised by terrorist activity by educated youths directed against communication, police and army installations, occasionally rising to the level of guerrilla war.

The major inspiration for carrying on relentless struggle against Britain came from Subhash Chandra Bose's adventures abroad. He escaped from the Britishers during the Second world war, and fled to Germany from where he started to get help for India. After that he went to Japan and with the help of Chandrashekhar Azad, he started gathering support from Indians living in South-East Asia. "Give me blood and I'll give you freedom" was his famous slogan during this campaign. In 1943, he formed Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army - INA) in Singapore, and gave his famous call 'Delhi Chalo'.

I.N.A. was joined by large numbers of Indian residents of south-east asia and by the Indian soldiers and officers captured by the Japanese forces in Malaya, Singapore and Burma. After freeing Andaman and Nicobar Islands from the Britishers, INA waged war from Kohima, North-East India. However, with the defeat of Japan in 1945, INA slowly lost its power. Bose was killed in an air crash on his way to Tokyo. After the victory of the Allies in the war, INA soldiers were tried in the Red-Fort in 1945. Jawaharlal Nehru, stood by the INA and fought with the British for justice. The whole of India stood up for the INA and large demonstrations were held. The military tribunal held the INA officers guilty and condemned them to harsh punishments. Indians were so outraged on hearing the verdict , that the Government cancelled the punishment of the tribunals.

The Government went all out to repress the movement. By the end of 1943, over 91,838 people had been arrested, many were publicly flogged and tortured. The demonstrating crowd were machine-gunned and even bombed from the air. India had not witnessed such repression since the revolt of 1857. The Britishers had definitely come out victorious in their immediate confrontation and the remaining two and half years of war passed without any serious political challenge.

During the end of the war period, Wavell came as Viceroy and started negotiations with Indian leaders for constitutional settlement. He released all political leaders and convened a conference in Shimla in 1945. He proposed a new executive council which would be entirely Indian with Hindus and Muslims with equal representation, except for the Viceroy, himself and commander-in-chief and will not be responsible for the Central assembly. With the end of the war, the talks broke down because the Congress objected to an attempt to reduce its status to a pure Hindu party and Jinha insisted that all the Muslims members of the executive council should be nominated by his league.