Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement of 1942 stands as a testament to the unwavering determination and indomitable spirit of the Indian people in their struggle for independence from British colonial rule. This seminal event marked a crucial turning point in the Indian freedom struggle, galvanizing the nation and propelling it toward its eventual liberation. 

The movement, characterized by non-violent civil disobedience, showcased the resilience and courage of Indian leaders and the masses alike. This article provides a holistic account of the Quit India Movement, delving into its reasons, important events, key leaders, and the outcomes that shaped the course of Indian history.

On 8th Aug 2023, India will complete 81 years of the Quit India Movement, the “August Kranti”.

Background and Reasons for the Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement emerged amidst a backdrop of growing disillusionment with British rule and a widespread desire for complete independence. The historical context was marked by World War II, which exposed the hollowness of British promises of freedom in exchange for Indian support. The Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, had exhausted diplomatic negotiations and peaceful protests, compelling them to adopt more radical means.

  • Failure of the Cripps Mission: The Cripps Mission of 1942 aimed to secure Indian support for Britain during the war by offering limited dominion status. However, the mission’s proposals fell short of Indian expectations, as they did not guarantee full independence. This failure further fueled the nationalist sentiment, leading to increased demand for immediate freedom.
  • Indian Participation in World War II without Prior Consultation: The British assumption of India’s unconditional support during World War II without prior consultation was met with strong opposition by the Indian National Congress.
  • Rise of Anti-British Sentiment: Anti-British sentiments and the call for complete independence had gained significant popularity among the Indian masses.
  • Consolidation of Various Movements: Over the course of two decades, numerous mass movements conducted under the leadership of affiliated bodies associated with the Congress, such as the All India Kisan Sabha and the Forward Bloc, laid the groundwork for the Quit India Movement.
  • Scarce Supply of Essential Commodities: The economy was severely disrupted as a result of World War II, leading to shortages of essential commodities.

What Were the Objectives of the Movement?

    • The primary objective of the Quit India Movement was to bring an end to British rule in India immediately, with the aim of garnering Indian cooperation in World War II against fascism.
  • Additionally, there was a demand for the formation of a provisional government following the withdrawal of the British authorities.

Important Events during the Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement witnessed several landmark events that became instrumental in shaping the narrative of the struggle for independence.

  • Gandhi’s “Do or Die” Call: The Resolution for Quit India was passed by the Congress Working Committee on 8 August 1942 in Gowalia Tank, Bombay. Gandhi was named the movement’s leader. Mahatma Gandhi, during a speech at the All-India Congress Committee session, gave the historic “Do or Die” call, urging Indians to launch a mass movement for complete independence. This electrifying call to action resonated throughout the country, mobilizing millions of Indians in their fight against British imperialism.
  • Mass Civil Disobedience: Following Gandhi’s call, massive protests erupted across the nation, leading to civil disobedience campaigns, strikes, and demonstrations. Students, peasants, workers, and women played pivotal roles in the movement, paralyzing administrative machinery and challenging British authority at every level.
  • Repression and Arrests: The British administration responded ruthlessly to suppress the movement, arresting prominent leaders, including Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Maulana Azad. The incarcerated leaders played a crucial role in keeping the spirit of resistance alive, even from behind bars.
  • Underground Activities and Revolutionary Efforts: Despite the severe crackdown, underground revolutionary activities, such as secret radio broadcasts, pamphleteering, and the dissemination of nationalist literature, continued to inspire and educate the masses.

Phases of the Quit India Movement:

First Phase: The initial phase of the movement witnessed urban revolt characterized by strikes, boycotts, and picketing, all of which were swiftly suppressed. Demonstrations and strikes took place nationwide, with workers abstaining from their work in factories. Mahatma Gandhi was soon imprisoned at Aga Khan Palace in Pune, and the majority of leaders were arrested.

Second Phase: The focus of the movement shifted to the countryside, where a significant peasant rebellion unfolded. This phase was marked by acts of sabotage, such as destroying communication systems like railway tracks, stations, telegraph wires, and poles. Government buildings and other visible symbols of colonial authority were also targeted.

Third Phase: The final phase witnessed the formation of national governments or parallel governments in isolated pockets. For instance, Ballia, under Chittu Pandey, established a parallel government for a week in August 1942. As a result of his efforts, several Congress members were released. In Tamluk (Midnapore) from December 1942 to September 1944, the Jatiya Sarkar focused on cyclone relief, allocated school grants, redistributed paddy from the wealthy to the poor, and organized Vidyut Vahinis, among other activities. Satara (mid-1943 to 1945) saw the establishment of the “Prati Sarkar” led by leaders like Y.B. Chavan, Nana Patil, and others. 

Outcomes and Legacy of the Quit India Movement

Although the Quit India Movement was met with severe repression and did not achieve immediate independence, its impact on the course of Indian history cannot be overstated.

Positive outcomes

  • International Attention and Recognition: The Quit India Movement garnered international attention and exposed the true nature of British colonialism to the world. The British government’s repressive measures, including the use of violence and mass arrests, tarnished its image globally.
  • Shift in British Policy: The widespread support and participation in the movement forced the British to reassess their stance on Indian independence. The realization that India could no longer be subjugated indefinitely led to subsequent negotiations and discussions that ultimately paved the way for independence in 1947.
  • Empowerment of the Masses: The Quit India Movement brought millions of Indians to the forefront of the freedom struggle. It empowered people from all walks of life, instilling a sense of unity, self-reliance, and resilience that would prove invaluable in the years to come.
  • The emergence of Future Leaders: Prominent leaders such as Ram Manohar Lohia, J.P. Narayan, Aruna Asaf Ali, Biju Patnaik, Sucheta Kriplani, and others engaged in underground activities during the Quit India Movement, eventually rising to prominence in the national political landscape.
  • Active Participation of Women: Women played a significant role in the movement, actively participating in various activities. Notably, leaders like Usha Mehta were instrumental in establishing underground radio stations, contributing to spreading awareness about the movement.
  • Heightened Nationalism: The Quit India Movement fostered a profound sense of unity and brotherhood among the Indian population. Many students opted to leave schools and colleges to join the movement, while individuals abandoned their jobs and withdrew funds from banks, symbolizing their commitment to the cause of independence.

Negative outcomes

  • Brutal Suppression: The Quit India Movement witnessed sporadic instances of violence, although they were not premeditated. The British administration responded to the movement with brutal repression, resorting to shootings, lathi-charges, the burning of villages, and the imposition of hefty fines. The scale of arrests exceeded 100,000, as the government employed violent means to crush the agitation.
  • Lack of Support: The Quit India Movement did not receive support from the Muslim League, the Communist Party of India, the Hindu Mahasabha, or the Indian bureaucracy. The Muslim League, in particular, was opposed to the idea of the British leaving India without first partitioning the country.
  • Seeds of Partition: The communal tensions that arose during the Quit India Movement highlighted the deep-seated religious divisions within Indian society. This eventually led to the tragic partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, marking a bittersweet chapter in the movement’s legacy.
  • Resignation of C. Rajagopalachari: C. Rajagopalachari, a member of the Indian National Congress (INC), resigned from his position due to his disagreement with the demand for complete independence.

The Quit India Movement was a watershed moment in India’s struggle for independence. It showcased the unwavering determination of the Indian people, forced the British to re-evaluate their colonial policies, and set the stage for the eventual birth of an independent India. 

The movement stands as a testament to the power of mass mobilization, non-violent resistance, and the tireless efforts of visionary leaders who spearheaded the struggle for freedom. Its impact on the Indian psyche and the global perception of the freedom struggle remains profound, forever etching the Quit India Movement in the annals of Indian history.

Leave a Reply