On 8th August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement for freedom from British rule in Mumbai (then Bombay).
The Quit India Movement, also known as the August Movement, was a movement launched at the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee by Mahatma Gandhi on 8 August 1942, during World War II, demanding an end to British rule in India.
After the failure of the Cripps Mission to secure Indian support for the British war effort, Gandhi made a call to “Do or Die” in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay on 8 August 1942 at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. The movement was accompanied by a mass protest on non-violent lines, in which Gandhi called for “an orderly British withdrawal from India”. Through his passionate speeches, Gandhi moved people by proclaiming “every Indian who desires freedom and strives for it must be his own guide…”. “Let every Indian consider himself to be a free man”.
The British were prepared for this massive uprising and within a few hours of Gandhi’s speech most of the Indian National Congress leaders were swiftly arrested; most of whom had to spend the next three years in jail, until World War II ended. During this time the British were deriving heavy support from the Viceroy’s, Council of the All-India Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, the princely states, the Indian Imperial Police, the British Indian Army, and the Indian Civil Service. Many Indian businessmen profiting from heavy wartime spending did not support the Quit India Movement. Most students were drawn towards Subhas Chandra Bose who was in exile and the only support Indian got from outside the country was from American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who compelled the then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to agree to the demands of the Indians. But the British refused to do so and said that this would only be possible when World War II ended.
The reason why it was so easy for the British to crush the Quit India Movement was because of a weak coordination and no clear-cut plan of action. Though despite of its flaws, the Quit India Movement remains significant because it was during this movement that the British realized that they would not be able to govern India successfully in the long run and began to think of ways they could exit the country in a peaceful and dignified manner.
The ‘Quit India’ movement, more than anything, united the Indian people against British rule. Although most demonstrations had been suppressed by 1944, upon his release in 1944 Gandhi continued his resistance and went on a 21-day fast. By the end of the Second World War, Britain’s place in the world had changed dramatically and the demand for independence could no longer be ignored.