The History Which They Did not Teach you in Class – “Quit India Movement”

The History Which They Did not Teach you in Class – “Quit India Movement”

If you read about “Quit India Movement” from Indian textbooks, you would recall “Quit India Movement” being an epochal event in the course of freedom struggle and your mind will conjure up images of the entire nation uniting against the ”Raj with masses burning the union jack and English clothes and millions of people on ‘Satyagrah’ (a peaceful revolution) forcing the ‘Raj’ to its knees. The post freedom Congress had India believed through its sustained and subtle propaganda that the ‘Quit India’ movement brought India its freedom after 200 years of slavery. The truth could not have been further than that.

Congress and Mahatma Gandhi himself were not looking for freedom from the United Kingdom but mere dominion status which effectively meant English King would still be sovereign of India. Cripps mission which was sent to India to garner support as well as enlist Indian military for WWII was a sore disappointment for Congress which hoped to form government if British granted India dominion status in 1942. Disappointed and frustrated Congress which at this point resembled more of a political creature rather than freedom fighters, convened congress meet at Gowalia Tank Maidan (Now August Kranti Maidan) in Mumbai where a resolution was passed to proclaim complete freedom from British. This is after Aruna Asaf Ali in May 1942, for the first time in freedom struggle history, hoisted the tri-color at August Kranti Maidan. Mahatma Gandhi famously let out a non-violent war cry of “Do or Die” sensing this to be last opportunity for the Indian freedom from British.

Shortly, the movement became leaderless as the British government arrested enmass all leaders and cut of all communication. What followed was a rudderless chaotic and violent civil disorder where telegraph offices, post offices, police stations, and other government buildings were attacked and burnt. The British establishment held Gandhi responsible for all the violence though Gandhi denied all charges of stoking violence. Gandhi, despite maintaining belief in non-violence was a tired and dejected man after decades of political maneuvers and negotiations not yielding the political objectives and did not stop the movement as he had feverishly called off in 1921 after ‘Chaura Chori’ incidenct. While the critic highlight failure of non violent struggle and Gandhi’s apparent acceptance of element of violence in the course of freedom struggle, one important event that shaped India’s destinity 5 years later was taking place as a side effect of ‘Quit India Movement’. Muslim League cashed in the leadership vaccum in 1942 as the party fervently supported the British government achieving dual purpose of obtaining much needed support of the British government for the separate country for Muslims as well as canvassing Mulsim vote consolidation while the congress leadership languished in jails. This build up of Muslim vote base was visible in 1946 elections where Mulsim league clearly emerged as a representative of Indian Muslims by winning 87% of Muslim majority seats contrasting 1937 elections where Muslim league failed to win any constituency where Congress won all but 2 constituencies. Clearly in mere 8 years, the atmosphere of the country had changed which led the path to India’s partition.

While the ‘Quit India’ movement was brually crushed by the British and by 1944 while the WWII was over but in name in favor of the British, the movement fizzled out without any path to Indian independence.

While the “Quit India” movement was fizzling out like all other previous movements, a new leader was rising sensationally in India who was to become the single factor for the British hurried departure from the Indian sub-continent. The firebrand Congress leader Subhash Chandra Bose reinvented himself as ‘Netaji’ when he miraculously escaped the British house arrest and raised a 50 thousand strong military force to fight the British in WWII. The significance of this event in the course of the Indian freedom struggle can not be overstated. The British empire in India could only survive as long as they controlled the military and commanded its absolute loyalty. Once this was put under question by the Bose instigated Navy revolt of Feb 1946, the ‘Raj’ became untenable and a hurried departure of the British followed.

Gaurav Mehra

The writer is alumni of IIT Madras and IIM Bangalore. Apart from earning his bread in Technology where he works as Product Manager, the writer aspires to write fiction & travelogue when he has made his fortune to call it quits and hit the road in search of the meaning of existence. Write him directly at [email protected]