Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement or the India August Movement (August Kranti), was a civil disobedience movement launched by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) on 8 August 1942, during World War II, demanding an end to British Rule of India. The Cripps Mission had failed, and on 8 August 1942, Gandhi made a call to Do or Die in his Quit India speech delivered in Mumbai at the Gowalia Tank Maidan.

The All-India Congress Committee launched a mass protest demanding what Gandhi called “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India. Even though it was wartime, the British were prepared to act. Almost the entire leadership of the INC was imprisoned without trial within hours of Gandhi’s speech. Most spent the rest of the war in prison and out of contact with the masses.

The British had the support of the Viceroy’s Council (which had a majority of Indians), of the All India Muslim League, the Communist Party, the princely states, the Indian Imperial Police, the British Indian Armyand the Indian Civil Service. Many Indian businessmen profiting from heavy wartime spending did not support Quit India.

Many students paid more attention to Subhas Chandra Bose, who was in exile and supporting the Axis Powers. The only outside support came from the Americans, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressured Prime Minister Winston Churchill to give in to some of the Indian demands. The Quit India campaign was effectively crushed. The British refused to grant immediate independence, saying it could happen only after the war against the Axis powers had ended.

Sporadic small-scale violence took place around the country and the British arrested tens of thousands of leaders, keeping them imprisoned until 1945. In terms of immediate objectives Quit India failed because of heavy-handed suppression, weak co-ordination and the lack of a clear-cut programme of action. However, the British government realised that India was ungovernable in the long run due to the cost of World War II, and the question for postwar became how to exit gracefully and peacefully.

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