SECOND WORLD WAR AND INDIAN NATIONALISTS
In September 1939, the Second World War broke out. Indian opinion was not sought but the British government dragged India in the war as a party. Britain which claimed to be fighting for freedom had destroyed the freedom of the Indian people and had dragged India into the war. But India cannot associate herself in a war said to be for democratic freedom, when that very freedom is denied to her. The Congress demanded the establishment of an Indian government responsible to the Central Legislative Assembly. The British government did not agree even to this.
In November 1939, the Congress resigned in protest. In October 1940, the Individual Satyagraha was launched by Gandhiji. Vinoba Bhave was chosen as the first person to offer the Satyagraha. Within six months about 25,000 persons were in jail. At this time Germany attacked U.S.S.R and Japan attacked the U.S. naval station at Pearl Harbor, and started advancing in South East Asia. These developments led to the widening of the war into a world war.
Indian national leaders were opposed to fascism and condemned it as the enemy of the freedom. Many countries, allies against fascism, put pressure on the British government to concede the demand of the Indian people. In March 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India to hold talks with the Indian leaders, which failed because the British were not willing to promise independence to India. At last, in August, 1942, Gandhiji gave forth the slogan ‘Quit India’. The Congress passed a resolution on 8th August 1942, which mentioned the ‘immediate ending of British rule in India’. The day after the resolution was passed, the Congress was banned and all the important leaders were pushed behind the bars.
After the arrest of the leaders, there were spontaneous demonstrations all over India. The government tried to suppress the demonstrations. Hundreds of people were killed and over 70,000 persons arrested. In 1941, Subhash Chandra Bose had escaped from India and had reached Germany. In July 1943 he came to Singapore. The Indian National Army was organised from among the Indian soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the Japanese. In 1944, three units of Indian National Army along with Japanese troops moved into the Imphal Kohima. Though the attempt to liberate India failed, the activities of Subhash Chandra Bose and the INA served to strengthen the anti-imperialist struggle in India.
Quit India Movement
Quit India Movement which took place in the month of August has been one of the most popular mass movements during the freedom struggle of India. With the failure of Cripps Mission the political situation had worsened leaving every individual with full of frustration and disgust. People in total frustration eagerly waited for one such popular movement which could bring a complete end to Imperialism in India. It was at this moment when Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi called for Quit India Movement which turned out to be the most popular mass movement engulfing every section of the society. Quit India Movement was one of the active actions taken by the Indian National Congress passed through the resolutions of July and August 1942 insisting for an immediate independence for India. Against the background of Cripps Mission and the compulsive inclusion of India in the war the political scenario in India had worsened .As such if Congress was to keep its promises for an independent India , the time has come when Congress was to give a final blow to British paramount in India.
In July, Congress passed a resolution demanding immediate end of British rule in India. The resolution gave a brief account of the efforts made by the congress to convince the British Rulers of the necessity to make India free not only for the benefit for India but for the safety of the world as well as the end of Nazism, Fascism, militarism and other forms of imperialism all over the world. It further claimed that it had no intentions to humiliate the Allied Powers and so appealed the British Rule to withdraw its rule from India as soon as possible. It further reiterated its efforts to solve the ever existing the communal drifts and cooperate with the efforts of United Nations to create a peaceful world .As such if the government fails to grant the demands of the Congress then it will compel the party to go for a mass movement on the non violence basis which will gather all its non violent strength as collected since 1920 and organize a mass civil disobedience movement.
The July Resolution was purposely neglected by the government who now blamed the demands as wrong timed. This forced the Indian National Congress to pass another resolution in August 1942, which took the July resolution as the basis for the new resolution. The Resolution for Quit India was made in the Bombay (now Mumbai) session of Congress held in 8th August, 1942 .The agenda of the resolution declared that the committee resolves to sanction for the vindication of India`s alienable right to freedom and independence, the starting of a mass struggle on the non – violent lines on the widest possible scale so that the country must utilize all non violent strength which it has gathered since last twenty years. The committee placed the entire movement under Gandhi`s leadership and it was expected that with launching of the movement every man and woman who will be participating the movement must function within four general instruction of the party. In his famous `Do or Die` speech Gandhi declared four parameters of the Quit India Movement – firstly forget the differences between the Hindus and the Muslims and think yourself as an Indian only; secondly realize that our quarrel is not with the British people but with Imperialism under which they function; thirdly feel from today that you are a free man and not a dependent; and fourthly Do or Die, either free India or in the attempt.
In spite of his passing of the resolution he declared that the struggle has yet not started and it will commence only after he meets the Viceroy with these demands. He appealed to all the journalists, civil servants, princes, soldiers and students to realize their responsibility towards the nation and participate if they wish to see India free on the non – violent means.
Reaction of British to the Movement
The attitude of the British Government had also changed which now wanted to suppress every movement which will hamper its war image .As a result the quit India resolution was passed on 8th August and by 24 hours on 9 August Gandhi and all prominent leaders were arrested. Congress was declared an illegal party and simultaneous arrests took place all over the country. Quit India Movement has been popularly divided into three phases .The first phase started from the day of Gandhi`s arrest. The news of Quit India Movement and Gandhi`s arrest took the people unaware but the reaction was spontaneous. All the major cities of India which included Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Patna and many more cities faced hartals and the entire nation came to a standstill. Government`s reaction was repressive which began with indiscriminate firing and mass arrest.
The second phase began from the middle of August when the, focus shifted from the center to the out skirts where mobs began to attack the court buildings. Places like Eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Midnapore in West Bengal , parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Orissa where infuriated mobs tried to set up parallel governments though short lived and unsuccessful. The large suppressions executed by the government helped the people to organize the third phase of the movement which entered its longest and most formidable phase. This was characterized by the terrorist activities of the educated youth and was directed against communications and police confrontations, occasionally rising to the level of guerrilla warfare. In Bombay (now Mumbai), Poona, Satara, Baroda, parts of Kerela, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh underground organizations became active. Government atrocities crossed all limits but failed to restrict the movement from reaching its climax.
On the other side the war also came in favour of Allied powers .This made the secretary of State to condemn the Congress as growing revolutionary under Gandhi which aimed at crippling the government. As the government continued to blame Mahatma Gandhi for the violence taking place after the declaration of Quit India Movement, Gandhi gave an ultimatum with a 21 days fasting which began in 10th February 1943 and ended in 3rd March. Its main purpose was to draw world`s attention towards India cause.
Overall the Quit India Movement was successful in breaking the myth o f the government that it was the most popularly accepted government and that it was run by the majority of people who were loyal to the crown. Turning out to be the most popular movement in the freedom struggle for India this movement saw participation from all sections of people.
Indian National Army
Indian National Army, also known as the Azad Hind Fauj, was formed for the liberation of India from the British rule. It was formed in South-East Asia in the year 1942 by pioneering Indian Nationalists and prisoners who wanted to throw off the yoke of foreign domination and liberate the country. The INA was initially formed under Mohan Singh, after the fall of Singapore, the captain in the 1/14th Punjab Regiment in the British Army. However, the first INA under Mohan Singh collapsed and finally it was revived under the leadership of Subash Chandra Bose in 1943. Bose`s army was declared as the Azri Hukumat e Azad Hind. Indian National Army emerged along with Mahatma Gandhi`s peaceful resistance movement within India. In contrast to Mahatma Gandhi, Bose advocated a more aggressive confrontation with the British authorities.
Origin of Indian National Army
INA was formed during the first world war when the Ghadar Party and the emergence form of the Indian Independence League planned to rebel in the British Indian Army from the Punjab through Bengal to Hong Kong. However, this plan met with failure after the information was leaked to British Intelligence. During the Second World War, the plan to fight the British found revival and a number of leaders and movements were initiated. These included the various “liberation armies” which were formed in as well as with the help of Italy, Germany as well as in South-east Asia. Thus in South East Asia the concept of the Indian National Army emerged. It was supported by the Japanese 15th army and led by Bose.
Composition of the Indian National Army
Indian National Army had many valued freedom fighters that helped in the battles. They all had a brilliant background and fought for a similar cause, freedom of India. The INA freedom fighters were from every sphere ranging from barristers to plantation workers. The revival of the Indian National Army was done by Subhash Chandra Bose. Most of the people who joined the army had no prior military experience and thus to ensure a well-trained army, Bose established an Officers Training School for INA officers and the Azad School for the civilian volunteers Many youth were also sent to the Imperial Military Academy in Japan for advanced training. Every soldier was required to spend about six to eight hours of training daily. The training included physical training, army drill and handling arms such as rifles, pistols, hand grenades and bayonets. The soldiers also attended lectures of Indian and world history and military subjects like map reading as well as signaling.
Battles of Indian National Army
The battles that were fought by the Indian National Army during World War II were fought in the South-East Asian region. The operations include Malayan Campaign in 1942 as well as Burma Campaign. The operations of the INA involved the battle of Imphal, Kohima, Pokoku and Irrawady River operations. It began a long march over land and on foot towards Bangkok, along with Subash Chandra Bose. At the time of Japan`s surrender in September 1945, Bose left for Manchuria to attempt to contact the advancing Soviet troops, and was reported to have died in an air crash near Taiwan. On the other hand the INA fighters were imprisoned. The prisoners faced the death penalty, life imprisonment or a fine as punishment if found guilty.
Women in Indian National Army
Indian National Army was structured in a way that lodged active participation from women. A women regiment was formed in 1943. INA had John Thivy, Dr. Lakhsmi Sehgal, Narayan Karruppiah as well as Janaki Thevar as its members. Among the masses attending Bose`s rally on 9 July, Dr.Lakshmi, responded immediately to his appeal to form a Women`s Regiment. She visited many families to persuade the women to join the INA. Many were reluctant; however, she managed to gather twenty enthusiastic girls who were willing to break the traditional barriers. The girls presented the guard-of-honour to Bose. He was impressed and invited Dr. Lakshmi to lead the Women`s Regiment. On 12 July 1943, Bose announced the formation of the Women`s Regiment, naming it “Rani of Jhansi Regiment” which in later years was considered to be a special characteristic of the INA. INA fighters were not invited to join the Indian Army after India`s independence. However, a few ex-INA members later have seen prominent public life or held important positions in independent India. The Indian National Army thus rose to power under the able leadership of Bose. Though it was ultimately disbanded, its heroic attempts at forming an army and taking a radical step towards Indian Independence marked a significant step in the Indian Independence Movement.
Cripps Mission was deputed by British parliament in early 1942 to contain the political crisis obtained in India. The mission was headed by Sir Stafford Cripps, a Cabinet Minister. Cripps, a radical member of the Labour Party and the then Leader of the House of Commons, was known as a strong supporter of Indian national movement. Cripps Mission was prompted by two considerations. First, Gandhi’s call for the Satyagraha (literally ‘insistence on truth’, generally rendered ‘soul force’) movement in October 1940 was designed to embarrass Britain’s war efforts by a mass upheaval in India and needed to be ended in the British interest. Secondly, the fall of Singapore (15 February 1942), Rangoon (8 March), and the Andamans (23 March) to the Japanese was threatening the entire fabric of British colonial empire. In the face of these crises, the British felt obliged to make some gestures to win over Indian public support.
The Cripps offer reiterated the intention of the British government to set up an Indian Union within the British Commonwealth as soon as possible after the war, and proposed specific steps towards that end. A constituent assembly would be elected by the provincial legislatures acting as an Electoral College. This body would then negotiate a treaty with the British government. The future right of secession from the Commonwealth was explicitly stated. The Indian states would be free to join, and in any case their treaty arrangements would be revised to meet the new situation.
The offer dominated Indian politics for the rest of the war. Although the British official circles claimed that the Cripps offer marked a great advance for its frankness and precision, it was plagued throughout, and ultimately torpedoed, by numerous ambiguities and misunderstandings. The Congress was very critical of the clauses regarding nomination of the states’ representatives by the rulers and the provincial option Jawaharlal Nehru had desperately sought a settlement largely because of his desire to mobilize Indian support in the anti-fascist war, while most Congress working Committee members and Gandhi himself had been apathetic. This embittered Congress-British relations and things were then rapidly moving towards a total confrontation in the form of quit India movement. But Cripps blamed the Congress for the failure of the Plan, while the Congress held the British government responsible for it. A chance of establishing a united independent India was thus lost.