in 1942 Gandhiji were very worried. Contrary to nature, bitterness too. In May 1942, he said, “Leave India to God. If it is too much, leave it to anarchy. This orderly and disciplined anarchy must end and I am ready to take the risk if total malpractice spreads.” In the Working Committee meeting in July, he had ignored every voice of dissent with the movement. On August 8, he had a historic speech at the AICC Bombay meeting.
Mahatma Gandhi said,
,You are male or female. From this moment consider yourself free from the slavery of imperialism. I am not advising this. That’s what freedom means. When a person considers himself free, at that very moment the bonds of slavery are broken. I am giving a mantra. Write it in the heart and it should be felt in every breath, do or die.”
Gandhiji was calling for a one-to-one fight, “Don’t do anything secretly. It is a sin to hide something in this struggle. A free man does not agitate covertly. In this struggle, we have to fight openly without fear and open our chest to face the bullets. This final war will be a decisive war and therefore take away freedom or lose your life for it.”
Gandhi ready to wage a decisive struggle alone
Gandhiji was ready for a decisive struggle. His message to the Congress Working Committee was blunt. If Congress is not with his proposal, then he will start the struggle alone. The meeting of the committee, which started on 7 July 1942 at Wardha, lasted for a week. Second world war was going on. Gandhiji wanted to start a movement to force the British to leave India. He considered this the right time to take the British under pressure. The committee was not unanimous on this question. According to dissenting leaders, this would weaken the Allies’ fight against the German-Japanese fascist alliance.
The dissenting parties included President Maulana Azad, Pandit Nehru, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Syed Mahmud and Asaf Ali. Gandhiji’s determination to launch the movement alone made it difficult for the Working Committee. reconsidered. After a long discussion with Gandhiji, Nehru agreed. After extensive deliberations in the committee, the unanimous decision to launch the movement was taken on 14 July. On 7 and 8 August, the All India Congress Committee in Bombay gave its stamp of support. At the inaugural session in Bombay on 7 August, President Maulana Azad said, “The Congress has no other option than to ask the British to leave India after the failure of the Cripps Mission.”
12-point stimulating movement program
The movement started on 9 August 1942. Exactly 17 years ago on this day, on 9 August 1925, the Kakori incident took place. The revolutionaries had openly challenged the British power by looting the government treasury going by rail. Parallel to the Congress movement, these revolutionaries had awakened the public by making sacrifices continuously. The spirit of struggle was created. The 1942 movement was called by the priest of non-violence. But the ground prepared for the struggle included a great contribution of the stream that disagreed with Gandhi’s path.
The programs of this movement were according to the thinking of the people anxious to overthrow the British power. The 12-point program included Gandhiji’s well-known satyagraha as well as provocative schemes like industrial strikes, stopping railways, stopping tax payments, cutting wires and establishing parallel governments. Gandhiji exclaimed, “If leaders are arrested, then decide your own course of action.”
All leaders including Gandhi arrested in the early hours of August 9
Gandhi’s apprehension was right. In the early hours of August 9, all leading Congress leaders including Gandhi were arrested. The British government embroiled in the Second World War was enraged by this movement. The government, armed with emergency powers during the war, was bent on crushing the movement at all costs. Public anger erupted. This was a real mass movement, which got the name of August Revolution. All the decisions were also in the hands of the people. Defying all restrictions and security arrangements, Aruna Asaf Ali challenged the British authority by hoisting the tricolor on the morning of 9 August at Gwalia Tank Ground in Bombay. The agitation, which started from the cities with strikes, dharnas, demonstrations, boycotts, reached remote villages in mid-August. Farmers and laborers left their homes and fields.
Students and youth were on the streets. Small children were roaming in the streets and streets shouting slogans of “Do or Die” and “British leave India”. Railway stations, post offices, police stations were burnt. Rail tracks were cut. The poles were uprooted. People got angry on the symbols of British power. In many places their governments were established. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia-Usha Mehta ran a secret radio station. His broadcast caused a stir. Before her arrest, Usha destroyed all the equipment. She remained in jail for three years but did not reveal the name of any companion even after the tortures. Jayaprakash Narayan and some of his accomplices escaped from the Hazaribagh Jail and waged a guerilla fight along the Indo-Nepal border.
57 battalions of the army on the streets, the gruesome repression cycle
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Radio started broadcasting from Berlin in March 1942. Volunteers were prepared across the country to keep the movement going under the leadership of Aruna Asaf Ali. Sucheta Kriplani was engaged in spreading the movement by non-violent measures. The British were engaged in completely crushing this civil movement. For the first time the army was taken out on the streets to deal with the public. His 57 battalions carried out repression cycles in all parts of the country.
So many white soldiers never came to India. These soldiers misbehaved and misbehaved with all the women. The army was used to free the Banaras Hindu University from the students. Many students lost their lives. The rebel people of Ballia drove the administration-police. After firing with machine guns, the British could regain control of Ballia.
On 16 and 17 August, the army-police opened fire at 47 places in Delhi. In Uttar Pradesh, 76 lives were lost in police-army firing at 29 places. Hundreds were injured. More than a hundred people were martyred in just one demonstration in Mysore. Eight students were shot dead while hoisting the tricolor at a government building in Patna. In almost all the big cities, the army-police fired at hundreds of places and took thousands of lives.
Kishore Hemu Kalani was hanged after a brief trial for causing damage to railway property in Sindh. Hundreds of people were sentenced to be whipped. Collective fines were imposed on the public across the country to compensate for rail-communication and other government assets. Four police personnel were killed in an attack on a police station in Chimur in the Central Provinces. In the trial in this case, 25 people were hanged and 26 were given life imprisonment.
30 thousand people took refuge in the sea island, hundreds were washed away in the storm
Some of the places where people were successful in forming their governments was Midnapore. Vidyut Vahini set a great example of struggle. Men-women-children-old men formed a human chain and it continued to grow. They did not bow down to any kind of repression. Later the army-police-administration committed a lot of atrocities in Midnapore. To escape their havoc, about thirty thousand population of Midnapore and twenty-four parganas took refuge in a sea island. Here he had to face a huge natural calamity. Hundreds of people were washed away in the sea storm and water. Many deaths were due to hunger. The Hindustani Collector of Midnapore wrote to the higher officials that they should not get any government assistance in view of the movement. Even voluntary organizations should not be allowed to go among them for help. The same thing happened. No one could reach him except some Congress workers.
Censorship on newspapers: Still the news reached other countries
Complete censorship was imposed on newspapers. The publication of all editions of Gandhi’s newspaper ‘Harijan’ was banned. The same thing happened on Nehru’s newspaper ‘National Herald’. Newspapers could not print any news of the ‘Quit India Movement’. The government wreaked havoc on the newspapers and journalists who violated these restrictions. As a journalist, Gandhi’s son Devdas was keeping an eye on the Gandhi movement. Due to severe censorship, news of the intensity of the movement outside India and the British action to crush them could not reach. US President Roosevelt was deeply interested in the events in India.
Devdas Gandhi wrote the book India Ravaged focused on this movement. But no one was ready to print it due to the fear of the government. Indian Express owner Ram Nath Goenka accepted this challenge. The book was printed overnight. Two hundred and fifty copies of it were made. The book reached America and other countries of the world through the US President’s special representative in Delhi, William Phillips. The participation and extremism of the people in the movement surprised the British power. Of course, the urban movement was quickly crushed by force of arms, but it took months to control it in the villages.
The most serious rebellion since 1857
Viceroy Linlithgow called it the most serious rebellion since 1857. By putting the entire front line of the Congress in jail, the government rendered the movement generally leaderless. But for the government, this bet was counterproductive and very heavy. The anger of the people was so strong that it did not need any leadership, call and program. Decisions were being taken and implemented by the people at the local level without caring about the consequences. It was a matter of relief for the government that the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah was openly supporting it.
The communists were also with the British in the name of opposing the international fascist alliance of Germany-Japan. Quit India Movement shook the heart of the British. But it gave full opportunity to the Muslim League to expand. It was successful in showing the British that the majority of Muslims were controlled by the League and that it was their only representative party. With Congress leaders in jail, there was an empty ground for the league. By favoring the British, the League was able to further soften Britain towards the demand for Pakistan.
Violence of heroes is better than non-violence of cowards
Jailed Gandhi went on a 21-day fast in February 1943. The public was not ready to hear anything other than freedom from the British. After his release in 1944, Gandhiji also praised those who had strayed from the path of non-violence during the movement. He told the leader of the parallel government of Satara, Nana Patil, “I am one of those people who believe that the violence of the heroes is better than the non-violence of the cowards.” The Quit India Movement told the British that the army-police Indians cannot be suppressed by force for a long time. The voices of the early departure of the British were on the lips. The approaching independence was thrilling the public.
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