The Quit India Movement was the final onslaught towards the British government by the Indian national leaders. The movement commenced after the failure of the Cripps Mission. The Cripps Mission was a failed attempt by the British government to achieve complete co-operation and assistance in fighting World War II in exchange of elections and self-governance after the war. But the mission failed because of the prevalent mistrust the leaders had on the government.
After the failure of the mission, Gandhiji decided to launch the third major mass movement against the British rule. He inaugurated the Quit India movement in August 1942. Gandhiji and other major leaders were jailed at once. But the movement was carried on by the young activists. They organised strikes, hartals and acts of sabotage and disruption throughout the country. The socialist members of the Congress, such as Jayaprakash Narayan were highly active in the underground resistance. In several districts, such as Satara in the west and Medinipur in the east, independent governments were established.
The Quit India movement was a mass movement. It brought into its folds thousands of ordinary Indians. It especially rejuvenated youth. They left their colleges and were ready to go to jails. The movement revealed the active participation of the middle-class of the cities in the freedom struggle. Thousands of students left the government-owned schools and colleges, headmasters and teachers resigned and lawyers gave up their legal practices. The council elections were also boycotted in many provinces. Foreign goods and clothes were boycotted, liquor shops picketed, and foreign cloth was burnt in bonfires in cities. Merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade. As the movement spread, people began to discard imported clothes and foreign goods.
The production and sales of domestic swadeshi goods increased. Khadi and other handlooms were extensively produced and sold through the country. Many units were established that undertook the spinning of Khadi. The Indian industries expanded their production. The movement spread rapidly at its commencement from the cities to the countryside and villages. It was carried out mainly by the peasants and the tribal sections in the rural areas.
The British responded with much strength. All the important leaders were arrested. The jails were crowded with the number of prisoners. Still, the movement gathered momentum. It took more than a year to completely suppress the rebellion.
After a long struggle for independence, India gained independence on 15 August 1947. But the independence of the country was bloodstained by the partition of the country into India and Pakistan. Some scholars see partition as a culmination of the communal politics that started developing in the initial decades of the 20th century. Basically, oral testimonies and memories are the important sources for constructing the history of partition of India.
The government documents of the period portray the different deals, policies, party matters and various schemes. The negotiations between the British and the major political parties about the future of India and on the rehabilitation of refugees is also recorded in the government sources. But they do not give detailed accounts of the experiences of the people who were affected by the government’s decision to divide the country.
The trials and tribulations and the sufferings and pain of the ordinary people during the partition of the country are better understood through oral narratives, memoirs, diaries, family histories and other first-hand written accounts. Millions of people considered partition as the greatest suffering and the challenges faced by them in their current times that could have large implications in their future lives. It was the unanticipated alterations and adjustments that occurred between 1946 and 1950 that could have vast psychological, emotional and social modifications in their lives.
For the common people, partition was not merely a political event. It was a huge emotional traumatic movement that could have a large implication in their lives. An oral source like memories, experiences and other personal recollections enables historians to understand and record vivid, vibrant and unique accounts of what happened to people. Such information cannot be collected from government documents.
Oral history also allows historians to widen the limitations of their discipline by describing the lived experiences of the poor, exploited and the powerless. It helps in exploring and understanding the experiences of the people who been overlooked, unnoticed and marginalised rather than describing the important people of mainstream history. This provides wider access to the experiences of the people who have been considered as the common masses in history.
But many historians are still unconvinced of oral history. They argue that lack concreteness and the chronology. Thus they cannot be precise. Also, oral data makes generalisation difficult. Oral accounts are concerned with peripheral and vague personal issues and individual experiences that are immaterial in macro aspects of history. Still, a larger picture of a catastrophe like the partition can be framed from the innumerable individual accounts and oral testimonials.
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