The Quit India Movement was Mahatma Gandhi’s third major movement against British rule. It was launched in August 1942. There is evidence that this movement was a mass movement.
a. While Mahatma Gandhi was jailed immediately after the launch of the movement, this did not stop the movement in any way. Younger activists launched a variety of strikes and acts of sabotage all across the country.
b. Within the underground resistance, political leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan, who was a socialist member of the Congress, were also very active.
c. In districts such as Satara and Medinipur, claims were made for “independent” governments. For example, in Satara in 1943, some of the younger leaders set up their own parallel government.
d. The Quit India Movement particularly energized the youth. This led to a large number of students to leave their colleges to protest, and eventually go to jail.
e. Women also played an active role in the Movement through processions, such as those in Bombay.
f. However, during this time, the Muslim League was working towards its own ends and was trying to expand its influence. So, there were sections of society that were not involved in the Quit India Movement.
g. Nevertheless, the British had to use a lot of force to suppress the rebellion, and they only achieved this after one year of constant suppression.
The Quit India Movement was the final leg of the nationalist movement against British Rule, and soon, after the Labour Party came into power in Britain, arrangements started to be made to grant India independence.
When India formally declared independence on August 15, 1947, Mahatma Gandhi did not participate in any of the festivities. Instead, he chose to mark the day by fasting for 24 hours. This gives us insight into Mahatma Gandhi’s perspective on the newly independent India.
a. For him, the freedom struggle and subsequent independence came at the cost of the Partition, where instead of religious harmony, Hindus and Muslims were violently against each other.
b. He wanted communal harmony and a unified nation. Both him and Nehru were against the two-nation theory, believed in a harmonious India, and were forced to accept the Partition. So, the Congress passed a resolution on the rights of minorities within India, so that religious minorities i.e. Muslims in the newly created India could freely exercise their rights and be under the protection of the state.
c. Mahatma Gandhi, however, made personal efforts to bring inter-religious harmony, and travelled to various parts of the country to do so.
d. He first sought to bring peace in Bengal, moving from the villages of Noakhali (which is now in Bangladesh), to the villages in Bihar, after which he moved to riot-torn Delhi, and further hoped to travel to Punjab in order to convince these riot-torn areas to establish peace.
e. While in Delhi, he began a fast in order to change the mentality of those who wanted to drive the Muslims of Delhi to Pakistan. During this fast, many Hindu and Sikh migrants joined him.
f. According to his biographer D.G. Tendulkar, he was also concerned with the sufferings of the minorities in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, it was through his martyrdom that people realized the folly of their views and their violence. His efforts, however, were crucial in bringing about changes in mentality after the Partition.
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