Stamp Commemorating Quit India Movement — Wikimedia Commons : Government of India

The Last Struggle for Independence

This Day in History, August 8th, 1942

Exploring History
Published in
4 min readAug 8, 2020

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1942. The Indian freedom struggle was in disarray. Mahatma Gandhi had called off the Non-Cooperation Movement after the incident in Chauri Chaura¹. The Civil Disobedience Movement had ended with a compromise with the British (the Gandhi-Irwin Pact). The violent Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) led by Subhash Chandra Bose attracted many followers. The Japanese army, along with the INA was advancing towards India’s eastern border. The Cripps mission² was a failure, with Gandhi calling it ‘a post-dated cheque in a crashing bank.’ People were outraged at the British government for thrusting India into the Second World War and felt that the Congress’ view on this matter lacked adequate intensity. Both the prices of necessities and the people’s dissatisfaction were skyrocketing.

The All India Congress Committee had held its session in Gowalia Tank Maidan, Bombay (now Mumbai) on the previous day. Tensions flared as different leaders had conflicting opinions on the Cripps mission and World War II. It was decided to vote on the Quit India resolution that had been proposed on 14th July, which demanded a voluntary British withdrawal from India.

Gandhi was asked to say a few words before the voting commenced:

“There are people who ask me whether I am the same man that I was in 1920, or whether there has been any change in me. You are right in asking that question. Let me, however, hasten to assure that I am the same Gandhi as I was in 1920. I have not changed in any fundamental respect. I attach the same importance to non-violence that I did then. If at all, my emphasis on it has grown stronger.”

For the next few hours, the voting process began. The Quit India resolution passed with an overwhelming majority; Gandhi seizing the revolutionary fervour took a vigorous tone.

“Here is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: ‘Do or Die.’ We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery.”

The crowd roared in applause. ‘Do or Die’ became the defining slogan of the ensuing Quit India Movement. It was by far the fiercest stance adopted by Gandhi.

Nehru discussing the Quit India Movement with Gandhi — Wikimedia Commons

8th August 1942 was the day when the struggle for independence rejuvenated. Gandhi’s resounding speech resonated and instilled a renewed sense of patriotic fervour among those who had gathered there.

But the British had already foreseen such agitation and were prepared to quash any protests. The next day, Gowalia Tank Maidan had become brimmed full of lathi charges, violence, and other forms of police brutality. Prominent Congress leaders, including Gandhi, were arrested within days after the meeting. Public flogging and mass arrests continued. Nevertheless, the British had failed.

Even though their leaders were in prison, people revolted. Train and telegraph lines were sabotaged. Government offices, police stations were attacked. Parallel protest governments were established in Ballia and Midnapore to protest. The Quit India Movement was the last straw to the British. Exactly five years and one week later, on the 15th of August 1947, India finally achieved her hard-earned independence.

Gowalia Tank Maidan still stands today — now renamed August Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Field) — serving as a reminder of that fateful day.

Footnotes

¹Twenty-two police officers were burnt alive in Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh by protesters during the Non-Cooperation Movement. Since Gandhi was against violence, he had called off the movement.

²A mission headed by Sir Stafford Cripps offering dominion status to India.

References

Gandhi, M. (1997). Gandhi’s ‘Quit India’ speech, 1942. In A. Parel (Ed.), Gandhi: ‘Hind Swaraj’ and Other Writings (Cambridge Texts in Modern Politics, pp. 181–187). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511558696.039

Koppikar, Smruti. 2017. Bombay’s freedom trail: August Kranti and Cows’ Maidan. August 3. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/bombay-s-freedom-trail-august-kranti-and-cows-maidan/story-gB0UaszfrJfVVDZUU9QzHO.html.

Lifeberrys. 2020. Reason Behind Launch Of Quit India Movement 1942. August 8. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/lifeberrys+english-epaper-lifebeen/reason+behind+launch+of+quit+india+movement+1942-newsid-94153363.

Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya. n.d. Famous Speeches Of Gandhiji The ‘Quit India’ Speeches. http://www.gandhimanibhavan.org/gandhicomesalive/speech6.htm.

Alakha. 2018. स्वतंत्रता दिवस विशेष: अगस्त क्रांति कैसे बनी जन-क्रांति? August 10. https://www.livehindustan.com/national/story-15-august-special-how-the-august-kranti-or-quit-india-movement-became-the-revolution-of-people-2116928.html.

The Open University. n.d. 1942 Quit India Movement http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/content/1942-quit-india-movement

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Exploring History

Sunset Warrior; Harbinger of Doom. 9th grade student who calls India her home. I write and write about Politics, Economics, History, Literature, and Cinema :)