The Second World War broke out in 1939 between Germany, Italy and Japan on the one side and the Great Britain, France, U.S.A. and Soviet Russia on the other. The Congress opposed the aggregation of Germany and Italy under Hitler and Mussolini and expressed its support for England and her allies.

In August 1940, the Viceroy Linlithgow offered the congress a proposal to set upon a representative body to draft a new constitution for India and to enlarge the Viceroy’s Executive Council. The proposal, known as the “August Offer” was rejected by the congress because there was no suggestion for a national Government and it encouraged anti-congress forces like Muslim League. After his long meeting with the Viceroy at Simla in September 1940, Gandhi was convinced that British would not modify their policy in India.

He decided to start the individual civil disobedience Movement in October 1940 in contrast to the mass civil disobedience movement. Vinoba Bhave was chosen by Gandhi to offer individual Satyagraha. The aim of the movement was to put prtessure on the British Government to accept the congress proposal of Provincial National Government. But the Muslim League opposed the Congress proposal and remained firm in its demand for Pakistan. The Government rejected the Congress proposal.

The unfavourable war situation and international pressure had compelled the British to seek an amicable settlement with India not obtain her active support in the war. In March 1942, a mission was sent to look into the prospects of self-Government in India. The mission was headed by Sir Stafford Cripps, who was a memebr of British cabinet. Cripps spent three weeks in India and held prolonged discussions with the leaders of the Congress and tMuslim League.


In his proposals, brought out in the form of a draft declaration, Cripps suggested Dominion status for India. But his proposals were not acceptable to the Congress or the League. While the Congress wanted complete independence for India, the Muslim League aimed at a separate Muslim State in the form of Pakistan. Thus, the Cripps Mission failed to pacify the Indians. The British had merely taken up this exercise to demonstrate to the world that they cared about Indian sentiments, rather than to actually do something concrete.

The failure of the Cripps Mission and the arrival of Japanese army on Indian borders prompted Gandhi to take decisive steps to force the Government to accept the Indian demand for independence. He decided to launch an all out campaign to compel the British to withdraw from India. The All India Congress Committee, met at Bombay on 8 August 1942, passed the famous “Quit India” resolution demanding the British to leave India and decided to launch a non-violent struggle under Gandhiji’s leadership to achieve it.

Gandhi told the British to quit and leave India in God’s hand. He appealed to all sections to participate in the movement and stressed “every Indian who desires freedom and strives for it must be his own guide”. His message was “do or die”. Thus started Quit India Movement.

The British Government took a very seriuos view of the “Quit India Campaign”. Winston Churchill, the prime-minister of Great Britain, instructed the Viceroy to take stern measures against the campaigners. He reacted that he was not going to presideover the liquidationof British Empire.


On the morning of 9th August 1942 all prominent congress leaders including Gandhi were arrested. The news of Gandhiji’s arrestalong with other congress leaders led to unprecedented popular outbrusts in different parts of the country. There were hartals, demonstrations and processions in cities and towns. The congress leadership gave the call, but it was the people who launched the movement.

In the initial stages, the movement was based on non-violent lines. It was the repressive policy of the Government which provoked the people the people to violence. The Gandhian message of non-violent struggle was pushed into the background and people devised their own methods of struggle. These included :(1) attacks on the Government buildings, police stations and postoffice, (2) attacks on railway stations and sabotaging railway lines,(3) Cutting of telegraph wires, telephones and electric power lines and (4) workers going on strike etc. Most of these attacks were to check the movement of the military and police which were being used by the Government to crush the movement.

“Quit India” and “Do or Die” were the slogans of the day and there was varied responses to the Movement. The working class in many industrial centers, like Bombay, Kanpur, Ahemedabad, Poona and Jamsedpur went on strike.In many places the people seized control over towns and villages and declared them free areas. The authority of the Government temporarily disappeared in the parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttarpradesh, Andhrapradesh, Maharastra and Tamil Nadu.

The Government had geared all its forces to supress the popular upsurge.Arrests, detentions, police firings, burning of Congress offices were the methods adopted by the Government. The repressive methods succeeded in crushing the movement. Even otherwise the movement would have shortlived.


It was leadersless right from the beginning. The Muslim League was opposed to the movement from the very beginning. Even the movement did not find favour with depressed classes. But the real factor which led to the decline of the movement was its violent character.