The agitation in relation to the Quit India Movement was marked by violence as well as non-violence. This was so because all the prominent and minor leaders of the organization were put behind the bars and masses without leadership had to choose their own means to achieve the end before them. C. Rajagopalachari was out of Congress when it was banned by the Government. The leaderless people resorted to violent acts of sabotage, arson and incendiarism. The city of Madras (now Chennai) was the scene of hartals, strikes, riots and all sorts of acts of violence.
The districts were all in violent upheaval Dr. B.S. Baliga describes the scene as follows: “In North Arcot, besides hartals and demonstrations, telephone and telegraph wires were cut, post boxes were removed, the Public Works Inspection bungalow at Panapakkam and police huts at Vellore were burnt, Forest rest houses near Vellore and the village chavadis in Panapakkam and Timiri were set on fire, and a goods train was derailed, badly damaging many wagons between Tandarai and Adichanur railway stations-Collective fines were imposed on some villages in these districts, amounting to Rs. 6,535.
In the South Arcot the students of the Annamalai University took a prominent part, organising strikes, taking out processions, hoisting national flags etc. Here too telephone and telegraph wires were cut at a number of places and a motor car belonging to a police official was burnt. In Chingleput, the students of the Loyola College, the Christian College and the Engineering College took an equally prominent part; they staged strikes, obstructed electric trains, and encountered lathi-charges, imprisonment and even whipping. Here also telephone and telegraph wires were cut at many places, some toddy shops and some sheds belonging to the essential services were burnt and an attempt was made to set fire to the post office at Kalathi.
A collective fine of Rs. 5,000 was imposed on some villages and the Chingleput District Board and the Damal Panchayat Board were superseded for 6 months for supporting the Quit India Movement and condemning the repressive policy of the Government. In Coimbatore, besides meetings, hartals, picketing of schools and colleges, and cutting of telephone and telegraph wires, large-scale strikes were organized in a number of mills some of which resulted in police interference.
An ammunition train from Cochin consisting of two engines and forty-four wagons was derailed by sabotage between Podanur and Singanallur railway stations. Attempts were made to derail trains at Pollachi and Chavadipalayam. A village chavadi near Karnalur was attacked and damaged and several toddy shops were burnt at Singanallur, Parur and Kariapalayam. All the sheds of the Sulur Aerodrome were set on fire and 22 motor Lorries kept in them were destroyed.
Here besides imposing collective fines on certain villages amounting to Rs. 35,410, the Coimbatore Municipal Council was suspended for 6 months for supporting the Quit India Movement and condemning the repressive policy of the Government. In Madurai similar acts of violence were resorted to. Madurai became “the storm centre of the movement” and called for frequent interference of the military and the police. In addition to public meetings and hartals.
The roads were here barricaded and Government servants were assaulted. A mass meeting convened here in defiance of the prohibitory orders led to police firing and the killing and injuring of several persons. The Madurai Municipal Council, the Dindigul Municipal Council, the Palani Municipal Council and the Madurai District Board were suspended for 6 months. In the Nilgiris mostly processions, demonstrations and students’ strikes were organised.”
The agitation was more or less violent in all parts of India and South India was exceptionally enthusiastic in producing the maximum effect of disconcert against the Government. Student participation in full was a special character of this agitation. But the most notable feature of the Quit India Movement was the total opposition to it offered by the Communist Party. Communists obstructed the nationalist activity by aligning themselves with the imperialists and their minions.
The enthusiasm and hectic activity soon died down and South India returned to normally by the end of December 1942. The political situation still continued to be fare from happy. Communalism raised its head once the imperialist master decided to retreat. Jinnah’s insistence on Pakistan produced a strange atmosphere in Indian politics, charged with mutual suspicion and hatred on the part of Muslims and Hindus.
Muslims, who formed a sizable percentage of South Indian population, were enthusiastic about the formation of Pakistan, through processions and public meetings they freely expressed their sentiment in favour of the new Muslim nation; in Malabar, particularly they were vociferous.
The ban on Congress was lifted and the leaders were released. The Cabinet Mission’s constitutional proposal was accepted by the Congress in good faith. This led to the holding of general elections and the formation of the Interim Government at the centre consisting of leaders of all major political parties and Congress government in Madras (Chennai).
However communal squabbles-war economic crisis, activities of the Razakars against Hindus, R.S.S. against Muslims, and Dravida Kazhakam against Brahmins, produced an uneasy political situation here. More important of the ills that upset the country just before the dawn of independence was the anarchical predatory activities of the Communist Party which organized violent strikes and armed uprisings in many parts of South India.
In order to curb the danger of the Communist onslaught, the Congress Government of Madras (Chennai) had to enact the Maintenance of Public Order Act of 1947 which provided for preventive detention, imposition of collective fines and censorship, control on meetings, processions, camps, drill sand parades, requisitioning of property and control of essential services. Hundreds of Communists were sent to jails on the strength of this Act. Thus strangely enough, the dawn of independence saw the severe imposition of restraints on individual freedom against which Congress fought for several decades.