National Movement during World War-II
events under the National Movement during the Second World War.
The period of Second World War was a testing time for India’s National
Movement. Before the outbreak of the War in 1939, there was a lull in
the National Movement. After German invasion of Poland, the British
government of India joined the war effort along with allied forces
without consulting the elected members of the Central Legislature or the
Indian National Congress. The nationalist forces were completely
opposed to fascist aggression and were willing to extend help to the
democratic forces of the world. But the nationalist leaders wanted to
know as to how an enslaved nation like India could help other countries
of the world to secure emancipation.
All the nationalist forces joined hands on this issue and demanded that
the British must set India free before India could actively participate
in war against the Nazi forces. The British refused to accept this
demand, which prompted the Congress to give a call to all its ministries
to resign. As a token of resentment in October 1940, Mahatma Gandhi
gave a call for limited Satyagraha
by a few individuals. It was aimed at conveying that in an enslaved
state, the Indians were not with the British in their war effort. It was
also conveyed through limited Satyagraha
that there was hardly any difference between Nazism and the British
colonialism. But at the same time, the Congress did not want to
embarrass the British by initiating a major upheaval in the country
during the War.
Vinoba Bhave was one of the prominent persons who offered limited
Satyagraha during the war. By 1941, more than 25,000 Satyagrahis were
already in British jails. War scenario witnessed two major events in
this year. Firstly, Germany, after capturing most of the East Europe,
attacked the Soviet Union and, secondly, Japan launched a surprise
attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour by joining hands with Italy and
Germany. This, on the one hand, ensured direct involvement of Japan
along with Axis forces, and, on the other, forced the US and the Soviet
Union to actively support the Allied forces. Japan captured many parts
of South East Asia in a blitzkrieg operation and subjugated Philippines,
Indo-China, Indonesia, Malaya and Burma, bringing the War to the
doorstep of India.
Rash Behari Bose and Capt Mohan Singh, along with many Indian soldiers
captured by the Japanese army, formed Indian National Army (INA) to
assist the Japanese forces to drive the British out of India. The
leadership of INA was later handed over to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
At this stage the British wanted active Indian support in their war
effort. The British government sent a Mission under Sir Stafford Cripps
in the year 1942 for this purpose. But since the Cripps Mission did not
concede to the Indian demand of immediate transfer of power, it failed
and went back. This fuelled discontentment among the Indians and
pressure increased to force the British to accept the demand for
independence. The Congress passed the famous “Quit India” resolution in
Bombay on August 8, 1942. A non-violent mass struggle under the
leadership of Gandhi began. The British government came down heavily and
immediately arrested most of the nationalist leaders. The Movement
spread to many parts of the country, in the forms of Satyagraha,
demonstrations and hartals.
Over 10,000 people were killed in police and military firing and lakhs
were arrested. Finally, the government succeeded in crushing the
leaderless movement, as most of the leaders were in jail.
The post-war movement witnessed a new type of struggle, triggered by the
trial of three INA officers viz. Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurdial Singh Dhillon
and Prem Sehgal. Despite the British government’s resolve to punish
these officers for sedition, the whole country regarded them as national
heroes and was fully behind them. Even though the military court at the
Red Fort held them guilty, sensing the belligerent mood of Indian
masses, the British government decided to set them free. It was then
evident that the days of British Empire in India were numbered.