World War II broke out on 1 September 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Britain and France, which had been following a policy of appeasement towards Hitler, were now forced to go on Poland's aid and declare war on Germany. This they did on 3rd September 1939. The Government of India immediately declared India to be at war with Germany without consulting the Congress or the elected members of the central legislature.
Gandhiji's reaction was highly emotional. He told the Viceroy that the very thought of the possible destruction of the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey produced a strong emotional reaction in him and that, fully sympathizing with the Allied cause, he was for full and unquestioning cooperation with Britain. Jawaharlal Nehru had a stand of his own. He argued that that India should neither join the war till she herself gained freedom nor take advantage of Britain's difficulties bt starting an immediate struggle. Gandhiji found that his stand was not supported by his own followers such as Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad. Consequently he decided to support Nehru's stand which was supported by the working committee. Which made it amply clear, while criticizing Hitler, that India cannot join the War without it herself gaining freedom.
As the war situation worsened, President Roosevelt of the USA and President Chiang Kai-Shek of China as also the Labour Party leaders of Britain put pressure on Churchill to seek the active cooperation of Indians in the War. To secure this cooperation the British Government sent to India in March 1942 a mission headed by a Cabinet minister Stafford Cripps, a left-wing Labourite who had earlier actively supported the Indian national movement. Even though Cripps announced that the aim of British policy in India was 'the earliest possible realization of self government in India,' the Draft Declaration he brought with him was disappointing.
The Declaration promised India Dominion Status and a constitution-making body after the War whose members would be elected by the provincial assemblies and nominated by the rulers in case of the princely states. The Pakistan demand was accommodated by the provision that any province which was not prepared to accept the new constitution would have the right to sign a separate agreement with Britain regarding its future status. Negotiations between Cripps and the Congress leaders broke down. The Congress objected to the provision for Dominion Status rather than; full independence, the representation of the princely states in the constituent assembly not by the people of the states but by the nominees of the rulers and above all by the provision for the partition of India. The British Government also refused to accept the demand for the immediate transfer of effective power to the Indians and for a real share in the responsibility for the defence of India. Stafford Cripps returned home in the middle of April leaving behind a frustrated and embittered Indian people.
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