Tuesday, 27 March 2012

National Movement during World War-II

National Movement during World War-II


Describe major 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.

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