1942 - a remembrance
why recall events which are more than 75 years old now? but it is always good to know what really happenned.
the Indian revolt of 1942
this is a book written by one amba prasad in 1958, published by s chand and company. the question asked is whether 1942 revolt succeeded, it also deals with the events preceding the revolt.
the period preceding the do and die resolution was dominated by the visit of cripps mission. the congress wanted the government to declare, as precondition for assisting in the war effort, that freedom would be granted at the end of the war. the british were not prepared to agree. the congress passed a resolution in July 1942 demanding immediate announcement of war aims which would include granting of freedom to the country. there was no response from the government and gandhiji had no option except to introduce and get passed the do or die resolution on august 8. the meeting where the resolution was accepted was over by ten pm but it was at chowpatty and besides, 250 members of committee, was in the presence of 6000 onlookers.
gandhiji and other prominent leaders were arrested on 9th morning but the message had gone out to the public which called for total non cooperation with the british. this included non payment of taxes, not working in their offices and otherwise disrupting the government work. after the prominent congress leadership had been arrested there were no persons to lead or to guide the movement. the people took their own decision under local leaders and there were disturbances all over the country.
as usual, the government came back with repressive measures. it is estimated that the police and military opened fire 538 times on the demonstrators in which 1028 people were killed and 3215 seriously injured. in many cases whipping was the sentence passed on the demonstrators. (note - these are the government figures, actual figures may be higher).
It is also there on the record that during the movement 318 railway stations were attacked, 252 post offices were damaged, 60 of them completely destroyed and 945 post offices were raided; losses suffered by railways was about rupees 18 lacs, by the trucks 9 lacs and the equipment at the railway station of about 6.5 lacs. 59 cases of rail derailment were there. number of damages to the telegraph and telephone up to November 1942 was 11285. some jails were raided and the prisoners freed. they were not all freedom fighters. in dacca, the jail break effort resulted in 29 deaths and injury to 139. there were some instances of occupation of courts. the crowd arrived there, installed national flag on the building after which they went back.
but other groups were also acting and there were also stray cases of bombing, the first one on mumbai on september 23, 1942 and the last in kanpur on february 10, 1943.
it is stated by many that the revolt had petered out by the end of november 1942. result was not totally unexpected because there was no planning and no organization to co-ordinate the action. jayaprakash narayan wrote in January 1943 that “there was no organisation and the result was so disconcerting that even important congressman were not aware of the progress of the revolt and it was a matter of debate whether what people were doing was really in accordance with the congress program. those who led the local movement acted on their own and nobody knew what to do about it.”
in short it can be said that the 1942 movement had no impact on the freedom struggle except that to focus on the idea that a violent revolution is not out of consideration. to what extent this stimulated the british to give independence will never be clear..it may be mentioned that gandhi ji, after his release, said that there was no question of withdrawing the movement since it was never launched.
the negative points of the movement should be pointed out. in midnapore district, there was a cyclone disaster which killed 30,000 persons. the government would not grant relief nor allow others to do so. it was in this district that 31 congress camps were burnt and also 14 private houses. the police everywhere had a free hand in dealing with the situation and were certainly not sparing in their effort to suppress the movement.
various factors led to partition and freedom but movement of 1942 was not probably even a palpable cause.
it is generally propagated that hindu mahasabha opposed the demand of freedom in the forties. while mahasabha was against the august movement to start with, its suppression by excessive force led to adoption of a resolution was on august 31, 1942 demanding immediate declaration of india’s independence and formation of a national government representing the principal political parties in india with full powers transferred to it. the resolution ended with the threat that if the demand was nor responded to, the mahasabha will “have no other alternative but to revise its present programme and to device ways and means whereby british and their allies will realise that india as a self respecting nation can no longer be suppressed.”