Events during World War 2

Events during World War 2

This article deals with ‘Events during World War 2 – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

World War  2 (WW2)  broke out

  • 1939 : WW2 broke out &  Government of India immediately joined war without consulting Congress or elected members of Central Legislature
  • Congress was in full sympathy with victims of fascist aggression . It was willing to help forces of democracy in their struggle against fascism but Congress Leaders asked , how was it possible for an enslaved nation to aid others in their fight for freedom.  They demanded that India must be declared free or atleast effective power put in Indian hands – before it could actively participate in the war & after war, Constituent Assembly should be constituted consisting of elected Indians to frame constitution for India

Official Congress stand was adopted at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee held at Wardha from 10 to 14 September to which, in keeping with the nationalist tradition of accommodating diversity of opinion, Subhas Bose, Acharya Narendra Dev, and Jayaprakash Narayan were also invited. Sharp differences emerged in this meeting.

  • Gandhi was for taking a sympathetic view of the Allies. He believed that there was a clear difference between the democratic states of Western Europe and the totalitarian Nazi state headed by Hitler.
  • Socialists and Subhas Bose argued that the war was an imperialist one since both sides were fighting for gaining or defending colonial territories. Therefore, question of supporting either of two sides didn’t arise. Instead Congress should take advantage of the situation to wrest freedom by immediately starting a civil disobedience movement.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru had a stand of his own. He had been for several years warning the world against the dangers of Nazi aggression, and he made a sharp distinction between democracy and Fascism. He believed that justice was on the side of Britain, France and Poland. But he was also convinced that Britain and France were imperialist countries and that the War was the result of the inner contradictions of capitalism’ maturing since the end of World War I. He, therefore, argued that India should neither join the war till she herself gained freedom nor take advantage of Britain’s difficulties by starting an immediate struggle.

Note – For Indian businessmen and traders in general, war meant an opportunity for fantastically quick profits, particularly so long as it remained distant and did not involve the threat of destruction of property through aerial bombardment or evacuation. Khaliquzzaman (Muslim League Leader of UP) makes the interesting point that the Muslim League was pressed towards greater co-operation with the British by business magnates as well as by ‘our Muslim taluqdars and zamindars  interested in smaller contracts for the supply of wood, charcoal and other small commodities. They could hardly be expected to forego the chance of a lifetime’. It is surely not illegitimate to suspect the existence of similar pressures on the Congress, too.

August Offer

In Europe, War was going against the Allies and France, Belgium , Holland etc had fallen to Axis Powers . Hence, they wanted to win support of Indians to use Indian resources (both man and money) for their cause without any backlash . Hence, they came up with August Offer in August 1940.

First offer to win over Congress & to secure its cooperation was made through August offer (August 1940)

  • Certain number of representative Indians would be invited to join Governor General’s Executive Council
  • War Advisory Council composed of representatives of Indian States & other interests in national life of India as whole would be established.
  • British government would not transfer power to any system of Government whose authority is indirectly denied by large & powerful elements in national life . This was assurance to Muslims.
  • Primary responsibility of framing new constitution should rest on Indians was accepted subject to fulfilment of obligations which Britain’s long connection with India has imposed on her & actual constitution making would begin after war  .

Congress & Muslim league both rejected August offer . It came as shock to Congress as it fell very much short of their demands . It offered nothing what constituted core of their demands ie immediate transfer of effective power to Indians . Rejection of August offer prepared grounds for Cripps Mission

National Defense Council was constituted consisting of 30 members including persons from Princely States & British Indian provinces as well as spokesmen of other elements in national life of British India . Congress didn’t join it . Some members of Muslim League joined but later resigned on Jinnah’s advice .

Cripps Mission (1942)

  • Two major changes in British politics occurred during 1941.
    • Nazi attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
    • In the East, Japan launched a surprise attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December. It quickly overran the Philippines, Indo- China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Burma & occupied Rangoon in March 1942.

Hence, War was brought to India’s doorstep.

  • Congress Working Committee passed a resolution at the end of December offering to fully cooperate in the Defence of India and the Allies if Britain agreed to give full independence after the War and the substance of power immediately.
  • What was involved in this unprecedented military crisis was not only defence of India  but also of China which was essential part of war against Japan. India must not be held for herself but for China too . It was through India that essential supplies could be sent to Chiang Kai Shek’s forces . Ousted by Japanese from Philippines, Americans converted India into base for operations in South East Asia
  • Military necessity was determining factor in US & Chinese interest in solution of constitutional deadlock in India for this alone can ensure full Indian support in war efforts


  • Creation of new  Indian Union which shall constitute a Dominion (C-D) associated with UK by common allegiance to Crown but equal to all dominions in every respect & in no way subordinate to them in its external or internal affairs
  • During war & post war till new Constitution is framed , British government in London would retain control
  • Body to frame  Constitution to consist of
    • Persons elected by  Legislative Assemblies of Provinces according to system of Proportional Representation
    • Representatives of Princely States
  • Constitution framed would be accepted by British government subject to two conditions
    • Any province which wasn’t prepared to accept this consitution can do so
    • Treaty would be signed between British Government & Constitution making body , making provision for all matters arising out of transfer of power as also for protection of racial & religious minorities
  • Constitution making body to be elected by Proportional Representation (departure from separate electorates)
  • Actual control of Defence and Military Operations would be retained by the British Government

Indian Reaction

Congress rejected it because

  • It contained only future promises & no immediate  transfer of power 
  • Wanted full freedom & not Dominion Status
  • Provision relating to non accession of Provinces was severe blow to Indian unity . They will become enclaves for preservation of foreign authority & permit stationing of foreign troops
  • Members to frame constitution from Princely States were to be nominated by rulers & not elected by people
  • There was problem regarding proposed Treaty between  British Government & Constituent Assembly . Principle of protection of racial & religious minorities may be loophole for British interference

Failure prepared the ground for congress action against what many Indians now believed to be Imperial war

Muslim  League also rejected it  & objections was

  • Scheme of one Indian Union for two principal nations
  • They wanted definite concept of Pakistan

Note – Cripps was member of Labour Party and was sympathetic with Indian cause. On his part , he tried his best to give maximum to Indians but he didn’t has free hand in whole episode. Actually, Churchill only wanted to present a picture to the world that Britishers were doing something and gave Indians deal which Indians would reject to give impression that Indians were not ready to negotiate. Cripps went to extend of reaching compromise formula  by which an Indian would be in charge of the Defense Department while the British Commander-in-Chief would retain control over field operations and head a War Department whose functions were specified. But  Linlithgow and C-in-C Wavell were seriously worried that Cripps was conceding far too much real power to the Congress and, together with Churchill, they were able to block the settlement at the last moment. For Churchill, certainly, ‘it mattered not so much that something should be done as that some attempt should be seen to be made’

Individual Satyagraha (Oct 1940-1941)

  • Congress Socialists & All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) were in favour of immediate struggle. N.G. Ranga even suggested that the AIKS should sever links with Congress & launch an independent movement. He was, however, checked by P. Sundarayya from doing so. It was in such an atmosphere that the Congress met at Ramgarh in March 1940 under the presidentship of Maulana Azad
  • After August Offer,  Gandhi met Viceroy in Shimla . Long  dialogue ended without result
  • Convinced that the British would not modify their policy in India, Gandhi decided to start the Individual Satyagraha. The very reason for confining the movement to individual participation was that neither Gandhi nor the Congress wished to hamper the War effort and this could not’ have been the case in a mass movement. Even the aim of the Satyagraha was a limited one i.e. to disprove the British claim of India supporting the War effort whole heartedly.
  • Satyagrahi would publicly declare: ‘It is wrong to help the British war-effort with men or money. The only worthy effort is to resist all war with non-violent resistance.’ The Satyagrahi would inform the District Magistrate of the time and place where he or she was going to make the anti-war speech.
  • Carefully chosen Satyagrahis Vinoba Bhave was to be the first Satyagrahi on 17 October 1940 and Jawaharlal Nehru the second
  • Individual Satyagraha had a dual purpose — while giving expression to the Indian people’s strong political feeling, it gave the British Government further opportunity to peacefully accept the Indian demands.
  • By 15 May 1941, more than 25,000 Satyagrahis had been convicted for offering individual civil disobedience

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