MAHATMA GANDHI MEDIA AND RESEARCH SERVICE

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 10, Quit India, 1939-1944, 30min 20sec, Reel 26, 27

Starting with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the film depicts dramatic events in the history of the world, the historic Quit India Movement of August, 1942, the spontaneous response of the people, the leonine violence used by the alien government and Gandhi's fast ultimately leading to his release on medical grounds as also the beginning of the end of British rule in India.

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Commentary

Reel 23

 

Sequence 01 With the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany, Gandhi advised the persecuted Jews to bravely claim Germany as their home, for he was sure that religious resistance against the godless fury of a dehumanised man would bring forth the inner strength and joy given to them by Jehovah ...

 

2 Anticipating the devastating consequences of war, Gandhi wrote to Herr Hitler-the one person who could prevent a war that would reduce humanity to a savage state. "Must you pay this price for an object, however worthy it may appear to you? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war?" he asked.

 

3 At last the long apprehended war between England and Germany broke out...

Flouting Indian opinion, the British Government declared India a belligerent country and promulgated ordinances, which affected the Indian people vitally ...

 

4 After his talks with the Viceroy at Simla, Gandhi made it clear that his sympathies were with the Allies from the purely humanitarian standpoint... He appealed to British statesmen to open a new chapter for all those who were held under imperial bondage.. .

5 Condemning the Nazi aggression, the Indian National Congress declared that though the Indian people had no quarrel with any people, they had a deeprooted quarrel with systems which glorified war and violence and suppressed the human spirit and that India could not associate herself with a war side to be for democratic freedom when that very freedom was denied to her. It invited the British Government to declare its war aims in unequivocal terms and added, "A free and democratic India will gladly associate herself with other free nations for the advancement of humanity... "

 

6 Making a fervent appeal to India to adopt non-violence as her creed and preserve man's dignity, Gandhi wrote, "Defence of India by the present method has been necessary because she is an appendage of Britain. Free India can have no enemy.. .

"It is better for India to discard violence altogether even for defending her borders. . . For India to enter into the race for armaments is to court suicide.

"With the loss of India to non-violence, the last hope of the world will be gone. .. "

 

7 With the British Government's rejection of nationalist opinion, Gandhi was convinced that its old policy of 'divide and rule' was to continue... His reaction was "Our independence is not to depend upon any one's mercy... It will come when the people are ready for it".

 

8 The Congress declared that Indian freedom could not exist within the orbit of imperialism and asked its Ministries to resign in protest.. .

 

9 For a while to pass beyond the darkness that enveloped the destiny of the world, Gandhi and Kasturbai visited Shantiniketan at Poet Tagore's invitation in February, 1940...

The two apostles of India's regeneration met.. .

The Poet's simple mud-hut 'Shyamli' was Gandhi's abode here ...

Notwithstanding his ill health, Tagore came to the mango-grove to express his love and reverence for Gandhi ...

The Poet welcomed Gandhi as one of their own and as "one belonging to all humanity..."

In a spirit of deep respect, Gandhi replied "Shantiniketan will never cease to grow so long as Gurudev's spirit broods over it..."

During their talks, Gandhi saw that Tagore was living for his dearest creation, Visvabharati, and wanted to feel sure about its future.. .

 

10 As they parted, Tagore handed over to Gandhi his impassioned appeal : "Visvabharati is like a vessel which is carrying the cargo of my life's best treasure... Accept this institution under your protection. .. "

Gandhi assured him : "Visvabharati carries God's protection because it is the creation of an earnest soul... You may depend upon my doing all for its permanence..."

 

11 Events were moving with their own momentum ... Since India was to continue under the imperial domain, positive action became inevitable ... The Congress, at its annual session held at Ramgarh, in March 1940, under the Presidentship of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, placed full responsibility for conducting the civil disobedience campaign on Gandhi.

Stressing the need of discipline, Gandhi said, "The essence of Satyagraha is not to shout slogans but to carry out in letter and spirit the word of your chosen general ... "

 

12 Gandhi commended his thirteen-fold constructive programme. In the fulfilment of it lay the non-violent attainment of Swaraj based on the solid foundation of social justice and economic equality enabling each individual to have the wherewithal to supply all primary needs ...

 

13 Correlating economics and ethics, Gandhi advocated the Upanishhadic message of enjoying wealth by renouncing it for the common good ... He enunciated the theory of trusteeship to transform the acquisitive society into an egalitarian one... "A society based on non-violence cannot nurture any other ideal."

 

14 Reluctant to carry the policy of non-embarassment to the point of self-extinction, Gandhi decided to launch individual Satyagraha as a moral protest against war.. .

 

He chose to keep himself out and selected Vinoba Bhave as the first Satyagrahi to preach publicly nonco-operation in the war-effort.. .

 

15 The person-by-person symbolic protest assumed huge dimensions... Thousands answered the call, proclaimed their faith and courted imprisonment.. .

 

16 On the Government forbidding the press to report the progress of Satyagraha, Gandhi suspended the publication of his journals and asked everyone to become his own newspaper carrying authentic news...

 

Reel 24

 

Sequence 1    The theatre of the war came nearer India.. . Civil disobedience prisoners were set free in December, 1941...

 

2 The nearness of war became a challenge to Gandhi and a test of faith ... He resumed the weeklies to disseminate his view that "all war is immoral".

 

3 Gandhi felt that he must accept the necessary consequences and implications of non-violence ... He dreamt of India becoming a symbol of non-violence and a messenger of peace ... and said prophetically, "Jawaharlal will be my successor... And when I am gone, he will speak my language."

 

4 Just then, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with the proposals of the British War Cabinet on self-government for discussion with representative Indians.. .

 

5 Behind the proposals which dealt essentially with the future, after the cessation of hostilities, lay the old imperial policy of creating division in India and encouraging every factor that came in the way of national growth and freedom.

There was no intention to part with power in them ...

 

6 Cripps made it clear that "the scheme was to be accepted or rejected as a whole ... "

He began a series of negotiations with the leaders of all political parties ...

 

7 On March 27, Gandhi arrived in New Delhi as Cripps was anxious to meet him ...

Strongly disapproving the indefinite and innumerable partitions involved in the proposals, Gandhi asked, "Why did you come if this is what you have to offer?"

Characterizing the offer as a "post-dated cheque", Gandhi soon left for Sevagram.. .

 

8 The proposals were rejected by every single party and group in India. Jawaharlal Nehru's reaction was, that India would be one in freedom, as it had been one in subjection. . .

He said, (his voice). .. "The clock of destiny is ticking away and war and danger hover over the world. We shall have to face their consequences also and we can only face them by forgetting our petty troubles and conflicts and putting on together, so that we may, by united strength make India independent... "

 

9 The Cripps Mission failed. The prospect of freedom receded into some dim and distant future.. .

 

10 Inaction at the critical stage became intolerable for Gandhi who was convinced that India's real safety lay in orderly and timely British withdrawal.. .

Expressing the prevailing mood of the people, Gandhi urged passionately, "Leave India to God and if that be too much, leave her to anarchy..."

 

11 To put the Allied cause on an unassailable basis, Gandhi wrote to President Roosevelt that the position of the democracies in the war was morally indefensible so long as India and Africa were not granted independence.

 

12 India stood in peril of invasion ... The Quit India campaign began to take shape in Gandhi's mind ...

 

13 Accepting Gandhi's view that India's bondage enfeebled her for her own defence, the Congress Working Committee proclaimed to the country that British rule in India must end ... Only the glow of freedom would enable the people's united will to resist aggression ...

"If the appeal fails," the resolution emphasised, "Congress will utilise all its non-violent strength for India's liberty under the inevitable leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. .. "

 

14 The leaders assembled in Bombay on the eve of the All India Congress Committee meeting which had been summoned to endorse the Quit India Resolution ...

 

15 On August 7, 1942, the sullen passivity of the people was converted into a spirit of non-submission and resistance... They assembled at the Gowalia Tank maidan and awaited the final call for India's deliverance ...

 

16 The deeply-felt sentiment of the Indian people firmly convinced Gandhi that "suppression will never put out the light of revolt, once it has been lighted. .. "

He came there to guide at the crucial hour with ill will towards none...

 

17 Opening the proceedings of the historic session, President Azad explained that the Quit India proposal meant, "Withdraw as masters" and pointed out, "power when it comes, will belong to the whole people of India, .. "

Moving the Quit India Resolution, Jawaharlal Nehru affirmed that its conception was not narrow nationalism and in no sense a threat but an offer of co-operation of a free India ...

He asserted, "The flame that would be kindled by passing the resolution would illumine the darkened horizon. .. "

Seconding the resolution, Sardar Patel declared, "To rouse the people to a supreme effort, it must dawn on them that this is a people's war..."

Amid deafening applause, the Quit India Resolution representing the voice of the oppressed people was carried with overwhelming majority, only thirteen voting against...

Outlining his plan of action, Gandhi spoke for two hours. "The contemplated struggle has its roots in non-violence ... I must act when the earth is being scorched by the flames of violence and crying for deliverance ... ''How is this vast mass of humanity to be aflame in the cause of world deliverence, unless it has touched and felt freedom ?

"I will have to resist the might of the empire with the might of the dumb millions with non-violence as a policy confined to this struggle..."

He declared that he would try for an honourable settlement before commencing the actual struggle ...

Concluding Gandhi said, "Here is a dictum for the non-violent soldier of freedom - Do or Die'."

 

18 A few hours later in the early morning of August 9, Gandhi was removed from the scene of action and immured along with his party behind the barbed wire isolation of the Aga Khan Palace Detention Camp at Poona ...

 

19 Members of the Working Committee were picked off and detained in the Fort of Chand Bibi at Ahmednagar... The Government got ready their prisons, police and ordinances...

 

Reel 25

 

Sequences 1   India's national pride rose in revolt. . Patriotic urge to action moved the people ...

It was a spontaneous mass upheaval ... The temper of the people rose and so did the temper of the alien Government ...

 

2 Six days after the internment, Gandhi's Secretary, Mahadev Desai, died suddenly in detention. He served his Master to the last.. .

In a corner of the detention ground, performing the last rites, Gandhi said, "This sacrifice cannot but hasten the day of India's deliverance."

 

3 In his exhaustive correspondence with the Viceroy, detenue Gandhi asked, "Is the demand for independence, legitimate at all times, a challenge that could only be met by immediate repression instead of patient reasoning with the demanding party ?"

 

4 He blamed the Government for letting loose an avalanche of leonine violence to suppress a popular movement avowedly non-violent.. . There was no vestige of acceptance of Gandhi's reasoning. . Seeking soothing balm for his pain, Gandhi decided to crucify the flesh by fasting.. .

 

5 Seventy-four year old Gandhi launched on a 21-day fast on February 10, 1943 in the shadow of the detention camp ... Outside the gates stood his sorrow-laden sister praying in anguish ... As days passed into weeks, he grew weaker... His strength had almost ebbed out. But he was able to pull through the great ordeal.. .

 

6 When Gandhi's life was hanging in the balance, the Government set out their unsustainable accusation against Gandhi replete with inferences and innuendoes...

Garbled extracts from Gandhi's writings had been torn from their context and presented in a false setting ...

 

7 Gandhi replied seriatim to the indictment.. .

He characterised it as the case of a prosecutor who first arrests and gags his victims and then opens his case behind their backs...

"I have no regret for what I have done or said in the course of the struggle for India's freedom," affirmed Gandhi and suggested reference to an impartial tribunal ...

 

8 In detention, Gandhi spent some time teaching his seventy four year old wife ...

But it did not last long... Kasturbai's health deteriorated fast ...

 

9 She died as a prisoner on February 22, 1944 ... Thus ended the sixty-two year old companionship of Gandhi and Kasturbai ...

 

10 Gandhi's constant companion in all his life's struggle was cremated under his very eyes.. .

Giving vent to his feelings, he said, "I cannot imagine life without Ba".

 

11 A famine of vast dimension overtook the people ... Starvation stalked the land ...

 

12 On May 6, 1944, India heaved a sigh of relief on Gandhi's sudden and unconditional release on medical grounds...

 

13 Before leaving the detention-camp, he offered floral tributes to his two departed comrades-Mahadev and Kasturbai at the consecrated ground ...

 

14 After twenty-one months of incarceration, Gandhi passed out of the barbed wire ... An arduous journey lay ahead ...

 

15 On May 11, Gandhi once again arrived at Juhu to sojourn at Gandhi Gram and entered on a fortnight's silence to ensure uninterrupted rest.

The sea- breeze brought him some relief and enabled him to build his broken body.. .

Every evening, people of all shades crowded on the beach to attend Gandhi's congregational prayer which he considered to be the greatest binding force maintaining the oneness of the human family.. .

Gandhi's faith in the efficacy of prayer was immovable... He was in tune with the Infinite... (Prayer Music)

At a special request, Gandhi gave autographs in ten scripts-Devnagri, Roman, Gujarati, Persian, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, and Oriya ... ''If only I had the time", he remarked, "I have energy enough to learn more Indian languages..."

 

16 Partially recuperated from his illness, Gandhi reached Sevagram,. . In an interview he said that the exploited races would not feel the glow of the Allied victory.. .

He asked, "Must rivers of blood flow for such an empty victory?"

 

17 Gandhi came to Bombay for a frank and friendly talk with Mohmad Ali Jinnah on the question of communal unity... He went to Jinnah's house on September 9, 1944 "as a seeker of light for establishing living peace... The eighteen day-talks never converged but ran a parallel course and broke down. The cleavage was on the cardinal issue of the two-nation theory.. . Gandhi had no sense of disappointment or despondency though the talks did not prove fruitful.. .

 

At a prayer meeting he explained, "The result confirms my view that the presence of the third power hinders the solution. .. "