He stood up on the dais, facing thousands of people gathered there.

“Dear fellow Indians, we are gathered here to start what our beloved Mahatma has told us to do. All our leaders have been arrested, including Bapuji. But he has told us to continue to fight for independence. The civil disobedience will continue.

British! Quit India!! Bharat Chodo!!

Karo ya Maro!!! Do or Die!!!!”

“Karo ya Maro!!!!” chanted the crowd.

This is just a fragment of my imagination. But I guess this was how people were motivated to participate in the Quit India movement of 1942.

The world was in the middle of the World War II. British started to send out Indian soldiers to the war front to fight their war. The national movement for independence was gaining momentum. Mahatma Gandhi, on 8th August 1942 gave the clarion call to all Indians to “Karo ya Maro, Do or Die” and started the Quit India movement.

The British immediately arrested Gandhiji the very next day. In the course of next few days, it arrested a lot of other national leaders too. But the people of India heard Bapu’s call and responded with massive rallies and protests all over the country.

The British were unwilling to leave the country. But when the WWII continued unabated, Britain realised that India was becoming ungovernable day by day. The President of USA Franklin Roosevelt pressurised the British PM Winston Churchill to concede some of the demands of the Indian agitators. Eventually, the British promised to leave India after the war ended. They finally left India in 1947.

Was the Quit India movement a success, then?

Not entirely.

The Quit India movement was not as successful as anticipated. There were many reasons for this.

  • The business men did not support the movement, because the economics of the WW II was giving them rich dividends. The war made sure that the need for uniforms and canvas tents, shoes and such were in short supply in Europe and Indian mills became an important supply point.
  • Some political outfits like the Muslim League, and Hindu Mahasabha did not support the movement as they felt it was against their agenda.
  • Some princely states too did not support the movement.
  • With almost all leaders getting arrested, there was no one to lead the movement. In fact, Gandhiji was released only in 1944 when his ill health became a cause for concern. Gandhiji also lost his wife during the time when he was jailed.
  • The British arrested thousands of ordinary citizens who participated in the rallies. Eventually people stopped going to rallies.

Quit India did not succeed for the lack of co-ordination and leadership.

But it remains an important milestone in the struggle for independence.

Thousands of ordinary citizens of India have fought for freedom that we now enjoy and also take for granted.

Freedom is not just a guarantee of rights (for which everyone is ready to take up cudgels nowadays), it is also a responsibility of duties towards the nation.