The 'Quit India' Movement was one of the most vital episodes in the history of Indian freedom struggle. The Quit India movement was launched in August 1942. "I want freedom immediately, this very night before dawn if it can be had.. we shall free India or die in the attempt, we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery", declared Mahatma Gandhi, as the British resorted to brutal repression against non-violent satyagrahis.

The Quit India movement was launched at a time when several factors were in the favour of the freedom fighters. Great Britain was fighting a losing war on two fronts. In Europe it was defending its country against Hitler. In the east, Japan had been capturing her possessions like Burma.

After the great revolt of 1857, the Quit India movement was the next great uprising that ultimately helped India achieve freedom. Students and teachers forsook the colleges.Factories were closed. There were mob-violence and riots. Before the year was over, there were 600 police firings and thousands killed, and the prisons of the country were full. Over a lakh of persons were convicted and sentenced.

Though the Quit India Movement was collapsed by the end of the year, it became the turning point in India's struggle for freedom.

India achieved independence on August 15, 1947.

Just wanted to add my two cents on the Quit India movement, and maybe discuss some of the things mentioned above:

The call to 'Quit India' was given in Bombay by Mahatma Gandhi, and was immediately picked up by freedom fighters from across the country. What was interesting about the movement, and marked it out from either the Non Co-operation Movement (henceforth called the NCM) or the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) that had preceded was it, was the lack of orchestration. Both the NCM and the CDM were the brainchild of Gandhi and he was largely responsible for much of the masterly tactics and strategy behind them. (In brief- the NCM and the CDM were largely similar movements, exemplifying Gandhi's motto of 'Satyagraha' or Truth Force, which is a better translation than the commonly used 'Passive Resistance'. Anyway, it involved boycotting British institutions, goods, and generally disobeying the law and courting arrest peacefully to make a moral point).

The QIM was unique in that planning was largely absent, the movement had a momentum of its own, and that perhaps accounts for the level of violence witnessed during the movement. Gandhi had brought the NCM to an end over the Chari Chaura incident in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh where a group of policemen had been burnt to death by an angry mob. Despite pressure from his fellow politicians and leaders, Gandhi argued that post Chari Chaura the Indians had lost their moral ground that must withdraw. It was a controversial decision, debated to this day. Some even accuse Gandhi of protecting property interests, which might have then been the next target of the mobs, as Gandhi had close links with many top business leaders of the day.

Be that as it may, the truth was that the QIM was qualitatively different, and Gandhi did little to stop the violence. Coming at the time that it did, when the British were engaged otherwise, it was a masterful strategy. But it is also interesting to note that the QIM was a much shorter movement than the NCM and CDM, perhaps demonstrating that a violent spontaneous uprising has the potential to burn out quicker than a planned orchestrated one which has a much lower level of violence.

There is really one other point I want to make. It's not related to the QIM, but to the WU above. First, the revolt of 1857 is seen by many as the First War of Indian Independence. I don't think that's entirely true- the revolts were not merely a 'sepoy mutiny' as the British would like us to believe, there was definitely a popular element. But it was largely limited to certain towns of northern India, those revolting had very little idea of what they were going to do next, and independence was the furthest thought on their mind. (Their immediate task upon reaching Delhi was to install Bahadur Shah Zaffar, the deposed Mughal monarch on the throne). Next, I think to argue that after the revolt, the QIM was the next great struggle, is to ignore movements like the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, the NCM and the CDM, but also as a broader historical argument, this neglects sub-altern trends on this period. Much of the fight against British was not fought at a meta-national level, but by smaller communities, and groups, over many decades, winning small victories at a time. To see the QIM as the direct successor of the revolt of 1857, does a dis-service to the contribution of these sub-altern struggles.

The Quit Indian movement can be seen as the greatest manifestation of the desire of the Indian masses to rid themselves of the British presence in India. It was the largest uprising against the British since the 1857 War of Indian Independence. Instigated by Gandhi’s call to “do or die,” people from all sections of society courted arrest and indulged in other revolutionary activities en masse. It began in the cities as a bout of strikes and demonstrations and eventually exploded into an all-India movement involving people of all sections, including even the generally reluctant middle peasants.

In several locations around India, nationalists managed to prop up local parallel governments and managed everyday judicial and administrative affairs. The movement was very strong in areas like Bihar, where the capital, Patna, was under the control of the nationalists for a while. The British response to these events was particularly brutal as several methods of punishment, including public floggings and torture were used to subdue the participants. Even though the movement eventually died down, the British were severely disturbed by what had taken place. After the war, they were in no position to subdue another movement like this and it played a great part in their decision to negotiate and eventually free India.

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