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The Quit India Movement
"By now the prestige of the British Government had fallen very low and Gandhiji ruled over the hearts of the millions of the millions of Indian men and women. In fact, he was the uncrowned king of the country. In some provinces, the Congress had even formed the government. The British did not approve of such things, but they were helpless before the growing enthusiasm of the masses.
The Congress Ministers had been in power only for a short time, when the Second World War broke out. The British began to use our men and materials in the war against Germany without even consulting our leaders. The people of India felt deeply hurt and resented this fresh insult to our national dignity. On Gandhiji's advice, the Congress governments in the provinces resigned, for Gandhiji felt that there was not much sense in the Congress party continuing to hold office when they were not consulted in a matter of the greatest importance.
Bapu's letter to Hitler
Bapu remained at Sevagram, but he was in touch with all the events that were happening in the world outside. He was aware of the misery and destruction that wars caused, and so he wrote a letter to the German Dictator, Hitler, saying, 'I do not generally regard anyone as my enemy; but today you and I happen to be fighting a common foe, namely, the British. How wonderful it would be if, like me, you too fought the enemy with the weapon of non-violence. Violence could only bring immense ruin and misery to the whole world. Should you like to know more about the principles of non-violence, there is a soldier in your army who was with me in my Ashram for some time. He will be able to tell you everything about the methods of non-violence. You alone are now in a position to stop this ruinous and bloody war.' Gandhiji wanted to send this letter to Hitler through the Viceroy of India, but the latter did not allow it. Had the Viceroy consented, and had Hitler listened to Mahatmaji's advice, the world would have been saved all the havoc and destruction that followed. But England and Germany were both drunk with power and they could only go headlong towards disaster.
Appeal for freedom
At the same time, Gandhiji made repeated attempts to persuade the British to transfer power to Indians in a peaceful way. But all his efforts were in vain. Had he wished, he could have asked the whole nation to fight the Government. But the apostle of nonviolence could never do so; he was not prepared to win freedom by bloodshed and violence. And yet the fight against the British had to be kept up somehow. He felt that satyagraha on a mass scale was not proper. And so he thought of a new method, that of Individual Satyagraha. He decided to select a few well-tried companions, who had thoroughly understood and practiced the principles of non-violence, and these were to offer satyagraha, one by one. The first person chosen for the offer was Shri Vinoba Bhave. He was immediately arrested, and after him hundreds of patriots, who were only waiting patiently for their turn. Overnight all the leaders were arrested. Jawaharlal Nehru was sentenced to imprisonment. But the country was seething with unrest and the government found it impossible to crush the rising urge for freedom. Very soon they had to release all those whom they had put in jail.
The fighting in Europe was at its height, when news came that Japan had joined the war against the Allies and led an attack against America. Japan had also advanced towards India and occupied Rangoon. The enemy was at our door. There was widespread anxiety all over the country, and people were wondering what would come next.
Some thought that India would be attacked in the war between Japan and America. Some even wished that the Japanese would cross over to India and drive away British. People were impatient break their chains of bondage. Seeing such widespread unrest in India, the British government in England decided to send out Sir Stafford Cripps to India, so that could bring about some kind of settlement between the two countries. A ray of hope seemed to come out of the darkness, and people in India began to think that freedom was at hand. But once again our hopes were dashed to the ground. The proposals which Cripps brought with him were not acceptable to our leaders :the British were not prepared to give what we really wanted. And so Cripps went back to England, having achieved nothing, and Gandhiji and the other leaders decided that India could not give the British help in the war, unless she is first given freedom.
Bapu saw that the European war as well as the war with Japan was ruining our country. The youth and the wealth of the country were being sacrificed, against our wishes, for the sake of a foreign nation. His heart was sick and he wanted to do something. He called all the leaders together and explained to them that, as long as the British remained in India, they would continue to suck her blood and to exploit her. It was necessary to make a desperate and united effort to drive them out of India.
But the fight must remain peaceful and non-violent. If freedom was achieved through violence and bloodshed, it was not worth having at all. Let us ask the British with one voice, 'Quit India! Quit India!' The moment Gandhiji gave the call, the four hundred millions of India took up the slogan 'Britishers, quit India! Britishers, quit India !' This slogan stared the British in the face wherever they went. It was written on the walls, the door-posts, the streets, and even on the office tables where they worked. For the first time they began to realize that the time had come when they must really quit India.
At the same time Gandhiji wrote a letter to the Viceroy saying that if India was given freedom, she would willingly help in the war-effort. But if the British even now refused to give India her freedom, she would be driven to fight for that freedom to the very last man. It would be a desperate and a bitter struggle, but it would be fought on the principles of non-violence."
"What reply did the Viceroy give to Gandhiji's letter?" asked Hari.
"Instead of replying to that letter,'' continued the mother, "he only arrested our leaders and shut them up in jails. Bapu and Kasturbai were taken to the Aga Khan's Palace in Poona and confined there. Some of his close associates such as Sarojini Naidu, Dr. Sushila Nayyar and Mahadev Desai were also kept in confinement there along with him."