Quit India Movement: Some Aspects of History and Lessons  – Part 1

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There are several aspects of Quit India Movement noteworthy like:

 It was a movement that was full of contradictions:  No party was united or consistent on that, neither Congress nor Communists nor others.  No party could own it up or disown it in an unqualified manner. Because, among other things, every party had differences at the top, the bottom and between the top and the bottom. Every party had differences in roles before, during and after the Quit India events. Not only the then CPI, as often pointed out,  but also RSS , Hindu Maha Sabha, Muslim League,  BR Ambedkar , the SC Federation, and many princely states etc  had all  opposed Quit India, joined hands and co-operated with the  British…. Quit India explodes several myths about the British being civilized rulers, India’s freedom movement being a non-violent movement, and about people of India – that they love peace, they are non-violent and that they could not revolt etc., says the author.

Following is the full text of the key note address, by  com.  ChSN Murthy,   a revised version, delivered in a Seminar held to mark the 75th Anniversary of Quit India, in  Sahitya Academy Hall, Thrissur,  Kerala, last year on Aug 16,2017.

In the context of claims of nationalism and patriotism made by reactionary forces, and branding anti-establishment forces as anti-nationals, this paper, it is hoped, will be useful to expose the false claims, and equip to unite and  fight against  anti-people forces and  wrong trends; and to fight for a new India.   


Revolutionary greetings to all the participants on the dias and in the hall.     Representing the working class and  all toiling people of Andhra Pradesh, I feel very happy and highly honored for being invited to this important  Seminar and for being associated with all of you, who are an important part of patriotic and democratic people of Kerala.

Greater goals and common tasks like opposing imperialism, landlordism, and  all exploitation  bring together and unite people across caste, religion, region, state,  language etc., and that is why we are all here today.

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It was a movement that was full of contradictions:

  • No party was consistent on that , neither Congress nor Communists nor others.
  • No party could own it up or disown it in an unqualified manner. Because, among other things, every party had differences at the top, the bottom and between the top and the bottom. Every party had differences in roles before, during and after the Quit India events.

*Communist Party was criticized  for having opposed Quit India Call. It was indeed one of the  blunders  committed by them that adversely affected them. Why such a blunder?  Anti-fascism was  OK, but  they  badly mixed up  international tasks with  India’s own goals. This mixing up has been a problem later on too. What is the Right and Wrong of this stand? And why?

  • But why blame communists alone?  Every party was divided on that, vertically and horizontally, including Congress and Socialists.  Nehru  was  opposed to  Quit India, but  later fell in line with Gandhi.  Rajaji, later Governor General of India, resigned from Congress on the issue. Subhas Bose had his own view. Congress gave the call but most Congressmen did little beyond courting arrest and were happy inside jails. The undivided CPI leadership had opposed it, but many communist cadres defied and  actively participated in it, in Telangana for instance,as narrated by DV Rao,  as also in Kerala, as  EMS explains in his writings.

*  RSS , Hindu Maha Sabha, Muslim League,  BR Ambedkar , princely states etc  had all  opposed Quit India, joined hands and co-operated with the  British.   

  • Communal political forces, both of Hindus and Muslims; and  Castiest political forces–of ‘Upper’ ‘lower’ and ‘Dalit’ caste orientation – had NO significant, positive role in Quit India movement.
  • It was a movement that was anti imperialist in character, and was influenced by emerging inter-imperialist contradictions. It was reviewed variously by  Congress, Communists (as, reportedly, in a CPI conclave at  Thalikkulam,  in coastal Thrissur of  Kerala).
  • What is the message of Quit India NOW for today’s India in the era of LPG ( Liberalization , Privatization and Globalization)?

Is it time now for another, REVISED EDITION OF QUIT INDIA? Is India’s Political leadership today READY FOR  ANOTHER QUIT INDIA? Are they not spreading Red carpet to  say ‘WELCOME to Imperialism’? What should or should NOT be the meaning of Quit India today?

(These were questions  examined in this  Seminar  held at Thrissur on August 16, in Sahitya Academy Hall, from 5pm to 8pm. Its appeal was : Join  the program to  THINK  AGAIN and THINK DEEPLY.)   

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Anything which is divisive, and anti-people,  cannot be patriotism.

In our country patriotism has many different meanings, definitions and practices. In this connection we draw your kind attention to  a universal meaning given to patriotism by the famous Telugu renaissance poet–Gurajada Appa Rao (1862 -1915).  Desam ante matti Kaadoyi…. Desam ante Manujuloyi. In his famous poem  (of 1910), titled  Deshabhakthi, i.e., patriotism, he said that  one should love his country and that country did not mean territory or soil;  but it means the people. Therefore, loving people means  loving one’s country, and vice versa.  Anything which is anti-people cannot be patriotism. (The full text of this defining and significant poem, with an  universal appeal, and opposed to national chauvinism,  translated  into English, along with an Intro to its author was published in countercurrents.org, : Love The Country,  By Gurazada Appa Rao

02 April, 2016, https://www.countercurrents.org/gurajada020416.htm)   This true patriotism, i.e., love for people– is what made you conduct this Seminar on ‘Quit India Movement’, an important episode in the history of anti-imperialist struggle of the people of our country, and that is what brought us all here.

Generally anniversaries of various events of freedom struggle are celebrated to recall the great sacrifices made by those freedom fighters and to pay our tributes to them.  These celebrations have become a mere ritual for our governments, ruling classes and their political parties.  Similarly the 75th anniversary of Quit India Movement (QIM) is also the same for them. Of course it is not merely a ritual for them but is also an activity of masking their true character to deceive the people of our country.

But, however, it is not so for us,  the people of our country. Studying the History of Quit India Movement  is very much necessary and still relevant for the people of this country because of the fact that imperialism has not yet quit India, i.e., it has not yet quit the lives of people of India.  It is gripping not only towns and industries, but also villages,  agriculture inputs, markets and the  whole economy, the whole people and their culture.  The people of India are yet to defeat imperialism and make it to quit India and its economic and political system.  Economic dependence reduces political independence into a formal, namesake one as is the case now with LPG (Liberalisation , Privatisation and Globalisation);  it is all the more shrinking due to World Bank/IMF/ADB/US imperialism  dictating our policies.

The experiences of QIM, and the roles of various political organizations of different classes and several leaders in that movement offer  valuable lessons for our people and to the revolutionary and democratic forces of our country, which would be useful for them in their struggle against imperialism.

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We shall begin with  presenting  certain factual accounts of  the movement which show that this

  1. QIM was a country-wide,  people’s revolutionary movement,
  2. Congress led by Gandhi gave the call for QIM only to compromise with the Imperialists, both the British and Japanese, and later disowned and betrayed it.
  3. The Hindutva camp, the forefathers of the present ruling BJP, opposed QIM, joined British rulers in suppressing the movement.
  4. Muslim League and Ambedkar also did so.
  5. Communists made a blunder and adopted class collaborationist policy.
  6. There was a Revolutionary Mass Line in Telangana, which was further developed. QIM is often used by varied forces to condemn the communists as ‘anti-national’, ‘betrayers’ etc. They indeed committed a blunder, but things need to be seen in a proper historical perspective and in a balanced manner. Thus seen, they cannot be called anti-national, betrayers etc. Request all of you to study the history from the people’s revolutionary perspective to defeat imperialism.

A Countrywide , people’s,  revolutionary movement

The most important aspect of QIM is that it was a country-wide, people’s revolutionary movement.  It had shown the depth and intensity of anti-imperialist consciousness of our people and resentment that was simmering in their minds against the exploitative and oppressive British rule in our country.

The participation of the people in such large scale in the revolutionary movement, particularly of peasants, workers, students, middle classes, journalists and artists, was unprecedented and beyond the expectations of the organizers. The workers went on strikes and hartals all over the country, particularly in the cities of Delhi, Lucknow , Kanpur, Bombay,  Ahmedabad, Jamshedpur, Madras and Bangalore. Tata’s steel factory was closed for 14 days.

Significant feature of the pattern of people’s activity was its total concentration on attacking establishments of British authority like P&T, telephone lines and railways.

Peasants  of all strata, well to do as well as poor, were at the heart of the movement especially in the eastern UP and Bihar, Midnapur in Bengal, Satara in Maharashtra , Andhra, Telangana, Gujarat and Kerala. Youth and students were at the forefront of the movement.  Students boycotted the schools and colleges.  They participated in hartals and militant activities.

Women participated in the movement in such a remarkable scale and manner which remain as an inspiration to the future generations.  They organized rallies, speeches and engaged in transportation of materials . It was common to British officials to forcefully enter the households and slap, beat and rape women. That was their anti-fascism!

An old woman named Matangini Hazra, at the age of 73 years, in Bengal, organized 6000 people, mostly women, to ransack a police station.  When they were nearing the Police Station, Police opened fire and Matangini lost life, holding aloft the tricolor flag in her hand.

There were numerous stories of women’s such great struggle and sacrifices like Nandini Devi and Sashibala Devi  in Orissa, Kanakalatha Barua and Kahuli Devi in Assam which are a few to name who died in police atrocities. Usha Mehta operated a secret Congress Radio from Mumbai.

The most important feature of  the participation of people in this QIM was that the peoples movement had gone far beyond the non-violent limits fixed by Gandhi and Congress leadership. It reached a revolutionary level. It had shown the revolutionary consciousness of the Indian people against the British imperialism. The movement did not stop at peaceful demonstrations. At some places bombs were exploded. Govt. buildings were set on fire. Electricity was cut and telegraph and communication lines were severed.

According to one British (John F. Riddick ) report, in 6 weeks from 9th August 1942 to 21st September 1942,  550 Post Offices and 250 Railway Stations were attacked and many rail lines were damaged. 70 Police Stations were destroyed and 85 other Govt. buildings were burned and damaged. There were 2500 instances of Telegraph wires being cut.

At the height of the revolutionary activities of the people, there was establishment of “Local Parallel Governments”. Such local parallel Governments (Pathri Sarkar, also called Prati Sarkar) were established at  Satara in Maharashtra, ‘Talcher’ in Odisha and Midnapur. At Ballia in eastern U.P., people overthrew the district administration, broke open the Jail, released the Congress leaders and established their own independent rule.  These local  parallel governments continued to function until Gandhi personally requested the leaders to disband them in 1944.

Com. D.V.Rao (1917-84),  a distinguished leader of revolutionary communists  of India, wrote that establishment of these local parallel governments by the revolutionaries in QIM,  was a clear example to  show that the revolutionary movement was mature to pursue  and complete  the National Democratic Revolution in India against Imperialism.

We can understand the revolutionary level of the people’s movement by the accounts of the brutal repression unleashed by the British government on then people. Hundreds of battalions of military forces were deployed to crush the movement.  One lakh people were jailed.  Thousands of people were killed in police firing.  Justice Rajendra Sachar and his socialist colleagues report that ‘ about  50000’ people were killed during this QIM.

The Fascism of British imperialists, supposedly fighting fascism across the world, unleashed  against the people of India was naked; it was demonstrated, for instance,  at Ballia in UP. (Prime Minister Chandra Shekar came from this place) : Here 130 leaders of local independent movement were hanged at the orders  of an English police officer.  Some people were forced to climb trees and they were killed through bayoneting while they were climbing the trees. 11 men were killed for unfurling a flag one after another- the first one happened to be a Muslim. Some were given stale chapattis in jail which caused dysentery.

Such was the revolutionary fervor of the people’s upsurge in QIM.  We must keep in mind that all this happened when there was no leadership from Congress to the people as all the Congress leaders had courted arrest and were sitting peacefully in jail. Socialists like Jayaprakash Narayan, Aruna Asaf Ali, local Left Nationalists and Communist ranks  who did not go with the official line were with the people.  Had there been a correct and cohesive leadership and correct planning and guidance, the movement could not have been crushed by the imperialists, but on the other hand people could have defeated the British imperialism. Quit India had paved the way for post-war upsurges that ultimately forced the British to see the writing on the wall and led to the transfer of power.

Thus QIM explodes several myths about the British being civilized rulers, India’s  freedom movement being a non-violent movement, and  about  people of India – that they love peace, they are non-violent and that they could not revolt etc.

It teaches us the importance and significance of a correct leadership, correct line and correct understanding of organizing the people’s revolution for its successful march.

At present also,  many people argue that it is not possible to build a people’s revolution in India citing divisions among people, lack of political consciousness and lack of militancy etc. We cannot and should not accept the same.  We should take lessons, should  learn from history that Indian people could be led to make success of their revolution,  provided there is a correct  understanding of objectives,  and correct ideology, line and  leadership. We should all strive for this.


BJP damns its opponents, more so communists, as anti-nationals, betrayers etc. It was Congress that spread similar ideas about communists earlier, particularly with reference to QIM. Now BJP seeks to appropriate Gandhi and invokes his name for all its goals. Thus an objective picture about Gandhi’s role is needed.

  • It was publicized and propagated by the leadership of Indian National Congress (INC) and the ruling classes that this QIM was called and led by Gandhi and INC.(and  betrayed by the Communists, they say).

-True, it was called by Gandhiji   and INC– but at the same time,  it was not led by Gandhi and INC.

  • It is said that Gandhiji  and INC gave this call for Quit India Movement aiming at achieving complete independence to the people of this country from British imperialism. But the historical truths based on naked facts tell us that it was quite the opposite.
  • The history of INC led by Gandhiji  and of their agitations conducted in the name of Independence Movement, on a careful, scientific and close study, with a people’s revolutionary perspective, prove beyond doubt that the INC led by Gandhi, was not the representatives of people of the country, particularly the vast majority, i.e., peasants, workers and the toiling masses. But they represented the exploiting classes i.e., Feudal Zamindars, land lords and those comprador capitalist class which was born and developed in the lap of British colonialists.
  • Birlas, Tatas, etc., close to Gandhi,  were compradors of U.K. and they did lot of contracts during World War I and II and got fattened themselves. Bajaj  and Sarabhais  were  also close to him. That class was the birthplace and cradle of Congress and that was Gandhi’s grave too. It was at Birla House, Gandhi was shot dead. Birla was the founding president of the Harijan Sevak Sangh in 1932 and remained so till 1959. About Tatas,  wrote Gandhi:  “ When I was in South Africa, Ratan Tata had sent me huge support – he was the first to send Rs 25,000.”  They were Gandhi’s advisors , facilitators, go-betweens with the British.

History has ample evidence that INC led by Gandhi never had the aim of complete liberation of the people of our country from the yoke of British imperialism and it’s Indian base – the feudalism. They tried their best,  always to protect feudalism. For almost 50 years after  the Congress was founded in 1885, Congress did not even set up units in Princely States like Travancore- Cochin, Mysore, Hyderabad etc. Congress tried to compromise with British imperialism in order to get transfer of power without prejudice to the interests and exploitation of British imperialist capital in India.

INC led by Gandhi never aimed at developing a peoples’ revolutionary movement against the British colonialism and imperialism. They never had made any such efforts of building and leading such a revolutionary movement. In fact they were scared of the peoples’ revolution and put up all their best efforts to divert, sabotage and foil the Indian peoples’ revolutionary struggles for freedom.

  • The means of Non- violent,  Non- co operation struggle developed by Gandhi and followed by INC in the freedom movement, in reality, became the real handy weapons not to liberate Indian people from British, but on the other hand, to divert, pacify and abort the peoples’ revolutionary struggle from the Independence movement.
  • Look at the two movements called and led by Gandhi and I N C, earlier to Q I M, i.e, the Non- co- operation movement during 1920’s and Civil Disobedience movement during the 1930’s. What Gandhi and I N C did then? Gandhi gave a call to these movements. People participated with a growing anti- British, anti- Imperialist national fervor and took up militant struggles. Workers went on strikes and peasants fought against Feudal exploitation. When these movements were developing into revolutionary movements,  Gandhi abruptly called off the movements and withdrew them without any justifiable reasons. The reason he stated  was that the violence by people against British administration. The real cause was – the movement was developing beyond the control of the Congress and had shown signs of turning against the local exploiters- the landlords. It should be noted that Gandhi opposed resolutions in Congress meeting demanding the complete Independence and prevailed on the members to withdraw such resolution.
  • Every time Gandhi and I N C used these struggles and movements to bargain with British Raj and to strike a deal of compromise.
  • In respect of the aims of Gandhi and I N C in calling for Q I M, was no different from the earlier two movements’ i.e, to have a compromise with the imperialism, of course, now this compromise was not only with British imperialism but also with Japanese imperialism, if necessary.
  • Even during Quit India, as earlier as in Salt Satyagraha, Gandhi insisted on “ Vyakthi ” (Individual) Sathyagraha, and Not Mass Sathyagraha; whereas masses joined in a big way, Gandhi withdrew such movements. (as recorded by official Congress History by Pattabhi and opposed by several Congress leaders)
  • Congress and Gandhi were bargaining with Cripps Mission – for at least a definite promise of transfer of power. But  Britain said: we shall discuss only After the War.  Quit India call was given only when Cripps Mission talks failed. Suppose Cripps had agreed to give some promise! Congress would not have gone for Quit India.
  • Gandhi’s classic remark later on: “ Post dated cheque drawn on a crashing Bank “,reveals their calculation – that Britain would be defeated ; so oppose them,  to curry favour with the other camp of Fascist Japan. Gandhi and Nehru were dubious. Subhash Chandra Bose more frank, said, why not ally even with the devil? And  Subhash Bose did so with Japan through Indian National Army (I N A).

QIM – Gandhi’s Draft Resolution was  Pro- Japanese;       it was rejected by CWC which  adopted Nehru’s Draft

The original draft prepared by Gandhiji was rejected by the All-India Congress Working Committee in favor of the Draft  submitted by Jawaharlal Nehru. However, Gandhi’s draft needs to be studied to know the mind-set of the Gandhian leadership of Congress.

The War was obviously an inter-imperialist war, divided into two camps, for a re-division of their empires. If we go through the original draft by Gandhiji,  presented to the Congress Committee on April 27, 1942 (New York Times, August 5, 1942) , we can see that  it was not against the imperialist  master ; it is rather like a complaint by a slave that the  master has no trust in him:

“The committee is of the opinion that Britain is incapable of defending India. ……The British Government has no trust in India’s political parties….. This policy of mistrust still continues, and is the reason why national defense is not entrusted to India’s elected representatives….”

It  rather reveals his  (mis-) calculation that Japan was going to be the new master and  Britain would lose:

Japan’s quarrel is not with India. She is warring against the British Empire. India’s participation in the war has not been with the consent of the representatives of the Indian people. It was purely a British act. If India were freed, her first step would probably be to negotiate with Japan.”

It was not for a free world, free from imperialism:

For all these reasons, the committee appeals to Britain, for the sake of her own safety, for the sake of India’s safety and for the cause of world peace, to let go her hold on India, even if she does not give up all her Asiatic and African possessions.”

It was not anti-fascist either, it was rather placatory: 

“This committee desires to assure the Japanese Government and people that India bears no enmity, either toward Japan or toward any other nation.”

Nor it was for a free India, free from feudal rule. It rather assures the princely kingdoms that they would have their free reign:

“The committee is, therefore, of the opinion that the British should withdraw from India. The plea that they should remain in India for the protection of the Indian princes is wholly untenable. It is an additional proof of their determination to maintain their hold over India. The princes need have no fear from an unarmed India.”

The fascists were more vicious, who killed crores of people in their quest for re-division of the world. They needed to be resisted with all the might. But the Draft  assures the imperialists, both camps, that there would be no militant resistance against occupation. It impliedly envisages occupation by Japan, and  only speaks of non-violent non-cooperation:

“India will attain her freedom through her non-violent strength, and will retain it likewise. Therefore, the committee hopes that Japan will not have any designs on India. But if Japan attacks India, and Britain makes no response to its appeal, the committee will expect all those who look to the Congress for guidance to offer complete non-violent non-cooperation to the Japanese forces, and not to render any assistance to them. It is no part of the duty of those who are attacked to render any assistance to the attacker. It is their duty to offer complete non-cooperation.”

It dangles the carrot of  continued subjugation  to the British, assures there would be no active non-cooperation against them:

“At present, our non-cooperation with the British Government is limited. Were we to offer them complete non-cooperation when they are actually fighting, it would be tantamount to bringing our country deliberately into Japanese hands. Therefore, not to put any obstacle in the way of the British forces will often be the only way of demonstrating our non-cooperation with the Japanese.”

Even a Lay-man can understand how foolish would it  be to oppose Fascist Japan, known for its militarism and worst inhuman and atrocities ,by the unarmed people of India with the so called weapons of Sathyagraha , Non-Violence and Non- Cooperation. It is not that Gandhi did not know this. It only exposes that Gandhi and INC were not ready to fight against Fascist Japan but were rather welcoming them. It exposes the fact that the Quit India resolution and the call for action were not for throwing imperialism out of our country but only to bargain with the British imperialism for a compromise, and if that was not possible, with Japanese imperialism.

What kind of  ‘DO OR DIE’ resolve?

Gandhi and INC planned to lead the Quit India movement with Gandhi’s so called mantra of ‘DO OR DIE, it is said. Was the Congress serious about it?  Any serious revolutionary aiming at such a struggle against British imperialism should have made proper planning and arrangement commensurate with their resolve. The leadership should not be ready for getting arrested. They should have gone underground at least. But the whole Congress leadership, all over the country , including Gandhi and Nehru were available for being arrested by the Government on the very next day of Quit India revolution. There were reports that Congress leaders were ready with their beddings preparing themselves for being jailed.

The entire leadership of Congress, all over the country, deserted the field, simply courted arrest and  was in jail for all the three years of the Quit India movement; that was the DO for leaders. And DIE was for people.

The people without leadership and without arms were left to fight with the Armed Police forces of British imperialism. Such was the so called freedom fighting by the  INC led by Gandhi. Around 50000 people died in this QIM phase of the freedom movement, as mentioned above.  Socialists like Jayaprakash Narayan, and Left nationalists, followers of Subhas Bose went under ground and organized the movement.

gandhi pune

Photo : Kusum-behn-adani, Jamuna-behn, Gandhi, narandas-gandhi-mahatma-gandhi at Pune

The Aga Khan palace,(photo above  was Gandhi’s prison in Pune during QIM. He was taken there  on the 9th August 1942,kept under house arrest for 21 months, until May 1944.  He was accompanied by his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his personal secretary Mahadev Bhai Desai, and associate Sarojini Naidu. (compare prison conditions for the poor today.)

By unconditionally withdrawing the anti – imperialist struggle of the people during Civil disobedience movement, by not preparing a proper revolutionary struggle of the people to overthrow the British imperialism emerging in the Second World War scenario, and by trying in vain to strike a deal of compromise, Gandhi and INC had only once again watered down the revolutionary upsurge of the people against British Raj by calling the Q I M without any serious preparation to lead it for its logical conclusion. It was nothing but a betrayal, once again.

quit india

Photo : “Die” , Quit India slogan for people

This betrayal of Gandhi and I N C will be further proved beyond doubt, if you go through the correspondence between the then British –India Viceroy Lin Lithligow  and Gandhi. Gandhi wrote to him that they wanted to talk to the Govt. after passing the Quit India Resolution- that means before implementing it. He blamed the Govt. that it did not allow the leadership of I N C to talk to Govt. but resorted to arrests. Therefore he concluded that  I N C and Gandhi  were not responsible for the people’s militant and violent activities, but on other hand the Govt. itself was responsible for the same. This is nothing but disowning the responsibility for QIM by Gandhi.

The expectation and assessment of Gandhi and I N C that British would lose and Japan would win were the basis for their Quit India call. As soon as this assumption was being proved wrong with the defeat of fascism, Gandhi started negotiations with the British imperialists again. In order to facilitate such negotiation, Gandhi disowned the responsibility of the revolutionary movement waged by the people during Q I M.

It is ironical that those who betrayed the revolutionary movement of the people against imperialism and who disowned it were being praised as the heroes of freedom movement while the real heroes, i.e, the people,  were forgotten.

The fact is that the I N C led by Gandhi obtained only a transfer of power from British, without any harm and prejudice to the exploitation and dominance of British imperialist capital in India, that the entire Congress rule from 15th August 1947  till date was and is subservient, not only to British Imperialism but also to American imperialism and Soviet Social imperialism. This proves that all their policies were pro- imperialist and pro- super powers, which in turn show the real pro- imperialist and anti people character of the Congress. I earnestly request you all to study the work of Com. T. Nagi Reddy, another distinguished leader of Communist Revolutionaries – India Mortgaged, and D. V. Rao’s Work – People’s Democratic Revolution In India- An Explanation Of The Programme , in this regard. Thus the history of Q I M throws light on the pro- imperialist character of the ruling classes of India and its roots in the freedom movement itself. Unless the people of the country, particularly the present generation come out of the influence of the wrong history being taught to them, they could not become a true patriot, failing which they fall prey to the deception of the ruling classes and remain subservient to those exploiting classes.

Role Of Hindu Mahasabha, R S S And Muslim League

Hindu Mahasabha was part of coalition governments in Bengal,  Punjab and Sindh with Muslim league at that time and remained in those governments during the QIM  and those governments suppressed the people’s movements.

The role of all these three organizations was joining hands and their power with the British imperialist Govt. in opposing Quit India resolution and Q IM and helping the Govt. to suppress it.

Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the call for the Q I M and boycotted it officially. V.D. Savarkar, President of the Hindu Mahasabha at that time,  even went to the extent of writing a letter titled Stick to your post. In this letter he instructed the members of Hindu mahasabha who were members of municipalities, local bodies, legislators or those serving in the army to stick to their post and not to join the QIM at any cost.

The leader of Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal, The Hinduthva Icon,  Shyama Prasad  Mukherji who was the Deputy Chief Minister in the  Hindu Mahasabha-Muslim League coalition government, wrote  a letter to the British masters on 26-July -1942 itself,  assuring their cooperation . We quote an important part of that letter:-

“ Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any wide spread movement launched by Congress . Anybody who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling ,resulting in internal disturbances or insecurity , must be resisted by any government that may function for the time being “

Dr. Shyamprasad Mukherji mentioned in his letter certain steps to be taken to deal with the movement in Bengal. Let me quote that part also:

“The question is how to combat this movement in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress this movement will fail to take root in the province”

The other flag bearer of Hindutva, the RSS, was not different in its attitude towards Quit India Movement.

In 1942, under M.S. Golwalkar, it refused to join in the Quit India Movement. The Bombay government appreciated the RSS position by noting that,”the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942″.

The British Government also asserted that at Sangh meetings organized during the times of anti-British movements started and fought by the Indian National Congress,”speakers urged the Sangh members to keep aloof from the congress movement and these instructions were generally observed”. The RSS head (sarsanghchalak) during that time, M.S. Golwalkar later stated that the RSS did not support the Quit India Movement. In Golwalkar’s words, “In 1942 also, there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too, the routine work of the Sangh continued. Sangh decided not to do anything directly. The British Government stated that the RSS was not at all supporting any civil disobedience against them, and as such their other political activities could be overlooked. The Home Department was thereby of the opinion that the RSS did not constitute a menace to law and order in British India. The Bombay government reported that the RSS had not, in any way, infringed upon government orders and had always shown a willingness to comply with the law. The same Bombay Government report further noted that in December 1940, orders had been issued to the provincial RSS leaders to desist from any activities that the British Government considered objectionable, and the RSS, in turn, had assured the British authorities that “it had no intentions of offending against the orders of the Government”. 

The RSS openly sided with its mentor  Veer Savarkar against this great revolt. It kept aloof from the QIM as it did in the entire freedom movement. The contemporary reports of British Intelligence Agencies on the QIM mentioned that  “The Sangh(RSS) scrupulously kept it self within the law, and in particular has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in Aug 1942” .There were reports that RSS leadership promised Govt. to encourage RSS members to join CIVIL GUARDS – a special a measure for internal security

These historical facts make it clear that Hindutva gang led by RSS not only   betrayed QIM but also rendered great service to the British imperialist’s masters by aligning with Muslim League when the people of this country  revolted against the British rulers. They together mounted one of the fiercest repressions on the freedom fighters. Shockingly, this gang is ruling India today, describing itself as a symbol of India Nationalism

Muslim League did not join QIM. On the other hand, it served the British rulers by remaining in the Central and Provincial Governments. As all Congress members in these Governments resigned, the number of Muslim League members in position, increased. Muslim League, running coalition governments with Hindutva forces like Hindu Mahasabha  in Sindh , Bengal and North-West frontier Provinces, took part in suppressing the QIM. Thus it supported and helped the British imperialist in committing repression and atrocities against the freedom fighters.

We should keep in mind, this unity of Muslim League and Hindutva forces in their naked and open service to the British Imperialist against the people o f this country, who were fighting for the Independence. There is no rivalry between them in favor of imperialism as against people.

There was some debate in the name of Communalism Vs Secularism in our country.  We should remember that, both the so called Communalist like  BJP and Muslim League and the so called secularist like Congress etc.  are both on the same pages in serving the imperialism and Feudalism and in implementing repressive and anti- people policies.


During World War II, Ambedkar continued to collaborate with the colonial power in exchange for concessions to Dalits and the working class at large. In July 1941, he joined the Defence Advisory Committee that had been set up by the viceroy to involve Indian leaders in the war effort and to give to this forced participation of India in the conflict a greater legitimacy. In 1942, he entered the executive council of the viceroy as labour member. In this capacity, he facilitated passage of some pro-Labor legislation. He also obtained a larger recruitment of Dalits in the army and, in particular, the reinstatement of the Mahar battalion.

However, Ambedkar, during WWII, had decided to cooperate with the British for another reason. Like Nehru, he thought that the Nazis, the Italian Fascists and Japan were more dangerous than the British. Opposing Mahatma Gandhi’s decision, in August 1942, to launch the Quit India Movement, he declared that the “patriotic duty of all Indians” was rather to prevent such movements from creating “anarchy and chaos which would unquestionably help and facilitate the subjugation of this country by Japan”.

 Ambedkar opposed Quit India Movement He thought that, Italian fascist and Japan were more dangerous than the British. He joined in DEFFENCE ADVISORY COMMITTEE & in Viceroye’s executive council during the QIM and thus served the British govt.  Ambedkar opposed QIM saying that ‘The patriotic duty of all Indians was rather to prevent such movements from creating anarchy and chaos which unquestionably facilitate the subjugation of this country to Japan.

Princely states  like Travancore ,Cochin , Maharashtra etc. supported the British imperialist Govt.

Subhas Bose is well known for his policy to join hands with the fascist camp so as to fight the British. It was a strategic blunder hoping for a dubious  tactical gain which however was destined to be failed. 

Jayaprakash  Narayan and the socialist camp, many in the CSP went underground and organized the movement. When Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement in August 1942, Yogendra Shukla scaled the wall of Hazaribagh Central Jail along with Jayaprakash Narayan, Suraj Narayan Singh, Gulab Chand Gupta, Pandit Ramnandan Mishra, Shaligram Singh and Shyam Barthwar, with a goal to start an underground movement for freedom.  Many young socialist leaders like Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, Chhotubhai Puranik, Aruna Asaf Ali, etc. took part in underground movement.


Communists who did not follow the official line of CPI   also  continued to be underground and carried on the class struggles combined with an anti-fascist campaign as in Kerala and Maharashtra etc. But it was in Telangana , the whole party, except for a minority, continued their anti-feudal, anti-imperialist, and class  struggles. It was thanks to the revolutionary trend represented by DV Rao and his comrades.   

The policies adopted by the then Communist Party of India in the period of anti Fascist war and towards the   Quit India Movement are the most important part of the history of this movement, to be reviewed by the Communists and the revolutionary forces of this country.

The significant feature of the policies and activities of the undivided CPI leadership during this period was open and naked class collaboration. These class- collaborationists policies and practices of the then CPI ,  are still being continued by the present ‘LEFT” parties mainly CPI, CPM. They are haunting the ‘Left’  movement even today.  In the name of internationalism even later on, they supported Soviet Union even when it had turned in to a Super power and a Social imperialist country. They forget revolution at home and speak of internationalism.

Despite the wrong line and wrong leadership, Revolutionary Communist forces and individual comrades played a revolutionary role, mainly in Telangana and also in  parts of Maharashtra, Bengal, and in Punnapra – Vayalar and Kayyur in Kerala. They had organized revolutionary class struggles, agrarian revolution/peasants struggle etc. They could overcome the STIGMA of BLUNDERS of Quit India period because of these glorious struggles of oppressed people. Communist revolutionaries of Telangana  led by DV Rao had played a basically different role distinct from the policies of the then central  Communist leadership.

The Then CPI Leadership wrongly decided that it should not participate in the anti British imperialist struggle of QIM, in order to oppose Fascism and to support the war against Fascism, as Soviet Russia was also there in that war. They could have continued their anti Fascist policy and activities while at the same time participating in the anti imperialist struggle of the people of this country. They need not have and should not have renounced the anti imperialist struggle to support anti fascist struggle of world people.

Revisionist and class collaborationist forces in the leadership of Communist party had gone to the extent of stopping the strikes of workers against industrial managements and of slowing down the revolutionary peasant movements etc. They told them instead, to produce more, to strengthen war efforts. This had caused a great damage to Communist movement and earned disrepute to the CPI,  among the people and nationalist and anti-imperialist forces. Communists became unpopular among the toiling millions of India. As E.M.S wrote in his book ; ‘They had to swim against the current ; being branded as “Betrayers” of national cause’.

In this connection, I draw your kind attention to what was said by Com. Devulapalli  Venkateswara Rao (who is well known as Com .D.V RAO),  who was a distinguished Communist Revolutionary leader,  famous for his unique role in Telangana (1946-51) Struggle, that saved the prestige of the Communists. In his famous work titled Peoples Democratic Revolution In India – An Explanation Of The Programme ,(PDR)  written and read out in a Special Court in 1971, he had clearly explained the policies of CPI leadership during QIM and their basis.(A relevant  extract  was published in this journal:  Pages From History : The Quit India Movement A Critical Appraisal on August 9, 2016 :

( A more detailed Review of communists’ role, with a view to take lessons for future,  will be dealt with in Part 2, to be continued.) 

Com ChSN Murthy was a worker, and workers’ leader  of Godavari Fertilizers, later renamed as Coramandel Fertilizers, based at Kakinada, the coastal town of Andhra Pradesh. He resigned his job in 1998, and has been a full-time activist as a communist revolutionary, and has been the General Secretary of FITU–Federation of Independent Trade Unions.He has been a functionary of UCCRI-ML founded by DV Rao and T. Nagi Reddy. He worked in several  trade unions of food processing industries like sugar, edible oils, rice mills,as also in transport sector, both PSU-APSRTC and private goods carriers, paper mills, ceramics, quarries. He has been associated with democratic rights movement, rural poor movement, India China Friendship Association   etc. He can be reached by email: [email protected]


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