Before we know why and when Britishers left India, we should know why and when Britishers came to India. Here is a brief note on when and why Great Britain came to India.
Indian rich history dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro 4000 years back. British came to India in Surat city of Gujarat on August 24, 1608. They came to India basically for trade. India was a rich country where three crops could be grown in a year which attracted them to trade with India. Britain initially traded in spice.
Later, they started trading in perfumes, cotton and textiles, silk, tea, and opium.
All the payments were made in ‘gold’. After being only into trade with India, Britain slowly started having their trade posts in India.
They had progressively financial power, better weapons, and a specific European certainty which enabled then to gradually saturate into the Indian subcontinent till it was administering the whole country.
The British Empire ruled India from the year 1757 to 1947.
When and why did Britain leave India?
There were widespread revolts and violence across the country who wanted to end the British rule in India and wanted their freedom from the outside power. Apart from many reasons that force the Britishers to leave India on account of the pathetic situation of the Indian nation under British rule, here are mentioned the six major reasons that led Britain to quit its operations in the country.
These reasons are:
Second World War
During the Second World War, when Hitler destroyed the economies of Britain and France to a large extent, the Indian National Congress, a national governing party in India, offered help to the British empire in the war with its men and arms but on a condition that India will fight only as an independent nation and that the British empire would allow India to have its constitution, its ruling members.
But Lord Linlithgow disagree with the offer and Indians refused to help Britishers to fight against foreign invasion in the country.
World war II brought Britain to a very bad financial status that it became difficult for them to maintain their military troops and fight the revolutionary movements going on in the country.
After Japan joined World War II on the side of Germany and Italy, Britain feared that Germany would attack India as well and finally in March 1942 agreed to the conditions of the Indian National Congress. After the second world war, Britain not only withdrew its operations from India but also other colonies like Jordan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and Malaysia.
Cripps’s mission was primarily brought to India to get India’s help by the British in case Japan attacks India. This mission offered India a free dominion state if it does so.
This mission offered the following provisions to Indians:
- India would be allowed to have its government and would be permitted to all rights and powers as any other British official was having. The participation of representative general’s Executive Council would be expanded,
- After the war ends, the Indian constitution would be formed for which a constituent assembly was proposed to be formed. Indian representatives would be allowed in the assembly in proportion to each Indian state.
- The rules laid down in the constitution would apply to the whole of India but in case any state or province denies its acceptance, that particular region would be allowed to have its constitution. The Constitution must agree to all the pledges given by the Britishers to the minorities in India.
- The members of the constituent assembly would be elected by the lower houses of the provincial assemblies.
- Indian defense would be under British control until the constitution was completely formed.
By the time when this mission came to India, India was divided into two major political parties, Congress and the Muslim League. While the Muslim League accepted the mission, the congress denied its acceptance since the mission does not grant complete independence to the Indian nation. Other political parties like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikhs also rejected the scheme on the same ground.
Finding other parties rejecting the mission’s proposal, the Muslim League also later rejected the scheme because it does not contain a provision of forming another nation of Pakistan by the Indian partition.
After the failure of the Cripps Mission and the Japanese troops reaching the Indian borders, British fears have increased.
It was at this time when British was advised by the Indian leader ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ on April 19, 1942, to leave India immediately and should not worry about Indian defense and should not take a risk as they did in the case of Singapore, Malaya, and Burma.
Indian National Army
After resigning from the Presidentship of the Congress, Subhash Chandra Bose formed a party called ‘Forward Block’. The party aimed to fight against British rule in India. In September 1939, after the second world war broke out, Subhash Chandra Bose appealed to the Indian nation not to offer any kind of help to the British government.
On July 27, 1940, he was imprisoned by the British government for the civil disobedience movement started by him. Later, due to his bad health, he was sent home under British supervision. On January 17, 1941, he went to many places like Germany, Moscow to get help but finally got all kind of assurance from the Japanese Prime Minister, Tojo.
Japan handed over the Indian war prisoners to Rash Behari Bose who later formed the ‘Indian National Army’ or ‘Azad Hind Fauj’. Later the INA was lead by Subhash Chandra Bose. Japan ensured Bose to help India to achieve its freedom from the British rule in its true sense. He later gave a battle cry, ‘Delhi Chalo’ (means move to Delhi) and declared war in India against British.
INA was gaining success in its operations but after the defeat of Japan, INA had to surrender to the allies. Subhash Chandra Bose later on August 23, 1945, died in a plane crash. But, INA and Subhash Chandra Bose brought the Indian condition to international politics from a mere domestic arrangement. Although the officers of the INA were given a trial at the Red Fort, to give a message to the whole nation, the Britishers themselves knew by that time that their rule won’t last long in India.
After the release of Gandhi on May 6, 1944, the governor-general and Viceroy lord Wavel proposed the formation of the National Government in India before forming the Indian Constitution.
The proposals made in Wavel plan were:
- To form an interim government with Indian leaders until the constitution was framed.
- An equal number of Hindus and Muslims should be the members of the Governor General’s Council.
- Except for the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army, all the members of the Governor General’s Council would be Indians.
- Indian defense would remain British responsibility till the transfer of powers.
A conference was held in Simla to discuss this plan but due to Jinnah’s firmness to have a separate state of Pakistan, the conference failed and no conclusions could be arrived at.
During the general elections in December 1945 and early 1946, Congress won both the Central legislature and the provincial legislature elections except in Bengal and Sind.
On January 28, 1946, Wavel declared the formation of a new Executive Council having Indian leaders, but at the same time, the officers of the Royal Indian Navy revolted before any steps were taken in this direction.
The revolt by the Royal Indian Navy
This revolt was started due to the low-quality food and low pay to the Indian officers compared to the British officers in the Royal Indian Navy. After representing this issue before the British government to which no actions were taken, the Indian officers in the Navy revolted.
On February 18, 1946, the officers of the Royal Indian Navy went on a fast protest against bad food, low pay, racial discrimination and insulting behavior of the British officers.
With the spread of this revolt to many of the naval ports, the Indian officers occupied some of the ports, hoisted the Indian flag on the ships removing the British flag and were ready for a war with the British.
In Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (now Mumbai), the British army bombarded the ships acquired by the Indian officers and the Indian officers in response made series of gunfire on the British army. This revolt led to spontaneous strikes and fights with the British officers all over the country.
On the request of ‘Sardar Ballavbhai Patel,’ the revolt came to an end and the revolutionaries were imprisoned but were released soon.
This revolt was a sign to the British that its rule in India has come towards its end.
On March 23, 1946, the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, sent three ministers to India to have some discussions with India for its constitutional reforms. This is known as the Cabinet Mission. These ministers rejected Jinnah’s proposal of a separate nation, Pakistan.
This led to widespread killings and violence in the country where thousands of men and women lost their lives on communal grounds.
After this, Lord Mountbatten declared the partition of the country and in July 1947, British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act and the transfer of powers to Indian leaders was declared to be made on August 15, 1947.
This was the day when India realized its full freedom and the Britishers soon took the final exit from the nation.