August Offer

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The August Offer was a proposal made by the British government in 1940 promising the expansion of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India to include more Indians, the establishment of an advisory war council, giving full weight to minority opinion, and the recognition of Indians' right to frame their own constitution (after the end of the war). In return, it was hoped that all parties and communities in India would cooperate in Britain's efforts in World War II.

Preface[edit]

A change of government took place in Britain on May 1940 when Winston Churchill became the prime minister (1940–45). In addition, the fall of France saw the softening of the attitude of the Indian National Congress in India regarding its demands. Britain was in immediate danger of Nazi occupation, and as the war was taking a menacing turn from the allied point of view, congress offered to cooperate in the war if a transfer of authority in India was made to an interim government. The British government's response to these demands was a statement delivered by the then Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, known as the August Offer.[1]

The August Offer[edit]

On 8 August 1940, early in the Battle of Britain, the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, made the so-called "August Offer", a fresh proposal promising the expansion of the Executive Council to include more Indians, the establishment of an advisory war council, giving full weight to minority opinion, and the recognition of Indians' right to frame their own constitution (after the end of the war). In return, it was hoped that all parties and communities in India would cooperate in Britain's war effort.[2]

Linlithgow attempted to solve the Congress-Raj stalemate over popular control of India’s defense. Linlithgow prefaced his proposal by re-iterating that the differences in ideologies that separate the All India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress must be bridged before any significant constitutional settlement is made. Nevertheless, the viceroy announces that the British government is now willing to move forward with governmental changes that will “associate Indian public opinion with the conduct of the war.”[3]

Linlithgow was authorized to admit a limited number of Indian politicians to his executive council and to establish a war advisory council that included Princes, politicians and other interests in the national life of India. However, Linlithgow warned the politicians that his proposal does not imply that there would be any revision of the Government of India Act.[4]

The declaration marked an important advance over the existing state of things, as it recognised at least the natural and inherent right of the people of the country to determine the form of their future constitution, and explicitly promised dominion status.

The following proposals were put in:

  1. After the war a representative Indian body would be set up to frame a constitution for India.
  2. Viceroy's Executive Council would be expanded without delay.
  3. The minorities were assured that the government would not transfer power "to any system of government whose authority is directly denied by large and powerful elements in Indian national life."[5][6]

Political Reception[edit]

The Congress did not trust the good intentions of the British government. Consequently, Linlithgow accounted that the British government “could not contemplate the transfer of their present responsibilities for the peace and tranquility of India to any system of Government whose authority is directly denied by large and power elements in the India’s national life.” Moreover, as the British Empire was pre-engaged in their war against the Germans totalitarianism, the period was not propitious for addressing congressional issues in India. Therefore, Linlithgow stated that the constitutional future of India could be resolved in the future once the war was over by establishing a constituent assembly that was representative of the principal elements in India’s national life.[7]

The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha on 21st August 1940 eventually rejected the offer, and asserted its demand for complete freedom from the imperial power. Gandhi viewed it as having widened the gulf between Nationalist India and the British ruler. It was also rejected by Muslim League. The Muslim League asserted that it would not be satisfied by anything short of partition of India.[8]

Individual Satyagraha 1940-41[edit]

The Congress was in a confused state again after the August Offer. The radicals and leftists wanted to launch a mass Civil Disobedience Movement, but here Gandhi insisted on Individual Satyagraha. The Individual Satyagraha was not to seek independence but to affirm the right of speech. The other reason of this Satyagraha was that a mass movement may turn violent and he would not like to see the Great Britain embarrassed by such a situation. This view was conveyed to Lord Linlithgow by Gandhi when he met him on 27 September 1940. The non-violence was set as the centerpiece of Individual Satyagraha. This was done by carefully selecting the Satyagrahis. The first Satyagrahi selected was Acharya Vinoba Bhave, who was sent to Jail when he spoke against the war. Second Satyagrahi was Jawahar Lal Nehru. Third was Brahma Datt, one of the inmates of the Gandhi's Ashram. They all were sent to jails for violating the Defence of India Act. This was followed by a lot of other people. But since it was not a mass movement, it attracted little enthusiasm and in December 1940, Gandhi suspended the movement. The campaign started again in January 1941, this time, thousands of people joined and around 20 thousand people were arrested.second turn was different in nature.it was more or less like people movement. Significant modifications were made in the August Offer in 1942 in the form of Cripps Proposals.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Modern India, 1707 A. D. to 2000 A. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 281-283
  2. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Modern India, 1707 A. D. to 2000 A. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 281-283
  3. ^ N. Jayapalan (2001). History Of India from National Movement To Present Day. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 55-61
  4. ^ Robin J. Moore, ‘Hope, Victor Alexander John, second marquess of Linlithgow (1887–1952)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011
  5. ^ Kuracina, William (2010). The State and Governance in India: The Congress Ideal. Routledge. pp. 147-148.
  6. ^ Steinberg, David. "August Offer". 
  7. ^ Moore, R. J. Churchill, Cripps and India (Oxford) 1979 chapters 3-5
  8. ^ Moore, R. J. Churchill, Cripps and India (Oxford) 1979 chapters 3-5
  9. ^ Shyam Ratna Gupta (1972). New Light on the Cripps Mission, India Quarterly, 28:1, pp 69-74.

Further reading[edit]