August Offer

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Background A change of government took place in Britain in May 1940 and Winston Churchill became the prime minister (1940–45). The fall of France temporarily softened the attitude of Congress in India. Britain was in immediate danger of Nazi occupation. As the war was taking a menacing turn from the allied point of view congress offered to cooperate in the war if transfer of authority in India is done to an interim government. The government's response was a statement of the viceroy known as the August offer

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.

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. However, The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha on 21August 1940 rejected this 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.

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."

Individual Satyagraha 1940-41 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 Defense 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.

Significant modifications were made in the August Offer in 1942 in the form of Cripps Proposals.