When the Second World War broke out in 1939, the Congress attitude was one of sympathy, though it refused unconditional cooperation. The Congress demanded that “India must be declared an independent union, and present application must be given to this status to the largest possible extent”. The British did not agree and as a result all the ministries resigned in protest in 1939.
A demand for Provisional National Government at the Centre was made at the instance of C. Rajagopalachari in 1940. It was turned down by the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow. In October, 1940 was launched the Civil Disobedience Campaign. Acharya Vinoba Bhave was the first to offer individual Satyagraha.
All India Committee of the Cabinet, with Attlee as Chairperson, was set up and a draft declaration was made. In March, 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with the draft declaration. It stated the British Government’s desire to grant India ‘Dominion Status’ at the end of the war. Complete Independence was not promised.
There was no mention of a national government of the Indian people. The Congress rejected the offer. The Muslim League, opposed to the creation of a single union, found the scheme unacceptable, as it did not unequivocally concede Pakistan. The Cripps Mission failed.
The struggle for independence was carried on by Subhash Chandra Bose from abroad. He found the outbreak of the Second World War to be a convenient opportunity to strike a blow for the freedom of India. Bose had been put under house arrest in 1940 but he managed to escape to Berlin on March 28, 1941. The Indian community there acclaimed him as the leader (Netaji). He was greeted with ‘Jai Hind’ (Salute to the motherland). He tried to raise an Indian army and urge his country people to rise in arms against the British.
In 1942, the Indian Independence League was formed and a decision was taken to form the Indian National Army (INA) for the liberation of India. On an invitation from Ras Bihari Bose, Subhash Chandra Bose came to East Asia on June 13, 1943. He was made president of the Indian Independence League and the leader of the INA popularly called ‘Azad Hind Fauj’.
He gave the famous battle cry ‘Chalo Dilli’. He promised independence to Indians saying, ‘tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe Azadi dunga’ (You give me blood, I will give you freedom). In March 1944, the Indian flag was hoisted at Kohima.
Unfortunately, after that the movement collapsed. What happened to Netaji remains a mystery. It is said that he lost his life in an air crash in August 1945. But it could not be ascertained. The INA continued to occupy an honored place in India’s freedom struggle. The intense patriotism of Bose and the soldiers of the INA proved a tremendous source of inspiration for the Indian people.