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Sudhir Chandra Mathur

QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT: BRITISH SECRET REPORT
Edited by P.N. Chopra
Thomson Press, 1976, 407, 80.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 4 July-August 1977

The book under review is a reprint, with a short editorial introduction, of Wickenden's Report on the Disturbances of 1942-43. This secret document from the old files of the British Government has been published for the first time, since this 'important' document, accor­ding to the editor ‘remains unutilized by scholars and historians of Indian Free­dom struggle’. The document, it is claimed would help the historians to assess the importance of the Quit India movement which presents, ‘perhaps the most important phase of India's struggle for freedom’, and its ‘impact on the future events’. T. Wickenden, I.C.S., a Judge in the Central Provinces was asked to prepare a report on the causes, and the responsi­bility for the disturbances which com­menced with the arrest of the leaders on 9 August 1942 by the Government of India. Unlike the earlier report entitled Congress Responsibility for the Disturban­ces of 1942-43, this report was based on the intelligence reports, interrogation of leaders of the movement, intercepted letters of prominent persons, speeches of Congress leaders and other circumstantial evidence. The prime motive was to assess the advisability of prosecuting the Congress leaders. The idea was later dropped, as Wickenden himself thought the evidence to be utterly inadequate, that an open trial would create a world-wide interest and stir the popular feelings and that the machinery for trying such cases was defective. The 109 page Report with appended evidence used in the report was submitted on 29 November 1943, and the conclusions arrived at by him were endorsed by the British autho­rities in London, though not liked by the bureaucracy in India including Sir R. Tottenham, Additional Secretary, Home Department, Government of India. Wickenden has dealt with the charac­ter of the movement, the time factor, Gandhi and nonviolence programme, planning, central direction, motives, course of events, and has given his conclu­sions. He holds Gandhi and the Congress primarily responsible for the movement. It was Gandhi who initiated the concep­tion of immediate withdrawal of British from India. The unsuccessful individual satyagraha which was withdrawn by the Congress at Bardoli in December 1941 and the subsequent resignation of Gandhi from the Congress, the failure of the Cripps Mission which clarified that the British were not ready to give indepen­dence and flouted even the Congress offer of participation in war efforts, the growing danger and the question of Pakistan (which even met with approval ...


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