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Misreading of Cripps Mission


Bipan Chandra

CHURCHILL, CRIPPS, AND INDIA: 1939-1945
By R.J. Moore
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1979, pp. 152, Rs. 110.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 2 September/October 1980

In his latest book, R.J. Moore traces the complicated course of the war-time efforts of Stafford Cripps to bring the Indian leaders into the Government and thereby behind the war effort. He brings out ably the obstruction of these efforts by Churchill, the Prime Minister, Amery, the Secretary of State, and Linlithgow, the Viceroy, and shows how in view of their hostility towards the Congress, and their firm commitment to the perpetua­tion of the empire after the war, the Cripps Mission, had perhaps little chance' of success from the beginning. Cripps had built up a reputation in India as a supporter of India's cause during the late 1930s. In October 1939 he had advised Nehru not to accept any­thing short of ‘action which proves conclusively the faith behind words’ and suggested that Congress should ‘stand as firm as a rock upon its demands’. His brief visit to India at the end of 1939 had further strengthened this reputation. During the first two years of the war the British Government was not interest­ed in arriving at a political settlement with the nationalist forces in India. The situation changed dramatically with Japanese invasion of South-East Asia, the entry of the USA in the war, and the Japanese push towards Burma and east­ern India. The Labour Party in Britain and the US Government began to pres­surize for a settlement with the Indian leaders so that Indian resources in men and material could be fully utilized in the war. Churchill and other die-hards were not convinced but they found it difficult to withstand the dual pressure combined as it was with the resurgence of anti-­imperialist sentiments in India. The result was the Mission headed by the man who had behind him, a reputation in India which was a major political asset, and his undoubted political stature and ability to undertake the task successfully. Moore traces the tangled web of political discussions and manoeuvrings through which the declaration carried by Cripps to India was drafted. The decla­ration, known as the Cripps Offer, promised Indians some sort of dominion­hood whose constitution Indians would be able to draw after the war; it virtually accepted the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan by promising that any pro­vince that wanted to keep out of the dominion would be able to do so; it gave the princes an important role in the constitution-making ...


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