Indian Nationalist Response to World War II

Arora IAS Class Notes

Congress Crisis Post Civil Disobedience Movement

  • Disarray and Corruption within Congress: Gandhi observed rising corruption and indiscipline within the organization post the civil disobedience movement.
  • Petty Squabbles and Rivalries: Internal rivalries and petty disputes among Congress leaders emerged.
  • Issues of Membership and Control: Concerns over bogus memberships and unethical means employed to control Congress committees surfaced.
  • Gandhi’s Call for Order: Gandhi advocated putting the Congress’ house in order before launching any new movement, emphasizing the need to address internal issues.


Diverging Views on Method of Struggle:

  • Subhash Chandra Bose’s Radical Stance: Bose, with Nehru, opposed the Motilal Nehru Report and advocated for full independence instead of dominion status.
  • Formation of Independence League: Bose formed the Independence League to push for complete independence.
  • Endorsement of Poorna Swaraj: Fully endorsed the Lahore Congress session’s resolution for complete independence.


Haripura Session (1938):

  • Bose’s Election as President: Bose was unanimously elected as the president of the Haripura session.
  • Revolutionary Potential of Congress Ministries: Bose believed Congress ministries in provinces had revolutionary potential.
  • Emphasis on Economic Development: Advocated economic development through planning and set up the National Planning Committee.
  • Resolution on Support for Agitators: Congress pledged moral support to those agitating against princely states’ governance.


1939: Subhash Bose’s Re-Election and Internal Strife:

  • Bose’s Candidature and Gandhi’s Disapproval: Gandhi was displeased with Bose’s candidacy for the president’s post in 1939.
  • Bose’s Victory: Bose won the election against Pattabhi Sitaramayya with 1580 votes.
  • Polarization within Congress: Bose’s victory led to polarization based on ideology and method of future struggle.


Tripuri Session (1939):

  • Clear Polarization: Polarization within Congress was evident during the Tripuri session.
  • Bose’s Accusations Against Working Committee: Bose accused the working committee leaders of compromising with the government on federation matters.
  • Bose’s Ultimatum Proposal: Advocated giving Britain a six-month ultimatum for independence and launching a mass civil disobedience movement if rejected.
  • Gandhi’s Contrary Stance: Gandhi believed neither Congress nor the masses were ready for such a struggle.
  • Resolution for Gandhian Policies: A resolution reaffirming faith in Gandhian policies was passed without opposition, but Bose refused to nominate a new working committee.


Bose’s Resignation and Formation of Forward Bloc:

  • Bose’s Resignation: Resigned from the president’s post in April 1939 due to ideological differences.
  • Formation of Forward Bloc: Formed Forward Bloc within Congress, but disciplinary action was taken against him for protesting AICC resolution.

International Solidarity: Tripuri session passed a resolution expressing solidarity with China in its struggle against imperialism and sent a Medical Mission to aid China.


Gandhi vs. Bose: Ideological Differences

Respect Despite Differences

  • Gandhi called Bose the “Prince among Patriots” (respect for bravery & patriotism)
  • Bose called Gandhi “The Father of Our Nation” (acknowledged Gandhi’s role)

Shared Ideals

  • Both believed in socialist principles (economic fairness)
  • Both opposed untouchability and advocated for women’s rights (social reforms)

Path to Freedom

  • Gandhi: Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha (nonviolent resistance)
  • Bose: Violent resistance to overthrow British rule (criticized Gandhi’s approach)

Means and Ends

  • Bose: Focused on results, willing to work with Axis powers (Germany & Japan) for strategic advantage.
  • Gandhi: Emphasized moral means, rejected alliances with oppressive regimes.

Pragmatism vs. Idealism

  • Bose: Pragmatic approach, saw alliances as a tool.
  • Gandhi: Idealistic, stressed moral purity in methods and goals.

Mutual Recognition

  • Bose: Recognized Gandhi’s methods in uniting Indians and resisting British rule.
  • Gandhi: Respected Bose’s dedication to independence, despite disagreements.


Bose: Form of Government

Shifting Views

  • Initially favored democracy, later saw authoritarianism as effective for nation-building.
  • Advocated a socialist state for economic reforms.

Unique Socialism

  • Proposed “samyavada,” a blend of socialism and fascism (efficiency & social justice).
  • Admired discipline in Fascist regimes, but rejected their ideologies.

Leftist Nationalism

  • Identified as a socialist, distinct from communism.
  • Prioritized nationalism over internationalism and adapted Marxism for India.

Post-Independence Vision

  • Envisioned a socialist India based on liberty, democracy, and socialism.


Gandhi: Form of Government

Swaraj and Decentralization

  • Emphasized self-rule (Swaraj) and village-level community building.
  • Advocated for decentralized political and economic power.

Stateless Idealism

  • Envisioned a stateless society with self-governed individuals based on morality.
  • Proposed a loose network of independent village republics (anarchist influence).

Morality in Democracy

  • Stressed moral values in democracy, focusing on duties over rights.
  • Believed high moral character fosters responsibility, crucial for democratic governance.

Critique of Representative Systems

  • Criticized party systems and representative democracy, preferring minimal government.
  • Opposed excessive centralization, believing it hinders progress and individuality.

Ancient Indian Influence

  • Inspired by historical Indian governance models, aiming to revive village republics.
  • Proposed a panchayat system with elected village representatives for local self-government.


Bose vs. Gandhi: Political and Economic Views

Subhas Chandra Bose

Form of Government:

  • Shifted Views:Initially favored democracy but later leaned towards authoritarian rule for efficient nation-building with socialist reforms.
  • Unique System:Proposed ‘samyavada,’ a blend of socialism and fascism, emphasizing social justice and efficiency.
  • Nationalist Socialist:Identified as a socialist but distinct from communism. Prioritized nationalism over internationalism and adapted Marxism for India.
  • Post-Independence Vision:Envisioned a socialist transformation of India built on liberty, democracy, and socialist principles.


  • Military Admiration:Deeply respected military discipline and had basic military training.
  • Focus on Discipline:Advocated for a disciplined approach, forming an honor guard at a Congress session (opposed by Gandhi).

Mohandas Gandhi

Form of Government:

  • Swaraj and Decentralization:Emphasized self-rule and community building at the village level. Advocated for decentralized political and economic power.
  • Stateless Ideal:Envisioned a stateless society with self-governance based on morality and responsibility. Proposed a loose network of village republics, reflecting anarchist principles.
  • Moral Democracy:Stressed the importance of morality in a democracy, focusing on duties over rights. Believed high moral values fostered responsibility for democratic governance.
  • Critique of Representative Democracy:Criticized party systems and representative democracy, advocating for minimal government intervention. Believed excessive centralization hindered progress.
  • Ancient Indian Influence:Inspired by ancient Indian governance models, aiming to revive village republics as autonomous units. Proposed a panchayat system for local self-government.


  • Non-violent Resistance:Opposed militarism and favored peace over war. Emphasized truth, nonviolence, and self-regulation.
  • Causes of War:Believed war resulted in societal demoralization and brutality. Cited racialism, imperialism, fascism, and economic inequality as causes of war.



Mohandas Gandhi

  • Decentralized Economy:Advocated for a decentralized economy, free from state control, rejecting capitalism and Western socialism.
  • Village Economy:Promoted village self-sufficiency through small-scale cooperative organizations and the concept of Sarvodaya, where production and consumption were localized.
  • Critique of Industrialization:Opposed large-scale industrialization and labor-saving machinery, fearing unemployment and exploitation.
  • Trusteeship:Proposed a system where capitalists would share wealth for societal well-being and achieve economic equality.

Subhas Chandra Bose

  • Economic Freedom:Believed economic freedom was crucial for social and political freedom. Advocated for modernization through industrialization.
  • State-controlled Development:Impressed by the Soviet Union’s rapid industrialization, Bose called for state control of industries to address unemployment and improve living standards.
  • Mixed Economy:Envisioned a combination of heavy, medium, and cottage industries, recognizing the importance of both large-scale and small-scale production for national development.


  • Mahatma Gandhi
    • Believed religion is a unifying force, not divisive.
    • Advocated for freedom of religion and a state with religious foundation.
    • Viewed all religions as paths to the same truth (love and truth).
  • Subhas Chandra Bose
    • Inspired by Hinduism but advocated secularism.
    • Believed in a neutral state with freedom of religion.
    • Used Hindu symbols for motivation but had a multi-religious army (Azad Hind Fauj).

Caste System

  • Mahatma Gandhi
    • Aimed to eradicate untouchability, calling it a barrier to progress.
    • Believed in the Varna system (hereditary professions) for social harmony.
  • Subhas Chandra Bose
    • Rejected caste system entirely, favoring a classless and egalitarian society.
    • Advocated for inter-caste marriage and upliftment of the downtrodden.


Impact on Women: Gandhi vs. Bose

Mahatma Gandhi:

  • Empowerment:Encouraged women to join the freedom struggle and challenged restrictive practices like purdah.
  • Equality:Advocated for gender equality and respect for women, despite traditional views on their roles.
  • Women in Society:Saw women as homemakers and nurturers but didn’t address domestic abuse publicly, emphasizing women’s inner strength.

Subhas Chandra Bose:

  • Equal Participation:Believed in women’s equal role in the struggle, forming the Rani of Jhansi Regiment in the INA.
  • Women’s Rights:Campaigned for women’s emancipation from social restrictions and supported education, training, and legal awareness.
  • Institutional Support:Established a women’s planning commission (1938) to address their role in India’s planned economy.
  • Radical Views:Advocated for women in combat roles (INA), a concept considered radical for his time.

Gandhian Education Philosophy (Pre-1947)

  • Opposition to British System:
  • Opposed English-medium education and advocated vernacular languages.
  • Free & Compulsory Education:Advocated free and compulsory education for all children (7-14 years).
  • Holistic Development:Education should encompass physical training, moral development, and intellectual growth.
  • Education vs. Literacy:Distinguished between rote learning and true education, emphasizing wisdom over mere knowledge.
  • Spiritual Path:Education should lead to self-realization and spiritual enlightenment, not just career advancement.
  • Nai Talim (1937):Advocated for “Basic Education” with a focus on:
    • Freedom from Ignorance:Eradicate illiteracy, superstition, and limiting social norms.
    • Holistic Training:Combine academics with purposeful manual labor (crafts, art, drawing).
    • Vocational Education:Empower villages through self-sufficiency and skilled workforce.

Second World War and Indian Nationalism (1939)

British Involvement in War:

  • September 1, 1939: Germany invaded Poland, triggering World War II.
  • September 3, 1939: Britain declared war on Germany, automatically including India without consulting Indian leaders.

Congress Response:

  • Conditional Support Offered:Congress opposed British unilateral action but offered conditional support.
  • Conditions:
    • Post-war convention to decide an independent India’s political structure.
    • Immediate establishment of a responsible central government in India.
  • Justification:Winning public support for the war effort.
  • Linlithgow’s Rejection:Viceroy Linlithgow rejected Congress’ offer.


Internal Congress Debate (Wardha CWC Meeting)

  • Gandhi’s Position (Unconditional Support):
    • Opposed fascism and supported the Allied powers due to his dislike of Nazi ideology.
    • Advocated for unconditional support to Britain during the war.
  • Socialist View (Subhas Bose & Others):
    • Opposed both sides as imperialist powers fighting for colonies.
    • Advocated for a civil disobedience movement to leverage the situation for Indian independence.
  • Nehru’s View (Conditional Support):
    • Recognized the difference between democratic and fascist values.
    • Believed Britain and France were hypocritical imperialists.
    • Advocated no Indian participation until India’s freedom was achieved.
    • Opposed immediate civil disobedience to avoid exploiting Britain’s weakness.
  • Outcome:
  • Gandhi’s view was largely isolated.
  • Congress adopted Nehru’s position, condemning fascist aggression.
  • The resolution demanded:
    • End to British imperialism in India.
    • Establishment of full democracy in India.
    • Clarification of war aims and their application to post-war India.
  • Congress leadership aimed to give the British government a chance to respond positively.


British Government Response (October 1939)

  • Negative Response:Viceroy Linlithgow rejected Congress demands.
  • Key Points of Response:
    • Refused to clarify war aims beyond “resisting aggression.”
    • Promised to consult various parties after the war, including princes.
    • Established a “consultative committee” to advise the government.


British Hidden Agenda

  • Exploiting the War:Aimed to regain control over Congress by provoking a confrontation.
  • Pre-war Measures:
    • Acquired emergency powers to control provinces.
    • Enforced Defence of India Ordinance to restrict civil liberties.
    • Drafted a secret ordinance to target the Congress movement.
  • Support from British Leadership:Prime Minister Churchill and Secretary of State Zetland backed Linlithgow’s policies.
  • Branding Congress:Labeled Congress as a “purely Hindu organisation” to garner international sympathy.


Congress Response (October 1939)

  • CWC Meeting (October 23rd):
    • Rejected Viceroy’s statement as imperialist.
    • Decided to withdraw support for the war effort.
    • Instructed Congress ministries in provinces to resign.

Debate on Mass Satyagraha

  • Gandhi’s Position (Against Immediate Action):
    • Believed the Allied cause was just.
    • Feared communal riots due to Hindu-Muslim tensions.
    • Advocated strengthening Congress and exhausting negotiation options before struggle.


Congress Resolutions (1939-1940)

  • Allahabad (November 1939):
    • Declared war to be imperialist with Britain seeking to maintain its control over India.
    • Demanded recognition of India’s independence and a constituent assembly.
  • Ramgarh (March 1940):
    • Agreed on the need for struggle but debated its form and timing (left to Gandhi).
    • Gandhi favored continued non-violent cooperation at the provincial level.
    • Nehru insisted on complete independence as a precondition for supporting the war.
    • Subhas Bose advocated forceful direct action against the British.
    • The Congress declared complete independence as the only acceptable goal.

Muslim League Resolution (Lahore – March 1940)

  • Called for the creation of independent Muslim states in areas with Muslim majorities.


The August Offer (August 1940)


  • Britain’s weakened position in WWII led to a more conciliatory approach towards India.

The Offer:

  • Viceroy Linlithgow proposed:
    • Dominion status for India as a post-war goal.
    • Expansion of the Viceroy’s Executive Council with an Indian majority.
    • A post-war constituent assembly, led by Indians, to draft a constitution (with some limitations on power).
    • No future constitution without minority consent.


  • Congress:Rejected the offer.
    • Nehru: “Dominion status concept is dead.”
    • Gandhi: Offer widened the gap between nationalists and British.
  • Muslim League:Welcomed the offer, especially the minority veto power.


  • First recognition of Indian right to frame their own constitution.
  • Dominion status formally offered.

Follow-up (July 1941):

  • Viceroy’s Council expanded to give Indians a majority (8 out of 12 members).
  • National Defence Council established with only advisory functions.
  • British retained control over defense, finance, and home affairs.


Individual Satyagraha (1940-1941)


  • Government refused concessions, cracked down on civil liberties.
  • Congress sought renewed leadership from Gandhi.


  • Demonstrate nationalist resolve.
  • Protest against war and British rule.
  • Pressure government for concessions peacefully.


  • Limited, individual civil disobedience by select people.
  • Demand: Freedom of speech to oppose the war.
  • Action: Public anti-war declaration.
  • Response: Arrest or escalation with “Delhi Chalo” movement (march to Delhi).

Key Figures:

  • Vinoba Bhave (First Satyagrahi)
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Second Satyagrahi)


  • By May 1941, 25,000 arrested for civil disobedience.


Gandhi Chooses Nehru as Successor (1941)


  • Released Congress leaders (Dec. 1941) wanted to aid Allies against Japan.
  • Congress offered war cooperation for post-war independence and immediate power transfer.

Gandhi’s Choice:

  • Despite differences in views (religion, modernity, industrialization), Gandhi designated Nehru as his successor.


Reasons for Choosing Nehru:

  • Shared Values:
    • Patriotism for a unified India.
    • Commitment to non-violence and democracy.
  • Nehru’s Qualities:
    • Respected by Muslims and across regions.
    • Embodied a “pluralist, inclusive India.”
    • Offered hope for a prosperous and peaceful society.

Alternatives Considered (by Rajmohan Gandhi):

  • Patel, Rajaji, Azad, Kripalani, Rajendra Prasad: Seen as having sectional interests.


Cripps Mission (March 1942)


  • Sent by British in response to Japanese threats and losses in Southeast Asia.
  • Led by Stafford Cripps (Labour Party)


  • Secure Indian support for WWII due to Japanese threat.
  • Address Indian demands for self-rule (pressured by Allies).


  • Dominion status for an Indian Union (independent in Commonwealth).
  • Post-war constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.
  • Provinces could form separate unions and negotiate minority treaties.
  • British control defense during the war (Governor General retains power).

Key Points:

  • First concrete plan for Indian constitution-making.
  • Introduced idea of partition with provincial secession rights.
  • Offered India the option to leave the Commonwealth.

Reasons for Failure:

  • Congress rejected dominion status, princely involvement, and lack of immediate power transfer.
  • Muslim League opposed a united India and the constituent assembly structure.
  • Concerns from various groups about unity, minorities, and regional implications.
  • Doubts about British sincerity and Cripps’ limited negotiating room.
  • Disagreements over details (viceroy’s veto, treaty interpretations).


  • Talks collapsed. Gandhi called proposals a “post-dated cheque.”
  • Mission fueled anti-colonial sentiment and highlighted challenges to Indian independence.




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