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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Cripps' Mission to India

March 1942

Location: Delhi, India
Players: Sir Richard Stafford Cripps; Lord Linlithgow, India's Viceroy; and the Indian National Congress.
Outcome: The failure of the mission, division in the Indian National Congress and the development of the 'Quit India' movement.

Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit J. Nehru during the All India Congress Committee Session, 1942, when the 'Quit India' resolution was adopted
Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit J. Nehru during the All India Congress Committee Session, 1942, when the 'Quit India' resolution was adopted©
Stafford Cripps was sent to India in March 1942 with a brief to win the co-operation of Indian political groups. Under imperial rule the majority of India was bound to support the Allies when war broke out, and many Indians sympathised with the war effort. But India's Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, made the mistake of declaring India at war with Germany without consulting Indian leaders.

This divided the Indian National Congress. Pacifists, such as Gandhi, directly opposed India's participation in the war. Others saw co-operation with the British as leverage in negotiations for independence.

Roosevelt's administration had wanted to put an end to imperial power with the Atlantic Charter (August 1941), but Churchill had resisted. Then, with the fall of Singapore and Rangoon to Japan, the British in India were under threat and Churchill had to act accordingly.

Cripps delivered a promise of a new constitution for India with an electoral body (effectively offering independence after the war), along with immediate participation in the viceroy's Executive Council.

But his mission reached a stalemate: the Indians wanted authority in military strategy (which Cripps refused to concede) and the question of the viceroy and a cabinet-style government could not be agreed upon.

The Raj became further isolated and the 'Quit India' movement was established. Gandhi proposed that the British leave, thus reducing the likelihood of a Japanese invasion, while Allied troops remain in India's defence.

Cripps' mission ended with recriminations. He and Churchill were not close allies and Cripps resigned. But despite their differences, Churchill did not want to lose such a valuable minister and he persuaded Cripps to oversee aircraft production, which he did until the end of the war.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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