Defiance and Confrontation: The 1942 Quit India Movement in Midnapur
The 1942 Quit India movement is the last great nationalist campaign in colonial India. Despite the absence of the top Congress leadership, the movement assumed massive proportions to the extent of a civil rebellion. Not constrained by the lack of central leadership, the rebels had built a structure of the led and the leader which sprang up from within the region in which the local political leadership appropriated mass grievances to organise the last anti-British offensive. The movement which rose to prominence affecting the remotest corner of India, rapidly degenerated into the activities of a small group of the Congress nationalists who sustained its spirit almost till the end of 1944. The British drive to contain and suppress the upsurge attained dramatic success probably because of her military preparedness in the context of the second world war. Although the 1942 campaign was generally non-violent, the foreign ruler had employed fifty-seven battalion of troops to suppress the movement :
here lies a probable explanation as to why the movement which assumed the nature of a civil rebellion evaporated in a relatively short period.
The Quit India movement is a head-on collision between the nationalists and the British state which withered away in a number of areas where the movement continued most successfully even in the context of severe British counter offensive. During the movement, violent crowds attacked what seemed to them the symbols of British authority and power—police outposts, railway stations, railway and telegraph lines, dak bungalows, post offices and even post boxes, almost anything identified with the state. In the United Provinces, for instance, 104 railway stations and 250 other government buildings were destroyed or severely damaged and over 400 cases of destruction of telegraph and telephone communication were reported and yet only 16 police officers were killed. In some places, like Balia (United
Department of Political Science, Delhi University, Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 7-8, July-August 1992