The impact of war on India and Britain

by Ben Alford

During September 1939, the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, single handedly announced that India had declared war on Nazi Germany without consulting a single member the Indian Assembly.

How did the Muslim League react to war?

• War broke out in 1939, and the Muslim League backed Britain’s decision for war on Nazi Germany and supported the British government throughout. Jinnah took the opportunity to press forward his idea for a separate Muslim state.

• In early March 1940 Jinnah spoke out of a Muslim state for the first time, dubbed
Pakistan, which meant ‘Land of the Pure’ and was also an acronym of the four provinces of north-west India.

• Jinnah manipulated this situation as a means of gaining the support of the British. The Muslim League also increased its membership to about 2,000,000+.

How did Congress react?

• In Mid September 1939 Gandhi suggested to the British government to negotiate with Adolf Hitler and to use peaceful methods instead of war.

• Nehru had just returned from a trip to Europe and believed that India should support Britain in the fight against Fascism, but should do it out of there own free choice.

• Congress decided to supported Nehru, but was angry about the Viceroy’s proclamation that India was at war without any consultation of any Indian’s opinion. In protest to the Viceroy’s actions Congress state governments resigned.

• In early July 1940 Congress suggested that a National Government should be set up to be a reward for Indian support during the war.

• The Viceroy failed to give a satisfactory reply, so Congress decided to recommence the civil disobedience campaigns. Nehru and almost 1700 other leading members of Congress were arrested by the British in 1940..


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