August Offer & Cripps Mission: Overview, Objectives & Failure (1940-1942)



August Offer 1940 and Cripps Mission 1942 are considered landmark colonial proposals because they accepted the long-time national demands of “DOMINION STATUS” & “FORMATION OF CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY” for India but still proved to be a failure because of the ideological maturity of nationalist struggle and national demands. The present article contextualizes and conceptualizes “August Offer” and “Cripps Mission” for simplifying it for readers, so stay tuned and keep reading.


Cripps Mission

 The year 1939 witnessed a new phase of the struggle for capitalist domination over the globe. From the excruciating “Italian incursion of Ethiopia” (1935), ” Japanese invasion of China” (1937), “Spanish Civil War” (1936-1939) and “Soviet-Japanese border conflicts“, the Great Second World War had made ominous indications in the world but on 1 September 1939, when the Germans attacked Poland on a false pretext, the war started. In no time, the seismic waves of this global war trembled Indian subcontinent and leaders like Gandhi, Bose and Nehru etc. who were industriously functioning for attaining the ” Poorna-Swaraj” for India.  Two days after the onset of this global tension, the British colonial government of India unilaterally declared Indian support to this war without considering the opinion of Indians.

Distressed Congressmen cited two demands to the colonizers for guaranteeing the enthusiastic Indian participation in the war, which are as follows: 

  1. Immediately, the British Imperial Government have to establish a responsible government at the centre.
  2. Soon after the war, the British Imperial Government have to recruit a Constituent Assembly who would clarify the political structure of independent India.

Like always, Viceroy Linlithgow repudiated these proposals and like always, the non-violent Congressmen passed a resolution for interrogating the colonial administration. On 14 September 1939, Congress equivocally challenged Britain for revealing their objectives for taking part in this global war and if they are functioning for authenticating democracy in nations, it should be rationalized by the implementation of full political freedom and democracy in their colonies and eradication of colonialism.

To this, Linlithgow smartly answered on 14 October 1939 that dominion status that had been the prime target of Indian nationalists would be showered upon them after the war by making amendments in the Government of India Act 1935 on consultation with representatives of minorities, princely states and political parties and instantly, the government will establish a consultative advisory body but he diplomatically ignored the question of democracy and freedom in colonies. As a reaction to frustration caused by this Viceregal statement, Congress decided not to endorse war and collectively resigned from provincial legislatures on 22 December 1939 that was celebrated as “Day of Deliverance” by the Muslim League under Jinnah. 


From varied perspectives, it could be analyzed that the political opinions of nationals towards Second World War were bewildering and diverse- for Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, Indians should support Britain in the violent war against Nazism on a non-violent basis but for Subhash Chandra Bose, Indians shouldn’t plead for political emancipation anymore but immediately launch a mass-action during this war for accomplishing it. From the visions of Nehru and Ambedkar, the political support of Nazi Germany and fascist Italians could be dangerous and therefore, the former abstained from Indian participation in war and the latter supported the war favouring Britain in exchange for concessions for Dalits and the working class. 

Amidst such political friction, Indian National Congress approved the resolution in March 1940 asserting that India wouldn’t approve of anything less than “Poorna-Swaraj.” On 23 March 1940, Muslim League in Lahore Session proposed for the geographical description of Pakistan on the Indian map as a sovereign state for Muslims where they are in majority and adequate political safeguards where they are in minority and thereby expounding two-nation theory.


In the meantime, Germany was succeeding the Second World War and Denmark, Holland, Belgium & France were almost crumbled. Under high temperature, Britain realized the importance of Indian coordination in war and therefore, Viceroy Linlithgow came with August Offer 0n 8 August 1940 that proposed for the immediate implementation of “DOMINION STATUS” in India and establishment of “CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY” majorly by Indians after the conclusion of the war, the expansion of Viceroy’s executive council for affirming Indian majority and a promise that no future constitution will be adopted without the consent of minorities in India. Despite this tremendous constitutional advancement, Congress renounced the offer of “Dominion Status” in pursuit of “Complete-Independence” but was left empty-handed.

For passively resisting the disapproval of national demands, Gandhi, on 17 October 1940, strategically instructed limited leaders for Individual Satyagraha where the satyagrahis would function for the retribution of freedom of speech and expression without creating disorder and chaos. Vinoba Bhave was the first, Nehru the second and Brahma Dutt- the third satyagrahi involved in this movement.  Gandhi also initiated the “Delhi Chalo Movement” during this time and the slogans of “Ekla Chalo” were raised. Since it wasn’t a mass movement, the probability of its success was even less than 50% and thus, the satyagrahis who protested were imprisoned for violating the Defence of India Act and by December 1940, Gandhi suspended it which when later resumed, could only lead to the large-scale detention of Indians.


Cripps Mission
Gandhi meets Cripps for negotiation

By 1942, the clouds of destruction were hovering over Britain since on the one hand, the eagle-like Japan was preparing for invading India at any suitable time after occupying entire South-East Asia and on the other, the war allies [USA, USSR, China etc.] were pressurizing Britain for involving India in this global war. Now, the Indian participation became mandatory for the colonial government to ensure their existence but Congress remained firm to its conviction of complete independence after the war. In this danger zone, Britain sent the member of British War Cabinet Stafford Cripps to India with a constitutional proposal to ensure  Indian involvement in a war which is popularly called Cripps Mission.

The main proposals of this mission were a revised version of the August Offer as enlisted below:

  • British Government approved the demand of establishment of “CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY” aftermath the Second-World War that would be comprised of the representatives elected by Provincial Assemblies and the nominees nominated by the princely states. Unlike August Offer, Cripps provided complete power to Indians for framing their constitution.
  •  It accepted to ascertain a concrete Indian Union with a “DOMINION STATUS” that could independently define its relationship with the British Commonwealth and other international bodies. Unlike August Offer, Cripps now provided Indians with an opportunity to withdraw from the Commonwealth and therefore, both these provisions were undeniably advancing in nature.
  • However, two conditions were pre-decided under this mission for implementation of the new constitution:
  1. New Constitution couldn’t be forcibly imposed on the provinces who are reluctant to accept it and they could be free to function based on their separate constitution. 
  2. An alliance between the British Government and Constituent Assembly was pre-described for safeguarding the socio-religious interests of minorities.
  • During wartime, Britain would utilize the defence forces of India for saving itself from the treachery of the Second World War.

Doubtlessly, the Cripps Mission was the golden progressive step towards the development of Indian administration but for the long-time seekers of “Complete Independence”, the demand for dominion status is largely obsolete and objectionable.


For Congress, the dissatisfaction emanated from the  denial of Complete-Independence, the “Nomination” of Princely States and not “Election”, Optionality for provinces to form a union was considered as a move towards catalyzing Indian disintegration and absence of provisions for transfer of power from British Legislative Council to Indian hands while for Muslim League, the reason for its disapproval was the denial of the geopolitical foundation of “Pakistan.” Also, the right to secession was contentious to Hindu Mahasabha, Sikhs and depressed Classes for their reasons. Under such scathing criticism, Cripps Mission failed to satisfy any section of Indian society and proved to be a big flop.

Gandhian Quit India Movement
Gandhian Quit India Movement ( Image Credit: Bawree Fashion House) 

Economically, Britain had excruciatingly exploited the indigenous resources and national exchequer of India during Second World War to such an extent that by 1942, there was a drastic shortage of essential food items like salt, rice etc. and the wartime inflation was another point of disaffection for all. With the failure of Cripps Mission, the prolonged anger intensified so much so that Gandhi launched Quit India Movement on 8 August 1942 for opposing imperialism and fascism but the colonial government had taken the backbone out of this movement in the early hours by arresting the active leaders and expected its decline.

The government severely repressed the masses and illegalized CWC and Provincial Congress under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908 and for peacefully counteracting this, Gandhi started his fast in February 1943. 

Azad Hind Fauz by Subhash Bose
Azad Hind Fauz by Subhash Bose

Meanwhile, at the international level, Netaji Subhash Bose along with Japanese power formed an Indian National Army in Singapore in July 1943 that was also called Azad Hind Fauz. With the involvement of Bose in this Army, Indian participation rapidly grew it and its prime aim of this faux was to politically liberate India from colonial rule. As a consequence, it took part in operation U-Go, the 1944 Japanese campaign towards British India. Although the INA primarily succeeded during the initial stages of the operation, they were compelled to withdraw during the Battle of Imphal and Battle of Kohima (Fought on April 4th, 1944) which saw the tragic defeat for the Japanese Army by Britishers. 

In short, August Offer and Cripps Mission proved massive failures for Indians because now, the nationalists wanted nothing less than ” Poorna-Swaraj” which the colonizers didn’t want to concede but destiny, circumstances and stars were conspiring in the favour of the former, slowly and steadily…


Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply