The Cripps Mission 1942

The Cripps Mission 1942 - An Attempt by The British Government to Gain India"s Support during WWII

During the early years of World War II (WWII), the British had to face tremendous setbacks. Japan had already attacked Pearl Harbor, the American Naval Base, on 7th December, 1941. Japan had also taken over the Philippines and Malaysia. They reached close to Assam. The thought and fear of Japan attacking India sent a chill down the spine of the British government. In order to get the support and cooperation of the Indian political parties for WWII, the British government sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India in March 1942. The proposals mentioned in the Cripps Mission were to be accepted after WWII.

The Background

  • The Congress started a movement against the British government in India from the beginning of WWII.

  • Many of the Congress Ministries resigned from the Governors" General Executive Council to support this protest.

  • Since the British suffered heavy defeats in the early years of the war, Lord Linlithgow, the then Viceroy of India, made several constitutional assurances to the Indian political leaders.

  • The British Prime Minister sent the Cripps Mission to India in 1942 with draft proposals published by Sir Stafford.

The Cripps Mission Proposal

  • The establishment of a Constituent Assembly after the end of WWII.

  • The election of the members of the Constituent Assembly to be carried out by provincial assemblies through proportional representation and partly by nomination from the princes.

  • To give freedom to provinces who did not want to join the Union to establish a separate constitution and union. 

  • Setting up of a Dominion, resulting in the formation of a new Union of India allied with Great Britain.

  • The Indian Dominion would have the freedom to decide on its relations with the British Commonwealth and even secede from it.

  • The Indian Dominion would be free to participate in the United Nations and other international bodies.

  • The defense of India was to be under the control of the British even after the establishment of the Constituent Assembly.

  • The powers of the governor-general were supposed to be intact.

  • Negotiations between the British government and the Constituent Assembly to safeguard the transfer of power and the rights of minorities

The real motive behind Cripps" proposal

  • To settle the agitation for Independence against the British Government in India.

  • Providing India with the right to be a dominion for the first time in history.

  • Giving Indians the right to form their own constitution.

  • Providing princely states with the freedom of self-governance.

  • The British needed India"s support (political, economic, and military) to fight Japan.

The hidden motive of the British government behind sending the Cripps Mission to India was to convince the Indian politicians to join hands with the British in fighting WWII.

The reasons behind the Cripps Mission failure

  • The Cripps Mission proposal was found to be too conservative by the Indian National Congress (INC).

  • The majority political parties in India, like the INC and Muslim League, rejected the Cripps Mission proposal.

  • There was no declaration or mention anywhere in the proposal that India would be granted complete freedom in the near or distant future.

  • There was a mention of granting Dominion Status to India, but at that time, it was not mentioned.

  • The Cripps Mission put forth the proposal to divide India into a number of princely states. This proposal was against the Unity of India.

  • The Hindu Mahasabha and liberals opposed the right to separate states and the constitution.

  • The minority groups opposed the Cripps Mission due to their status and lack of equality in power sharing.

  • The people of the Princely States were being denied the right to elect their own representative. Rather, the rulers of the States were being given the power to nominate their own representatives. 

  • It lacked support from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the Viceroy of Linlithgow, and Leo Amery, the Secretary of State for India.

Reasons behind the rejection of the Cripps Mission by the INC 

  • There was no precise plan for the immediate transfer of power.

  • There was no clarity on granting complete independence to India.

  • Giving provinces the right to secede was against the principle of India"s National Unity.

  • The INC was against the power of the Governor General being retained.

  • They protested against the complete control of defense by the British.

  • The draft declaration from the Cripps Mission was quite firm and rigid.

Reasons behind the rejection of the Cripps Mission by the Muslim League

  • Opposed the idea of a single Indian Union.

  • Provision for a separate state for Muslims (Pakistan) was missing.

  • The right to have a separate state was given to the princely states, but not to the minority communities.

Gandhiji referred to the proposals made by the Cripps Mission as a "post-dated cheque drawn on a failing bank."

Since the major political parties in India, i.e., the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, rejected the Cripps Mission 1942 upfront, it failed to create any impact and did not go as planned by the British Government.

After the Cripps Mission failure, Cripps returned to England. This was followed by a huge outburst in India that resulted in the Quit India Movement in August 1942, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, which called for the Britishers to voluntarily leave India.