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August Offer


Start of WWII and Fall of France to Nazi Occupation


At the commencement of World War II in 1939, British India entered into the war but this was done without consulting the National Congress or elected members of the central legislature. Although the National Congress had stated unequivocally its solidarity for victims of Fascist assassination, they wanted assurance of India's freedom or at the very least, a transfer of viable power to the interim government before it could successfully participate in the war.


Lord Linlithgow's Offer: In an attempt to persuade Congress and get their support for the war, the then Viceroy of India - Linlithgow made an offer at Shimla on August 8 1940. The following items were included in the proposal:


  • Immediate Expansion of Executive Council and Indians in Advisory War Council: A group of representative Indians would be invited to join the Governor-Executive General's Council, and a War Advisory Council would be formed, consisting of members from Indian states and other national stakeholders.

  • Handover only to a system acceptable by all: The British government would not hand over power to any system whose authority is quickly challenged by powerful and influential factions in India's national life. This was essentially a promise to Muslims that no constitutional system would be devised that they would reject.

  • Constituent Body for Indian Constitution: The idea that the Indians should have major responsibility for establishing a new Constitution was accepted. However, the genuine Constitution-making process would begin only after the war ended.



Response to the August Offer


  • Rejection by Congress at Wardha Conference: Congress trusted the offer but eventually rejected the offer at the Congress Working Committee held at Wardha. The radicals wanted to start the Civil Disobedience Movement but instead, Individual Satyagraha was launched at the insistence of MK Gandhi. The individual satyagraha was aimed at freedom of speech rather than the demand for complete independence. The movement saw limited participation initially with the first satyagrahi as Vinoba Bhave followed by JL Nehru and then Brahma Datt. They were imprisoned by the British in violation of the Defence of India Act.


  • Rejection by the Muslim League: They initially joined by later voted against the Executive Council's enlargement by a large margin as Jinnah's demand for Pakistan was not taken seriously by Linlithgow.


The Aftermath of August Offer


When the Executive Council was expanded in July 1941, the new Indian members did not represent the Congress or the Muslim League. A National Defense Council was founded at the same time. It had about 30 members, including delegates from the Princely States and British Indian provinces, as well as representatives from 'other sectors of British India's national life.'


The rejection of the 'August Offer' prepared the ground for Cripps Mission to make a second offer which also failed to gather support and eventually led to launch of Quit India Movement

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