August Offer (1940)

The August offer was announced by Viceroy Linlithgow on 8 August 1940 from Shimla,  in the hope of cooperation of Indians in Britain’s efforts in World war II. But the proposal was rejected by both Congress and the Muslim league.

Background:

The fall of Belgium, Holland, and France in world war II left Britain in immediate danger of Nazi occupation as the war has undertaken a new turn.

  • The British government announced the participation of India in war without consulting Indian leaders, that was agitated the Indian leaders and they denied the cooperation of India in war.
  • Later Indian National Congress took forward its demands and was ready to compromise, they offered the government:
    • To form an interim government and power transfer during the war, and
    • Complete Independence after the war.

In response to these demands, the British Government came up with its own offer to get the cooperation of India in the war effort. The offer was announced by the then Viceroy Lord Linlithgow, known as the August Offer.

The Provisions of August Offer

The August Offer made by Lord Linlithgow consisted following proposals:

  • The Dominion status would be conferred to Indians
  • The Expansion of the Viceroy’s executive council with the inclusion of more Indians. The more number Indians to be chosen from major political parties.
  • Setting up a constituent assembly after the war. The constitution would be framed by Indians.
  • The constitution framed by themselves would be according to social, economic, and Political conceptions of Indians.
  • The minorities were assured that the government would not transfer power “to any system of government whose authority is directly denied by large and powerful elements in Indian national life.
  • No future constitution would be adopted without the consent of minorities.
Response of Indian Leaders

Congress rejected the August Offer. Congress demanded complete independence but dominion status was offered.

  • Nehru said, “Dominion status concept is dead as a doornail.” it was totally rejected by him.
  • According to Gandhi jee “the declaration had widened the gulf between the nationalist and the British rulers”.
  • The Congress Working Committee (CWC) rejected the offer on 21 August 1940 in the Wardha meeting.
  • Muslim league welcomed veto assurance given to them
  • The Muslim League was not satisfied with Linlithgow’s offer and rejected it in September as they wanted a separate country “Pakistan”.

The Congress came in dilemma after the August offer. The offer was rejected by Indians on the mass level. After that Gandhi launched “Individual Satyagraha” to affirm the freedom of speech against the war. Vinoba Bhave was the first Satyagrhi and Jawaharlal Nehru was the second.

 

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