British Offer of August (1940)


On August 8, 1940 the British Government issued a White Paper that after the war a constituent assembly would be formed in India. The August Offer showed a clear change in the approach of the British towards the constitutional problems of India. For the first time it promised the formation of a Constituent Assembly for Indian representatives. It was also said that in the proposed assembly the rights of all the minorities especially the Muslims would be safeguarded. Moreover it removed the fear of the Muslims that the Government would surrender to the demands of the Congress. However, it was made clear that such a development could only take place if all parties and communities in India would cooperate with the British Government during the war.

The All India Muslim League Working Committee discussed the August Offer on September 1. The session was presided over by Quaid-i-Azam. The Committee expressed satisfaction about the offer. The Viceroy and Secretary of State had talked about the ‘national unity’ in their speeches. The Working Committee stated that through out the history ‘national unity’ had been non-existant in India. So such remarks must be avoided as they gave birth to doubts and confusions. The Muslim League Committee declared that the partition of India was the only solution to the problems of the country.

The Congress reacted against the August Offer and its President Abul Kalam Azad refused to hold talks with British Government on this issue. They completely rejected it and alleged the Government for not being sincere to the cause of Indian independence. It was also added that the Government was using the minority issue for delaying the independence of India.

The Viceroy regretted that the August Offer was not accepted by all the parties. The offer was not withdrawn and could be implemented as and when it would get the maximum support but for the time being the expansion of the Executive Council was suspended by the British Government.

Although the August Offer could not produce any practical or immediate results but in the long run it was a considerable gain for the Muslims. It showed that in future the satisfaction of the Muslims would be sought in any constitutional arrangement. The conduct of Congress in political bargaining and their attitude towards the Muslims helped a lot in convincing the Government that it would not be advisable to leave the fate of the minorities in the hands of the Congress leaders.

This article was last updated on Monday, Jan 01, 2007