Impact of the Second World War


When the Britain declared war against Germany the Viceroy announced that India was also at war. Indian leaders resented this decision because it was taken without their consent and formal approval.

In this regard on 14th September 1939 the Congress formed a committee to look into the repercussions of war. In the end the committee posed the following questions to the Viceroy. What were the objectives of the British Government behind the war? What would be the future of India as far as its constitution was concerned? Lastly what would be delivered to India if it helped the British during the war? Would British Government realize the aspirations of the Indian people? In addition to these questions it was made clear that if the British Government failed to satisfy the Congress then it would resign from all the provincial governments. Moreover Congress would start the anti-war non-cooperation movement.

The Muslim League expressed its view on 18th September 1939. The Working Committee appreciated the declaration of Viceroy on suspending the federal scheme as embodied in the Act of 1935. It expressed deep sympathy with Poland, England and France. The Working Committee clearly said that for securing the real cooperation of the Indian Muslims during the War, British Government should secure justice and fair play for the Muslims in the Congress-governed provinces. Moreover no future constitution for India would be framed and finally adopted by the British Government before it is duly approved by the Muslim League.

The Viceroy replied both the Congress and Muslim League on 18th October 1939 representing the official view of the British. He said that the war was being fought for democracy and the Congress demand for a Constitutional Assembly of India was impracticable. In future the minorities would be consulted on all major issues. The Act of 1935 was suspended for the time being. It would be reconsidered after the conclusion of war. With minor changes this policy of the British Government continued till early 1942.

On 1st November the Viceroy held a meeting with Jinnah, Gandhi and Rajendra Prasad and requested them to reach an agreement for the smooth working in the Center. But as the talks failed to lead to an agreement, Jinnah wrote a letter to the Viceroy on 11th November. It said that he held talks with the Hindu leaders but they refused to discuss the issue of provincial and central government until the British Government was willing to accede to the demand of the Congress for declaration of Indian independence. On the other hand Gandhi issued a statement that confirmed the stubbornness of Congress as he accused the British Government for making the issue of minorities an obstacle in the way of Indian independence.

Thus the attitude of Congress confirmed that no compromise between the Viceroy and the Congress was possible. Few days later the Congress High Command issued orders for the resignation of all the Congress ministries in the provinces. For the Muslims of India and particularly for those who were living in the Hindu majority provinces, it was an incident of rejoicing. By this action of Congress they got rid of a regime of ruthless and unbearable communalism. That is why Quaid-i-Azam appealed to the Muslims of India to observe 22nd of December (that fell on Friday) as the ‘Day of Deliverance’. It was a mark of relief that the Congress ministries had at last resigned. Moreover, the Quaid asked all the provincial, district and primary branches of the Muslim League to hold meetings in order to pass resolutions that the Congress ministries had failed to safeguard the rights of the Muslims. Besides, they should request the Governors to make inquiries about the misconduct and delinquencies of the provincial governments of the Hindu majority provinces. It is noteworthy that the ‘Day of Deliverance’ was celebrated by not only the Muslims but also a number of Hindus and Parsis who were not happy with the Congress rule.

Although the Muslims had tried to seek an understanding with the Congress but they failed to do so. Congress did not want to share its powers with any other group. Hence this attitude of the Congress had taken them to that position from where there was no return.

The Second World War not only changed the scenario of the entire world politics but also in a way proved to be a disguise in blessing for the Muslims of the Subcontinent. As the divine scheme of things would have it, the Federal Structure Committee failed to bring about concrete results in 1937. Therefore under Act 1937, the Central arrangement was deferred (The credit for that deferment goes to Dr. Iqbal who had worked especially through negotiations behind the scenes at the Round Table Conference). No doubt, for Muslim India the deferment of federal structure of responsible government was God’s grace.

And then it was further kept in abeyance for almost seven years since the Second World War that broke out in 1939 ended in December 1945. Had the federal arrangement taken place in 1937 or afterwards with a responsible government worked at the center for several years, it would have become immensely difficult for the Muslims of India especially those who belonged to the Muslim majority areas to achieve Pakistan.

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