August Offer (1940): Background, Provision, and Reaction

Circumstances leading to the announcement of August offer

  1. August offer was announced by governor-general Lord Linlithgow on 8th August 1940 to conciliate Indian leaders to get full support for the British war effort.
  2. August offer was a move to bring an end to the political deadlock prevailing in India since the beginning of World War 2.
    • When World War 2 commenced on 19 September 1939, governor-general Lord Linlithgow declared India as a party to war immediately without consulting Indian leaders.
    • The Congress was not against supporting the government in the world war but Indian Nationalists wanted that any decision concerning India must be taken only after consulting Indian leaders.
    • The unilateral announcement of India as a part of the world war was like a national insult.
  3. The British government did not pay attention to Indian concerns in protest. Congress asked his provincial ministers to resign and these Congress Ministries tender their resignation on 27th October 1939.
  4. The British government continued to neglect Congress and its concern as a result of this, a situation of political deadlock developed in India.
  5. In July 1940, the Battle of Britain commenced when German forces started attacking cities directly. The British government came under immense pressure and felt the need for Indian support to face the challenges.
    • To conciliate Indian leaders so that the whole-hearted Indian support could be ensured to the British war effort, Lord Linlithgow made an announcement on 8th August 1940 is popularly known as August offer.

Provision of August Offer

  1. Governor-general Executive Council would be immediately expanded by including more number of Indians in it.
  2. War Advisory Council would be set up to discuss the issue related to the handling of War.
  3. After the end of the war, steps would be taken to set up a Constituent Assembly to frame a new constitution for India.
  4. Subject to the fulfillment of British obligation is related to Defence, minorities rights, the position of all India services, and treaties with native States. The framing of the new constitution would primarily be the responsibility of Indians themselves.
  5. The new Indian constitution would be based on the Indian concept of socio-economic-political structure.
  6. The full weight would be given to minority opinion.
  7. In the meantime, full Indian support was expected for British war efforts.

Indian reaction to August Offer

  1. August offer was rejected by congress unambiguously because it proposed the grant of Dominion status to India after the end of the war, but Nationalists wanted to transfer power immediately.
  2. The Congress was demanding complete Independence. Because of this, the idea of Dominion status was nowhere close to Indian aspiration.
    • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru commented that “the idea of Dominion status was as dead as a door-nail”.
    • Gandhiji commented that “August offer had widened the gulf of distress between the government and people”.
  3. Congress wanted that constituent assembly should be set up immediately. And the new constitution should be drafted by Indians only.
  4. Overemphasis on giving way to minority opinion was also opposed by congress because it was a clear policy of an expression of divide and rule.

Congress decided to organise individual Satyagraha to protest against August offer. It was organised during October-December 1940. Acharya Vinoba Bhave was the first to offer individual Satyagraha and Pandit Nehru was second person.

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