On June 7, 1893, Mohandas Gandhi carried out his first act of civil disobedience in protest against racial segregation while working as an attorney in South Africa. In the subsequent fifty years (he returned to his native India in 1914), he continued working on issues of social justice and, especially, Indian independence. One of his key speeches on the subject occurred in 1942. In Gandhi’s “Quit India Speech,” delivered to the All India Congress Committee on the evening of August 8, 1942, the father of modern India made a historic appeal for a mass civil-disobedience movement in support of the struggle for India’s freedom from the yoke of British imperialism. Gandhi finished delivering his address shortly before midnight at Gowalia Tank Maidan, a park in Bombay (now Mumbai). Earlier that day the All India Congress Committee (AICC)—the main organizational wing of the Indian National Congress—endorsed the Quit India Resolution, which demanded an immediate end to British rule in India; this endorsement provided the occasion for Gandhi’s speech. In the early morning of August 9, just a few hours after Gandhi’s Quit India Speech was delivered, British authorities arrested and imprisoned Gandhi together with all the prominent leaders of the Indian National Congress, though they were later released. After the arrests, the British government declared the Congress illegal and sealed its offices and seized its printing presses. These measures only stoked popular sentiment against the British. Police stations were attacked, and in different regions parallel governments independent of British governance came into existence. The intensity and violence of the demonstrations distinguish the Quit India Movement from earlier civil-disobedience campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s. The Quit India Movement accelerated the process toward India’s independence on August 15, 1947.
Read our complete coverage of Gandhi’s Quit India Speech, including in-depth analysis by the historian Sadan Jha of the Centre for Social Studies, Surat, India.