The Cripps Mission and the Indian protest against it marks one of the remarkable events in the history of India that not only led to the foundation of the Constitution of India but also triggered the revolutionary uprising for independence. In 1942, as Great Britain rapidly lost momentum at the start of WWII, its place in international politics and the military became increasingly important. After Japan entered into the war and allied with the Axis powers, Great Britain realised the need for India’s resources, i.e., economy, military, and politics. The mission under sir Stafford Cripps proposed a vision of the dominion of India with hidden defence support motives.
Arrival of Cripps Mission
The arrival of the Cripps Mission seemed like the beginning of settlements for all the political and other emerging issues. The Mission’s arrival on 22 March 1942 in Delhi invited leaders and representatives from princely states to suppress the opposition of Congress using others as ‘counterweights’ that not only exerted pressure but also questioned Congress’s stand for speaking about the whole country. In favour of military support, murky promises of increasing the number of Indians in the Viceroy’s Executive Council were made, with no certainty of self-rule anytime soon.
Reasons for Forming the Mission
- Several setbacks in Southeast Asia faced by the British Empire
- The credible threat of Japanese invasion of India
- The pressure of the Allied forces
- To settle the rebellion of independence, providing the concept of self-governance and transfer of power post-war.
On the one hand, the proposal of the Cripps Mission introduced independence and the formation of the constitution. On the other hand, it sparked the separatist movement, degrading the unity of India. The Cripps proposal included:
- The establishment of a dominion, thus forming a new union of India, allied with Great Britain and shared allegiance to the crown, providing equality in all respects, with no interference in its domestic or foreign affairs
- The creation of the Constituent Assembly elected by the system of ‘proportional representation, responsible for drafting the constitution of the country; the election to be monitored by the members of the provincial legislatures with the representatives of the states collectively called the Election College, provided with a strength of one-tenth of the monitoring body
- Provision of independent rule to provinces, providing free rights to uphold a separate constitution, if not interested in being part of the dominion of India
- Ensuring the parameters of power transfer through negotiations, between the Constituent Assembly and the British administration
- The unaltered authorities of the governor-general and military control until the implementation of the new constitution
The Intent of the Cripps Mission
- To settle the rebellion against independence, the British government coined the Cripps Mission, providing India with the right to be a dominion for the first time
- The Mission provided guidelines to the Indians, giving them authority to form their own constitution besides providing an increased number of seats in the Executive Council during the interim period
- It also provided the princely states with the freedom of self-governance; the upholding of a separate constitution later led to the partition in 1947
Failure of the Cripps Mission
The arrival of the Cripps Mission failed to settle peace among the various associated groups in colonial India. Instead, it brought various contradictions and clashes of views. The Congress and the Muslim League contradicted, liberals and other groups opposed equal sharing of power among minorities, and so on.
The main reasons behind the failure of the Cripps Mission were:
- There was no declaration mentioning India gaining complete independence in the near future or the far future
- As a result of Cripps’ observations and private conversations, the Congress leaders concluded that the British authority had no inclination to transform the Executive Council into a national government constituted of Indian members, except for the defence members
- The right to separate states and the constitution was opposed by the liberals and the Hindu Mahasabha
- The minority groups challenged the proposal of the mission implying the status and questioning the equality in power-sharing
- Apart from foreign opposition, the Cripps Mission failed due to a lack of support from Viceroy Linlithgow, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery
- The opposition from the Muslim League came after the latter realised that the right of a separate state was given to the princely states, but not to the minority communities
The Cripps Mission was constituted with the hope of a political settlement which aimed to provide a distinctive image to India. However, it faced opposition from both the domestic and foreign front. The motives of the Missions were to gain military support to counter the dominance of Japan and balance the setbacks faced by the British in the South Asian regions during WWII. The proposal had many promises for the future that seemed vague and were asking for the investment of immediate manpower support in return. The failure of the Cripps Mission saw a remarkable outburst that paved the way for many other mass movements like the Quit India Movement in August 1942.