UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 22

22 March 1942

Cripps Mission


What happened?

Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India to hold talks with the Indian leaders in an effort to gain their support for Britain’s war effort.

Cripps Mission  – Background

The Cripps Mission is an important chapter in modern Indian history. Although a failure, studying the mission helps to understand the politics of the time, and also the events in the run-up to independence. Read on for details about the mission for the IAS exam.

  • The Second World War had started in 1939 and Viceroy Linlithgow declared India a party to the war without the consent of the Indian people. This enraged the Indian leaders who protested vehemently.
  • Congress leaders who were part of the provincial governments resigned their posts in protest.
  • It was crucial to Britain that it receive Indian support for the war because it relied on Indian soldiers in the war.
  • The freedom movement was also going on in full swing. The British government in London sent Sir Stafford Cripps, a Labour party member, in a one-man mission to India to discuss with the Indian leaders the possibility of self-government in return for full support in the ongoing war.
  • Cripps was a leftist politician who was sympathetic to Indian self-rule.
  • Indian parties other than the Congress, like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League had given support to the British in the war.
  • But it was vital for the British establishment to gain the support of the Congress since it was the party that had maximum public backing.
  • Although Cripps arrived in India with the intention of offering full self-government, the Viceroy, the Secretary of State for India Leo Amery, as well as the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, tried to sabotage the mission. Classified documents released in 1970 reveal that the British establishment had contempt for the mission and felt relieved that it was a failure. Churchill was of the view that the Empire’s non-white subjects were incapable of self-rule.
  • After arriving in Delhi on March 22, 1942, Cripps met with the Viceroy. He proceeded to meet with the Indian leaders. In private, he is said to have promised self-rule and dominion status with the option of leaving the Commonwealth and full independence at a later stage. He also offered to remove Linlithgow and grant dominion status immediately.
  • However, in public, only vague commitments were granted such as raising the number of Indians in the Viceroy’s Executive Council. There was no guarantee for self-rule in the near future.
  • Under Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress Party then stopped talks and demanded prompt self-government in exchange for war support.
  • Gandhi described Cripps’ offer of dominion status as, “a post-dated cheque drawn on a crashing bank”.
  • The Cripps Mission was a failure as it failed to give confidence to the Congress about Britain’s intentions (which were not sincere in any case). Neither did the Indian leadership offer support to Britain’s war effort. Some people view the mission as just British appeasement of American concerns over British imperialism and nothing more.
  • In the same year, the Congress started the Quit India Movement in the wake of the mission’s failure.
Also on this day


1894: Birth of revolutionary leader Surya Sen. 1977: Death of veteran communist leader from Kerala, AK Gopalan.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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