In April 1942, the Indian National Congress rejected British War Cabinet’s proposal popularly known as the ‘Cripps Offer’ – named after Sir Stafford Crips, who headed the Mission that was tasked with communicating the proposal to Indian political leaders. Britain was in the thick of World War II and through the Offer, aimed to obtain the cooperation of Indians in Britain’s war effort by supporting the ‘realisation of self-government’ in India and the setting up of a constitution-making body for Indians to Draft a Constitution after the war ended.
The Working Committee of the Congress Party passed a Resolution in April 1942 rejecting the Offer. On the question on ‘self-government’/freedom, what the British promised was dominion status after the war contingent on the cooperation of Indians in the war effort. The Congress had issues with this on two counts: first, what Indians wanted was not dominion status but full independence as first expressed in the Purna Swaraj Declaration 1930. Second, the Congress wanted freedom, not after the war - but before it.
The Offer also proposed that a constitution-making body would be set up after the war. This was in a way an improvement from the previous expression of such an intention by the British (‘August Offer 1940’) which proposed that the making of the Constitution would be ‘primarily’ in Indian hands. This time around, the proposal seemed to suggest that the Constitution making body would be only in Indian hands.
The Congress, however, was not impressed: there were provisions in the Offer that allowed the Princely States and even British provinces to opt out of the constitution-making body and the Indian Union. This was unacceptable to the Congress who viewed this as a ‘blow to the conception of Indian unity’. Further, on the Princely States question, the Resolution accused the British of ‘ignoring..ninety million people in the Indian States and their treatment as commodities at the disposal of the rulers’ which the Congress felt was ‘a negation of both democracy and self-determination’.
Also, Congress felt that the British reluctance to devolve responsibility to Indians for the defence of India was a signal that any self-government proposals form the British were just a farce. The Resolutions stated that if defence powers were given to Indians, only then would Indians actually ‘galvanize’ to participate in the war effort.
And so, the Resolution unequivocally rejected the Cripps Proposal. Four months later, with the deadlock still in place, the leaders of the independence, particularly Gandhi, launched the ‘Quit India Movement'.