From 22 March to 11 April 1942, Stafford Cripps, a member of the War Cabinet, was dispatched to India to discuss the British Government’s Draft Declaration on the Constitution of India with representative Indian leaders from all parties. The Cripps Mission failed and the issue of India’s constitution was postponed until the end of the war.
By early 1942, Japan had made advances in South-East Asia and they were on the border of India. The British Government was keen to secure the full cooperation of India in the effort against the Japanese. China and the United States, who had entered the war at this point, were also keen on India’s full participation in the war. Mounting pressure from China and the United States, as well as from the Labour Party in Britain, led Prime Minister Winston Churchill to send Stafford Cripps to India to discuss the Draft Declaration, as settled by the War Cabinet and its Committee between 28 February to 9 March 1942, containing proposals to resolve the Indian question of a new constitution and self-government.
Cripps arrived in Delhi on 22 March 1942 where he first met with Viceroy Linlithgow and later discussed the Draft Declaration with a great number of Indian leaders. Whether Cripps was there to negotiate the Declaration or to persuade the Indian leaders to accept it is unclear and, in fact, a reflection of the different attitudes between Cripps and Clement Attlee on the one side and Viceroy Linlithgow, Winston Churchill and Lord Amery on the other.
According to the preamble of the Draft Declaration, the object was ‘the creation of a new Indian Union which shall constitute a Dominion associated with the United Kingdom and other Dominions by a common allegiance to the Crown but equal to them in every respect, in no way subordinate in any aspects of its domestic and external affairs’. The Declaration also stated that any province not willing to accept the constitution would be given ‘the same full status as the Indian Union’, designed to appeased the Muslim League’s call for Pakistan. The Indian National Congress, however, was not satisfied with the fact that its demand for immediate complete independence had been rejected. Furthermore, Congress did not accept the provision that ‘His Majesty’s Government must inevitably bear the responsibility for and retain the control and direction of the Defence of India as part of their world war effort’. The Congress Working Committee rejected the Declaration on 7 April 1942. On 9 April, Cripps made one last effort to persuade the Indian leaders to accept the Declaration, but once again Congress declined. United States President Roosevelt tried to persuade Cripps to renew his efforts, but Cripps had already left India.
The failure of the Cripps Mission is generally attributed to a variety of factors, especially the constraints within which Cripps had to operate. Some analysts see the Mission merely as an appeasement of Chinese and American concerns with British imperialism. Gandhi seized upon the failure of the Mission and called for voluntary British withdrawal from India. It resulted in the 'Quit India' Movement.
Sir Richard Stafford Cripps
Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Leopold S. Amery (Secretary of State for India), Madav Shrihari Aney, Clement Attlee, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Allah Bakhsh, Winston Churchill, Stafford Cripps, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Fazlul Huq, Dr. Mukund Ramrao Jayakar, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Colonel Louis Johnson (US representative in India), Narayan Malhar Joshi, Dr. Khan Sahib, Bal Gangadhar Kher, V. T. Krishnamachari, Viceroy Linlithgow, Jamnadas Mehta, Sir Homi Peroshaw Mody, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji, Ramaswami Mudaliar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Firoz Khan Noon, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Rao Bahadur M. C. Rajah, Chakravrti Rajagopalachari, Theodore Roosevelt, Manabendra Nath Roy, Syed Mohammad Saadullah, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Sir Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad, ChiangKai-Shek.
India Office, Great Britain, and The Right Hon. Sir Richard Stafford Cripps, India-Lord Privy Seal's (Sir Stafford Cripps') Mission: Statement and Draft Declaration by His Majesty's Government with Correspondence and Resolutions Connected Therewith, Etc. [Parliamentary Papers, Session 1941-42, vol. 8] (London, 1942)
Bakshi, S. R., Congress and Quit India Movement (New Delhi: Criterion Publications, 1986)
Baume, Eric, India! We Call on the People of Britain!! (London: India League, 1942)
Bryant, Christopher, The First Modern Chancellor (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997)
Burgess, Simon, Stafford Cripps: A Political Life (London: Gollancz, 1999)
Chakravarty, Shachi, Quit India Movement: A Study (Delhi: New Century Publications, 2002)
Chatterji, Prashanto K., The Cripps Mission, 22 March-11 April 1942: An In-Depth Study (Kolkata: Minerva Associates (Publications), 2004)
Clarke, Peter, The Cripps Version: The Life of Sir Stafford Cripps (London: Allen Lane, 2002)
Coupland, Reginald, Sir, The Cripps Mission (London: Oxford University Press, 1942)
Goyal, P. K., Battle of India's Freedom Movement (Delhi: Vista International Publishing House, 2005)
Harrison, Agatha, and Bailey, Gerald, India, 1939-1942: A Summary of Events Leading Up To and Including the Cripps Mission (London: National Peace Council, 1942)
India League Executive Committee, India and the British Proposals (London: India League, 1942)
Mansergh, Nicholas, and Lumly, E. W. R., The Transfer of Power, 1942-7: Constitutional Relations between Britain and India (London: H. M. S. O., 1970)
Mishra, B. K., The Cripps Mission: A Reappraisal (New Delhi: Concept, 1982)
Nehru, Jawaharlal, Jawaharlal Nehru on the Cripps Mission: An Authoritative Statement on the Breakdown of the Negotiations at New Delhi (London: India League, 1942)
Panigrahi, D. N., Quit India and the Struggle for Freedom (New Delhi: Vikas, 1984)
Patel, Harbans, Cripps Mission: The Whole Truth (New Delhi: Indus Pub. Co., 1990)
Patil, V. T., Jawaharlal Nehru and the Cripps Mission (Delhi: BR Pub. Corp., 1984)
Singh, Bhim Sen, The Cripps Mission: A Handiwork of British Imperialism (New Delhi: Usha, 1979)
Subrahmanyam, M., Why Cripps Failed, 2nd ed. edn (New Delhi: Hindustan Times Press, 1943)
Weigold, Auriol, Churchill, Roosevelt, and India: Propaganda during World War II (London: Routledge, 2008)
Wolpert, Stanley A., Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)