Cripps Mission, 1942



  • The meetings, known as the Cripps Mission, took place in Delhi from March 22 to April 12, 1942, and marked an attempt to rally, through the rival Indian National Congress and Muslim League, Indian support for the defence of the country against Japanese invasion.



  • The British were alarmed at the successive victories of Japan during the 1940s.
  • When Burma was turned into a battlefield and the war reached the Indian borders, the British started feeling more concerned about the future of India.
  • The situation in the country was further complicated as the Congress wanted to take advantage of the situation by accelerating their efforts in their struggle for independence.
  • Moreover, the differences between the Congress and the Muslim League were widening fast, and visibly there was no chance to bring both parties on a common agenda.
  • In these circumstances, the British Government sent a mission to India in 1942 under Stafford Cripps, the Lord Privy Seal, to achieve Hindu-Muslim consensus on some constitutional arrangement and to convince the Indians to postpone their struggle till the end of the Second World War.


Proposals of the Cripps Mission

  • The main proposals of the mission were as follows:
    • During the war, the British would retain their hold on India. Once the war finished, India would be granted dominion status with complete external and internal autonomy. It would, however, be associated with the United Kingdom and other Dominions by a common allegiance to the Crown.
    • At the end of the war, a Constituent Assembly would be set up with the power to frame the future constitution of India. The members of the assembly were to be elected based on proportional representation by the provincial assemblies. The Princely States would also be given representation in the Constituent Assembly.
    • The provinces not agreeing to the new constitution would have the right to keep themselves out of the proposed Union. Such provinces would also be entitled to create their own separate Union. The British government would also invite them to join the commonwealth.
    • During the war, an interim government comprising of different parties of India would be constituted. However, defence and external affairs would be the sole responsibility of the viceroy.


Differences from previous proposals

  • The proposals differed from those offered in the past in many respects:
    • The making of the constitution was to be solely in Indian hands now (and not ‘mainly’ in Indian hands—as contained in the August Offer).
    • A concrete plan was provided for the constituent assembly.
    • Option was available to any province to have a separate constitution—a blueprint for India’s partition.
    • Free India could withdraw from the Commonwealth.
    • Indians were allowed a large share in the administration in the interim period.


Reaction to Cripps Mission

  • The Congress objected to:
    • the offer of dominion status instead of a provision for complete independence;
    • representation of the princely states by nominees and not by elected representatives;
    • right to provinces to secede as this went against the principle of national unity; and
    • absence of any plan for immediate transfer of power and absence of any real share in defence; the governor-general’s supremacy had been retained, and the demand that the governor-general be only the constitutional head had not been accepted
  • The Muslim League
    • criticised the idea of a single Indian Union;
    • did not like the machinery for the creation of a constituent assembly and the procedure to decide on the accession of provinces to the Union; and
    • thought that the proposals denied the Muslims the right to self-determination and the creation of Pakistan


Causes of failure

  • The explanation that the proposals were meant not to supersede the August Offer, but to clothe general provisions with precision cast doubts on the British intentions.
  • The incapacity of Cripps to go beyond the Draft Declaration and the adoption of a rigid “take it or leave it” attitude added to the deadlock.
  • Cripps had earlier talked of “cabinet” and “national government” but later he said that he had only meant an expansion of the executive council.
  • The procedure of accession was not well-defined. The decision on secession was to be taken by a resolution in the legislature by a 60 per cent majority.
    • If less than 60 per cent of members supported it, the decision was to be taken by a plebiscite of adult males of that province by a simple majority.
    • This scheme weighed against the Hindus in Punjab and Bengal if they wanted accession to the Indian Union.
  • Also, It was not clear as to who would implement and interpret the treaty effecting the transfer of power
  • To add to the complications, Churchill (the British prime minister), Amery (the secretary of state), Linlithgow (the viceroy) and Ward (the commander-in-chief) consistently torpedoed Cripps’ efforts.


Thus, Stafford Cripps returned home leaving behind a frustrated and embittered Indian people.

  • Some analysts see the Mission merely as an appeasement of Chinese and American concerns with British imperialism.
  • Further, Gandhi seized upon the failure of the Mission and called for voluntary British withdrawal from India, which resulted in the ‘Quit India’ Movement.