When war came to Europe in 1939, Britain had little leisure to consider the shaping of political forces in south Asia. Nehru had foreseen the war and had told the 1936 meeting of the Congress Party that ‘it becomes necessary … to declare now our opposition to India’s participation in an imperialist war’. With the coming of that war, Congress demanded immediate self-government on a basis to be decided by a constituent assembly of Indians. In 1942 Britain sent a Socialist member of her War Cabinet — Sir Stafford Cripps, long known as a supporter of Indian nationalist aspirations — to Delhi. Cripps brought with him a plan for an independent India with Dominion status and the right to secede from the Commonwealth, to be established immediately after the war.
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