'Leave India to God — or to Anarchy'
The failure of the Cripps mission was a turning-point for many in India. Most Congressmen, and certainly Azad, were bemused by Cripps's sudden departure: knowing nothing of the telegrams flying to and from London, they had assumed that the talks so far had been the normal limbering up for the start of serious negotiations. The result was serious disillusionment, particularly when Cripps broadcast a farewell message putting all the blame for the breakdown on Congress. The Congress newspapers, which had treated the declaration as a fair basis for negotiation while talks were still in progress, suddenly changed their tune. Taking their lead from Gandhi's Harijan, they now denounced it as an affront to the country, an insult to Indian intelligence and final proof of Britain's naked imperialism. 1
Britain's stock was sinking fast, with an increasing number of Indians believing she could not win the war in the east — and who could blame them, as disaster followed disaster during the whole of April. Along with the continuing reverses in Burma, powerful Japanese naval forces moved into the Indian Ocean at the beginning of the month. On Easter Sunday, carrier-based aircraft attacked Colombo, the capital and chief port of Ceylon, causing considerable damage and sinking six British ships, including three warships and a submarine depot ship, in less than an hour. Shortly afterwards, Japanese aircraft spotted two British cruisers, the Devonshire and the Cornwall, and sank them both with terrifyingly accurate dive‐ bombing.
A second Japanese naval force appeared in the Bay of Bengal the following day. Fifty-five merchant ships in east-coast Indian ports were ordered to sea, but within a few hours 20 of them were at the bottom of the ocean, while Japanese submarines went into action in neighbouring waters to bring the total tonnage sunk that day to a staggering 92,000. The Japanese then bombed the Indian ports of Vizagapatam and Kakindada, which lie between Calcutta and Madras. As these