CHAPTER XXXVIII
The Transfer of Power

When Germany surrendered in May 1945 the war was generally thought in Britain to be nearly over. But for India it was still in full swing. Burma had just been recovered; an attack on the Japanese in Malaya and Indonesia was impending; the great assault on Japan had yet to come. The war effort had been mounting in a steady crescendo since 1942 and had now reached its peak. In outward appearance the government was stronger than at any time since the fall of France.

But in fact appearances were deceptive. Though some Congress leaders were putting out feelers for a détente with the government and a Congress group had reappeared in the Assembly, it was clear to any careful observer that there was a great underground reservoir of national feeling awaiting a release of war pressure in order to come to the surface. The reservoir contained many currents which together gave it great potential force. Once again the government had succeeded in defeating an overt movement against its authority without deflecting the current of opinion behind it. Men argued that Gandhi had made a tactical mistake in defying the government in 1942, but there was no deviation from the general objective. Desire did but wait on opportunity. Components in this volume of feeling were many. Resentment at the crushing of the 1942 movement was one of the lesser of these. The sense of frustration at the prolonged deadlock was more obvious but rather superficial. Most important was a general awareness of nationality and national dignity. This awareness had been fostered by the large-scale war activities with their new industrial and administrative departures, and by the training of many thousands in new techniques and responsibilities. The Indian public felt itself a corporate unit and felt itself adult. Independence had been an ideal, a desideratum to be worked for; now it was an axiom of public life, to be implemented as soon as possible. India was already independent in spirit. Finally there was the suspicion, nourished on years of deadlock, that the British would somehow wriggle out of their declared obligations.

-407-

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