In 1939, with the outbreak of war between Germany and Britain, India was announced to be a party to the war for being a constituent component of the British Empire. Following this declaration, the Congress Working Committee at its meeting held on 10 October 1939, passed a resolution condemning the aggressive activities of the Germans. At the same time the resolution also stated that India could not associate herself with war unless it was consulted first. Responding to this declaration, the Viceroy issued a statement on 17 October wherein he claimed that Britain is waging a war driven by the motif to strengthen peace in the world. He also stated that after the war, the government would initiate modifications in the Act of 1935, in accordance with the desires of the Indians.
Gandhi's reaction to this statement was, "the old policy of divide and rule is to continue. The Congress has asked for bread, and it has got stone." According to the instructions issued by High Command, the Congress ministers were directed to resign immediately. Congress ministers from eight provinces resigned following the instructions.
In the meanwhile, crucial political events took place in England. Chamberlain was succeeded by Churchill as the Prime Minister and the Conservatives, who assumed power in England, did not have a sympathetic stance towards the claims made by the Congress. In order to pacify the Indians in the circumstance of worsening war situation, the Conservatives were forced to concede some of the demands made by the Indians. On 8 August, the Viceroy issued a statement that has come to be referred as the "August Offer". However, the Congress rejected the offer followed by the Muslim League.
In the context of widespread dissatisfaction that prevailed over the rejection of the demands made by the Congress, Gandhi at the meeting of the Congress Working Committee in Wardha revealed his plan to launch Individual Civil Disobedience. Once again, the weapon of satyagraha found popular acceptance as the best means to wage a crusade against the British. It was widely used as a mark of protest against the unwavering stance assumed by the British. Vinoba Bhave, a follower of Gandhi, was selected by him to initiate the movement.
The Cripps' Mission and its failure also played an important role in Gandhi's call for The Quit India Movement.
The Quit India Movement (August Kranti), August 1942, launched in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s national call for satyagraha. The All-India Congress Committee proclaimed a mass protest demanding what Gandhiji called "an orderly British withdrawal" from India. It was for the determined, which appears in his call to “Do or Die”, issued on 8 August at the Gwalior Tank Maidan in Mumbai in 1942.
The Congress Working Committee meeting held at Wardha on 14 July 1942 passed a resolution demanding Complete Independence from the British Government. The draft proposed massive Civil Disobedience, if the British did not accede to the demands.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad were apprehensive and critical of the call, but backed it and stuck with Gandhi's leadership until the end. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Aruna Asaf Ali, Achyut Patwardhan and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha openly and enthusiastically supported such a disobedience movement, as did many veteran Gandhians and socialists like Asoka Mehta and Jayaprakash Narayan. Allama Mashriqi (head of the Khaksar Tehrik) was called to join the Quit India Movement.
Although at the national level the ability to galvanize rebellion was limited, the movement is notable for regional success especially at Satara in Maharashtra, Talcher in Orissa, and Midnapore. In Tamluk and Contai subdivisions of Midnapore, the local populace were successful in establishing parallel governments, which continued to function, until Gandhi personally requested the leaders to disband in 1944. A minor uprising took place in Ballia, now the easternmost district of Uttar Pradesh. People overthrew the district administration, broke open the jail, released the arrested Congress leaders and established their own independent rule. It took weeks before the British could re-establish their writ in the district. In rural Bengal, the Quit India Movement was fueled by peasants' resentment against the new war taxes and the forced rice exports.
All the members of the Congress Working Committee (national leadership) were imprisoned as well. Despite lack of direct leadership, large protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. Not all demonstrations were peaceful, at some places bombs exploded, government buildings were set on fire, electricity was cut, and transport and communication lines were severed. The Government arrested over ten thousand people.