Sir Stafford Cripps had been sent to India with a proposal for settlement of the India question. The plan provided for dominion status after the war, for an Indian union of British Indian provinces and princely states wishing to accede to it, a separate dominion for those who did not, and firm defence links between Britain and an Indian union. However, in August 1942, Gandhi launched the "Quit India Movement" against the British. The Indian government retaliated by arresting about 60,000 individuals including Gandhi and other leaders.
The Cabinet discussed whether Gandhi should be deported from India, whether he should be released as soon as he went on hunger strike or whether he should be force fed. At the Cabinet's meeting on 24 August the Lord President reported that he had received a telegram from the Viceroy which said 'strongly in favour of letting G. starve to death: + added all Moslem members of Council wd. take same view'. There were also discussions as to whether Gandhi wanted to starve to death and whether he should have visitors and who should be responsible for his health and welfare.
Wd. have no doubt myself tht. it wd. be mistake to let him die in detentn.
Whatever the disadvantages of letting him out, his death in detentn wd. be worse…
. …I wd. leave him to die where he is – i.e. at Poona where he is in a Palace not a prison.
W.M.(42)109th Meeting held on 27 April 1942
No alteration but unconditional release or let him die.
Neither Govnrs. nor W/C in C. will face second.
Why not let him out as soon as he begins to fast.
This is cont. Let him out when he is likely to die. Who will judge that?
W.M.(42)113th Meeting held on 27 April 1942
In the summer of 1942 it had been agreed that, should Gandhi declare a fast, he would not be released and that special arrangements were to be made with a view to relieving the Government of India of any responsibility should he do so. However, by January, the Secretary of State for India had received telegrams from the Viceroy and the Governor of Bombay explaining the Governor's view that if the previous agreement was carried out, the reaction of the public was likely to be bad and that he was unwilling to detain Gandhi beyond the point at which his life would be in danger.
The Cabinet agreed that Gandhi should not be allowed to secure his release by a threat to fast until death. If the conditions were such that he could be set free on compassionate grounds rather than fasting then this would be considered.
Why give way to h-strike by G?
Won't do this with any other pr. The G. situation is, however, so difft. tht. we can't afford to let him die in prison. Not my view but I don't feel justified in over-ruling those on the spot.
He is such a semi-religious figure tht. his death in our hands wd. be a great blow and embarrassment to us.
Medical opinion is that he will die in 3 days. Only ques. is where he dies.
W.M.(43)4th Meeting held on 7 January 1943