In a video debate, Sadhguru says (@3.57) the British would have stayed in India if World War II not happened.

Is this assertion credible? Does the pre-war evidence weigh in favor of this assertion, or the standard one that India would have eventually obtained independence?

  • 1
    Since this is asking for the plausibility of an alternate history, it's probably off-topic here. Oct 30, 2017 at 15:21
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about alternative history. Oct 30, 2017 at 15:57
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    Please consult help center - "what if" questions are automatically out of scope for H:SE. I'm going to offer a friendly edit in an effort to bring it back into scope.
    – MCW
    Oct 30, 2017 at 16:01
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    I improved the question by asking for the state of "prewar evidence." That is "factual" and (probably) on topic.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 30, 2017 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


They would have left eventually, and probably sooner rather than later.

The British had probably passed "the point of no return" with the Government of India Act in 1935. This greatly strengthened the provincial structure (where Indians could be reperesented), resolved some provincial issues (like splitting of Burma from India) and created a Federal structure of British and Indian held territories. The act transfered control over most internal matters, the "interior," health, education, and social services to the Indians, while leaving defense, foreign affairs, police, press, and electric power matters in the hnads of the British. This followed the establishment of a "diarchic" government that transferred minimal powers to Indian authorities in 1919, because Britain was grateful for "Indian" help in World war I. Basically, the structure for eventual Indian independence had been laid by 1935.

Another important factor was the rise of Japan and China. Unfortunnately, the "real life" result was their participation in World War II, which brought about India's independence. But a peaceful result could have been their rise, and their joint stand against European colonialism in Asia. Japan had a model Parliamentary system (if not a full democracy), and China (before the rise of the Communists) was also moving in a democratic direction. Finally, the Americans had granted future independence to the Phililppines in 1934, with a scheduled independence date of 1946.With at least three strong examples in Asia, the British probably would have left India in the early 1950s. Even without this factor, the trajectory of the 1919 and the 1935 Acts suggested an early 1950s timetable for independence.


I think WWII accelerated change across Europe, including the UK. Three huge reasons the British left India were (1)public opinion, (2)economic and (3) Clement Attlee being elected Prime Minister. WWII focused all three, however; both the former issues were well on their way to coming to the fore front prior to WWII. And while WWII was instrumental in bringing Attlee to power, It can be argued that Winston Churchill was the largest impediment to Indian Independence and WWII is what brought and kept him in power. It can be argued Winston Churchill would never had made it to the Prime Ministership if not for war. Prior to the war he was a discredited back bencher who had switched party twice. Without Churchill ever coming to power, the rest of British leadership were more pragmatic about India, and arguable would have been open to an accommodation that Churchill would not have been..(*)

(*) John Charmley Writes: "Churchill was very much on the far right of British politics over India," says Charmley. "Even to most Conservatives, let alone Liberals and Labour. Churchill: The End of Glory

This pragmatic willingness to work with India by the British prior to Churchill is evidenced in the Government of India Act 1935 that brought in a wide range of powers to the Indian public. It allowed India to elect leaders directly and shifted more power and authority away from London. There was a local Indian Parliament, legislative councils, Federal Court (Supreme Court). This act partly served a blueprint for India's Constitution. The Indian provincial elections, 1937 was a landmark one and one that setup the framework for the India's future democracy.

So Independence was well on it's way before WWII. The Indian people were demanding it. I think the British would have left India if WWII hadn't happened, but perhaps not in 1946. While they were already loosening their grip, and the writing was on the wall before WWII, that same loosening might have delayed their inevitable departure.

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