Indian independence movement
The last stages of the self-rule struggle from the 1920s was characterized by Congress's adoption of Mahatma Gandhi
's policy of non-violence and civil disobedience, and several other campaigns. Nationalists like Subhas Chandra Bose
, Bhagat Singh
, Bagha Jatin
, Surya Sen
preached armed revolution to achieve self-rule. Poets and writers such as Rabindranath Tagore
, Subramania Bharati
, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
and Kazi Nazrul Islam
used literature, poetry, and speech as a tool for political awareness. Feminists like Sarojini Naidu
, Pritilata Waddedar
, Begum Rokeya
promoted the emancipation of Indian women and their participation in national politics. B. R. Ambedkar
championed the cause of the disadvantaged sections of Indian society within the more significant self-rule movement.
The period of the World War II
saw the peak of the campaigns by the Quit India Movement
led by Congress and the Indian National Army
movement led by Subhas Chandra Bose
with the help of Japan.
The Indian self-rule movement was a mass-based movement that encompassed various sections of society. It also underwent a process of constant ideological evolution. Although the underlying ideology of the campaign was anti-colonial, it was supported by a vision of independent capitalist economic development coupled with a secular, democratic, republican, and civil-libertarian political structure. After the 1930s, the movement took on a strong socialist orientation. The work of these various movements ultimately led to the Indian Independence Act 1947
, which ended the suzerainty in India, and the creation of Pakistan. India remained a Dominion of the Crown until 26 January 1950, when the Constitution of India
came into force, establishing the Republic of India; Pakistan was a dominion until 1956 when it adopted its first republican constitution. In 1971, East Pakistan declared independence as the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Early British colonialism in India
European traders first reached Indian shores with the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama
in 1498 at the port of Calicut
, in search of the lucrative spice trade
Just over a century later, the Dutch and English established trading outposts on the Indian subcontinent, with the first English trading post set up at Surat
Over the course of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the British[note 1]
defeated the Portuguese and Dutch militarily but remained in conflict with the French, who had by then sought to establish themselves in the subcontinent. The decline of the Mughal Empire
in the first half of the eighteenth century provided the British with the opportunity to establish a firm foothold in Indian politics.
After the Battle of Plassey
in 1757, during which the East India Company's Indian Army
under Robert Clive
defeated Siraj ud-Daulah
, the Nawab of Bengal
, the Company established itself as a major player in Indian affairs, and soon afterward gained administrative rights over the regions of Bengal
and Midnapur part of Odisha
, following the Battle of Buxar
After the defeat of Tipu Sultan
, most of South India came either under the Company's direct rule, or under its indirect political control as part a princely state
in a subsidiary alliance
. The Company subsequently seized control of regions ruled by the Maratha Empire
, after defeating them in a series of wars. The Punjab
was annexed in 1849, after the defeat of the Sikh armies in the First
(1845–1846) and Second
(1848–49) Anglo-Sikh Wars.
English was made the medium of instruction in India's schools in 1835. The British administration imposed the Western standards of education and culture on Indian masses, believing in the 18th-century superiority of Western culture and enlightenment. This led to Macaulayism
Syed Mir Nisar Ali Titumir
was an Islamic preacher who led a peasant uprising against the Hindu zamindars
and the British during the 19th century. Along with his followers, he built a bamboo fort (Bansher Kella
in Bengali) in Narkelberia Village, which gained a prominent place into Bengali folk legend. After the storming of the fort by British soldiers, Titumir died of his wounds on 19 November 1831.
The toughest resistance the Company experienced was offered by Mysore. The Anglo-Mysore Wars
were a series of wars fought in over the last three decades of the 18th century between the Kingdom of Mysore
on the one hand, and the British East India Company (represented chiefly by the Madras Presidency
), and Maratha Confederacy
and the Nizam of Hyderabad
on the other. Hyder Ali
and his successor Tipu Sultan
fought a war on four fronts with the British attacking from the west, south, and east, while the Marathas and the Nizam's forces attacked from the north. The fourth war resulted in the overthrow of the house of Hyder Ali and Tipu (who was killed in the final war, in 1799), and the dismantlement of Mysore to the benefit of the East India Company, which won and took control of much of India.Pazhassi Raja
was the prince regent of the princely state of Cotiote
in North Malabar, near Kannur
, India between 1774 and 1805. He fought a guerrilla war with tribal people from Wynad supporting him. He was captured by the British and his fort was razed to the ground.
In 1766 the Nizam of Hyderabad
transferred the Northern Circars
to the British authority. The independent king Jagannatha Gajapati Narayan Deo II
estate situated in today's Odisha
and in the northernmost region of the then political division was continuously revolting against the French
occupants since 1753 as per the Nizam's earlier handover of his estate to them on similar grounds. Narayan Deo II fought the British at Jelmur fort on 4 April 1768 and was defeated due to superior firepower of the British. He fled to the tribal hinterlands of his estate and continued his efforts against the British authority until his natural death on the Fifth of December 1771.
Rani Velu Nachiyar
(1730–1796), was a queen of Sivaganga from 1760 to 1790. Rani Nachiyar was trained in war match weapons usage, martial arts like Valari, Silambam (fighting using stick), horse riding and archery. She was a scholar in many languages and she had proficiency with languages like French, English, and Urdu. When her husband, Muthuvaduganathaperiya Udaiyathevar, was killed by British soldiers and the son of the Nawab of Arcot
, she was drawn into battle. She formed an army and sought an alliance with Gopala Nayaker and Hyder Ali
with the aim of attacking the British, whom she successfully challenged in 1780. When the inventories of the Britishers were discovered, she is said to have arranged a suicide attack by a faithful follower, Kuyili
, dousing herself in oil and setting herself alight and walked into the storehouse. Rani formed a women's army named "Udaiyaal" in honour of her adopted daughter, who died detonating a British arsenal. Rani Nachiyar was one of the few rulers who regained her kingdom, and ruled it for a decade more.
In September 1804, the King of Khordha
was deprived of the traditional rights of Jagannath
Temple which was a serious shock to the King and the people of Odisha
. Consequently, in October 1804 a group of armed Paiks attacked the British at Pipili
. This event alarmed the British force. Jayee Rajguru
, the chief of Army of Kalinga requested all the kings of the state to join hands for a common cause against the British.
Rajguru was killed on 6 December 1806.
After Rajguru's death, Bakshi Jagabandhu
commanded an armed rebellion against the East India Company's rule in Odisha which is known as Paik Rebellion
, the first Rebellion against the British East India Company.
Rebellion of 1857
The Indian rebellion of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion in the northern and central India against the British East India Company's rule. It was suppressed and the British government took control of the company. The conditions of service in the company's army and cantonments
increasingly came into conflict with the religious beliefs and prejudices of the sepoys
The predominance of members from the upper castes in the army, perceived loss of caste due to overseas travel, and rumours of secret designs of the government to convert them to Christianity led to deep discontent among the sepoys.
The sepoys were also disillusioned by their low salaries and the racial discrimination practised by British officers in matters of promotion and privileges.
The indifference of the British towards leading native Indian rulers such as the Mughals
and the annexation of Oudh
were political factors triggering dissent amongst Indians. The Marquess of Dalhousie
's policy of annexation, the doctrine of lapse
(or escheat) applied by the British, and the projected removal of the descendants of the Great Mughal from their ancestral palace at Red Fort
to the Qutb Minar complex
(near Delhi) also angered some people.
The final spark was provided by the rumoured use of tallow (from cows) and lard (pig fat) in the newly introduced Pattern 1853 Enfield
rifle cartridges. Soldiers had to bite the cartridges
with their teeth before loading them into their rifles, and the reported presence of cow and pig fat was religiously offensive to both Hindu and Muslim soldiers.
On 10 May 1857, the sepoys at Meerut
broke rank and turned on their commanding officers, killing some of them. They reached Delhi on 11 May, set the company's toll house
on fire, and marched into the Red Fort, where they asked the Mughal emperor
, Bahadur Shah II
, to become their leader and reclaim his throne. The emperor was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed and was proclaimed Shehenshah-e-Hindustan
by the rebels.
The rebels also murdered much of the European, Eurasian
, and Christian population of the city.
Revolts broke out in other parts of Oudh
and the North-Western Provinces
as well, where civil rebellion
followed the mutinies, leading to popular uprisings.
The British were initially caught off-guard and were thus slow to react, but eventually responded with force. The lack of effective organisation among the rebels, coupled with the military superiority of the British, brought a rapid end to the rebellion.
The British fought the main army of the rebels near Delhi, and after prolonged fighting and a siege, defeated them and retook the city on 20 September 1857.
Subsequently, revolts in other centres were also crushed. The last significant battle was fought in Gwalior
on 17 June 1858, during which Rani Lakshmibai
was killed. Sporadic fighting and guerrilla warfare
, led by Tatya Tope
, continued until spring 1859, but most of the rebels were eventually subdued.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major turning point in the history of modern India. While affirming the military and political power of the British,
it led to a significant change in how India was to be controlled by them. Under the Government of India Act 1858
, the Company was deprived of its involvement in ruling India, with its territory being transferred to the direct authority of the British government.
At the apex of the new system was a Cabinet minister
, the Secretary of State for India
, who was to be formally advised by a statutory council
the Governor-General of India
(Viceroy) was made responsible to him, while he in turn was responsible to the government. In a royal proclamation
made to the people of India, Queen Victoria
promised equal opportunity of public service under British law, and also pledged to respect the rights of the native princes.
The British stopped the policy of seizing land from the princes, decreed religious tolerance and began to admit Indians into the civil service (albeit mainly as subordinates). However, they also increased the number of British soldiers in relation to native Indian ones, and only allowed British soldiers to handle artillery. Bahadur Shah
was exiled to Rangoon
, Burma, where he died in 1862.
In 1876, in a controversial move, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli
, passed legislation to give Queen Victoria the additional title of Empress of India
. Liberals in Britain objected that the title was foreign to British traditions.
Rise of organised movements
The first session of the Indian National Congress
in 1885. The Congress was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa.
The decades following the Rebellion were a period of growing political awareness, the manifestation of Indian public opinion and the emergence of Indian leadership at both national and provincial levels. Dadabhai Naoroji
formed the East India Association in 1867 and Surendranath Banerjee
founded the Indian National Association
in 1876. Inspired by a suggestion made by A.O. Hume
, a retired Scottish civil servant, seventy-two Indian delegates met in Bombay
in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress.
They were mostly members of the upwardly mobile and successful western-educated provincial elites, engaged in professions such as law, teaching
and journalism. At its inception, Congress had no well-defined ideology and commanded few of the resources essential to a political organisation. Instead, it functioned more as a debating society that met annually to express its loyalty to the British Raj and passed numerous resolutions on less controversial issues such as civil rights or opportunities in government (especially in the civil service). These resolutions were submitted to the Viceroy's government and occasionally to the British Parliament, but the Congress's early gains were slight. "Despite its claim to represent all India, the Congress voiced the interests of urban elites;
the number of participants from other social and economic backgrounds remained negligible.
However, this period of history is still crucial because it represented the first political mobilisation of Indians, coming from all parts of the subcontinent and the first articulation of the idea of India as one nation, rather than a collection of independent princely states.
The influence of socio-religious groups such as Arya Samaj
, started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati
, and Brahmo Samaj
, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy
and others, became evident in pioneering reforms of Indian society. The work of men like Swami Vivekananda
, Sri Aurobindo
, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai
, Subramanya Bharathy
, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
, Rabindranath Tagore
and Dadabhai Naoroji
, as well as women such as the Scots–Irish Sister Nivedita
, spread the passion for rejuvenation and freedom. The rediscovery of India's indigenous history by several European and Indian scholars also fed into the rise of nationalism among Indians.
Rise of Indian nationalism
Cover of a 1909 issue of the Tamil magazine Vijaya
showing "Mother India" (Bharat Mata
) with her diverse progeny and the rallying cry "Vande Mataram
Ghadar di Gunj
, was Ghadar Party
literature produced in the early stages of the movement. It was a compilation of nationalist literature, was banned in India in 1913.
By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organisation, it did not have the support of most Indian Muslims.
Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow slaughter, and the preservation of Urdu
script deepened their concerns of minority status and denial of rights if the Congress alone were to represent the people of India. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh
, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University
in 1920). Its objective was to educate students by emphasising the compatibility of Islam with modern western knowledge. The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration.
The nationalistic sentiments among Congress members led to a push to be represented in the bodies of government, as well as to have a say in the legislation and administration of India. Congressmen saw themselves as loyalists, but wanted an active role in governing their own country, albeit as part of the Empire. This trend was personified by Dadabhai Naoroji
, who went as far as contesting, successfully, an election to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom
, becoming its first Indian member.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
was the first Indian nationalist to embrace Swaraj
as the destiny of the nation.
Tilak deeply opposed a British education system that ignored and defamed India's culture, history, and values. He resented the denial of freedom of expression for nationalists, and the lack of any voice or role for ordinary Indians in the affairs of their nation. For these reasons, he considered Swaraj as the natural and only solution. His popular sentence "Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it" became the source of inspiration for Indians.
In 1907, Congress was split into two factions: The radicals
, led by Tilak, advocated civil agitation and direct revolution to overthrow the British Empire and the abandonment of all things British. The moderates
, led by leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale
, on the other hand, wanted reform within the framework of British rule. Tilak was backed by rising public leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal
and Lala Lajpat Rai
, who held the same point of view. Under them, India's three great states – Maharashtra
, Bengal and Punjab
shaped the demand of the people and India's nationalism. Gokhale criticised Tilak for encouraging acts of violence and disorder. But the Congress of 1906 did not have public membership, and thus Tilak and his supporters were forced to leave the party.
But with Tilak's arrest, all hopes for an Indian offensive were stalled. The Indian National Congress lost credibility with the people. A Muslim deputation met with the Viceroy, Minto
(1905–10), seeking concessions from the impending constitutional reforms, including special considerations in government service and electorates. The British recognised some of the Muslim League
's petitions by increasing the number of elective offices reserved for Muslims in the Indian Councils Act 1909
. The Muslim League insisted on its separateness from the Hindu-dominated Congress, as the voice of a "nation within a nation".
The Ghadar Party
was formed overseas in 1913 to fight for the Independence of India with members coming from the United States and Canada, as well as Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Members of the party aimed for Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim unity
against the British.
Partition of Bengal, 1905
In July 1905, Lord Curzon
, the Viceroy and Governor-General (1899–1905), ordered the partition of the province of Bengal
supposedly for improvements in administrative efficiency in the huge and populous region.
However, the Indian leaders and people of India felt that it was an attempt of the British government to weaken the growing idea of nationalism and break the unity between Hindu and Muslim. The Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The partition outraged Bengalis. Not only had the government failed to consult Indian public opinion, but the action appeared to reflect the British
resolve to divide and rule
. Widespread agitation ensued in the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British products under the banner of swadeshi
, or indigenous industries. A growing movement emerged, focussing on indigenous Indian industries, finance, and education, which saw the founding of National Council of Education
, the birth of Indian financial institutions and banks, as well as an interest in Indian culture and achievements in science and literature. Hindus showed unity by tying Rakhi
on each other's wrists and observing Arandhan
(not cooking any food). During this time, Bengali Hindu nationalists like Sri Aurobindo
, Bhupendranath Datta
, and Bipin Chandra Pal
began writing virulent newspaper articles challenging the legitimacy of British rule in India in publications such as Jugantar
, and were charged with sedition.
The Partition also precipitated increasing activity from the then still Nascent militant nationalist revolutionary movement
, which was particularly gaining strength in Bengal and Maharashtra from last decade of 1800s. In Bengal, Anushilan Samiti
, led by brothers Aurobindo and Barin Ghosh organised a number of attacks of figureheads of the Raj, culminating in the attempt on the life of a British judge in Muzaffarpur. This precipitated the Alipore bomb case
, whilst a number of revolutionaries were killed, or captured and put on trial. Revolutionaries like Khudiram Bose
, Prafulla Chaki
, Kanailal Dutt who were either killed or hanged became household names.
The British newspaper, The Empire
Khudiram Bose was executed this morning;...It is alleged that he mounted the scaffold with his body erect. He was cheerful and smiling.
Some senior members of the group were sent abroad for political and military training. One of them, Hemchandra Kanungo
obtained his training in Paris. After returning to Kolkata
he set up a combined religious school and bomb factory at a garden house in Maniktala
suburb of Calcutta
. However, the attempted murder of district Judge Kingsford of Muzaffarpur
by Khudiram Bose
and Prafulla Chaki
(30 April 1908) initiated a police investigation that led to the arrest of many of the revolutionaries.
was one of the top leaders in Jugantar. He was arrested, along with several other leaders, in connection with the Howrah-Sibpur Conspiracy case
. They were tried for treason, the charge being that they had incited various regiments of the army against the ruler.
Alipore bomb conspiracy case
Delhi-Lahore conspiracy case
In the aftermath of the event, efforts were made to destroy the Bengali and Punjabi revolutionary underground, which came under intense pressure for sometime. Rash Behari successfully evaded capture for nearly three years, becoming actively involved in the Ghadar conspiracy
before it was uncovered, and fleeing to Japan
The investigations in the aftermath of the assassination attempt led to the Delhi Conspiracy trial. Although Basant Kumar Biswas
was convicted of having thrown the bomb and executed, along with Amir Chand
and Avadh Behari
for their roles in the conspiracy, the true identity of the person who threw the bomb is not known to this day.
Howrah gang case
Most of the eminent Jugantar
leaders including Bagha Jatin
alias Jatindra Nath Mukherjee
who were not arrested earlier, were arrested in 1910, in connection with the murder of Shamsul Alam. Thanks to Bagha Jatin's new policy of a decentralised federated action, most of the accused were released in 1911.
All India Muslim League
In 1916, Muhammad Ali Jinnah
joined the Indian National Congress, which was the largest Indian political organisation. Like most of the Congress at the time, Jinnah did not favour outright self-rule, considering British influences on education, law, culture, and industry as beneficial to India. Jinnah became a member of the sixty-member Imperial Legislative Council
. The council had no real power or authority, and included a large number of unelected pro-Raj loyalists and Europeans. Nevertheless, Jinnah was instrumental in the passing of the Child Marriages Restraint Act
, the legitimisation of the Muslim waqf
(religious endowments) and was appointed to the Sandhurst committee, which helped establish the Indian Military Academy
During the First World War
, Jinnah joined other Indian moderates in supporting the British war effort.
First World War
The First World War began with an unprecedented outpouring of support towards Britain from within the mainstream political leadership. Contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt, Indians contributed considerably to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. Nonetheless, Bengal and Punjab
remained hotbeds of anti-colonial activities
. Nationalism in Bengal, increasingly associated with the unrest in Punjab
, of significant ferocity to almost complete the paralysis of the regional administration. Meanwhile, failed conspiracies
were triggered by revolutionaries lack of preparedness to organise a nationalist revolt.
None of the revolutionary conspiracies made a significant impact inside India. The prospect that subversive violence would have an effect on a popular war effort drew support from the Indian population for special measures against anti-colonial activities in the form of Defence of India Act 1915
. There were no major mutinies occurring during wartime, yet conspiracies exacerbated profound fears of insurrection among British officials, preparing them to use extreme force to frighten Indians into submission.
The Hindu–German Conspiracy
, was a series of plans between 1914 and 1917 by Indian nationalist groups to attempt Pan-Indian rebellion against the British Raj
during World War I, formulated between the Indian revolutionary underground
and exiled or self-exiled nationalists who formed, in the United States, the Ghadar Party
, and in Germany, the Indian independence committee
, in the decade preceding the Great War
The conspiracy was drawn up at the beginning of the war, with extensive support from the German Foreign Office
, the German consulate in San Francisco, as well as some support from Ottoman Turkey
and the Irish republican movement
. The most prominent plan attempted to foment unrest and trigger a Pan-Indian mutiny in the British Indian Army
. This plot was planned to be executed in February 1915 with the aim of overthrowing British rule over the Indian subcontinent
. The February mutiny
was ultimately thwarted when British intelligence infiltrated the Ghadarite
movement and arrested key figures. Mutinies in smaller units and garrisons within India were also crushed.
The Ghadar Mutiny
was a plan to initiate a pan-Indian mutiny
in the British Indian Army
in February 1915 to end the British Raj
in India. The plot originated at the onset of World War I
, between the Ghadar Party
in the United States, the Berlin Committee
in Germany, the Indian revolutionary underground
in British India and the German Foreign Office through the consulate in San Francisco. The incident derives its name from the North American Ghadar Party
, whose members of the Punjabi Sikh
community in Canada and the United States were among the most prominent participants in the plan. It was the most prominent amongst a number of plans of the much larger Hindu–German Mutiny
, formulated between 1914 and 1917 to initiate a Pan-Indian rebellion against the British Raj
during World War I.
The mutiny was planned to start in the key state of Punjab
, followed by mutinies in Bengal and rest of India. Indian units as far as Singapore
were planned to participate in the rebellion. The plans were thwarted through a coordinated intelligence and police response. British intelligence infiltrated the Ghadarite movement in Canada and in India, and last-minute intelligence from a spy helping to crush the planned uprising in Punjab before it started. Key figures were arrested, mutinies in smaller units and garrisons within India were also crushed.
1st Christmas Day and 2nd Christmas Day plot
The first Christmas Day plot
was a conspiracy made by the Indian revolutionary movement in 1909: during the year-ending holidays, the Governor of Bengal organised at his residence a ball in the presence of the Viceroy, the Commander-in-Chief and all the high-ranking officers and officials of the Capital (Calcutta). The 10th Jat Regiment was in charge of the security. Indoctrinated by Jatindranath Mukherjee
, its soldiers decided to blow up the ballroom and take advantage of destroying the colonial Government. In keeping with his predecessor Otto (William Oskarovich) von Klemm, a friend of Lokamanya Tilak
, on 6 February 1910, M. Arsenyev, the Russian Consul-General, wrote to St Petersburg that it had been intended to "arouse in the country a general perturbation of minds and, thereby, afford the revolutionaries an opportunity to take the power in their hands."
According to R. C. Majumdar
, "The police had suspected nothing and it is hard to say what the outcome would have been had the soldiers not been betrayed by one of their comrades who informed the authorities about the impending coup".
The second Christmas Day plot was to initiate an insurrection in Bengal
in British India
during World War I with German arms and support. Scheduled for Christmas Day, 1915, the plan was conceived and led by the Jugantar group
under the Bengali Indian revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee, to be coordinated with simultaneous uprising in the British colony of Burma and Kingdom of Siam
under direction of the Ghadar Party
, along with a German raid on the South Indian city of Madras
and the British penal colony in Andaman Islands
. The aim of the plot was to seize the Fort William, isolate Bengal and capture the capital city of Calcutta
, which was then to be used as a staging ground for a pan-Indian revolution. The Christmas Day plot was one of
the later plans for pan-Indian mutiny during the war that were coordinated between the Indian nationalist underground, the "Indian independence committee
" set up by the Germans in Berlin, the Ghadar Party in North America, and the German Foreign office.
The plot was ultimately thwarted after British intelligence uncovered the plot through German and Indian double agents in Europe and Southeast Asia.
Britain saw the expedition as a serious threat. Britain and its ally, the Russian Empire
, unsuccessfully attempted to intercept it in Persia
during the summer of 1915. Britain waged a covert intelligence and diplomatic offensive, including personal interventions by the ViceroyLord Hardinge
and King George V
, to maintain Afghan neutrality.
The mission failed in its main task of rallying Afghanistan, under Emir Habibullah Khan
, to the German and Turkish war effort, but it influenced other major events. In Afghanistan, the expedition triggered reforms and drove political turmoil that culminated in the assassination of the Emir in 1919, which in turn precipitated the Third Afghan War
. It influenced the Kalmyk Project
of nascent Bolshevik Russia
to propagate socialist revolution in Asia, with one goal being the overthrow of the British Raj. Other consequences included the formation of the Rowlatt Committee
to investigate sedition in India
as influenced by Germany and Bolshevism, and changes in the Raj's approach to the Indian independence movement immediately after World War I.
Nationalist response to war
In the aftermath of the First World War, high casualty rates, soaring inflation compounded by heavy taxation, a widespread influenza pandemic
and the disruption of trade during the war escalated human suffering in India.
The pre-war nationalist movement revived moderate and extremist groups within the Congress submerged their differences in order to stand together as a unified front. They argued that their enormous services to the British Empire during the war demanded a reward to demonstrate Indian capacity for self-rule. In 1916, Congress succeeded in forging the Lucknow Pact
, a temporary alliance with the All India Muslim League over the issues of devolution and the future of Islam in the region.
The British themselves adopted "carrot and stick" approach in recognition of India's support during the war and in response to renewed nationalist demands. In August 1917, Edwin Montagu
, Secretary of state for India, made an historic announcement in Parliament that the British policy was for: "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." The means of achieving the proposed measures were later enshrined in the Government of India Act, 1919
, which introduced the principle of a dual-mode of administration, or diarchy, in which both elected Indian legislators and, appointed British officials shared power. The act also expanded the central and provincial legislatures and widened the franchise considerably. The diarchy set in motion certain real changes at the provincial level: a number of non-controversial or "transferred" portfolios, such as agriculture, local government, health, education, and public works, were handed over to Indians, while more sensitive matters such as finance, taxation, and maintaining law and order were retained by the provincial British administrators.
Gandhi arrives in India
Gandhi had been a leader of the Indian nationalist movement in South Africa
. He had also been a vocal opponent of basic discrimination and abusive labour treatment as well as suppressive police control such as the Rowlatt Acts
. During these protests, Gandhi had perfected the concept of satyagraha
. In January 1914 (well before the First World War began) Gandhi was successful. The legislation against Indians was repealed and all Indian political prisoners were released by General Jan Smuts
Gandhi accomplished this through extensive use of non-violent protests, such as boycotting, protest marching, and fasting by him and his followers.[note 2]
Gandhi returned to India on 9 January 1915, and initially entered the political fray not with calls for a nation-state, but in support of the unified commerce-oriented territory that the Congress Party had been asking for. Gandhi believed that the industrial development and educational development that the Europeans had brought were long required to alleviate many of India's chronic problems. Gopal Krishna Gokhale
, a veteran Congressman and Indian leader, became Gandhi's mentor. Gandhi's ideas and strategies of non-violent civil disobedience
initially appeared impractical to some Indians and their Congress leaders. In the Mahatma's own words, "civil disobedience is civil breach of immoral statutory enactments." It had to be carried out non-violently by withdrawing co-operation with the corrupt state. Gandhi had great respect for Lokmanya Tilak
. His programmes were all inspired by Tilak's "Chatusutri" programme.
The positive impact of reform was seriously undermined in 1919 by the Rowlatt Act
, named after the recommendations made the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council
by the Rowlatt Committee
. The commission was set up to look into the war-time conspiracies by the nationalist organisations and recommend measures to deal with the problem in the post-war period. Rowlatt recommended the extension of the war-time powers of the Defence of India act
into the post-war period. The war-time act had vested the Viceroy's government with extraordinary powers to quell sedition by silencing the press, detaining political activists
without trial, and arresting any individuals suspected of sedition or treason without a warrant. It was increasingly reviled within India due to widespread and indiscriminate use. Many popular leaders, including Annie Beasant
and Ali brothers had been detained. The Rowlatt Act was, therefore, passed in the face of universal opposition among the (non-official) Indian members in the Viceroy's council. The extension of the act drew widespread critical opposition. A nationwide cessation of work (hartal
) was called, marking the beginning of widespread, although not nationwide, popular discontent.
The agitation unleashed by the acts led to British attacks on demonstrators, culminating on 13 April 1919, in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
(also known as the Amritsar Massacre) in Amritsar
, Punjab. The British military commander, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer
, blocked the main, and only entrance, and ordered his soldiers to fire into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 15,000 men, women, and children. They had assembled peacefully at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled courtyard, but Dyer had wanted to execute the imposed ban on all meetings and proposed to teach all Indians a lesson the harsher way.
A total of 1,651 rounds were fired, killing 379 people (as according to an official British commission; Indian officials' estimates ranged as high as 1,499 and wounding 1,137 in the massacre.)
Dyer was forced to retire but was hailed as a hero by some in Britain, demonstrating to Indian nationalists that the Empire was beholden to public opinion in Britain, but not in India.
The episode dissolved wartime hopes of home rule and goodwill and opened a rift that could not be bridged short of complete self-rule.
First non-co-operation movement
From 1920 to 1922, Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement. At the Kolkata session of the Congress in September 1920, Gandhi convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-co-operation movement in support of Khilafat
as well as for dominion status. The first satyagraha movement urged the use of khadi
and Indian material as alternatives to those shipped from Britain. It also urged people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts, resign from government employment, refuse to pay taxes, and forsake British titles and honours. Although this came too late to influence the framing of the new Government of India Act 1919
, the movement enjoyed widespread popular support, and the resulting unparalleled magnitude of disorder presented a serious challenge to foreign rule. However, Gandhi called off the movement because he was scared after Chauri Chaura incident
, which saw the death of twenty-two policemen at the hands of an angry mob that India would descend into anarchy.
Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee, a hierarchy of committees was established, made responsible for discipline and control over a hitherto amorphous and diffuse movement. The party was transformed from an elite organisation to one of mass national appeal and participation.
Gandhi was sentenced in 1922 to six years in prison, but was released after serving two. On his release from prison, he set up the Sabarmati Ashram
. On the banks of the river Sabarmati
, he established the newspaper Young India
, inaugurating a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society — the rural poor, and the untouchables
This era saw the emergence of a new generation of Indians from within the Congress Party, including Maulana Azad
, C. Rajagopalachari
, Jawaharlal Nehru
, Vallabhbhai Patel
, Subhas Chandra Bose
and others- who would, later on, come to form the most prominent voices of the Indian self-rule movement, whether keeping with Gandhian Values, or, as in the case of Bose's Indian National Army
, diverging from it.
The Indian political spectrum was further broadened in the mid-1920s by the emergence of both moderate and militant parties, such as the Swaraj Party
, Hindu Mahasabha
, Communist Party of India
and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
. Regional political organisations also continued to represent the interests of non-Brahmins
, and Sikhs
in Punjab. However, people like Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathi
and Neelakanda Brahmachari played a major role from Tamil Nadu in both self-rule struggle and fighting for equality for all castes and communities. Many women participated in the movement, including Kasturba Gandhi
(Gandhi's wife), Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
, Muthulaxmi Reddy
, Aruna Asaf Ali
, and many others.
Chauri Chaura Shahid Samarak, which is a memorial to the Chauri Chaura incident
, when a large group of protesters, participating in the Non-cooperation movement, clashed with police, who opened fire.
Following Indian rejection of the recommendations in the Simon Commission
an all-party conference was held at Mumbai
in May 1928 intended to instill a sense of liberation among people. The conference appointed a drafting committee under Motilal Nehru
to draw up a constitution for India. The Kolkata
session of the Indian National Congress asked the British government to accord dominion status to India by December 1929, or a countrywide civil disobedience movement would be launched. In the midst of rising political discontent and increasingly violent regional movements, the call for complete sovereignty and an end to British rule began to find increasing grounds for credence with the people. Under the presidency of Jawaharlal
at his historic Lahore
session in December 1929, the Indian National Congress adopted the objective of complete self-rule. It authorised the Working Committee to launch a civil disobedience movement throughout the country. It was decided that 26 January 1930 should be observed all over India as the Purna Swaraj
(complete self-rule) Day.
In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact
was signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free (although, some of the great revolutionaries were not set free and the death sentence for Bhagat Singh
and his two comrades was not taken back which further intensified the agitation against Congress not only outside it also from within). For the next few years, Congress and the government were locked in both conflict and negotiations until what became the Government of India Act 1935
could be hammered out. By then, the rift between the Congress and the Muslim League had become unbridgeable as each pointed the finger at the other acrimoniously. The Muslim League disputed the claim of the Congress to represent all people of India, while the Congress disputed the Muslim League's claim to voice the aspirations of all Muslims.
The Civil Disobedience Movement indicated a new part in the process of the Indian self-rule struggle. As a whole, it became a failure by itself, but it brought the Indian population together, under the Indian National Congress's leadership. The movement resulted in self rule being a talking point once again, and recruited more Indians to the idea. The movement allowed the Indian independence community to revive their inner confidence and strength against the British Government. In addition, the movement weakened the authority of the British and aided in the end of the British Empire in India. Overall, the civil disobedience Movement was an essential achievement in the history of Indian self-rule because it persuaded New Delhi of the role of the masses in self-determination.
Elections and the Lahore resolution
The Government of India Act 1935
, the voluminous and final constitutional effort at governing British India
, articulated three major goals: establishing a loose federal structure, achieving provincial autonomy, and safeguarding minority interests through separate electorates. The federal provisions, intended to unite princely states
and British India at the centre, were not implemented because of ambiguities in safeguarding the existing privileges of princes. In February 1937, however, provincial autonomy became a reality when elections were held; the Congress emerged as the dominant party with a clear majority in five provinces and held an upper hand in two, while the Muslim League performed poorly.
In 1939, the Viceroy Linlithgow
declared India's entrance into the Second World War without consulting provincial governments. In protest, the Congress asked all of its elected representatives to resign from the government. Muhammad Ali Jinnah
, the president of the All-India Muslim League
, persuaded participants at the annual Muslim League session at Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Lahore Resolution
, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu; sometimes referred to as Two Nation Theory
. Although the idea of Pakistan
had been introduced as early as 1930, very few had responded to it.
to the Lahore Resolution, the All India Azad Muslim Conference
gathered in Delhi in April 1940 to voice its support for a united India.
Its members included several Islamic organisations in India, as well as 1400 nationalist Muslim delegates;
the "attendance at the Nationalist meeting was about five times than the attendance at the League meeting."
The All-India Muslim League worked to try to silence those Muslims who stood against the partition of India, often using "intimidation and coercion".
The murder of the All India Azad Muslim Conference leader Allah Bakhsh Soomro
also made it easier for the All-India Muslim League to demand the creation of Pakistan.
There is no real connection between these two unrests, labour, and Congress opposition. But their very existence and coexistence, explains and fully justifies the attention, which Lord Irwin gave to the labour problems.
, 29 January 1928
(center), and Rajguru
(right) are considered among the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement.
Front page of the Tribune (25 March 1931), reporting the execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev by the British.
Apart from a few stray incidents, armed rebellions against the British rulers did not occur before the beginning of the 20th century. The Indian revolutionary underground began gathering momentum through the first decade of the 20th century, with groups arising in Bengal, Maharashtra
, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
, and the Madras Presidency
including what is now called South India
. More groups were scattered around India. Particularly notable movements arose in Bengal, especially around the Partition of Bengal
in 1905, and in Punjab after 1907
In the former case, it was the educated, intelligent and dedicated youth of the urban middle class Bhadralok
community that came to form the "classic" Indian revolutionary,
while the latter had an immense support base in the rural and military society of Punjab.
In Bengal, the Anushilan Samiti
emerged from conglomerations
of local youth groups and gyms (Akhra
) in Bengal in 1902, forming two prominent and somewhat independent arms in East
and West Bengal
identified as Dhaka Anushilan Samiti
), and the Jugantar
group (centred at Calcutta
) respectively. Led by nationalists of the likes of Aurobindo Ghosh
and his brother Barindra Ghosh
, the Samiti
was influenced by philosophies as diverse as Hindu Shakta philosophy
propounded by Bengali literature Bankim
, Italian Nationalism
, and Pan-Asianism
of Kakuzo Okakura
. The Samiti
was involved in a number of noted incidences of revolutionary terrorism against British interests and administration in India within the decade of its founding, including early attempts
to assassinate Raj officials whilst led by Ghosh brothers. In the meantime, in Maharashtra and Punjab arose similarly militant nationalist feelings. The District Magistrate of Nasik
, A.M.T. Jackson
was shot dead by Anant Kanhere
in December 1909, followed by the death of Robert D'Escourt Ashe
at the hands of Vanchi Iyer
.[citation not found]
Indian nationalism made headway through Indian societies as far as Paris and London. In London India House
under the patronage of Shyamji Krishna Verma
came under increasing scrutiny for championing and justifying violence in the cause of Indian nationalism, which found in Indian students in Britain and from Indian expatriates in Paris Indian Society
avid followers. By 1907, through Indian nationalist Madame Bhikaji Rustom Cama
's links to Russian revolutionary Nicholas Safranski, Indian groups including Bengal revolutionaries as well as India House under V.D. Savarkar
were able to obtain manuals for manufacturing bombs. India House was also a source of arms and seditious literature that was rapidly distributed in India. In addition to The Indian Sociologist
, pamphlets like Bande Mataram
and Oh Martyrs!
by Savarkar extolled revolutionary violence. Direct influences and incitement from India House were noted in several incidents of political violence, including assassinations, in India at the time.
One of the two charges against Savarkar during his trial in Bombay was for abetting the murder of the District Magistrate of Nasik, A.M.T. Jackson, by Anant Kanhere
in December 1909. The arms used were directly traced through an Italian courier to India House. Ex-India House residents M.P.T. Acharya and V.V.S. Aiyar were noted in the Rowlatt report
to have aided and influenced political assassinations, including the murder of Robert D'Escourt Ashe.
The Paris-Safranski link was strongly suggested by French police to be involved in a 1907 attempt in Bengal to derail the train carrying the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Andrew Fraser
However, the emergence of the Gandhian movement slowly began to absorb the different revolutionary groups. The Bengal Samiti
moved away from its philosophy of violence in the 1920s, when a number of its members identified closely with the Congress
and Gandhian non-violent movement. Revolutionary nationalist violence saw a resurgence after the collapse of Gandhian non-cooperation movement in 1922. In Bengal, this saw reorganisation of groups linked to the Samiti
under the leadership of Surya Sen
and Hem Chandra Kanungo
. A spate of violence led up to the enactment of the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment
in the early 1920s, which recalled the powers of incarceration and detention of the Defence of India Act. In north India, remnants of Punjab and Bengalee revolutionary organisations reorganised, notably under Sachindranath Sanyal
, founding the Hindustan Republican Association
with Chandrashekhar Azad
in north India.
The HSRA had strong influences from leftist ideologies. Hindustan Socialist Republican Association
(HSRA) was formed under the leadership of Chandrasekhar Azad
. Kakori train robbery
was done largely by the members of HSRA. A number of Congress leaders from Bengal, especially Subhash Chandra Bose
, were accused by the British Government of having links with and allowing patronage to the revolutionary organisations during this time. The violence and radical philosophy revived in the 1930s, when revolutionaries of the Samiti
and the HSRA were involved in the Chittagong armoury raid
and the Kakori conspiracy
and other attempts against the administration in British India and Raj officials. Sachindra Nath Sanyal
mentored revolutionaries in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army
(HSRA), including Bhagat Singh and Jatindra Nath Das
, among others; including arms training and how to make bombs. Bhagat Singh
and Batukeshwar Dutt
threw a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly
on 8 April 1929 protesting against the passage of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill while raising slogans of "Inquilab Zindabad
", though no one was killed or injured in the bomb incident. Bhagat Singh surrendered after the bombing incident and a trial was conducted. Sukhdev and Rajguru were also arrested by police during search operations after the bombing incident. Following the trial (Central Assembly Bomb Case), Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev
were hanged in 1931. Allama Mashriqi
founded Khaksar Tehreek
in order to direct particularly the Muslims towards the self-rule movement.
Some of its members left for the Indian National Congress then led by Subhas Chandra Bose, while others identified more closely with Communism
. The Jugantar
branch formally dissolved in 1938. On 13 March 1940, Udham Singh
shot Michael O'Dwyer
(the last political murder outside India), generally held responsible for the Amritsar Massacre
, in London. However, the revolutionary movement gradually disseminated into the Gandhian movement. As the political scenario changed in the late 1930s — with the mainstream leaders considering several options offered by the British and with religious politics coming into play — revolutionary activities gradually declined. Many past revolutionaries joined mainstream politics by joining Congress
and other parties, especially communist ones, while many of the activists were kept under hold in different jails across the country. Indians who were based in the UK, joined the India League
and the Indian Workers Association
, partaking in revolutionary activities in Britain.
Within a short time of its inception, these organisations became the focus of an extensive police and intelligence operations. Operations against Anushilan Samiti
saw founding of the Special Branch
of Calcutta Police
. The intelligence operations against India House saw the founding of the Indian Political Intelligence Office
which later grew to be the Intelligence Bureau in independent India. Heading the intelligence and missions against Ghadarite movement and India revolutionaries was the MI5(g)
section, and at one point involved the Pinkerton's
detective agency. Notable officers who led the police and intelligence operations against Indian revolutionaries, or were involved in it, at various time included John Arnold Wallinger
, Sir Robert Nathan
, Sir Harold Stuart
, Vernon Kell
, Sir Charles Stevenson-Moore
and Sir Charles Tegart
, as well as W. Somerset Maugham
. The threat posed by the activities of the Samiti
in Bengal during World War I
, along with the threat of a Ghadarite uprising in Punjab
, saw the passage of Defence of India Act 1915
. These measures saw the arrest, internment, transportations, and execution of a number of revolutionaries linked to the organisation, and was successful in crushing the East Bengal Branch. In the aftermath of the war, the Rowlatt committee
recommended extending the Defence of India Act (as the Rowlatt act
) to thwart any possible revival of the Samiti
in Bengal and the Ghadarite movement in Punjab.
In the 1920s, Alluri Sitarama Raju
led the ill-fated Rampa Rebellion of 1922
–24, during which a band of tribal leaders and other sympathisers fought against the British Raj. Local people referred to him as "Manyam Veerudu" ("Hero of the Jungles"). After the passage of the 1882 Madras Forest Act, its restrictions on the free movement of tribal peoples in the forest prevented them from engaging in their traditional podu
) agricultural system, which involved shifting cultivation
. Raju started a protest movement in the border areas of the Godavari Agency part of Madras Presidency
(present-day Andhra Pradesh
). Inspired by the patriotic zeal of revolutionaries in Bengal, Raju raided police stations in and around Chintapalle
, Krishna Devi Peta, Rajavommangi
. Raju and his followers stole guns and ammunition and killed several British army officers, including Scott Coward near Dammanapalli
The British campaign lasted for nearly a year from December 1922. Raju was eventually trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalli then tied to a tree and shot dead with a rifle.
The Kallara-Pangode Struggle
was one of some 39 agitations against the Government of India. The Home department has later notified about 38 movements/struggles across Indian territories as the ones that culminated in self-rule ended the British Raj
, in a letter found in his pocket, stated the following:
I dedicate my life as a small contribution to my motherland. I am alone responsible for this.
of England having captured our country, tread over the Sanatana Dharma
of the Hindus and destroy them. Every Indian is trying to drive out the English and get swarajyam
and restore Sanatana Dharma. Our Raman, Sivaji, Krishnan, Guru Govindan, Arjuna ruled our land protecting all dharmas, but in this land, they are making arrangements to crown George V, a mlecha
, and one who eats the flesh of cows.
Three thousand Madrasees
have taken a vow to kill George V as soon as he lands in our country. In order to make others know our intention, I who am the least in the company, have done this deed this day. This is what everyone in Hindustan should consider it as his duty.
I will kill Ashe, whose arrival here is to celebrate the crowning of cow-eater King George V in this glorious land which was once ruled by great Samrats
. This I do to make them understand the fate of those who cherish the thought of enslaving this sacred land. I, as the least of them, wish to warn George by killing Ashe.Vande Mataram
. Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram
Final process of Indian self-rule movement
In 1937, provincial elections
were held and the Congress came to power in seven of the eleven provinces. This was a strong indicator of the Indian people's support for complete self-rule.
When the Second World War started, Viceroy Linlithgow
unilaterally declared India a belligerent on the side of Britain, without consulting the elected Indian representatives. In opposition to Linlithgow's action, the entire Congress leadership resigned from the provincial and local governments. The Muslims and Sikhs, by contrast, strongly supported the war effort and gained enormous stature in London. Defying Congress, millions of Indians supported the war effort, and indeed the British Indian Army
became the largest volunteer force, numbering 2,500,000 men during the war.
National celebration at the founding of the Provisional National Indian government at the Free India Center, Berlin, with Secretary of StateWilhelm Keppler
speaking, on 16 November 1943.
Especially during the Battle of Britain
in 1940, Gandhi resisted calls for massive civil disobedience movements that came from within as well as outside his party, stating he did not seek India's self-rule out of the ashes of a destroyed Britain. In 1942, the Congress launched the Quit India
movement. There was some violence but the Raj cracked down and arrested tens of thousands of Congress leaders, including all the main national and provincial figures. They were not released until the end of the war was in sight in 1945.
Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army)
India's entry into the war was strongly opposed by Subhas Chandra Bose
, who had been elected President of the Congress in 1938 and 1939, but later resigned owing to differences of opinion with Gandhi. After resignation he formed his own wing separated from the mainstream Congress leadership known as Forward bloc
which was a loci
focus for ex-congress leaders holding socialist views; however he remained emotionally attached to Congress for the remainder of his life.
Bose then founded the All India Forward Bloc
. In 1940 the British authorities in Calcutta placed Bose under house arrest. However, he escaped and made his way through Afghanistan
to Nazi Germany
to seek Hitler and Mussolini's
help for raising an army to fight the British. The Free India Legion
comprising Erwin Rommel
's Indian POWs was formed. After a dramatic decline in Germany's military fortunes, a German land invasion of India became untenable. Hitler advised Bose to go to Japan where a submarine was arranged to transport Bose, who was ferried to Japanese Southeast Asia, where he formed the Azad Hind Government
. The Provisional Free Indian Government in exile reorganised the Indian National Army
composed of Indian POWs
and volunteer Indian expatriates
in South-East Asia, with the help of the Japanese. Its aim was to reach India as a fighting force that would build on public resentment to inspire revolt among Indian soldiers of the Raj.
The INA failed owing to disrupted logistics, poor supplies from the Japanese, and lack of training.
The Azad Hind Fauj surrendered unconditionally to the British in Singapore in 1945. In the consensus of scholarly opinion, Subhas Chandra Bose's death
occurred from third-degree burns on 18 August 1945 after his overloaded Japanese plane crashed in Japanese-ruled Formosa (now Taiwan).
Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan)
or the August Movement
was a civil disobedience
movement in India
which commenced on 8 August 1942 in response to Gandhi
's call for immediate self-rule by Indians and against sending Indians to World War II. He asked all teachers to leave their schools, and other Indians to leave their respective jobs and take part in this movement. Due to Gandhi's political influence, his request was followed by a significant proportion of the population. In addition, Congress-led the Quit India Movement to demand the British to leave India and transfer the political power to a representative government.
During the movement, Gandhi and his followers continued to use non-violence against British rule. This movement was where Gandhi gave his famous message, "Do or Die!", and this message spread towards the Indian community. In addition, this movement was addressed directly to women as "disciplined soldiers of Indian freedom" and they had to keep the war for independence to go on (against British rule).
At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September 1939, passed a resolution conditionally supporting the fight against fascism,
but were rebuffed when they asked for self-rule in return. In March 1942, faced with an increasingly dissatisfied sub-continent only reluctantly participating in the war, and deteriorations in the war situation in Europe and South East Asia
, and with growing dissatisfactions among Indian troops- especially in Europe- and among the civilian population in the sub-continent, the British government sent a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps
, in what came to be known as the Cripps' Mission
. The purpose of the mission was to negotiate with the Indian National Congress a deal to obtain total co-operation during the war, in return of progressive devolution and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy
to elected Indian legislature. However, the talks failed, having failed to address the key demand of a timeframe towards self-government, and of the definition of the powers to be relinquished, essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement.
To force the British Raj to meet its demands and to obtain definitive word on total self-rule, the Congress took the decision to launch the Quit India Movement.
The aim of the movement was to force the British Government to the negotiating table by holding the Allied war effort hostage. The call for determined but passive resistance
that signified the certitude that Gandhi foresaw for the movement is best described by his call to Do or Die
, issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank
Maidan in Bombay, since renamed August Kranti Maidan
(August Revolution Ground). However, almost the entire Congress leadership, and not merely at the national level, was put into confinement less than 24 hours after Gandhi's speech, and the greater number of the Congress were to spend the rest of the war in jail.
On 8 August 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed at the Mumbai session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, a massive Civil Disobedience would be launched. However, it was an extremely controversial decision. At Gowalia Tank, Mumbai
, Gandhi urged Indians to follow non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi told the masses to act as citizens of a sovereign nation and not to follow the orders of the British. The British, already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India–Burma border, responded the next day by imprisoning Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace
. The Congress Party's Working Committee, or national leadership was arrested all together and imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Fort. They also banned the party altogether. All the major leaders of the INC were arrested and detained. As the masses were leaderless the protest took a violent turn. Large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. The movement also saw widespread acts of sabotage, Indian under-ground organisation carried out bomb attacks on allied supply convoys, government buildings were set on fire, electricity lines were disconnected and transport and communication lines were severed. The disruptions were under control in a few weeks and had little impact on the war effort. The movement soon became a leaderless act of defiance, with a number of acts that deviated from Gandhi's principle of non-violence. In large parts of the country, the local underground organisations took over the movement. However, by 1943, Quit India
had petered out.
All the other major parties rejected the Quit India plan, and most cooperated closely with the British, as did the princely states, the civil service, and the police. The Muslim League
supported the Raj and grew rapidly in membership, and in influence with the British.
There was opposition to the Quit India Movement from several political quarters who were fighting for Indian self-rule. Hindu nationalist parties like the Hindu Mahasabha
openly opposed the call and boycotted the Quit India Movement.Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
, the president of the Hindu Mahasabha at that time, even went to the extent of writing a letter titled "Stick to your Posts", in which he instructed Hindu Sabhaites who happened to be "members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures or those serving in the army...to stick to their posts" across the country, and not to join the Quit India Movement at any cost.
The other Hindu nationalist organisation, and Mahasabha affiliate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
(RSS) had a tradition of keeping aloof from the anti-British Indian self-rule movement since its founding by K.B. Hedgewar
in 1925. In 1942, the RSS, under M.S. Golwalkar
completely abstained from joining in the Quit India Movement as well. The Bombay government (British) appreciated the RSS as such, by noting that,
The Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942.
The British Government stated that the RSS was not at all supporting any civil disobedience against them, and as such their other political activities(even if objectionable) can be overlooked.
Further, the British Government also asserted that at Sangh meetings organised during the times of anti-British movements started and fought by the Indian National Congress,
Speakers urged the Sangh members to keep aloof from the congress movement and these instructions were generally observed.
As such, the British government did not crackdown on the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha at all.
The RSS head (sarsanghchalak
) during that time, M.S. Golwalkar
later openly admitted to the fact that the RSS did not participate in the Quit India Movement. However, such an attitude during the Indian independence movement also led to the Sangh being viewed with distrust and anger, both by the general Indian public, as well as certain members of the organisation itself. In Golwalkar's own words,
In 1942 also, there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too, the routine work of the Sangh continued. Sangh decided not to do anything directly. ‘Sangh is the organisation of inactive people, their talks have no substance’ was the opinion uttered not only by outsiders but also our own swayamsevaks
Christmas Island Mutiny
After two Japanese attacks on Christmas Island
in late February and early March 1942, relations between the British officers and their Indian troops broke down. On the night of 10 March, the Indian troops assisted by Sikh policemen mutinied, killing five British soldiers and imprisoning the remaining 21 Europeans on the island. Later on 31 March, a Japanese fleet arrived at the island and the Indians surrendered.
Royal Indian Navy Revolt
The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny
encompasses a total strike
and subsequent mutiny
by Indian sailors of the Royal Indian revolt on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay (Mumbai
) harbour on 18 February 1946. From the initial flashpoint in Bombay, the mutiny spread and found support throughout British India
, from Karachi
and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.
The agitations, mass strikes, demonstrations and consequently support for the mutineers, therefore continued several days even after the mutiny had been called off. Along with this, the assessment may be made that it described in crystal clear terms to the government that the British Indian Armed forces
could no longer be universally relied upon for support in crisis, and even more it was more likely itself to be the source of the sparks that would ignite trouble in a country fast slipping out of the scenario of political settlement.
Impact of World War II
World War II
was one of the most significant factors in accelerating Indian independence, and the independence of many British and non-British colonies. In the period 1945–1965, decolonization
led to more than three dozen countries getting freedom from their colonial powers.
Many factors contributed to the downfall of the British Empire.
When Britain reached out to the US asking for help in the war, the US offered help contingent on Britain decolonizing post-WWII, and that agreement was codified in the Atlantic charter
. The decolonization of Britain (post-war) also meant that the US and other countries could possibly have access to markets to sell goods that were previously under the British Empire - which were not accessible to them then
To bring about these changes, the establishment of the UN following WWII codified sovereignty for nations, and encouraged free trade. The war also forced the British to come to an agreement with Indian leaders to grant them independence if they helped with war efforts since India had one of the largest armies.
Also, following WWII, it was untenable for Britain to raise capital on its own to keep its colonies. They needed to rely on America and did so via the Marshall Plan
to rebuild their country.
Sovereignty and partition of India
Rare photograph of Hindustan Times Newspaper when India got its Independence from the British.
On 3 June 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten
, the last British Governor-General of India
, announced the partitioning of British India into India and Pakistan
. With the speedy passage of the Indian Independence Act 1947
, at 11:57 on 14 August 1947
Pakistan was declared a separate nation. Then at 12:02 A.M., on 15 August 1947
India became a sovereign and democratic nation. Eventually, 15 August became Independence Day for India marking the end of British India. Also on 15 August, both Pakistan and India had the right to remain in or remove themselves from the British Commonwealth. But in 1949, India took the decision to remain in the commonwealth.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India in 1947
Violent clashes between Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims followed. Prime Minister Nehru and deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
invited Mountbatten to continue as Governor General of India
during the period of transition. He was replaced in June 1948 by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari
. Patel took on the responsibility for bringing 565 princely states into the Union of India, steering efforts by his "iron fist in a velvet glove" policies, exemplified by the use of military force to integrate Junagadh
and Hyderabad State
into India (Operation Polo
). On the other hand, Nehru kept the issue of Kashmir
in his hands.
The Constituent Assembly, headed by the prominent lawyer, reformer and Dalit leader, B.R. Ambedkar was tasked with creating the constitution of free India. The Constituent Assembly completed the work of drafting the constitution on 26 November 1949; on 26 January 1950, the Republic of India
was officially proclaimed. The Constituent Assembly elected Rajendra Prasad
was the first President of India
, taking over from Governor General Rajgopalachari. Subsequently, the French ceded Chandernagore
in 1951, and Pondichéry
and its remaining Indian colonies by 1954. Indian troops invaded and annexed Goa
and Portugal's other Indian enclaves
in 1961, and Sikkim
voted to join the Indian Union in 1975 after the Indian victory over China
in Nathu La and Cho La.
Following self-rule in 1947, India remained in the Commonwealth of Nations
, and relations between the UK and India
have since become friendly. There are many areas in which the two countries seek stronger ties for mutual benefit, and there are also strong cultural and social ties between the two nations. The UK has an ethnic Indian population of over 1.6 million. In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron
described Indian – British relations as a "New Special Relationship
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