Indian Home Rule movement
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The Indian Home Rule movement was a movement in British India on the lines of Irish Home Rule movement and other home rule movements. The movement lasted around two years between 1916–1918 and is believed to have set the stage for the independence movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
Indian home rule movement began in India in the background of World War I. The Government of India Act (1909) failed to satisfy the demands of the national leaders. However, the split in the congress and the absence of leaders like Tilak, who was imprisoned in Mandalay meant that nationalistic response was tepid.
By 1915, many factors set the stage for a new phase of nationalist movement. The rise in stature of Annie Besant (who was of Irish origin and a firm supporter of Irish home rule movement), the return of Tilak from exile and the growing calls for solving the split in congress began to stir the political scene in India. The Ghadar Mutiny and its suppression led to an atmosphere of resentment against British rule.
In context of World War I
Most Indians and Indian political leaders had been divided in their response to World War I and the Indian soldiers fighting on behalf of the British Empire against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The latter's involvement irked India's Muslims, who saw the Sultan as the Caliph of Islam.
Many Indian revolutionaries opposed the war, while moderates and liberals backed the war. The issue divided India's political classes and left the increasing demand for self-government going nowhere. Besant however declared, "England's need is India's opportunity". As editor of the New India newspaper, she attacked the colonial government of India and called for clear and decisive moves towards self-rule. As with Ireland, the government refused to discuss any changes while the war lasted. This set the stage for the movement.
Between 1916 and 1918, when the war was beginning, prominent Indians like Joseph Baptista, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, G. S. Khaparde, Sir S. Subramania Iyer and the leader of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, decided to organise a national alliance of leagues across India, specifically to demand Home Rule, or self-government within the British Empire for all of India. Tilak founded the first home rule league at the Bombay provincial congress at Belgaum in April,1916. then after this Annie Besant founded second league at Adyar Madras in September 1916. While Tilak's league worked in areas like Maharashtra (excluding Bombay city), Karnataka, Central provinces and Berar, Annie Besant's league worked in the rest of India.
The move created considerable excitement at the time, and attracted many members of the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League, who had been allied since the 1916 Lucknow Pact. The leaders of the League gave fiery speeches, and petitions with hundreds of thousands of Indians as signatories were submitted to British authorities. Unification of moderates and radicals as well as unity between Muslim League and Indian National Congress was a remarkable achievement of Annie Besant.
The government arrested Annie Besant in 1917 and this led to nationwide protests. The movement actually spread out and made its impact in the interior villages of India. Many moderate leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah joined the movement. The League spread political awareness in new areas like Sindh, Punjab, Gujarat, United Provinces, Central provinces, Bihar, Orissa and Madras, which all sought an active political movement.
The pressure of the movement, especially after Annie Besant's arrest, led to the Montague's declaration on 20 August 1917 which stated that "progressive realization of responsible government in India" was the policy of the British government.
Apart from firing up college students, educated Indians and people in the cities, the Leagues elicited little response or enthusiasm from India's masses and the British government. It was often divided upon whether to follow up with public demonstrations, or compromise by contesting elections to the legislative councils that were criticized as little more than rubber stamps for the Viceroy. The Movement was also left leaderless once Tilak left for England to pursue a libel case he had filed and Annie Besant was largely satisfied by the promise of Reforms.
Its further growth and activity were stalled by the rise of Mahatma Gandhi and his Satyagraha art of revolution: non-violent, but mass-based civil disobedience. Gandhi's Hindu lifestyle, mannerisms and immense respect for Indian culture and the common people of India made him immensely popular with India's common people. His victories in leading the farmers of Champaran, Bihar and Kheda, Gujarat against the British authorities on tax revolts made him a national hero.
After the Montagu Declaration the league agreed to suspend its expansion of the movement. After this the all moderate candidate gave up the membership of league. The league believed that the British government will gradually reform the administration and local representative system by ushering participation of local Indians.
In 1920, the All India Home Rule League elected Mahatma Gandhi as its President. In a year, the body merged into the Indian National Congress to form a united Indian political front.
- India's struggle for Independence, Bipan Chandra, p161
- India's struggle for Independence, Bipan Chandra, p168