Indian independence movement

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Colonial India
British Indian Empire
Imperial entities of India
Dutch India 1605–1825
Danish India 1620–1869
French India 1769–1954

Portuguese India
(1505–1961)
Casa da Índia 1434–1833
Portuguese East India Company 1628–1633

British India
(1612–1947)
East India Company 1612–1757
Company rule in India 1757–1858
British Raj 1858–1947
British rule in Burma 1824–1948
Princely states 1721–1949
Partition of India
1947

The Indian Independence Movement encompassed activities and ideas aiming to end the East India Company rule (1757–1858) and the British Raj (1858–1947) in the Indian subcontinent. The Movement spanned a total of 190 years (1757-1947).

The very first organised militant movements were in Bengal, but they later took movement in the then newly formed Indian National Congress with prominent moderate leaders seeking only their basic right to appear for Indian Civil Service examinations, as well as more rights, economic in nature, for the people of the soil. The early part of the 20th century saw a more radical approach towards political self-rule proposed by leaders such as the Lal, Bal, Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh. The last stages of the self-rule struggle from the 1920s onwards saw Congress adopt Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's policy of nonviolence and civil resistance, Muhammad Ali Jinnah's constitutional struggle for the rights of minorities in India, and several other campaigns. Activists Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh preached armed revolution to achieve self-rule. Poets and writers such as Rabindranath Tagore, Subramaniya Bharathi, Allama Iqbal, Josh Malihabadi, Mohammad Ali Jouhar, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Kazi Nazrul Islam used literature, poetry and speech as a tool for political awareness. Feminists such as Sarojini Naidu and Begum Rokeya promoted the emancipation of Indian women and their participation in national politics. Babasaheb Ambedkar championed the cause of the disadvantaged sections of Indian society within the larger self-rule movement. The period of the Second World War saw the peak of the campaigns by the Quit India movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Army movement led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

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.[1] Although the basic ideology of the movement 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.[2] After the 1930s, the movement took on a strong socialist orientation, due to the increasing influence of left-wing elements in the Congress as well as the rise and growth of the Communist Party of India.[1] The All-India Muslim League was formed in 1906 as a separate Muslim party which later in 1940 called for separate state of Pakistan. The work of these various movements led ultimately 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.

Background (1757–1883)[edit]

Early British colonialism in India[edit]

Robert Clive with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey
After the defeat of Tipu Sultan, most of South India was now either under the company's direct rule, or under its indirect political control

European traders first reached Indian shores with the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 AD 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 subcontinent, with the first English trading post set up at Surat in 1617.[3] Over the course of the 17th and early 19th centuries, the British[4] 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 18th century provided the British with the opportunity to seize a firm foothold in Indian politics.[5] After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 AD, during which the East India Company's Indian army under Robert Clive defeated Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal, the Company established itself as a major player in Indian affairs, and soon afterwards gained administrative rights over the regions of Bengal, Bihar and Midnapur part of Orissa, following the Battle of Buxar in 1764.[6] 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 gained control of regions ruled by the Maratha Empire, after defeating them in a series of wars. Punjab was annexed in 1849, after the defeat of the Sikh armies in the First (1845–1846) and Second (1848–49) Anglo-Sikh Wars. In 1835, English was made the medium of instruction in India's schools and many Indians increasingly disliked British rule. With the British now dominating most of the subcontinent, many Britishers increasingly disregarded local customs and mistreated Indians.

Early rebellion[edit]

Puli Thevar was one of the earliest opponents of the British rule in India. He was in conflict with the Nawab of Arcot who was supported by the British. Thevar's prominent exploits were his confrontations with Marudhanayagam, who later rebelled against the British in the late 1750s and early 1760s. Nelkatumseval the present Tirunelveli Dist of Tamil Nadu state of India was the headquarters of Puli Thevar, the first chieftain in India to resist the British.[7] He was the principal architect of the coalition of the palayakkars organised against the Nawab. The Nawab acknowledged his victory by presenting him with a gold plate and sword.[8][9] Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was one of the earliest freedom fighters in India. He was the prince regent of the princely state of Kottiyur or 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 caught by the British and his fort was razed to the ground.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman was an 18th-century Palayakarrar and chieftain from Panchalankurichi in Tamil Nadu, India who waged a war against the British East India Company. He was captured by the British and hanged in 1799 CE.[10] Kattabomman refused to accept the sovereignty of British East India Company, and fought against them.[11] Dheeran Chinnamalai was a Kongu chieftain and Palayakkarar from Tamil Nadu who fought against the British East India Company.[12] After Kattabomman and Tipu Sultan's deaths, Chinnamalai sought the help of Marathas and Maruthu Pandiyar to attack the British at Coimbatore in 1800. British forces managed to stop the armies of the allies and hence Chinnamalai was forced to attack Coimbatore on his own. His army was defeated and he escaped from the British forces. Chinnamalai engaged in guerrilla warfare and defeated the British in battles at Cauvery in 1801, Odanilai in 1802 and Arachalur in 1804.[13][14]

In September 1804, the King of Khurda, Kalinga 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.[15] Rajguru was killed on 6 December 1806.[16] After Rajguru's death, Bakshi Jagabandhu commanded an armed rebellion against the British East India Company's rule in Odisha which is known as Paik Rebellion.[17][18][18][19]

Vellore sepoy mutiny[edit]

Main article: Vellore Mutiny

The garrison of the Vellore Fort in July 1806 comprised four companies of British infantry from H.M. 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot and three battalions of Madras infantry. Two hours after midnight, on 10 July, the sepoys in the fort shot down the European sentries and killed fourteen of their own officers and 115 men of the 69th Regiment, most of the latter as they slept in their barracks. Among those killed was Colonel St. John Fancourt, the commander of the fort. The rebels seized control by dawn, and raised the flag of the Mysore kingdom over the fort. Tipu's second son Fateh Hyder was declared king. However a British officer escaped and alerted the garrison in Arcot. Nine hours after the outbreak of the mutiny, a relief force comprising the British 19th Light Dragoons, galloper guns and a squadron of Madras cavalry, rode from Arcot to Vellore, covering 16 miles in about two hours. It was led by Sir Rollo Gillespie – one of the most capable and energetic officers in India at that time – who reportedly left Arcot within a quarter of an hour of the alarm being raised. Gillespie dashed ahead of the main force with a single troop of about 20 men.

Arriving at Vellore, Gillespie found the surviving Europeans, about sixty men of the 69th, commanded by NCOs and two assistant surgeons, still holding part of the ramparts but out of ammunition. Unable to gain entry through the defended gate, Gillespie climbed the wall with the aid of a rope and a sergeant's sash which was lowered to him; and to gain time led the 69th in a bayonet-charge along the ramparts. When the rest of the 19th arrived, Gillespie had them blow the gates with their galloper guns, and made a second charge with the 69th to clear a space inside the gate to permit the cavalry to deploy. The 19th and the Madras Cavalry then charged and slaughtered any sepoy who stood in their way. About 100 sepoys who had sought refuge in the palace were brought out, and by Gillespie's order, placed against a wall and shot dead. John Blakiston, the engineer who had blown in the gates, recalled: "Even this appalling sight I could look upon, I may almost say, with composure. It was an act of summary justice, and in every respect a most proper one; yet, at this distance of time, I find it a difficult matter to approve the deed, or to account for the feeling under which I then viewed it. The harsh retribution meted out to the sepoys snuffed out the unrest at a stroke and provided the history of the British in India with one of its true epics; for as Gillespie admitted, with a delay of even five minutes, all would have been lost. In all, nearly 350 of the rebels were killed, and another 350 wounded before the fighting had stopped.

The rebellion of 1857[edit]

States during the rebellion

The Indian rebellion of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion in 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.[20] 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 discontentment among the sepoys.[21] The sepoys were also disillusioned by their low salaries and the racial discrimination practised by British officers in matters of promotion and privileges.[21] The indifference of the British towards leading native Indian rulers such as the Mughals and ex-Peshwas 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 Minaar (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.[22]

Mangal Pandey, a 29-year-old sepoy, was believed to be responsible for inspiring the Indian sepoys to rise against the British. Mangal Pandey revolted against his army regiment for protection of cow, considred sacred by Hindus. In the first week of May 1857, he killed a higher officer in his regiment at Barrackpore for the introduction of the offensive rule. He was captured and was sentenced to death when the British took back control over the regiment.[citation needed] On 10 May 1857, the sepoys at Meerut broke rank and turned on their commanding officers, killing some of them. They then reached Delhi on 11 May, set the company's toll house afire, 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.[23] The rebels also murdered much of the European, Eurasian, and Christian population of the city.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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,[28] it led to 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.[29] 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;[30] 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.[31] 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 Disraeli acceded to the Queen's request and 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.[32]

Rise of organised movements[edit]

Image of the delegates to the first meeting of the Indian National Congress in Bombay, 1885

The decades following the Rebellion were a period of growing political awareness, manifestation of Indian public opinion and 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 British civil servant, seventy-three 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, the 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 srit. 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.

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, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Sri Aurobindo, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai, Subramanya Bharathy, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, 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 (1885–1905)[edit]

By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organisation, its achievement was undermined by its singular failure to attract Muslims, who felt that their representation in government service was inadequate. Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow slaughter, and the preservation of Urdu in Arabic 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 wealthy 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 the movement to be represented in the bodies of government, 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 British House of Commons, becoming its first Indian member.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first Indian nationalist to embrace Swaraj as the destiny of the nation[citation needed]. Tilak deeply opposed the then 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, the 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 Congress lost credit 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".

Partition of Bengal, 1905[edit]

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.[33] It also had justifications due to increasing conflicts between Muslims and dominant Hindu regimes in Bengal[citation needed]. However, the Indians viewed the partition as an attempt by the British to disrupt the growing national movement in Bengal and divide the Hindus and Muslims of the region. 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 for Education, 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 Aurobindo, Bhupendranath Dutta, and Bipin Pal began writing virulent newspaper articles challenging legitimacy of British rule in India in publications such as Jugantar and Sandhya, and were charged with sedition. Brahmabhandav Upadhyay, a Hindu newspaper editor who helped Tagore establish his school at Shantiniketan, was imprisoned and the first martyr to die in British custody in the 20th century struggle for self-rule.

All India Muslim League[edit]

The All India Muslim League was founded by the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference at Dhaka (now Bangladesh), in 1906, in the context of the circumstances that were generated over the partition of Bengal in 1905. Being a political party to secure the interests of the Muslim diaspora in British India, the Muslim League played a decisive role during the 1940s in the Indian self-rule movement and developed into the driving force behind the creation of Pakistan in the Indian subcontinent. But when Muslim league passed Pakistan resolution based on Two Nation theory of Jinnah, Nationalist leaders like Maulana Azad and others stood against it. All-India Jamhur Muslim League was formed parallel to Muslim League with Raja of Mahmoodabad (a close associate of Jinnah) as its president and Dr.Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi its general secretary.[34]

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 un-elected 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 at Dehra Dun.[35] During the First World War, Jinnah joined other Indian moderates in supporting the British war effort, hoping that Indians would be rewarded with political freedoms.

First World War[edit]

This photograph shows an emaciated Indian Army soldier who survived the Siege of Kut

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. India contributed massively 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. However, Bengal and Punjab remained hotbeds of anti colonial activities. Nationalism in Bengal, increasingly closely linked with the unrests in Punjab, was significant enough to nearly paralyse the regional administration, whilst failed conspiracies were made by revolutionaries to trigger nationalist revolt in India.[36][37]

None of the revolutionary conspiracies had significant impact inside India. The prospect of subversive violence and its effect on the popular war effort drew support amongst Indian population for special measures against anti-colonial activities in the form of Defence of India act 1915, and no major mutinies occurred. However, the war-time conspiracies did lead to profound fears of insurrection among British officials, preparing them to use extreme force to frighten the Indians into submission.[38]

Nationalist response to war[edit]

In the aftermath of the First World War, high casualty rates, soaring inflation compounded by heavy taxation, a widespread influenza epidemic and the disruption of trade during the war escalated human suffering in India.

The pre-war nationalist movement revived as moderate and extremist groups within the Congress submerged their differences in order to stand as a unified front. They argued their enormous services to the British Empire during the war demanded a reward, and demonstrated the Indian capacity for self-rule. In 1916, the Congress succeeded in forging the Lucknow Pact, a temporary alliance with the Muslim League over the issues of devolution of political power and the future of Islam in the region.

British reforms[edit]

The British themselves adopted a "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, the secretary of state for India, made the historic announcement in Parliament that the British policy for India was "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." The means of achieving the proposed measure 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. 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.[39]

Gandhi arrives in India[edit]

Gandhi in 1918, at the time of the Kheda and Champaran satyagrahas
(Sitting L to R)Rajendra Prasad and Anugrah Narayan Sinha during Mahatma Gandhi's 1917 Champaran Satyagraha

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) had been a prominent leader of the Indian nationalist movement in South Africa, and had 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, which had been inspired by the philosophy of Baba Ram Singh (famous for leading the Kuka Movement in the Punjab in 1872). In January 1914 (well before the First World War began) Gandhi was successful. The hated legislation against Indians was repealed and all Indian political prisoners were released by General Jan Smuts.[40] Gandhi accomplished this through extensive use of non-violent protest, such as boycotting, protest marching, and fasting by him and his followers.[41]

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 with them were required to alleviate many of India's 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 Congressmen. In Gandhi's own words, "civil disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments." It had to be carried out non-violently by withdrawing co-operation with the corrupt state. Gandhi's ability to inspire millions of common people became clear when he used satyagraha during the anti-Rowlatt Act protests in Punjab. Gandhi had great respect for Lokmanya Tilak. His programmes were all inspired by Tilak's "Chatusutri" programme.

Gandhi's vision would soon bring millions of regular Indians into the movement, transforming it from an elitist struggle to a national one. The nationalist cause was expanded to include the interests and industries that formed the economy of common Indians. For example, in Champaran, Bihar, Gandhi championed the plight of desperately poor sharecroppers and landless farmers who were being forced to pay oppressive taxes and grow cash crops at the expense of the subsistence crops which formed their food supply. The profits from the crops they grew were insufficient to provide for their sustenance.

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 Commission. 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. 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 opposition and criticism. In protest, 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-cum-exit, 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.[42] 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.)[43] Dyer was forced to retire but was hailed as a hero in Britain, demonstrating to Indian nationalists that the Empire was beholden to public opinion in Britain, but not in India.[44] The episode dissolved wartime hopes of home rule and goodwill and opened a rift that could not be bridged short of complete self-rule.[45]

Non-co-operation movements[edit]

The self-rule movement as late as 1918 was an elitist movement. Gandhi changed that and made it a mass movement.

First non-co-operation movement[edit]

From 1920 to 1922, Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement. At the Calcutta 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 swaraj (self rule). 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 following the Chauri Chaura incident, which saw the death of twenty-two policemen at the hands of an angry mob. The movement eventually became very successful in the fight for freedom in India.

Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee, and a hierarchy of committees was established and 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 of prison, but was released after serving two. On his release from prison, he set up the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, on the banks of river Sabarmati, established the newspaper Young India, and inaugurated a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society — the rural poor, and the untouchables.[46][47]

This era saw the emergence of new generation of Indians from within the Congress Party, including C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and others- who would later on come to form the 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 in Madras, Mahars in Maharashtra, and Sikhs in Punjab. However, people like Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathi, Vanchinathan 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.

Purna Swaraj[edit]

Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by Indians, an all-party conference was held at Bombay in May 1928. This was meant 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 Calcutta 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. By 1929, however, in the midst of rising political discontent and increasingly violent regional movements, the call for complete sovereignty and end of British rule began to find increasing grounds within the Congress leadership. Under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru at his historic Lahore session in December 1929, the Indian National Congress adopted a resolution calling for complete self-rule and end of British 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. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries of a wide spectrum united to observe the day with honour and pride.[citation needed]

Salt March and civil disobedience[edit]

Demonstration against British rule in India, c. 1930s
Main article: Salt Satyagraha

Gandhi emerged from his long seclusion by undertaking his most famous campaign, a march of about 400 kilometres (240 miles) from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat between 11 March and 6 April 1930. The march is usually known as the Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha. The Dandi March or Salt March was a very important and well-known moment for Gandhi as a "freedom fighter". This march was an act of civil disobedience against the British empire and the unjust salt tax of the British. Salt was a very essential aspect to survival and the tax on salt was seen as a form of arrogance of the British. The salt tax was an issue for many of the people of India, especially the poor.

The Dandi March was influenced by the "Padyatra" ("a long spiritual march"), which was a traditional cultural practice of South Asia. The "Padyatra" became the technique of "strategic action" for many future social movements in history.

At Dandi, a protest against British taxes on salt, Gandhi and thousands of his followers broke the law by making their own salt from seawater (at the Gulf of Khambhat). It took 24 days for him to complete this march. Every day he covered 10 miles and gave many speeches. The Dandi March launched the civil disobedience movement (from 1930 to 1931), and it attracted attention across the world through the media, rallied participation of many Indian people, and had a "profound cultural resonance". The Dandi March not only united the Indian people but also exposed the facade of the British empire and, eventually, the British's power was shaken. Eventually, the Dandi March was looked at as the turning point in India's struggle for self-rule.

In April 1930, there were violent police-crowd clashes in Calcutta. Approximately 100,000 people were imprisoned in the course of the civil disobedience movement (1930–31), while in Peshawar unarmed demonstrators were fired upon in the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre. The latter event catapulted the then newly formed Khudai Khidmatgar movement (founder Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi) onto the National scene. While Gandhi was in jail, the first Round Table Conference was held in London in November 1930, without representation from the Indian National Congress. The ban upon the Congress was removed because of economic hardships caused by the satyagraha. Gandhi, along with other members of the Congress Working Committee, was released from prison in January 1931.

In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free (Although, some of the key 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 but within the Congress itself). In return, Gandhi agreed to discontinue the civil disobedience movement and participate as the sole representative of the Congress in the second Round Table Conference, which was held in London in September 1931. However, the conference ended in failure in December 1931. Gandhi returned to India and decided to resume the civil disobedience movement in January 1932.

For the next few years, the Congress and the government were locked in 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 made the Indian people strive even more towards self-rule. The movement allowed the Indian 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.

Elections and the Lahore resolution[edit]

Jinnah with Gandhi, 1944.

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 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. However, the volatile political climate and hostilities between the Hindus and Muslims transformed the idea of Pakistan into a stronger demand.

Revolutionary movement[edit]

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 20th century, with groups arising in Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, 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.[48] 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,[48] while the latter had an immense support base in the rural and Military society of the 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 in Dhaka (modern day Bangladesh), 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 literaetuer Bankim and Vivekananda, 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.[49] 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.[49][50][51]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.[49] 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.[52] The activities of nationalists abroad is believed to have shaken the loyalty of a number of native regiments of the British Indian Army.[53] The assassination of William Hutt Curzon Wyllie in the hands of Madanlal Dhingra was highly publcised and saw increasing surveillance and suppression of Indian nationalism.[54] These were followed by the 1912 attempt on the life of Viceroy of India. Following this, the nucleus of networks formed in India House, the Anushilan Samiti, nationlalists in Punjab, and the nationalism that arose among Indian expatriates and labourers in North America, a different movement began to emerge in the North American Ghadar Party, culminating in the Sedetious conspiracy of World War I led by Rash Behari Bose and Lala Hardayal.

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 Noncooperation movement in 1922. In Bengal, this saw reorganisation of groups linked to the sSamiti under the leadership of Surya Sen and Hem Chandra Kanungo. A spate of violence led up to 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 was involved in the the Chittagong armoury raid and the Kakori conspiracy and other attempts against the administration in British India and Raj officials. 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 and Rajguru were hanged in 1931. Allama Mashriqi founded Khaksar Tehreek in order to direct particularly the Muslims towards the self-rule movement.[55]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 out side India), generally held responsible for the Amritsar Massacre, in London. However, 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.


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 itnelligence 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 revoltuionaries was the MI5(g) section, and at one point invokved 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 sympathizers fought against the "British Raj". He was referred to as "Manyam Veerudu" ("Hero of the Jungles") by the local people. After the passing 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 led a protest movement in the border areas of the East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts of Madras Presidency in present-day Andhra Pradesh. Inspired by the patriotic zeal of revolutionaries in Bengal, Raju raided police stations in and around Chintapalle, Rampachodavaram, Dammanapalli, Krishna-devi-peta, Rajavommangi, Addateegala, Narsipatnam and Annavaram. Raju and his followers stole guns and ammunition and killed several British army officers, including Scott Coward near Dammanapalli.[56] The British campaign lasted for nearly a year from December 1922. Rama Raju was eventually trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalli then tied to a tree and shot dead with a rifle in Mampa village.Police officer Mr. N. Gnaneswara Rao responsible for Raju's entrapment was awarded Rao Bahadur.[56]

Government of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs has later notified 38 movements/struggles across Indian territories as the ones that led to the country gaining self-rule and ending the British Raj. The Kallara-Pangode Struggle is one of these 39 agitations.

Final process of Indian self-rule movement[edit]

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 local government councils. However, many wanted to support the British war effort, and indeed the British Indian Army is the largest volunteer force, numbering 2,500,000 men during the war.[57]

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.

The self-rule movement saw the rise of three movements: The first of these, the Kakori conspiracy (9 August 1925) was led by Indian youth under the leadership of Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil; second was the Azad Hind movement led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which saw its inception early in the war and joined Germany and Japan to fight Britain; the third one saw its inception in August 1942, was led by Lal Bahadur Shastri[58] and reflected the common man resulting the failure of the Cripps' mission to reach a consensus with the Indian political leadership over the transfer of power after the war.

Indian National Army[edit]

The entry of India 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 due to differences in opinion with Gandhi. After resignation he formed his own wing separated from the mainstream congress leadership known as Forward bloc which was the centre of ex-congressmen with socialist views; however he remained emotionally attached with him for the remainder of his life.[59] Bose then founded the All India Forward Bloc. In 1940, a year after war broke out, the British had put Bose under house arrest in Calcutta. 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. However, in light of Germany's changing fortunes, a German land invasion of India became untenable and Hitler advised Bose to go to Japan and arranged for a submarine. Bose was ferried to Japanese Southeast Asia, where he formed the Azad Hind Government, a Provisional Free Indian Government in exile, and reorganised the Indian National Army composed of Indian POWs and volunteering 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 revolts among Indian soldiers to defeat the British raj.

The INA was to see action against the allies, including the British Indian Army, in the forests of Arakan, Burma and in Assam, laying siege on Imphal and Kohima with the Japanese 15th Army. During the war, the Andaman and Nicobar islands were captured by the Japanese and handed over by them to the INA.

The INA failed owing to disrupted logistics, poor supplies from the Japanese, and lack of training.[60] It surrendered unconditionally to the British in Singapore in 1945. Bose, however, attempted to escape to Japanese-held Manchuria in an attempt to escape to the Soviet Union, marking the end of the entire Azad Hind movement.

Quit India Movement[edit]

Main article: Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan) or the August Movement was a civil disobedience movement in India launched 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 massive proportion of the population. In addition, the INC led the Quit India Movement to demand the British to leave India and to have India as a sovereign state ruled by the Indian people.

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,[61] 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 definition of the powers to be relinquished, essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement.[62] 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 khiland were to spend the rest of the war in jail.

On 8 August 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed at the Bombay 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 a 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 in Pune. 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.[63] 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.[63]

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".[64]

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.[65] 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" .[65]

As such, the British government did not crack down 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”[66][67]

Overall, the Quit India Movement turned out to be not very successful and only lasted until 1943. It drew away from Gandhi's tactic of non-violence; it eventually became a rebellious act without any real leader.

Christmas Island Mutiny and Royal Indian Navy mutiny[edit]

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.[68]

The Royal Indian Navy mutiny (also called the Bombay Mutiny) encompasses a total strike and subsequent mutiny by Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy 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 to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.[69]

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.[70]

Sovereignty and partition of India[edit]

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 through the British Parliament of the Indian Independence Act 1947, at 11:57 on 14 August 1947 Pakistan was declared a separate nation, and at 12:02, just after midnight, on 15 August 1947, India also became a sovereign and democratic nation. Eventually, 15 August became the Independence Day for India, due to the ending of British rule over India. On that 15 August, both Pakistan and India had the right to remain in or remove themselves from the British Commonwealth. In 1949, India decided to remain in the commonwealth.

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. He was replaced in June 1948 by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. Patel took on the responsibility of bringing into the Indian Union 565 princely states, 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, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru kept the issue of Kashmir in his hands.[citation needed]

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 Dr. Rajendra Prasad as 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 in 1954. India invaded and annexed Goa and Portugal's other Indian enclaves in 1961, and Sikkim voted to join the Indian Union in 1975.

Following self-rule in 1947, India remained in the Commonwealth of Nations, and relations between the UK and India have been 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".[71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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