User:Fowler&fowler/Short History Indian Independence Movement

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A short history of the Indian independence movement (1885–1947)

Map of India showing British Expansion between 1805 and 1910.
Notes for the lead
  • The Congress brought the country and the 'peasants' (whoever they might be) into its orbit to the dismay of the Raj in the 1930s; the rural upsurge did not prevent the Raj from reimposing its grip on the country; indirectly, however, it destroyed the Raj because the British had taken to governing India by certain electoral rules which the Congress turned to its advantage.
  • The Raj was lost during the period 1929 (Purna Swaraj) to 1942 (First Cripps). 1937 elections turned the tide, in terms of British desire to hold on. (Low, Brown, Cambridge School, RKR, Metcalf & Metcalf, Wolpert, Ludden, Spear, Stein, Robb)

The Aftermath of the Great Uprising of 1857: Indian Critiques, British Response[edit]

Although the Great Uprising of 1857 had shaken the British enterprise in India, it hadn't derailed it. Until 1857, the British, especially under Lord Dalhousie, had been hurriedly building an India which they envisaged to be on par with Britain itself in the quality and strength of its economic and social institutions. After the rebellion, the British became more circumspect. Much thought was devoted to the causes of the rebellion, and from it three main lessons were drawn.

  • At a more practical level, it was felt that there needed to be more communication and camaraderie between the British and Indians; not just between British army officers and their Indian staff, but in civilian life as well. The Indian army was completely reorganized: units composed of the Muslims and Brahmins of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, who had formed the core of the rebellion, were disbanded.[1] New regiments, like the Sikhs and Baluchis, composed of Indians who, in British estimation, had demonstrated steadfastness, were formed. From then on, the Indian army was to remain unchanged in its organization until 1947.[2]
  • It was also felt that both the princes and the large land-holders, by not joining the rebellion, had proved to be, in Lord Canning's words, "breakwaters in a storm."[1] They too were rewarded in the new British Raj, by being officially recognized in the treaties each state now signed with the Crown.[2] At the same time, it was felt that the peasants, for whose benefit the large land-reforms of the United Provinces had been undertaken, had shown disloyalty, by, in many cases, fighting for their former landlords against the British. Consequently, no more land reforms were implemented for the next 90 years: Bengal and Bihar were to remain the realms of large land holdings (unlike the Punjab and UP).[2]
  • Lastly, the British felt disenchanted with Indian reaction to social change. Until the rebellion, they had enthusiastically pushed through social reform, like the ban on suttee by Lord William Bentinck.[1] It was now felt that traditions and customs in India were too strong and too rigid to be changed easily; consequently, no more British social interventions were made, especially in matters dealing with religion, even when the British felt very strongly about the issue (as in the instance of the remarriage of Hindu child widows).[2]

Heyday of Empire: Railways, Canals, Famine Code: 1858-1905[edit]

In the second half of the 19th century, both the direct administration of India by the British crown and the technological change ushered in by the industrial revolution, had the effect of closely intertwining the economies of India and Great Britain.[3] In fact many of the major changes in transport and communications (that are typically associated with Crown Rule of India) had already begun before the Mutiny. Since Dalhousie had embraced the technological change then rampant in Great Britain, India too saw rapid development of all those technologies. Railways, roads, canals, and bridges were rapidly built in India and telegraph links equally rapidly established in order that raw materials, such as cotton, from India's hinterland could be transported more efficiently to ports, such as Bombay, for subsequent export to England.[4] Likewise, finished goods from England, were transported back, just as efficiently, for sale in the burgeoning Indian markets.[5] However, unlike Britain itself, where the market risks for the infrastructure development were borne by private investors, in India, it was the taxpayers—primarily farmers and farm-labourers—who endured the risks, which, in the end, amounted to £50 million.[6] In spite of these costs, very little skilled employment was created for Indians. By 1920, with the fourth largest railway network in the world and a history of 60 years of its construction, only ten per cent of the "superior posts" in the Indian Railways were held by Indians.[7]

The rush of technology was also changing the agricultural economy in India: by the last decade of the 19th century, a large fraction of some raw materials—not only cotton, but also some food-grains—were being exported to faraway markets.[8] Consequently, many small farmers, dependent on the whims of those markets, lost land, animals, and equipment to money-lenders.[8]. More tellingly, the latter half of the 19th century also saw an increase in the number of large-scale famines in India. Although famines were not new to the subcontinent, these were particularly severe, with tens of millions dying,[9] and with many critics, both British and Indian, laying the blame at the doorsteps of the lumbering colonial administrations.[8]

The new Middle Class, Indian National Congress, Economic Critiques: 1860s-1890s[edit]

There were other developments too: by the early 1880s, a new middle-class had arisen in India and spread thinly across the country.[10] Moreover, there was a growing solidarity among its members, created by the "joint stimuli of encouragement and irritation."[10] The encouragement felt by this class came from its success in education and its ability to avail itself of the benefits of that education such as employment in the Indian Civil Service.[11] It came too from Queen Victoria's proclamation of 1858 in which she had declared, "We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligation of duty which bind us to all our other subjects."[12] Indians were especially encouraged when Canada was granted dominion status in 1867 and established an autonomous democratic constitution.[12] Lastly, the encouragement came from the work of contemporaneous Oriental scholars like Monier Monier-Williams and Max Müller, who in their works had been presenting ancient India as a great civilization.[10] The irritation, on the other hand, came not just from incidents of racial discrimination at the hands of the British in India, but also from governmental actions like the use of Indian troops in imperial campaigns (e.g. in the Second Anglo-Afghan War) and the attempts to control the vernacular press (e.g. in the Vernacular Press Act of 1878).[10]

It was, however, Viceroy Lord Ripon's partial reversal of the Ilbert Bill (1883), a legislative measure that had proposed putting Indian judges in the Bengal Presidency on equal footing with British ones, that transformed the discontent into political action.[11] On December 28, 1885, professionals and intellectuals from this middle-class—many educated at the new British-founded universities in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, and familiar with the ideas of British political philosophers, especially the utilitarians—founded the Indian National Congress in Bombay. At its first meeting, attended by seventy individuals, including Womesh Chandra Bonerjee, who was elected the first president, and Alan Octavian Hume, who two years before had conceived its idea, the Congress called for both increased Indian participation in provincial legislative councils and improved Indian access to civil service jobs.[5]

During its first twenty years, the Congress primarily debated British policy toward India; however, its debates created a new Indian Weltanschauung, whose, main precept, voiced by Dadabhai Naoroji, held Great Britain responsible for draining India of its wealth.[13] Britain did this, it was further held, by unfair trade, by the restraint on indigenous Indian industry, and by the use of Indian taxes to pay the high salaries of the British civil servants in India.[5] For example, when the British government linked tariffs on sale of Indian-manufactured cotton to those on the cotton manufactured in the mills of Lancashire, the Indian businessmen in Bombay protested that it was unfair trade.[14] Other Indians publicly worried about the cost of the large-scale railway construction in India, and who would pay for it.[14] Still, Indian nationalism was "confined to the Westernized middle-class, with the masses as yet mere lookers-on."[14]

Social Reformers, Moderates vs. the Extremists: 1870s-1907[edit]

By the turn of the twentieth century, reform movements had taken root within the Indian National Congress. Congress member Gopal Krishna Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society, which lobbied for legislative reform (for example, for a law to permit the remarriage of Hindu child widows,[5]) and whose members took vows of poverty, and worked among the untouchable community.[15] Soon, however, a rift began to appear in the Congress between the moderates, led by Gokhale, who eschewed public agitation, and the new "extremists" who not only advocated agitation, but also regarded the pursuit of social reform as a distraction from nationalism.[16] Prominent among the extremists was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who attempted to mobilize Indians by appealing to an explicitly Hindu political identity, displayed, for example, in the annual public Ganapati festivals that he inaugurated in western India.[17]

Tilak's extremist ally was the Punjab's Lala Lajpat Rai, who was also active in the Hindu reform movement Arya Samaj as well as in Cow Protection Societies. Both movements had been founded earlier by reformer Dayanand Saraswati, and the latter movement, around this time, sponsored agitation against the killing of cows that led to anti-Muslim riots in the United Provinces.[18] Lajpat Rai's public run for the Congress presidency in 1907 was to later split the Congress for almost a decade.[16]

Partition of Bengal, Swadeshi, Political Violence: 1905-1910[edit]

In 1905, the viceroy, Lord Curzon, who was considered by many to be both brilliant and indefatigable,[19] and who in his first term had built an impressive record of archaeological preservation and administrative efficiency, now, in his second term, divided the largest administrative subdivision in British India, the Bengal Presidency, into the Muslim-majority province of East Bengal and Assam and the Hindu-majority province of Bengal (present-day Indian states of West Bengal, Bihār, and Orissa).[20] Curzon's act, the Partition of Bengal—which some considered administratively felicitous, and, which had been contemplated by various colonial administrations since the time of Lord William Bentinck, but never acted upon—was to transform nationalist politics as nothing else before it.[20] The Hindu elite of Bengal, among them many who owned land in East Bengal that was leased out to Muslim peasants, protested fervidly.[5] The large Bengali Hindu middle-class (the Bhadralok), upset at the prospect of Bengalis being outnumbered in the new Bengal province by Biharis and Oriyas, felt that Curzon's act was punishment for their political assertiveness.[20] The pervasive protests against Curzon's decision took the form predominantly of the Swadeshi (“buy Indian”) campaign led by two-time Congress president, Surendranath Banerjee, and involved boycott of British goods; however, sporadically—but flagrantly—the protesters also took to political violence that involved attacks on civilians.[21] The violence, however, was not effective, most planned attacks were either preempted by the British or failed.[22]

The rallying cry for both types of protest was the slogan Bande Mataram (Bengali, lit: "Hail to the Mother"), the title of a song by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, which invoked a mother goddess, who stood variously for Bengal, India, and the Hindu goddess Kali.[23] The unrest spread from Calcutta to the surrounding regions of Bengal when Calcutta's English-educated students returned home to their villages and towns.[24] The religious stirrings of the slogan and the political outrage over the partition were combined as young men, in groups such as Jugantar, took to bombings public buildings, staging armed robberies,[22] and assassinating British officials.[23] Since Calcutta was the imperial capital, both the outrage and the slogan soon became nationally known.[23] For example, the Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi, upon meeting the young Bengali revolutionary Aurobindo Ghose, was to not only translate Bande Mataram into Tamil, but also re-compose it in Carnatic Music, and sing it, to great acclaim, in rallies on the beaches of Madras.[24]

The Swadeshi boycott movement was very successful: by 1908, imports of British cotton were down by 25%.[25] The swadeshi cloth, although more expensive and somewhat less comfortable than its Lancashire competitor, was worn as a mark of national pride by people all over India.[25] The movement also became a spur for indigenous industrial progress in India. The Tata Iron and Steel Company was founded in Jamshedpur, Bengal Province, in 1907, during the height of the swadeshi movement, and in the next four decades was to become the single largest steel complex in the British Empire. The Tatas became early financial backers of the Indian National Congress.[25]

Maps 1907-1909[edit]

Muslim Social Movements, Syed Ahmed Khan, Muslim League: 1870s-1906[edit]

The overwhelming, but predominantly Hindu, protest against the partition of Bengal and the fear, in its wake, of reforms favouring the Hindu majority, now led the Muslim elite in India, in 1906, to meet with the new viceroy, Lord Minto, and to ask for separate electorates for Muslims.[5] In conjunction, they demanded proportional legislative representation reflecting both their status as former rulers and their record of cooperating with the British. This led, in December 1906, to the founding of the All-India Muslim League in Dacca. Although Curzon, by now, had resigned his position over a dispute with his military chief Lord Kitchener and returned to England, the League was in favour of his partition plan. The Muslim elite's position, which was reflected in the League's position, had crystallized gradually over the previous three decades, beginning with the 1871 Census of British India, which had first estimated the populations in regions of Muslim majority.[26] (For his part, Curzon's desire to court the Muslims of East Bengal had arisen from British anxieties ever since the 1871 census—and in light of the history of Muslims fighting them in the 1857 Mutiny and the Second Anglo-Afghan War—about Indian Muslims rebelling against the Crown.[26]) In the three decades since, Muslim leaders across northern India, had intermittently experienced public animosity from some of the new Hindu political and social groups.[26] The Arya Samaj, for example, had not only supported Cow Protection Societies in their agitation,[27] but also—distraught at the 1871 Census's Muslim numbers—organized "reconversion" events for the purpose of welcoming Muslims back to the Hindu fold.[26] In 1905, when Tilak and Lajpat Rai attempted to rise to leadership positions in the Congress, and the Congress itself rallied around symbolism of Kali, Muslim fears increased.[26] It was not lost on many Muslims, for example, that the rallying cry, "Bande Mataram," had first appeared in the novel Anand Math in which Hindus had battled their Muslim oppressors.[28] Lastly, the Muslim elite, and among it Dacca Nawab, Khwaja Salimullah, who hosted the League's first meeting in his mansion in Shahbag, was aware that a new province with a Muslim majority would directly benefit Muslims aspiring to political power.[28]

Minto-Morley Reforms, Delhi Durbar, Ghadar Party: 1909-1915[edit]

Although the partition of Bengal was rescinded in 1911, it was the economic losses from World War I (1914-1918) that ultimately proved fatal to the global British Empire. This period also saw an increase in the activities of revolutionary groups, which included Bengal's Anushilan Samiti and the Punjab's Ghadar Party and mirrored other such movements in different parts of the world. The British authorities were, however, able to suppress them swiftly, in part, because the revolutionaries lacked the support of mainstream politicians in the Congress and the League.[29]

World War I, Lucknow Pact, Home Rule Leagues: 1914-1918[edit]

World War I would prove to be a watershed in the imperial relationship between Britain and India. 1.4 million Indian and British soldiers of the British Indian Army would take part in the war and their participation would have a wider cultural fallout: news of Indian soldiers fighting and dying with British soldiers, as well as soldiers from dominions like Canada and Australia, would travel to distant corners of the world both in newsprint and by the new medium of the radio.[30] India’s international profile would thereby rise and would continue to rise during the 1920s.[30] It was to lead, among other things, to India, under its own name, becoming a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920 and participating, under the name, "Les Indes Anglaises" (British India), in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp.[31] Back in India, especially among the leaders of the Indian National Congress, it would lead to calls for greater self-government for Indians.[30]

After the 1906 split between the moderates and the extremists, organized political activity by the Congress had remained fragmented until 1914, when Bal Gangadhar Tilak was released from prison and began to sound out other Congress leaders about possible re-unification. That, however, had to wait until the demise of Tilak’s principal moderate opponents, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Pherozeshah Mehta, in 1915, whereupon an agreement was reached for Tilak’s ousted group to re-enter the Congress.[30] In the 1916 Lucknow session of the Congress, Tilak’s supporters were able to push through a more radical resolution which asked for the British to declare that it was their, "aim and intention … to confer self-government on India at an early date.”[30] Soon, other such rumblings began to appear in public pronouncements: in 1917, in the Imperial Legislative Council, Madan Mohan Malaviya spoke of the expectations the war had generated in India, “I venture to say that the war has put the clock … fifty years forward … (The) reforms after the war will have to be such, … as will satisfy the aspirations of her (India’s) people to take their legitimate part in the administration of their own country.”[30]

The 1916 Lucknow Session of the Congress was also the venue of an unanticipated mutual effort by the Congress and the Muslim League, the occasion for which was provided by the wartime partnership between Germany and Turkey. Since the Turkish Sultan, or Khalifah, had also sporadically claimed guardianship of the Islamic holy sites of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, and since the British and their allies were now in conflict with Turkey, doubts began to increase among some Indian Muslims about the “religious neutrality” of the British, doubts that had already surfaced as a result of the reunification of Bengal in 1911, a decision that was seen as ill-disposed to Muslims.[32] In the Lucknow Pact, the League joined the Congress in the proposal for greater self-government that was campaigned for by Tilak and his supporters; in return, the Congress accepted separate electorates for Muslims in the provincial legislatures as well as the Imperial Legislative Council. In 1916, the Muslim League had anywhere between 500 and 800 members and did not yet have its wider following among Indian Muslims of later years; in the League itself, the pact did not have unanimous backing, having largely been negotiated by a group of “Young Party” Muslims from the United Provinces (UP), most prominently, two brothers Mohammad and Shaukat Ali, who had embraced the Pan-Islamic cause;[32] however, it did have the support of a young lawyer from Bombay, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was later to rise to leadership roles in both the League and the Indian freedom movement. In later years, as the full ramifications of the pact unfolded, it was seen as benefiting the Muslim minority élites of provinces like UP and Bihar more than the Muslim majorities of Punjab and Bengal, nonetheless, at the time, the “Lucknow Pact,” was an important milestone in nationalistic agitation and was seen so by the British.[32]

During 1916, two Home Rule Leagues were founded within the Indian National Congress by Tilak and Annie Besant, respectively, to promote Home Rule among Indians, and also to elevate the stature of the founders within the Congress itself.[33] Mrs. Besant, for her part, was also keen to demonstrate the superiority of this new form of organized agitation, which had achieved some success in the Irish home rule movement, to the political violence that had intermittently plagued the subcontinent during the years 1907-1914.[33] The two Leagues focused their attention on complementary geographical regions: Tilak’s in western India, in the southern Bombay presidency, and Mrs. Besant’s in the rest of the country, but especially in the Madras Presidency and in regions like Sind and Gujarat that had hitherto been considered politically dormant by the Congress.[33] Both leagues rapidly acquired new members – approximately thirty thousand each in a little over a year – and began to publish inexpensive newspapers. Their propaganda also turned to posters, pamphlets, and political-religious songs, and later to mass meetings, which not only attracted greater numbers than in earlier Congress sessions, but also entirely new social groups such as non-Brahmins, traders, farmers, students, and lower-level government workers.[33] Although they did not achieve the magnitude or character of a nation-wide mass movement, the Home Rule leagues both deepened and widened organized political agitation for self-rule in India. The British authorities reacted by imposing restrictions on the Leagues, including shutting out students from meetings and banning the two leaders from traveling to certain provinces.[33]

The year 1915 also saw the return of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to India. Already known in India as a result of his civil liberties protests on behalf of the Indians in South Africa, Gandhi followed the advice of his mentor Gopal Krishna Gokhale and chose not to make any public pronouncements during the first year of his return, but instead spent the year traveling, observing the country first-hand, and writing.[34] Earlier, during his South Africa sojourn, Gandhi, a lawyer by profession, had represented an Indian community, which, although small, was sufficiently diverse to be a microcosm of India itself. In tackling the challenge of holding this community together and simultaneously confronting the colonial authority, he had created a technique of non-violent resistance, which he labeled Satyagraha (or, Striving for Truth).[35] For Gandhi, Satyagraha was different from “passive resistance,” by then a familiar technique of social protest, which he regarded as a practical strategy adopted by the weak in the face of superior force; Satyagraha, on the other hand, was for him the “last resort of those strong enough in their commitment to truth to undergo suffering in its cause.”[35] Ahimsa or "non-violence," which formed the underpinning of Satyagraha, came to represent the twin pillar, with Truth, of Gandhi’s unorthodox religious outlook on life.[35] During the years 1907-1914, Gandhi tested the technique of Satyagraha in a number of protests on behalf of the Indian community in South Africa against the unjust racial laws.[35]

Also, during his time in South Africa, in his essay, Hind Swaraj, (1909), Gandhi formulated his vision of Swaraj, or “self-rule” for India based on three vital ingredients: solidarity between Indians of different faiths, but most of all between Hindus and Muslims; the removal of untouchability from Indian society; and the exercise of swadeshi – the boycott of manufactured foreign goods and the revival of Indian cottage industry.[34] The first two, he felt, were essential for India to be an egalitarian and tolerant society, one befitting the principles of Truth and Ahimsa, while the last, by making Indians more self-reliant, would break the cycle of dependence that was not only perpetrating the direction and tenor of the British rule in India, but also the British commitment to it.[34] At least until 1920, the British presence itself, was not a stumbling block in Gandhi’s conception of swaraj; rather, it was the inability of Indians to create the right society.[34]

Satyagraha, Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, Jallianwalla Bagh: 1917-1919[edit]

Gandhi made his political debut in India in 1917 in Champaran district in Bihar, near the Nepal border, where he was invited by a group of disgruntled tenant farmers who, for many years, had been forced into planting indigo (for dyes) on a portion of their land and then selling it at below-market prices to the British planters who had leased them the land.[37] Upon his arrival in the district, Gandhi was joined by other agitators, including a young Congress leader, Rajendra Prasad, from Bihar, who would become a become a loyal supporter of Gandhi and go on to play a prominent role in the Indian freedom movement. When Gandhi was ordered to leave by the local British authorities, he refused on moral grounds, setting up his refusal as a form of individual Satyagraha.[37] Soon, under pressure from the Viceroy in Delhi who was anxious to maintain domestic peace during war-time, the provincial government rescinded Gandhi’s expulsion order, and later agreed to an official enquiry into the case.[37] Although, the British planters eventually gave in, they were not won over to the farmers’ cause, and thereby did not produce the optimal outcome of a Satyagraha that Gandhi had hoped for; similarly, the farmers themselves, although pleased at the resolution, responded less than enthusiastically to the concurrent projects of rural empowerment and education that Gandhi had inaugurated in keeping with his ideal of swaraj.[37] The following year Gandhi launched two more Satyagrahas – both in his native Gujarat – one in the rural Kaira district where land-owning farmers were protesting increased land-revenue and the other in the city of Ahmedabad, where workers in an Indian-owned textile mill were distressed about their low wages.[37] The satyagraha in Ahmedabad took the form of Gandhi fasting and supporting the workers in a strike, which eventually led to a settlement. In Kaira, in contrast, although the farmers’ cause received publicity from Gandhi’s presence, the satyagraha itself, which consisted of the farmers' collective decision to withhold payment, was not immediately successful, as the British authorities refused to back down.[37] However, like Champaran, the agitation in Kaira gained for Gandhi another life-long lieutenant in Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who had organized the farmers, and who too would go on to play a leadership role in the Indian freedom movement. Champaran, Kaira, and Ahmedabad were important milestones in the history of Gandhi’s new methods of social protest in India.[37]

The previous year (1916), in the face of new strength demonstrated by the nationalists with the signing of the Lucknow Pact and the founding of the Home Rule leagues, and the realization, after the disaster in the Mesopotamian campaign, that the war would likely last longer, the new Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, cautioned that the Government of India needed to be more responsive to Indian opinion.[38] Towards the end of the year, after discussions with the government in London, he suggested that the British demonstrate their good faith – in light of the Indian war role – through a number of public actions, including awards of titles and honors to princes, granting of commissions in the army to Indians, and removal of the much-reviled cotton excise duty, but, most importantly, an announcement of Britain's future plans for India and an indication of some concrete steps.[38] After more discussion, in August 1917, the new Liberal Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, announced the British aim of “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.”[38] Although the plan envisioned limited self-government at first only in the provinces – with India emphatically within the British Empire – it represented the first British proposal for any form of representative government in a non-white colony.[38]

Earlier, at the onset of World War I, the reassignment of most of the British army in India to Europe and Mesopotamia, had led the previous Viceroy, Lord Harding, to worry about the “risks involved in denuding India of troops.”[30] Revolutionary violence had already been a concern in British India; consequently, in 1915, to strengthen its powers during what it saw was a time of increased vulnerability, the Government of India passed the Defence of India Act, which allowed it to intern politically dangerous dissidents without due process, and added to the power it already had – under the 1910 Press Act – both to imprison journalists without trial and to censor the press.[39] It was under the Defence of India act that the Ali brothers were imprisoned in 1916, and Annie Besant, a European woman, and ordinarily more problematic to imprison, in 1917.[39] Now, as constitutional reform began to be discussed in earnest, the British began to consider how new moderate Indians could be brought into the fold of constitutional politics and, simultaneously, how the hand of established constitutionalists could be strengthened.[39] However, since the Government of India wanted to ensure against any sabotage of the reform process by extremists, and since its reform plan was devised during a time when extremist violence had ebbed as a result of increased governmental control, it also began to consider how some of its war-time powers could be extended into peace time.[39]

Consequently, in 1917, even as Edwin Montagu, announced the new constitutional reforms, a committee chaired by a British judge, Mr. S. A. T. Rowlatt, was tasked with investigating "revolutionary conspiracies," with the unstated goal of extending the government's war-time powers.[38] The Rowlatt committee presented its report in July 1918 and identified three regions of conspiratorial insurgency: Bengal, the Bombay presidency, and the Punjab.[38] To combat subversive acts in these regions, the committee recommended that the government use emergency powers akin to its war-time authority, which included the ability to try cases of sedition by a panel of three judges and without juries, exaction of securities from suspects, governmental overseeing of residences of suspects,[38] and the power for provincial governments to arrest and detain suspects in short-term detention facilities and without trial.[36]

With the end of World War I, there was also a change in the economic climate. By year’s end 1919, 1.5 million Indians had served in the armed services in either combatant or non-combatant roles, and India had provided £146 million in revenue for the war.[40] The increased taxes coupled with disruptions in both domestic and international trade had the effect of approximately doubling the index of overall prices in India between 1914 and 1920.[40] Returning war veterans, especially in the Punjab, created a growing unemployment crisis,[41] and post-war inflation led to food riots in Bombay, Madras, and Bengal provinces,[41] a situation that was made only worse by the failure of the 1918-19 monsoon and by profiteering and speculation.[40] The global influenza epidemic and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 added to the general jitters; the former among the population already experiencing economic woes,[41] and the latter among government officials, fearing a similar revolution in India.[42]

To combat what it saw as a coming crisis, the government now drafted the Rowlatt committee's recommendations into two Rowlatt Bills.[36] Although the bills were authorized for legislative consideration by Edwin Montagu, they were done so unwillingly, with the accompanying declaration, “I loathe the suggestion at first sight of preserving the Defence of India Act in peace time to such an extent as Rowlatt and his friends think necessary.”[38] In the ensuing discussion and vote in the Imperial Legislative Council, all Indian members voiced opposition to the bills. The Government of India was, nevertheless, able to use of its "official majority" to ensure passage of the bills early in 1919.[38] However, what it passed, in deference to the Indian opposition, was a lesser version of the first bill, which now allowed extra-judicial powers, but for a period of exactly three years and for the prosecution solely of “anarchical and revolutionary movements,” dropping entirely the second bill involving modification the Indian Penal Code.[38] Even so, when it was passed, the new Rowlatt Act aroused widespread indignation throughout India, and brought Gandhi to the forefront of the nationalist movement.[36]

Meanwhile, Montagu and Chelmsford themselves finally presented their report in July 1918 after a long fact-finding trip through India the previous winter.[43] After more discussion by the government and parliament in Britain, and another tour by the Franchise and Functions Committee for the purpose of identifying who among the Indian population could vote in future elections, the Government of India Act of 1919 (also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms) was passed in December 1919.[43] The new Act enlarged both the provincial and Imperial legislative councils and repealed the Government of India’s recourse to the “official majority” in unfavorable votes.[43] Although departments like defense, foreign affairs, criminal law, communications, and income-tax were retained by the Viceroy and the central government in New Delhi, other departments like public health, education, land-revenue, local self-government were transferred to the provinces.[43] The provinces themselves were now to be administered under a new dyarchical system, whereby some areas like education, agriculture, infrastructure development, and local self-government became the preserve of Indian ministers and legislatures, and ultimately the Indian electorates, while others like irrigation, land-revenue, police, prisons, and control of media remained within the purview of the British governor and his executive council.[43] The new Act also made it easier for Indians to be admitted into the civil service and the army officer corps.

A greater number of Indians were now enfranchised, although, for voting at the national level, they constituted only 10% of the total adult male population, many of whom were still illiterate.[43] In the provincial legislatures, the British continued to exercise some control by setting aside seats for special interests they considered cooperative or useful. In particular, rural candidates, generally sympathetic to British rule and less confrontational, were assigned more seats than their urban counterparts.[43] Seats were also reserved for non-Brahmins, landowners, businessmen, and college graduates. The principal of “communal representation,” an integral part of the Minto-Morley reforms, and more recently of the Congress-Muslim League Lucknow Pact, was reaffirmed, with seats being reserved for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and domiciled Europeans, in both provincial and Imperial legislative councils.[43] The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms offered Indians the most significant opportunity yet for exercising legislative power, especially at the provincial level; however, that opportunity was also restricted by the still limited number of eligible voters, by the small budgets available to provincial legislatures, and by the presence of rural and special interest seats that were seen as instruments of British control.[43]

Noncooperation, Khilafat, Jinnah's fourteen points: 1920s[edit]

In 1920, after the British government refused to back down, Gandhi began his campaign of noncooperation, prompting many Indians to return British awards and honours, to resign from civil service, and to again boycott British goods. In addition, Gandhi reorganized the Congress, transforming it into a mass movement and opening its membership to even the poorest Indians. Although Gandhi halted the noncooperation movement in 1922 after the violent incident at Chauri Chaura, the movement revived again, in the mid-1920s.

The visit, in 1928, of the British Simon Commission, charged with instituting constitutional reform in India, resulted in widespread protests throughout the country.[44] Earlier, in 1925, non-violent protests of the Congress had resumed too, this time in Gujarat, and led by Patel, who organized farmers to refuse payment of increased land taxes; the success of this protest, the Bardoli Satyagraha, brought Gandhi back into the fold of active politics.[44]

Communists, Trade Unionists, Revolutionaries: 1920s and early 1930s[edit]

This period also saw an increase in acts of revolutionary violence, among them the bombing of the Central Legislative Assembly building by the young revolutionary Bhagat Singh.[44] His subsequent conviction and execution by the British authorities, fired the popular imagination and attracted many young Indians to nationalist politics.[44]

Complete Independence, Muslim Homeland, Salt March: 1929-1931[edit]

At midnight on December 31, 1929, during its annual session in Lahore, the Indian National Congress, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, raised the flag of independent India for the first time, and afterwards issued a demand for Purna Swaraj (Sanskrit: “complete independence”), which Nehru was to later refer to as "a tryst with destiny." The declaration was drafted by the Congress Working Committee, which included Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari. Gandhi subsequently led an expanded movement of civil disobedience, culminating in 1930 with the Salt Satyagraha, in which thousands of Indians defied the tax on salt, by marching to the sea and making their own salt by evaporating seawater. Although, many, including Gandhi, were arrested, the British government eventually gave in, and in 1931 Gandhi traveled to London to negotiate new reform at the Round Table Conferences.

Round Table Conferences, Government of India Act (1935), Elections of 1937: 1931-1937[edit]

In 1935, after the Round Table Conferences, the British Parliament approved the Government of India Act of 1935, which authorized the establishment of independent legislative assemblies in all provinces of British India, the creation of a central government incorporating both the British provinces and the princely states, and the protection of Muslim minorities.[5] The future Constitution of independent India would owe a great deal to the text of this act.[45] The act also provided for a bicameral national parliament and an executive branch under the purview of the British government. Although the national federation was never realized, nationwide elections for provincial assemblies were held in 1937. Despite initial hesitation, the Congress took part in the elections and won victories in seven of the eleven provinces of British India, [46] and Congress governments, with wide powers, were formed in these provinces. In Great Britain, these victories were to later turn the tide for the idea of Indian independence.[46]

The Congress Left, World War II, Lahore Resolution: 1935-1940[edit]

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, declared war on India’s behalf without consulting Indian leaders, leading the Congress provincial ministries to resign in protest. The Muslim League, in contrast, supported Britain in the war effort; however, it now took the view that Muslims would be unfairly treated in an independent India dominated by the Congress. On March 24, 1940, on the last day of its three-day general session in Lahore, the League passed, what came to be known as the Lahore Resolution, demanding that, "the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign." Although there were other important national Muslim politicians such as Congress leader Ab'ul Kalam Azad, and influential regional Muslim politicians such as A. K. Fazlul Huq of the leftist Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, Sikander Hyat Khan of the landlord-dominated Punjab Unionist Party, and Abd al-Ghaffar Khan of the pro-Congress Khudai Khidmatgar (popularly, "red shirts") in the North West Frontier Province, the British, over the next six years, were to increasingly see the League as the main representative of Muslim India.[47]

Cripps Mission, Quit India Resolution, INA: 1942-1945[edit]

The British government—through its Cripps' mission—attempted to secure Indian nationalists' cooperation in the war effort in exchange for independence afterwards; however, the negotiations between them and the Congress broke down. Gandhi, subsequently, launched the “Quit India” movement in August 1942, urging the British to withdraw from India or face nationwide civil disobedience. Along with all other Congress leaders, Gandhi was immediately imprisoned, and the country erupted in violent demonstrations led by students and later by peasant political groups, especially in Eastern United Provinces, Bihar, and western Bengal. The large war-time British Army presence in India, led to the movement being crushed in a little more than six weeks;[48] nonetheless, it created many heroes, including Aruna Asaf Ali and Jayprakash Narayan, both Congress socialists, the former hoisting the Congress flag at the inception of the movement on August 9, 1942, in Bombay, and the latter—having been groomed for leadership of the movement by Gandhi—forming for a time a provisional government on the border with Nepal.[48]

With Congress leaders in jail, attention also turned to Subhas Bose, who, along with Jawaharlal Nehru, had been a leader of the socialist wing of the Congress in the late 1930s, as well as an early supporter of women's causes. Ousted from the Congress in 1939 by the more conservative high command chaired by Gandhi, Bose now turned to the Axis powers for help with liberating India by force.[49] With Japanese support, he formed the Indian National Army, composed largely of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army who had been captured by the Japanese. As the war turned against them, the Japanese began to support a number of governments in the captured regions, including those in Burma, the Phillipines and Vietnam, and, in addition, the Provisional Government of Azad Hind (Free India), presided by Bose.[49] Bose's effort, however, was short lived; in 1945, the reinforced British army drove Bose's Indian National Army down Burma and the Malay Peninsula, and Bose died in a plane crash soon thereafter.

Elections, Cabinet Mission, Direct Action Day: 1946[edit]

In January 1946, a number of mutinies broke out in the armed services, starting with that of RAF servicemen frustrated with their slow repatriation to Britain.[50] The mutinies came to a head with mutiny of the Royal Indian Navy in Bombay in February 1946, followed by others in Calcutta, Madras, and Karachi. Although the mutinies were rapidly suppressed, they had the effect of spurring the new Labour government in Britain to action, and leading to the Cabinet Mission to India led by the Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick Lawrence, and including Sir Stafford Cripps, who had visited four years before.[50]

Also in early 1946, new elections were called in India. Earlier, at the end of the war in 1945, the colonial government had announced the public trial of three senior officers of Bose's defeated Indian National Army who stood accused of treason. Now as the trials began, the Congress leadership, although ambivalent towards the INA, chose to defend the accused officers.[51] The subsequent convictions of the officers, the public outcry against the convictions, and the eventual remission of the sentences, created positive propaganda for the Congress, which only helped in the party's subsequent electoral victories in eight of the eleven provinces.[52] The negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League, however, stumbled over the issue of the partition. Jinnah proclaimed August 16, 1946, Direct Action Day, with the stated goal of highlighting, peacefully, the demand for a Muslim homeland in British India. The following day Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Calcutta and quickly spread throughout India. Although the Government of India and the Congress were both shaken by the course of events, in September, a Congress-led interim government was installed, with Jawaharlal Nehru as united India’s prime minister.

The Plan for Partition: 1947[edit]

Later that year, the Labor government in Britain, its exchequer exhausted by the recently concluded World War II, decided to end British rule of India, and in early 1947 Britain announced its intention of transferring power no later than June 1948.

As independence approached, the violence between Hindus and Muslims in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal continued unabated. With the British army unprepared for the potential for increased violence, the new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, advanced the date for the transfer of power, allowing less than six months for an mutually agreed plan for independence. In June 1947, the nationalist leaders, including Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs, agreed to a partition of the country along religious lines in stark opposition to Gandhi's views. The predominantly Hindu and Sikh areas were assigned to the new India and predominantly Muslim areas to the new nation of Pakistan; the plan included a partition of the Muslim-majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal.

Violence, Partition, Independence: 1947[edit]

Many million Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu refugees trekked across the newly drawn borders. In Punjab, where the new border lines divided the Sikh regions in half, ghastly bloodshed followed; in Bengal and Bihar, where Gandhi's presence assuaged communal tempers, the violence was more limited. In all, anywhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people on both sides of the new borders died in the violence.[53] On August 14, 1947, the new Dominion of Pakistan came into being, with Muhammad Ali Jinnah sworn in as its first Governor General in Karachi. The following day, August 15, 1947, India, now a smaller Union of India, became an independent country with official ceremonies taking place in New Delhi, and with Jawaharlal Nehru assuming the office of the prime minister, and the viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, staying on as its first Governor General; Gandhi, however, remained in Calcutta, preferring instead to work with the new refugees of the partitioned subcontinent.


  1. ^ a b c Spear 1990, p. 147
  2. ^ a b c d Spear 1990, pp. 147-148
  3. ^ (Stein 2001, p. 259), (Oldenburg 2007)
  4. ^ (Oldenburg 2007), (Stein 2001, p. 258)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g (Oldenburg 2007)
  6. ^ (Stein 2001, p. 258)
  7. ^ (Stein 2001, p. 159)
  8. ^ a b c (Stein 2001, p. 260)
  9. ^ (Bose & Jalal 2003, p. 117)
  10. ^ a b c d (Spear 1990, p. 169)
  11. ^ a b (Spear 1990, p. 170)
  12. ^ a b (Majumdar, Raychaudhuri & Datta 1950, p. 888)
  13. ^ (Bose & Jalal 2003, p. 100)
  14. ^ a b c (Spear 1990, pp. 173-174)
  15. ^ (Ludden 2002, p. 197)
  16. ^ a b (Ludden 2002, p. 198)
  17. ^ (Ludden 2002, p. 192)
  18. ^ (Ludden 2002, p. 192), (Stein 2001, p. 286)
  19. ^ (Smith 1921, pp. 768-769)
  20. ^ a b c (Spear 1990, p. 176)
  21. ^ (Spear 1990, p. 176), (Stein 2001, p. 291), (Ludden 2002, p. 193), (Metcalf & Metcalf 2006, p. 156)
  22. ^ a b (Bandyopadhyay 2005, p. 260)
  23. ^ a b c (Ludden 2002, p. 193)
  24. ^ a b (Ludden 2002, p. 199)
  25. ^ a b c (Wolpert 2003, pp. 275-276)
  26. ^ a b c d e (Ludden 2002, p. 200)
  27. ^ (Stein 2001, p. 286)
  28. ^ a b (Ludden 2002, p. 201)
  29. ^ (Robb 2004, p. 174)
  30. ^ a b c d e f g Brown 1994, pp. 197-198
  31. ^ Olympic Games Antwerp 1920: Official Report, Nombre de bations representees, p. 168. Quote: "31 Nations avaient accepté l'invitation du Comité Olympique Belge: ... la Grèce - la Hollande Les Indes Anglaises - l'Italie - le Japon ..."
  32. ^ a b c Brown 1994, pp. 200-201
  33. ^ a b c d e Brown 1994, p. 199
  34. ^ a b c d Brown 1994, pp. 214-215
  35. ^ a b c d Brown 1994, pp. 210-213
  36. ^ a b c d Spear 1990, p. 190
  37. ^ a b c d e f g Brown 1994, pp. 216-217
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Brown 1994, pp. 203-204
  39. ^ a b c d Brown 1994, pp. 201-202
  40. ^ a b c Brown 1994, pp. 195-196
  41. ^ a b c Stein 2001, p. 304
  42. ^ Ludden 2002, p. 208
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brown 1994, pp. 205-207
  44. ^ a b c d (Markovits 2004, pp. 373-374)
  45. ^ (Low 1993, pp. 40, 156)
  46. ^ a b (Low 1993, p. 154)
  47. ^ (Robb 2002, p. 190)
  48. ^ a b (Metcalf & Metcalf 2006, pp. 206-207)
  49. ^ a b (Low 1993, pp. 31-31)
  50. ^ a b (Judd 2004, pp. 172-173)
  51. ^ (Judd 2004, pp. 170-171)
  52. ^ (Judd 2004, p. 172)
  53. ^ (Khosla 2001, p. 299)


Classic Histories[edit]

  • Majumdar, R. C. (Late Vice Chancellor, Dacca University); Raychaudhuri, H. C.; Datta, Kalikinkar (1950), An Advanced History of India, London: Macmillan and Company Limited. 2nd edition. Pp. xiii, 1122, 7 maps, 5 coloured maps.  Text " authorlink1
" ignored (help). 
  • Smith, Vincent A. (Late, Indian Civil Service) (1921), India in the British Period: Being Part III of the Oxford History of India, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press. 2nd edition. Pp. xxiv, 316 (469-784)  Text " authorlink1
" ignored (help).

Tertiary Sources[edit]

Contemporary General Histories[edit]

Monographs and Collections[edit]