Indian independence movement
The Indian independence movement encompassed activities and ideas aiming to end the East Indian Company rule (1757–1857) and the British Indian Empire (1857–1947) in the Indian subcontinent. The movement spanned a total of 90 years (1857–1947).
History of Independence Day
The first organized militant movements were in Bengal, but they later took the movement in the newly formed Indian National Congress with prominent moderate leaders seeking only their basic right to appear for Indian Civil Service (British India) 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, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai. The last stages of the self-rule struggle from the 1920s onwards saw Congress adopt Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s policy of nonviolence and civil disobedience, and several other campaigns. Nationalists like Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Bagha Jatin preached armed revolution to achieve self-rule. Poets and writers such as Subramania Bharati, Rabindranath Tagore, Muhammad 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. B. R. 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 Congress, and the Indian National Army movement led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
history of independence day in india
The Indian self-rule movement was a mass-based movement that encompassed various sections of society. It also underwent a process of constant ideological evolution. Although the underlying ideology of the campaign was anti-colonial, it was supported by a vision of independent capitalist economic development coupled with a secular, democratic, republican, and civil-libertarian political structure. After the 1930s, the movement took on a strong socialist orientation, owing to the influence of Bhagat Singh’s demand of Purn Swaraj (Complete Self-Rule). 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.
Earl European traders first reached Indian shores with the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 at the port of Calicut, in search of the lucrative spice trade. Just over a century later, the Dutch and English established trading outposts on the subcontinent, with the first English trading post set up at Surat in 1613. Over the course of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the British defeated the Portuguese and Dutch militarily but remained in conflict with the French, who had by then sought to establish themselves in the subcontinent. The decline of the Mughal Empire in the first half of the eighteenth century provided the British with the opportunity to create a firm foothold in Indian politics. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, during which the East India Company’s Indian Army under Robert Clive defeated Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, the Company established itself as a major player in Indian affairs, and soon afterwards gained administrative rights over the regions of Bengal, Bihar and Midnapur part of Orissa, following the Battle of Buxar in 1764. 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.
English was made the medium of instruction in India’s schools in 1835, and many Indians increasingly disliked British rule. The English tried to impose the Western standards of education and culture on Indian masses, believing in the 18th century racist notion of the superiority of Western culture and enlightenment.y British colonialism in India
Puli Thevar was one of the opponents of the British rule in India. He conflicted with the Nawab of Arcot who was supported by the British. His 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 Thevan.
Syed Mir Nisar Ali Titumir; 27 January 1782 – 19 November 1831) was an Islamic preacher who led a peasant uprising against the Hindu zamindars, British India during the 19th century. Along with his followers, he built a bamboo fort (Bansher Kella in Bengali) in Narkelberia Village, which passed into Bengali folk legend. After the storming of the fortress by British soldiers, Titumir died of his wounds on 19 November 1831.
Most stringent resistance company experienced offered by Mysore. The Anglo–Mysore Wars were a series of wars fought in over the last three decades of the 18th century between the Kingdom of Mysore on the one hand, and the British East India Company (represented chiefly by the Madras Presidency), and Maratha Confederacy and the Nizam of Hyderabad on the other. Hyder Ali and his successor Tipu Sultan fought a war on four fronts with the British attacking from the west, south, and east, while the Marathas and the Nizam’s forces attacked from the north. The fourth war resulted in the overthrow of the house of Hyder Ali and Tipu, and the dismantlement of Mysore to the benefit of the East India Company, which won and took control of much of India.
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.
Rani Velu Nachiyar (1730–1796), was a queen of Indian Sivaganga from 1760 to 1790. She was the first queen to fight against the British in India. Rani Nachiyar was trained in war match weapons usage, martial arts like Valari, Silambam (fighting using the stick), horse riding and archery. She was a scholar in many languages, and she had proficiency with languages like French, English, and Urdu. When her husband, Muthuvaduganathaperiya Udaiyathevar, was killed by British soldiers and the son of the Nawab of Arcot, she was drawn into battle. She formed an army and sought an alliance with Gopala Nayaker and Hyder Ali with the aim of attacking the British, whom she did successfully fight in 1780. When Rani Velu Nachiyar found the place where the British stored their ammunition, she arranged a suicide attack: a faithful follower, Kuyili, doused herself in oil, set herself alight and walked into the storehouse. Rani Velu Nachiyar formed a woman’s army named “udaiyaal” in honor of her adopted daughter, Udaiyaal, who died detonating a British arsenal. Rani Nachiyar was one of the few rulers who regained her kingdom and ruled it for ten more years.
Veerapandiya Kattabomman was an eighteenth-century Polygar and chieftain from Panchalankurichi in Tamil Nadu, India who waged war against the East India Company. He was captured by the British and hanged in 1799 CE. Kattabomman refused to accept the sovereignty of East India Company and fought against them. Dheeran Chinnamalai was a Kongu chieftain and Palayakkarar from Tamil Nadu who fought against the East India Company. 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.
In September 1804, the King of Khordha, 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. Rajguru was killed on 6 December 1806. After Rajguru’s death, Bakshi Jagabandhu commanded an armed rebellion against the East India Company’s rule in Odisha which is known as Paik Rebellion.
The rebellion of 1857
The Indian rebellion of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion in the northern and central India against the British East India Company’s rule. It was suppressed, and the British government took control of the company. The conditions of service in the company’s army and cantonments increasingly came into conflict with the religious beliefs and prejudices of the sepoys. The predominance of members from the upper castes in the army, perceived loss of caste due to overseas travel, and rumors of secret designs of the government to convert them to Christianity led to deep discontent among the sepoys. The sepoys were also disillusioned by their low salaries and the racial discrimination practiced by British officers in matters of promotion and privileges. 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 rumored 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.
Mangal Pandey, a 29-year-old sepoy, was believed to be responsible for inspiring the Indian sepoys to rise against the British. Pandey revolted against his army regiment for protection of the cow, considered 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 rule. He was captured and was sentenced to death when the British took back control of 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 reached Delhi on 11 May, set the company’s toll house on fire, and marched into the Red Fort, where they asked the Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, to become their leader and reclaim his throne. The emperor was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed and was proclaimed Shehenshah-e-Hindustan by the rebels. The rebels also murdered much of the European, Eurasian, and Christian population of the city.
Revolts broke out in other parts of Oudh and the North-Western Provinces as well, where civil rebellion followed the mutinies, leading to popular uprisings. The British were initially caught off-guard and were thus slow to react, but eventually responded with force. The lack of adequate organization among the rebels, coupled with the military superiority of the British, brought a rapid end to the rebellion. The British fought the main army of the rebels near Delhi, and after prolonged fighting and a siege, defeated them and retook the city on 20 September 1857. Subsequently, revolts in other centers was also crushed. The last significant battle was fought in Gwalior on 17 June 1858, during which Rani Lakshmibai were killed. Sporadic fighting and guerrilla warfare, led by Tatya Tope, continued until spring 1859, but most of the rebels was eventually subded.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major turning point in the history of modern India. While affirming the military and political power of the British, it led to significant change in how India was to be controlled by them. Under the Government of India Act 1858, the Company wasdeprived of its involvement in ruling India, with its territory being transferred to the direct authority of the British government. At the apex of the new system was a Cabinet minister, the Secretary of State for India, who was to be formally advised by a statutory council; the Governor-General of India (Viceroy) was made responsible to him, while he, in turn, was responsible to the government. In a royal proclamation made to the people of India, Queen Victoria promised equal opportunity for public service under British law and also pledged to respect the rights of the native princes. The British stopped the policy of seizing land from the princes, decreed religious tolerance and began to admit Indians into the civil service (albeit mainly as subordinates). However, they also increased the number of British soldiers about native Indian ones and only allowed British soldiers to handle artillery. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon, Burma, where he died in 1862.
In 1876, in a controversial move, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli 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 claim was foreign to British traditions.
The rise of organized movements
The decades following the Rebellion were a period of growing political awareness, a 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-two Indian delegates met in Bombay in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress. They were mostly members of the upwardly mobile and successful western-educated provincial elites, engaged in professions such as law, teaching, and journalism. At its inception, the Congress had no well-defined ideology and commanded few of the resources essential to a political organization. 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 public service). These resolutions were submitted to the Viceroy’s government and occasionally to the British Parliament, but the Congress’s early gains were slight. “Despite its claim to represent all India, the Congress voiced the interests of urban elites; the number of participants from other social and economic backgrounds remained negligible. “However, this period of history is still crucial because it represented the first political mobilization of Indians, coming from all parts of the subcontinent and the first articulation of the idea of India as one nation, rather than a collection of independent princely states.
The influence of socio-religious groups such as Arya Samaj (started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati) and Brahmo Samaj (founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others) became evident in pioneering reforms of Indian society. The work of men like Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, 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.
A rise of Indian nationalism (1885–1905)
By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization, it did not have the support of most Indian Muslims 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 emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern western knowledge. The diversity among India’s Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about true 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. Members of Congress saw themselves as loyalists, but wanted an active role in governing their own country, albeit as part of the Empire. This trend was personified by Dadabhai Naoroji, who went as far as contesting, successfully, an election to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, becoming its first Indian member.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first Indian nationalist to embrace Swaraj as the destiny of the nation. Tilak deeply opposed 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 famous 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 a 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 credibility with the people. A Muslim delegation met with the Viceroy, Minto (1905–10), seeking concessions from the impending constitutional reforms, including special considerations in government service and electorates. The British recognized 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
In July 1901, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, and Governor-General (1899–1905), ordered the separation of the province of Bengal supposedly for improvements in administrative efficiency in the vast and populous region. 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 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 sectors, finance, and education, which saw the founding of National Council of Education, the birth of Indian financial institutions and banks, as well as an interest in Indian culture and achievements in science and literature. Hindus showed unity by tying Rakhi on each other’s wrists and observing Arandhan (not cooking any food). During this time, Bengali Hindu nationalists like Sri Aurobindo, Bhupendranath Datta, and Bipin Chandra Pal began writing virulent newspaper articles challenging the legitimacy of British rule in India in publications such as Jugantar and Sandhya and was charged with treason. Brahmabhandav Upadhyay, a Hindu newspaper editor who helped Tagore establish his school at Shantiniketan, was imprisoned and the first to die in British custody in the twentieth-century struggle for self-rule. The movement also witnessed violent revolutionary movement for Indian independence, notable revolutionary being Khudiram Bose, who planted bombs near British government officials and police stations. Due to his activities against the British, he was arrested and hanged. At the time of his hanging, he was 18 years, eight months eight days old, making him one of the youngest revolutionaries in India.
In 1916, Muhammad Ali Jinnah joined the Indian National Congress, which was the largest Indian political organization. Like most of the Congress at the time, Jinnah did not favor 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 legitimization of the Muslim waqf (religious endowments) and was appointed to the Sandhurst committee, which helped establish the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun. During the First World War, Jinnah joined other Indian moderates in supporting the British war effort.
First World War
The First World War began with an unprecedented outpouring of support towards Britain from within the mainstream political leadership, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt. India contributed massively to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and laborers 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 paralyze the regional administration nearly, while failed conspiracies were made by revolutionaries to trigger a nationalist revolt in India.
None of the revolutionary conspiracies had a significant impact inside India. The prospect of subversive violence and its effect on the successful 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 significant 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.
Nationalist response to war
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 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.
The British themselves adopted a “carrot and stuck” approach in recognition of India’s support during the war and 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 realization 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 the provincial British administrators retained more sensitive matters such as finance, taxation, and maintaining law and order.
Gandhi had been a leader of the Indian nationalist movement in South Africa and had been a vocal opponent of fundamental discrimination and abusive labor 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 Punjab in 1872). In January 1914 (well before the First World War began) Gandhi was successful. The legislation against Indians were repealed, and General Jan Smuts released all Indian political prisoners. Gandhi accomplished this through extensive use of non-violent protests, such as boycotting, protest marching, and fasting by him and his followers.
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 a civil breach of immoral statutory enactments.” It had to be carried out non-violently by withdrawing co-operation with the corrupt state. Gandhi had great respect for Lokmanya Tilak. His programmes were all inspired by Tilak’s “Chatusutri” programme. It was at this point he met the prophet Ryan Chart, where he founded some of his most spiritual messages with his British colleague.
The positive impact of reform was severely undermined in 1919 by the Rowlatt Act, named after the recommendations made the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council by the Rowlatt Committee. The commission was set up to look into the war-time conspiracies by the nationalist organizations 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 were increasingly reviled within India due to widespread and indiscriminate use. Many famous leaders, including Annie Besant 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 law drew widespread opposition and criticism. In protest, a general cessation of work (hartal) were called, marking the beginning of general, although not nationwide, popular discontent.
The agitation unleashed by the acts led to British attacks on demonstrators, culminating on 13 April 1919, in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (also known as the Amritsar Massacre) in Amritsar, Punjab. The British military commander, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, blocked the main, and only entrance, and ordered his soldiers to fire into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 15,000 men, women, and children. They had assembled peacefully at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled courtyard, but Dyer had wanted to execute the imposed ban on all meetings and proposed to teach all Indians a lesson the harsher way. A total of 1,651 rounds were fired, killing 379 people (as according to an official British commission; Indian officials’ estimates ranged as high as 1,499 and wounded 1,137 in the massacre.) 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. The episode dissolved wartime hopes of home rule and goodwill and it opened a rift that could not be bridged short of complete self-rule.
First non-co-operation movement
From 1920 to 1922, Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement. At the Kolkata session of the Congress in September 1920, Gandhi convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-co-operation movement in support of Khilafat as well as for dominion status. The first satyagraha movement urged the use of khadi and Indian material as alternatives to those shipped from Britain. It also encouraged people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts; resign from government employment; refuse to pay taxes, and forsake British titles and honors. 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 severe challenge to foreign rule. However, Gandhi called off the campaign because he was scared after Chauri Chaura incident, which saw the death of twenty-two police officers at the hands of an angry mob.
Membership in the party were 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 were transformed from an elite organization to one of mass national appeal and participation.
Gandhi was sentenced in 1922 to six years in prison but were 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.
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 organizations 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 significant 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.
Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by Indians, an all-party conference was held at Mumbai in May 1928. This was meant to instill a sense of Liberation among people. The meeting appointed a drafting committee under Motilal Nehru to draw up a constitution for India. The Kolkata session of the Indian National Congress asked the British government to accord dominion status to India by December 1929, or a countrywide civil disobedience movement would be launched. By 1929, however, in the midst of rising political discontent and increasingly violent regional changes, the call for complete sovereignty and end of British rule began to find increasing grounds within the Public. Under the presidency of Jawaharlal at his historic Lahore session in December 1929, the Indian National Congress adopted the idea of complete self-rule and end of British rule. It authorized the Working Committee to launch a civil disobedience movement throughout the country. It were 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 broad spectrum united to commemorate the day with honor and pride.
In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact were signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free (Although, some of the great revolutionaries were not set free, and the death sentence for Bhagat Singh and his two comrades was not taken back which further intensified the agitation against Congress not only outside it but within the Congress itself). For the next few years, the Congress and the government was 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 campaign allowed the Indian community to revive their inner confidence and strength against the British Government. Also, the movement weakened the authority of the British and aided at 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
The Government of India Act 1935, the large and final constitutional effort at governing British India, articulated three primary 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 center, were not implemented because of ambiguities in safeguarding the existing privileges of princes. In February 1937, however, provincial autonomy became a reality when elections was 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 has 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 stronger demand.
Revolutionary movement of India
Apart from a few stray incidents, armed rebellions against the British rulers did not occur before the beginning of the 20th century. The Indian revolutionary underground began gathering momentum through the first decade of the 20th century, with groups arising in Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and the Madras Presidency including what is now called South India. More groups was scattered around India. Particularly notable movements arose in Bengal, especially around the Partition of Bengal in 1905, and in Punjab after 1907. In the former case, it was the educated, intelligent and dedicated youth of the urban middle-class Bhadralok community that came to form the “Classic” Indian revolutionary, while the latter had an immense support base in the rural and Military society of Punjab. In Bengal, the Anushilan Samiti emerged from conglomerations of local youth groups and gyms (Akhra) in Bengal in 1902, forming two extended and somewhat independent arms in East and West Bengal identified as Dhaka Anushilan Samiti in Dhaka (modern-day Bangladesh), and the Jugantar group (centered at Calcutta) respectively. Led by nationalists of the likes of Aurobindo Ghosh and his brother Barindra Ghosh, the Samiti was influenced by philosophies as diverse as Hindu Shakta philosophy propounded by Bengali literature Bankim and Vivekananda, Italian Nationalism, and Pan-Asianism of Kakuzo Okakura. The Samiti was involved in some noted incidences of radical terrorism against British interests and administration in India within the decade of its founding, including early attempts to assassinate Raj officials while 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. 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. The activities of nationalists abroad is believed to have shaken the loyalty of some native regiments of the British Indian Army. The assassination of William Hutt Curzon Wyllie in the hands of Madanlal Dhingra was highly publicised and saw increasing surveillance and suppression of Indian nationalism. These was 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, nationalists 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 Seditious 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 a reorganization of groups linked to the Samiti 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 organizations reorganized, notably under Sachindranath Sanyal, founding the Hindustan Republican Association with Chandrashekhar Azad in northern India. The HSRA had strong influences from leftist ideologies. Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) were formed under the leadership of Chandrasekhar Azad. Kakori train robbery was done mainly by the members of HSRA. Some Congress leaders from Bengal, especially Subhash Chandra Bose, were accused by the British Government of having links with and allowing patronage to the revolutionary organizations 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 Chittagong armory 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 were conducted. Police also arrested Sukhdev and Rajguru 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 to direct the Muslims towards the self-rule movement particularly. Some of its members left for the Indian National Congress then led by Subhas Chandra Bose, while others identified more closely with Communism. The Jugantar branch formally dissolved in 1938. On 13 March 1940, Udham Singh shot Michael O’Dwyer(the last political murder outside India), generally held responsible for the Amritsar Massacre, in London. However, the revolutionary movement gradually disseminated into the Gandhian movement. As the political scenario changed in the late 1930s — with the mainstream leaders considering several options offered by the British and with religious politics coming into play — revolutionary activities gradually declined. Many past revolutionaries joined mainstream politics by joining Congress and other parties, especially communist ones, while many of the activists was kept under hold in different jails across the country.
Within a short time of its inception, these organizations became the focus of an extensive police and intelligence operations. Operations against Anushilan Samiti saw the founding of the Special branch of Calcutta Police. The intelligence operations against India House saw the founding of the Indian Political Intelligence Office which later grew to be the Intelligence Bureau in independent India. Heading the intelligence and missions against Ghadarite movement and India revolutionaries was the MI5(g) section, and at one point involved the Pinkerton’s detective agency. Notable officers who led the police and intelligence operations against Indian revolutionaries, or were involved in it, at the 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 some revolutionaries linked to the organization, 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 were 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 product (Slash-and-burn) agricultural system, which involved shifting cultivation. Raju led a protest movement in the border areas of the Godavari Agency in Madras Presidency (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. The British goverment campaign lasted for nearly a year from December 1922. Raju was eventually trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalli then tied to a tree and shot dead with a rifle.
The 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.
The final process of Indian self-rule movement
In 1937, provincial elections was held, and the Congress came to power in seven of the eleven provinces. This was a reliable indicator of the Indian people’s support for complete self-rule.
When the Second World War started, Viceroy Linlithgow unilaterally declared India a belligerent on the side of Britain, without consulting the elected Indian representatives. In opposition to Linlithgow’s action, the entire Congress leadership resigned from the provincial and local governments. The Muslims and Sikhs, by contrast, strongly supported the war effort and gained enormous stature in London. Defying Congress, millions of Indians supported the war effort, and indeed the British Indian Army became the most significant volunteer force, numbering 2,500,000 men during the war.
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 leading national and provincial figures. They are not released until the end of the war was in sight in 1945.
The self-rule movement saw the rise of three actions: Indian youth led the first of these, the Kakori conspiracy (9 August 1925) under the leadership of Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil; second was the Azad Hind movement led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which he 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 and reflected the common man resulting the failure of the Cripps’ mission to reaches a consensus with the Indian political leadership over the transfer of power after the war.
Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army)
The entry of India into the war was vehemently 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 wing separated from the mainstream congress leadership known as Forwarding bloc which was the center of ex-congressmen with socialist views; however, he remained emotionally attached with him for the remainder of his life. Bose then founded the All India Forward Bloc. In 1940, a year after war broke out and 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 were 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 reorganized the Indian National Army composed of Indian POWs and volunteering Indian expatriates in South-East Asia, with the help of the Japanese. It aimed 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 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 to owe to disrupted logistics, poor supplies from the Japanese, and lack of training. It surrendered unconditionally to the British in Singapore in 1945. Bose, however, attempted to escape to Japanese-held Manchuria in an attempt to flee to the Soviet Union, marking the end of the entire Azad Hind movement.
Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan) or the August Movement was a civil disobedience movement in India which commenced on 8 August 1942 in response to Gandhi’s call for immediate self-rule by Indians and against sending Indians to World War II. He asked all teachers to go their schools, and other Indians to leave their respective jobs and take part in this movement. Due to Gandhi’s political influence, his request were followed by a massive proportion of the population. Also, the INC led the Quit India Movement to demand the British to leave India and to transfer the political power to INC.
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. Also, this movement was addressed directly to women as “disciplined soldiers of Indian freedom,” and they had to keep the war for independence to go on (against British rule).
At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September 1939, passed a resolution conditionally supporting the fight against fascism, but was 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 critical demand of a timeframe towards self-government, and of the definition of the powers to be relinquished, essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement. To force the British Raj to meet its demands and obtain definitive word on total self-rule, the Congress decided to launch the Quit India Movement.
The movement aimed 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 request 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 higher 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 Mumbai session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, a massive Civil Disobedience would launched. However, it was a hugely controversial decision. At Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, Gandhi urged Indians to follow non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi told the masses to act as citizens of a sovereign nation and not to follow the orders of the British. The British, already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India–Burma border, responded the next day by imprisoning Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace 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 principal 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 was called. The movement also saw public acts of sabotage, Indian under-ground organization carried out bomb attacks on allied supply convoys, government buildings was set on fire, electricity lines were disconnected and transport and communication lines was 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 laws that deviated from Gandhi’s principle of non-violence. In large parts of the country, the local underground organizations 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 overgrew in membership, and in influence with the British.
There was opposition to the Quit India Movement from several political quarters who were fighting for Indian self-rule. Hindu nationalist parties like the Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the call and boycotted the Quit India Movement. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the president of the Hindu Mahasabha at that time even went to the extent of writing a letter titled “Stick to your Posts”, in which he instructed Hindu Sabhaites who happened to be “members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures or those serving in the army…to stick to their posts” across the country, and not to join the Quit India Movement at any cost.
The other Hindu nationalist organization and Mahasabha affiliate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had a tradition of keeping aloof from the anti-British Indian self-rule movement since its founding by K.B. Hedgewar in 1925. In 1942, the RSS, under M.S. Golwalkar completely abstained from joining in the Quit India Movement as well. The Bombay government (British) appreciated the RSS as such, by noting that,
“the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942”.
The British Government stated that the RSS was not at all supporting any civil disobedience against them, and as such their other political activities (even if objectionable) can be overlooked. Further, the British Government also asserted that at Sangh meetings organized 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 was generally observed.”
“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 organization of inactive people; their talks have no substance’ was the opinion uttered not only by outsiders but also our own swayamsevaks”
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.
The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny encompasses a total strike and subsequent mutiny by Indian sailors of the Royal Indian revolt on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay (Mumbai) harbor 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.
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 stay 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, Nehru kept the issue of Kashmir in his hands.
The Constituent Assembly, headed by the prominent lawyer, reformer, and Dalit leader, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was tasked with creating the constitution of free India. The Constituent Assembly completed the work of drafting the constitution on 26 November 1949; on 26 January 1950, the Republic of India was officially proclaimed. The Constituent Assembly elected 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.”