Wanganui Chronicle, Volume LXVI, Issue 17384, 21 September 1918, Page 5

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Rise of organised movements

The decades following the Sepoy Rebellion were a period of growing political awareness, manifestation of Indian public opinion and emergence of Indian leadership at national and provincial levels. Dadabhai Naoroji formed East India Association in 1867, and Surendranath Banerjea founded Indian National Association in 1876. Inspired by a suggestion made by A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant, seventy-three Indian delegates met in Bombay in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress. They were mostly members of the upwardly mobile and successful western-educated provincial elites, engaged in professions such as law, teaching, and journalism. At its inception, the Congress had no well-defined ideology and commanded few of the resources essential to a political organization. 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 the civil service. These resolutions were submitted to the Viceroy’s government and occasionally to the British Parliament, but the Congress’s early gains were meagre. Despite its claim to represent all India, the Congress voiced the interests of urban elites; the number of participants from other economic backgrounds remained negligible.

The influences of socio-religious groups such as Arya Samaj (started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati) and Brahmo Samaj (founded, among others, by Raja Ram Mohan Roy) became evident in pioneering reform of Indian society. The inculcation of religious reform and social pride was fundamental to the rise of a public movement for complete nationhood. The work of men like Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Sri Aurobindo, Subramanya Bharathy, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Rabindranath Tagore and Dadabhai Naoroji spread the passion for rejuvenation and freedom.

By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization, its achievement was undermined by its singular failure to attract Muslims, who felt that their representation in government service was inadequate. Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow slaughter, and the preservation of Urdu in Arabic script deepened their concerns of minority status and denial of rights if the Congress alone were to represent the people of India. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1921). 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 uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration.

Rise of Indian nationalism

The first spurts of nationalistic sentiment that rose amongst Congress members were when the desire to be represented in the bodies of government, to have a say, a vote in the lawmaking and issues of administration of India. Congressmen saw themselves as loyalists, but wanted an active role in governing their own country, albeit as part of the Empire. This trend was personified by Dadabhai Naoroji, who went as far as contesting, successfully, an election to the British House of Commons, becoming its first Indian member.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first Indian nationalist to embrace Swaraj as the destiny of the nation. Tilak deeply opposed the British education system that ignored and defamed India’s culture, history and values. He resented the denial of freedom of expression for nationalists, and the lack of any voice or role for ordinary Indians in the affairs of their nation. For these reasons, he considered Swaraj as the natural and only solution. His popular sentence “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it” became the source of inspiration for Indians.

In 1907, the Congress was split into two. Tilak advocated what was deemed as extremism. He wanted a direct assault by the people upon the British Raj, and the abandonment of all things British. He was backed by rising public leaders likeBipin 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. The moderates, led byGopal Krishna Gokhale, Pherozeshah Mehta and Dadabhai Naoroji held firm to calls for negotiations and political dialogue. Gokhale criticized Tilak for encouraging acts of violence and disorder. But the Congress of 1906 did not have public membership, and thus Tilak and his supporters were forced to leave the party.

But with Tilak’s arrest, all hopes for an Indian offensive were stalled. The Congress lost credit with the people, whileMuslims were alarmed with the rise of Tilak’s Hindu nationalism, and formed the All India Muslim League in 1906, considered the Congress as completely unsuitable for Indian Muslims. A Muslim deputation met with the Viceroy, Lord Minto (1905–10), seeking concessions from the impending constitutional reforms, including special considerations in government service and electorates. The British recognised some of Muslim League’s petitions by increasing the number of elective offices reserved for Muslims in the India Councils Act of 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

In 1905, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and Governor-General (1899–1905), ordered the partition of the province of Bengal for improvements in administrative efficiency in that huge and populous region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The partition outraged Bengalis. Not only had the government failed to consult Indian public opinion, but the action appeared to reflect the British resolve to divide and rule. Widespread agitation ensued in the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British products under the banner of swadeshi. People showed unity by tying Rakhi on each other’s wrists and observing Arandhan (not cooking any food). Actually Bengal was divided on the pretext of easy administration but the real purpose was to bring religious disunity

During the partition of Bengal new methods of struggle were adopted. These led to swadeshi and boycott movements. The Congress-led boycott of British goods was so successful that it unleashed anti-British forces to an extent unknown since the Sepoy Rebellion. A cycle of violence and repression ensued in some parts of the country (see Alipore bomb case). The British tried to mitigate the situation by announcing a series of constitutional reforms in 1909 and by appointing a few moderates to the imperial and provincial councils. In what the British saw as an additional goodwill gesture, in 1911 King-Emperor George V visited India for a durbar (a traditional court held for subjects to express fealty to their ruler), during which he announced the reversal of the partition of Bengal and the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to a newly planned city to be built immediately south of Delhi, which later became New Delhi.

World War I

World War I began with an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill towards the United Kingdom, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt. India contributed massively to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. But 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 Indian soldiers smuggled arms into India to owerthrow the British rule. The prewar nationalist movement revived as moderate and extremist groups within the Congress submerged their differences in order to stand as a unified front. 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 stick” approach in recognition of India’s support during the war and in response to renewed nationalist demands. In August 1917, Edwin Montagu, the secretary of state for India, made the historic announcement in Parliament that the British policy for India was “increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive 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 of 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 asagriculture, local government, health, education, and public works, were handed over to Indians, while more sensitive matters such as finance, taxation, and maintaining law and order were retained by the provincial British administrators.

The Rowlatt Act and its aftermath

]] The positive impact of reform was seriously undermined in 1919 by the Rowlatt Act, named after the recommendations made the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council by the Rowlatt Commission, which had been appointed to investigate “seditious conspiracy.” The Rowlatt Act, also known as the Black Act, 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. In protest, a nationwide cessation of work (hartal) was called, marking the beginning of widespread, although not nationwide, popular discontent. The agitation unleashed by the acts culminated on 13 April 1919, in the Amritsar Massacre (also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre) in Amritsar, Punjab. The British military commander, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, blocked the main entrance, and ordered his soldiers to fire into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 5,000 people. They had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled in courtyard in defiance of the ban. A total of 1,650 rounds were fired, killing 379 (as per government estimate, actual figure believed to be above 1000) people and wounding 1,137 in the episode, which dispelled wartime hopes of home rule and goodwill in a frenzy of post-war reaction.

The Gandhian generation

Jinnah Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

It can be argued that the movement, even towards the end of First World War, were far removed from the masses of India, focussing essentially on a unified commerce-oriented territory and a far cry from the calls for a united nation, that came in the 1930s. Possibly one of the factors that brought this movement to the masses was the entry of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in Indian Politics in 1915.

Gandhi had been a prominent leader of anti apartheid movement in South Africa and had been vocal basic discrimination and abusive labour treatment as well as suppressive police control akin to the Rowlatt Acts. During these protests Gandhi had perfected the concept of satyagraha, on which he had been inspired by the philosophy of Baba Ram Singh(famous for leading the Kuka Movement in the Punjab in 1872). The end of the protests in the country saw repeal of the legislations and release of political prisoners by General Jan Smuts, head of the South African Government of the time.

However Gandhi, a stranger to India and its politics after twenty years, had initially entered the fray not with calls for a nation-state, but in support of the unified commmerce-oriented territory, that the Congress Party had been asking for. Gandhi, however, was of the opinion that the industrial development and educational development that the Europeans brought with them was required to uplift India’s problems. A veteran Congressman and Indian leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale became Gandhi’s mentor. Gandhi’s ideas and strategies of non-violent civil disobedience initially appeared impractical to some Indians and veteran Congressmen. In Gandhi’s own words, “civil disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments,” but as he viewed it, it had to be carried out non-violently by withdrawing cooperation with the corrupt state. Gandhi’s ability to inspire millions of common people was initiated when he used satyagraha during the anti-Rowlatt Act protests in Punjab.

Gandhi’s vision would soon bring the population of millions into the movement. In Champaran, Bihar, the Congress Party brought forth the plight of desperately poor sharecroppers, landless farmers who were being forced to grow cash crops at the expense of crops which formed their food supply, and pay oppressive taxes. Neither were they sufficiently paid for sustenance. It was at this time also that the nationalist cause was integrated to the interests and industries that formed the economy of common Indians. The first satyagraha movement urged the use of Khadi and Indian material as alternatives to those shipped from Britain. It also urged the boycott of British educational institutions and law courts; to resign from government employment; to refuse to pay taxes; and to forsake British titles and honours. Although this came too late to influence the framing of the new Government of India Act of 1919, the magnitude of disorder resulting from the movement was unparalleled and presented a new challenge to foreign rule. These movements found widespread support among a people awakening to a new sense of nationalism. However, the movement was called off by Gandhi following the Chauri Chaura incident, which saw the death of twenty two policemen in the hands of an angry mob.

In 1920, the Congress was reorganized and given a new constitution, whose goal was Swaraj (independence)[citation needed]. Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee, and a hierarchy of committees was established and made responsible for discipline and control over a hitherto amorphous and diffuse movement. The party was transformed from an elite organization to one of mass national appeal and participation.

Gandhi was imprisoned in 1922 for six years, but was released after serving two. On his release from prison, he set up the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, on the banks of river Sabarmati, established the newspaper Young India, and inaugurated a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society – the rural poor, and theuntouchables.

This era saw the emergence of new generation of Indians from within the Congress Party, including C. Rajagopalachari,Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and others- who would later on come to form the prominent voices of the Indian Independence Movement, whether keeping with Gandhian Values, or 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 inMaharashtra, and Sikhs in Punjab.

Dandi March and the civil disobedience movement

Main article: Salt Satyagraha

Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by Indians, an all-party conference was held atBombay in May 1928. The conference appointed a drafting committee under Motilal Nehru to draw up a constitution for India. The Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress asked the British government to accord dominion status to India by December 1929, or a countrywide civil disobedience movement would be launched. The Indian National Congress, at its historic Lahore session in December 1929, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, adopted a resolution to gain complete independence from the British. It authorised the Working Committee to launch a civil disobedience movement throughout the country. It was decided that 26 January 1930 should be observed all over India as the Purna Swaraj (complete independence) Day. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries of a wide spectrum united to observe the day with honour and pride.

Gandhi emerged from his long seclusion by undertaking his most famous campaign, a march of about 400 kilometres from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat between 12 March and 6 April, 1930. The march is usually known as the Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha. At Dandi, in protest against British taxes on salt, he and thousands of followers broke the law by making their own salt from seawater.

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

In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free (Although, some of the key revolutionaries were not set free and the death sentence for Bhagat Singh and his two comrades was not taken back which further intensened the agitation against Congress not only outside it but with in the Congress it self). In return, Gandhi agreed to discontinue the civil disobedience movement and participate as the sole representative of the Congress in the second Round Table Conference, which was held in London in September 1931. However, the conference ended in failure in December 1931. Gandhi returned to India and decided to resume the civil disobedience movement in January 1932.

For the next few years, the Congress and the government were locked in conflict and negotiations until what became theGovernment of India Act of 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.

Elections and the Lahore resolution

Main article: Lahore Resolution
Jinnah Gandhi

Jinnah with Gandhi, 1944.

The Government of India Act 1935, the voluminous and final constitutional effort at governing British India, articulated three major goals: establishing a loose federal structure, achieving provincial autonomy, and safeguarding minority interests through separate electorates. The federal provisions, intended to unite princely states and British India at the centre, were not implemented because of ambiguities in safeguarding the existing privileges of princes. In February 1937, however, provincial autonomy became a reality when elections were held; the Congress emerged as the dominant party with a clear majority in five provinces and held an upper hand in two, while the Muslim League performed poorly.

In 1939, the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow declared India’s entrance into World War II without consulting provincial governments. In protest, the Congress asked all of its elected representatives to resign from the government. Jinnah, the president of the Muslim League, persuaded participants at the annual Muslim League session at Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Lahore Resolution, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu; sometimes referred to as Two Nation Theory. Although the idea of Pakistan had been introduced as early as 1930, very few had responded to it. However, the volatile political climate and hostilities between the Hindus and Muslims transformed the idea of Pakistan into a stronger demand.

Revolutionary activities


Bhagat Singh


Smiling Udhamleaving the Caxton Hall after his arrest

Bagha jatin

Bagha Jatin

Apart from a few stray incidents, the armed rebellion against the British rulers was not organized before the beginning of the 20th century. The revolutionary philosophies and movement made their presence felt during the 1905 Partition of Bengal. Arguably, the initial steps to organize the revolutionaries were taken by Aurobindo Ghosh, his brother Barin Ghosh, Bhupendranath Datta etc. when they formed theJugantar party in April 1906.[7] Jugantar was created as an inner circle of the Anushilan Samiti which was already present in Bengal mainly as a revolutionary society in the guise of a fitness club.

The Jugantar party leaders like Barin Ghosh and Bagha Jatin initiated making of explosives. The Alipore bomb case, following the Muzaffarpur killing tried several activists and many were sentenced to deportation for life, while Khudiram Bose was hanged. Madan Lal Dhingra, a student in London, murdered Sir Curzon Wylie, a British M.P. on 1 July 1909 in London.

The Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar opened several branches throughout Bengal and other parts of Indiaand recruited young men and women to participate in the revolutionary activities. Several murders and looting were done, with many revolutionaries being captured and imprisoned. During the First World War, the revolutionaries planned to import arms and ammunitions from Germany and stage an armed revolution against the British.[8]

The Ghadar Party operated from abroad and cooperated with the revolutionaries in India. This party was instrumental in helping revolutionaries inside India catch hold of foreign arms.

After the First World War, the revolutionary activities suffered major setbacks due to the arrest of prominent leaders. In the 1920s, revolutionary activists began to reorganize. Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was formed under the leadership of Chandrasekhar Azad. 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. Following the trial (Central Assembly Bomb Case), Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged in 1931. Allama Mashriqifounded Khaksar Tehreek in order to direct particularly the Muslims towards the independence movement.[9]

Surya Sen, along with other activists, raided the Chittagong armoury on 18 April 1930 to capture arms and ammunition and to destroy government communication system to establish a local governance. Pritilata Waddedar led an attack on a European club in Chittagong in 1932, while Bina Das attempted to assassinate Stanley Jackson, the Governor of Bengalinside the convocation hall of Calcutta University. Following the Chittagong armoury raid case, Surya Sen was hanged and several others were deported for life to the Cellular Jail in Andaman. The Bengal Volunteers started operating in 1928. On 8 December 1930, the BenoyBadalDinesh trio of the party entered the secretariat Writers’ Building in Kolkataand murdered Col. N. S. Simpson, the Inspector General of Prisons.

On 13 March 1940, Udham Singh shot Sir Michael O’Dwyer, generally held responsible for the Amritsar Massacre, in London. However, as the political scenario changed in the late 1930s — with the mainstream leaders considering several options offered by the British and with religious politics coming into play — revolutionary activities gradually declined. Many past revolutionaries joined mainstream politics by joining Congress and other parties, especially communist ones, while many of the activists were kept under hold in different jails across the country.

The climax: war, Quit India, INA and Post-war revolts

Indians throughout the country were divided over World War II, as the Lord Linlithgow, without consulting the Indian representatives had unilaterally declared India a belligerent on the side of the allies. In opposition to Linlithgow’s action, the entire congress leadership resigned from the local government councils. However, many wanted to support the British war effort, and indeed the British Indian Army was one of the largest volunteer force during the war.[citation needed]Especially during the Battle of Britain, 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 freedom out of the ashes of a destroyed Britain. However, like the changing fortunes of the war itself, the movement for freedom saw the rise of two movements that formed the climax of the 100-year struggle for independence.

The first of these, the Azad Hind movement led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, saw its inception early in the war and sought help from the Axis Powers. The second saw its inception in August 1942 led by Gandhi and began following failure of the Cripps’ mission to reach a consensus with the Indian political leadership over the transfer of power after the war.

The Indian National Army

See also: Legion Freies Indien, Battaglione Azad Hindoustan, Fall of Singapore, Capt. Mohan Singh, Rash Behari Bose, Col. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, and Maj Gen. Shah Nawaz Khan
INA Jubilation

Jubilant INA and Japanese troops after capturing a post on the Indo-Burmese Border. Although largely ignored by post-Independence historians of India, the contributions of the Azad Hind movement are now considered significant.[10]

Subhas Bose

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

The arbitrary entry of India into the war was strongly opposed bySubhash Chandra Bose, who had been elected President of the Congress twice, in 1937 and 1939. After lobbying against participation in the war, he resigned from Congress in 1939 and started a new party, the All India Forward Bloc. When war broke out, the Raj had put him under house arrest in Calcutta in 1940. However, at the time the war was at its bloodiest in Europe and Asia, he escaped and made his way through Afghanistan to Germany to seek Axis help to raise an army to fight the shackles of the Raj. Here, he raised with Rommel‘s Indian PoWs what came to be known as the Free India Legion. This came to be the conceptualisation in embryonic form of Bose’s dream of raising a liberation Army to fight the Raj. However, the turn of tides in the Battlefields of Europe saw Bose make his wayultimately to Japanese South Asia where he formed what came to be known as the Azad Hind Government as the Provisional Free Indian Government in exile, and organized theIndian National Army with Indian POWs and Indian expatriates at South-East Asia, with the help of the Japanese. Its aim was to reach India as a fighting force that would build on public resentment to inspire revolts among Indian soldiers to defeat the Raj.

The INA was to see action against the allies, including the British Indian Army, in the forests of in Arakan, Burma andAssam, laying siege on Imphal and Kohima with the Japanese 15th Army. During the war, the Andaman and Nicobarislands were captured by the Japanese and handed over by them to the INA; Bose renamed them Shahid (Martyr) andSwaraj (Independence).

The INA would ultimately fail, owing to disrupted logistic, poor arms and supplies from the Japanese, and lack of support and training.[1] The supposed death of Bose is seen as culmination of the entire Azad Hind Movement. Following the surrender of Japan, the troops of the INA were brought to India and a number of them charged with treason. However, Bose’s audacious actions and radical initiative had by this time captured the public imagination and also turned the inclination of the native soldiers of the British Indian Forces from one of loyalty to the crown to support for the soldiers that the Raj deemed as collaborators.[11][12]

After the war, the stories of the Azad Hind movement and its army that came into public limelight during the trials of soldiers of the INA in 1945 were seen as so inflammatory that, fearing mass revolts and uprisings — not just in India, but across its empire — the British Government forbid the BBC from broadcasting their story.[13] Newspapers reported the summary execution of INA soldiers held at Red Fort.[14] During and after the trial, mutinies broke out in the British Indian Armed forces, most notably in the Royal Indian Navy which found public support throughout India, from Karachi toBombay and from Vizag to Calcutta.[15][16][17] Many historians have argued that it was the INA and the mutinies it inspired among the British Indian Armed forces that were the true driving force for India’s independence.[18][19][20]

Quit India

Main article: Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan) or the August Movement was a civil disobedience movement inIndia launched in August 1942 in response to Gandhi‘s call for immediate independence of India.

At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September1939, passed a resolution conditionally supporting the fight against fascism,[21] but were rebuffed when they asked for independence 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 Cripp’s 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 proggressive devolution and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy to elected Indian legislature. However, the talks failed, having failed to address the key demand of a timeframe towards self-government, and of definition of the powers to be relinquished, essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement.[22] To force the Raj to meet its demands and to obtain definitive word on total independence, the Congress took the decision to launch the Quit India Movement.

The aim of the movement was to bring the British Government to the negotiating table by holding the Allied War Effort hostage. The call for determined but passive resistance that signified the certitude that Gandhi foresaw for the movement is best described by his call to Do or Die, issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay, since renamedAugust Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Ground). However, almost the entire Congress leadership, and not merely at the national level, was put into confinement less than twenty-four hours after Gandhi’s speech, and the greater number of the Congress leaders were to spend the rest of the war in jail.

On August 8 1942 the Quit India resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, a massive Civil Disobedience would be launched. However, it was an extremely controversial decision. At Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, Gandhi urged Indians to follow a non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi told the masses to act as an independent 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. Large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. The movement also saw widespread acts of sabotage, Indian under-ground organisation carried out bomb attcks on allied supply convoys, government buildings were set on fire, electricity lines were disconnected and transport and communication lines were severed. The Congress had lesser success in rallying other political forces, including the Muslim League under a single mast and movement. It did however, obtain passive support from a substantial Muslim population at the peak of the movement.

The British swiftly responded by mass detentions. A total over 100,000 arrests were made nationwide, mass fines were levied, bombs were airdropped[citation needed] and demonstrators were subjected to public flogging.

The movement soon became a leaderless act of defiance, with a number of acts that deviated from Gandhi’s principle of non-violence. In large parts of the country, the local underground organisations took over the movement. However, by 1943, Quit India had petered out.

RIN Mutiny

RIN Mutineers Memorial

RIN Mutineer’s Memorial inMumbai.

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny (the RIN Mutiny or the Bombay Mutiny) encompasses a total strike and subsequent mutiny by the Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay (Mumbai) harbour on 18 February 1946. From the initial flashpoint in Bombay, the mutiny spread and found support through India, fromKarachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.

The RIN Mutiny started as a strike by ratings of the Royal Indian Navy on the 18th February in protest against general conditions. The immediate issues of the mutiny were conditions and food, but there were more fundamental matters such as racist behaviour by British officers of the Royal Navy personnel towards Indian sailors, and disciplinary measures being taken against anyone demonstrating pro-nationalist sympathies. The strike found immense support among the Indian population already in grips with the stories of the Indian National Army. The actions of the mutineers were supported by demonstrations which included a one-day general strike in Bombay. The strike spread to other cities, and was joined by the Air Force and local police forces. Naval officers and men began calling themselves the Indian National Navy and offered left handed salutes to British officers. At some places, NCOs in the British Indian Army ignored and defied orders from British superiors. In Madras and Pune, the British garrisons had to face revolts within the ranks of the British Indian Army. Widespread riotings took place from Karachi to Calcutta. Famously the ships hoisted three flags tied together — those of the Congress, Muslim League, and the Red Flag of theCommunist Party of India (CPI), signifying the unity and demarginalisation of communal issues among the mutineers.


The true judgment of contributions of each of these individual events and revolts to India’s eventual independence, and the relative success or failure of each, remains open to historians. Some historians claim that the Quit India Movementwas ultimately a failure[23] and ascribe more to the destabilisation of the pillar of British power in India —- the British Indian Armed forces. Certainly the British Prime Minister at the time of Independence, Clement Atlee, deemed the contribution of Quit India as minimal, ascribing stupendous importance to the revolts and growing dissatisfaction among Royal Indian Armed Forces as the driving force behind the Raj’s decision to leave India.[24][25] Some Indian historians however argue that, in fact, it was Quit India that succeeded[citation needed]. In support of the latter view, without doubt, the War had sapped a lot of the economic, political and military life-blood of the Empire, and the powerful Indian resistance had shattered the spirit and will of the British government. However, such historians effectively ignore the contributions of the radical movements to transfer of power in 1947. Regardless of whether it was the powerful common call for resistance among Indians that shattered the spirit and will of the British Raj to continue ruling India, or whether it was the ferment of rebellion and resentment among the British Indian Armed Forces[26][27] what is beyond doubt, is that a population of millions had been motivated as it never had been before to say ultimately that independence was a non-negotiable goal, and every act of defiance and rebel only stoked this fire. In addition, the British people and the British Army seemed unwilling to back a policy of repression in India and other parts of the Empire even as their own country lay shattered by the war’s ravages.

Independence, 1947 to 1950

Transfer of power in India, 1947

Transfer of power, August 15, 1947.

On 3 June 1947, Viscount Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General of India, announced the partitioning of the British Indian Empire into a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan. On 14 August 1947, Pakistan is declared as a separate nation. At midnight, on 15 August 1947, India became an independent nation. Violent clashes between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs followed. Prime Minister Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel invited Lord Mountbatten to continue as Governor General of India. He was replaced in June 1948 byChakravarti Rajagopalachari. Patel took on the responsibility of unifying 565 princely states, steering efforts by his “iron fist in a velvet glove” policies, exemplified by the use of military force to integrate Junagadh, Jammu and Kashmir, andHyderabad state into India.

The Constituent Assembly completed the work of drafting the constitution on 26 November 1949; on 26 January 1950 theRepublic of India was officially proclaimed. The Constituent Assembly elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the firstPresident of India, taking over from Governor General Rajgopalachari. Subsequently, a free and sovereign India absorbed two other territories: Goa (from Portuguese control in 1961) and Pondicherry (which the French ceded in 1953–1954). In 1952, India held its first general elections, with a voter turnout exceeding 62%; this made it the world’s largest democracy.


Template:Indian independence portal

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    The Government of India had hoped, by prosecuting members of the INA, to reinforce the morale of the Indian army. It succeeded only in creating unease, in making the soldiers feel slightly ashamed that they themselves had supported the British. If Bose and his men had been on the right side — and all India now confirmed that they were — then Indians in the Indian army must have been on the wrong side. It slowly dawned upon the Government of India that the backbone of the British rule, the Indian army, might now no longer be trustworthy. The ghost of Subhas Bose, like Hamlet’s father, walked the battlements of the Red Fort (where the INA soldiers were being tried), and his suddenly amplified figure overawed the conference that was to lead to independence.

  12. Encyclopedia Britannica. Indian National army. After returning to India the veterans of the INA posed a difficult problem for the British government. The British feared that a public trial for treason on the part of the INA members might embolden anti-British sentiment and erupt into widespread protest and violence. URL Accessed on 19 Aug 06.
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  24. Dhanjaya Bhat, writing in The Tribune, Sunday, February 12, 2006. Spectrum Suppl.

    Which phase of our freedom struggle won for us Independence? Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 Quit India movement, or the INA army launched by Netaji Bose to free India, or the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny of 1946? According to the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, during whose regime India became free, it was the INA and the RIN Mutiny of February 18–23, 1946 that made the British realise that their time was up in India.

    An extract from a letter written by P.V. Chuckraborty, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, on March 30, 1976, reads thus:

    When I was acting as Governor of West Bengal in 1956, Lord Clement Attlee, who as the British Prime Minister in post war years was responsible for India’s freedom, visited India and stayed in Raj Bhavan Calcutta for two days. I put it straight to him like this: ‘The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Why then did they do so?’ In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, Attlee’s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, ‘Minimal’.

    Accessed on 17-Jul-2006</span> </li>

  25. Majumdar, R.C., Three Phases of India’s Struggle for Freedom, Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967, pp. 58–59.

    There is, however, no basis for the claim that the Civil Disobedience Movement directly led to independence. The campaigns of Gandhi… came to an ignoble end about fourteen years before India achieved independence… During the First World War the Indian revolutionaries sought to take advantage of German help in the shape of war materials to free the country by armed revolt. But the attempt did not succeed. During the Second World War Subhas Bose followed the same method and created the INA. In spite of brilliant planning and initial success, the violent campaigns of Subhas Bose failed… The Battles for India’s freedom were also being fought against Britain, though indirectly, by Hitler in Europe and Japan in Asia. None of these scored direct success, but few would deny that it was the cumulative effect of all the three that brought freedom to India. In particular, the revelations made by the INA trial, and the reaction it produced in India, made it quite plain to the British, already exhausted by the war, that they could no longer depend upon the loyalty of the sepoys for maintaining their authority in India. This had probably the greatest influence upon their final decision to quit India.


  26. WWII Asia, Le Monde Diplomatique, 2005-05-13. </li>
  27. Tribune India 2006-02-12. </li></ol>
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