History Notes From Swaraj to Complete Independence. List of Indian Independence Movement Leaders and their movements such as Gandhiji’s contribution to nationalist movement, Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Khilafat Movement, Non Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, Simon Commission, Meerut Conspiracy Case, Lahore Conspiracy Case, Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Government of India Act 1935, Lucknow Session, Elections for Constituent Assembly, Cripps Mission, Quit India Movement, Subhas Chandra Bose and INA, Demand for Pakistan, National movement and II World War and India wins Independence and Partition.
Gandhiji’s contribution to nationalist movement
The nationalist movement grew into a wide spread mass anti-imperialist movement at the end of the First World War. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came into prominence at this time and became the undisputed leader of the nationalist movement. Powerful mass movements were launched under his leadership. These involved defiance of laws, peaceful demonstrations, boycott of educational institutions, boycott of courts, boycott of educational institutions, picketing of shops selling liquor and foreign goods, nonpayment of taxes and the closing of vital business. These non-violent but revolutionary methods influenced millions of people belonging to all sections of society and infused in them bravery and self-confidence. Millions now braved the repression resorted by the govt boldly courted imprisonment and faced lathicharges and firings.Gandhiji lived the simple life of an ascetic and talked to the people in a language they could understand. He came to be known to the people as Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhiji devoted himself to the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity .He regarded communalism as anti-national and inhuman. Under his leadership the unity of the nationalist movement was secured and the people worked hard for independence.Gandhiji made social report a part of the programme of the nationalist movement. His greatest achievement in the field of social reform was the campaign against inhuman institution of untouchability which had degraded millions of Indians. His other achievement was in the field of cottage industries. He saw in the charkha, the spinning wheel, the salvation of the village people and its promotion became part of the congress programme.In addition to infusing people with the spirit of nationalism it provided employment to millions and created a large group of people who were ready to throw themselves into the struggle and court imprisonment. The charkha became so important that it eventually became a part of the flag of the Indian National Congress.
The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms which became the Government of India Act in 1919 clearly defined the jurisdiction of the central and provincial governments. The central legislature now consisted of two houses with elected majorities. The franchise was limited and the legislature had no real powers. In the provinces a system called diarchy was introduced .There were elected majorities in the legislative councils, the franchise being based on property qualifications and communal electorates. There were certain provincial subjects who were under the jurisdiction of the legislative councils but the governors had wide powers of interference and the legislatures were powerless. The reforms introduced were condemned both by the Congress and the League. The reforms further angered the masses and were condemned as unsatisfactory.
In 1919 the Rowlatt Act was passed in spite of being opposed by all Indian members of the legislative council. The Act authorized the government to imprison people without trial. Three Indian members –Madan Mohan Malviya,Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mazharul Haque resigned from the council in protest. The Rowlatt Act aroused a wave of popular indignation and led to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh. All the repressive measures only added fuel to the fire of nationalism.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
The Rowlatt Act came into effect in March 1919.Voices from all over the country swelled the protest. On 6 April there were strikes, hartals and demonstrations at many places. In Punjab the protest movement was particularly strong. The government resorted to lathicharge and firing in many places. On 10 April two outstanding leaders of the Congress Dr Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested and taken to an unknown place.
To protest against the arrests a public meeting was held on 13 April in Jallianwala Bagh a small park enclosed by buildings on all sides, in Amritsar.General Dyer with his British troops entered the park closed the only exit and without giving any warning ordered the troops to fire. The meeting had been peaceful and there had been no provocation. Among those who had come to the meeting were women, children and old persons. The firing lasted about 10 minutes killing 1000 people and leaving 2000 wounded. The monstrous act provoked unparalleled indignation throughout the country. Martial law was declared through out Punjab and reign of terror unleashed.
The Khilafat movement was organized by the famous Ali brothers, Mohammad Ali and Shuakat Ali and others in protest against the injustice done to Turkey after the war. It became a part of the Indian nationalist movement. The Congress leaders joined in the Khilafat agitation and helped in organizing it throughout the country.
Non – Cooperation Movement
In 1920 the Congress adopted the new programme of non-violent Non-Cooperation under the leadership of Gandhiji.The aims of the Non-Cooperation movement were to redress the wrongs done to Punjab and Turkey and the attainment of Swaraj.It was to proceed in stages beginning with the renunciation of titles to be followed by the boycott of the legislatures, law courts and educational institutions and the campaign of non payment of taxes. It was decided to organize a corps of 150,000 volunteers to carry on the campaign of Non-Cooperation. The Non-Cooperation movement was a great success. In the elections to the legislatures about 2/3 of voters did not vote. Educational institutions were deserted. A new programme of national education was started. Institutions such as Jamia Milia and Kashi Vidya Peeth were established. Many Indians resigned their govt jobs. Foreign clothes were burnt in bonfires. There were strikes in all over the country. In Malabar the Moplah rebellion broke out. Thousands of persons enrolled themselves as volunteers.
In the midst of the movement the Prince of Wales arrived in India. On the day of his arrival he was greeted by general strikes and demonstrations. At many places police resorted to firing at the demonstrators. The repression continued and by the end of the year all the top leaders were arrested. By the beginning of 1922 about 30,000 persons were in jail.Early in Feb 1922 Gandhiji decided to launch a no-tax campaign in Bardoli district in Gujarat. However in Chauri Chaura people turned violent and set fire to a police station causing the death of 22 policemen. When the news reached Gandhiji, he decided to call off the Non Cooperation movement. The working committee of the Congress met on 12 Feb 1922 and decided to concentrate on the popularization of charkha, promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity and combating of untouchability.
Civil Disobedience Movement
The Congress adopted the slogan of complete independence and a mighty movement known as Civil Disobedience movement was launched to achieve it. The nationalist movement now assumed a wider character and adopted a comprehensive programme for the social and economic reconstruction of Indian society once independence was attained. Thus the struggle for political independence became a prerequisite for the reconstruction of Indian society. At the Congress session at Madras in December 1927 a resolution calling for Complete Independence was passed. This was the first time that a resolution demanding complete independence had been passed by the Congress. The Civil Disobedience Movement began with Dandi March.Gandhiji along with 78 of his followers started from his ashram at Sabarmati on a march to Dandi on the sea coast on foot and broke the law by making salt. As soon as the Civil Disobedience Movement started all the important leaders including Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru were arrested. By the beginning of 1931 90,000 persons were in jail and 67 papers had been banned. In April and May 1930, at Peshawar Indian soldiers refused to open fire on the demonstrators when ordered to do so. In Solapur, martial law had to be imposed to suppress the mass upsurge. In Chittagong the revolutionaries captured the armory and there was a pitched battle between the government troops and the revolutionaries.
The Civil Disobedience movement which was suspended after Gandhi-Irwin Pact was revived on Gandhiji’s return from the Round Table Conference in London when Lord Willingdon even refused to meet Gandhiji.The repression of the government was more severe than it had been before. By April 1933, about 120,000 persons had been imprisoned. In May 1934 the entire Civil Disobedience movement was called off. The Civil Disobedience movement had involved millions of people, young and old, men and women, people belonging to all religions and communities.
Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State for India announced the appointment of a statutory commission under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon on 8th November 1927.Simon Commission was officially known as Indian Statutory Commission. All the seven members of the commission were Englishmen who were the members of British Parliament. The commission was appointed to review the performance of reform of 1919 and suggested further reforms. The Congress at its Madras Session held in December 1927 resolved to boycott the commission. The Commission paid two visits to India (February – March 1928 and April 1929) each time it faced boycott. The report of Simon Commission omitted any mention of Dominion Status even as a distant goal and rejected all ideas of transfer of power at the center. The proposals of Simon Commission were completely rejected by the major political parties in the country including the Muslim League.
In response to the appointment of Simon Commission and the challenge given by Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State for India, the All Parties Conference was called at Delhi on 12th February 1928. It was presided by MA Ansari. In May the All Parties Conference appointed a committee with Motilal Nehru as its chairman. The purpose was to consider and determine the principles of the constitution for India. The committee consisted of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Ali Imam, MS Aney, Mangal Singh, Shoaib Qureshi, GR Pradhan, NM Joshi, MR Jayakar and Subhash Chandra Bose. The main recommendations of the report included that India must be given dominion status which meant independence within the British Commonwealth. India would be a federation having a bicameral legislature at the center to which the ministry would be responsible. The Governor General would be only the constitutional head with the same powers as the British crown. There was no provision for separate electorate. Citizenship was also defined and fundamental rights were enunciated. The Annual Session of the INC held in Calcutta in December 1928 approved the Nehru report and also served an ultimatum to the British government to accept the Nehru Report failing which the party would launch another mass movement with goal of Poorna Swarajya. The open session of the Muslim League meeting at Delhi on 28th March 1929 rejected the Nehru Report and accepted Jinnah’s fourteen points.
Jinnah’s Fourteen Points
Jinnah in Delhi announced the Fourteen Points on 28th March 1929 at a meeting of Muslim League. It did not accept the Nehru report on the ground that it discarded separate electorates and other demands of minorities and presented his Fourteen Points.
1. The form of the future constitution of India should be federal with residuary powers vested in the provinces.
2. A uniform measure of autonomy should be granted to all provinces.
3. All legislatures and other elected bodies should be constituted on the definite principle of adequate and effective representation of minorities.
4. In the central legislature Muslim representation should not be less than 1/3.
5. Representation of communal groups should continue to be by separate electorates as at present provided that it should be open to any community at any time to abandon its separate electorate in favor of joint electorate.
6. Any territorial redistribution should not affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and the NWFP.
7. Full liberty of belief, worship and observance propaganda, association and education should be guaranteed to all communities.
8. No bill or resolution or any party should be passed in any legislature or any other elected body if three-fourths of the members of any community in that body opposed it as being injurious to the interests of that community.
9. Sind should be separated from the Bombay Presidency.
10. Reforms should be introduced in the NWFP and Baluchistan on the same footing as in other provinces.
11. Adequate share for Muslims should be provided in the constitution in all services of the state subject to the requirements of efficiency.
12. Adequate safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim culture, education, language, religion, personal laws and charitable institutions and for their due share in the grants-in-aid given by the state should be provided in the constitution.
13. No cabinet either central or provincial should be formed without at least 1/3 of the ministers being Muslims.
14. No changes should be made in the Constitution by the Central Legislature except with the concurrence of the state constituting the Indian federation.
Lahore Session of the Congress (1929 December)
The annual session of the Congress was held at Lahore 1929 where Jawaharlal Nehru was elected the president. The Lahore session of the Congress passed a series of landmark resolutions.
- The Nehru Committee report had lapsed, as dominion status was not acceptable.
- As per the Poorna Swaraj resolution passed at the Lahore Congress the word Swaraj in the Congress Constitution would mean complete independence.
- All future elections were to be boycotted.
- Round Table Conference decided to be held in London would be boycotted.
- Civil Disobedience was to be launched. The Congress Working Committee allowed Gandhi to determine the time, place and issue on which movement was to be launched. Gandhi decided to launch the movement by violating the salt laws at the coast of Dandi, Gujarat.
Dandi March (Salt Satyagraha)
On 12th March 1930 Gandhi started the historic march from the Sabarmati Ashram with his followers. After 24 days long march he symbolically broke the Salt law at Dandi on 5th April 1930.The breaking of the Salt law formally started the Civil Disobedience movement. Soon the defiance of Salt law started all over the country. In Tamil Nadu C Rajagopalachari led a Salt March from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast. In Malabar K Kelappan walked from Calicut to Payyanur to break the Salt Law. In United Province and Gujarat no tax campaign was launched. The Bengal revolutionaries led a seize to the Chittagong armory. The Working Committee in May 1930 decided non payment of land revenue in ryotwari areas and non payment of Chaukidari tax in zamindari region and forest satyagraha.
Meerut Conspiracy Case
In March 1929, 31 labour leaders were arrested on the charge of conspiracy. The leaders included three Englishmen who had helped in the organization of the workers movement in India. They were taken to Meerut and were tried. The trial lasted for four years and is known as Meerut Conspiracy Case. Many defense committees were formed all over the country and even in England and other foreign countries. The nationalist leaders provided legal defense to the accused. Some of them were acquitted while others were convicted. The workers organizations had been growing and played an active part in the nationalist movement. The British government issued the Public Safety Ordinance in 1929 to remove from India persons it considered British and foreign communist agents.
Lahore Conspiracy Case
After the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation movement there had been revival of revolutionary activities. Four revolutionaries including Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla,belonging to the Hindustan Republican Association had been hanged after their trial under the Kakori Conspiracy case. In 1928 Chandra Shekar Azad,Bhagat Singh,Sukh Dev and others had founded a new revolutionary organization called the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association. On 8th April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt went to the Central Legislative Assembly and threw a bomb at government benches and raised slogans of Long live the Revolution. There were no casualties and probably none was intended.Bhagat Singh and Dutt surrendered and were taken into custody. Many other members of the association were arrested later and a bomb workshop unearthed. Except for Chandra Shekar Azad all the prominent members were arrested and charged with the murder of the Superintendent of Police of Lahore also.The prisoners were brutally treated in jail.Jatin Das died after a hunger strike lasting 64 days.Bhagat Singh,Rajguru and SukhDev were later sentenced to death. There execution led to massive protests all over the country.
In 1931 Gandhiji and some other leaders were released from Jail. In March an agreement known as Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed under which the Civil Disobedience Movement was called off. The government promised to release all the political prisoners except those charged with acts of violence. The Congress agreed to participate in the Second Round Table Conference which had been called to consider a scheme for a new constitution for India.
In 1931, the Congress met at Karachi. It approved the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The most significant contribution of the Karachi session was a resolution it passed on Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy. It outlined the plan for the reconstruction of Indian society after Independence and to furnish many aims and ideals for the Constitution of India and the social and economic policy of the Indian Republic.
Government of India Act 1935
The British government promulgated the Government of India Act on 2 August 1935.This Act envisaged an All India Federation of British Indian Provinces and Indian states and the establishment of provincial autonomy in the federating provinces. At the centre a central legislative assembly and a council of states were to be formed. The Indian princes were to be given disproportionately high representation in the two houses at the centre. The provision regarding the formation of the federation never came into operation and the new constitution was introduced only in the provinces.
In April 1936 the Congress session was held at Lucknow under the President ship of Jawaharlal Nehru. The Congress in a resolution rejected the Government of India Act of 1935 and stated that the Constitution that had been imposed on India was against the declared will of the people. It reiterated its resolve regarding the Constituent Assembly. Although the Congress condemned the Government of India Act, it decided to participate in the elections to the provincial legislatures which were to take place in 1937.The election manifesto of the Congress demanded the convening of a Constituent Assembly. It also advocated land reforms to save the peasants from ruthless exploitation, equal rights for men and women and improvement in the condition of workers.
Elections for Constituent Assembly
The elections were held in 1937 and about 15.5 million people cast their votes. Many parties including Congress and Muslim League participated in the elections. The Congress swept the polls in most part of the country. In 6 provinces it won an absolute majority and in 3 other provinces, it emerged as the single largest party. There were 482 seats reserved for Muslims. Of these Muslim League won only 108.In 4 provinces, including the North –West it failed to secure even one seat.
The nationalist movement under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan secured significant victories. In July 1937 on the assurance of the Viceroy that the governors would not interfere in the administration; the Congress formed its ministries in 6 provinces –United Provinces, Central Provinces, Bihar, Orissa, Madras and Bombay. In the North-West Frontier Province and Assam, the Congress formed its ministries later and in Sind a ministry was formed with the support of the Congress. These ministries took some important steps immediately after coming to power. Political prisoners were released and bans on newspapers were lifted. Important steps were also taken in the field of education.
Election of 1937 and Congress Ministries
The Lucknow session of April 1936 presided by Jawaharlal Nehru Congress resolved to contest elections. Nehru in his presidential speech at the session advocated socialism and inducted Jayaprakash Narayan,Acharya Narendra Deo and Achyut Patwardhan in the Congress. During this session that the first meeting of the All India Kisan Sabha was held under the president ship of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. The session passed some important resolutions such as the people of the princely state should have the same right of self determination as those of the rest of the India but the struggle for liberty was to be carried out by the people of the states themselves. The provincial units were asked to conduct agrarian enquiries. The elections to the provincial legislatures were held in January- February 1937.Congress won 715 out of 836 seats.
In five provinces of Madras, United Provinces, Central Provinces, Bihar and Orissa it had a clear majority. In NWFP, Assam and Bombay Congress emerged as the single largest party. In Bengal, Punjab and Sind the Congress did not have the majority. The Congress could not do well in the election in the upper house, as the franchise was limited to the upper strata only. In July 1937 the Congress formed ministries in the United Provinces, Central Provinces, Orissa, Bihar, Madras and Bombay. Later Assam and NWFP also came under the Congress rule. In Punjab, the Unionist Party and the Muslim League formed a coalition government.
Congress Ministries in Office (1937-1939)
In all the Congress remained in power in eight provinces for 28 months. During this period it made efforts to work for the benefit of Indians. Efforts were made to protect the peasants from the moneylenders and to improve irrigation facilities. In the United Provinces and Bihar, Tenancy Bills were passed. The Congress Government in Bombay appointed Textile Enquiry Committee in 1937 that recommended a wage increase and health and insurance cover to the worker. The Bombay ministry also introduced an Industrial Disputes Act in November 1938 based on the principles of arbitration to prevent strikes and lockouts.
In the field of civil liberties all political prisoners were released and constructive programme undertaken. Education was promoted especially primary education through the introduction of basic education. Commercial and economic surveys and programmes for village industries were introduced. The Congress Government also joined the efforts to develop planning through the National Planning Committee appointed in 1938 by the Congress President Subhash Chandra Bose.
In March 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India to hold talks with the Indian leaders. However the talks broke down as the British were not willing to promise independence even after the II world war was over and rejected the Congress proposal for the formation of a national government during the war. After the failure of talks with Cripps the Congress prepared to launch the third mass movement against British rule.
Quit India Movement
In August 1942, Gandhiji gave the slogan ‘Quit India’. The Congress passed a resolution on 8 August 1942 which stated that the immediate ending of British rule in India was an urgent necessity both for the sake of India and the success of the United Nations. The Congress resolved to launch a mass civil disobedience struggle on the widest scale for the vindication of India’ right to freedom and independence if the British rule did not end immediately. The day after the resolution was passed, the Congress was banned and all the important leaders were arrested. The arrest of the nationalist leaders provoked a wave of indignation among the people. Quit India resounded throughout the country. There were spontaneous demonstrations at many places and people resorted to the use of violence to dislodge the foreign rule. The government used army and police to suppress the movement.Hunderds of persons were killed and over 70,000 arrested in less than 5 months. The struggles continued through out the period of the Second World War.
Subhas Chandra Bose and INA
In 1941, Subhas Chandra Bose had escaped from India and reached Germany. He carried on activities for India’s freedom from there and made broadcasts exhorting the people of India to over throw British rule. In July 1943 he came to Singapore.Ras Bihari Bose an Indian revolutionary who had escaped from India to Japan in 1915 had set up the Indian Independence League. After the Japanese had defeated British, the Indian National Army was organized from among the Indian soldiers who had taken prisoner by the Japanese.Subhas Chandra Bose took over the leadership of Indian Independence League and reorganized the Indian National Army to liberate India from British rule. On Oct 21 1943 he proclaimed the setting up of the Provincial Government of Free India .In 1944 three units of INA along with the Japanese troops moved into Imphal-Kohima region of N-E India. The attack was repulsed. Even though the attempt to liberate India failed the activities of Subhas Chandra Bose and the INA served to strengthen the anti-imperialist struggle in India.
Demand for Pakistan
In 1940 at the Lahore session of the Muslim League, the demand for a separate state of Pakistan was made. It was based on the two-nation theory. The Muslim League demanded that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute Independent States in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.
The demand for a separate state was opposed by large sections of Muslims who were against any separatist demand. Many nationalist leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who had always been in the forefront of the national movement opposed the demand for a separate state and fought against communal tendencies and for the freedom of the Indian people. Of these the more prominent were the Khuda Khidmatgar in the North-West Frontier Province organized by the Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Watan party in Baluchistan, the All-India Momin Conference, the Ahrar Party, the All India Shia Political Conference and the Azad Muslim Conference. These organizations along with Congress led a large number of Muslims in the struggle for independence.
The Muslim League was encouraged by the British government to press its demand for a separate state and played the game of British imperialism which had the effect of disrupting and weakening the movement for independence. When the Congress withdrew from the provincial governments in protest against British attitude to the demand for independence, the Muslim League celebrated the event by observing Deliverance Day and tried to form ministries in the provinces although they did not have a majority in the any provincial legislature.
National movement and II World War
The II World War had changed the entire picture of the world. The old imperialist countries –Britain, France, Holland and others had been weakened by the war. They were no longer powerful enough to withstand the onward march of the nationalist movement. Britain was no longer the world power it had been for centuries and her supremacy was gone for good. The war had destroyed fascism and imperialism received heavy blows. In Britain the Conservative Party which was opposed to the demand for the independence of India lost heavily in the elections. The war time Prime Minister Winston Churcill was no longer the Prime Minister. There were many people in the Labour Party which had come to power under the leadership of Attlee who were opposed to the continuation of British rule over India. Conditions were ripe for the end of imperialism in India.
In India the resentment against British rule was very high. The British government had shown callous indifference to the famine –stricken people during the terrible famine that had raged in Bengal in 1943 in which three million people died. At the end of the war this resentment broke out in dealing a final blow to foreign rule. In November 1945 three officers of the Indian National Army were tried at the Red Fort in Delhi. They were charged with the crime of conspiring against the British Empire. They were defended by top Indian barristers. But they were sentenced to transportation for life. The sentences which were later revoked provoked widespread popular upsurge all over the country. The armed forces were also affected.
India wins Independence and Partition
In February 1946, the British Government sent the Cabinet Mission to India to hold discussions with Indian leaders. The British Prime Minister announced his government’s willingness to grant independence to India. The Cabinet Mission proposed the formation of a Union of India in which provinces would be grouped in four zones with their own constitutions and enjoying autonomy except in matters of foreign policy, defence and communication. It also proposed the formation of a constitution making body not elected by the people but by the provincial legislatures on the basis of communal electorates.
The members from the Indian states were proposed to be appointed by the rulers of Indian states. The Congress accepted the Cabinet Mission proposal regarding the constitution making body, although the Congress had earlier insisted on a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise, it agreed to the Cabinet Mission proposal in order to avoid any delay in the achievement of Independence. The Congress had won 201 out of 210 general seats and the Muslim League won 73 out of 78 seats reserved for Muslims. The Muslim League boycotted the Assembly and pressed on with its demand for a separate state of Pakistan. The Princes also boycotted the Assmebly.The people of the states pressed for the integration of the states into a united India. On 2 September 1946 the Congress formed the Interim Government which was headed by Jawahar Lal Nehru. Later the Muslim League also joined the Interim Government.
On 24 March 1947, Lord Mountbatten was appointed the Viceroy of India and the British government announced that it would transfer power to Indian hands not later than June 1948.On 3 June 1947 Mountbatten presented a plan for the division of India into two independent states-the Indian Union and Pakistan. The Indian states were given the right to decide their own future. Partition was completed and power was transferred to the two states of India and Pakistan. Pakistan comprised West Punjab, East Bengal, Sind and the NWFP. On 15 August 1947, India became independent. But millions of people lost their homes and several thousand lost their lives. The country was ravaged by communal rioting and Gandhiji began touring the country to bring comfort to the people. He was shot dead by Nathu Ram Godse in 1948.