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Chapter 18. Indian Freedom Struggle (Indian History Notes)



The national movement in India started in the second half of the nineteenth century. As we already know that the English had come to India to trade and make profits. So the East India Company came to enhance the profit of Indian possessions as well as to maintain and strengthen its powers. However, sporadic uprisings with a motive of driving British out of India had started a century earlier. The cumulative effect of British expansionist policies, economic exploitation and administrative innovations over the years had adversely affected the position of all rulers of Indian states, sepoys, zamindars, peasants, traders, etc.
excepting of course, the western educated class who owned their ‘position’ to the company’s government. The Indian rulers were not united. They were selfish and guided by self-interest. There was no feeling of nationalism. The British had superior weapons and military tactics. Thus the British were successful in subjugating the whole of India.
Such a feeling of growing discontent, got its manifestation in several civil rebellions, tribal uprisings and sepoy mutinies during the colonical rule. There were also violent religio-political uprisings and disturbances, which were anti-British. Of all uprisings in the 19th century, the Revolt of 1857 was the most important as it was the first major challenge to the British domination. It was a watershed in the history of British rule in India, shook the very foundation of the British empire in India. It also changed the character of British rule, marking the end of the rule of the East India Company and bringing British India directly under the British Crown.


Indigo Revolt or Blue Rebellion
Thousands of ryots refused to grow Indigo in Bengal in 1859 AD. The English had established the monopoly production of Indigo by capturing land in Bengal and Bihar. In 1860, the peasants of Patna and Nadia districts refused to pay rents to the planters and attacked factories. The rebels here supported by local zamindars and village headmen.
Ashley Eden, the lieutenant governor of Bengal tried to appease the ryots and issued an order by which no ryots would be forced to accept the contract. After the rebel, the plantation of Indigo was shifted from Bengal to Bihar. In Champaran, the workers revolted in Bihar. In Champaran, the workers revolted in 1867-68 and later in 1917 in the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
There was a strong demonstration against the cultivation of indigo in Champaran (Bihar) in 1866-68. The indigo crisis continued till the beginning of the 20th century when M. K.
Gandhi had intervened in favour of the indigo cultivators. And finally, after his intervention the long pending problem got some solution.
Adivasis Movement
In 1772, the Paharia Revolt broke out followed by five years uprising led by Tilka Manjhi. The Tomar and Munda revolts occurred. In the next twenty years, various revolts occurred in Singhbhumi, Gumla, Birbhumi, Bankura, Manbhoomi and Palamu followed by the Kol uprising in 1832 and the Khewar and Bhunji revolts in 1832 to 1834.
Khasi Uprising
Khasi’ is a tribal community which lives in the region between Garo and Jaintia Hills. Khasi uprising of 1783 was in protest of East India Company’s effort to built a road link between Brahmaputra Valley and Sylhet. The leaders of this revolution were Tirath Singh and Ganga Singh. This uprising developed into a popular revolt during British rule. By 1833, the revolt was suppressed by English military action.
Pagal Panthi Uprising
Pagal Panth was a semi-religious sect which had influence in the northern districts of Bengal. Karan Singh was its founder and Tipu Shah was successor of this movement. Tipu Shah took up the cause of the peasants against atrocities and oppression by Zamindars. Tipu captured Sherpur in 1825 and assumed royal power. This uprising crushed with the help of army in 1833.
Ahom Revolt
Gomadhar Konwar leaded this revolt. This revolt broke out in Assam. The British had promised to withdraw from Assam after First Burma War (1824-26), but instead of withdrawing the British attempted to annex Ahom’s territory in the Company’s dominion. As a result of the rebellion the company was forced to hand over Upper Assam to Maharaja Purandar Singh Narendra and part of kingdom was restored to the Assamese King.
Santhal Revolt
The Santhal hul or santhal revolt of 1855-56 was held against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis. Sindhu and Kanhu
Murmu were the leaders of the revolt in which thousands of Santhals took part. A forest regulation was passed in 1878 which imposed restrictions upon adivasis. The act divided the forest lands in India into three categories – reserved, protected and unclassified. The act changed the traditional rights of adivasis on the forest and forest became state property.
In 1914, Jatra Oraon started Tana Bhagat Movement and 25,000 adivasis joined the movement. The Khasis living in Assam and Meghalaya revolted against the British.
Pabna Uprising
“Pabna Uprising” was a movement by the peasants against landlords in the Pabna districts of Yusufzahi Paragana of East Bengal in 1872. In 1873, an Agrarian League was formed by Ishan Chandra Roy, Shabhu Pal and Khoodi Mallah. Peasants refused to pay enhanced rents of land and fought against zamindars in the court. The discontent of peasants continued till 1885 when the Government enhanced occupancy rights by the “Bengal Act of 1885”.
Munda Rebellion
Birsa Munda started revolt against the British policies.
Zamindars and moneylenders were exploiting the Adivasis.
Munda rebellion resulted in the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act
of 1908. It banned forced labour and assured local customary land rights to the tribals.
For more than three decades the Munda Sardars had been fighting against destruction of their system of common land holdings by the jagirdars, thikadars and money lenders. The revolt of the Munda took place during 1899 – 1900 under the leadership of Birsa Munda who mobilized his followers on religious and political grounds. In 1899, Birsa declared a revolt to establish Munda rule in the land by billing thikadars, jagirdars, Rajas, Hakims and Christians. For this he congregated force of 6,000 Mundas. He was, however, captured in February 1900 and died in jail in June.
Civil and Tribal uprisings
Sanyasi Revolt: The British rule in Bengal after 1757 brought a new economic order which spelt ruin on Zamindars, peasants and artisans alike. The famine of 1770 and the insensibility on the part of the company was regarded to be the main cause of alien rule. The restriction imposed on visits to holy places alienated the sanyasis. The Sanyasis in retaliation started attacking on the company’s factories and state treasuries.
Warren Hastings could contain these sanyasi raids only after massive millitary actions.
Khonds rising : Khonds the tribal people of Orissa first revolted in 1846 and then in 1855. They were led by Chakra Bisoi.
They were suppressed with great difficulty by the British.
Movement of Frontier Tribes: The other region to have witnessed tribal movements of considerable proportion was the north-eastern frontier. The region differed substantially from the rest of tribal India in two basic aspects. Here the tribals formed an overwhelming majority and thus were relatively economically and socially secure.
The factors that led to a different typology being suggested for the tribal movements along the frontier from that of the nonfrontier tribes were:
(a) Religous and social reform movements.
(b) Movements for separate statehood within the Indian union or more autonomy for tribal areas
(c) Insurgency and
(d) Assertion of cultural rights.
Tribal Movements, 1935-47 : Factors contributing to the development of a sense of larger tribal identity were
(a) The Government of India Act 1935
(b) The rise of modern education and
(c) Gradual emergence of a small educated middle class among the tribes of the hills and plains.
World War II, during which these hills had become ‘important’ theatres of war, had penetrated their isolation due to world events. Many tribals feared that their cherished ancient laws, customs and village organisations would be destroyed by non-tribal rulers after independence. At the time of independence there were two major political trends among the frontier tribes. The first was in favour of asserting more tribal autonomy within the Indian Union. The second trend was towards complete independence for tribal areas. Its protagonists were the Naga Nationalist Council, the United Mizo Freedom Organisation and the Mizo
National Front.
Mopla Revolt
In 1921, the Mopla rebelled in Malabar region. The Mopla peasants were Muslims but the landlords were Hindus.
Excessive land revenue demands, extra cesses and insecurity of land tenures were reason of rebel.
The Trade Union Movement
The trade union movement in India originated due to different reasons – 1. The poor working conditions in Indian factories.
2. The condition of industries and mines was poor.
3. Wages of workers were very low.
4. Realisation among leaders to protect the interest of workers.
5. Economic distress 6. Set up of International labour organization.
The first factory commission was set up in Bombay in 1875 followed by the First Factory Act of 1881 which aimed at prohibiting child labour. The All India Trade Union Congress
(AITUC) was established by N.M. Joshi in 1920. The Trade Union Act of 1926 established trade unions as legal bodies to protect the right of registration and privileges of the workers.
The British appointed a royal commission, the Whitely
Commission in 1928. It consisted 11 members out of which 6 were Indians. They visited India in 1929.
It included –
1. Adoption of policy of standard wages in Bombay cotton mills and jute mills of Bengal.
2. Development of trade unions.
3. To settle disputes, officers were appointed.
4. Time and piece workers were included.
The Wahabi Movement
It was named after Abdul Wahab. It was a religious movement and aimed at the restoration of Muslim powers and fighting against the British and the Sikhs. The Wahabi movement was suppressed by the British government in 1870.
Sepoy Mutinies
There were several mutinies took place before the 1857 revolt.
The 47th Native Infantry revolted in 1824. There were mutinies in 1825 in Assam, in 1838 in Sholapur, in 1844 in Sindh and in 1849 to 59 in Punjab.


According to P.E. Roberts, “The Revolt of 1857 was just a sepoy mutiny and it arose due to cartridges with fats.” According to V.D. Savarkar, “The Revolt of 1857 was the first war of India’s independence, the great rebellion, the Indian mutiny.
These sections of the country were responsible for the revolt in 1857 – 1. Rulers 2. Peasants 3. Soldiers 4. Common people Through the Doctrine of Lapse, the British brought a number of kingdoms under its control. Queen of Jhansi Lakshmibai, Nana Saheb, the son of the Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II and Begum Hazrat Mahal, the queen of Awadh opposed this policy.
Due to commercialization of the agriculture peasants were compelled to grow cash crops. They had to pay very high taxes. There was no hope for improvement of the fertility of land.
The Indian soldiers were unhappy with the Britishers as they were not given high position in the army. Apart from this reason, they were also not content with the policy of British government regarding the overseas jobs and the remuneration.
Common people were forced to accept the religion of Christian Missionaries.
Causes of the Revolt
1. Political Causes:
(i) Growing suspicion among native rulers over Lord Dalhousie’s policies of Doctrine of Lapse’ and annexation of the territories of native rulers;
(ii) Annexation of Avadh on the ground of ‘misgovernance’;
(iii) Disposing of Nawab Wazid Ali Shah, the reigning ruler of Avadh;
(iv) Absentee ‘soverigntyship’ of the British in India;
(v) Lord Canning’s announcement that Mughals would lose the titles of Kings and be mere princes; and
(vi) disbanding of the Pindaris and irregular soldiers who constituted a large section among the army ranks.
2. Administrative and Economic Causes:
(i) Inefficient and prejudiced administrative machinery of the company;
(ii) Rampant corruption;
(iii) Racialism in civil and military administration;
(iv) Deprivation of the traditional ruling classes of their luxury due to the establishment of the company’s suzerainty over the Indian states;
(v) Introduction of new land revenue system which snatched the land from the cultivator and gave it to moneylender or traders or new aristocrats, and
(vi) De-industrialisation of the country.
3. Military Causes:
(i) Displeasure of Indian sepoys with alien rule;
(ii) Compulsion of the sepoys to serve at the cantonments;
(iii) Withdrawal of free postage facility to sepoys following the enactment of Post-Office Act of 1856 which necessitated them to serve beyond the seas;
(iv) Debarring the foreign service allowance or batta for Sepoys serving in Sindh and Punjab, and
(v) Racial discrimination.
4. Social and Religious Causes:
(i) Social discrimination of the British against Indians;
(ii) Spread of Christainity through missionaries;
(iii) Missionaries’ attempt to conversion to Christainity;
(iv) Enactment of the Religious Disabilities Act 1850, which enabled a convert to inherit his ancestral property; and
(v) Antagonism of the traditional Indian society due to the law prohibiting sati, child marriage and female infanticide.
5. The Immediate Cause: The Government introduced a new Enfield rifle in the Army. Its cartridges had greased paper cover which had to be bitten off before the cartridge was loaded into the rifle. It was believed that the grease was composed of beef and pig fat. The Hindu as well as Muslim sepoys were enraged because the use of greased cartridges was against their religion and they feared that the government was deliberately trying to destroy their religion and convert them to Christainity. This issue is said to have agitated both Hindu and Muslim soldiers.
Spread of the Revolt
The Revolt was sparked off on March 29, 1857 when a section of Indian Soldiers of the 19th and 34th Native Infantry posted at Barrackpur near Calcutta mutinied and a Brahmin soldier, Mangal Pandey, killed the British army oficers, the regiment was disbanded and Pandey executed. At Meerut, in May 1857, 85 sepoys of the 3rd Cavalry regiment on their refusal to use the greased cartridges were court martialled and were sentenced to long term imprisonment. On 10th May, 1857, the sepoys broke out in open rebellion, shot their officers, released their fellow sepoys and headed towards Delhi with the cry ‘Delhi Chalo’.
Delhi was seized by the rebels on 12 May, 1857. Bahadur
Shah II was proclaimed the Emperor of India. Delhi became the centre of revolt and Bahadur Shah was its symbol. Very soon the rebellion spread to Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Bareilly, Benaras, in parts of Bihar, Jhansi and other places.
In many Indian states, the rulers remained loyal to British Government but their soldiers revolted. South India remained practically undisturbed.
Kanpur was captured by the rebels on 5th June, 1857. Nana
Sahib was proclaimed the Peshwa, General Sir Hugh Wheeler commanding the station surrendered on 27 June. At Kanpur Nana Sahib was joined by his able Lieutenant Tantia Tope and Azimullah. Later on, Kanpur was captured by Campbell on December 6, 1857.
The revolt of Lucknow was led by the Begum Hazrat Mahal, who declared her son Birjis Kadir as the Nawab of Awadh.
Helped by the sepoys at Lucknow and the Zamindars and peasants of Awadh, the begum organised in all out attack on the British. Sir Henry Lawrance was killed during the course of the residency. Later on, General Outram and Hemelock force their way into the residency. They were also besieged but later on were relieved.
Laxmibai of Jhansi joined the rebels when the British refused to acknowledge her right to adopt a heir to the gaddi of Jhansi.
On June 4, 1858, Rani Laxmibai was proclaimed the head of the state and she provided spirited lead to the rebels and fought heroically against the British forces. She and her companion Tantia Tope made the most imaginative and heroic resolve to capture Gwalior. Maharaja Scindia tried to fight against Rani of Jhansi, but most of his troops deserted to her and he took refuge at Agra. Rani of Jhansi died fighting on 17th June, 1858.
At Bareilly, Khan Bahadur Khan had proclaimed himself the Nawab Nizam. In Bihar a local Zamindar Kunwar Singh raised the banner of revolt.
Timeline-Sepoy Mutiny
29th March 1857: Revolt of Barrackpore Calcutta. Mangal Pandey killed two British army officers May 1857: 85 Sepoys of 3rd Cavalry regiment at Meerut were court martialled.
Sepoys revolted at Meerut, shot their officers, released fellow sepoys and marched towards Delhi.
Delhi seized by mutineers and Bahadur Shah Zafars II proclaimed “Shahenshahe- Hindustan by rebels.
Mutiny reached to Ferozpur, Aligarh, Etawah, Bulandshahar, Nasirabad, Bareilly, Moradabad, Shahjahanpur.
June 1857: On 4th June, 2nd cavalry and 1st Native Infantry revolted, revolts at Gwalior, Bharatpur, Allahabad, Jhansi, Faizabad, Sultanpur, Lucknow.
July 1857 Mutinies at Indore, Mhow, Sagar, Jhelum, Sialkot.
September 1857: Delhi recaptured by the British October 1857: Revolt reached Koltab December 1857: The British won the ‘Battle of Kanpur’ in the leadership of ‘Sir Colin Campbell’ March 1858 British recaptured Lucknow.
April 1858 British recaptured Jhansi. Fresh revolt in Bihar led by Kunwar Singh.
May 1858: Bareilly, Jagdishpur and Kalpi were recaptured by the British.
December 1858: British re-established their authority over India.
The leaders and the centres of the revolt
Centre Leader Commander-in-chief
Delhi Kanpur Lucknow Bareilly Bihar Jhansi Kalpi Bahadur Shah Zafar Nana Sahib Begum Hazrat Mahal Khan Bahadur Khan Kunwar Singh Rani Lakshmibai Tantia Tope Bakht Khan Tantia Tope Maulvi Ahmadullah The British Governor general mobilized all his forces and hanged thousands of people. The revolt was suppressed by the British.
Effects of the Revolt
1. A new Act was passed in 1858 by which the power of EEIC was shifted to British crown. A secretary of State for India was appointed. The title of viceroy was given to the governor general. The British army was reorganized in India.
2. Hindus and Muslims became united against the British government.
3. Policies were made to protect zamindars and landlords.
4. Religious and social practices of India were decided to be respected by the British.
5. They gave assurance to the rulers of different provinces that their provinces won’t be annexed further. But British crown would be their original sovereign.
Failure of the Revolt
• Lack of coordination and central leadership.
• Revolt lacked a forward-looking programme, coherent ideology, a political perspective or a vision of the future society and economy.
• Rebel leaders lacked resources and experiences as compared to British.
• Revolt lacked the support of martial races of the north.
• British power had remained intact in the Eastern, western and southern parts of India from where the forces were sent to suppress the revolt.
• Limited territorial and social base.
Impact of the Revolt
Even though the revolt of 1857 ended in failure yet it had shuddered the British rule in India from its very foundation.
It was the first great and direct threat to British rule in India.
That was why, aftermath of the revolt, the British troops did inhuman atrocities upon the Indian people. Thousands of rebels were executed publicly after a mock trial.
The revolt of 1857 brought about fundamental changes in the character of British administration. Some of these were:
(a) The Queen’s Proclamation
(b) Pursuing the policy of divide and rule
(c) Reorganisation of British army
(d) The Act for the better government of India 1858 was passed etc.
Features of the Revolt of 1857
• The Revolt has been called the first war of independence and opened a glorious chapter in the history of people in India.
• The Revolt inspired the people of India to imbibe the spirit of selfless services and patriotism.
• It produced many heroes like Rani Lakshmibai and Tantia Tope.
• It gave patriotism to future generations people.
• It made Indians aware of the true nature of the British.
• The participation of common people, rulers, soldiers, students and others gave the revolt its popular character.
• Many people and rulers whose survival threatened were drawn into the revolt.


Rise of Nationalist Movement
The foundation of the nationalist movement had been laid by the end of the 19th century. The main target of this movement was to face the challenge of foreign supremacy. Its effects were the socio-religion reform movement, the spread of modern western education, the emergence of the middle class and the economic consequences of the British rule. The politicial awareness that these trends gave birth to the concept of ‘nationhood’ and ‘nationalist aspirations’. In the wake of this political consciousness various political association were founded, particularly in the Presidency towns, to organise the English-educated classes to plead for a more or less common programme of political progress. The culmination of this trend was the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, which marks the formal beginning of the organised nationalist movement, to drive out the foreigners from the country. All classes of people in India joined at one stage and played their part in the freedom struggle.
Timeline of Indian Independence Movement
1. 1857 – The Revolt of 1857 2. 1870 – Poona Sarvajanik Sabha founded 3. 1876 – Indian National Association founded 4. 1878 – Vernacular Press Act passed 5. 1885 – Indian National Congress was founded 6. 1892 – Gandhiji left for Africa 7. 1905 – Partition of Bengal and Swadeshi Movement 8. 1906 – Muslim League founded 9. 1915 – Gandhiji came to India 10. 1918 – Satyagrah at Champaran 11. 1919 – Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala Bagh massacre 12. 1920 – Khilafat and Non-Co-operation Movement 13. 1924 – Poorna swaraj 14. 1932 – Civil Disobedience Movement 15. 1940 – Demand of two different nations by Muslim League 16. 1942 – Quit India Movement 17. 1947 – Partition and Freedom of India.
Freedom Struggle
1. First phase (1885 – 1905) 2. Second phase (1905 – 1919)
Some of the high points of this struggle were:
(1) Foundation of the Indian National Congress and its first twenty years (1885 – 1905) – the moderate phase.
(2) The rise of neo-nationalism or Extremism, the Swadeshi movement and the first phase of Revolutionary Terrorism (1905-15)
(3) The beginning of the Gandhian phase-commencing with the anti-Rowlatt Bills agitation to the Non-Cooperation Movement (1916-22)
(4) The council entry programme and the rise of the Swarajist party, the second phase of the Revolutionary Terrorism and the anti-Simon Commission Agitation (1922-28)
(5) The Nehru Report, the Lahore Session of the Congress, the Poorna Swarajya resolution and the Civil Disobedience Movement (1928-34).
(6) The Government of India Act 1935, the so-called provincial autonomy in action, and the outbreak of the Second World War (1935-39)
(7) The Second World War, beginning of radical and communal movements and the Quit India Movement (1939-44) and
(8) India towards freedom and partition (1945 – 47)
Factor responsible for the National Movement
We may list the following factors which created discontent among the people of India and brought the Indian on the same platform against British rule.
(1) Economic causes;
(2) Political causes;
(3) Social -religious causes;
(4) Unified system of administration;
(5) Development of the means of communication;
(6) Growth of western thought and education;
(7) Development of vernacular languages;
(8) Growth of a modern press;
(9) Art and literature;
(10) Racial arrogance of the rulers; and
(11) Immediate factors of provocation under the Viceroy Ripon, especially the Ilbert Bill controversy.
Rise of political ideas and Political
Association (Upto 1885)
British Supremacy in India created certain forces as a result of its direct and indirect consequences which eventually challenged the British imperialism. One important effect of the initiation of western culture in India was the growth of modern political concepts like nationalism, nationality, political rights etc. The Indian sub-continent witnessed the growth of political ideas and political organisation hitherto unknown to the Indian World. This was the reason why political associations heralded 19th century modern politics into India.
Several public associations were began. In 1866, Dadabhai Naoroji organised the East India Association to discuss the Indian question and to influence British to promote Indian welfare. Later, he organised branches of the Association, in prominent Indian cities.
Bangbhasha Prakasika Sabha
Founded in 1836, it was first organized political association of India. It worked for reform of administrative association of Indians with the British, spread of education, putting forward Indian demands to the British parliament. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was pioneer in political movement in India. The ‘Sabha’ was established by associates of Raja Rammohan Roy.
British India Society
British India Society was founded in 1839 in England with efforts of William Adam who was a friend or Raja Rammohan Roy. The Society organised meeting at several place to create awareness of the condition in India. In 1841, the society started a newspaper “British Indian Advocate.”
Bengal British India Society
With efforts of George Thomson, alongwith Dwarkanath Tagore, Chandra Mohan Chatterjee and Parmananda Maitra; ‘Bengal British Society was founded on 20th April 1843.
The idea behind this set-up was to secure the welfare and advancement of all classes in loyalty to the government of the reigning sovereign of the British dominions.
East India Association
This organisation was established by “The grand old man” of Indian National Movement Dadabhai Naoroji. It was a platform for discussing matters and ideas about India, and to provide representation for discussing matters and ideas about India and to provide representation for the Indians to the Government.
Naoroji delivered first lecture to the association on 2nd may 1867. The ‘Associations’s’ first president was Lord Lyveden.
India League
Founder editor of “Amrit Bazaar Patrika”, Sisir Kumar Ghose, along with a few progressive leaders of the time, founded the “India League” in year 1875 in Calcutta. The basic aim of the ‘League’ was to represent masses and to stimulate a sense of nationalism among the people. Later, the ‘League’ was superseded by the “India Association”, founded in year 1876 with active participation from Anand Mohan Bose, and S.N. Banerjee. ‘Indian Association’ raised voice against issues like age limit for ICS examination and opposed ‘Ilbert Bill’.
Poona Sarvjanik Sabha
On 2nd April, 1870 Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was founded by M.G. Ranade and G.V. Joshi. The ‘Sabha’ provided many prominent leaders of national stature like ‘Bal Gangadhar Tilak’. It aimed to serve as a mediating body between British Government and people of India. In 1875, “Sabha’ submitted a petition to the ‘House of Commons’ to demand India’s representation in British Parliament.
Madras Mahajan Sabha
It was established by S. Ramaswami Mudaliar and P. Anandacharlu in year 1884 in Madras. The Sabha in collaboration with ‘Bombay Presidency Association’ and the ‘Indian Assocation’ sent a delegation to England.


The foundation of Indian National Congress in 1885 was not a sudden event. It was the culmination of political awakening. It was an all India level organisation aimed at certain basic tasks and objectives. A.O. Hume was the founder of Indian National Congress. First INC meeting was held at the Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College on 28th December, 1885. W.C. Banerjee was elected its first president and was attended by 72 delegates. It aimed at the development of close relations between national workers. The second session of INC met at Calcutta in December 1886 under the presidentship of Dadabhai Naoroji.
436 delegates participated in this meeting.
Formation of Congress as a body for freedom struggle, highlights its characteristics as one of the oldest and biggest democratic organization in the world.
Aims and Objectives of Congress:
• Promotion of friendship amongst the countrymen.
• Development of consolidation of feeling of national unity irrespective of race, caste, religion or provinces.
• Formulation of popular demands and presentation before the government through petitions.
• Training and organization of public opinion.
• Consolidation of sentiments of national unity.
• Recording of the opinions of educated classes on pressing problems • Laying down lines for future course of action in public interest.
Role of Congress
• Early congress leaders showed their concern for removal of poverty from India, a resolution highlighting improvement of India.
• Annual sessions of Congress took place in different venues every year.
• Provincial conferences were organized so as to foster countrywide involvement.
• Congress took important steps so as to organise public opinion in Great Britain in favour of Indian viewpoint.
• Congress gave thrust on seeking representation in government. It was Madan Mohan Malviya who commented no taxation without representation.
• In 1872 Dadabhai Naoroji became a member of British Parliament.
• By Indian Council Act of 1892, indirect elections were introduced for the first time for a credit also goes to INC.
• Congress demanded fiscal suspension from British Government.
• Congress demanded Indianization of Civil services.
• It also protested against economic emasculaton of India.
• INC also protested against insensitivity shown by government to natural disasters including famines, plague and floods in India. That is why in 1896 it passed a resolution blaiming British rule for famines in India.
• Mahatma Gandhi appeared on Congress platform of the first time in 1901, Culcutta session, seeking support for Indian struggle in South Africa and the session was Presided by Dinolaw Wacha.
• It was in 1905 that a resolution was passed seeking introduction of socialistic pattern of society. Apart from resolution for introducing concept of economic and social reconstruction.
Understanding ‘Safety Valve Theory’
The ‘Safety Value Theory’ is based on seven volumes of secret report which A.O. Hume, the founder of the Congress, read at Simla in 1878. The theory was first mentioned in Hume’s biography, written by William Wedderburn and published in 1913. According to this theory, the British wanted the formation of an organization which could save the administration from possible political outburst in the country. That is why they provided ample support to A.O. Hume and other Indian intelligentsia in the formation of the Indian National Congress.
The First Congress Session: A. O. Hume along with the cooperation of Indian leaders organised the first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in the hall of the Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in December 1885. There were four main demands put forward by the Congress at its first session:
(a) A simultaneous examination for the ICS to be held in England and India;
(b) Reform of legislative council and adoption of the principle of election in place of nomination in constituting them;
(c) Opposition to the annexation of upper Burma; and
(d) Reduction in the military expenditure.
The Moderates (1885 – 1905)
The moderates were the first in the 19th century to develop an economic critique of colonialism. This critique was perhaps the most important contribution to the development of the national movement in India. They pointed out that a large part of India’s capital and wealth was being drained to Britain in the form of salaries and pensions to British Civil and military officials working in India.
Moderate leaders believed in constitutional medium of struggle.
That is why, radicalism of direct action was absent from their struggle. Their achievement lies in the fact that they were architect of first all India politics forum. It fostered sense of political unity and spirit of togetherness in Indians for making of India as nation.
Methods of Political work
• Moderate congressmen believed in a peaceful and constitutional agitation • Prayers and petitions were the media.
• Congress sessions survived only for 3 days a year. It had no channel to carry on the work in the interval.
• They had faith in goodness of the British nation and were sure that all would be well if the British could be familiarised with the true state of affair in India.
• In 1889, a British Committee of INC was formed.
Role of Masses: The basic weakness of the moderates lay in their narrow social base. Their movement did not have a wide appeal. In fact, the leaders lacked political trust in the masses.
The area of their action was limited to the urban community.
As they did not have the support of the masses, they declared that the time was not ripe for throwing out a challenge to the foreign rulers. Their programmes and policies championed the cause of all sections of the Indian people and represented nation-wide interests against colonial exploitation.
Main objectives and Demands of the INC (1885 – 1905)
In the early years, the INC also suffered from a blinkered convinction in the essential sense of justice and goodness of the British people. they deluded themselves that all would be well if the British people could be acquainted with the true state of affairs. They had an equally deep rooted belief that the Indian nation was one and that its suffering arose from the discriminatory behavioiur of sundry bureaucrats. The resolutions passed at various Congress sessions reflected these twin factors. They were roughly similar from one session to the next, and they dealt with three broad types of grievances, namely political, administrative and economic.
About INC
• Aurobindo Ghosh called INC as “begging institute”.
• Bipin Chandra Pal viewed “INC playing with bubble”.
• Tilak, the Father of Indian Unrest said “INC distinguished between begging and claiming the rights”.
• Tilak also said, “Rights are not begged, they are claimed”.
• Even Jawaharlal Nehru observes the early Congress to be “an English knowing upper class affairs”.
Rise of the Extremism
The moderate policies of the early Congress disillusioned many of its younger leaders, known as Neo-nationalists or Extremists. By their painstaking studies and writings, the early nationalist leaders had exposed the true nature of British rule in India. Dadabhai Naoroji, exposed the exploitative nature of British rule in India and proved that Britain was ‘bleeding India white’ and the constant ‘drain of wealth’ from India was directly responsible for India’s economic miseries.
The new turn in Indian politics found expression in two forms-
(i) The formation of the Extremist group within the Congress, (ii) the growth of Terrorism or Revolutionary movement in the country at large. Four prominent Congress leaders – Lokamanya Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose and Lala Lajpat Rai – defined the creed of the new group, gave articulate to its aspirations and guided its operations. Tilak gave the slogan to the new group when he said, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”.
It should be clearly understood that the demand for Swaraj by extremists was demand for complete freedom from British rule and full independence to manage national affairs without any foreign control. The swaraj of the moderate leaders was merely a demand for colonial self-government within the Empire.
• The methods applied by the two groups were different in their modulation and approach. The extremists had no trust in the generosity of the British public or parliament, nor were they convinced of the power of merely holding conference.
• The extremists also affirmed their worry in passive resistance, mass agitation and strong will to suffer or make self-sacrifices. The new leadership sought to create an ardent love for liberty, accompanied by a spirit of sacrifice and readiness to suffer for the cause of the country.
• They tried to root out from the people’s mind the power of the British rulers and gave them self-reliance and confidence in their own strength.
• They had full confidence in the strength of the masses and they planned to achieve swaraj through mass action.
• They, therefore, pressed for political work among the masses and for direct political action by the masses.
• The extremists urged boycott of the foreign goods use of Swadeshi goods, national education and passive resistance.
The torch of extremism was lit by Tilak who used religious orthodoxy to arouse national consciousness. He was the first to give the slogan of “Swarajya, Swadesh and Boycott” and wrote in his paper Kesari, “Our nation is like a tree, of which the original trunk was swarajya and the branches were Swadeshi and Boycott.” The three pillars of extremism were ‘Lal, Bal and Pal’ (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal) who became the ideals of future nationalists. They launched a vehement attack on the British Government.
Partition of Bengal (1905 AD.) In Bengal the nationalist feelings and anti British movement arose. Lord Curzon played the policy of Divide and Rule, to crush nationalism. The government separated East Bengal which was dominated by the Muslims and merged it with Assam instead of spreading non – Bengali areas from the province of Bengal. Both radicals and moderates opposed it.
The condition for the appearance of millitant nationalism had thus, developed when in 1905 the partition of Bengal was declared and the Indian national movement, entered its second phase.
• On 20th July, 1905, Lord Curzon issued an order dividing the province of Bengal into two parts: Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million and rest of Bengal with a population of 54 million of whom 18 million were Bengalis, and 36 million Biharis and Oriyas.
• Although the main argument supported by the Government in favour of the partition was that the existing province of Bengal was too big to be efficiently administered by a single provincial government, the real motive was to curb the growth of national feeling in politically advanced Bengal by making a gulf between the Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims, and destroying the unity of 78 millions of Bengalis by dividing them into two groups.
• The Indian National Congress and the nationalists of Bengal strongly opposed the partition. They realised the principal motive behind the partition was the destruction of the unity of the Bengalis on religious grounds. They could not but feel that the partition was a measure intentionally adopted to ignite enmity and hostility between the Hindus and Muslims, the two great communities in Bengal.
• An anti partition agitation was initiated on 7th August, 1905 at the Town Hall, Calcutta, where a massive demonstration against the partition was organised.
• 16th October, 1905 was the day fixed for the coming into force of partition and after a month, Lord Curzon left India.
• 16th October, 1905 was declared to be a day of national mourning throughout Bengal. It was observed as a day of fasting. There was a hartal in Calcutta. People went to the Ganges barefooted in the early hours of the morning and took their bath.
• Rabindranath Tagore composed a national song, ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’, for this occassion which was sung by huge crowds parading the streets.
• There were cries of ‘Bande Mataram’ which became a national song of Bengal.
• The ceremony of Raksha Bandhan was observed on 16th
October, 1905. Hindus and Muslims tried rakhi on one another’s wrists as a symbol of the unbreakable unity.
Muslim league The Muslim League was founded in 1906 at Dacca. It demanded for the separate electorate for Muslims.
This demand was later included in the Government India Act 1909.
In 1907, the congress split due to differences that arose between the moderates and extremists.


The Swadeshi Movement
To oppose the partition of Bengal the Indian leaders initiated the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement in August 7, 1905. To offer more active resistance, it was decided to Boycott British goods.
This was the beginning of the Swadeshi movement, which within a few years transformed the Indian political scene. Bonfires of British cloth demonstrated the people’s determination not to rely on foreign products. It gave a tremendous impetus to Indian industry, an open challenge to the British authority.
This swadeshi movement was an immense success.
Main effect of Swadeshi Movement
Swadeshi movement was stepping stone of Nationalist movement, which led to the beginning of organized political movement in India.
• Rise of Neo-nationalism • Surat split • Boycott of foreign goods.
• Cultural revival and emergence of nationalist art and literature.
• Concept of national education.
Movement under Extremists (1905 – 08)
• Led by Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghosh.
• The political extremists, demanded self-government for India, not under British control or British superiority, But by severing all British connections, and wiping off British influences.
Morley Minto Reforms or Indian Council Act, 1909
This reform named after Morley, the secretary of state and Minto, the viceroy at that time. The principle of separate electorate for Hindus and the Muslims was legalized. The Home Rule Movement was started due to the Congress inactivity after 1907 and disappointment with the Act of 1909.
During this period Tilak gave the famous slogan, “Swaraj is my birthright and I will have it.”
Communalism is the belief that in India Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians form different and distinct communities.
Inherent in communalism is the second perception that the social, cultural, economic and political interests of the followers of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interest of the followers of another religion. When the interests of the followers of different religions or of different religious communities are seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile. Communalism is said to be at its apex.
Thus, at this stage, the communalists assert that Hindus and Muslims cannot have common secular interest, and that their secular interests are bound to be opposed to each other.
To look upon the communal problem in India merely as the Hindu-Muslim question or religious antagonism between the Hindus and the Muslims is misleading. Apart from the Hindus and the Muslims there was third period in the communal triangle – the British rulers, who insinuate themselves between the Hindus and the Muslims and thus, created a communal triangle of which they remained the base.
Spread of Communalism:
• The communalism spread as a result of British policy of divide and rule.
• The separation of electorates through the Constitutional Acts.
• The Act of 1909, gave weightage to the Muslims in the Legislative coucils elections.
• The spread of communalism among the Muslims, Hindu and Sikhs made the question of the Indian nationalism knotty.
• Yet, a considerable number of members of each community was patriotic and was on the side of the congress.
• The Nationalist leaders used religious overtones which led to causing the problem of communalism.
World War I and Indian Nationalism
The First World War broke out in June 1914 between Britain, France and Russia on one side and Austria, Germany, Italy and Turkey on the other. As India was a colony of Britain, many Indians troops fought in different parts of the world as part of British army.
• When the war started, the congress was firmly under the control of Gokhale and the Moderates.
• The Indian National Congress decided to support the British war efforts, both as a matter of duty and in a spirit that grateful Britain would repay Indian’s loyalty and gratitude.
• In India, the years of the war marked the maturing of nationalism.
• During the war India’s manpower and resources were badly exploited.
• The moderate leaders remained loyal and supportive to the British war efforts.
• Some leaders like B. G. Tilak and Annie Besant were convinced that the British would not grant them their demand of self role till they pressurised them.
• The immediate impact of this nationalist wave in India was the launching of the Home Rule Movement by Mrs. Annie Besant and B. G. Tilak.
• War years turned out to be years of intense nationalist political agitation.
• Tilak’s contention was that every Indian had the birth right to be free. He laid the foundations for the great anti-government movement led by Gandhiji in the next few years.
• To curb the revolutionary and terrorist activities, the government introduced repressive laws, which included the Indian Criminal Act, under which special Tribunals were set up to try the revolutionary and terrorist cases.
• Under the Defence of India Act, hundreds of suspects were transported without benefit of proper trial.
• These repressive measures hit the revolutionaries very hard, but did not blunt their courage.
• General Muslims uprising also took place on account of the declaration of war against Turkey.
• They strongly proposed that Muslims should not remain subservient to the British Government, but should participate in the National Movement.
• The events of the First World War and the prevalent sentiments were responsible for the Lucknow Pact and the Khilafat Movement.
Gadar Movement
The movement also known as the “Gadar Mutiny” or the “Gadar Conspiracy” was a plan to initiate a pan-India revolt in the British Indian Army in 1915 to end British rule in India.
The movement was linked to “Gadar Party”–An organisation founded by Punjabi Indians in the United States and Canada.
Some of key members of Gadar Party were Lala Har Dayal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Abdul Hafiz, Mohamed Barakatullah, Kartar Singh. Sarbha and Rasbehri Bose. The party had its headquarters in ‘San Francisco’. It also published a magazine ‘Gadar’ for free distribution to promote aims and objectives of the organisation.
The Home Rule Movement
The release of Tilak after 6 years of jail in Mandalay (Burma) moderated the launching of Home Rule Movement by Tilak and Mrs. Annie Besant, both of them decided to work in close co-operation to launch the movement to attain concessions, disillusionment with Morley – Minto Reforms and Wartime miseries. But the Home Rule Movement declined after Besant accepted the proposed Montagu Chelmford Reforms and Tilak went to Britain to pursue the case that he had filed against Valentine Chirol, the author of Indian unrest.
The Lucknow Session of Congress (1916)
• Lucknow Pact was signed in 1916.
• By this pact, the Congress accepted the separate electorates given to the Muslims by the 1909 Act.
• By this it does not mean that the Congress and the Muslim League merged with each other. They still held up their annual sessions separately and had district agendas and political cause of action.
Beginning of the Gandhian Era [Post war situation]
During the First World War, nationalism had required its forces and the nationalists were expecting major political achievements after the war; and they were willing to fight back of their expectations were thwarted. The economic situation in the post-war years had taken a turn for the worse. Indian industries, which had prospered during the war because of foreign imports of manufactured goods, faced losses and closure. The Indian industrialists wanted protection of their industries through imposition of high customs duties and grant of government aid, they realized that a strong nationalist movement and an independent Indian government along could secure these. The workers facing unemployment and high prices and living in great poverty, also turned actively towards the nationalist movement. The urban educated Indian faced increasing unemployment. Thus, all sections of Indian society were suffering economic hardships.
The government was aware of the rising tide of nationalist and anti-government sentiments once again decided to follow the policy of concessions and repressions.
Importance of the year 1919
• The year 1919 constitutes an important landmark in the history of British India.
• The Rowlatt Bills and the reign of terror in Punjab culminated in Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
• The emergence of M. K. Gandhi.
• Development of Pan – Islamism as a force of Indian politics.
• The passing of Government of India Act, 1919 on the basis of Montagu Chelmsford Report.
Government of India Act, 1919
The Government of India Act of 1919 incorporated the idea of a dual form of government referred as diarchy for the major provinces. It was intended to bring partial responsible government.
• The provincial budget was separated from the central budget.
• The governor was empowered to reserve a bill for the consideration of the Governor General if it related to some specified matters.
• A post of High Commissioner was created.
• The central legislature was made bicameral for the first time. The Upper House was named the council of state.
That contained 60 members in which 33 were elected.
The Lower House was named the legislative Assembly.
That contained 145 members in which 104 were elected.
• Direct election system was adopted in the province. In which reservation system was present on the basis of communalism.
Entry of Gandhiji : The arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the political horizon of India added new management to the National Movement. He played a great part in the country’s struggle for freedom. He returned to India from South- Africa in 1915. He led the struggle of Indian peasants and workers. During the First World War he advised the Indians to help the British government in the hope of getting Home Rule after the war. But the enactment of Rowlatt Act, 1919, created great unrest in the country. A powerful agitation rose against this Act. This Act was like giving stones to a hungry man. At this critical juncture Mahatma Gandhi entered the field of Indian politics and took the command of the national movement. So the period is generally called the Gandhian Era.
Some important points
• Satyagraha is a combination of two sanskrit words:
Satya (truth) and agraha (eagerness): In English Satyagraha is referred to a ‘passive resistance’.
• Gandhiji’s satyagraha was based on truth and nonviolence.
For him, Satyagraha was a way of life, a spiritual and moral force.
• Gandhiji urged on non-violent methods of struggle and had faith in the power of masses. Under his leadership the Indian National Movement got a new direction and adopted new methods and techniques.
• Gandhiji moved by the degradation and humililation exprienced by the ‘untouchables, led a crusade against this institution. He called these people ‘Harijans’ or ‘Children of God’.
• He dedicated his life to the removal of untouchability.
Spread of education among girls and Hindu-Muslim unity. He also promoted Swadeshi and popularized the Chakra and Khadi.
Rowlatt Acts, 1919
In 1919, the British had passed the Rowlatt Acts by which the British government got power to detain anybody without trial for two years. Anybody could be imprisoned without a chance to defend himself or herself. Gandhiji called for satyagrah against the Rowlatt Act. The agitation against the act reached extreme in Punjab. A public meeting was held at Jallinwala Bagh in a small park enclosed by building on all sides. General Dyer with his troops entered the park and ordered his army to fire without any warning. This was the worst incidence of British rule.
Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy and its Aftermath
• The Rowlatt Satyagraha as a political campaign was a failure as it did not attain its object ‘the repeal of the Rowlatt Act.’ But it projected Gandhiji as an all India leader of immense potential.
• The anti-Rowlatt Act agitation was particularly severe in the Punjab which was suffering from the after effects of wartime repression, forcible recruitment and the influence of the revolutionaries.
• The movement provoked a hartal in many parts of the Punjab, and violent disturbances took place.
• The Lieutenant Governor, Michael O ‘Dwyer, had already earned notoriety as an oppressive administrator.
• On April 9, 1919, he ordered the arrest of two local Congress leaders, Dr. Satyapal and Dr. Kitchlew, who were associated with the Reception Committee for the annual session of the INC to be held in December 1919.
• To protest against their arrest and the British repression, a public meeting was held at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919, where General Dyer arrived with armoured cars and troops and fired on the unarmed peaceful crowd without warning, killing nearly, 1,000 people and scores of others.
• The massacre of Jallianwala Bagh was followed by martial law and a veritable reign of terror prevailed in the Punjab.
• To protest against the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy Rabindranath Tagore surrendered the Knighthood conferred on him by the British Government.
Khilafat and Non-Co-operation Movements
During 1919-22, the British were opposed through two mass movements– The Khilafat and Non Co-operation.
The British prime minister promised the Muslims that sultan of Turkey would not be humiliated after the end of Ist World War. The Khilafat movement aimed against the British government received the support of Mahatma Gandhi. He addressed the issue of Swaraj. All leaders boycotted British goods and clothes. On 4th February 1922, in Chauri Chaura, a violent clash broke up between local police and protestors.
Gandhi went on for 3 days fast to appeal to the Indians to stop all resistance and the movement was called off.
An Appraisal of the Movement: The sudden suspension of the Non-Co-operation movement also led to the demise of the Khilafat issue and breakdown of the precariously balanced Hindu-Muslim harmony. Shortly after the movement was called off communalism became rampant all over the country and serious riots broke out. In Kerala, an anti-Zamindar bloodletting was witnessed, when Muslim Moplah peasants turned on Hindu landlords and moneylenders.
The Communal situation became far worse during the years 1921-27 than it had been even before.
Mahatma Gandhi’s promise to achieve Swaraj within a year of launching the movement was not fulfilled. The Non-Cooperation Movement failed to achieve any of its declared objectives. But its ultimate gain outweighed the immediate losses. The congress had become a force to reckon with and thereafter it went from strength to strength. It generated a desire for freedom and inspired the people to challenge the colonial rule.
The Swaraj Party (1923)
The suspension of Non cooperation was not liked by the extremists. In the Gaya session of Congress C.R. Das had resigned from the membership of the Congress. He started Swaraj Party at Allahabad.
Simon Commission
In November, 1927 the British government appointed the Simon Commission. It consisted all Britishers without a single Indian representative. The commission arrived in India in February 1928 and met with a strike.
Nehru Report (1928)
The report was a memorandum outlining a proposed new dominion status constitution for India. It was prepared by a committee of All party conference chaired by Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru as secretary.
Provisions of Nehru Report
1. Dominion status be granted for internal freedom be sanctioned.
2. Dyarchy should be removed and responsible rule be established.
3. A supreme court should be set up.
4. Federal government should be established.
5. The central legislature should consist of two houses.
Civil Disobedience Movement
Civil Disobedince Movement was launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in the year 1930 was one of the most important events of freedom struggle of the country. On 12th
March, 1930, a Dandi salt march was started where the British salt law was broken. This angered the British government.
On March 1930, Gandhi signed the Gandhi – Irwin pact. It aimed at the calling off the civil disobedience movement and participation of Congress in the Round Table Conference.
Civil disobedience movement was started again and continued till 1934.
Among the programmes outlined for the Civil Disobedience movement were:
(i) The violation of the salt law and other laws;
(ii) Boycott of courts, legislatures, elections, Government functions, Government school and colleges.
(iii) Non-payment of land-revenue, rent or other taxes.
(iv) Boycott of foreign goods and burning of foreign cloth;
(v) Peaceful picketing of shops selling liquor and other intoxicants;
(vi) Organising mass strikes and demonstrations;
(vii) Resigning government jobs and not joining the civil, military or public services.
Dandi March : The Civil Disobedience movement was started by Gandhiji on 12th March 1930, with his famous Dandi March. Gandhiji along with 78 companions, which included Sarojini Naidu marched nearly 375 km from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a village in Gujarat sea-coast.
It was on the same day after reaching Dandi, Gandhiji broke the law by making salt from sea water. A wave of enthusiasm swept the country. Salt laws were broken at many places and even women took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement.
The Third Round Table Conference – (1932)
(November 17 to December 24, 1932) It was held in London in 1932. The Congress boycotted it.
Unhampered by the developments on the Indian political scene, the British Government continued with its work of constitutional reforms. The third Round table Conference was called on November 17, 1932 and it lasted till December 24 that year. The Congress boycotted it and only 46 delegates attended the session. This session put together the final features of a concrete plan for the Government of India Act 1935, which, after some amendments, was passed by the British Parliament on August 2, 1935.
Poona Pact
The ‘Poona Pact’ was an agreement between Gandhiji and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar which was signed on 25th September 1932 in Poona. This agreement ended fast unto death undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi to protest ‘Mc.Donand’s Communal Award’ to the depressed classes (untouchables) by giving separate electorates to Dalits for electing members to the state legislative assemblies in British India. The major points of this pact were as follows:
(1) 148 seats were allowed to the depressed classes in the provincial legislatives.
(2) The representation of the depressed class in the central legislature would likewise will be on the principles of joint electorate.
(3) Certain percentage of seats allotted to the general non- Muslim electorate was to be reserved for the depressed class.
(4) Adequate representation was to be given to the depressed class in civil services.
Peasants’ and Workers’ Movement
The 1930’s economic depression worsened the condition of the peasants and workers in India. The prices of agriculture products dropped by over 50 percent by the end of 1932. The employers tried to reduce wages. The peasants all over the country began to demand land reforms, abolition of zamindari, reduction of land revenue and rent, and relief from indebtedness. Workers in the factories and plantations increasingly demanded better conditions of work and recognition of their trade union rights.
The Civil Disobedience movement and the rise of the left parties and groups produced a new generation of political workers who devoted themselves to the organisation of peasants and workers. Consequently, there was rapid growth of trade unions in the cities and the Kisan Sabhas in many areas particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab. The first All-India peasant organisation, the All- India Kisan Sabha was formed in 1936 under the Presidentship of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. The peasants also began to take a more active part in the national movement.
The Government of India Act 1935 :
• The Government of India Act 1935 consisted of 14 parts, 321 Articles and 10 schedules. The Act of 1935 prescribed a federation, taking the provinces and the Indian states as its units. It was optional for the Indian states to join the federation, and since they never joined the federation never came into being.
• The Government of India Act 1935 referred to diarchy on central level. The central legislature was bicameral consisting of the federal Assembly and the council of the state.
• The Act divided legislative powers between centre and provinces. The executive authority of the centre was vested in the Governor General on behalf of the crown. the Governor General could prevent discussion in the legislature and suspend the proceeding on a Bill.
• A central court was established in Delhi consisting of a chief justice, other three judges and two additional judges. Central Reserve Bank was established by Act of 1935. Diarchy on province was abolished, Vidhan Parishad was established in some provinces.
• By Act of 1935 India council was abolished.
Tebhaga Movement (1939)
The Tebhaga Movement was a movement of peasants in Bengal. At that time the peasants or tenants had to give half of their harvest to the owner of the land or the Zamindars. The peasants insisted that one-third of the harvest should be taken by landlords in place of one-half. This movement marked as turning point in the history of agrarian movements in India.
The August Offer, 1940
In 1940 session at Ramgarh (Bihar), Congress passed a resolution to offer support to British government in war if a provisional national government is set up at the centre. In response to this, the then Viceroy ‘Lord Linlithgow’ offered something which became popular as ‘the August Offer’.
Some key elements of the proposal were :
1. A representative “constitution making body” shall be appointed immediately after the war.
2. The number of Indian in the Viceroy’s executive council will be increased.
3. A war advisory council would be set up. Congress, however did not approve “The August Offer”.
Cripps Mission (1942)
Churchill was compelled to change his attitude. He came to discuss with Indian leaders and break the constitutional stalemate.
In March 1942, the British Government sent Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the war cabinet, to India with a Draft Declaration. The Drafted Declaration had the following features:
(i) It reiterated the intention of the British Government to set up an Indian Union soon after the war.
(ii) The Indian Union would have dominion status with power to secede from the commonwealth.
(iii) An elected body charged with the task of framing a new constitution for India with the Princes as participants.
(iv) Pakistan was conceded in principle, in that once the constitution was drawn up, any province might opt out of the Indian Union.
(v) The Constitution-making body would conclude a treaty with the British Government guaranteeing to protect the racial and religious minorities and covering all other necessary matters.
(vi) Until a new constitution was framed, the British Government was to remain responsible for the defence of India.
Negotiations between Cripps and the Congress leaders broke down. Stafford Cripps returned home in the middle of April leaving behind frustrated and embittered Indian people.
The failure of the Cripps Mission and the growing threat of Japanese aggression brought about a radical change in Mahatma Gandhi’s attitude towards the British Government.
The people’s discontent with rising prices and wartime shortages was reaching an explosive stage. Japan won a series of dramatic victories in the Western Pacific. Malaya and Singapore were overrun, and the retreating British troops surrendered Rangoon in early March 1942. Soon the Japanese were at India’s eastern frontier, and brought India within the range of actual hostilities. Mahatma Gandhi came to believe that “the presence of the British in India is an invitation to Japan to invade India and their withdrawal removes the bait.” He therefore asked the British “to leave India in God’s hands or in modern parlance to anarchy”.
Quit India Resolution
‘Wardha Resolution’ is also known as ‘Quit-India Resolution.
In Wardha Session of Congress in 1942, a resolution was passed that demanded that the British rule in India must end immediately. This resolution was an outcome of the change of attitude of Congress party towards British rule.
Quit India Movement
• In 1942, Gandhiji started the final movement called the Quit India movement with the famous slogan of Do or Die.
• The British followed a policy of severe repression.
Popular discontent a product of rising prices and wartime shortages instigated freedom fighters.
• A large number of people extended their co-operation to Gandhiji and the Indians came out in open rebellion against the Britishers.
• They set fire to police stations, post offices, railway stations and other government buildings.
• The Quit India movement made a great contribution to the Freedom struggle of India. It made the Indian masses determined to get freedom.
• The Quit India Movement inaugurated at the call of Mahatma unfolded in four phases. In the first phase there were strikes, processions, and demonstrations.
This phase lasted for three to four days and commenced from the day of Gandhi’s arrest on August 9th, 1942.
• Quit India movement was Gandhi’s final bid to secure India’s independence.
C. R. Formula (Rajaji Formula):
It soon became evident to the government that no solution to the Indian problem was possible without the concurrence of the Muslim League. Gandhiji tried to reach an accord with Jinnah. They met in Bombay from September 9 to 27, 1944.
Rajagopalachari had induced Gandhiji to accept the principle of Pakistan and had devised a formula which formed the basis of the talks in 1944, to end the deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League.
The C. R. Formula became the basis for the Gandhi – Jinnah talks in Bombay in 1944 itself to settle the Hindu-Muslim differences.
Wavell Plan (1945)
Mr. Wavell presented a plan for ending the political problems in India. It is known as Wavell plan. It was assured that all the members of Executive except viceroy and the commander – in – chief would be Indian. The representation of Hindus and Muslims would be equal in the viceroy’s council. Indians would have the right to frame out their constitution. But this plan became a failure.
Simla Conference
The Simla conference was a 1945 meeting between viceroy Archibald Wavell and the major political leaders of India at Simla. It began in cordial atmosphere but due to obstinacy of Jinnah and his communal viewpoint no decision could be taken.
Cabinet Mission (1946)
When the cabinet mission arrived in Delhi, it had three members, Cripps, A.V. Alexander and Pethick Lawrence.
The mission talked with Congress and Muslim League about the interim government and constitutional assembly. Muslim League demanded for separate nation whereas the Congress opposed it.
Sir Pethick Lawrence, while announcing the appointment of the Mission had made it clear that its objectives was to set up quickly a machinery for drawing up the constitution for independent India and to make necessary arrangements for an Interim government.
The Cabinet Mission spent the first three weeks in discussions with the leaders of various political parties, members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, the rulers of Princely States, etc. After all these discussions, when it could not arrive at any agreed solution, the Cabinet Mission announced its own recommendations on May 16, 1946.
Declaration of Atlee
In July 1946, Congress found a glorious victory in the election of constituent assembly. The Muslim League felt defeated.
Dangerous communal riots broke out at Silhat, Tripura, No akhali, Garhmukteshwar, Bihar and other places.
After Direct Action day, the Atlee, P.M. of the British Government announced to leave India.
Mountbatten Plan
Lord Mountbatten, who had came to India as Viceroy in March 1947, worked out a compromise after long discussions with the Congress and Muslim League – The country was free but not united. India was to be partioned and a new state of Pakistan was to be created along with a free India. He announced his compromise Plan on 3rd June 1947.
Salient features of the plan
1. If the areas with the majority of the Muslim population so desired, they should be allowed to form a separate dominion. A new constituent assembly would be set up.
2. Boundary commission would be set up to define the boundaries of the Hindu and Muslim provinces in Bengal and the Punjab.
3. The governor general should be common to both dominions and that the present governor general should be reappointed.
4. Transfer of power should be on the basis of the Government of India Act of 1935.
5. In the case of two dominions, the armed forces should be divided between them.
In July 1947, the British Parliament passed the historic Indian Independence Act to legalize the Mountbatten Plan. The Act, thus provided for the establishment of two independent states – India and Pakistan with effect from 15 August 1947.
The boundary lines between the two nations were drawn by Rad Cliff, a British lawyer, who knew nothing about Indian conditions or geography.
The country was to be partitioned but not on the basis of Hinduism and Islam. India became independent on 15 August, 1947.
On the night of 14 August Jawaharlal Nehru, said in his midnight speech,’ At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom….”.
Fourteen Points of Jinnah
The Fourteen Points of Jinnah were proposed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a Constitutional Reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims in a self-governing India.
A comparison of the Nehru Report (1928) with Jinnah’s Fourteen Points had a political gap between the Muslims and the Hindus in India. Jinnah aim was to get more right for Muslims. He therefore gave his 14 points. These points covered all the interests of the Muslims at heated time and in this Jinnah stated that it was the “parting of way” and that he did not want and would not have anything to do with the Indian National Congress in the Future. The League leaders motivated Jinnah to revive the Muslim League and gave it direction. As a result, these points became the demands of the Muslims and greatly influenced the Muslim thinking for the next two decades till the establishement of Pakistan in 1947.
The Fourteen Points
1. The form of the future costitution should be federal, with residuary powers vested in the provinces.
2. The uniform measure of autonomy shall be guaranteed to all provinces.
3. All legislature in the country and other elected bodies shall be constituted on the definite principle of adequate and effective representation of minorities in every province without reducing the majority in any province to a majority are even equality.
4. In the Central Legislature, Muslim representation should not be less than one third.
5. Representation of communal groups shall continue to be by means of separate electorate as at present, provided it shall be open to any community at any time to abandon its separate electorate in favour of a joint electorate.
6. Any territorial distribution that might at any time be necessary shall not in any way affect the Muslim majority.
7. Full religious liberty, i.e., liberty of belief, worship and observance, propaganda, association and education, shall be guaranteed to all communities.
8. No bill or resolution or any part thereof shall be passed in any Legislature or any other elected body if three fourths of the member of any community in that particular body oppose it as being injurious to the interest of that community or in the alternative, such other method is devised as may be found feasible and practicable to deal with such cases.
9. Sindh should be separated from the Bombay Presidency.
10. Reforms should be introduced in the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan on the same footing as in the other provinces.
11. Provision should be made in the constitution giving Muslims an adequate share, along with the other Indians, in all the services of the state and in local selfgoverning bodies with due regard to the requirements of efficiency.
12. The constitution should embody adequate safeguards for the protection of Muslim culture and for the protection and promotion of Muslim education, langauge, religion, personal laws and Muslim Charitable institutions and for their due share in the grants-in-aid given by the State and by local self-governing bodies.
13. No Cabinet, either central or provincial should be formed without there being a proportion of at least one-third Muslim ministers.
14. No change shall be made in the constitution by the Central Legislature except with the concurrence of the State’s contribution of the Indian Federation.
Constitution of India and Pakistan
• The Independence Act declared that British Paramountcy over the Indian States to lapse on August 15, 1947. They were allowed to join either India or Pakistan.
• Before that date, most of the states had signed the Instrument of Accession by which they agreed to accede to India.
• But there were some states which thought that in the changed situation they were entitled to declare their indepedence.
• By 15 August, 1947, all the 562 states except Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh incorporated in the new Federal Union.
• Hundreds of small states merged with neighbouring provinces and disappeared altogether from the country’s political map.
• Thus “a bloodless revolution had been brought about, on the one hand, by the operation of democratic forces unleashed by freedom, and on the other, by the patriotic attitude of the rulers who had been quick to appreciate the change”.
• The Maharaja of Kashmir also delayed accession to India or Pakistan even though the popular forces led by Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference wanted accession to India.
• When Pathans and irregular armed forces of Pakistan invaded Kashmir, the Maharaja of Kashmir sought the assistance of the Government of India.
• On 26 October 1947, he formally acceded to the Indian Union, whose air borne troops saved the situation in the nick of time.
• On 31 October 1947 an interim government was formed with Sheikh Abdullah as its head, which, with the help of Indian troops, successfuly repelled tribal raids, aided and abetted by Pakistan.
• On 31 December 1947, the Indian Government appealed to the Security Council of the United Nations to stop this act of aggression, on the part of Pakistan against India.
• The claims of India and Pakistan were put forward before the Security Coucil which could not arrive at a fruitful solution.
• The two dominions fought a war for over a year till the UN commission arranged for a ceasefire between the two Governments on 1 January, 1949.
• The efforts of the Security Council to arrive at an enduring solution to the dispute between the Governments by sending successive UN representatives like Sir Owen Dixon and Dr. Frank Graham, proved unsuccessful.
• In 1951, the Constitution Assembly met in Jammu and Kashmir to frame a constitution for the State.
• The Constituent Assembly ratified the accession of the State to India in February 1954.
• In November 1956, the Constituent Assembly legalised the status of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of the Indian Dominion.
• Pakistan retains her de-facto control over the area which her troops occupied in 1947.
Indian Independence Act of 1947
In July, the Mountbatten plan was executed by the Indian Independence Act, 1947. This Act was presented in the House of commons. On 18 July 1947, the British parliament passed the Bill. According to it, two separate nations were created and Jinnah was made the governor general of the New nation Pakistan. 14 August, 1947 saw the birth of new Islamic Republic of Pakistan. At midnight the next day on 15th August, India got its freedom. The two countries were founded on the basis of religion with Pakistan as an Islamic state and India as a secular one.
The process of partition had claimed many lives in the riots. Not only was the country divided, but also were the provinces of Punjab and Bengal caused riots and claimed the lives of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs equally.


Ambedkar, B. R. (1891 – 1956): A leader of the depressed classes throughout his life, he worked for the moral and material progress of the untouchables. He was jurist by profession and equally a great social worker, politician, writer and educationist. He launched a number of movements for securing equal status for the lower castes. He was appointed the Law Minister in the Interim Government and also Chairman of the Constituent Assembly’s Drafting Committee.
Ansari, M.A. (1880 – 1936): Qualified as a physician, he organised the All India Medical Mission of Turkey in 1912-13. Later took a leading part in the Home Rule League agitation. Elected President, Muslim League in 1920. Participated in the Khilafat, the Home Rule and Non-Cooperation Movements. He was the founder of the Nationalist educational institution, Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920.
Azad, Chandra Shekhar (1906 – 31): One of the most famous revolutionaries from the present day Uttar Pradesh. He was arrested during Non-Co-operation movement, and was flogged for ridiculing the court during trial by declaring his name as Azad, his father as Swatantra and his home as prison. From this he became famous as Azad. He shot himself dead with the last bullet he had in his pistol, while fighting alone with the police.
Asaf Ali (1888 – 1953): Started his legal career at Delhi and later joined the Home Rule movement, in 1945, took up the Secretaryship of the INA Committee and he was India’s first Ambassador to Washington.
Badruddin Tyabji (1844 – 1906): First Indian barrister at Bombay High Court.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1857 – 1920): Remembered as Lokmanya, he played a leading part in popularising the cult of patriotism; first nationalist leader who sought close contact with the masses and he was also a forerunner of Gandhiji. He started akharas, lathi clubs, Shivaji and Ganapati festivals to inculcate among the people the spirit of service to the nation, the first congress leader to suffer several terms of imprisonment for the sake of the country.
He openly declared, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”.
Bhagat Singh (1907 – 1931): Born in a Sikh Jat family of Lyallpur district, joined the Hindustan Socialist Republician Army in 1925; in 1928 shot and killed Saunders to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai who received injuries during the anti-Simon Commission agitation at Lahore. He was the main accused and received the death sentence; executed on 23 March, 1931.
Bhulabhai Desai (1877 – 1946): Established the Swadeshi Sabha for promoting the boycott of foreign goods. His last and perhaps the greatest contribution to the national cause was his brilliant defence of the INA prisoners in 1945.
Bipin Chandra Pal (1858 – 1932): Entered into the Brahmo Samaj and founded the English weekly, New India; initially follower of Surendranath in politics; founded Bande Mataram in 1906 and was imprisoned for refusing to give evidence in the Bande Mataram Sedition case in 1907.
Chakravati Rajagopalachari (1878 – 1972): Participated in the anti-Rowlatt Bill Satyagraha in 1919 and gave up his legal profession in 1920, to join the Non-Co-operation Movement; a chief organiser of the Congress in the South; involved a formula for the solution of Indian Constitutional tangle in 1944 and assisted Gandhiji in his negotiations with Jinnah, served the Interim Government as Minister for Industry, Supply, Education and Finance and then as the Governor of West Bengal. In 1948 succeeded Lord Mount Batten as the first Indian Governor General of the Indian Dominion till 26 January 1950 when India became a republic, between 1952 and 1954 Rajaji was the Chief Minister of Madras. Founded the Swatantra Party in 1959.
Dadabhai Naoroji (1825 – 1917): The Grand Old Man of India, associated with the Indian National Congress right from its inception. The Indian to become a Member of the House of Commons on the Liberal Party’s ticket, President of Indian National Congrees thrice, in 1886, 1893 and 1906, first Indian to draw the attention of the Indians as well as the British Public to the drain of wealth from India to great Britain and the resulting poverty of the Indians; “Poverty and un-British rule in India”, a book written by Naoroji was published in 1901, proves his thesis of Drain of wealth.
Gopal Krishna Gokhle (1866 – 1915): A follower of Mahadev Govind Ranade, popularly known as the socrates of Maharashtra; Gandhiji became Gokhle’s political pupil, in 1905 laid the foundation of the ‘Servants of India Society’ for the trainning of national missionaries for the service of India, and to promote, by the constitutional means, the true interest of the Indian people.
Gopinath Bordoloi (1980 – 1950): One of the builders of modern Assam; imprisoned in 1941 and 1942 for taking part in the individual satyagraha and the in the Quit India Movement.
Jatindra Mohan Sen Gupta (1885 – 1933): Renounced his legal practice during the Non-Co-operation Movement, organised the strike of the employees of Assam Bengal Railways, led the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Kamala Nehru (1899 – 1936): She was married to Jawaharlal Nehru in 1916, joined her husband in the Non-Cooperation Movement, and the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Kasturba Gandhi (1869 – 1944): Endearingly married to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1882, one of the first of a group of Indian women to be imprisoned in the Transvaal, arrested for participating in the Quit India Movement in 1942, died while serving imprisonment at Poona.
Sarojini Naidu (1879 – 1949): Educated in England, showed a marked flair for literature at an early age which later found expression in beautiful English verses and earned her the title “Nightingale of India”. She joined Home Rule League in 1916; first Indian lady to preside over the Congress, led the salt raid at Dharsana in 1930, at the beginning of the Quit India Movement in 1942 arrested and detained with Gandhiji; the first Indian lady to become the Governor of Uttar Pradesh in free India, fought all her life against poverty, ignorance and social taboos.
Narayan Malhar Joshi (1879 – 1955): He was a member of the Central Pay Commission in 1947, an important leader of the Indian trade union movement; organised creches, dispensaries for women and children and industrial training schools and co-operative societies.
Swami Sahjanand Saraswati (1889 – 1951): He was President of the “All India Kisan Sabha”. He pioneered the peasants cause and became the Founder-President of the Bihar Kisan Sabha in 1927.
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900 – 1990) Sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, a prominent national leader, was imprisoned thrice in connection with Civil Disobedience Movement in 1932, 1941 and 1942; played an important role as India’s representative in San Francisco during the first meeting in UN where she challenged the might of the British.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 – 1988): Born in a village of Peshawar district of the British India, joined the national movement at very young age and inculcated the ideas of nationalism into the minds of the Pathans; plunged into the agitation against the Rowlatt laws, the Khilafat, Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience movements, never saw eye to eye with the fanatical ideology of the Muslim League and was committed to secularism. He opposed to the Partition of India. He was popularly known as Frontier Gandhi.
Mahadev Desai (1892 – 1942): In 1917 came in close contact with Gandhiji pledged himself into the Champaran Satyagraha, editor of Motilal Nehru’s periodical, Independent.
Ram Manohar Lohia (1910 – 1968): A socialist, in 1934 became a founder member of the Congress Socialist Party and edited its journal’. ‘The Congress Socialist’, in free India. A forceful journalist who promoted the cause of Hindi as national language.
Sachchidananda Sinha (1871 – 1950): A distinguished lawyer, journalist, politician and educationist, joined the Congress in 1899, actively participated in the Home Rule movement, from 1936 to 1944 Vice-Chancellor of Patna University.
Vallabhai Patel (1875 – 1950): Born in an agriculturist family of Nadiad in Gujarat; entered politics by joining the Gujarat Sabha in 1915, of which Gandhi ji was the President; joined the Non-Co-operation Movement; led the famous peasants agitation against in increase in land revenue at Bardoli and won a signal victory; joined the Quit India Movement in 1942; in free India became the Deputy Prime Minister; a man of iron who never allowed personal sentiment to confuse his duties.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave : Close associate of Gandhiji; leader of Sarvodaya and the Bhoodan Andolan; was a staunch advocate of cow protection.
Rajendra Prasad (1884 – 1963): As a student he took interest in the anti-partition agitation in Bengal and established the Bihari Students ‘Conference’ in the fore-front of the salt Satyagraha and the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 and 1932 and suffered imprisonment; on failure of Cripps Mission undertook a tour of his province and prepared the masses for the Quit India Movment; joined Interim Government as Minister for Food and Agriculture in 1946; the first President of the Constituent Assembly, became the first President of the Indian Republic.
Abdul Kalam Azad (1888 – 1958): Known as the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, born in Mecca where his ancestors had migrated from India during the revolt of 1857; in 1898 accompanied his parents to India and settled in Calcutta, associated himself with the revolutionaries during the Swadeshi Movement; in 1929 he came in close contact with Gandhiji and supported the Non- Cooperation programme; Chief of the Khilafat Committee, elected President of the special session of the Congress at Delhi in 1924, he led the negotiations with British Cabinet Mission (1946), a member of the Constitutent Assembly; joined the Interim Government as Minister of Education and Arts, in free India he became the Education Minister and later took charge of the portfolios of National Resources and Scientific Research, he established the University Grants Commission.
Ghosh, Aurobindo (1872-1950): A leading Bengali revolutionary who later turned yogi. For about ten years, he remained active in the political field, particularly during the partition of Bengal, and was one of the propounders of the programme of Swadeshi and boycott. He expressed the view that political freedom was “the life and breath of our nation”.
In 1910, he retired to Pondicherry, where he spent his life in mediation and spiritual pursuits.
Hume, Allan Octavian (A.O.Hume): (1829 – 1922): A British Civil Servant in India, who after his retirement for service in 1882 worked for India’s political claims and is known as the ‘father and founder’ of the INC. Hume was the guiding spirit during the formative years of the INC. He had studied medicine and surgery and was a great naturalist and botanist.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820 – 1891 ): He was an upcompromising social reformer and put up a valiant fight for introduction of widow remarriage and stamping out polygamy from society.
Jinnah, Mohammad Ali (1875 – 1948 ): A leading lawyer, leader of the Muslim League and founder of Pakistan.
Besant, Annie (1847 – 1933) An Irish English woman, who came to India in 1939 to work for the Theosophical society.
She ardently worked for India’s independence. In 1915 she founded the Home Rule League to launch the Home Rule Movement and was made President of the Calcutta session of the Congress in 1917.
Bose, Subhash Chandra (1897 – 1945): He was the supreme commander of Azad Hind Fauj (the Indian National Army).
In January 1941, he escaped out of India and reached Berlin.
He died in a plane crash on August 18, 1945.

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