HSC Modern History Part 2: National Studies – India 1919-1947

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Syllabus – Principal focus


Students investigate the key features and issues of the history of India 1919–1947.

Key features and issues:

  • changing nature of imperialism
  • nature and impact of nationalism
  • nature and impact of satyagraha
  • reasons for the growth and impact of communalism
  • differing views of democracy
  • independence and partition


  1. Communalism: a theory that a nation should be organised around different regional communities and that a nation is merely a federation of such states. In India these communities are mostly religious (Hinduism and Islam).
  2. Democracy: society based on the idea of equality where the government is run by the people or their freely elected representatives
  3. Imperialism: where one country possesses, governs or controls other countries beyond its own borders
  4. Nationalism: the promotion of the interests of one’s own nation above all others
  5. Satyagraha: ‘truth force’ or ‘holding on to the truth’ – a non-violent method of resistance developed in India by Mahatma Gandhi to ensure political or social change

India 1919-1947

Gandhi and nationalism in the 1920s

 Beginnings of Nationalism

  • Nationalism was slow to evolve in India, there were several reasons for:
    • The Indian subcontinent contained several distinct racial groups and a diversity of cultures (languages and religions)
    • The immense size of the subcontinent and the varying landscapes and environments, made the development of opposition difficult.
    • Literacy was poor and more than 90% of people lived in villages
The Indian National Congress
  • The Indians settled down after the mutiny (1857) and many benefitted from the conditions provided by the British.
  • After Queen Victoria’s proclamation, there was that dual attitude where they had to repress but still appease the Indians.
  • In this climate, a lot of wealthy Indians benefited as there was the theory that if you appease the upper classes, the lower classes will follow
  • The first effective move for a genuinely national movement for Indians came from an English man, O. Hume
    • He believed the growing Indian middle class deserved more consideration by the British, he called for a meeting of representatives from all over India.
    • Meeting held in  Bombay, Christmas 1885 and the Indian National Congress was born
  • The Congress party which is still active in Indian politics today, is the direct descendant of this organisation
  • In its early days Congress displayed the following features:
    • Virtually all members had been educated in an English-style educational system
    • All were comparatively wealthy
    • Many engaged in business or were associated with it. Lawyers were the largest profession represented
    • They were concentrated in the main cities, particularly in Bombay and Calcutta
    • They included almost no Muslims – virtually all Hindu
    • All came from higher castes
    • No women
  • Two factions within Congress soon became apparent
    • The Moderates – Led by Gokhale
    • The Extremists – Led by Tilak
  • By 1907 after a clash at the annual meeting of Congress, both factions became clearly separate wings of Congress
  • During WWI there were further attempts to loosen British control
  • Two Home Rule Leagues were founded in 1915 – one led by Tilak and the other by Englishwoman Annie Besant
    • Both demanded Home Rule for India
      • But by focusing on different parts of the country and failing to work together, their impact on British rule was negligible
The Failure of early Congress
  • 4 reasons account for failure of Congress during early decades
    • British perceived it to be unimportant
      • Lord Curzon, Viceroy from 1899-1905 remarked: “My own belief is that the Congress is tottering to its fall and one of the greatest ambitions while in India is to assist it to a peaceful demise”
    • Congress was a narrow movement, primarily concerned with the interests of the very small Indian middle class
    • Congress members held little appeal for most Indians . They had been to British schools, spoke English, engaged in activity understood by British and many wore western clothing
    • Congress received little support from Muslims who viewed its activities as dangerous. To Muslims majority rule would mean Hindu rule. Continued British rule was the lesser of two evils
The Muslim Question
  • This last issue was one that became increasingly serious as the 20th century progressed
  • The great Muslim leader of the 19th century Sir Saiyid Ahmad Khan acknowledged that India was a: “community of communities”, but this was a long way from seeing it as a single nation
  • India as he saw it was divided in two distinct and separate groups: Hindu and Muslim
    • There could be no such things as a single nation covering the whole of India

Sir Saiyid Ahmad Khan: “The aims and objects of the Indian National Congress are based upon an ignorance of history and present day realities; they do not take into consideration that India is inhabited by different nationalities. The Congress thinks that these nationalities profess the same religion, that they speak the same language, that their way of life and customs are the same, that their attitude to history is similar and is based upon the same historical traditions. The Muslims are in a minority, but they are a united minority. At least traditionally they are prone to take the sword in hand when the majority oppresses them.”

Profile: Saiyid Ahmad Khan
  • Most prominent Muslim leader in India during 19th C
  • Born 1817 – as young man entered the service of the EIC
  • He accepted the Quran but insisted it be interpreted in the light of modern scientific learning
  • His message:
    • Hindus and Muslims formed two separate communities with separate and conflicting interest
    • Government based on democracy would harm the interests of Muslims. They would be outnumbered and outvoted in elections and therefore ruled by Hindus
    • Muslims should regard British rule as the chief safeguard of their interests and avoid political action against British Govt.
    • As Muslim interests were safe in the hands of the British, Muslims should confine their attention to the social and educational development of their fellow Muslims
  • Saiyid had no sympathy for the hopes of Congress – Congress had none for him
  • A. Jinnah – a later successor of Saiyid – agreed there was a Hindu nation but it was limited to those areas where the Hindus were in the majority.
  • In Jinnah’s view those areas with a Muslim majority constituted a separate Muslim nation
  • This view of India as two separate nations would later be vigorously opposed by Ghandi
  • To his way of thinking there could be only one nation, undivided by any difference in religion
  • For Ghandi, as for so many other Hindu’s differences of religion were unimportant.
  • A deeper unity he maintained tied both Hindus and Muslims together in the common bond of Indian identity.
  • In 1600 the EIC was formed in London for trade with the East
  • For a century and a half the EIC traded around the coast of an India ruled by the Mighal dynasty
  • In the mid-18th C Mughal rule collapsed. The EIC took over in Bengal
  • British Govt. assumed authority in place of the Company
  • For almost a century (1757-1849) British pursued a policy of conquest in India
  • During the century of conquest the British created an administration which supported the economic exploitation of India
  • Several areas were left under the ‘rule’ of Indian princes
  • After the Indian Mutiny 1857-58, the British were much more cautious about changing Indian society, and two India’s, princely and British, remained until independence in 1947
  • The Indian National Congress, India’s first national organisation was founded in 1885. It was soon divided between Moderates and Extremists and failed to win Muslim support
  • From 1885 til end of WWI in 1918 Congress was to make little impact on British rule in India.
Indian Franchise Bill
  • Gandhi’s first political campaign was against the British. There were very view Indian’s who possessed the right to vote in the area where he lived, ‘ Natal’.
  • Britain had just granted self-government to ‘Natal’ and the Indian Franchise Bill was one of the new government’s first proposals – in this Bill the Indians were deprived from the right to vote.
  • Gandhi’s fought against this Bill by asking the Natal government to change the wording of the act, however in the end the wording still prevented the Indians from the being able to vote – even though the legislation was changed to appease Gandhi, it was not changed effectively.
  • This was the first time that Gandhi demonstrated peaceful opposition towards government legislation.
  • During his time in South Africa, Gandhi fought in a peaceful manner against several legislations:
    1. He organised the Indian Ambulance Corps to support the British during the Boer War (1899-1902)
    2. Gandhi led opposition to the Black Ordinance (a legislation by the South African government that required all Indians to carry a certificate) – this was Gandhi’s first civil disobedience resistance which later became known as the technique ‘Satyagraha’. Satyagraha is described by Gandhi as: “the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence”. In 1914 General Smuts agreed to withdraw some features of the legislation and then Gandhi departed for India. Gandhi’s 21 years in South Africa gave him invaluable experience in fighting colonial governments.
  • Significant ideas:
    • Swaraj – Home Rule
    • Satyagraha – truth force – non-violent – technique developed by Gandhi for social and political change, based on change, non violence and self suffering – Ahisma (respect of all living things and avoidance of violence towards others)
    • To work for no reward- self suffering – to be a martyr
    • Peaceful resistance
    • Simple rustic life as the remedy against evils of Industrialisation – developed ashrams (refuges where people went to built up small communities) – Khadi
  • Gandhi on satyagraha: “So the doctrine cam to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself”

Political, economic and social issues in India in 1919

Impact of WW1
  • TheFirst World War began with an unprecedented outpouring of love and goodwill towards the United Kingdom from within the mainstream political leadership, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt.
  • India contributed massively to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money and ammunition. However,Bengal and Punjab remained hotbeds of anti-colonial activities. Nationalism in Bengal, increasingly closely linked with the unrests in Punjab, was significant enough to nearly paralyse the regional administration.
  • None of the overseas conspiracies had significant impact on Indians inside India, and there were no major mutinies or violent outbursts. However, they did lead to profound fears of insurrection among British officials, preparing them to use extreme force to frighten the Indians into submission.

Nationalist response to war

  • In the aftermath of the First World War, high casualty rates, soaring inflation compounded by heavy taxation, a widespreadinfluenza epidemic and the disruption of trade during the war escalated human suffering in India.
  • The pre-war nationalist movement revived as moderate and extremist groups within the Congress submerged their differences in order to stand as a unified front.
    • They argued their enormous services to the British Empire during the war demanded a reward, and demonstrated the Indian capacity for self-rule.
    • In 1916, the Congress succeeded in forging theLucknow Pact, a temporary alliance with the Muslim League over the issues of devolution of political power and the future of Islam in the region.

British reforms

  • In August 1917,Edwin Montagu, the secretary of state for India, made the historic announcement in Parliament that the British policy for India was “increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.”
  • The means of achieving the proposed measure were later enshrined in theGovernment of India Act 1919, which introduced the principle of a dual mode of administration, or diarchy, in which both elected Indian legislators and appointed British officials shared power.
  • The act also expanded the central and provincial legislatures and widened the franchise considerably. Diarchy set in motion certain real changes at the provincial level: a number of non-controversial or “transferred” portfolios, such as agriculture, local government, health, education, and public works, were handed over to Indians, while more sensitive matters such as finance, taxation, and maintaining law and order were retained by the provincial British administrators.
Early Campaigns of Resistance
Champaran May 1917
  • Return to India:
    • When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa his theory of Satyagraha had made considerable progress.
    • He arrived in India in 1915 and had earned himself the title Mahatma (great soul) Gandhi.
    • Within India, political activity amongst Indians was dominated by figures such as Tilak and Mrs Besant, members of Congress, they are the radical contingency in Congress and by the up and coming Muslims League under its new leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Gandhi joined Congres but for the first year he followed the advice of Gokhale to remain silent and familiarise himself with the situation in India.
    • During his year of self-enforced silence, Gokhale died.
    • When the year was over Gandhi spoke at Hindu University College in Banaras. His speech was regarded as a serious breach of etiquette by those who heard it. Gandhi related the true state of India’s misery as he saw it, challenging the colonial government to do something about the distress which lay all around them – very offensive in official British circles.
    • He continued to speak of the troubles of India to an unresponsive audience in 1916.
    • In December 1916 he attended the annual meeting of Congress in Lucknow where he was an obscure figure. It was, however, at this meeting in Lucknow that Gandhi was approached by Rajkumar Shukla from Champaran.
  • Champaran:
    • According to Rajkumar Shukla, there was serious trouble in his home district of Champaran, which he wanted Gandhi to see for himself.
    • Initially not understanding what it could possibly be, Gandhi did not go, however, Rajkumar pursued Gandhi throughout the country to Kanpur, Gujarat and to Calcutta.

This convinced Gandhi and he set out for Champaran in April 1917.

  • The Problem:
    • Much of Champaran had been permanently leased to British indigo planters (blue dye).
    • Peasants sub-leased their land from the planters on what was known as the tinkathia (three-twentieths) system.
    • Each peasants was forced to use three-twentieths of his sub-leased land to grow indigo, the land to be chosen not by the peasant but by the British. He was then required to sell the indigo to the planter at a price fixed by the planter.
    • The German invention of a synthetic substitute for Indigo in the last decade of the 19th century produced a serious decline in the price of Indigo, and the land devoted to its production was correspondingly cut by more than 9/10s by 1914.
    • As their income fell most of the British planters sought to maintain their incomes by different means. This usually meant increasing the rent for their Indian sub-tenants – causing unrest in the area.
    • There was an increase in the demand for indigo during WW1 when synthetic dyes were unavailable from Germany, higher prices were again being paid, but the peasants were not benefitting from them.
    • The British planters demanded that the peasants grow more indigo but were keeping the extra profit.
    • In 1916, serious social unrest continued in the Champaran district.
  • The Satyagraha Campaign:
    • Gandhi toured Champaran persistently, enquiring into the conditions he found there and came to the conclusion that something was wrong and needed to be fixed. NOTE: Satyagraha Campaign involved a lot of travel by foot.
    • On the 13th April 1917, he had a meeting with the British Commissioner who controlled Champaran and indicated that he was not prepared to accept assurances that the peasants’ grievances were receiving attention, Morshead immediately decided that Gandhi was an agitator and served a notice on Gandhi, ordering him to leave the district immediately.
    • Gandhi appeared before the district magistrate, acknowledged his guilt in true Satyagraha style and invited the magistrate to imprison him since he refused to leave and stop complaining.
    • “Gandhi’s mere presence had liberated them from their old fear of landlords and officials. Gandhi had tole the magistrate that he had not disturbed the peace in any way but that since he could not obey the order he was guilty as charged” Ved Mehta –> Gandhi, through his peaceful interaction with both the magistrate and the British commissioner he was drawing attention to himself by the masses in the district and he was making them feel supported. He was also setting an example of civil disobedience which is both passive yet firm.
    • “It is my firm belief that in the complex constitution under which we are living, the only safe and honourable cause for a self-respecting man is…to submit without protests
    • Heycock the British magistrate was perplexed by Gandhi’s peculiar behaviour and postponed judgement until he could contact his superiors.
    • The Provincial government under Sir Edward Gait made it clear that they disapproved of Morshead’s and Heycock’s actions ( of imprisoning Gandhi), creating as it did precisely the conditions on which Gandhi was known to thrive. By threatening to imprison Gandhi, the British officials were giving him the martyr like attention that he wanted.
    • So, Sir Edward Gait instructed Morshead and Heycock to permit Gandhi to continue making his enquiry.
    • At the end of May, an official committee of enquiry was set up by the provincial government with a place reserved for Gandhi- this was the crucial event for the brief Champaran Satyagraha, as Gandhi had hoped that the provincial government was being lent on by the central government of India.
    • The British at this time had their attention focused on WW1 in Europe, at that point the war was finding balance between defeat and victory, an issue likely to raise a storm of controversy in India would certainly not be a welcome distraction in Britain.
    • For Gandhi and his potential followers, the Champaran experience was decisive, for the first time it brought him into contact with the peasants and showed him that truly effective communication lay in wearing their traditional clothing, speaking their language and sharing in their way of life. Before Gandhi, no Indian politician had done this (essential for the spread of Nationalism). Moreover, the attention of the whole country had been attracted by this curious person with a method that seemed to work. He attracted significant figures into his cause such as: Prasad, a lawyer of Bihar (he becomes a significant member of progress); and his most ardent and long term supporter, Nehru (becomes Prime Minister).
    • Champaran proved an ideal issue which allowed Gandhi to introduce Satyagraha to India as peasants were clearly oppressed by the planters. Unfortunately, the isolation of Champaran had prevented their predicament being known. As soon as Gandhi began publicising the peasants conditions, and the central government recognised something had to be done. Local officials in Champaran were being pressured on all sides to change the current situation.
    • Ultimately, Satyagraha worked to a certain extent in drawing people’s attention to the issue, however the changes were not long term.
    • On the other hand, Champaran revealed some weaknesses with Satyagraha. With a victory won, some of those who had participated in the brief struggle were expected to stay on and share in the building of a new society in Champaran, particularly in village schools (i.e. changes have been made, but they will not be maintained if people do not remain to continue fighting for them). When Gandhi departed a mere handful remained to continue the work and most departed after Gandhi. Champaran remained on the map as the site of an important victory, but without Gandhi, it did not bring long term societal change.
  • Historian Opinion:
    • Judith Brown, 1972, Gandhi’s Rise to Power: Indian Politics:
      • “Champaran’s peasants were whole-hearted in their enthusiasm”
      • “Rouse the whole area to a pitch of feverish excitement and anticipation
      • “He appealed in almost messianic terms to those at the very bottom of society”
      • “Charisma might produce temporary pageants of loyalty, but the less dramatic allegiance of men like Rajendra Prasad was the solid foundation of Gandhi’s influence”
    • Evaluation
      • In this way through the non-violent struggle in Champaran and through the implementation of his program Gandhi infused the spirit of nationalism among the poor masses of Champaran who accepted the non-violent leadership of Gandhi whole heartedly
      • This work benefitted Gandhi majorly in establishing himself as a leader of the masses which was having a non-violent weapon in the form of Satyagraha to fight against all types of injustices
      • The people of Champaran in particular and the people of India as a whole were attracted to adopt and follow the weapon of non-violence even to fight for the achievement of national freedom from the British yoke
      • T. Patil has correctly evaluated the impact of Gandhi’s non-violent struggle in Champaramn and India as well as on the leadership of Gandhi “The Champaran episode clearly demonstrated how the inhabitants of a predominantly backward area could shake-off their former torpor and move out into new avenues of public action. At the same time, it enabled Gandhi to convert it into an opportunity for himself by making the Bihar province as his power base. His leadership style was distinctly evident, in the sense that he left the upper-class western-educated politicians to themselves and went into the rural areas dressing as simply rural fold and establishing an identity with them by communicating with them in their own idiom. Eventually Gandhi succeeded in mobilizing the masses for his cause because he had assets which other politicians did not have. It  must be said from an object evaluation of facts that Champaran projected him as an individual with an all-India reputation
      • Thus the test of application of Satyagraha in Champaran proved to be successful and strengthened Ghandi’s conviction in the application of Satyagraha at an all-India level to solve the political, social and economic problems of India or to establish real Swaraj and Home Rule of his conception in India. By Swaraj, Gandhi meant no only political freedom from the British Rule which was exploitative in nature, but also inner liberation from greed and immoral thoughts leading to the establishment of social, economic and political justice in the society.


  • The action in Champaran was over by mid-1917. Meanwhile there was trouble brewing in Gandhi’s home area of Gujurat in the Kaira district. Unlike Champaran it lay on a fertile plain and most of the district, through smaller than Champaran was fit for cultivation. Gujurat had been little exposed to political activity prior to WW1 and the people were not really interested whether India should gain Home Rule/ Swaraj. These peasants were not concerned about Home Rule but they were concerned about their crops and the cost of living. Recent crops had been poor and the cost of living continued to rise by 1912 a crisis had enveloped the people of Kaira.
  • The Satyagraha Campaign:
    • A 2 staged affair:
      • A period of appeals to government from December 1917- March 1918
      • March – June Satyagraha
    • In the course of this Satyagraha Gandhi he acquired a follower known as Patel who became the deputy Prime Minister of India.
    • Under Gandhi’s leadership peasants refused to pay tax on the grounds that the harvest had been poor.
    • The government however insisted on collecting it.
    • When the peasants still did not pay taxes the government gave instructions to the tax collectors to seize possessions and crops
    • Ultimately Gandhi called of the Satyagraha when the government gave instructions to its collectors not to force payment by the poorest peasants.
    • This is an example of how Gandhi is shrew – he treated this as a victory- Churchill called Gandhi a “Shrewed Politician” – and declared Satyagraha at an end
    • His assessment of the campaign however was not shared by Willingdon the Governor of Bombay who saw Gandhi as an agitator.
    • The Kaira Campaign demonstrated that Gandhi certainly had his strengths, that they were accompanied by his weaknesses.
    • He could be inconsistent in applying his principles while persuading himself he was absolutely consistent.
    • The government had merely provided a compromise which amounted to much less than a total victory for Satyagraha
    • Although Gandhi believed that the campaign had been a success, it was only a limited success and only the poorest peasants were relieved from paying the taxes while the other peasants who still suffered under the high cost of living, still needed to pay taxes.
    • The strength in this Campaign ultimately lies in the strong relationships he formed with the peasants – he aroused nationalistic sentiments – no other Indian politician had achieved this or other members of congress. All other members of congress had been educated English speaking politicians who had not connected with the people.


  • The third Satyagraha of this period concerned the Indian cotton mill owners of Amedabad.
  • In early 1918 the Indian mill owners had locked out their workers when they refused to accept the withdrawal of a bonus which had previously been paid to keep them on the job during a recent outbreak of the plague.
  • Gandhi conducted Satyagraha against the mill owners, promising and eventually winning the workers an increase in wagers
  • There were 2 key differences in this campaign:
    1. Firstly, Indian’s were the target, not the British.
    2. His method at Amedabad was different – he went on a hunger strike. When Gandhi went on a fast the mill owners, frightened he would die, gave in. Gandhi was to use the fast as a weapon on a number of occasions and he was to defend its use against criticisms. Nevertheless, there has been considerable debate concerning this method and its compatibility with the principles of Satyagraha. This is another area where Gandhi was regarded as inconsistent.
Rowlatt Act of 1919
  • Rowlatt Bills 1918:
    • At the end of WW1 in 1918, Gandhi appeared to be a spent political force, he had entered the war as a recruiting agent for the British government and was very ill. The chances of him entering all-India politics seemed remote.
    • However, certain actions of the British inspired him to remain involved.
    • During the war the government of India had been granted special powers under the Defence of India Act, to prevent any possibility of terrorist violence by the enemies of British rule.
    • These powers had suspended many civil liberties and included censorship of the press.
    • After the War ended a committee under Mr Justice Rowlatt recommended that in any area officially notified as subversive the government should be authorised to take strong action and impost martial (military) law.
    • The committee’s proposals which became the Rowlatt Bills were an attempt by the Government (of India) to prolong its war time powers.
  • Gandhi offers Satyagraha:
    • The Rowlatt Bills if passed would have affected very few of the people of India, but virtually every Indian politician was opposed to them. They argued that terrorist acts were isolated and did not justify powers to impose restrictions on the whole country.
    • Yet there seemed to be nothing that could stop the British. It was then that Gandhi stepped forward. He saw in the Government’s policy clear evidence of repression, which offended his religious instincts.
    • The Rowlatt Bills, he maintained would deprive the people of their God given right of free expression and so break the law of God. The cause was therefore a religious cause.
    • Gandhi suggested to congress that they should fight this bill with Satyagraha. They were bemused by satyagraha and felt Gandhi did not have anything like national support for his satyagraha campaign, but they had nothing better to offer so he pursued it.
    • Gandhi did not have any political support, his supporters were a small number in his home territory of Gujarat and politics was still in the hands of Tilak or the formidable Annie Besant who took a strong disliking to Gandhi, who in her opinion, was trying to gain some sort of all-India reputation.
  • Campaign Organisation:
    • Gandhi, following the rules of satyagraha, began his promised campaign by announcing his intentions to the Viceroy on 24 February 1919.
    • The Campaign organisaiton concentrated on Bombay City and areas of Gujurat.
    • The form of the campaign however remained vague and while many Congress leaders respected Gandhi, it was clear they could see no future in the movement.
    • Gandhi too was acutely worried about how satyagraha was going to be initiated- until he had a sudden inspiration in the early hours of a morning late in March.
    • He would call it hartal (nationwide cessation of work): “The idea came to me last night in a dream that we should call the country to observe a general hartal. Satyagraha is a process of self-purificatoin, and ours is a sacred fight, and it seems to me to be in the fitness of things that it should be commenced with an act of self-purification” Gandhi. A hartal is a closing of all shops and businesses, and it was to happen on 6th April. Every person should suspend business on that particular day and spend it instead on fasting and prayer.
Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar Massacre) April
  • The Rowlatt Satyagraha:
    • The planning was confused. In Delhi they got the date wrong and observed hartal a week early, and observance was only partial, as it was for the rest of India a week later. In Bombay it was at its most effective, covering about 4/5ths of the businesses and in Gujarat there was also a satisfactory response. Elsewhere it was at best patchy, and in many places a total failure.
    • In spite of Gandhi’s insistence on non-violent protest police fired on a procession in Delhi, killing 9. In Bombay, police swinging steel-tipped lathis (long batons) charged a crowd of protestors.
    • The government was uncertain about how to deal with Gandhi. Initially it was inclined to treat him as one who could be depended upon to keep the level of violence down. They were also reluctant to arrest him, well aware that this would only make him a martyr.
    • In the end they did arrest him, on 8 April, while he was travelling to Delhi, only to release him on condition he did not leave Bombay.
    • News of Gandhi’s arrest had precisely the effect the British had feared. In Ahmbedabad a British officer was killed, government buildings set on fire, and attempts made to tear up railway lines.
    • In the Punjab city of Amritsar, where the initial hartal had passed off peacefully, arrests of local leaders on 10 April sparked violent clashes between police and protestors and 5 British residents were killed.
    • The escalating violence, and particularly that coming from his own people, seriously upset Gandhi.
  • Jallianwala Bagh- Amritsar Masssacre
    • After Gandhi’s arrest, violence had escalated in various areas but the most tragic event was in Amritsar where the city was under martial law by order of military commander General Dyer
    • On 13 April a meeting to protest at Gandhi’s arrest was held in an enclosed area called Jallianwala Bagh.
    • Dyer invoked the Rowlatt Acts in Amritsar, forbidding meetings of any kind, and sent in armed troops.
    • Indians later claim they knew nothing of this. This was seen as one of the most infamous acts of the British in India.
    • General Dyer organised 50 troops and ordered them to fire into the crowd below until all their ammunition was exhausted. “The panic-stricken multitude of about 10 thousand people broke at once. ” For 10 minutes the people fired “accurately and deliberately”. “In all, 1650 rounds were fired, killing 379 persons and wounding 1,137″. Yogesh Chadha
  • Dyer:
    • After the Amritsar Massacre he was ordered to take early retirement in 1920. However, he had his supporters particularly in England, but also in Amritsar.
  • Crawling Orders:
    • The British added to the misery of martial law with punitive and humiliating measures, including Dyer’s so-called ‘crawling orders’.
    • Indian’s using a lane in which an English missionary, Miss Sherwood, had been seriously assaulted by rioters were required to crawl along it on their stomachs. Those refusing to crawl were flogged. A curfew was introduced and those who broke it were publicly flogged. Indians who refused to greet British officers were also flogged, as were those who pulled down public notices.
    • It is evident that the Anglo-Indian relations were greatly deteriorating.
    • Dyer maintained that his duty was to preserve order and this was being done according to strict military discipline. His proclamation of martial law on the 15th of April which also censored the press, prevented news of these events from reaching the rest of Indian for some weeks.
    • It was not until 6 months later and after severe international condemnation of the Amritsar shooting that the British Government was persuaded to make a formal inquiry into the incident.
    • The Hunter Commission of Inquiry began its investigation in October 1919.
  • Satyagraha Suspended:
    • Satyagraha was suspended on the 18th of April, before news of the Amritsar shooting had reached Gandhi.
    • He described the struggle as: a Himalayan miscalculation, and realised it had been waged by people who were inadequately prepared.
    • In the following weeks it became evident the Rowlatt campaign had been a failure.
    • The government of India had not been intimidated in any way and from Gandhi’s point of view the outbreaks of violence opposed the fundamental principles of satyagraha.
    • By the middle of 1919 nothing seemed to have changed.
  • Success as well as failure:
    • But some things had changed. The events of 1919 showed the people of India were concerned about more than just being allowed to vote.
    • The Rowlatt Satyagraha revealed to India that there was an alternative to the kind of politics which had been practised for decades without results.
    • People were dismayed at the rocketing rate of inflation following WW1, and by the influenza pandemic which was affecting many parts of the country.
    • Muslims were increasingly fearful of what would happen to their holy places in the Middle East after the defeat of Turkey in WW1 – this was known as the Khilafat issue.
    • Those who worked the land were hit by the monsoon failure of 1918-1919; those who were less well-off were outraged by the ability of a few Indians to make large fortunes
    • To some historians the brutality of the Amritsar shooting and the severe and humiliating British response to it represented a turning point in the history of modern India, destroying whatever moral justification Britain may have claimed for its continuing presence in India. Unrest in India was widespread.
  • “Order was restored in the Punjab but a scar was drawn across the Indo-British relations deeper than any which had been inflicted since the Mutiny.” Percival Spear
Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms
  • In December 1919, shortly after the Rowlatt campaign, the British Government announced a review of the administration of India. The changes became known as the Montagu- Chelmsford Reforms, named after Montagu (the British cabinet minister with responsibility for Indian affairs) and Chelmsford (the Viceroy).
  • The reforms introduced to India a system known as diarchy (or dyarchy). This meant some aspects of government were allocated to elected provincial assemblies, in effect giving the provinces limited Home Rule. The right to vote in elections was severely restricted, but it was at least an advance in the constitution of India.
  • Many important aspects of government meanwhile remained in the hands of the central government under the control of the Viceroy and his council. The Viceroy also had the power to veto the actions of any province.
  • In reality, the reforms offered little genuine loosening of British authority in India.
Hunter Report
  • The Hunter Commission of Inquiry, set up to consider allegations of police brutality during the period of martial law in the Punjab, notably the shooting at Jallianwala Bagh, released its report in May 1920.
  • From a British perspective, it was surprisingly critical of Brigadier-General Dyer. Dyer had received considerable support from the public in Britain, including the presentation of a ‘sword of honour’. He also received the support from O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab. But the Hunter was not sufficiently forthright in its criticism of Dyer to satisfy Indian opinion.
  • For the British, Jallianwalal Bagh lingered as an unpleasant reminder of the events of 1919.
Khilafat Issue
  • The Khilafat issue was another issue confronting India at the beginning of 1920 which was of serious concern to Muslims.
  • Although it was generally seen as a specifically Muslim issue Gandhi took a close interest, and it was primarily this issue which propelled him to the forefront of national politics in India.
  • Until the end of WW1 the Turkish Empire included Islam’s holy places – the cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The Sultan of Turkey was also regarded as the Muslim Khalif, the spiritual protector of Islam’s holy places. To Muslims, his responsibility to protect and extend the boundaries of Islam, the Khilafat, had been bestowed by God.
  • Turkey, however, had been on the losing side in WW1. In April 1920 the terms of Turkey’s peace treaty with the victorious Allies were announced. They stripped Turkey of it’s empire and the Sultan, as Khalif, lost control of all three holy places through the creation of the Kingdom of the Hejaz (later Saudi Arabia) and Palestine.
  • To followers of Islam this was an affront to their religion and many of the Muslims of India erupted. They demanded that the Sultan have his authority over the Holy Places restored. The brothers Shaukat and Muhammad Ali, young Muslims from North India, emerged as the leaders of the Khilafat movement, and under their direction the movement rapidly grew in strength.
  • Many people, including Congress members, could not understand Gandhi’s support for this Muslim cause. They could not comprehend why Hindus should involve themselves in a Muslim issue.
  • A vow Gandhi suggested during the Rowlatt Satyagraha: With God as witness we Hindus and Mahomedans (Muslims) declare that we shall behave towards one another as children of the same parents, that we shall have no differences, that the sorrows of teach shall be the sorrows of the other and that each shall help the other in removing them. We shall respect each other’s religion and religious feelings and shall not stand in the way of our respective religious practices. We shall always refrain from violence to each other in the name of religion.
  • The position of the Khilafat was, Gandhi agreed, one that primarily concerned only Muslims, but for the sake of Indian unity, all Indians should take up the cause.
  • Here was a rare opportunity for India, and Gandhi in particular, to rise above the politics of separate communities and establish a national political movement.
  • Hindu and Muslim, Sikh and Christian, together would demonstrate to their British rulers their ability to work together in the interest of a united, and ultimately independent, India. To Gandhi, failure to do so would have disastrous consequences for the future of India.
  • Gandhi’s linking together of the Khilafat issue and the Hunter Report- Khilafat and Amritsar – succeeded, at least temporarily, in achieving the Hindu- Muslim political unity he was desperately pursuing. These were the two ‘wrongs’ the British had done to India. Together these issues were the primary reasons for the Non-cooperation Movement of 1920-22 that was to follow. They were also a serious setback to the Government of India’s plans to introduce diarchy with as little fuss as possible.

Nature, impact and significance of campaigns of resistance 1919–1922

Rowlatt Satyagraha

(See above)

Non-Cooperation Campaign 1920-22

Non Cooperation was a different application of Satyagraha that Gandhi hoped would not result in violence. At the beginning of 1920, Gandhi and the Indians were unhappy with the following:

  • The Khilafat issue
  • The Rowlatt act
  • The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms
  • The Hunter Commission report

Therefore he launched non-cooperation which meant that Indians would simply refuse to cooperate with their British rulers until the British would be unable to rule them. If all the vast numbers of civil servants and other workers for the British government (Raj) declined to serve it, what could the government possibly do? There were very few British actually in India and Gandhi thought that if Indian employees withdrew their assistance the British would be helpless. Gandhi realised that the British had their army, but he was not concerned by their military power as he believed that loyal satyagrahis were prepared to die.

Gandhi was convinced that non-cooperation was less likely to lead to violence than direct civil disobedience and therefore a more appropriate form of satyagraha – non-cooperation was supposed to be less confrontation. If carried out properly non-cooperation would cause the whole system of government to grind to a halt within 12 months and the British would be forced to concede defeat and depart.

The reaction of congress leaders to Gandhi’s new strategy ranged from hesitant acceptance to skepticism and condemnation.

The Khilafat Cause:

  • Through the Khilafat cause, Gandhi wanted to present an all-India fight. This was an opportunity for him to unite both Hindu and Muslim in a national campaign of non-cooperation.
  • In June 1920, Gandhi and a group of deputees met Lord Chelmsford (Viceroy) with the request that he should resign if the allied powers did not withdraw the terms which had been announced for the Peace Treaty with Turkey. According to this treaty the Sultan, the protector of Islam was to renounce all territory non inhabited by the Turkish people.
  • Chelmsford declined the request and in August the Khilafat Satyagraha campaign merged with the Punjab agitation over the Amritsar massacre into a single non-cooperation campaign embracing Muslims and Hindus.

Non Cooperation launched in August 1920:

  • At the beginning of August Gandhi began his non-cooperation Satyagraha by symbolically returning the medals the British government had awarded him for his services in South Africa.
  • The fact that congresses approval for this satyagraha had not been granted did not deter Gandhi. Gandhi was a member of congress but the Khilafat and Punjab non-cooperation campaign had been initiated without congress approval.
  • Fortunately Gandhi had 3 powerful groups of supporters in congress:
    • Muslims elected as regional representatives
    • Delegates from areas new to congress politics- basically from central, and northern India
    • The small but extremely wealthy caste of This group was very close to Gandhi in caste and pious terms. They supported Gandhi financially, constantly throughout his career.
  • It was the support of these three groups that turned congress around to provide support for Gandhi’s non-cooperation campaign.

Non-cooperation campaign itself:

  • Three areas were marked out for particular:
    • All titles and honours conferred on Indian’s by the British were to be given up.
    • There should be no participation in the changes introduced under the montagu-chelmsford reforms. No one should stand for election under them.
    • There was to be swadeshi (a boycott of all foreign good). Wearing kadhi (homespun cotton cloth) and the Gandhi cap became the symbols of swadeshi.
  • The spinning wheel became a truly powerful symbol. Cheap cotton cloth produced in large mills both in England and in India had produced a devastating decline in Indian homespun cotton. Gandhi saw it as his duty to change this and ruled that everyone should spin their own cloth and become self-sufficient- which Gandhi believed was greatly important. As the emphasis on Khadi took hold the importation of cotton textiles decline. Large bonfires were lit with people burning clothes of foreign origin.

The Nagpur Meeting of Congress:

  • At the annual congress meeting in Nagpur over the Christmas of 1920, Congress’ attitude was finally determined by the ‘Das-Gandhi’ act which was overwhelmingly in favour of Gandhi’s position.
  • Congress then committed itself to a policy of non-cooperation, making it clear that for the first time the western-educated elite of Indian society no longer predominated.

Gandhi the Leader:

  • 1921 began with Gandhi firmly in control of the nationalist movement of India.
  • This was the year in which he developed a personal life style he was to maintain for the rest of his life.
  • He achieved much working long hours:
    • Swadeshi acquired particular importance for him and every day he set aside half an hour for spinning, reinforcing the role it played in satyagraha.
    • He dressed symbolically in only a loincloth (dhoti), with a shawl when necessary to keep him warm.
    • His personal belongings consisted of a few garments, a wooden staff, a small metal pot for washing, a writing-box, a watch, a book of sacred songs, and his ‘Three Monkeys’ figure (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil).
    • One day every week he maintained complete silence, communicating only by means of writing
    • He also fasted on his day of silence.
  • Throughout 1921 Gandhi constantly urged Indians everywhere to support the non-cooperation movement. He travelled predominately by foot, rejecting the first class railway and comfortable vehicles favoured by other Congress politicians, greatly pleasing ordinary people who commonly worshipped him despite his efforts to dissuade him.
  • He managed to change the attitudes of a vast number of people concerning British presence in India, from the multitudes of poor people to the very elite of Indian society.
  • The young Jawaharlal Nehru (son of Motilal Nehru) was completely won over by Gandhi. While he did not appreciate Gandhi’s religious and spiritual beliefs, he was captivated by Gandhi’s political methods and personality. He became a dedicated political follower of the man he always called Bapu or ‘Father’.
  • Despite this new wave of support for Gandhi, Annie Besant, who represented the conservative ‘Old Guard’ of Congress, condemned his actions. In 1921, her newspaper New India called Gandhi’s non-cooperation methods mad and dangerous.

The Effects of Non-Cooperation:

  • The non-cooperation campaign was fought with great vigour during most of 1921.
    • Many Indians renounced their British titles and medals.
    • Thousands of lawyers, including Molital Nehru, C.R. Das and Vallabhbhai Patel, abandoned their legal practices and left the British court system.
    • Many students and teachers left the cities to teach literacy and non-cooperation in the villages.
    • Indians were later urged to refuse to pay taxes and to boycott foreign cloth.
    • Spinning wheels were widely introduced and khadi became common. At the 1921 annual meeting of Congress all but one (M.A. Jinnah) of the 6000 delegates was dressed in khadi.
    • In November the visit of the Prince of Wales was deliberately ignored by many.
    • By the end of 1921 Gandhi had not been imprisoned for his opposition to the British, but 20,000 Indians had, including the Ali brothers.

Campaign Collapse:

  • It was not a campaign which could last, however, certainly not as a non-violent one. Despite Gandhi’s insistence on non-violence, out-breaks of violence increased as the campaign spread.
  • Gandhi had to hold together 3 very different groups:
    • Highly skeptical Congress leaders
    • Those who were new to political power
    • The Khilafat movement
  • As 1921 progressed it became clear that support, particularly that of the Ali brothers and the Khilafat movement, was crumbling. Gandhi’s insistence on non-violence was regarded as foolish by the Muslims and their restlessness grew.
  • The end of the non-cooperation campaign came in February 1922, a disastrous day for Gandhi: an Indian mob attacked a police station in the village of Chauri Chaura in the United Provinces, hacking to death and burning 22 Indian policeman employed by the British. For Gandhi this was the end, as far as he was concerned, the people had demonstrated that they were not yet ready for non-violent satyagraha and he immediately called off the campaign.

Gandhi on Trial:

  • Several of the campaign leaders, who by this time were in jail, including Jawarharlal Nehru, were appalled at how this single incidence could terminate the entire operation.
  • However, for Gandhi, the struggle had to be called off to allow Indians to be further educated in the theory and practice of satyagraha.
  • Gandhi then surrendered to the police and before a magistrate, in true Gandhian style, he not only pleaded guilty to the charge that he had ‘promoted disaffection towards the government’, but also invited the severest penalty possible, saying: “I do not ask for mercy…[I] invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me, for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.”
  • In sentencing Gandhi to 6 years in jail, the magistrate acknowledged that imprisonment of Gandhi was the most difficult task that could be given to a judge in India. After pronouncing the sentence he added that if the government later decided to reduce the sentence: no one would be better pleased than I. Gandhi replied that he considered the sentence to be: as light as any judge could inflict on me, and…I must say I could not have expected a greater courtesy.
  • Thus, Gandhi continued to defy and bemuse British authority in India. Given his huge following they could not let Gandhi openly flaunt their authority, and neither could they afford to deal with him too harshly as they did not wish to increase his support by making him a martyr.
  • Imprisoning Gandhi was, inevitably, a serious mistake. Once again, it enhanced his image as a popular hero, jailed for just his beliefs.
  • R. Das was not surprised at the failure of the non-violent satyagraha. As far as he was concerned India could now get back to its regular pattern of political activity.
  • This was Gandhi’s last trial, from now on the British would imprison him without trial to avoid allowing Gandhi to embarrass them in court.
The lull in Resistance Campaigns and Breakdown of unity 1922
  • Main Events of the 1920’s:
    • 1922: No-changers defeat pro-changers at annual session of Congress.
    • 1923: Pro-changers form the Congress Swaraj Party in January. In November Swaraj Party successfully contest elections.
    • 1924: Gandhi released from prison in February due to ill-health. The Khilafat is abolished in Turkey by Kemal Ataturk in March.
    • 1925: C.R Das dies.
    • 1927: Simon Commission appointed.
    • 1928: Bardoli tax campaign. Nehru Committee produces its report.
    • 1930: Congress proclaims purna swaraj as its objective.
  • No- changers vs. Pro-changers:
    • Following the collapse of the non-cooperation campaign Congress immediately divided into two groups: the no-changers and the pro-changers.
    • The no-changers, led by Rajendra Prasad and Patel, wanted the Gandhian programme to continue. Gandhi believed that politics and religion could not be separated as the ultimate objective of all people was Ram Rajya (truth, or the Kingdom of God) – thus he saw the solution to India’s problems in spiritual as well as political terms. A continued emphasis upon spinning and the making and wearing of khadi was seen by the No-changers to be essential. So too was an emphasis upon repairing the now crumbling Hindu-Muslim relationship, and social reforms such as the continuation of the campaign against the existence of untouchability.
    • Opposing them were the Pro-changers whose view was that India was not yet ready for the full programme of satyagraha, and thus a new political strategy was required. Moreover, through the Government of India Act of 1921 the British had provided a new opportunity for Indian political development. For Pro-changers this was the time to take up the challenge offered by the reforms. Indians, they urged, should enter the councils at the 1923 elections and then frustrate the British government’s intentions from within. In other words Indians should be non-cooperative by legal, constitutional means. These were the ideas of the Pro-changers, led in particular by C.R. Das and also by the older Nehru, Motilal Nehru.
  • The Swaraj Party:
    • At the annual 1922 Congress meeting battle was joined and the Pro-changers were defeated. Congress decided to follow the strict Gandhian line rather than use constitutional measures as a means of forcing the British to permit national swaraj.
    • In 1923, however, the Pro-changers formed a separate party known as the Congress Swaraj Party. This was a party within a party as only Congress members could join it. An open split was averted when Gandhi, from prison, gave his cautious approval to the formation of the Swaraj Party and its way was then clear to fight the elections which the government had set down for the same year.
    • In these elections the Swarajists did comparatively well. Very soon it became clear, however, that they lacked the necessary political support to make much impression on the British.
    • In 1925, C.R. Das died and Motilal Nehru proved less adept than Das at holding the party together. The Swaraj Party was losing its sense of direction and in the 1926 elections it suffered serious losses.
  • Gandhi’s Activities:
    • Although Gandhi was sentenced to 6 years in prison in 1922, he was released in 1924 because of ill health.
    • He did not re-join politics. The violence during his previous 2 Satyagraha campaigns had, as he saw it, demonstrated the people of India were unready for swaraj.
    • He returned instead to his Sabarmati Ashram where he devoted himself to social reform and fostering Hindu-Muslim friendship.
    • From his Ashram base Gandhi frequently toured the country, visiting villages in particular and always preaching the same message:
      • India had to learn that discrimination against Harijans (Outcastes or Untouchables) was wrong.
      • India must realise that Hindu-Muslim relationships were rapidly deteriorating and her people must take strenuous measures to reverse the process.
      • The people of India had to spin and use their own khadi. This would help revive village industry and save the expense of buying cloth made in cotton mills, be it produced overseas by foreigners or in India by Indians. Spinning a length of cotton thread every day became mandatory for his followers. In 1925, at his suggestion, the entry fee to join Congress was changed from 4 annas (about 5 cents) to a length of handspun yarn.
      • Improvements in villages were vital and Gandhi made cleanliness a feature of his campaign. Neatly swept streets, uncluttered drains, and personal hygiene were to be attained by simple means. For example, Gandhi used the twig of his Indian kikar tree to clean his teeth. As he pointed out, it cost nothing, had a sweet taste, and massaged the gums as well as cleaning the teeth. In comparison the western style toothbrush was a foreign import and cost money.
    • As Gandhi was consolidating his relationship with the untouchables and working with reforms, he was also trying to deal with the Muslim situation. However, much to Gandhi’s dismay, the relationship between the Hindu’s and the Muslim’s was rapidly deteriorating. In the early 1920’s, the focus of Gandhi’s efforts to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity had been the Khilafat issue. However, in March 1924, the all-India Khilafat committee broke up and a few members returned to congress, but many more went to the Muslim league.
    • Without clear leadership and without the Khilafat issue to bind the Muslim’s of India together, the fragile nature of Hindu-Muslim unity in the early 1920’s became more and more exposed. The Hindu -Muslim situation deteriorated, for example in 1924 there was a publication of a book offending Muslims and it resulted in the murder of its Hindu author and the massacre of 36 Hindus. Gandhi’s response to this was fast for 3 weeks in an attempt to highlight the need for Hindu-Muslim reconciliation. Riots between Hindu and Muslim communities became more frequent and deaths more common. Tensions were made worse by economic hardships of the 1920’s (e.g. The Great Depression).
Bardoli Tax Campaign
  • Gandhi’s pre-occupation with Hindu-Muslim relations khadi, village reform and the plight of untouchability that he had taken him away from direct political actions that he had pursued between 1917-1922. However, in 1928, a peasant dispute over high tax increases imposed by the British at Bardoli showed that civil disobedience was not forgotten and still effect.
  • Gandhi persuaded Patel to lead the peasants peaceful revolt. The peasants refused to submit to government pressure to pay the taxes and when the British sent in troops to confiscate their property in return for unpaid taxes, Patel challenged the government to try and take their land to England. Gandhi resisted calls to widen the civil disobedience to other provinces but he did go to Bardoli in support of Patel and the peasants.
  • 4 days later the government backed down, property was returned to the peasants and an enquiry later slashed the tax from 22% to 5.7%. Bardoli had been a reminder that reform could still be achieved by non-violent means, but Gandhi still believed the country was not yet ready for widespread Satyagraha.
  • “the real success of their campaign…lay in the effect it produced among the peasantry all over India. Bardoli became a sign and a symbol of hope and strength and victory to the Indian peasant.” Nehru
The Simon Commission
  • In November 1927, a short while before the Bardoli tax campaign, and in the middle of a deteriorating Hindu-Muslim situation, the British announced another of their proposals to advance India towards self-government.
  • The Government of India Act 1919 had introduced a system of diarchy to govern the provinces of British India. It also stated that a commission would be appointed after 10 years to investigate the progress of governance and suggest new steps for reform. Even though the review was not due until 1929, in Britain the conservative government was afraid the labour party would win the 1929 British elections and allow changes in India to occur too rapidly. The conservative party therefore appointed the Simon Commission to visit India in early 1928 to report on India’s readiness for further progress towards self-government. To the indignation of all Indian’s the Commission consisted exclusively of British MPs, not one Indian was elected as a member of the Commission (ironic).
  • The Indian National Congress in its December 1927 meeting resolved to boycott the Commission and they would draft a constitution that would be acceptable to the Indian population. A faction of the Muslim league led by Mahummad Ali Jinnah also decided to boycott the Commission, they both responded by calling an all-parties conference. Their aim was to establish a committee to draft alternative proposals to what the Simon Commission might produce.
Nehru Report
  • Named after Motilal Nehru, chairman of the drafting committee. The Nehru Report won widespread support from Indians on many of its provisions, but there were two controversial proposals:
  1. Some electorates should be joint and some reserved – an issue affecting the future rights of Muslims:
    • Joint electorates meant that all electors, whether Hindu or Muslim, would be listing on a common roll and vote for candidates who could be from any community.
    • Reserved electorates meant that only Muslims could stand as candidates in them, but anyone, including Hindus and Muslims, could vote for them.
    • Separate exclusively Muslim electorates were rejected by the Nehru Report, causing strenuous oppositions from most Muslim politicians.
  2. Dominion status, not complete independence, was recommended as India’s goal at this time.
    • This produced serious disagreement between Motilal Nehru and his son Jawaharlal. Under dominion status India would have independence but remain part of the British Empire, owing allegiance to the British Crown. Jawaharlal Nehru and others wanted full independence.
  • The Nehru Committee Report, 1928: “In one word the attainment of dominion status is not viewed as a remote stage of our evolution but as the next immediate step”.
Dominion Status or Full Independence?
  • The political deadlock between the Simon Commission and the Nehru Report finally brought Gandhi back to the forefront of Indian politics.Gandhi worked out a compromise for Congress concerning the dominion status issue. If Britain granted dominion status during 1929 Congress would accept. If, however, Britain had not granted it by the end of 1929 Congress would opt for complete independence (purna swaraj). This ultimatum, in effect, was a victory for those who wanted the second option as the British were not likely to grant dominion status immediately.
  • In late 1929, on the advice of Viceroy Irwin, the British government declared that dominion status was their objective. This was not enough for Congress who wanted it immediately.
  • At the Lahore Congress of 1929-1930, in a motion accepted just after midnight on New Year’s Day, complete independence – purna swaraj – was proclaimed as Congress’ objective.
  • Gandhi was now back in Congress and the party turned to him for guidance as to their next action.
  • The Muslims waited on the sideline, offended by the Nehru Report’s rejection of separate electorates for Muslims.
  • Nehru and Gandhi expressing the decision of Congress to make Purna Swaraj their objective, 1 January 1930: The British Government of Indi has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence- ‘The Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi’.

The role, ideas and impact of Gandhi

Introduction of Gandhi
  • By the time of his death Gandhi had made a remarkable impression on people from all walks of life. He had been a role model for Martin Luther King.
  • He had been a very controversial figure
  • He wore only a dhoti made out of khadi (homespun cotton cloth) which came to symbolise Indian independence as it meant that the British were not monopolising Indian cotton. His garb represented his form of nationalism. By being scantily clad he aligned with even the poorest peasants, increasing his popularity – he connected with even the untouchables (lowest castes)
  • He lost some credibility due to the extreme nature of some of his ideals.
  • Mahatma (Great Soul) – Gandhi was viewed as this
  • With massive popular support, and his political and religious philosophies of non-violence and civil rights.
  • Gandhi was instrumental in ending 200 years of British colonial rule in India.
  • Others were not as impressed with Gandhi, in 1931 Winston Churchill described him as “this half naked fakir” and Viceroy Lord Wavell in 1946 called him “a shrewd malevolent old politician”. They saw a person who, whatever his motives might have been, spread confusion all around him which played a part in the massacres which scarred India at the time of its independence in 1947.
  • Where the situation called for realistic solutions, Gandhi’s opponents say the people of India received only impractical ideas which few could reasonably be expected to follow.
  • Despite differing opinions there is no denying that Ghandi was an exceedingly complex person who left a deep imprint on the history of India and the world.
 Gandhi’s childhood
  • 1869 birth of Gandhi – he was born in the Gujarat state. He came from a trading caste, Banias, they had a lot of political impact as they had provided a succession of Prime Ministers to the Princes in the area and were able to accumulate a modest fortune. Gandhi was able to rise above the reputation of the Bania and achieve more influence
  • Gandhi’s marriage was arranged for him in accordance with Hindu tradition when he was 13.
  • Religion came to play a dominant part in Ghandi’s life, he grew up as a Hindu with concepts of serving others and the sacredness of life
  • After failing education at an Indian university he went to London to study law.
  • In London, he found aspects of life difficult but he did discover the Hindu Classic Gita which was a manual on which he based his philosophy of Truth.
  • Gita contained the following principles:
    • A person should remain free from all desire and all attachments to worldly goods
    • A person should seek in acts of service the good of all humankind – acts of service which are performed without any through for self-benefit.
    • This leads to spiritual liberation
    • The person who consistently strives to live such a life can expect to progress through even higher rebirths until finally the human spirit merges in blissful union with God.
  • Gandhi was an extremely complex person, the product of two different cultures. One the one hand he developed a concern for what he saw as the moral and religious weaknesses of western civilisation, but on the other he enthused about England’s rich culture. Indeed, Gandhi stated “it was not without deep regret that I left dear London”
Failure back in India
  • Gandhi returned to Bombay on 12 June, 1891, fully qualified in law, yet an outcaste for having crossed the ‘dark waters’. He undertook a ceremony to secure readmission to his caste at his brothers request, however he was not very willing as he now disapproved of the caste system – influenced by his time abroad.
  • He attempts as a barrister in Bombay came to an early end, for having been trained exclusively in English law, he was unfamiliar with Indian law, and his first case failed dismally, he returned to client’s fee.
 Opportunity in South Africa
  • An opportunity arose when Gujaratis from Porbandar, living and trading in South Africa, were locked in a major legal dispute and sent for Gandhi’s help through his brother.
  • The case required no knowledge of Indian law.
  • When the offer was made to Gandhi with generous pay and a maximum contract of 1 year, he willingly accepted, sailing for Durban in South Africa in 1893.
  • Gandhi remained in South Africa for 20 years, and returned to India with a reputation for innovative leadership.
  • He attributed his lengthy stay to a humiliating racist experience he had while journeying to Pretoria soon after his arrival. He travelled as far as Pietermaritzburg on a first class ticked, but there a white person joined the train and objected to the presence of an Indian in the same carriage. An official was summoned and Gandhi was ordered to transfer to a lower class carriage. Gandhi insisted he had the right to remain where he was, whereupon he was expelled from the train. He spent the night shivering in the Pietermaritzburg waiting-room.
  • “I began to think of my duty. Should I fight for my rights or go back to India, or should I go on to Pretoria without minding the insults, and return to India after finishing the case? It would be cowardice to run back to India without fulfilling my obligation. The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial – only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice. I should try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer the hardships in the process. Redress for wrongs I should seek only to the extent that would be necessary for the removal of the colour prejudice.”

Congress consolidation in the 1930s

 Significance of the Salt Satyagraha

  • New Year’s day  1930 the flag of independent India was unfurled by the leaders of Congress to shouts of inqilab zindabad (long live the revolution) and 26 January was declared to be Independence Day
  • Ghandi was fully involved in politics and purna Swaraj (complete independence) was now the objective.
  • Congress committed itself to following Ghandi whatever his policy might be

Ghandi’s Decision

  • Ghandi prepared a set of social and economic demands which, if accepted by the British, would give India its independence
  • But crucially, he did not have a clear strategy in mind for achieving British acceptance of the demands
  • Eventually, he decided to focus on one of his eleven demands – the abolition of the salt tax
    • Personally and publically he would break the salt laws which made it legal for individuals to manufacture salt in India
    • He would encourage some of his followers to join him in breaking the salt laws, but only those who had been rigorously schooled in the techniques of satyagraha
    • This time there must be no violence on the part of Indians involved
  • Ghandi’s decision to break the salt laws was an astute one
    • The government had a monopoly on salt manufacturing in India. Because all Indians regarded salt as an absolute necessity in their diet, an attack on the salt law would have a powerful emotional appeal.
    • Both within and beyond India the British government would be seen to be defending the indefensible against the starving millions of India
    • Breaking the salt laws would not seriously threaten government finances and would not alienate those who feared a serious struggle with the British
    • It would introduce many more to Ghandi’s technique of satyagraha and provide him with an opportunity to educate people with it
  • British government resisted the salt campaign
    • Accepting Ghandi’s demand on the salt issue would have looked like giving in and would have made it harder to resist his other ten demands

Ultimatum Issued

  • Ghandi proceeded with his plan according to the rules of satyagraha and in early March wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, issuing an ultimatum
  • Ghandi when addressing the Viceroy:
    • “My ambition is no less than to convert the British people through nonviolence, and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India”
    • “If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws.  I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint.  As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.”
  • Irwin was fascinated by Ghandi’s spiritual ideals and Ghandi found conversation with him easy
  • He merely indicated his regret that Ghandi was contemplating breaking the law and disturbing the peace

The Dandi Salt March

  • Jawaharlal Nehru called Gandhi, ‘…. the pilgrim on his quest of truth, quiet, peaceful, determined and fearless who would continue that quiet pilgrimage regardless of consequences.
  • After Irwins refusal to negotiate Ghandi instituted the next phase of satyagraha
    • A march from Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad down to Dandi on the seashore 385km away
    • The march was to be through Gujarat, Ghandi’s home territory where his support was probably greatest
    • It was intended to last a month and would gradually demand the attention of all India and indeed much of the outside world
  • 12 March: dressed only in Khadi proceeded the march:
    • He was accompanied by 78 selected and trained Satyagrahis, including 2 Untouchables, 2 Muslims and one christian
    • On the way they stopped in villages where he spoke to people about the salt tax, khadi, cow-protection, cleanliness and untouchability: At Bareja his stated ‘Khadi is the foundation of our freedom struggle…. I request you to renounce luxuries and buy khadi from this heap before you’
    • The press became increasingly interested and with Ghandi giving regular interviews, popular support for Ghandi’s mission both in India and oversees grew
  • The number of marchers grew with every village visited – many village administrators resigned their position in response to Ghandi’s call for non-cooperation with the government
  • Ghandi reached Dandi on 6th April
    • Stooping down he picked up a limp of salt left by the evaporation of sea water – waving it Ghandi proclaimed he had made salt (an illegal act) and stated “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.”
  • Nehru “Of course these movements exercised tremendous pressure on the British Government and shook the government machinery. But the real importance, to my mind, lay in the effect they had on our own people, and especially the village masses….Non-cooperation dragged them out of the mire and gave them self-respect and self-reliance….They acted courageously and did not submit so easily to unjust oppression; their outlook widened and they began to think a little in terms of India as a whole….It was a remarkable transformation and the Congress, under Gandhi’s leadership, must have the credit for it.”

Ghandi broadens the campaign

  • The march was merely a beginning and Ghandi having made salt on the seashore, urged others to follow his example
  • Ghandi had taken advantage of the occasion to broaden his campaign, including both prohibition and swadeshi
    • Prohibition (or temperance, total abstinence from liquor) was one of Ghandi’s favourite issues and played a useful part in persuading women to join in demonstrations
  • In Patna a protesting crowd defied a police order to disperse and the threat of a cavalry charge
  • Courageously they lay on the ground as horses galloped towards them
    • At the last possible moment the horses pulled up and serious injury was avoided

Arrest of Ghandi

  • Viceroy Irwin watched events closely
  • At first he followed his council’s advice to do nothing
  • Arrest might make Ghandi a martyr and the government might have the embarrassment of him hunger striking while in jail
  • However as Indians took up Ghandi’s challenge to make salt and undertake other measures of non-cooperation and civil disobedience, a stronger British response became inevitable
  • The turning point for Irwin came when Ghandi announced he would lead a raid on the Dharasana salt works north of Bombay
  • 4th May: on Irwin’s orders Ghandi was arrested
    • But despite Ghandi’s absence the raid on the salt works proceeded
    • Led instead by Sarojini Naidu, about 2500 members of Congress marched on the salt works

Civil Disobedience continues

  • The arrest of Ghandi only succeeded in widening the Civil Disobedience movement: “News of the Mahatma’s arrest stimulated protests and strikes throughout the land” Stanley Wolpert
  • Despite Ghandi’s imprisonment the Civil Disobedience campaign went ahead, flourishing in certain parts of India during the middle months of 1930
  • In June Congress Committees were declared illegal and many other congress leaders were arrested
    • As many as 100,000 satyagrahis may have been jailed at this time but still the campaign continued
  • One segment of Indian society though was unimpressed by Civil Disobedience
    • This was the Muslim community
    • It was around this time that the dominant Muslim attitude in India was irreversibly changing , hardening against cooperation with the pre-dominantly Hindu Congress
  • July 1930: marked the Civil Disobedience campaign’s high point
    • During the first 4 months of the campaign Congress had been able to collect funds and spend them wherever they were needed, embarrassing the government by its success
    • The Viceroy finally allowed its representative and 2 Congress ‘moderates’ to meet with Ghandi in prison.
  • On Ghandi’s insistence other jailed Congress leaders were allowed to join the prison talks, causing considerable political embarrassment in Britain
  • According to Winston Churchill: “the Government of India had imprisoned Ghandi and they had been sitting outside his cell door, begging him to help them out of their difficulties”
  • New Year’s day  1930 the flag of independent India was unfurled by the leaders of Congress to shouts of inqilab zindabad (long live the revolution) and 26 January was declared to be Independence Day
  • Ghandi was fully involved in politics and purna Swaraj (complete independence) was now the objective.
  • Congress committed itself to following Ghandi whatever his policy might be

Ghandi’s Decision

  • Ghandi prepared a set of social and economic demands which, if accepted by the British, would give India its independence
  • But crucially, he did not have a clear strategy in mind for achieving British acceptance of the demands
  • Eventually, he decided to focus on one of his eleven demands – the abolition of the salt tax
    • Personally and publically he would break the salt laws which made it legal for individuals to manufacture salt in India
    • He would encourage some of his followers to join him in breaking the salt laws, but only those who had been rigorously schooled in the techniques of satyagraha
    • This time there must be no violence on the part of Indians involved
  • Ghandi’s decision to break the salt laws was an astute one
    • The government had a monopoly on salt manufacturing in India. Because all Indians regarded salt as an absolute necessity in their diet, an attack on the salt law would have a poweful emotional appeals
    • Both within and beyond India the British government would be seen to be defending the indefensible against the starving millions of India
    • Breaking the salt laws would not seriously threaten government finances and would not alienate those who feared a serious struggle with the British
    • It would introduce many more to Ghandi’s technique of satyagraha and provide him with an opportunity to educate people with it
  • British government resisted the salt campaign
    • Accepting Ghandi’s demand on the salt issue would have looked like giving in and would have made it harder to resist his other ten demands

Changes in British power: Round Table Conferences; Government of India Act 1935

Round Table Conferences 1930
  • The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–32 were a series of conferences organized by the British Government to discuss constitutional reforms in India. They were conducted as per the recommendation by the report submitted by the Simon Commission in May 1930. Demands for swaraj, or self-rule, in India had been growing increasingly strong. By the 1930s, many British politicians believed that India needed to move towards dominion status. However, there were significant disagreements between the Indian and the British political parties that the Conferences would not resolve.
  • First Round Table Conference (November 1930 – January 1931)
    • The Round Table Conference was opened officially by Lord Irwin on November 12, 1930 at London and chaired by the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald.
    • The three British political parties were represented by sixteen delegates. There were fifty-seven political leaders from British India and sixteen delegates from the princely states. In total 89 delegates from India attended the Conference. However, the Indian National Congress, along with Indian business leaders, kept away from the conference. Many of them were in jail for their participation in Civil Disobedience Movement.
    • The idea of an All-India Federation was moved to the centre of discussion. All the groups attending the conference supported this concept. The responsibility of the executive to the legislature was discussed, and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar demanded a separate electorate for the so-called Untouchables.
    • It was difficult for progress to be made in the absence of Congress (Indian National Congress) but some advances were made. The princes declared they would join future federation of India as long as their rights were recognized and the British agreed that representative government should be introduced on provincial level.
  • Second Round Table Conference (September – December 1931)
    • The second session opened on September 7, 1931. There were three major differences between the first and second Round Table Conferences. By the second:
      • Congress Representation — The Gandhi-Irwin Pact opened the way for Congress participation in this conference. Mahatma Gandhi was invited from India and attended as the sole official Congress representative accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and also Madan Mohan Malaviya, Ghanshyam Das Birla, Muhammad Iqbal, Sir Mirza Ismail (Diwan of Mysore), S.K. Dutta and Sir Syed Ali Imam. Gandhi claimed that the Congress alone represented political India; that the Untouchables were Hindus and should not be treated as a “minority”; and that there should be no separate electorates or special safeguards for Muslims or other minorities. These claims were rejected by the other Indian participants. According to this pact, Gandhi was asked to call off the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and if he did so the prisoners of the British government would be freed excepting the criminal prisoners, i.e. those who had killed British officials. He returned to India, disappointed with the results and empty-handed.
    • National Government — two weeks earlier the Labour government in London had fallen. Ramsay MacDonald now headed a National Government dominated by the Conservative Party.
    • Financial Crisis – During the conference, Britain went off the Gold Standard further distracting the National Government.
    • During the Conference, Gandhi could not reach agreement with the Muslims on Muslim representation and safeguards. At the end of the conference Ramsay MacDonald undertook to produce a Communal Award for minority representation, with the provision that any free agreement between the parties could be substituted for his award.
    • Gandhi took particular exception to the treatment of untouchables as a minority separate from the rest of the Hindu community. He clashed with the leader of depressed classes, Dr.B. R. Ambedkar, over this issue: the two eventually resolved the situation with the Poona Pact of 1932.
  • Third Round Table Conference (November – December 1932)
    • The third and last session assembled on November 17, 1932. Only forty-six delegates attended since most of the main political figures of India were not present. The Labour Party from Britain and the Indian National Congress refused to attend.
    • From September 1931 until March 1933, under the supervision of the Secretary of State for India, Sir Samuel Hoare, the proposed reforms took the form reflected in the Government of India Act 1935.
Gandhi-Irwin Pact 1931
  • The Gandhi–Irwin Pact was a political agreement signed by Mahatma Gandhi and the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin on 5 March 1931 before the second Round Table Conference in London. Before this, the viceroy Lord Irwin announced in October 1929, a vague offer of ‘dominion status’ for India in an unspecified future and a Round Table Conference to discuss a future constitution.
  • “The Two Mahatmas” —as Sarojini Naidu described Gandhi and Irwin—had eight meetings that totaled 24 hours. Gandhi was impressed by Irwin’s sincerity. The terms of the “Gandhi-Irwin Pact” fell manifestly short of those Gandhi prescribed as the minimum for a truce.
  • The proposed conditions:
    • Discontinuation of the civil disobedience movement by the Indian National Congress
    • Participation by the Indian National Congress in the Round Table Conference
    • Withdrawal of all ordinances issued by the British Government imposing curbs on the activities of the Indian National Congress
    • Withdrawal of all prosecutions relating to several types of offenses except those involving violence
    • Release of prisoners arrested for participating in the civil disobedience movement
    • Removal of the tax on salt, which allowed the Indians to produce, trade, and sell salt legally and for their own private use
  • It is fair to record that British officials in India, and in England, were outraged by the idea of a pact with a party whose avowed purpose was the destruction of the British Raj. Winston Churchill publicly expressed his disgust “…at the nauseating and humiliating spectacle of this one-time Inner Temple lawyer, now seditious fakir, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceroy’s palace, there to negotiate and parley on equal terms with the representative of the King Emperor.
  • In reply, the British Government agreed to
    • Withdraw all ordinances and end prosecutions
    • Release all political prisoners, except those guilty of violence
    • Permit peaceful picketing of liquor and foreign cloth shops
    • Restore confiscated properties of the satyagrahis
    • Permit free collection or manufacture of salt by persons near the sea-coast
    • Lift the ban over the congress.
  • The Viceroy, Lord Irwin, was at this time directing the sternest repression Indian nationalism had known, but did not relish the role. The British civil service and the commercial community favoured even harsher measures. But Premier Ramsay MacDonald and Secretary of State for India William Benn were eager for peace, if they could secure it without weakening the position of the Labour Government. They wanted to make a success of the Round Table Conference and knew that this body, without the presence of Gandhi and the Congress, could not carry much weight. In January 1931, at the closing session of the Round Table Conference, Ramsay MacDonald went so far as to express the hope that the Congress would be represented at the next session. The Viceroy took the hint and promptly ordered the unconditional release of Gandhi and all members of the Congress Working Committee. To this gesture Gandhi responded by agreeing to meet the Viceroy.
  • Gandhi’s motives in concluding a pact with the Viceroy can be best understood in terms of his technique. The Satyagraha movements were commonly described as “struggles”, “rebellions” and “wars without violence”. Owing, however, to the common connotation of these words, they seemed to lay a disproportionate emphasis on the negative aspect of the movements, namely, opposition and conflict. The object of Satyagraha was, however, not to achieve the physical elimination or moral breakdown of an adversary—but, through suffering at his hands, to initiate a psychological processes that could make it possible for minds and hearts to meet. In such a struggle, a compromise with an opponent was neither heresy nor treason, but a natural and necessary step. If it turned out that the compromise was premature and the adversary was unrepentant, nothing prevented the Satyagrahi from returning to non-violent battle.
  • Summary:
    • In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free (Although, some of the key revolutionaries were not set free and the death sentence for Bhagat Singh and his two comrades was not taken back which further intensified the agitation against Congress not only outside it but within the Congress itself). In return, Gandhi agreed to discontinue the civil disobedience movement and participate as the sole representative of the Congress in the second Round Table Conference, which was held in London in September 1931. However, the conference ended in failure in December 1931. Gandhi returned to India and decided to resume the civil disobedience movement in January 1932.
Government of India Act 1935 Diarchy

The Government of India Act 1935, the voluminous and final constitutional effort at governing British India, articulated three major goals: establishing a loose federal structure, achieving provincial autonomy, and safeguarding minority interests through separate electorates. The federal provisions, intended to unite princely states and British India at the centre, were not implemented because of ambiguities in safeguarding the existing privileges of princes.

The most significant aspects of the Act were:

  • The grant of a large measure of autonomy to the provinces of British India (ending the system of diarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919)
  • Provision for the establishment of a “Federation of India”, to be made up of both British India and some or all of the “princely states”
  • The introduction of direct elections, thus increasing the franchise from seven million to thirty-five million people
  • A partial reorganization of the provinces:
    • Sindh was separated from Bombay
    • Bihar and Orissa was split into separate provinces of Bihar and Orissa
    • Burma was completely separated from India
    • Aden was also detached from India, and established as a separate Crown colony
  • Membership of the provincial assemblies was altered so as to include more elected Indian representatives, who were now able to form majorities and be appointed to form governments
  • The establishment of a Federal Court

However, the degree of autonomy introduced at the provincial level was subject to important limitations: the provincial Governors retained important reserve powers, and the British authorities also retained a right to suspend responsible government.

The parts of the Act intended to establish the Federation of India never came into operation, due to opposition from rulers of the princely states. The remaining parts of the Act came into force in 1937, when the first elections under the Act were also held. 

Communal Award

One last event was to happen before Gandhi abandoned politics again. At the Round table conferences the Muslim demand for separate electorates not reserved ones had been accepted, on the 16th August 1932. This was known as the communal award. A decision confirming separate electorates for Muslims had been anticipated by Gandhi, however what came as a more unpleasant surprise was that the untouchables had also been granted separate electorates. This came as a bitter blow to Gandhi and led him to undertake a fast in jail. The untouchables were, he insisted, a part of Hindu India.


  • To oppose the communal award Gandhi fasted and nearly died as a result.
  • Not wanting to be held responsible for Gandhi’s death, the British relented to Gandhi’s opposition to the communal award. The award was amended to Gandhi’s satisfaction and he ended his fast. November 1932 there was the final round table conference. The third round table conference met to tidy up loose ends and to satisfy the British conservatives. There were very few Indian representatives present and none from congress. Within 6 months of the communal award having been changed (in regard to the untouchables) Gandhi went back to fasting, this time protesting the lack of progress with his untouchably campaign. After lengthy negotiations, Gandhi reached an agreement to have a single Hindu electorate with untouchables having seats reserved within it; this was called to “Poona pact”.
  • Poona pact = Electorates for other religions such as Muslims and Sikhs remained separate
  • In 1933 Gandhi temporarily suspended the civil disobedience initiative but by August 1933, he was back in jail. Again, he fasted and again, he was promptly released. Indian politics were setting into a “cat and mouse” routine that was to last for the rest of the 1930’s with no clear winner.
  • 1934 Gandhi’s response was to resign from congress and devote him to village reform rather than swear. The unpopularity of civil disobedience and the violence that was erupting was of great disappointment to him.
  • Gandhi was disappointed that many of his fellow countrymen disagreed with his strict ideals of moral, spiritual and economic renewal. They used civil disobedience as a useful political tactic for only as long as it produced results, otherwise they resorted to violence.

1937 elections and formation of Congress ministries


The final results of the elections were declared in February 1937. The Indian National Congress emerged in power in eight of the provinces – the three exceptions being Bengal, Punjab, and Sindh. The All-India Muslim League failed to form the government in any province.

Impact on the Muslim League

The election results were a blow to the League. After the election, Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the League offered to form coalitions with the Congress. The League insisted that the Congress should not nominate any Muslims to the ministries, as it (the League) claimed to be the exclusive representative of Indian Muslims. This was not acceptable to the Congress, and it declined the League’s offer.

Resignation of Congress Ministries

Viceroy Linlithgow declared India at war with Germany on 3 September 1939. The Congress objected strongly to the declaration of war without prior consultation with Indians. The Congress Working Committee suggested that it would cooperate if there were a central Indian national government formed, and a commitment made to India’s independence after the war. The Muslim League promised its support to the British, with Jinnah calling on Muslims to help the Raj by “honourable co-operation” at the “critical and difficult juncture,” while asking the Viceroy for increased protection for Muslims.

Linlithgow refused the demands of the Congress. On 22 October 1939, it “call[ed] upon all Congress ministries to tender their resignations” (Ken Andersen). Both Viceroy Linlithgow and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were pleased with the resignations. On 2 December 1939, Jinnah put out an appeal, calling for Indian Muslims to celebrate 22 December 1939 as a “Day of Deliverance” from Congress:

“I wish the Musalmans all over India to observe Friday 22 December as the “Day of Deliverance” and thanksgiving as a mark of relief that the Congress regime has at last ceased to function. I hope that the provincial, district and primary Muslim Leagues all over India will hold public meetings and pass the resolution with such modification as they may be advised, and after Jumma prayers offer prayers by way of thanksgiving for being delivered from the unjust Congress regime.”

Muslims and politics in the 1930s

Role of Mohammad Ali Jinnah

1935 Reorganisation of the league
  • Beginning in 1933, Indian Muslims, especially from the United Provinces, began to urge Jinnah to return to India and take up again his leadership of the Muslim League, an organisation which had fallen into inactivity.
  • He remained titular president of the League, but declined to travel to India to preside over its 1933 session in April, writing that he could not possibly return there until the end of the year.
  • Among those who met with Jinnah to seek his return was Liaquat Ali Khan, who would be a major political associate of Jinnah in the years to come and the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. At Jinnah’s request, Liaquat discussed the return with a large number of Muslim politicians and confirmed his recommendation to Jinnah.
  • In early 1934, Jinnah relocated to the subcontinent, though he shuttled between London and India on business for the next few years, selling his house in Hampstead and closing his legal practice in Britain
  • Muslims of Bombay elected Jinnah, though then absent in London, as their representative to the Central Legislative Assembly in October 1934.
  • The British Parliament’s Government of India Act 1935 gave considerable power to India’s provinces, with a weak central parliament in New Delhi, which had no authority over such matters as foreign policy, defence, and much of the budget.
  • Full power remained in the hands of the Viceroy, however, who could dissolve legislatures and rule by decree.
  • The League reluctantly accepted the scheme, though expressing reservations about the weak parliament.
1937 Post-Elections Growth into mass Party + Lucknow Session
  • The Muslim League was dormant: primary branches it had none; even its provincial organizations were, for the most part, ineffective and only nominally under the control of the central organization.
  • Nor did the central body have any coherent policy of its own till the Bombay session (1936), which Jinnah organized. To make matters worse, the provincial scene presented a sort of a jigsaw puzzle: in the Punjab, Bengal, Sindh, the North West Frontier, Assam, Bihar and the United Provinces, various Muslim leaders had set up their own provincial parties to serve their personal ends.
  • Extremely frustrating as the situation was, the only consultation Jinnah had at this juncture was in Allama Iqbal (1877-1938), the poet-philosopher, who stood steadfast by him and helped to charter the course of Indian politics from behind the scene.
  • Undismayed by this bleak situation, Jinnah devoted himself with singleness of purpose to organizing the Muslims on one platform.
    • He embarked upon country-wide tours.
    • He pleaded with provincial Muslim leaders to sink their differences and make common cause with the League.
    • He exhorted the Muslim masses to organize themselves and join the League.
    • He gave coherence and direction to Muslim sentiments on the Government of India Act, 1935.
    • He advocated that the Federal Scheme should be scrapped as it was subversive of India’s cherished goal of complete responsible Government, while the provincial scheme, which conceded provincial autonomy for the first time, should be worked for what it was worth, despite its certain objectionable features.
    • He also formulated a viable League manifesto for the election scheduled for early 1937.
    • He was, it seemed, struggling against time to make Muslim India a power to be reckoned with.
  • Despite all the manifold odds stacked against it, the Muslim League won some 108 (about 23 per cent) seats out of a total of 485 Muslim seats in the various legislatures.
    • Though not very impressive in itself, the League’s partial success assumed added significance in view of the fact that the League won the largest number of Muslim seats and that it was the only all-India party of the Muslims in the country.
    • SIGNIFICANCE: The elections represented the first milestone on the long road to putting Muslim India on the map of the subcontinent.
    • Congress in Power With the year 1937 opened the most mementoes decade in modern Indian history.
    • In that year came into force the provincial part of the Government of India Act, 1935, granting autonomy to Indians for the first time, in the provinces.
  • The Congress, having become the dominant party in Indian politics, came to power in seven provinces exclusively, spurning the League’s offer of cooperation, turning its back finally on the coalition idea and excluding Muslims as a political entity from the portals of power.
    • In that year, also, the Muslim League, under Jinnah’s dynamic leadership, was transformed into a mass organization, and made the spokesman of Indian Muslims as never before.
    • Above all, in that momentous year were initiated certain trends in Indian politics, the crystallization of which in subsequent years made the partition of the subcontinent inevitable.
  • The practical manifestation of the policy of the Congress which took office in July, 1937, in seven out of eleven provinces, convinced Muslims that, in the Congress scheme of things, they could live only on sufferance of Hindus and as “second class” citizens.
  • The Congress provincial governments, it may be remembered, had embarked upon a policy and launched a program in which Muslims felt that their religion, language and culture were not safe.
    • This blatantly aggressive Congress policy was seized upon by Jinnah to awaken the Muslims to a new consciousness, organize them on all-India platform, and make them a power to be reckoned with. He also gave coherence, direction and articulation to their innermost, yet vague, urges and aspirations. Above all, the filled them with his indomitable will, his own unflinching faith in their destiny.
  • As a result of Jinnah’s ceaseless efforts, the Muslims awakened from what Professor Baker calls (their) “unreflective silence” (in which they had so complacently basked for long decades), and to “the spiritual essence of nationality” that had existed among them for a pretty long time.
  • Roused by the impact of successive Congress hammerings, the Muslims, as Ambedkar (principal author of independent India’s Constitution) says, “searched their social consciousness in a desperate attempt to find coherent and meaningful articulation to their cherished yearnings. To their great relief, they discovered that their sentiments of nationality had flamed into nationalism”.
  • In addition, not only had they developed the will to live as a nation, he had also endowed them with a territory which they could occupy and make a State as well as a cultural home for the newly discovered nation.
  • These two pre-requisites, as laid down by Renan, provided the Muslims with the intellectual justification for claiming a distinct nationalism (apart from Indian or Hindu nationalism) for themselves.
  • So that when, after their long pause, the Muslims gave expression to their innermost yearnings, these turned out to be in favor of a separate Muslim nationhood and of a separate Muslim state.
1940: Lahore Session

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the president of the Muslim League, persuaded participants at the annual Muslim League session at Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Lahore Resolution, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu; sometimes referred to as Two Nation Theory. Although the idea of Pakistan had been introduced as early as 1930, very few had responded to it. However, the volatile political climate and hostilities between the Hindus and Muslims transformed the idea of Pakistan into a stronger demand.

Growth of the All-India Muslim League

Revitalisation by Jinnah and Khan
  • Beginning in 1933, Indian Muslims, especially from the United Provinces, began to urge Jinnah to return to India and take up again his leadership of the Muslim League, an organisation which had fallen into inactivity.
  • He remained titular president of the League, but declined to travel to India to preside over its 1933 session in April, writing that he could not possibly return there until the end of the year.
  • Among those who met with Jinnah to seek his return was Liaquat Ali Khan, who would be a major political associate of Jinnah in the years to come and the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. At Jinnah’s request, Liaquat discussed the return with a large number of Muslim politicians and confirmed his recommendation to Jinnah.
  • In early 1934, Jinnah relocated to the subcontinent, though he shuttled between London and India on business for the next few years, selling his house in Hampstead and closing his legal practice in Britain
  • Muslims of Bombay elected Jinnah, though then absent in London, as their representative to the Central Legislative Assembly in October 1934.
  • The British Parliament’s Government of India Act 1935 gave considerable power to India’s provinces, with a weak central parliament in New Delhi, which had no authority over such matters as foreign policy, defence, and much of the budget.
  • Full power remained in the hands of the Viceroy, however, who could dissolve legislatures and rule by decree.
  • The League reluctantly accepted the scheme, though expressing reservations about the weak parliament.
1939 “Day of Deliverance”
  • Muslim League President Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared 22nd December 1939 a “Day of Deliverance” for Indian Muslims. The day was intended to celebrate the resignation of all members of the rival Congress party from provincial and central offices in protest over their not having been consulted over the decision to enter World War II alongside Great Britain.
  • Background:
    • In 1938 and 1939, the Muslim League tried to bring to light the grievances of Muslims and Muslim groups in Indian states run by Congress governments; the effort led to documents like the 1938 Pirpur report, documenting pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim bias under Congress governments.
    • Viceroy Linlithgow declared India at war with Germany on 3 September 1939.The Indian National Congress, the dominant political party of the time, objected strongly to the declaration of war without prior consultation with Indians. The Congress Working Committee suggested that it would cooperate if there were a central Indian national government formed, and a commitment made to India’s independence after the war. The Muslim League promised its support to the British, with Jinnah calling on Muslims to help the Raj by “honourable co-operation at the “critical and difficult juncture,” while asking the Viceroy for increased protection for Muslims.
    • Congress considered Linlithgow’s subsequent response “wholly unsatisfactory and calculated to rouse resentment among all those who are anxious to gain…India’s independence,” and on 22 October 1939, “call[ed] upon all Congress ministries to tender their resignations.” The unilateral protest resignation was supported by Jawaharlal Nehru, but less so by Mahatma Gandhi, who felt that it would strengthen both unwanted British wartime militarization and the Muslim League. Both Viceroy Linlithgow and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were pleased with the resignations.
  • Congress Reaction
    • The proposed Day of Deliverance was criticized as being divisive. On 9 December 1939, Gandhi appealed to Jinnah to end the observance in light of pending Congress/Muslim league unity discussions, and in anticipation of third party review of Muslim League allegations made about Congress’ treatment of Muslims.
    • Nehru exchanged several letters with Jinnah between 9–14 December 1939, offering to deal with specific allegations of anti-Muslim actions, but the discussions fell through because Nehru refused to disassociate Congress from Indian Muslims unaffiliated with the Muslim League, and concluded that:
      • I regret to learn this for this means that, apart from communal questions, we differ entirely on purely political grounds. The Congress demand is essentially for a declaration of war aims and more especially for a declaration of Indian independence and the right of the Indian people to frame their own constitutions without external interference. If the Muslim League does not agree to this, this means that our political objectives are wholly dissimilar.
    • The celebration was also criticized by prominent senior Muslim members of Congress, including Abul Kalam Azad, who stated:
      • And now, when the Congress has given up on the government of eight provinces of its own choice and free will, what advice has the League President to offer to the Muslims? It is this that they should march toward the mosques and thank God on their deliverance from Congress ministries which preferred duty to power and have resigned not only on the issue of India’s freedom but for the rights of all downtrodden peoples of the East. It is difficult to imagine any group of Muslims, howsoever at loggerheads with the Indian National Congress, would tolerate to be presented to the world in such colors.

The demand for Pakistan

Quaid-i-Azam- “We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation”.

NB: Jinnah is revered in Pakistan as Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) and Baba-i-Qaum (Father of the Nation).

  • The formulation of the Muslim demand for Pakistan in 1940 had a highly significant impact on the nature and course of Indian politics.
    • On the one hand, it shattered forever the Hindu dreams of a pseudo-Indian, in fact, Hindu empire on British exit from India
    • On the other, it heralded an era of Islamic renaissance and creativity in which the Indian Muslims were to be active participants.
    • The Hindu reaction was quick, bitter and malicious.
  • Equally hostile were the British to the Muslim demand, their hostility having stemmed from their belief that the unity of India was their main achievement and their foremost contribution.
  • The irony was that both the Hindus and the British had not anticipated the astonishingly tremendous response that the Pakistan demand had elicited from the Muslim masses.
  • Above all, they failed to realize how a hundred million people had suddenly become supremely conscious of their distinct nationhood and their high destiny.
  • In channeling the course of Muslim politics towards Pakistan, no less than in directing it towards its consummation in the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, no one played a more decisive role than did Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
  • It was his powerful advocacy of the case of Pakistan and his remarkable strategy in the delicate negotiations that followed the formulation of the Pakistan demand, particularly in the post-war period, that made Pakistan inevitable.
Lahore Resolution 1940

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the president of the Muslim League, persuaded participants at the annual Muslim League session at Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Lahore Resolution, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu; sometimes referred to as Two Nation Theory. Although the idea of Pakistan had been introduced as early as 1930, very few had responded to it. However, the volatile political climate and hostilities between the Hindus and Muslims transformed the idea of Pakistan into a stronger demand.

The road to Independence and Partition

 Muslim Support and Unity

  • Although Choudhry Rahmat Ali had in 1933 produced a pamphlet, Now or never, in which the term “Pakistan,” “the land of the pure,” comprising the Punjab, North West Frontier Province (Afghania), Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan, was coined for the first time, the pamphlet did not attract political attention. A little later, a Muslim delegation to the Parliamentary Committee on Indian Constitutional Reforms, gave short shrift to the Pakistan idea, calling it “chimerical and impracticable.”
  • Two years later, the Government of India Act 1935 introduced provincial autonomy, increasing the number of voters in India to 35 million.
  • More significantly, law and order issues were for the first time devolved from British authority to provincial governments headed by Indians.
  • This increased Muslim anxieties about eventual Hindu domination.
  • In the Indian provincial elections, 1937, the Muslim League turned out its best performance in Muslim-minority provinces such as the United Provinces, where it won 29 of the 64 reserved Muslim seats.
  • However, in the Muslim-majority regions of the Punjab and Bengal regional parties outperformed the League.
  • In the Punjab, the Unionist Part of Sikandar Hayat Khan, won the elections and formed a government, with the support of the Indian National Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal, which lasted five years.
  • In Bengal, the League had to share power in a coalition headed by A. K. Fazlul Huq, the leader of the Krishak Praja Party.
  • The Congress, on the other hand, with 716 wins in the total of 1585 provincial assemblies seats, was able to form governments in 7 out of the 11 provinces of British India.
  • In its manifesto the Congress maintained that religious issues were of lesser importance to the masses than economic and social issues, however, the election revealed that the Congress had contested just 58 out of the total 482 Muslim seats, and of these, it won in only 26.
  • In UP, where the Congress won, it offered to share power with the League on condition that the League stop functioning as a representative only of Muslims, which the League refused.
  • This proved to be a mistake as it alienated the Congress further from the Muslim masses. In addition, the new UP provincial administration promulgated cow protection and the use of Hindi.
  • The Muslim elite in UP was further alienated, when they saw chaotic scenes of the new Congress Raj, in which rural people who sometimes turned up in large numbers in Government buildings, were indistinguishable from the administrators and the law enforcement personnel.
  • The Muslim League conducted its own investigation into the conditions of Muslims under Congress-governed provinces.
  • Although its reports were exaggerated, it increased fear among the Muslim masses of future Hindu domination.
  • The view that Muslims would be unfairly treated in an independent India dominated by the Congress was now a part of the public discourse of Muslims.
  • With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, declared war on India’s behalf without consulting Indian leaders, leading the Congress provincial ministries to resign in protest.
  • The Muslim League, which functioned under state patronage,
  • in contrast, organized “Deliverance Day,” celebrations (from Congress dominance) and supported Britain in the war effort.When Linlithgow, met with nationalist leaders, he gave the same status to Jinnah as he did to Gandhi, and a month later described the Congress as a “Hindu organization.”
  • In March 1940, in the League’s annual three-day session in Lahore, Jinnah gave a two-hour speech in English, in which were laid out the arguments of the Two-nation theory, stating, in the words of historians Talbot and Singh, that “Muslims and Hindus … were irreconcilably opposed monolithic religious communities and as such no settlement could be imposed that did not satisfy the aspirations of the former.”
  • On the last day of its session, the League passed, what came to be known as the Lahore Resolution, sometimes also “Pakistan Resolution,” demanding that, “the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.” Though it had been founded more than three decades earlier, the League would gather support among South Asian Muslims only during the Second World War.
  • In March 1942, with the Japanese fast moving up the Malayan Peninsula after the Fall of Singapore, and with the Americans supporting independence for India, Winston Churchill, the wartime premier of Britain, sent Sir Stafford Cripps, the leader of the House of Commons, with an offer of dominion status to India at the end of the war in return for the Congress’s support for the war effort.
  • Not wishing to lose the support of the allies they had already secured—the Muslim League, Unionists of the Punjab, and the Princes—the Cripps offer included a clause stating that no part of the British Indian Empire would be forced to join the post-war Dominion. As a result of the proviso, the proposals were rejected by the Congress, which, since its founding as a polite group of lawyers in 1885, saw itself as the representative of all Indians of all faiths.
  • After the arrival in 1920 of Gandhi, the preeminent strategist of Indian nationalism, the Congress had been transformed into a mass nationalist movement of millions.
  • In August 1942, the Congress launched the Quit India Resolution which asked for drastic constitutional changes, which the British saw as the most serious threat to their rule since the Indian rebellion of 1857.
  • With their resources and attention already spread thin by a global war, the nervous British immediately jailed the Congress leaders and kept them in jail until August 1945, whereas the Muslim League was now free for the next three years to spread its message.
  • Consequently, the Muslim League’s ranks surged during the war, with Jinnah himself admitting, “The war which nobody welcomed proved to be a blessing in disguise.”
  • Although there were other important national Muslim politicians such as Congress leader Ab’ul Kalam Azad, and influential regional Muslim politicians such as A. K. Fazlul Huq of the leftist Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, Sikander Hyat Khan of the landlord-dominated Punjab Unionist Party, and Abd al-Ghaffar Khan of the pro-Congress Khudai Khidmatgar (popularly, “red shirts”) in the North West Frontier Province, the British, were to increasingly see the League as the main representative of Muslim India.

The impact of World War II on Anglo-Indian relations

  • Within Congress there was profound disagreement about the war.
    • Gandhi: non violence
    • Subhas Chandra Bose: a radical within congress who regarded Britain’s difficulty to be India’s opportunity à later escaped from India and joined the Japanese, hoping to benefit from an anticipated Japanese Invasion of India.
  • Nehru, who was vigorously opposed to the fascists in Germany and Italy, proposed a middle way which was accepted by Congress.
    • Nehru made it clear that as far as he was concerned it would never work calling it a charter of slavery because it wasn’t giving Indians enough freedom
  • Congress demanded recognition of Indian rights which would include complete independence after the war.
  • If the British agreed to this demand Congress would assist Britain’s war effort.
  • Gandhi resigned from Congress – it was now a party prepared to accept violence.
  • Jinnah agreed with Britain to participate in the war so the Muslim League would build a good reputation and when they made their demands at the end of war they would be abided by.
British Response- August Offer
  • The British cabinet under Churchill was lukewarm in its reaction to Congress’ proposal and responded with the August offer of 1940.
  • The Viceroy was instructed to offer little beyond an expanded Viceroy’s Executive Council with extra seats for Indians/
Back to Gandhi
  • Rebuffed by the British, Congress turned once again to Gandhi for advice.
  • His suggestion of individual satyagraha was adopted but had no effect on the British.
  • Strict wartime censorship of the press made an effective campaign difficult.
Atlantic Charter
  • Indian hopes were raised again in September 1941 when Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter with President Roosevelt.
  • The Charter promised all peoples the right to live under governments of their choice after the war.
  • Those hopes were soon dashed when, in a speech to the British Parliament, Churchill expressly excluded India from the provisions of the Charter.
  • During the Second World War, the rulers of the British Raj declared India to be a party to the war. They did not discuss the matter with Indians and their leaders.
  • The Indians and their leaders became divided over this matter. Some supported the British, while many did not.
  • British rulers of India wanted the Indians to fight and die in the name of freedom, yet they had denied this freedom to India and the Indians for more than a hundred years.
  • This created a lot of dissatisfaction among Indians, and two big movements for India’s independence took shape.
  • The first was the Indian National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose.
  • The second was Quit India Movement of Mohandas Gandhi.
The Indian National Army
  • Subhash Chandra Bose and many leaders did not like the British decision to drag India into the Second World War.
  • He had twice (in 1937 and 1939) become president of the Indian National Congress Party, the leading Indian political party of that time.
  • However, he and many other leaders of the Indian National Congress Party differed on many matters.
  • He resigned and formed a new party named All India Forward Bloc.
  • The British government of India put him under house arrest.
  • However, he escaped in 1941. He reached Germany, and secured the support of Germany and Japan to fight the British in India.
  • In 1943, he traveled in submarines of Germany and Japan, and reached Japan.
  • He organized the Indian National Army.
  • The INA fought the troops of the British Raj in northeastern India.
  • Despite many difficulties, INA recorded many victories.
  • However, with the surrender of Japan in 1945, INA’s operations stopped.
  • Bose died in a plane crash, but circumstances of his death are not clear.
  • The British government of India put on trial three Indian National Army officers at the Red Fort in Delhi.
  • The British had chosen for this trail one Hindu, on Sikh, and one Muslim of the INA.
  • This made many Indians of all religions very angry.
  • A naval mutiny also broke out in Bombay.
  • Ultimately, the British ruled that these officers were guilty, but they set them free seeing the public anger.
  • When India became independent, the government of India did not allow the former officers and soldiers of the INA to join the armed forces of the independent India.
  • However, the government granted them very good pensions and other facilities.
  • The Indian public also gave them much respect.
  • Many consider Subhas Chandra Bose a controversial figure due to his association with the Axis Powers. But, in India, people consider him a patriotic hero of the Indian independence movement.
  • The Second World War had reduced the economic, political, and military strength of the British Empire.
  • They were also aware that after the war Indians would begin a larger movement for independence.
  • The mood of the British people and the British Army had also changed.
  • After the Second World War, most of them were in no mood come to India to become part of the British ruling class in India.
  • The position was now clear to the leaders of the United Kingdom. By early 1946, they set free all the political prisoners held in India.
  • They started discussion the leaders of the Indian National Congress Party.
  • Finally, India won its freedom on 15th August 1947.
Cripps Mission 1942
  • In December 1941 Japan entered the war and soon advanced close to the Indian border.
  • Clearly the British Cabinet would have to take a new initiative as it would be unable to fight Japan if it was distracted by trouble in India.
  • The British government responded by sending the Cripps mission to New Dehli in March 1942.
  • Sir Stafford Cripps, a Labour member of British coalition government, was a friend of Nehru and the Congress Party.
  • There was confusion over just what he was entitled to offer India in return for support in the war.
The Cripps offer and Congress’ response
  • Cripps made the best offer he believed he was empowered to make:
    • There should be no change to the way India was governed while the war was being fought.
    • After the war was over, India should have dominion status (self-government with the British Empire or Commonwealth).
    • If that should prove unsatisfactory to any part of India, that part should have the right of complete secession (withdrawal) from the Commonwealth
  • Congress was not satisfied with Cripps’ offer, questioning continued British control during the war and was highly critical of the right of secession which would be granted.
  • It was plain to all which group would wish to secede.
  • Churchill restrained Cripps and eventually ensured the Cripps mission achieved nothing.
  • It had, however, served its purpose as far as Churchill was concerned.
  • The Americans, whose support the British needed, could be satisfied Britain had made a genuine offer and the British could get on with the war.
  • Gandhi now returned to political activity, convinced of two things:
    • Britain had to leave India immediately, not after the war.
    • India had nothing to fear from the Japanese.
  • Nehru and others were adamantly opposed, claiming there was nothing in the recent Japanese record to support Gandhi’s optimistic view.
  • Gandhi replied that with the British gone, the Japanese would no longer have any interest in India, but if the Japanese did invade they should be resisted with: unadulterated non-violent non-cooperation.
  • Some Congressmen remained doubtful about this policy, notably the Muslim member Azad.
  • When he expressed these doubts to Gandhi, he was met with a firm assurance that all would be well.
New Viceroy Wavell 1943
  • In October 1943 Lord Wavell took over as Viceroy and his efforts throughout the remainder of the war were taken up with maintaining food supplies within India.
  • India suffered a devastating famine during 1943, particularly in Bengal where the wartime loss of rice imports from Burma and South-East Asia was critical.
  • Between 1.5 and 3 million people died in Bengal alone.
  • The scale of the disaster was further increased by epidemics of Cholera, Malaria and smallpox.

Impact of the ‘Quit India’ Movement

  • The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan) or the August Movement was a civil disobedience movement in India launched on 8 August 1942 in response to Gandhi’s call for immediate independence of India and against sending Indians to World War II. He asked all teachers to leave their schools, and other Indians to leave their respective jobs and take part in this movement. Due to Gandhi’s political influence, his request was followed by a massive proportion of the population.
  • At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September 1939, passed a resolution conditionally supporting the fight against fascism, but were rebuffed when they asked for independence in return. In March 1942, faced with an increasingly dissatisfied sub-continent only reluctantly participating in the war, and deteriorations in the war situation in Europe and South East Asia, and with growing dissatisfactions among Indian troops- especially in Europe- and among the civilian population in the sub-continent, the British government sent a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps, in what came to be known as the Cripps’ Mission. The purpose of the mission was to negotiate with the Indian National Congress a deal to obtain total co-operation during the war, in return of progressive devolution and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy to elected Indian legislature. However, the talks failed, having failed to address the key demand of a timeframe towards self-government, and of definition of the powers to be relinquished, essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement. To force the British Raj to meet its demands and to obtain definitive word on total independence, the Congress took the decision to launch the Quit India Movement.
  • The aim of the movement was to bring the British Government to the negotiating table by holding the Allied War Effort hostage. The call for determined but passive resistance that signified the certitude that Gandhi foresaw for the movement is best described by his call to Do or Die, issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay, since renamed August Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Ground). However, almost the entire Congress leadership, and not merely at the national level, was put into confinement less than 24 hours after Gandhi’s speech, and the greater number of the Congress khiland were to spend the rest of the war in jail.
  • On 8 August 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, a massive Civil Disobedience would be launched. However, it was an extremely controversial decision. At Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, Gandhi urged Indians to follow a non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi told the masses to act as an independent nation and not to follow the orders of the British. The British, already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India–Burma border, responded the next day by imprisoning Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. The Congress Party’s Working Committee, or national leadership was arrested all together and imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Fort. They also banned the party altogether. All the major leaders of the INC were arrested and detained. As the masses were leaderless the protest took a violent turn. Large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. The movement also saw widespread acts of sabotage, Indian under-ground organisation carried out bomb attacks on allied supply convoys, government buildings were set on fire, electricity lines were disconnected and transport and communication lines were severed. The disruptions were under control in a few weeks and had little impact on the war effort. The movement soon became a leaderless act of defiance, with a number of acts that deviated from Gandhi’s principle of non-violence. In large parts of the country, the local underground organisations took over the movement. However, by 1943, Quit India had petered out.
  • All the other major parties rejected the Quit India plan, and most cooperated closely with the British, as did the princely states, the civil service and the police. The Muslim League supported the Raj and grew rapidly in membership, and in influence with the British.

Reasons for and the nature of Independence

On 3 June 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General of India, announced the partitioning of British India into India and Pakistan. With the speedy passage through the British Parliament of the Indian Independence Act 1947, at 11:57 on 14 August 1947 Pakistan was declared a separate nation, and at 12:02, just after midnight, on 15 August 1947, India also became an independent nation. Violent clashes between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims followed. Prime Minister Nehru and deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel invited Mountbatten to continue as Governor General of India. He was replaced in June 1948 by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. Patel took on the responsibility of bringing into the Indian Union 565 princely states, steering efforts by his “iron fist in a velvet glove” policies, exemplified by the use of military force to integrate Junagadh and Hyderabad state into India (Operation Polo). On the other hand, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru kept the issue of Kashmir in his hands.

Simla Conference June 1945
  • In June, the various parties were summoned to Simla, the summer capital up in the Himalayas, to discuss the future form of India’s constitution
  • The Simla Conference failed because of Jinnah’s insistence that the League alone spoke for Muslims.
  • In Jinnah’s view, only the Muslim League could appoint Muslims to the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
  • This put Congress in an impossible position as at that time, their President was Abul-Kalam Azad, a Muslim, and he would certainly have been one of Congress’ appointees.
  • But Jinnah would not budge and claimed that Azad was merely a “showcase President”, trundled out to enable Congress to lay its claim.
  • The Conference ended in deadlock with the battle lines between Hindus and Muslims more clearly defined.
New British Government (Atlee)  July 1945 and 1945/46 Elections
  • There may have been deadlock between India’s political factions, but for the British things were moving rapidly.
  • In July 1945, the Labour Party won the elections in Britain and in August Japan surrendered.
  • The new British government was committed to granting India independence, the only remaining question being whether or not it should be granted to one state or two.
  • To test the water, elections were held in India late in 1945 and early in 1946.
  • The results showed a complete polarization had taken place.
  • Congress won all the general seats; the Muslim League won all the Muslim seats.
Cabinet Mission Feb-May 1946
  • In February 1946, the Labour Prime Minister of Britain, Clement Attlee, announced a Cabinet Mission would travel to New Dehli. Britain was going to leave India, but before going some solution had to be found to the differences separating Congress and the Muslim League.
  • The high powered Mission was led by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, and included Sir Stafford Cripps, responsible for the 1942 Mission, and A.V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty.
  • The Cabinet Mission arrived in New Dehli at the end of March and stayed for more than three months during the heat of mid-1946
  • On 16 May, and after protracted negotiations with Congress and the Muslim League, the Mission announced its recommendations.
  • It rejected the creation of Pakistan as a separate nation state for Muslims, favouring instead, Britain’s withdrawal from India and formation of a new interim government until a new constitution could be worked out ‘by Indians for Indians’.
  • This was the closest the British had ever come to granting independence to India, but Congress and the League could not agree on their respective roles in an interim government and the plan was scrapped.
  • The Cabinet Mission had to accept defeat.
  • To increase pressure for a favourable solution the Muslim League declared 16 August ‘Direct Action Day’
  • The result was the Great Calcutta Killing as bit Hindu and Muslim mobs very quickly got out of control, leaving more than 5000 dead in the city and many thousands more injured and homeless.
  • Negotiations continued in New Delhi and London, with the situation in India declining rapidly with violence accelerating. To prove their case for a separate Pakistan, Jinnah and the Muslim League had deliberately provoked this terrible Hindu-Muslim clash.
  • Nehru then accepted Wavell’s invitation to lead an interim government, one which Jinnah refused to join.
  • On 2 September 1946, the day he took office, Nehru visited Gandhi who was now living in an untouchable’s colony in Dehli.
  • As it was Monday, Gandhi’s day of silence, Nehru had to be content with a written note which urged him to abolish Untouchability and to unite Hindus and Muslims.
  • Shortly after this, In October 1946, Gandhi received reports of serious communal disorder in eastern Bengal.
  • In this predominantly Muslim area there had been mass killings of Hindus, their houses were burned, temples defiled and women raped.
  • These atrocities were compounded when Hindus in neighouring Bihar province took revenge by slaughtering thousands of defenseless Muslims.
  • Gandhi decided his presence was needed in eastern Bengal, to personally persuade the people to abandon violence.
  • From his village base in the Noakhali district, Gandhi travelled around on foot preaching his message for love and non-violence.
  • Having had an important calming effect on that area, Gandhi moved on to Bihar to do whatever he could to end the violence there.

Reasons for and the nature of Partition

The Partition of India was the partition of the British Indian Empire[1] that led to the creation, on 14 August 1947 and 15 August 1947, respectively, of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (it later split into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). “Partition” here refers not only to the division of the Bengal province of British India into East Pakistan and West Bengal (India), and the similar partition of the Punjab province into Punjab (West Pakistan) and Punjab, India, but also to the respective divisions of other assets, including the British Indian Army, the Indian Civil Service and other administrative services, the railways, and the central treasury.

  • In February 1947 Attlee announced the British intention of leaving India by June 1948, no matter what the condition of the country.
  • Lord Louis Mountbatten was sent to take over from Wavell as India’s last Viceroy.
  • When he arrived in March one of his early actions was to invite Gandhi to New Dehli for a meeting.
  • With no fixed agenda, they talked randomly of what interested Gandhi, and when it was over the Viceroy was satisfied that real progress had been made.
  • IN an attempt to break the Congress-Muslim League deadlock and preserve Indian-Unity, Gandhi proposed that Jinnah should be given the responsibility of running a new Indian government.
  • The idea startled Mountbatten, but he respectfully turned it down.
  • Although he recognised Gandhi’s spiritual leadership of his country he was more inclined to listen to Nehru, Jinnah and his own advisers for political guidance.
  • Gandhi’s last-ditch effort to keep the Indian people unified within one country had failed.
  • Crucial decisions were soon to be made without Gandhi’s involvement. The most crucial was made on 3 June when Congress accepted Mountbatten’s plan for India’s independence and partition.
  • The Punjab and Bengal were to be divided and the parts allocated to India and Pakistan.
  • Both Congress and the Muslim League made significant compromises to achieve in dependence. Congress accepted partition and the League now accepted that Pakistan would not inherit all of the Punjab and all of Bengal.
  • Having been overruled by Nehru and Congress on the partition issue, Gandhi concluded “My life’s work seems to be over…let it not be said that Gandhi was a party to India’s vivisection”
  • With his political influence seemingly at an all-time low, Gandhi returned to his peacemaking work.
Independence Announced
  • On 4 June Mountbatten announced Britain’s intention to act even more speedily.
  • Power would now be transferred on 15 August, 1947 and the British would leave immediately afterwards.
  • That left little more than two months to divide India’s joint assets between India and the new Pakistan and progress was made at breakneck speed through the heat of summer.
  • India decided at this point that that its new name would be the ancient one of Bharat.
  • When 15 August dawned, Britain handed over authority to the two new states of India and Pakistan.
  • There was great rejoicing in which Gandhi play no part.
  • The actual border between the two states had not been notified when authority was handed over.
  • This had been entrusted to Lord Radcliffe who handed over his decision, then flew back to London before it was opened.
  • The position of princely states still had to be settled, and here Patel (as independent India’s first Home Minister) was able to assert his authority.
  • Their future was determined by propinquity – in other words they were to join whichever nation surrounded them.
  • Only one princely state was left in doubt and this was Kashmir which had borders with both India and Pakistan.
  • The status of Kashmir still remains unsettled today.
  • Radcliffe’s Award was made known on August 17, slicing both Bengal and the Punjab in two, one part in India and the other in Pakistan. In Bengal, the division was accepted. In the Punjab it caused a huge migration of millions of Hindus and Sikhs out of Pakistan, and Muslims out of India.
  • It also laid the basis for a terrible slaughter.
Migration and Massacre: results
  • In August 1947, Gandhi set out for Noakhali again.
  • He was held up in Calcutta where he was urged by the Muslim Premier of Bengal to stay and prevent further outbreaks of violence against the Muslim minority there.
  • Gandhi agreed and the situation in Calcutta was successfully calmed.
  • Gandhi was still in Calcutta when India and Pakistan became independent on 15 August.
  • He spent the day praying and fasting.
  • It seemed to him the only appropriate way of marking what was to him a supreme legacy.
  • Later in August there was renewed violence in Calcutta.
  • Gandhi’s response was to begin another fast – this time, if necessary, to the death.
  • The fast lasted for several days and ending only when Gandhi was assured peace and had returned to the city and representatives of the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities had promised him the peace would be preserved.
Partition in the Punjab
  • But peace was not preserved in the Punjab.
  • The Punjab was the homeland of the Sikhs, and the Sikhs were becoming increasingly agitated by the likelihood that the whole territory would become part of Muslim Pakistan or be partitioned between India and Pakistan.
  • Muslims and Sikhs were traditional enemies and the possibility that the two communities might be compelled to live together was a fearsome prospect.
  • It is impossible to say who stated the killing, but in December 1946, Muslims attacked the Sikh minority in the north-west part if the Punjab.
  • Roving bands of Muslims scoured villages looking for Sikhs and many Sikhs lost their lives.
  • From the north-west, the frenzy spread to Rawalpindi where the Sikhs were also a small minority.
  • No one knows how many were killed, nor the total numbers massacred in the killings as a whole, but in this early episode they clearly ran into hundreds and possibly thousands.
  • It was against this background that on 3 March 1947, Tara Singh, the Sikh leader, attended a final meeting with the representatives of the Muslim League in Lahore.
  • When Tara Singh emerged from the meeting he stood before a crowd of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, drew his sword and waving it aloft cried ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ (Death to Pakistan)
Migration and Massacre
  • On 17 August 1947, the Radcliffe Boundary Award was announced and at least the various communities knew on which side of the border they stood.
  • At once, populations began to move, Muslims crossing to Pakistan and Sikhs and Hindus into India, and the killing started in earnest.
  • Again, the question of who started it will be debated for as long as the massacres are remembered.
  • Muslims claim the first train to Lahore after the Award was announced attacks by Sikhs and Hindus.
  • Muslims were the victims.
  • Sikhs and Hindus reply that the attacks started earlier and the first massacre was on the Sindh Express as it was about to enter Lahore on 12 August.
  • On that occasion, the victims were Sikhs and Hindus.
  • Countless stories of horror could be told by most towns and villages in the Punjab.
  • No one knows the number killed during the months of migration, though a conservative figure of 250,000 is commonly mentioned.
  • Even the number of those who crossed the border must remain only an approximation.
  • Some say ten million, others as many as sixteen million.
  • People were suddenly uprooted and compelled to move out amidst scenes of appalling suffering.
  • Muslims crossed from India into Pakistan; Hindus and Sikhs moved the other way.
Disharmony in Dehli
  • Gandhi had meanwhile returned to Dehli with the intention of continuing on to the troubled Punjab.
  • But he found Dehli in dire disharmony, with Hindus and Sikhs on the one side and Muslims on the other.
  • His attempts to address the concerns of Dehli’s Muslim minority, however, caused bitterness amongst many Hindus.
  • By the time of his 78th birthday on 2 October, 1947, Gandhi said “I cannot live while hatred and killing mar the atmosphere”.
Gandhi Fasts
  • On 13th January 1948, still in Dehli and deeply distressed by the continuing communal violence there, Gandhi began a fast in attempt to end the hatred.
  • Under the terms of the partition agreement the Indian government was to pay to Pakistan its share of India’s pre-partition assets.
  • As a result of the hostilities which had broken out between the two countries over Kashmir, the Indian government decided to withhold this payment.
  • To Gandhi, this was morally unacceptable and he made the payment a condition for ending his fast.
  • The government quickly came round and both Nehru and Patel visited him at his bedside to promise him the assets would be duly handed over.
  • That was not enough for Gandhi, despite his rapidly worsening condition.
  • He would not break from his fast until the leaders of the various communities promised him all violence in Dehli would cease.
  • Only when this promise was obtained, on the sixth day, did Gandhi end his fast.
  • But not everyone was happy with this decision – many Hindus were infuriated by Gandhi’s concern for Muslims.
  • On 30 January, Gandhi proceeded his evening prayer meeting at Birla House in New Dehli.
  • Nehru later addressed a stunned and unbelieving crowd from the wall outside Birla House.
  • In January 1946, a number of mutinies broke out in the armed services, starting with that of RAF servicemen frustrated with their slow repatriation to Britain.
  • The mutinies came to a head with mutiny of the Royal Indian Navy in Bombay in February 1946, followed by others in Calcutta, Madras, and Karachi.
  • Although the mutinies were rapidly suppressed, they had the effect of spurring the new Labour government in Britain to action, and leading to the Cabinet Mission to India led by the Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick Lawrence, and including Sir Stafford Cripps, who had visited four years before.
  • Also in early 1946, new elections were called in India.
  • Earlier, at the end of the war in 1945, the colonial government had announced the public trial of three senior officers of Subhas Chandra Bose’s defeated Indian National Army who stood accused of treason.
  • Now as the trials began, the Congress leadership, although ambivalent towards the INA, chose to defend the accused officers.
  • The subsequent convictions of the officers, the public outcry against the convictions, and the eventual remission of the sentences, created positive propaganda for the Congress, which only helped in the party’s subsequent electoral victories in eight of the eleven provinces.
  • The negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League, however, stumbled over the issue of the partition.
  • Jinnah proclaimed 16 August 1946, Direct Action Day, with the stated goal of highlighting, peacefully, the demand for a Muslim homeland in British India.
  • However, on the morning of the 16th armed Muslim gangs gathered at the Ochterlony Monument in Calcutta to hear Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the League’s Chief Minister of Bengal, who, in the words of historian Yasmin Khan, “if he did not explicitly incite violence certainly gave the crowd the impression that they could act with impunity, that neither the police nor the military would be called out and that the ministry would turn a blind eye to any action they unleashed in the city.”
  • That very evening, in Calcutta, Hindus were attacked by returning Muslim celebrants, who carried pamphlets distributed earlier showing a clear connection between violence and the demand for Pakistan, and implicating the celebration of Direct Action day directly with the outbreak of the cycle of violence that would be later called the “Great Calcutta Killing of August 1946″.
  • The next day, Hindus struck back and the violence continued for three days in which approximately 4,000 people died (according to official accounts), Hindus and Muslims in equal numbers.
  • Although India had had outbreaks of religious violence between Hindus and Muslims before, the Calcutta killings was the first to display elements of “ethnic cleansing,” in modern parlance.
  • Violence was not confined to the public sphere, but homes were entered, destroyed, and women and children attacked.
  • Although the Government of India and the Congress were both shaken by the course of events, in September, a Congress-led interim government was installed, with Jawaharlal Nehru as united India’s prime minister.
  • The communal violence spread to Bihar (where Muslims were attacked by Hindus), to Noakhali in Bengal (where Hindus were targeted by Muslims), in Garhmukteshwar in the United Provinces (where Muslims were attacked by Hindus), and on to Rawalpindi in March 1947 in which Hindus were attacked or driven out by Muslims.
  • Late in 1946, the Labour government in Britain, its exchequer exhausted by the recently concluded World War II, decided to end British rule of India, and in early 1947 Britain announced its intention of transferring power no later than June 1948.
  • However, with the British army unprepared for the potential for increased violence, the new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, advanced the date for the transfer of power, allowing less than six months for a mutually agreed plan for independence.
  • In June 1947, the nationalist leaders, including Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs, agreed to a partition of the country along religious lines in stark opposition to Gandhi’s views.
  • The predominantly Hindu and Sikh areas were assigned to the new India and predominantly Muslim areas to the new nation of Pakistan; the plan included a partition of the Muslim-majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal.
  • The communal violence that accompanied the announcement of the Radcliffe Line, the line of partition, was even more horrific.
  • Of the violence that accompanied the Partition of India, historians Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh write:
    • “There are numerous eyewitness accounts of the maiming and mutilation of victims. The catalogue of horrors includes the disembowelling of pregnant women, the slamming of babies’ heads against brick walls, the cutting off of victims limbs and genitalia and the display of heads and corpses. While previous communal riots had been deadly, the scale and level of brutality was unprecedented. Although some scholars question the use of the term ‘genocide’ with respect to the Partition massacres, much of the violence manifested as having genocidal tendencies. It was designed to cleanse an existing generation as well as prevent its future reproduction.”
  • On 14 August 1947, the new Dominion of Pakistan came into being, with Muhammad Ali Jinnah sworn in as its first Governor General in Karachi.
  • The following day, 15 August 1947, India, now a smaller Union of India, became an independent country with official ceremonies taking place in New Delhi, and with Jawaharlal Nehru assuming the office of the prime minister, and the viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, staying on as its first Governor General; Gandhi, however, remained in Bengal, preferring instead to work among the new refugees of the partitioned subcontinent.
Gandhi’s Legacy
  • From several points of view Gandhi’s life can be regarded as a failure.
  • He may be regarded as the Father of Modern India, his portrait hanging in government offices and wreathed in flowers as the Indian custom.
  • This is undoubtedly the case, as is the respect shown for him by such world figures as Martin Luther King and President Nelson Mandela.
  • What takes its place in those government offices however is a far cry from his teachings, and likewise the policies followed today by those elsewhere in the world who acknowledge is memory with deep reverence.
  • It is a world which follows entirely different paths from that of Gandhi.
  • He may have made some difference in attitudes towards the untouchables but caste certainly lives on, distinguishing those of high rank from the less fortunate in Indian society.
  • India indeed won its independence, but for Gandhi, Independence Day was spent in sadness and mourning/
  • Relations between Hindus and Muslims in India and India’s relations with Pakistan are far from ideal.


The first meeting of the Indian National Congress, Bombay
The first partition of Bengal
Formation of the Muslim League
Mahatma Gandhi leads the Congress; Non-cooperation Movement
Civil Disobedience Movement
Reforms Enquiry Committee Report
Simon Commission comes to India: Boycott by all parties
Lord Irwin promises Dominion Status for India
Civil Disobedience Movement continues; Salt Satyagraha: Gandhi’s Dandi March; First Round Table Conference
Second Round Table Conference; Irwin-Gandhi Pact; Census of India
Suppression of the Congress movement; Third Round Table Conference
Civil Disobedience Movement called off
The Government of India Act receives Royal Assent
Elections held for provincial assemblies


Gandhi-Jinnah negotiations for the settlement of the communal problem, which began in February, fail
Dec The Muslim League forms a committee of enquiry into alleged Congress persecution of Muslims
3 Sep Viceroy Linlithgow announces that India is at war with Germany
18 Oct Viceroy’s Statement on War Aims and the War Effort: reiterates that goal of British policy is Dominion status for India, but that the 1935 Act is open to modification at the end of the war, in the light of Indian opinion. Offers association of Indian opinion in war effort through consultative group representing the major political parties in British India and the princes.
Oct Resignation of Congress Ministries
22 Dec Observed as ‘Deliverance Day’ from Congress rule by the Muslim League.
23 Mar Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League demands for a separate state for the Muslims of India
May Churchill becomes Prime Minister in Britain
7 Aug Viceroy makes a statement on India’s constitutional development – the August Offer – and announces that more places would be open to representative Indians in an expanded Executive Council and on a new War Advisory Council
Sep Congress and League reject the August Offer
17 Oct Congress launches civil disobedience
Dec Congress civil disobedience prisoners set free
Subhas Chandra Bose forms the Indian National Army
11 Mar British Government announces its decision to send Sir Stafford Cripps to India
30 Mar Cripps proposals published
2 Apr Congress and League reject the Cripps proposals
8-9 Aug Congress launches ‘Quit India movement’ and is declared an unlawful organisation; Gandhi and all members of the Congress Working Commmittee are arrested
Oct Wavell succeeds Linlithgow as Viceroy
9-27 Sep Gandhi-Jinnah talks end in failure
First trial of the Indian National Army men opened
7 May Germany surrenders
15 Jun Imprisoned Congress leaders released
26 Jul Labour Government comes into power in Britain
14 Aug Japan surrenders
Dec-Jan General Elections in India
23 Mar-29 Jun Cabinet Mission visits India
16 May Cabinet Mission announces its constitutional scheme
6 Jun Muslim League accepts Cabinet Mission’s consitutional scheme
16 Jun Cabinet Mission presents scheme for the formation of an interim government at the centre
25 Jun Congress rejects 16 June proposals for an interim government but accepts 16 May scheme, agreeing thereby to join the proposed Constituent Assembly. Muslim League accepts the 16 June scheme and agrees to join the interim government
29 Jul Muslim League passes resolutions retracting its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission plan and calling upon Muslims to observe 16 August as ‘Direct Action Day’
16 Aug ‘Direct Action Day’
16-18 Aug The ‘Great Calcutta Killing’
2 Sept Congress forms the interim government with Nehru as the Vice-President
13 Oct Muslim League decides to join the interim government
25 Oct Interim Government reconsituted
3-6 Dec Aborted London conference of major Indian leaders
9 Dec Consituent Assembly meets without Muslim League members
29 Jan Muslim League demands dissolution of Constituent Assembly.
February Communal rioting in Punjab
20 February Prime Minister Attlee announces the British intention of leaving India by June 1948, and Mountbatten to succeed as Viceroy.
23 February Jinnah declares that the Muslim League will not yield an inch in their demand for Pakistan
4-5 March Outbreak of communal disturbances in Lahore, Multan and other Pujabi towns.
12 March Gandhi begins a tour of the riot-affected areas of Bihar
18 March Prime Minister’s letter sent to Viceroy-designate on the policy and principles in accordance with which power should be transfered
24 March Mountbatten sworn in as Viceroy and governor-General
31 March Viceroy holds the first of five interviews with Gandhi
5 April Viceroy holds the first of six interviews with Jinnah
15-16 April Conference of Governors; approval for draft proposals for the transfer of power
15 April Issue of joint Gandhi-Jinna appeal for abstention from acts of violence and disorder
1 May Nehru acquaints Mountbatten with Congress Working Committee’s reactions to recent developments
18 May Mountbatten leaves for London for talks with Cabinet
28 May Cabinet India and Burma Committee: concluding meeting with Mountbatten
30 May Mountbatten arrives back in Delhi
2 June Mountbatten meets Indian leaders and gives them Partition Plan
3 June Mountbatten, Nehru, Jinnah and Baldev Singh give a broadcast on the Plan over All India Radio
4 June Mountbatten gives a Press Conference on the Plan
5-7 June Mountbatten discusses partition machinery with Indian leaders and Indian Cabinet
12 June First meeting of Partition Committee
20 June Votes in Bengal Legislative Assembly result in decision that Province should be partitioned
25 June Indian Cabinet agrees to establish States Department
4 July Indian Independence Bill is published
9 July Mountbatten advises Attlee of his decision to accept the Governor-Generalship of India
16 July Last meeting of the Interim Government
18 July Indian Independence Bill receives Royal Assent
19 July The Executive Council (Transitional Provisions) Order, reconstituting the Interim Government into two separate groups representing the two successor governments of India and Pakistan, published
11 August Jinnah elected President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan
14 August Pakistan Independence Celebrations in Karachi; Viceroy addresses Pakistan Consituent Assembly
14 – 15 August midnight Power transferred
15 August Jinnah sworn in as Governor-General of Pakistan; Mountbatten sworn in as Governor-General of India; Independence Day Celebrations in Delhi

HSC Past Questions


Account for the rise of communalism in India.


How significant for India were changes in the relationship between Britain and India in the 1930s?


How significant were the campaigns of resistance from 1919–1922 for the growth of Indian nationalism in the 1920s?


To what extent was the Salt Satyagraha responsible for Congress consolidation in the 1930s?


Assess the impact of satyagraha on nationalism in India in the 1920s and 1930s


Account for the demand for Pakistan to be an independent state.


Account for the growth of the All-India Muslim League in the 1930s.


Assess the impact of World War II on the movement towards Indian independence.


Assess the role of Gandhi in changing the nature of British imperialism in India


To what extent were differing views of democracy responsible for the partition of India in 1947?


Assess the view that communalism was more important than nationalism in India in the period 1919–1947.


To what extent was the ‘Quit India’ Movement responsible for the British decision to grant independence?


To what extent did imperialism influence the nature of independence and partition in India in the period 1919–1947?


How significant were Gandhi’s ideas in shaping Indian nationalism in the 1920s?


Assess the significance of the 1930s’ Salt Satyagraha in the development of Indian nationalism.


Evaluate the view that communalism in the 1930s and 1940s ensured the Partition of India in 1947.


Explain why British imperialism was slow to respond to Indian demands for independence in the period up to 1939.


Evaluate the view that Gandhi’s role in the achievement of Indian independence has been exaggerated.


Assess the significance of the 1920–1922 campaign of non-cooperation for Indian resistance to British rule in the period 1920 to 1935.


To what extent was World War II a major factor contributing to the achievement of Indian independence and partition by 1947?

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