THE STRUGGLE FOR SWARAJ: ATTAINMENT OF INDEPENDENCE
The foundation of Indian National Movement was laid by Surendernath Banerjee with the formation of Indian Association at Calcutta in 1876. The aim of the Association was to represent the views of the educated middle class, inspire the Indian community to take a living interest in public affairs and teach the value of united action. Then Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 with the help of A. 0. Hume, a retired officer. First session of Indian National Congress was held in Bombay in December 1885 under the presidentship of W.C. Bannerjee and was attended among others by Dada bhai Noroji and Badruddin Tayyabji. The second session of the Congress was held at Calcutta in 1886 under the presidentship of Dada Bhai Noroji. Soon the congress attracted a galaxy of leaders such as Firoz Shah Mehta, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Gopal Krishna Gokhle and Anand Mohan Bose. The Congress demanded that the Legislative Council be given more powers the members of the councils should be elected representative of the people. That Indians should be recruited to the higher posts, that the civil services examinations should be held in India that economic policies of Indian Government should be modified to facilitate the growth of Indian Industries and that the welfare programmes should be expanded. But the British Government particularly under Viceroy Curzon adopted repressive measures and flouted Indian opinion under its divide and rule policy. The province of Bengal, which included Bihar and parts of Orissa, was partitioned in 1905 and the Muslim dominated East Bengal created. This created a wave of indignation. Swadeshi and the Boycott movements spread to the rest of the country and assumed the shape of powerful agitation. This attracted the wrath of the British who came out with further repressive measures. The Call for Swaraj.
The Congress session at Calcutta in 1906, presided by Dadabhai Noroji, gave a call for attainment of Swaraj-a type of self-government elected by the people within the British Dominion as it prevailed in Canada and Australia, which were the parts of British Empire. The British could not really stomach this demand and arrested many leaders including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat and Bipin Chandra Pal who were later released but Tilak was deposed to Burma for six years.
Meanwhile in 1909, British Government announced certain reforms in the structure of Government in India, which are known as Merely Minto-Reforms. The number of additional members in the central Legislative Council was raised from 16 to 60, of which 27 were to be elected, not only by the people, but by the organization of landlords and industrialists, and separate representation was given to the Muslims. The number of members of the provincial council was also increased.
The Mortey-Minto Reforms came as a disappointment as they did not mark any advance towards the establishment of a representative government. The provision of special representation of the Muslims was seen as a threat to the Hindu-Muslim Unity on which the strength of the National Movement rested. So these reforms were vehemently opposed by all the leaders, including the Muslim leader Mohammed All Jinnah. Subsequently in the Delhi Durbar held in 1991 in honour of King George V, two important, announcements were made firstly the partition of Bengal, which had been affected in 1905, was annulled, and secondly it was announced that the capital of India was to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi.
The disgust with reforms announced in1909 led to the intensification of the struggle for Swaraj. While, on one side, the extremists led by the great leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilk, Lala Lajpat Ray and Bipin Chandra pal waged a virtual war against the British on the other side the revolutionaries stepped up their violent activités. There was a widespread unrest in the country.
Prior to this India fully cooperated with the British in the First world war (1914-1918) in the hope that the British would grant at least Dominion status to India after the war wherein thousands of Indians sacrificed their lives for the British cause. But the British Government, apart from erecting a memorial, in New Delhi in the name of Indian soldiers did nothing to meet the aspirations of Indians. It only responded with Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 whereby the Central Legislative Council came to have two causes via, the Legislative Council and Council of states. These houses were to have majority of elected members, but again these members were to be elected not by the common people, but only the men with property were given the right to vote. All the important powers remained vested with the Governor General who was not responsible to the Indian people. The Government of India Act 1919 introduced dyarchy in the provinces wherein provincial subjects; were divided into two parts, viz., the reserved subjects and transferred subjects while the reserved were entrusted to the charge of senior civil servants, only the transferred subjects were given to the elected representative.
These reforms did not satisfy the aspirations of the Indian people who hoped to achieve Swaraj after the end of the First World War. To add to the already growing discontent among the people Rowlatt Act was passed in 1919 which empowered the Government to put people in jail without trial. This caused widespread indignation and led to massive demonstrations and hartals which the Government repressed with brutal measures. The Jalianwala Bagh massacre of April 13,1919, in which thousands of unarmed peaceful Swarajists were gunned downed on the order of General Dyres also aroused the fury of the Indians people which was again silenced by further brutalities by the British Government
Disgusted with the barbaric firing on the peaceful gathering Rabindra Nath Tagore the great poet novelist, philosopher patriot relinquished the knighthood bestowed upon him by the British as a protest against such inhuman brutality.
Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience—After the first world war, Gandhiji became the undisputed leader of the congress and the organization adopted a new form of struggle against the British. The Non-cooperarion Movement launched in1920was a great success as even the arrests, firings and brutalities of the British could not stem its tide. Meanwhile new leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose also emerged on the scene and advocated adoption of complete independence as the goal of national movement. Under their influence, the national movement became more vociferous and militant but overall quiet prevailed till about1927. The Simon Commission was sent to India in 1927 by the British Government to suggest further reformers in the structure of Indian Government. The Commission did not include any Indian member and the Government showed no intention accepting the demand for Swaraj. Therefore it sparked a wave of protest all over the country and the congress as well as the Muslim league gave a call to buycott it. When the commission arrived in 1928 there were widespread protests. The crowds were lathi-charged and Lala Lajpat Rai Shere Punjab died of the blows received in an agitation.
Civil Disobedience Movement—The India National Congress in its annual session at Lahore in 1929 under the President ship of Jawahar Lai Nehru adopted a resolution demanded a complete independence and decided to launch Civil Disobedience Movement. It also decided to celebrate January 26 as the Independence Day. The observance of Independence Day on January 26, 1930 was followed by the Civil Disobedience Movement, which began with famous Dandi March by Gandhi, in which lakhs of people joined. Government tried to repress the movement and resorted to brutal firing, killing hundreds of people. Thousands were arrested along with Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru. But the movement spread to all the four corners of the country. Following this Round Table conference was arranged by the British and Gandhiji attended the second round table conference at London. But nothing came out of the conference and the civil Disobedience Movement was received.
Subsequently the Government of India Act of1935was passed which introduced a measure of provincial autonomy. The powers of the provincial legislature were increased and ministers were made responsible to the legislatures. The congress participated in the 1937elections. It swept the polls and formed government in many provinces. But at the break of the Second World War in 1939, the congress ministers resigned on the issue of Indian participation in the war without their consent.
Quit India Movement—In 1942 Gandhiji started the Quit India Movement and decided to launch mass civil disobedience movement He gave or die call to force the British to leave India. However all the prominent leaders were arrested? The congress was banned and the police and the army were brought out to suppress the movement. Meanwhile Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who had escaped from India in 1941 organized the Indian National Army.
After the conclusion of Second World War the labour party under the Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee, came to power in Britain. The labour party was largely sympathetic towards Indian people in their struggle for freedom. A cabinet mission was sent to India in March 1946 which, after careful study of the Indian political scenario, proposed the formation of an interim government and convening of a Constituent Assembly comprising members elected by the provincial legislatures and nominees of the Indian states. An Interim Government was formed which was headed by Jawahar Lai Nehru. The Muslim League refused to participate in the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and pressed for the separate state of Pakistan. Lord Mount batten, the viceroy of India, presented a plan for the division of India into India and Pakistan and the Indian had no choice but to accept the demand as Muslim league was adamant. Thus India became free on August 15, 1947.