After 1858, India became officially a British
colony as British crown took control of India from East India Company.
The British crown put a Secretary of State for India in change of India.
Indian Council who had only advisory powers aided him. India was divided
into three administrative zones (Bengal, Madras and Bombay). A number of
administrative and legal changes were introduced. In1861 Indian Councils
Act, High Courts Act and Penal code were passed. British continued to expand
the railways and telegraphic network and in 1868 new Ambala – Delhi railway
line was started.
A combination of administrative failures and
natural factors resulted in large number of famines in India that killed
millions of people -
1861 Famine in North West
1866 Famine in Bengal and Orissa – 1 million
1869 Intense famine in Rajasthan – 1.5 million
1874 Famine in Bihar
1876–78 Famine in Bombay, Madras and Mysore – 5
During this time, India was forced to produce
cash crop, which were to be sold by the British. India was also forced to
accept British goods that destroyed cottage industries. Many peasants had to borrow money to pay the extremely high taxes imposed on them.
1st January 1877, Queen Victoria
was proclaimed Empress of India at a Durbar (assembly of
notables and princes), in Delhi. The Viceroy Lord Lytton represented the
Sovereign, who incidentally never visited her Indian Empire. In1878
Vernacular Press act was introduced in India that imposed severe limitations
on the rights of the press. In the same year there was ‘Rendition of Mysore’
and Mysore was returned to its original Wodeyar rulers. In 1883 the
Ilbert Bill Act was passed which allowed Indian magistrates to try
Europeans. This angered the Europeans and the bill was withdrawn. Indians
suffered from growing unemployment while most well paying jobs were reserved
for the British. Racial discrimination against Indian’s forced the Indian
nationalists into organizing themselves for getting their demands accepted.
renaissance movement – During this period several great saints and
religious leaders were responsible for revival of Hinduism in different
parts of India. Ramkrishna Paramhansa (1836-1886),
and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
led the Hinduism renaissance in Bengal that later spread to other parts of
India. Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1824-1883) formed Arya Samaj, which
became a major religious movement in north India.
Formation of Indian National
Allen Octavian Hume finally formed the
Indian National Congress. The First meeting was in December 1885 in
Bombay. Womesh Chandra Banerjee became the first president of Indian
National Congress. It met every year in December in different parts of the
country. In the early years, the congress used only Petition, Prayer and
Protest to try to get their needs met. In 1891 Indian factory Act was passed
and in 1892 Indian Councils Act was changed to include new provisions for
Bubonic Plague in Bombay, 1896 -1914 and
Indian Famine 1897 -1901:
The epidemic spread from Bombay City, western
and northern India, was hardest hit. Around 200,000 people died of plague in
Bombay alone. Between October 1896 and February 1897, nearly half of
Bombay's estimated 850,000 populations left the city resulting in great loss
to commerce and industrial life and helped the disease to spread in
countryside and other parts of India. Along with plague many parts of India
were devastated by famine during 1897-1901 that killed around 2 million
partition of Bengal
Following the ‘divide and rule’ policy Bengal was divided by the
British, on October 16, 1905, into Hindu and Muslim areas. By doing this
British had hoped to increase tensions between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Lord Curzon was the British governor general at this time. The following
excerpts from Curzon’s letter of 2nd February 1905 to St. John Brodrick,
Secretary of State for India, give an idea of his aims in partitioning
CALCUTTA is the center from which the Congress Party is manipulated
throughout the whole of Bengal, and indeed the whole of India. Its best wire
pullers and its most frothy orators all reside here. The perfection of their
machinery, and the tyranny which it enables them to exercise are truly
remarkable. They dominate public opinion in Calcutta; they affect the High
Court; they frighten the local Government, and they are sometimes not
without serious influence on the Government of India. The whole of their
activity is directed to creating an agency so powerful that they may one day
be able to force a weak government to give them what they desire. Any
measure in consequence that would divide the Bengali-speaking population;
that would permit independent centres of activity and influence to grow up;
that would dethrone Calcutta from its place as the center of successful
intrigue, or that would weaken the influence of the lawyer class, who have
the entire organization in their hands, is intensely and hotly resented by
them. The outcry will be loud and very fierce, but as a native gentleman
said to me – ‘my countrymen always howl until a thing is settled; then they
Protest meetings against the partition were
organized in all parts of the country on and after 16 October 1905.
Partition of Bengal also saw a strong polarization in Indian National
Congress between ‘moderates’ and ‘hardliners’. Moderates such as Gopal
Krishan Gokhale believed in making "loyal"
representations to the government for small reforms, while hardliners like
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak complete freedom or ‘purna swarajya’.
Tilak announced his slogan "Swaraj is my birthright and I shall
have it" in his newspaper and became the speaker for the new group of
nationalists. The primary leaders of the
nationalist movement were Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928) from Punjab,
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) from Maharashtra and Bipin
Chandra Pal from Bengal. Together, they were called Lal-Bal-Pal.
Ajit Singh in Punjab and Chidambaram Pillay in Tamil Nadu were
other important leaders of the Nationalistic Movement.
In 1906, Tilak set forth a program of passive
resistance, known as the Tenets of the New Party, that he hoped would
destroy the hypnotic influence of British rule and prepare the people for
sacrifice in order to gain independence. Mahatma Gandhi later adopted these
forms of political action initiated by Tilak - the boycotting of goods and
passive resistance - in his program of non-cooperation with the British.
The Nationalistic movement adopted the slogan of "Swadeshi and Swaraj".
Swadeshi means our country and promoted the use of Indian products and the
boycott of foreign goods. Swaraj means self-government.
Tilak aimed at Swarajya (Independence), not
piecemeal reforms, and attempted to persuade the Congress to adopt his purna
swarajya program. On this issue, he clashed with the moderates at the Surat
session of the Congress in 1907. Taking advantage of the split in the
nationalist forces, the government again prosecuted Tilak on a charge of
sedition and inciting terrorism and deported him to Mandalay, Burma
(Myanmar), to serve a sentence of six years' imprisonment.
Muslim League (1906)
Many of the Indian Muslims were taken in by
British divisive policy of ‘divide and rule’. Although Muslims had a fair
representation in Congress some of them wanted a separate platform for
Indian Muslims. In 1906 Muslim League was formed to represent Indian
By the partition of Bengal in 1905 British
successfully sowed the seeds of division between Hindus and Muslims that
lead ultimately to the partition of India in 1947. Ghosts of the British
‘divide and rule’ policy, continue to haunt independent India and Pakistan
in present times with continuing tensions and border disputes.
Partition of Bengal created a massive outburst
of public anger against British rule. Intellectual people as well as common
man took part in mass agitation. Poet Rabindranath Tagore actively
supported the movement. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s
‘Bande Matram’ was taken
up as the soul-stirring slogan. Several groups of revolutionaries
started operating in Bengal. Aurobindo Ghosh (later known as Sri
Aurobindo), Rasbihari Bose and Jatindranath Mukherjee (Bagha
Jatin) were some of the important leaders of these revolutionary groups.
Alipore Bomb case
On 30th April, 1908 in Muzzafarpur Bihar,
Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki tried to kill the Chief
Presidency Magistrate Kingsford who was notorious for passing out stiff
sentences against the nationalist activists Kingsford escaped the bomb
attack which unfortunately killed two innocent British ladies died in the
bomb attack. Following a massive manhunt, Khudiram was arrested on 1st May
1908; Prafulla evaded arrest by shooting himself. On 11th August
1908, eighteen-year-old Khudiram Bose was hanged and became a martyr.
Aurobindo Ghosh was arrested on charges of masterminding the attacks on
Kingsford but a young lawyer Chittaranjan Das ably defended him.
Aurobindo later left politics and became a Yogi and philosopher and became
famous as Maharishi Aurobindo or Sri Aurobindo.
A Durbar was held in Delhi on December 12,
1911, to celebrate the visit of King George V. King was welcomed with great
pomp and show and given numerous priceless gifts. In 1911 British government
under pressure from increasing agitations in Bengal and other parts of India
modified the ‘partition of Bengal’ to make again a united Presidency of
Hardinge Bomb case
British shifted the imperial capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. On
December 23, 1912 to mark the entry of the Governor-general of India into
the new Capital, an imperial procession was taken out in Delhi, with Lord
Hardinge seated on a caparisoned elephant. As the procession was passed
through Chandni Chowk, a bomb was thrown on the elephant, killing the
mahawat. Lord Hardinge escaped with injuries. Many persons including
Master Amir Chand, a school teacher of Delhi, Bhai Balmukand,
Master Awadh Behari, Basant Kumar Biswas, Ganeshilal Khasta,Vishnu
Ganesh Pingley, Charan Das, Balraj, Lachhmi Narain Sharma and
Lala Hanwant Sahey, and many others were arrested. L.N Sharma and G.
Khasta were taken to Varanasi and sentenced to life imprisonment. V.G
Pingley was taken to Lahore and was hanged. Master Amir Chand, Bhai
Balmukand and Master Awadh Behari were executed on May 8, 1915 in Delhi Jail
and Basant Kumar Biswas was executed the next day on May 9, 1915 in Ambala
Ras Bihari Bose,
who masterminded the Chandni Chowk incident, escaped to Japan and continued
the struggle against British rule from abroad. He was the President of
Indian Independence League and head of the first Indian National Army (INA)
founded by General Mohan Singh.
In 1914 Britain
became engaged in World War I. Shortly after declaration of war, two
infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade of the Indian Army were sent to
Europe. In all 140,000 men served on the Western Front, 90,000 in the Indian
Corps and 50,000 in the Labor Companies. Indian troops also played important
role in operations in Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Gallipoli. They also
served in the West and East African campaigns and in China.
On 16th June 1914, Bal Gangadhar
Tilak was released after serving a prison sentence of 6 years, most of which
he had spent in Mandalay in Burma. In 1915-1916, under the leadership of
Tilak, Annie Besant and Subramaniya Iyer, the
Home Rule League was started. January 9,
1915, saw the beginning of a new phase in India’s struggle for independence
with arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Bombay from South
Africa. Two major events took place at the Lucknow session of the Indian
Nation Congress in 1916. First, the moderate and hardliner groups were
united. Second, the Muslim League put aside old differences and joined hands
with the Indian National Congress.
Responding to Gandhi’s call for helping
British in World War I, a large number of Indians joined British Indian Army
during 1916-1917. By the end of the World War I in 1918, the numerical
strength of Indians in British Indian Army had increased to nearly 600,000.