Bagh Massacre 1919
responded to the Indian help in World War I by enacting in 1919, The
Rowlatt Act. This allowed the government to imprison anyone without a
trial or a conviction. There were widespread protests to this law. On April
13, 1919, thousands of people gathered peacefully in protest against this
law in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar Punjab. British troops marched to the park
accompanied by an armored vehicle on which machine guns were mounted. The
vehicle was unable to enter the park compound due to the narrow entrance.
The troops were under the command of General Reginald Edward Harry
Dyer. He ordered his men to open fire on the peaceful gathering. Since
there was no other exit but the one already manned by the troops, people
desperately tried to exit the park by trying to climb the walls of the park.
Some people also jumped into a well to escape the bullets. More than a
thousands people including women and children were massacred. Sir Michael
O’Dwyer, who was The Governor of the Punjab region, supported the
massacre. The event was condemned worldwide and General Dyer was summoned to
London the Hunter Commission in 1920, found him guilty. However, the British
Parliament cleared his name and even praised his ruthlessness. Many Britons
raised a fund in his honor.
Massacre’ catalyzed the militant movement against
British rule and paved the way for Gandhi’s
against the British in 1920. After the end of World War I Turkish Khalifa
was removed, which led to a worldwide protest by Muslims. Under the
leadership of the Ali Brothers, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat
Ali, the Muslims of South Asia launched the historic Khilafat Movement.
Gandhi linked the issue of Swaraj with the Khilafat issue to bring Hindus
and Muslim together in one movement. The Civil Disobedience or
Non-cooperation movement was started. The ensuing movement was the first
countrywide popular movement. It began with returning of honorary titles
given by the British and then continued to a boycott of the legislatures,
elections and government works. Foreign clothes were burned and Khadi (home
woven cloth) became a symbol of freedom. By the end of 1921, all of the
important leaders, except Gandhi were in jail. In February 1922, at
Chaurichaura, Uttar Pradesh, violence erupted and Gandhi called off the
movement. He was then arrested and the movement ended.
Ranjan Das, along with Motilal Nehru,
founded the Swaraj Party in 1923 for
maintaining of continued participation in legislative councils. The party
was soon recognized as the parliamentary wing of the Congress. In Bengal
many of the candidates fielded by the Swaraj Party were elected to office.
The Governor invited C.R. Das to form a government but he declined. The
party came to be a powerful opposition in the Bengal Legislative Council and
inflicted defeats on three ministries. The Calcutta Municipal Act of 1923
was a major landmark in the history of local self-government in India. The
Swarajists were elected to the Calcutta Corporation in a majority in 1924.
Deshbandhu was elected mayor and Subash Chandra Bose was appointed
Chief Executive Officer. The leaders of Swaraj Party began to advocate for
dominion status to India. Many of the elected deputies soon forgot
about obstruction and began cooperating with the government (tariff autonomy
bill passed, 1923). In 1924 Gandhi was released from prison due to poor
health and was elected President of the Indian National Congress. 1925 saw
the first woman becoming the president of Indian National Congress when
Sarojini Naidu was elected President for the Kanpur session.
Revolutionary Movement in India during 1920s and 1930s
revolutionaries in northern India organized under the leadership of the old
veterans, Ramprasad Bismil, Jogesh Chatterjee, Chandrashekhar Azad and
Sachindranath Sanyal whose ‘Bandi Jiwani’ served as a textbook to the
revolutionary movement. They met in Kanpur in October 1924 and founded the
Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) to organize armed revolution to
overthrow colonial rule and establish in its place a Federal Republic of the
United States of India.
in January 1924 tried to assassinate Charles Tegart, the hated Police
Commissioner of Calcutta. By an error, another Englishman named Day was
killed. Gopinath Saha was arrested and executed despite large-scale
protests. The most important action of the HRA was the Kakori train episode.
On 9 August. 1925, ten men up the 8-Down train at Kakori, an obscure village
near Lucknow, looted its official railway treasury. The Government reaction
was quick and hard. It arrested a large number of young men and tried them
in the Kakori case, Ashfaqullah Khan, Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh,
Rajendra Lahiri were hanged, four others were sent to the Andaman for
life and seventeen others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
Chandrashekhar Azad remained at large. In 1927, the Simon Commission
was appointed by the British Government to suggest political reforms in
India. Sir John Simon and six other members of the commission were British.
At the Congress meeting in Madras in 1927, it was decided to boycott the
commission. Formation of Simon Commission led to large-scale protests all
The Kakori case
was a major setback to the revolutionaries of northern India. But soon young
men such as Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Varma and Jaidev Kapur in U.P.,
Bhagat Singh, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Sukhdev in Punjab set out to
reorganize the HRA under the overall leadership of Chandrashekhar Azad.
Finally nearly all the major young revolutionaries of northern India met a
Ferozeshah Kotla Ground at Delhi on 9 and 10 September 1928, created a new
collective leadership adopted socialism as their official goal and changed
the name of the party to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HRSA).
Rai's died, as the result of a brutal lathi-charge
when he was leading an anti-Simon Commission demonstration at Lahore on 30
October 1928. The romantic youthful leadership of the HSRA saw the death of
this great Punjabi leader, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab, as a direct
challenge. And so, on 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru
assassinated, at Lahore, Saunders, a police official involved in deadly
lathi-charge on Lala Lajpat Rai.
Bhagat Singh and
Batukeshwar Dutt threw a bomb in the Central
Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929 protesting against the passage of the
Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill that would reduce the civil
liberties of citizens. The aim was not to kill, for the bombs were
relatively harmless.The leaflet they threw into the Assembly hall said “If
the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be very loud’. The objective was to
get arrested and to use trial court as a forum for propaganda so that people
would become familiar with their movement and ideology. Bhagat Singh and
B.K. Dutt were tried in the Assembly Bomb
Sukhdev, Rajguru and many other revolutionaries were tried in a series of
conspiracy cases. During the trial they said - “When we dropped the bomb,
it was not our intention to kill anybody. We have bombed the British
Government. The British must quit India and make her free." Their
fearless and defiant attitude in the courts and their slogans 'Inquilab
Zindabad,' songs such as 'Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein
hain' and 'Mera rang de basanti chola' became very popular all
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru & Sukhdev became symbols for Indian
struggle against British rule. They became an inspiration for many youths
who wanted to see India independent. Sukhdev and Rajguru were
executed on 23rd March 1931 and Bhagat Singh on 24th March
1931. Millions of people in India wept and refused to eat food, attend
schools, or carry on their daily work, when they heard of their hanging.
Chandrashekhar Azad had escaped from getting arrested and he continued
to organize the revolutionary youths. But on 27th February 1931 Azad was
betrayed by an informer and was encircled by a huge posse of British troops
in the Alfred Park, Allahabad. He was asked to surrender but Azad refused.
For several hours he alone fought against hundreds of policemen. He kept on
fighting till the last bullet. Finding no other alternative, except
surrender, Azad shot himself.
A large number
of revolutionaries were convicted in the Lahore conspiracy Case and other
similar cases and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment many of them were
sent to the Andamans. The revolutionary under-trials went on hunger strike
protesting against the horrible conditions in jails. They demanded that they
be treated as political prisoners and not as criminals. On 13th September,
after 64 days of an epic hunger strike Jatin Das, the iron willed
young man from Bengal died. The entire nation rallied behind the hunger
strikers. Thousands came to pay homage at every station passed by the train
carrying his body from Lahore to Calcutta. At Calcutta, a two-mile-long
procession of more than half a million people carried his coffin to the
Satyagraha Movement of Gandhi
and rise of Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru
Patel, qualified as a barrister in 1913 and returned to India to a lucrative
practice in Ahmedabad. But soon following Gandhi’s footsteps, Vallabhbhai
took to spinning the charkha, boycotted foreign goods and clothes and burned
his foreign possessions on public bonfires. He even discarded the western
dresses he once so coveted. The relationship between Gandhiji and
Vallabhbhai was concretely defined when Gandhiji was elected the President
of the Gujarat Sabha and Vallabhbhai the Secretary, in 1917. He participated
in the Nagpur flag satyagraha from May to August in 1923 in protest against
the stopping of a procession which carried the national flag. In 1928,
Vallabhbhai once again came to the rescue of the farmers, this time it was
in Bardoli, which was then a part of Surat district. The Government
increased the tax on the land. Those who were not able to pay the high
taxes, their lands were confiscated. Vallabhbhai urged the farmers not to
pay, declaring the hike unjust. He prepared the farmers for satyagraha. The
Satyagraha continued for six months. Finally the government agreed to hold
an inquiry into the justification of the tax hike, released the satyagrahis
and returned all confiscated items back to the farmers. So pleased was
Gandhiji with Vallabhbhai's effort that he gave him the title of "Sardar" or
Lord Irwin promises Dominion Status for India. This year also saw the rise
of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was destined to become the first prime
minister of free India. Jawaharlal Nehru was son of congress leader Motilal
Nehru. Jawaharlal was educated in Britain from where he graduated as a
barrister. After the Jalianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, he joined the freedom
struggle. In the Lahore session of Congress in 1929, under President
Jawaharlal Nehru, the resolution of "Poorna Swaraj", Complete
Independence, was adopted. On December 21, 1929, the Trianga (tricolor) flag
was unfurled. On January 26, 1930, the first Independence Day was
celebrated. The Civil disobedience movement was started as well as the
movement to no longer submit to British Rule. Nehru spent most of the period
from 1930 to 1936 in jail for conducting civil disobedience campaigns.
On March 12,
1930, Gandhi marched from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, to protest
against ‘state monopoly on salt’ often called the Dandi march. The
march was 375 km and took 26 days. As a result of this march, all of India
joined the campaign to boycott foreign goods and refused to pay taxes.
Sardar Patel left for Dandi to prepare for Gandhiji's Salt satyagraha.
He went to villages to organize for the food and lodging of the marchers. In
every village he went, he made stirring speeches, rousing the people to join
the march to Dandi. The Government swooped down and arrested him while he
was in the village of Ras. This was Sardar Patel's first prison sentence.
Ghafar Khan started the Khudai Kidmatgar movement
in the NorthWest of India. The government imprisoned 90,000 people that were
participating in the movement in the first year.
Conferences and Gandhi Irwin Pact
Table Conferences was held in November 1930 was
attended by eighty-nine delegates from different religious, political groups
and princely states. The Indian National Congress, then engaged in civil
disobedience, was not represented. Lacking representation from the Congress
and preoccupied with problems of federation, the first conference adjourned
in January 1931, without having made appreciable progress on the issue of
communal representation. Sardar Patel, was released after the
Gandhi-Irwin pact of March 1931. Gandhi signed the Pact on behalf of the
Congress and by Lord Irwin on behalf of the Government. The terms of the
agreement included the immediate release of all political prisoners not
convicted for violence, the remission of all fines not yet collected, the
return of confiscated lands not yet sold to third parties, and lenient
treatment for those government employees who had resigned. British
Government also conceded the right to make salt for consumption to villages
long the coast, as also the right to peaceful and non-aggressive picketing.
That year Sardar Patel presided over the Congress session in Karachi.
round table conference opened in London on September 7, 1931. Two
committees were formed during the conference - committees on federal
structure and minorities. Gandhi was a member of both and he claimed that he
represented all India and dismissed other Indian delegates as
non-representative because they did not belong to the Congress. There was
serious disagreement on communal representation issue between Congress and
other minority groups. Gandhi returned from the conference and continued the
civil disobedience movement and was arrested again. The third
round table conference began on November 17, 1932. It was short and
unimportant. The Congress, and the Labor opposition in the British
Parliament were both absent. Reports of the various committees were
scrutinized. The conference ended on December 25, 1932.
Continuing revolutionary struggle and role of women revolutionaries
Most historians write about the dominant role of Gandhi and Congress during
the Indian freedom movement of 1930s but only a few mention the
revolutionary movement that continued in different parts of India. Some of
these revolutionary leaders worked in congress but later got disillusioned
by Gandhi’s non-violent satyagraha. Among the new 'Revolutionary Groups',
the most active and famous was the Chittagong group led by Surya Sen.
He actively participated in the non-cooperation movement and was popularly
known as ‘Masterda’. Arrested and imprisoned for two years, from 1926
to 1928, for revolutionary activities, he continued to work in the Congress.
On 18th April 1930, a group of fivety-six revolutionaries under the leader
ship of Surya Sen, Ganesh Ghosh and Loknath Baul captured two
police armories in Chittagong. They hoisted the National Flag among shouts
of Bande Mataram and Inquilab Zindabad and proclaimed
Provisional Revolutionary Government. It was on the Jalalabad Hill that
over a thousand British government troops surrounded them on the afternoon
of 22 April. After a fierce fight, in which over eighty British troops and
twelve revolutionaries died, Surya Sen decided to disperse to the
neighbouring village there they formed into small groups and conducted raids
on Government personnel and property. They continued their fight against
British army for over 3 years. Surya Sen was finally arrested on 16
February 1933, tried and hanged on 12th January 1934.
participation of young women in freedom struggle under Surya Sen's
leadership characterized this phase of revolutionary movement. These women
provided shelters, acted as messengers and fought guns in hand.
Preetilata Waddekar died while conducting a raid, while Kalpana Dutt
was arrested and tried along with Surya Sen and given a life sentence. In
December 1931, two schoolgirls of Kummilla in Bengal, Shanti Ghosh
and Suneeti Chaudhary, shot dead the district magistrates. In
December 1932, Beena Das fired point blank at the Governor while
receiving her degree at the convocation. In Nagaland, Rani Gaidilita,
a 13-year girl raised a flag against the British and was put into prison for
life in 1932.
Government of India Act 1935 and formation of Provincial Legislative
In 1935, the
Government of India Act was passed in the British Parliament. This created
an All-Indian Federation based on provincial autonomy. The Congress swept 7
out of 11 of the provinces in July 1937. The Muslim League which claimed to
represent Indian Muslims, secured less then a quarter of the seats reserved
for Muslims. While, political prisoners were released and civil liberties
promoted, the limitations on the Act of 1935 few real achievements were
made. The Muslim League fared poorly in the elections. Muhammad Ali
Jinnah, the permanent president of the Muslim League, began rumors that
the Muslim minority was in danger under the Hindu majority and promoted a
two separate nation plan. In 1940, the Muslim League passed a resolution
demanding Pakistan after as a separate country after Independence.
Subhash Chandra Bose in Indian freedom movement
Bose was born in 1897. He was selected for Indian
civil services but resigned from it and returned to India in 1921. He joined
Swarjya Party of C.R. Das in Gaya Congress in 1922. In 1930 he was elected
Mayor of Calcutta and became a prominent leader of Indian freedom movement.
During 1933-36 Subhash Bose met several prominent European leaders and tried
to persuade them to help India in its freedom struggle against British
colonialism. Many people questioned Gandhi’s leadership. Subhash Chandra
Bose and Vithalbhai Patel (brother of Sardar Patel) in a strong
statement had said in 1933 that 'Mr. Gandhi as a political leader has
failed' and called for 'a radical reorganization of the Congress on a new
principle with a new method, for which a new leader is essential.' Subhash
returned to India in 1936 and was arrested. In 1938 he was elected as
the President of Indian Congress and made the historic speech in Haripura
convention. Subhash brought new ideas to the Congress and wanted a quick
move towards launching a freedom struggle. Gandhi and Nehru were in favor of
helping British during World War II and against any serious movement that
could harm British War efforts. Subhash Bose strongly opposed this idea.
Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, J.B. Kripalani, Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi
supported Pattabhi Sitaramayya as a candidate for the post of Congress
president against Subhash in 1939. Subhas Bose was elected on 29th January
by 1580 votes against 1377. Gandhi declared that 'Pattabhi's defeat is my
defeat'. Not wanting to embarrass these leaders and due to strong policy
differences with Gandhi and Nehru, Subhash resigned and formed the new
organization Forward Block. Subhash later became President of Indian
National Army, which played a crucial role during last part of Indian
British Involvement in World War II and Quit India Movement
1st., 1939, German troops invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war
against Germany on September 3rd 1939. Beginning of World War II hastened
the end of British rule in India. During World War II, Congress stated that
if it wanted India's cooperation, it must give India the right of
self-determination. The British refused and in 1939 Congress led provincial
ministries resigned. Role of Gandhi during this period was again
controversial. In October 1940, Gandhi called for limited Satyagraha so the
movement did not seriously harm the British war effort. Many of his closest
colleagues and the rank and file in the Indian National Congress could not
bring themselves to accept the feasibility of defending the country against
aggression without resort to arms. During the war whenever there was a
possibility of a rapprochement between the Congress and the Government for a
united war effort, Gandhi stepped aside.
had witnessed his brother being killed in the Jalianwala massacre as a
child. Twenty-one years later he took the revenge for that massacre by
killing Sir Michael O'Dwyer on 13th March 1940. Sir Michael O'Dwyer was the
governor of Punjab at the time of Jalianwala Bagh massacre and had strongly
supported the massacre. Udham Singh was captured and executed On July 31,
Stafford Cripps lead the Cripps Mission, promised Dominion Status
with the right of secession but refused to allow immediate transfer of
power. The Indian leaders refused to accept promises. Under tremendous
pressure from his colleagues in Congress Gandhi agreed for a mass
independent movement. The Quit India resolution was passed in 1942,
Bombay session of Congress. Gandhi stressed, "We shall either free India or
die in the attempt. We shall not live to see the perpetuation of our
slavery". This is famously known as "Do or Die". This was declared illegal
by British government and all of the prominent leaders were arrested. There
were revolts all around India with the slogan of
"British Quit India".
Role of Indian National Army
Mohan Singh, an
Indian officer of the British Indian Army who did not join the retreating
British army in Malaya first conceived the idea of the Indian National Army
and asked for Japanese help. Indian prisoners of war were handed over by the
Japanese to Mohan Singh who then tried to recruit them into an Indian
National Army. On 1 September 1942, the first division of the INA was formed
with 16,300 men. But later due to differences with Japanese Mohan Singh was
arrested. Accompanied by Rashbehari Bose, Netaji arrived at Singapore from
Tokyo on 27 June. He was given a tumultuous welcome by the resident Indians
and was profusely 'garlanded' wherever he went. His speeches kept the
listeners spellbound. By now, a legend had grown around him, and its magic
infected his audiences. He went to Tokyo and Prime Minister Tojo declared
that Japan had no territorial designs on India. The Provisional Government
of Free India was formed on 21 October 1943. INA was now known as Azad Hind
Fauz (Free India Army) It was reorganized with the creation of a second INA
division and even a women’s regiment known as Rani Jhansi regiment was
created. Subhash Chandra Bose was popularly called ‘Netaji’ by his
followers. His call of ‘ Tum mujhe Khun dou mai tumhe Azadi dunga’(I
promise you freedom, if you are ready to spill your blood) encouraged
thousands youths to join the freedom movement.
Government of free India formed under ‘Netaji’ declared war on Britain. In
March - April 1944 INA set its foot inside India and captured large parts of
Manipur. On April 6th 1944 Kohima, a major city was captured. Indian
tricolor (flag) was raised inside free India. But soon the balance of power
in World War II shifted in favor of British and allied forces. With defeat
of Japan and German forces the INA was forced to retreat from Kohima.
Thousands of INA soldiers died fighting British and many were captured.
Despite the defeat Subhas Chandra Bose and his INA became household names
throughout the country as the British prosecuted the returning soldiers.
Subhash Chandra Bose escaped to Japan and some reports say he died in an
air-crash while others say he survived the air-crash. His ultimate fate
remains unknown till date.
leading to partition and independence of India
of Bengal in 1905 had sowed the seeds of division of India. Many Muslim
leaders had started entertaining the idea of a separate Muslim dominated
country. Gandhi’s initial stand was that India should not be partitioned
into two nations after Independence. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the leader of
Muslim League, a self-proclaimed champion of Muslim cause. Although Muslim
League never had popular support amongst Indian Muslims, British always
supported Muslim League. The Muslim League adopted the Pakistan demand in
its Lahore resolution in 1940. The demand stated that the
geographically contiguous regions of India where the Muslims are a majority
like the North West and the Eastern side of India should be constituted as
On September 19,
1944, Gandhi-Jinnah talks began in Bombay over partition of India and
creation of Pakistan. Gandhi insisted that he came in his personal capacity
and was not representing Hindus or Congress. During the talks Jinaah
insisted on the need for a separate Muslim state (Pakistan) while Gandhi
tried to impress that India needs to remain a united one country. Talks
ended on September 24, 1944 without any conclusion.
On the 21st of
February 1946, mutiny broke out on board the Royal Indian Navy. Mutiny in
Royal Indian Navy was quickly controlled. Mutiny in Royal Indian Navy
only highlighted the amount of discontent amongst the Indian troops who were
serving British Raj. As a result of the Indian National Army’s exploits in
World War II, British had already started doubting the loyalty of the
British Indian soldiers who formed the bulk of troops in India. Afraid of
further revolts in armed forces British planned to quickly hand over power
to Indian political establishment. Events like INA’s capture of Kohima in
World War II and Indian Navy mutiny were probably not significant militarily
but were a psychological blow to the confidence of British government, which
hastened Indian Independence.
plan (1946) - To end the dead lock between
Congress and Muslim League on the issue of creation of Pakistan, British
Government sent a group of ministers. The mission consisted of Lord Pethic
Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President
of the Board of Trade, and A. V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty.
The main points
of the plan were:
would be a union of India comprising both British India and the Indian
States that would deal with foreign affairs, defense and communications.
The union would have an Executive and a Legislature.
residuary powers would belong to the provinces.
provinces would be divided into three sections. Provinces could opt out
of any group after the first general elections.
would also be an interim government having the support of the major
and Muslim League agreed to the Cabinet mission plan. But Jawaharlal Nehru
made an astonishing statement while addressing a press conference on July
10. He said that the Congress had agreed to join the constituent assembly,
but it would be free to make changes in the Cabinet Mission Plan.
Muslim League who were forced to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan earlier now
pounced on the blunder made by Jawaharlal Nehru. Muslim League disassociated
itself from the Cabinet Plan and resorted to "Direct Action" to achieve
invited the Congress to join the interim government.
On 16th August
1946, mob violence and rioting erupted in Calcutta and many people died. On
October 14, 1946, to reduce the increasing communal tension Lord Wavell,
invited Muslim League participate in the interim Government led by Congress.
made by Nehru was to give the post of Finance Minister to Muslim League
nominee Liaquat Ali Khan who tried to win the favor of Indian Muslims by
presenting a budget that favored Muslims.
On December 9,
1946 the Congress started framing the Indian
Constitution. On March 22, 1947, Lord Mountbatten arrived as the last
Viceroy. It was announced that power would be transferred from British to
Indian hands by June 1948. Lord Mountbatten entered into a series of talks
with the Congress and the Muslim League leaders. Jinnah insisted on creation
of Pakistan as a separate country for Indian Muslims. Congress also agreed
to the partition of India. Gandhi who had previously said that India would
be partitioned over my ‘dead body’ now agreed to the partition plan.
Mountbatten now prepared for the partition of the Sub-continent and
announced it on June 3, 1947. The Congress and the Muslem League agreed that
India would become free on August 15, 1947. The country would be partitioned
under the guidance of the Red Cliff Mission.
On 15th August
1947 India became an independent country and
Pakistan was also formed. Jawaharlal Nehru took oath as the first Prime
Minister of Independent India. Massive exodus of population from Islamic
Pakistan to India took place. Nearly the whole Hindu population living in
Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh and East Bengal migrated to India. Large numbers
of Hindus were killed in the riots in Pakistan and many others were forcibly
converted to Islam. Only a few Hindus survived in Islamic republic of
Pakistan. Muslims from Independent India also migrated to Pakistan and many
Muslims were killed in riots that took place in India. But majority of
Muslims preferred to stay in India and were given equal rights in secular
India. The Muslim population of Independent India was much bigger than that
of Independent Pakistan. Indian independence was scarred by the trauma and
bloodshed of partition.