IAS Resources

IAS Score

Middle Phase of the Freedom Struggle (1915-1930)

Indian National Movement - II (1918-1929)

Middle Phase of the Freedom Struggle (1915-1930)

• The decisive phase of the Nationalist Movement [1917-1947] began when Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa in January 1915. This phase is also known as the Gandhian Era.
• During this period Mahatma Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the National Movement.
• His principles of non-violence and Satyagraha were employed against the British Government. Gandhi made the nationalist movement a mass movement.
• Gandhiji was greatly influenced by the works of Leo Tolstoy’s Civil Disobedience and Ruskin’s ‘unto to the last’.
• Tolstoy’s ideal of non-possession was developed by Gandhiji in his concept of ‘trusteeship’.
• He was also influenced by the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
• His political Guru Gokhale and Dadabhai Naroji also influenced him.
• Besides he had an experience of struggle in South Africa during (1894-1914). He came to India in 1915.
• His non-violent satyagraha involved peaceful violation of specific laws.
• He resorted to mass courting arrest and occasional hartals and spectacular marches.
• He had readiness for negotiations and compromise.
• His struggle against foreign rule is popularly known as ‘struggle-truce-struggle’.
During the course of 1917 and early 1918, Gandhiji was involved in three significant struggles:
A. Champaran Satyagraha (1917)
• Gandhi’s first great experiment in satyagraha came in 1917 in Champaran, a district in Bihar.
• The peasantry on the indigo plantations in the district was excessively oppressed by the European planters and were compelled to grow indigo on at least 3/20th of their land and so sell it at prices fixed by the planters.
• This system was popularly known as ‘Tin-Kathia system’.
• Several peasants of Champaran invited Gandhi to come and help them.
• Accompanied by Babu Rajendra Prasad, Mazhar-ul-Huq, J.B. Kripalani, Narhari Parekh and Mahadev Desai, Gandhji reached Champaran in 1917 and through his method and efforts, the disabilities from which the peasantry was suffering were reduced and Gandhiji won his first battle of civil disobedience in India.
B. Ahmadabad Mill Strike (1918)
• Gandhiji did his second experiment at Ahmadabad in 1918 when he had to intervene in a dispute between the workers and the mill-owners.
• He advised the workers to go on strike and to demand a 35 per cent increase in wages.
• He insisted that the workers should not use violence against the employers during the strike.
• He undertook a fast unto death to strengthen the workers’ resolve to continue the strike.
• This put pressure on the mill owners who relented on the fourth day and agreed to give the workers a 35 per cent increase in wages.
C. Kheda Satyagraha (1918)
• The farmers of Kheda district in Gujarat were in distress because of the failure of crops.
• The government refused to remit land revenue and insisted on its full collection.
• As part of the experiment, Mahatma Gandhi advised the peasants to withhold payment of revenue till their demand for its remission was met.
• The struggle was withdrawn when it was learnt that the government had issued instructions that revenue should be recovered only from those peasants who could afford to pay.
• Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became the follower of Gandhiji during the Kheda movement.

The Government of India Act, 1919

• In order to give effect to the August Declaration of 1917, Montague along with the viceroy, Lord Chelmsford prepared a scheme of constitutional reforms, which came to be known as Montague Chelmsford Reforms.
• On the basis of the Montague Chelmsford Reforms, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act, 1919. Its major provisions were:
Dyarchy system introduced in the provinces. It was considered to be a substantial step towards transfer of power to the Indians). The Provincial subjects of administration were to be divided into two categories: Transferred and Reserved.
– The Transferred subjects were to be administered by the Governor with the aid of ministers responsible to the Legislative Council. The Governor and the Executive Council were to administer the reserved subjects without any responsibility to the legislature.
Devolution Rules: Subjects of administration were divided into two categories – Central and Provincial. Subjects of all India importance (like railways and finance) were brought under the category of Central, while matters relating to the administration of the provinces were classified as Provincial.
– The Provincial Legislature was to consist of one House only (Legislative Council).
– The number of Indians in the Governor General’s Executive Council was raised to three in a Council of eight. The Indian members were entrusted with departments such as Law, Education, Labour, Health and Industries.
– The Centre was now to have a Bicameral Legislature for the first time. It actually happened after 1935 Act.
– Communal representation extended to Sikhs, Christians, Anglo – Indians, etc. Secretary of State to be henceforth paid salary out of the British revenue.

Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919)

• In 1917, a committee was set up under the presidentship of Sir Sydney Rowlatt to look into the militant Nationalist activities.
• On the basis of its report the Rowlatt Act was passed in March 1919 by the Central Legislative Council.
• The Rowlatt Act curtailed the liberty of the people and was called the Black Act.
• The Bill provided for speedy trial of offences by a special court of 3 High court judges. There was to be no appeal.
• The provincial government had powers to search a place and arrest a suspected person without warrant. These gave unbridled powers to the government to arrest and imprison suspects without trial for two years maximum.
• This law enabled the Government to suspend the right of Habeas Corpus, which had the foundation of civil liberties in Britain.
• It caused a wave of anger in all sections spreading a country-wide agitation by Gandhiji and marked the foundation of the Non-Cooperation Movement. Gandhiji organised the Satyagraha on 14th February, 1919.
• On 8th April, 1919 Gandhiji was arrested.
• In Punjab, there was an unprecedented support to the Rowlatt Satyagraha.
• Two prominent leaders of Punjab, Dr Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, were arrested in Amritsar.
• Facing a violent situation, the Government of Punjab handed over the administration to the military authorities under General Dyer who banned all public meetings and detained the political leaders.
• On 13th April, the Baisakhi day (harvest festival), a public meeting was organized at the Jallianwala Bagh.
• Dyer marched in and without any warning opened fire on the crowd which continued for about 10 to 15 minutes and it stopped only after the ammunition exhausted.
• According to official report 379 people were killed and 1137 wounded in the incident.
• There was a nationwide protest against this massacre and Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood as a protest.
• The Hunter Commission was appointed to enquire into the matter.
• On 13 March, 1940, Sardar Udham Singh killed O’ Dyer when the latter was addressing a meeting in Caxton Hall, London.
• The Jallianwala Bagh massacre gave a tremendous impetus to the freedom struggle and became a turning point in the history of India’s freedom movement.

Khilafat Movement

• Turkey was defeated in the First World War and the harsh terms of the Treaty of Sevres (1920) was felt by the Muslims as a great insult to them.
• The whole movement was based on the Muslim belief that the Caliph (the Sultan of Turkey) was the religious head of the Muslims all over the world.
• The main objective of the Khilafat movement was to force the British government change its attitude towards Turkey and restore the Khalifa to his former position.
• The Muslims in India were upset over the British attitude against Turkey and launched the Khilafat Movement which was jointly led by the Khilafat leaders and the Congress.
• Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, M.A. Ansari, Saifuddin Kitchlew and the Ali brothers were the prominent leaders of this movement.
• A Khilafat Committee was formed and on 19th October 1919, the whole country observed the Khilafat day.
• On 23 November 1919, a joint conference of the Hindus and the Muslims held under the chairmanship of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was particularly interested in bringing the Hindus and the Muslims together to achieve the country’s independence.
• In February 1920, Gandhiji suggested to Khilafat Committee that it adopt a programme of nonviolent non-cooperation to protest the Government’s behavior.
• On 9 June, 1920 the Khilafat Committee at Allahabad unanimously accepted the suggestion of non-cooperation and asked Gandhiji to lead the movement.
• Four stages of non-cooperation were surrender of titles and honorary positions, resignation from civil services under the Government, resignation from Police and Army services and non-payment of taxes.
• Gandhiji pressed the Congress to adopt a similar plan of action, although it was initially opposed by C.R. Das, but was later accepted by all.
• Mean while, the Khilafat movement lost its relevance because Mustafa Kamal Pasha abolished Khilafat and made Turkey a secular state.
• Subsequently, the Khilafat Movement merged with the Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920.

The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22)

• The movement was launched formally on 1 August, 1920, by Gandhiji.
• He announced his plan to begin Non-Cooperation with the government as a sequel to the Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Khilafat Movement.
• The main resolution on non-cooperation was moved by C.R. Das and approved by the Indian National Congress at the Nagpur session in December, 1920.
The programs of the Non-Cooperation Movement were:
• Surrender of titles and honors
• Boycott of government affiliated schools and colleges
• Boycott of law courts
• Boycott of foreign cloth
• Resignation from government service
• Mass civil disobedience
• Non-payment of taxes
• National schools and colleges were to be set up
• Panchayats were to be established for settling disputes
• Hand-spinning and weaving was to be encouraged
• People were asked to maintain Hindu-Muslim unity
• Give up untouchability
• Observe strict non-violence
Course of Action
• The Nagpur session, thus, committed Congress to a programme of extra-constitutional mass action.
• Many groups of revolutionary terriorists, especially in Bengal, also pledged support to the movement.
• The educational boycott was particularly successful in Bengal, where the students in Calcutta triggered off a province-wide strike to force the managements of their institutions to disaffiliate themselves from the Governments.
• C.R. Das played a major role in promoting the movement and Subhas Bose became the principal of the National College in Calcutta.
• Punjab, too responded to the educational boycott and was second only to Bengal, Lala Lajpat Rai playing a leading part here despite his initial reservations about this item of the programme.
• Other areas that were active were Bombay, U.P., Bihar, Orissa and Assam. Madras remained lukewarm.
• Many leading lawyers of the country like C.R.Das. Motilal Nehru, M.R. Jayakar, Saifudding Kitchlew, Vallabhbhai Patel, C Rajagophlachari, T.Prakasam and Asaf Ali gave up their practices.
• The most successful item of the programme was the boycott of foreign cloth. Picketing of shops selling foreign cloth was also a major form of the boycott.
• Another feature of the movement which acquired great popularity in many parts of the country, even though it was not part of the original plan, was the picketing of toddy shops.
• The Prince of Wales visited India during this period but he was greeted with empty streets and downed shutters when he came on 17 November, 1921.
• In Malabar in Kerala Non-cooperation and Khilafat propaganda helped to rouse the Muslims tenants against their landlords.
• In Assam, laborers on tea plantations went on strike.
• There were strikes on the steamer service and on the Assam-Bengal Railway as well.
• In Midnapur, a cultivators strike against a White zamindari company was led by a Calcutta medical student in defiance of forest laws became popular in Andhra.
• Peasants and tribals in some of the Rajasthan states began movements for securing better conditions of life.
• In Punjab, the Akali movement for wresting control of the gurdwaras from the mahants was a part of the general movement of Non-cooperation, based on strict non-violence in the face of tremendous repression.
• By December, the Government announced the Congress and the Khilafat Committees as illegal and arrested all those who participated in the movement.
• The Congress Session at Allahabad in December 1921 decided to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement. Gandhiji was appointed as its leader. But before it could be launched a mob of people at Chauri Chaura (near Gorakhpur) clashed with the police and burnt 22 policemen on 5th February, 1922.
• On hearing of the incident, Gandhiji decided to withdraw the movement. He also persuaded the Congress Working Committee to ratify his decision and thus, on 12 February 1922, the Non-Cooperation Movement came to an end.
• Gandhiji‘s decision to withdraw the movement in response to the violence at Chauri Chaura raised a controversy.
• Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose, and many other recorded their utter bewilderment on hearing the news.
Outcomes of the Non-Cooperation Movement
• It was the real mass movement with the participation of different sections of Indian society such as peasants, workers, students, teachers and women.
• It witnessed the spread of nationalism to the remote corners of India.
• It also marked the height of Hindu-Muslim unity as a result of the merger of Khilafat movement.
• It demonstrated the willingness and ability of the masses to endure hardships and make sacrifices.

Nagpur Session of Congress

• The Nagpur session of Congress is also memorable for the new Congress Constitution that was adopted. It brought about a revolutionary change in Congress organization.
• The Congress aim of swaraj was reaffirmed but now explained to mean “Self-Government within the Empire if possible and outside if necessary”.
• Further, the earlier emphasis on the use of ‘constitutional means’ was substituted by “all peaceful and legitimate methods”.
• The organizational changes in the Congress included:
– Formation of working Committee of fifteen members. This working Committee was to act as the chief executive of the party.
– Formation of an All-India Committee of 350 members to discuss important issues. It was also to be the apex body having the power to review the decision and working of the working Committee.
– Formation of Congress Committees from towns to village level.
– Reorganization of Provincial Congress Committees on linguistic basis. This was done to popularize the ideas of Congress in local language. Congress, also, as far as possible emphasized on the case of Hindi so that the gap between the educated groups and the masses may be filled up.
– Opening of Congress member-ship to all men and women of age twenty-one or more on payment of four Annas as annual subscription.
The Nagpur session of the Congress in December 1920 is important because of:
• Changed Aim: though the Congress aim of Swaraj was reaffirmed but now explained, to mean Self-Government.
• Changed Methods: The earlier emphasis on the use of ‘constitutional means’ was substituted by ‘all peaceful and legitimate methods’.
• Changed Leadership: After the death of Tilak in August 1920, the leadership went into the hands of Gandhi and it marked the beginning of Gandhian era in Indian Politics.
• Structural Change: The Congress party was organised on modern lines with local Congress Committees at the grass root village level through sub-divisional, district and provincial Committees with the All-India Congress Committee at the apex.

Swaraj Party

• The suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement led to a split within Congress in the Gaya session of the Congress in December 1922.
• Leaders like Motilal Nehru and Chittranjan Das formed a separate group within the Congress known as the Swaraj Party on 1 January 1923.
• The Swarajists wanted to contest the council elections and wreck the government from within. Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das and N.C. Kelkar (called Pro-changers) demanded that the Nationalists should end the boycott of the legislative councils, enter them and expose them.
• No-changers like Rajendra Prasad and Rajagopalachari adhered to the Gandhian programme of Boycott of legislatures.
• Elections to Legislative Councils were held in November 1923 in which, the Swaraj Party gained impressive successes.
• In the Central Legislative Council Motilal Nehru became the leader of the party whereas in Bengal the party was headed by C.R. Das.
• The Swaraj Party demanded the setting up of responsible government in India with the necessary changes in the Government of India Act of 1919.
• The party could pass important resolutions against the repressive laws of the government.
• When a Committee chaired by the Home Member, Alexander Muddiman considered the system of Dyarchy as proper, a resolution was passed against it in the Central Legislative Council.
• After the passing away of C.R. Das in June 1925, the Swarj Party started weakening.
• The Swarajists were split by communalism. The ‘responsivist’ group including Madan Mohan Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai and N.G. Kelkar offered cooperation to the government to safeguard Hindu interests.
• The Swarajists finally walked out of legislature in 1930 as a result of the Lahore congress resolution and the beginning of the civil disobedience movement. The two sections were reunited in 1930 after the Lahore session.
• The great achievement of Swaraj Party lay in their filling the political void at a time when the National Movement was recouping its strength and this they did without getting co-opted by the colonial regime.
• They worked in the legislatures in an orderly disciplined manner and withdrew from them whenever the call came.
• Above all, they showed that it was possible to use the legislatures in a creative manner even as they promoted the politics of self-reliant anti-imperialism.
• They also successfully exposed the hollowness of the Reforms Act of 1919 and showed the people that India was being ruled by ‘Lawless Laws’.
• The time when the No-Changers were busy in the constructive programme and Gandhi was leading an isolated life, the Swarajists took over the command of the National Movement.
• Even the Simon Commission, accepted that, at that time it was only the Swaraj Party which was an organised and disciplined party having well defined objectives and programmes.

Simon Commission (1927)

• In 1927, the British government appointed Simon Commission to look into the working of the Government of India Act, 1919. All its seven members were Englishmen.
• Almost all the political parties including the Congress opposed the Commission because there was no Indian member in the commission.
• On 3 February 1928 when the Commission reached Bombay, a general hartal was observed all over the country and were greeted with black flags and the cries of ‘Simon go back’.
• At Lahore, the students took out a large anti-Simon Commission demonstration on 30 October 1928 under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai. In this demonstration, Lala Lajpat Rai was seriously injured in the police lathi charge and he passed away after one month.
• The report of the Simon Commission was published in May 1930.
• It was stated that the constitutional experiment with Dyarchy was unsuccessful and in its place the report recommended the establishment of autonomous government.
• The Simon Commission Report became the basis for enacting the Government of India Act of 1935.

Nehru Report (1928)

• The Secretary of State, Lord Birkenhead, challenged the Indians to produce a Constitution that would be acceptable to all.
• The challenge was accepted by the Congress, which convened an all party meeting on 28 February 1928.
• A committee consisting of eight was constituted to draw up a blueprint for the future Constitution of India.
• It was headed by Motilal Nehru.
• The committee comprised of Tej Bahadur Sapru, Ali Imam, M.S. Aney, Mangal Singh, Shoaib Querishi, G.R. Pradhan and Subash Chandra Bose.
• The Report favoured:
– Dominion Status as the next immediate step.
– Full responsible government at the centre.
– Autonomy to the provinces.
– Clear cut division of power between the centre and the provinces.
– A bicameral legislature at the centre.
• The report had a different chapter on minority rights apart from the Fundamental Rights.
• During the presentation of the report before the All Parties Convention in Calcutta, a violent clash took place between Jinnah (representing the Muslim League) and M.R. Jayakar (who put forth the Hindu Mahasabha viewpoint) on the former’s demand of one-third of the total seats in the central legislatures for Muslims.
• Consequently, Jinnah’s proposed amendments were overwhelmingly out-voted and the Report proved to be a non-starter and became a mere historical document.
• The leader of the Muslim League, Mohammad Ali Jinnah regarded it as detrimental to the interests of the Muslims.
• Jinnah convened an All India Conference of the Muslims where he drew up a list of Fourteen Points as Muslim League demand.

Jinnah’s Fourteen Points

• At a meeting of the Muslim league in Delhi in March 28, 1929, M. A. Jinnah announced his ‘fourteen Points.’
• Rejecting the Nehru Report, he maintained that no scheme for the future Government of India would be acceptable to the Muslims until and unless following basic principle were given effect to:
– India required a federal system and Constitution in which the Provinces would have complete autonomy and residuary powers.
– All legislatures and other elected bodies should be constituted on the principle of adequate representation of minorities in every Province.
– A uniform measure of autonomy should be granted to all Provinces.
– In the Central legislature, Muslim representation should not be less than one-third.
– The Representation of communal groups through the system of electorate should continue as long as rights and interests of Muslims were not safeguarded in the Constitution.
– Any future territorial redistribution should not affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and the North-West Frontier Province.
– Full religious liberty should be granted to all communities.
– No bill should be passed in any elected body if three-fourth of the members of any community in that particular body were to oppose such a bill.
– Sindh should be separated from the Bombay Presidency.
– Reforms should be introduced in the North-West Frontier Provinces and Baluchistan as in other Provinces.
– Muslims should be given an adequate share in all the services.
– Adequate safeguards should be provided for the protection of Muslim culture.
– No Cabinet should be formed without at least one-third Muslim ministers.
– No change should be made in the Constitution except with-out the concurrence of the federation States.
• The above mentioned demands suggested a total rejection of Nehru Report due to two reasons-
– A unitary Constitution was not acceptable because it would not ensure Muslim domination in any part of India. A federal Constitution consisting of a Centre with limited power and autonomous Provinces with residuary powers would enable the Muslims to dominate five Provinces-North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Sindh, Bengal and Punjab.
– The solution to the communal problem as suggested by Nehru report was not acceptable to the Muslims.

Lahore Session, 1929

• Under the Presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, the INC at its Lahore session declared Poorna Swaraj as its ultimate goal on 19 December 1929.
• The newly adopted tri-colour flag was unfurled on 31 December, 1929 and 26 January, 1930 was fixed as the First Independence Day, which was to be celebrated every year.

Quick Contact