Indian ‘Renaissance: National Freedom movement and its leaders (with special reference to M.P.).


The rise of Nationalism is reflected in the spirit of Renaissance in Europe when freedom from religious restrictions led to the enhancement of national identity. This expression of Nationalism was furthered by the French Revolution. The political changes resulted in the passing of sovereignty from the hands of an absolute monarch to the French citizens, who had the power to constitute the nation and shape its destiny. The watchwords of the French Revolution – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – inspired the whole world. Many other revolutions like the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, etc.  also strengthened the idea of Nationalism.

Rise of Nationalism in India

For India, the making of national identity was a long process whose roots can be drawn from the ancient era. India as a whole had been ruled by emperors like Ashoka and Samudragupta in ancient times and Akbar to Aurangzeb in Medieval times. But, it was only in the 19th Century that the concept of a national identity and national consciousness emerged. This growth was intimately connected to the anti-colonial movement. The social, economic and political factors had inspired the people to define and achieve their national identity. People began discovering their unity in the process of their struggle against colonialism.

The sense of being oppressed under colonial rule provided a shared bond that tied different groups together. Each class and group felt the effects of colonialism differently. Their experiences were varied, and their notions of freedom were not always the same. Several other causes also contributed towards the rise and growth of Nationalism. One set of laws of British Government across several regions led to political and administrative unity. This strengthened the concept of citizenship and one nation among Indians. This economic exploitation by the British agitated other people to unite and react against British Government’s control over their lives and resources. The social and religious reform movements of the 19th century also contributed to the feeling of Nationalism. Swami Vivekananda, Annie Besant, Henry Derozio and many others revived the glory of ancient India, created faith among the people in their religion and culture and thus gave the message of love for their motherland. The intellectual and spiritual side of Nationalism was voiced by persons like Bankim Chandra Chatterji, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Aurobindo Ghosh. Bankim Chandra’s hymn to the Motherland, ‘Vande Matram’ became the rallying cry of patriotic nationalists. It inspired generations to supreme self-sacrifice. Simultaneously, it created a fear in the minds of the British. The impact was so strong that the British had to ban the song. Similarly, Swami Vivekananda’s message to the people, “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached”, appealed to the Indians. It acted as a potent force in the course of Indian Nationalism.

Around this time many organizations were being formed which raised their voices against British rule. Most of these organizations were regional in nature. Some of these organizations were very active such as Bengal Indian Association, Bengal Presidency Association, Pune Public Meeting, etc. However it was felt that if these regional organizations could work jointly it would help the Indian masses to raise their voices against the British Rule. This led to the formation of Indian National Congress in the year 1885.


The Indian National Congress was founded by Allan Octavian Hume in 1885. Hume was a retired Civil Service Officer. He saw a growing political consciousness among the Indians and wanted to give it a safe, constitutional outlet so that their resentment would not develop into popular agitation against the British rule in India. He was supported in this scheme by the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, and by a group of eminent Indians. Womesh Chandra Banerjee of Calcutta was elected as the first President. The Indian National Congress represented an urge of the politically conscious Indians to set up a national organization to work for their betterment. Its leaders had complete faith in the British Government and in its sense of justice. They believed that if they would place their grievances before the government reasonably, the British would certainly try to rectify them. Among the liberal leaders, the most prominent were Firoz Shah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Dada Bhai Naoroji, Ras Behari Bose, Badruddin Tayabji, etc. From 1885 to 1905, the Indian National Congress had a very narrow social base. Its influence was confined to the urban educated Indians. The early aims of this organization were limited only to communicate with British government on behalf of the Indian people and voice their grievances. It was rightly called the era of the Moderates.

Initial stages of Indian National Congress

The congress placed its demands before the government always in the form of petitions and worked within the framework of law. It was for this reason that the early Congress leaders were referred to as ‘Moderates’. During its first twenty years the Congress made moderate demands. The members placed their demands before the Government always in the form of petitions and worked within the framework of law. It was for this reason that the early Congress leaders were referred to as ‘Moderates’ They asked for: (a) representative legislatures, (b) Indianization of services, (c) reduction of military expenditure, (d) education, employment and holding of the ICS (Indian Civil Services) examination in India, (e) decrease in the burden of the cultivators, (f) defense of civil rights, (g) separation of the judiciary from the executive, (h) change in the tenancy laws, (i) reduction in land revenue and salt duty, (j) policies to help in the growth of Indian industries and handicrafts, (k) introduction of welfare programmes for the people. Unfortunately, their efforts did not bring many changes in the policies and administration of the British in India. In the beginning, the Britishers had a favourable attitude towards the Congress. But, by 1887, this attitude began to change. They did not fulfill the demands of the Moderates. The only achievement of the Congress was the enactment of the Indian Councils Act, 1892 that enlarged the legislature by adding a few nonofficial members and passing of a resolution for holding Indian Civil Services Examination simultaneously in London and in India. Many leaders gradually lost faith in the Constitutional process. Even though the Congress failed to achieve its goal, it succeeded in creating national awakening and instilling in the minds of the Indian people a sense of belonging to one Nation. They provided a forum for the Indians to discuss major national issues. By criticizing the government policies, they gave the people valuable political training. Though, They were not ready to take aggressive steps which would bring them in direct conflict with the Government. The most significant achievement was the foundation of a strong national movement. The Britishers who were earlier supporting the Moderates soon realized that the movement could turn into a National force that would drive them out of the country. This totally changed their attitude. They passed strict laws to control education and curb the press. Minor concessions were given so as to win over some Congress leaders. The British Viceroy, Lord Curzon was a staunch imperialist and believed in the superiority of the English people. He passed an Act in 1898, making it an offence to provoke people against the British rulers. He passed the Indian Universities Act in 1904, imposing stiff control over Indian Universities. Curzon was out to suppress the rising Nationalism in India. This was evident from what he did in 1905.


Curzon announced the partition of Bengal. The reason for partition was given as an attempt to improve administration. But the real aim was to ‘Divide and Rule’. The partition was done in order to create a separate State for Muslims and so introduce the poison of communalism in the country. However the Indians viewed the partition as an attempt by the British to disrupt the growing national movement in Bengal and divide the Hindus and Muslims of the region. Widespread agitation ensued in the streets and in the press. People of different parts of India opposed the partition of Bengal all over the country. This opposition was carried on by organized meetings, processions and demonstrations etc. Hindus and Muslims tied ‘rakhi’ on each other’s hands to show their unity and their protest. The use of Swadeshi (made in our own country by our own people) goods, business, national education and Indian languages were encouraged. The new nationalist spirit of self reliance- shed the fear of repression including imprisonment and painful torture by the British rule. It was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who realized the importance of boycott as a weapon that could be used to paralyze the whole British administrative machinery in India. The boycott and Swadeshi movements were instrumental in the establishment of swadeshi enterprises – textile mills, banks, hosiery, tanneries, chemical works and insurance companies. Swadeshi stores were opened. Volunteers supplied goods at the doorstep of every household. The movement spread to all classes and groups of people. Everyone, including women and children, came forward to take part. The most active were school and college students. This made the British reverse the partition of Bengal and unite it in 1911. During this time, the role of Radical Nationalists in the Indian National Congress, who were called the ‘Garam Dal’, came to be appreciated. They tried to involve people from all classes and groups including peasants, worker, students as well as women. They succeeded in uniting the Indian people against the common enemy – the British. The young people were roused to the highest level of patriotism and zeal to free their country. They helped in making people self confident and self reliant. They also revived the Indian Cottage industry.


The mild policies of the Moderates in the Congress led to the rise of passionate, radical nationalists, who came to be called the ‘Garam Dal’. Thus the first phase of the nationalist movement came to an end with government reaction against the Congress on the one hand and a split in the Congress in 1907 on the other. That is why the period after 1905 till 1918 can be referred to as the ‘Era of Passionate Nationalists or Garam Dal’. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal (Lal-Bal-Pal) were important leaders of this Radical group. When the Moderates were in the forefront of the action, they had maintained a low profile but now they swung into action. Their entry marked the beginning of a new trend and a new face in India’s struggle for freedom. According to them, the Moderates had failed to define India’s political goals and the methods adopted by them were mild and ineffective. Besides, the Moderates remained confined to the upper, landed class and failed to enlist mass support as a basis for negotiating with the British.

The Garam Dal realized that the British were out to exploit Indians, destroy their self-sufficiency and drain India of its wealth. They felt that Indians should now become free of foreign rule and govern themselves. This group, instead of making petitions to the government, believed in organizing mass protests, criticizing government policies, boycotting foreign goods and use of Swadeshi (home-made) goods etc. They did not believe in depending on the mercy of the Britishers, but believed that freedom was their right. Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave a slogan ‘Freedom is our birth right and we must have it’. In 1916 the two groups were again united with the efforts of Mrs. Annie Besant. She started working for the Home rule movement in 1914. She was convinced that India should be granted Self-Government. In 1916, Muslim League and Congress also came to an understanding with each other and signed the Lucknow Pact. Later, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose became the eminent figures of Indian National Congress, who led the freedom movement of India forward.


As the radical movement grew stronger the British began to look for ways and means to break the unity among Indian. They tried to do this through the partition of Bengal and by sowing the seed of communalism among Indian people. They motivated Muslims to form a permanent political association of their own. In December, 1906, during the Muhammadan Educational conference in Dacca, Nawab Salim Ullah Khan raised the idea of establishing a Central Muhammadan Association to take care of Muslim interests. Accordingly, on 30th December, 1906, the All India Muslim League was founded. Another prominent person, Aga Khan was chosen as its president. The main objective of the league was to protect and advance the rights of Muslims in India and represent their needs to the government. By encouraging the issue of separate electorates, the government sowed the seed of communalism and separatism among Indians. The formation of the Muslim League is considered to be the first fruit of the British master strategy of ‘Divide and Rule’. Mohammad Ali Jinnah later joined the League.


The Council Act of 1909 was an extension of the 1892 reforms, also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms after the names of the then Secretary of State (Lord Morley) and the then Viceroy (Lord Minto). It increased the members of the Legislative Assembly from sixteen to sixty. A few non-elected members were also added. Though the members of the Legislative Council were increased, they had no real powers. They remained mainly advisory in character. They could not stop any bills from being passed. Nor did they have any power over the budget.

The British made another calculated move to sow the seed of communalism in Indian politics by introducing separate electorates for the Muslims. This meant that from the constituencies dominated by Muslims only Muslim candidates could be elected. Hindus could only vote for Hindus, and Muslims could only vote for Muslims. Many leaders protested against this communal electorate policy of the British to ‘Divide and Rule’.


The First World War started in the year of 1914. This War was fought among the nations of Europe to get colonial monopoly. During war time, the British Government made an appeal to the Indian leaders to join hands with them in their time of crisis. Indian leaders agreed but they put their own terms and conditions i.e. after the war was over, the British government would give Constitutional (legislative and administrative) powers to the Indian People. Unfortunately, the steps taken by the British government during the World War I created unrest among the Indian people. This was because the British government had taken a huge loan during war time which they had to repay. They increased rent from the land, i.e. lagan. They forcefully recruited Indians in the British Army. They increased the price of necessary goods and imposed taxes on personal and professional income. As a result, they had to face protest from the Indian society. Farmers and workers of Champaran, Bardoli, Kheda and Ahmedabad actively protested against the exploitative policies of British government. Lakhs of students left schools and colleges. Hundreds of lawyers gave up their practice. Women also significantly contributed in this movement and their participation became wider with the emergence of Gandhi. The boycott of foreign cloth became a mass movement, with thousands of bonfires of foreign cloth lighting the Indian sky.


After the First World War the Indian National Movement entered into a new phase. With the emergence of Gandhi, the element of mass mobilisation was introduced. Till the coming of independence three major mass movements were launched; Non-Cooperation (1920-22), Civil disobedience (1930-34) and Quit India(1942).Besides these mass movements the revolutionary movement, peasants and working class movements and state people’s movements also played a vital role in the struggle for freedom. In this period sufficient emphasis was laid on the socioeconomic content of Swaraj. The Communist Party of India and the Socialist groups within the Congress pointed out towards economic emancipation of the masses along with the importance of the struggle for independence.

Impact of First World War on the National Movement.

The First World War (1914-1918) had a great impact on the National Movement in India:

  1. a) Resentment among the Indians:

The British government declared India as an ally and a belligerent. Indian people and resources were used in this war.It created great resentment among the Indians especially when they were not even consulted before joining the war.


  1. b) Anguish among the Muslims:


The British were fighting against the Turkish Empire which was ruled by the Caliph (Khalifa).The Muslims had great respect for the Caliph.The Indian Muslims joined the Caliphate (Khilafat) Movement for the defence of Turkey against the British.


  1. c) Peasant’s unrest:


During the war, the peasant’s unrest also grew. These movements helped prepare the ground for mass movement.


  1. d) Home Rule Movement:


Annie Besant joined the Congress in 1914. In 1916 she along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak started the Home Rule Movement. The Home Rule League demanded self government to the Indians.


  1. e) The Lucknow Pact (1916):


In 1916, at the Lucknow Session, the ‘moderates’ and the ‘extremists’ were united. Besides; a pact was made between the Congress and the Muslim League to work unitedly for their demands of greater share and power for Indians in the Executive Council and election of members of the Legislative Councils.


  1. f) Emergence of Gandhiji:


Gandhiji emerged as the leader of the nationalist movement in India during the First World War.


Rowlatt Act


In the year 1919, the British Government passed a new rule called Rowlatt Act, under which the Government had the authority and power to arrest people and keep them in prisons without any trial if they are suspected with the charge of terrorism.The government also earned the power to refrain the newspapers from reporting and printing news.The Act was ill famed as `Black Act` by the people and Indians revolt in protest against the Rowlatt Act.


The positive aspect of reform by British Government was subjected to severe sabotage by the Rowlatt act of 1919.The act was named after the recommendations made in the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council by the Rowlatt Commission.The Rowlatt Commission was appointed to investigate the `seditious conspiracy` of the Indian people.The Law passed empowered the Viceroy

Government with extraordinary power to stop all violations by silencing the press, confining political activists without trial and arresting any individual suspected of sedition and treachery and arresting individuals without any warrant. A nationwide protest was raised by calling a Hartal.


Mahatma Gandhi was extremely agitated by enactment of Rowlatt Act. He was extremely critical about the act and argued that everyone cannot be punished for isolated political crime. The Act resulted in extensive outrage of political leaders as well as the common public and Government adapted more repressive measures to dominate the Native people. Gandhi and other leaders of national Congress found it futile to take the measure of constitutional opposition and thereby called a `hartal` where Indians suspended all the business and fasted to show their hatred for the British legislation.


However, the success of the Hartal in Delhi was dominated as the tension raise high and resulted in riot in Punjab and other provinces. Gandhi found that Indians were not ready yet for the protest in the path of `Ahimsa` (non-violence), which was integral part of Satyagraha and the Hartal, was suspended.


The agitation reached the pinnacle in Amritsar of Punjab. The Rowlatt act was effective from 10th March, 1919. In Punjab the protest movement was vast and strong. On 10th April, two renowned leaders of the Congress, Dr. Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kithlew were arrested and were taken to unknown place.A public meeting was held on 13th April at Jallianwala Bagh in a small park enclosed by buildings on all sides to protest against the arrest.


The meeting was absolutely peaceful and was also attended by women and children.Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer with his British troops entered the park, closed the entrance of the park and commanded his army to fire on the gathered people without any warning. The firing lasted for ten minutes and sixteen hundred rounds, killing about thousand people and more than two thousand people were left wounded and unattended. This massacre of Jaliwanwalabagh was the worst incidence of British rule and people lost their trust on British Government.




The role of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian Freedom Struggle is considered the most significant as he single-handedly spearheaded the movement for Indian independence. The peaceful and non-violent techniques of Mahatma Gandhi formed the basis of freedom struggle against the British yoke. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869. After he came back to India from South Africa, where he worked as a barrister, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who led the Congress party, introduced Mahatma Gandhi to the concerns in India and the struggle of the people. The Indian independence movement came to a head between the years 1918 and 1922.A series of non-violence campaigns of Civil Disobedience Movement was launched by the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.  The focus was to weaken the British government through non cooperation. The protests were mainly against abolition of salt tax, land revenue, reducing military expenses etc.


Champaran and Kheda Agitations.


The Kheda Satyagraha and Champaran agitation in 1918 was one of Gandhi`s first significant steps to achieve Indian independence. Mahatma Gandhi went to Champaran (Bihar) in 1917 at the request of the poor peasants to enquire about the situation as they were compelled by British indigo planters to grow indigo on 15% of their land and part with the whole crop for rent. In the sufferings of a devastating famine, the British levied an oppressive tax which they insisted on increasing. At the same time, Kheda in Gujarat was also experiencing the same problem. Hence, Mahatma Gandhi started reforming the villages, building of schools, clean-up of  villages, construction of hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to denounce many social tribulations. The British police arrested him on the charge of creating unrest.


However, the impact of reformation changed after this act and hundreds of people protested and rallied outside the police stations and courts. They demanded his release, which the court unwillingly granted. Gandhi led planned protests against all the landlords, who were exploiting the poor farmers. Finally Mahatma Gandhi became successful in forcing the British to agree with his demands of reforming the farmers. During this agitation people addressed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as

Bapu. Rabindranath Tagore accorded Mahatma (Great Soul) title to Gandhi in the year 1920.


Non Cooperation Movement.


The Gandhi Era in the Indian Freedom Struggle took place with the Non Cooperation Movement.This movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. This was the first-ever series of nationwide movement of nonviolent resistance. The movement took place from September 1920 until February 1922.In the fight against injustice, Gandhi`s weapons were non-cooperation and peaceful resistance. But after the massacre and related violence, Gandhi focused his

mind upon obtaining complete self-government. This soon transformed into Swaraj or complete political independence. Thus, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress Party was re-organised with a new constitution, with the aim of Swaraj. Mahatma Gandhi further extended his non-violence policy to include the Swadeshi Policy, which meant the rejection of foreign-made goods.


Mahatma Gandhi addressed all the Indians to wear Khadi (homespun cloth) instead of British-made textiles. He strongly appealed to all Indians to spend some time spinning khadi for supporting the independence movement of India. This was a policy to include women in the movement, as this was not considered a respectable activity. Moreover; Gandhi also urged to boycott the British educational institutions, to resign from government jobs, and to leave British titles.


Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore resigned the title knight from the British soon after the Jalianwalabagh Massacre as a protest. When the movement reached great success, it ended unexpectedly after the violent clash in Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh. Following this, Mahatma Gandhi was also arrested and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. Indian National Congress was divided into two segments. Furthermore, support among the Hindu and Muslim people was also breaking down. However; Mahatma Gandhi only served around 2 years and was released.


Dandi March.


Mahatma Gandhi returned to the forefront again in 1928. On March 12, 1930 Gandhi launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt. He started the historic Dandi March, by walking from Ahmedabad to Dandi, to break the law that had deprived the poor of his right to make his own salt. Gandhi broke the Salt law at the sea beach at Dandi. This movement stimulated the entire nation and it came to be known as Civil Disobedience Movement. On 8th May, 1933, he started a 21-day fast of self-purification in order to help the Harijan movement.


Quit India Movement


Mahatma Gandhi again became active in the political arena after the outburst of World War II in 1939. On August 8, 1942 Gandhi gave the call for Quit India Movement or Bharat Chhodo Andolan. Soon after the arrest of Gandhi, disorders  broke out immediately through out the country and many violent demonstrations took place.Quit India became the most powerful movement in the freedom struggle. Thousands of freedom fighters were killed or injured by police gunfire, and hundreds

of thousands were arrested. He called on all Congressmen and Indians to maintain discipline via non violence and Karo Ya Maro (Do or Die) in order to achieve ultimate freedom.


On 9th of August, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Mumbai. In view of his deteriorating health, he was released from the jail in May 1944 because the British did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. The cruel restraint of the Quit India movement brought order to India by the end of 1943 although the movement had modest success in its aim. After the British gave clear signs of transferring power to the Indians, Gandhi called off the fight and all the prisoners were released.


Partition and Indian Independence.


In 1946, upon persuasion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi reluctantly accepted the proposal of partition and independence offered by the British cabinet, in order to evade a civil war.After independence, Gandhi`s focus shifted to peace and communal harmony. He fasted for abolition of communal violence and demanded that the Partition Council compensated Pakistan. His demands were fulfilled and he broke his fast. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was, thus, able to bring the whole nation under one umbrella to fight the British.Gandhi developed and improved his techniques gradually to assure that his efforts made significant impact.


Khilafat Movement


During the First World War, Turkey joined the central powers against Britain. The symapathy of Indian Muslims, who regarded the Sultan of Turkey as their spiritual leader or Khalifa, was naturally with Turkey. After the war with defeat of Turkey, the Allied power removed the Khalifa from power in Turkey which aggrieved the Indian Muslims against the British Government. Hence the Muslims started the Khilafat movement in India for the resumption of Khalifa’s position. A Khilafat Committee was formed under the leadership of Mahammad Ali, Shaukat Ali, Maulana Azad and Hasrat Mohini to organise a country-wide agitation. The main object of Khilafat Movement was to force the British Government to change its attitude towards Turkey and to restore the Sultan. October 17, 1919 was observed as Khilafat Day, when the Hindus alongwith Muslims in fasting observed hartal on that day. An All India Khilafat Conference was held at Delhi on November 23, 1919 with Gandhi as its president. The Conference resolved to withdraw all cooperation from the Government, if the Khalifat demands were not met. Congress leaders, like Lokamanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, viewed the Khalifat Movement as an opportunity to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity against British. A joint Hindu- Muslim deputation met the Viceroy on the Khalifat issue, but it failed to yeild any

result.The central Khalifat Commettee met at Allahabad from 1st to 3rd June, 1920 which was attended by a number of congress leaders. In this meeting a programme of Non-Cooperation towards the Government was declared. It was to include boycott of titles, can oferred by the Government, boycott of civil services, army and police and non-payment of taxes to the Government. Gandhi insisted that unless the Punjab and Khilafat wrongs were undone, there was to be non-cooperation with the Government.



Malabar Rebellion


The non – co – operation movement was in full swing during this period of time. It was particularly strong in Malabar, where the Moppilas were agitated over the Khilafat issue. The Gandhian movement had a tremendous impact in Kerala, with large numbers joining the satyagrapha campaign. Gandhiji visited Malabar in 1921, giving a further impetus to the movement. Khilafat Committees sprang up in large numbers and the fraternity between the Hindus and Muslims, through the work in Congress-Khilafat Committees, was a truly remarkable feature of the non-cooperation movement in Kerala, in its early stages. The speed with which the Khilafat agitation spread, especially in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks, created alarm in official circles. A perplexed officialdom clamped down prohibitory orders in the two taluks. Meetings were banned and many people were arrested in the name of law and order. A tragic episode then ensued, namely the Moppila Rebellion or the Malabar Rebellion of 1921.Police attempted to arrest the secretary of the Khilafat Committee of Pokottur in Eranad on a charge of having stolen a pistol.A crowd of 2000 Moppilas from the neighbourhood foiled the attempt. The next day, a police party in search of Khilafat rebels entered the famous Mambaram mosque at Tirurangadi. They seized some records and arrested a few Khilafat volunteers. A rumour spread that the mosque was desecrated.Hundreds of rustic Moppilas converged on Tirurangadi and besieged the local police station. The police opened fire. The mob reacted in a mad fury. Violence spread and engulfed Eranad and Valluvanad taluks and neighbouring areas for over two months. Congress leaders tried in vain to check the violence. Towards the later stages of the rebellion, owing to unfounded rumour of Hindus having helped the police or sought police help, there were instances of atrocities perpetrated on Hindus. This marred the relations between the two communities. Meanwhile British and Gurkha regiments were rushed to the area. Martial law was clamped. A series of repressive measures followed and by November, the rebellion was practically crushed. Relief operations in the ravaged areas, undertaken mostly by voluntary agencies which received help and funds from Gandhiji, lasted for over six months.


Wagon Tragedy.


The epilogue (in the sense that it came to be known only later) was the “Wagon Tragedy” in which 61 of the 70 Moppila prisoners packed in a closed railway goods wagon and carried to Coimbatore jails, died of suffocation on November 10, 1921.In the wake of the suppression of the Malabar Rebellion and until almost the end of the decade, struggle purely for political freedom was on a low key.


Non-Cooperation Movement


Non-Cooperation was a movement of passive resistance against British rule, which was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi.To resist the dominance of the British Government and advance the Indian nationalist cause, the non-cooperation movement was a non-violent movement that prevailed nationwide by Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. This movement took place from September 1920 to February 1922 and initiated Gandhi era in the Independence

Movement of India.


The Rowlatt Act, Jaliwanwala Bagh massacre and Martial Law in Punjab caused the native people not to trust the British Government anymore. The Montagu- Chelmesford Report with its diarchy could satisfy a few only. Until then Gandhi believed the justice and fair-play of the British Government, but after this incidences he felt that Non-cooperation with the Government in a non-violent way must be started. In the meantime the Muslims in India also revolted against the harsh terms of the Treaty of severes between Allies and Turkey and they started Khilafat movement. Gandhi also decided to stand beside them. Gandhiji`s idea of winning over Muslim support also helped in Non-Cooperation Movement of India. Gandhi had given a notice to the Viceroy in his letter of 22nd June in which he had affirmed the right recognized `from time immemorial of the subject to refuse to assist a ruler who misrules. After the notice had expired the Non-Cooperation movement was launched formally on 1st August of 1920. At the Calcutta Session on September, 1920 the program of the movement was stated. The programs of Non-cooperation involved the surrender of titles and offices and resignation from the nominated posts in the government body. It included not attending Government duties, Durbars and other functions, withdrawing children from government schools and colleges and establishment of national schools and colleges. The people of India were instructed to boycott the British courts and establish the private judicial courts. The Indians should use Swadeshi cloth and boycott the foreign clothes and other things. Gandhiji strictly advised the Non-Cooperators to observe truth and non-violence. The decision taken in Calcutta Session was supported in the Nagpur Session of the Congress on December; 1920. The decision was also taken for the betterment of the party organization. Any adult man or woman could take Congress membership for 4 annas as subscription. This adoption of new rules gave a new energy to the Non-

Cooperation movement and from January of 1921 the movement gained a new momentum. Gandhi along with Ali Brothers went to a nationwide tour during which he addressed the Indians in hundreds of meetings. In the first month of the movement, about nine thousand students left schools and colleges and joined the national institutions. During this period about eight hundred national institutions were established all over the country. The educational boycott was most successful in Bengal under the leadership of Chitta Ranjan Das and Subhas Chandra Bose. In Punjab also the educational boycott was extensive under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai.The other active areas were Bombay, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, Uttar Pradesh. The movement also affected Madras. The boycott of lawcorts by the lawyears was not as successful as the educational boycott was. The leading lawyers like, Motilal Nehru, CR Das, Mr Jayakar, V Patel, Asaf Ali Khan, S Kitchlew and many others gave up their lucrative practices and many followed their path inspired by their sacrifice. Bengal again led in this matter and Andhra, UP, Karnataka and Punjab followed the state.However the most successful item of the Non-Cooperation was the boycott of foreign clothes. It took such an extensive form that value of import of the foreign clothes reduced from hundred and two crores in 1920-21 to fifty-seven crores in 1921-22. Although some of the veteran political leaders like the Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant opposed Gandhiji`s plan but the younger generation supported him fully. Muslim leaders like Maulana Azad, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Abbas Tyabji, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali also supported him.


In the month of July 1921, the Government had to face a new challenge. Mohammad Ali and other leaders believed that it was `religiously unlawful for the Muslims to continue in the British army` and they were arrested for their view. Gandhi and other Congress leaders supported Mahammad Ali and issued a manifesto. The next dramatic event was visit of Prince of Wales on 17th November, 1921. The day on which Prince boarded on Bombay Port the day was observed as a `Hartal Divas` all over India. The Prince was greeted with empty streets and closed shops wherever he went. The Non-Cooperators gained more and more energy at their success and became more aggressive. The congress volunteer corps turned into a powerful parallel police. They used to march in formation and dressed in uniform. Congress had already granted permission to the Provincial Congress Committees to sanction total disobedience including non-payment of taxes. The Non-Co operational movement had other effects also which are not very direct. In UP it became difficult to distinguish between a Non-Co operational meeting and a peasant meeting. In Malabar and Kerala the Muslim tenants roused against their landlords. In Assam the labors of tea-plantation went with strike. In Punjab the Akali Movement was considered as a part of Non-Cooperation movement. The Non-Cooperation movement particularly strengthened in Bengal. The movement was not only seen in Kolkata but it also agitated the rural Bengal and an elemental awakening was observed. The movement reached a climax after the Gurkha assault on coolies on the river port of Chandpur (20-21st May).The whole Eastern Bengal was under the lash of the movement under the leadership of JM Sengupta. The other example was the Anti-Union Board agitation in Midnapur led by Birendranath Sashmal.


As the Non-Cooperation movement proceeded the woman of India, especially from Bengal wanted to take active part in the protest movement. The women nationalists were assembled under the Mahila Karma Samaj or the Ladies organization Board of the Pradesh Congress Committee of Bengal. The ladies members of that organization arranged meeting and circularized the spirit of Non-Cooperation. Women volunteers were enlisted to take part in the movement. The ladies from many respected families led them.CR Das`s wife Basanti Devi and sister Urmila Devi, JM Sengupta`s wife Nellie Sengupta, Mohini Devi, Labanya Prabha Chanda played significant role in this movement. Picketing of foreign wine and cloth shops and selling of Khaddar in the streets were the point of attention of this movement.


The Government proclaimed Sections 108 and 144 of the code of criminal procedure at various centers of agitation. The Congress Volunteer Corpse was declared illegal. By December 1921 More than thirty thousand people were arrested from all over the India. Except Gandhiji, most of the prominent leaders were inside jail. In mid-December Malaviya initiated a negotiation, which was futile. The conditions were like that it offered sacrifice of Khilafat leaders, which Gandhiji could never accept.


At that time Gandhiji was also under a pressure from the higher leaders of Congress to start the mass civil disobedience. Gandhiji gave an ultimatum to the Government but the British Government paid no attention to it. In response, Gandhiji initiated a civil disobedience movement in Bardoli Taluqa of Surat district of Gujrat. Unfortunately at this time the tragedy of Chauri Chaura occurred that change the course of the movement, where a mob of three thousand people killed twenty-five policemen and one inspector. Gandhi was in support of complete nonviolence and this incident was too much for him to bear. He ordered to suspend the movement at once. Thus, on February 12th, 1922 the Non-Cooperation movement totally stopped.


There were limitations in achievements of Non-Cooperation Movement as it apparently failed to achieve its object of securing the Khilafat and changing the misdeeds of Punjab. The Swaraj could not be achieved in a year as it was promised. The retreat of the February 1922 was only temporary. The movement slowed down gradually. The part of Battle was over but the war continued.


Swaraj Party


Swaraj Party was established to fight the mighty force of British head-on. Mahatma Gandhi was released from jail in 1924.He and his close followers, such as Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Rajendra Prasad, occupied themselves with the constructive programme, such as hand-spinning on the charkha, uplift of the harijans or members of the depressed class. But not all the congressmen were willing to abandon political action. In 1922 a group had formed around Motilal Nehru and C. R. Das that wished to enter the government`s legislative councils and wreck them front within. They were opposed by the `no-changers` who insisted that the 1920 programme, which called for the boycott of council elections, should not be altered. At the Gaya congress in December 1922, matters came to a head. The `nochangers` prevailed, but early the next year the `pro-changers` formed their own party. This party was at first known as the congress-Khilafat Swaraj Party and later simply the swarajya or swaraj party. The new councils were inaugurated in 1921.The non-congress parties which had entered them had not been successful in influencing government policy. And eventually diarchy proved to be a failure. Provincial minister could not act effectively even in `transferred` subjects because the new safeguards made the governors more autocratic even than before. Only the Montford reform showed that the British were still unwilling to grant responsible government.


Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru decided that the way to combat this situation was to enter the provincial legislative councils. Central legislative assembly carries out a policy of uniform, continuous and consistent obstruction, with a view to make government through the assembly and councils impossible would force the British to grant real reforms. In a special session of congress held in Delhi in September 1923, a compromise between no-changers and pro-changers was reached. The former would continue with the constructive programme, whereas the latter could contest

the upcoming elections. Gandhiji gave his blessings to this arrangement. Although they had little time for campaigning, the swarajists did well in the elections. They became the largest party in the central assembly and the dominant party in two provinces. For the next few years swarajist politicians obstructed official business in the assembly and the councils as well. But there were positive gains too.


In 1925 the swarajist leader Vithalbhai Patel was elected president of the central legislative assembly. C. R. Das, who had refused to form a ministry in Bengal, was elected mayor of Calcutta (now Kolkata). In this position `Deshbandhu` did much valuable service for his countrymen. The tragic death of C. R. Das in 1925 removed a great patriot from the scene at a critical moment. The Swaraj Party, which had already begun to break up, disintegrated quickly. As usual, the people of discord were religion. Communalminded Muslims isolated themselves, while the so-called social activist began to cooperate with the government with a desire to safeguard Hindu interests. By March end the swarajists day in the sun had ended. Block in their attempt to effect change; they walked out of the legislative assembly.It has become a history in and out of India.




The Home Rule movement and the rise of revolutionary terrorism mainly led the British authority to pacify the rising tide in India. Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India and Montague; the Secretary of Indian Council submitted a proposal in 1918 to the British Parliament. As a result, the Act of 1919 was passed. Accordingly; the number of members of the Council of the Secretary of State (Indian Council) was fixed at 12. Among them 3 were to be Indians and half of its total members were to be chosen from among those who must have resided in India at least for ten years. It limited the powers of the Secretary of States. The Viceroy was empowered to nominate as many members to his Executive Council as· he wished. The Councilors were nominated for five years.


The Central Legislature consisted of the Council of States and Legislative Assembly. The Upper House or Council of States consisted of 60 members. Among them 33 were to be elected and 27 were to be nominated by the Viceroy. Each province in India was allotted a fixed number of representatives to represent in the Council of States for 5 years. The Legislature Assembly or the Lower House consisted of 144 members out of which 103 were to be elected and the rest of the members were to be nominated. The life of the Legislative Assembly was for 3 years. The franchise of both the Houses was restricted which differed in different provinces. The Viceroy was empowered to summon, prorogue and dissolve the Chambers. The first Speaker was to be nominated by the Viceroy and after that the speakers would be elected. The provincial Legislature consisted of only one House known as the Legislative Council. The number increased now what was a beforehand. The power of the Councils also increased a little.

However, the Viceroy had control over the Councils. The communal electorate system was further enhanced. It created provision for ‘separate electorates for Sikhs, Anglo-Indians, Christians and Europeans.


The Act of 1919 introduced Diarchy in the provinces. Accordingly, the Rights of the Central and Provincial Governments were divided in clear-cut terms. The central list included rights over defence, foreign affairs, telegraphs, railways, postal and foreign trade. The provincial list dealt with the affairs like health, sanitation, education, public work, irrigation, jail, police and justice. The powers which were not included in the state list vested in the hands of the Centre. In case of any conflict between the ‘reserved’ and ‘unreserved’ powers of the State (the former included finance, police, revenue and publication of books and the latter included health, sanitation and local-self government).The Governor had its final say. The Diarchy was introduced in 1921 in Bengal, Madras, Bombay, U.P., M.P., Punjab, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. In 1932, it was extended to the North-West Frontier Province.


No doubt, the Act of 1919 reformed some of the maladies of the Morley-Minot Reforms of 1909, and introduced .Diarchy. Still it was not free from short- comings. Limited franchise, no clear-cut division of powers between the Centre and the States, Viceroy’s authority over every matter etc. were some of the defects of the Act of 19.19 which brought dissatisfaction among the Indians.


Simon Commission


The Indian Statutory Commission was a group of seven British Members of Parliament that had been dispatched to India in 1927 to study constitutional reform. The Commission was named Simon Commission, following the name of the chairperson of the Commission Sir John Simon. The Government of India Act 1919 had introduced the system of dyarchy to govern the provinces of British India. However, the Indian public demanded for revision of the difficult dyarchy form of government. Moreover the Government of India Act 1919 itself stated that a commission would be appointed after ten years to investigate the progress of the governance scheme and suggest new steps for reform.In the late 1920, the Conservative government, which was in power in Britain feared imminent electoral defeat at the hands of the Labour Party. They also feared the effects of the consequent transference of control of India to such an inexperienced body. Hence, in November of 1927, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin appointed seven MPs (including Chairman Simon) to constitute the commission.


The Simon Commission of 1919 was entrusted with the charge to look into the state of Indian constitutional affairs. The growth of the education and the development of the representative institution in British India were the significant responsibilities vested with the Simon commission. The Simon commission was to give report as to whether or what extent the principle of responsible government could be established in India. The Simon commission was also asked to enquire the fact that how far it was desirable to establish Second Chambers of the local legislature. During the enquiry, the Simon commissions did snot however taken into accounts the relation of the British Government with the Indian states and found the British Government extremely constitutional. The Simon Commission created extreme dissatisfaction throughout the whole India. This was so because no Indian Members were included in the Commission.


The Simon Commission was an all-White Composition. Lords Birkenhead justified the exclusion of the Indians members from the Simon Commission. He opined that since the Commission was composed by the Parliament, it was necessary that the members of the Commission should be from the parliament. The Simon Commission created enough disaffection allovers the country and everywhere it was hailed with black flags. A general hartal was observed throughout the Country on the day the commission landed in India. In such circumstance, the Central Assembly was invited to form a joint Committee to co-operate with the commission. But however it refused to do so. As a whole, Simon Commission in India was a complete failure.


Working Class Movement and the Formation of AITUC


The trade union movement in India forms a study of the working class, their demands, response of their owners and redressal measures of the government. In spite of the drain of wealth from India and British apathetic attitude, the factories grew on this soil. The cotton mills in Bombay, the jute mills and tea industry grewup. The poor Indian mass got employment in these factories as workers.Low wages, long working hours, unhygienic conditions, exploitation at the hands of native and foreign capitalists made their condition more miserable. The first Factory Act of 1881 and the Acts of 1891, 1909, 1911 etc. could not end the plights of the working class people


The Russian Revolution of 1917 exerted tremendous influence over the working class people of the world. By the efforts of the leaders like N.M. Joshi, Lala Lajpat Rai and Joseph, the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was established in 1920. Nationalist leaders like C.R. Das and V. V. Giri also joined their hands with this union. With the emergence of socialistic and communist ideas, the left wing within the Indian National Congress became active and leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also presided over the sessions of AITUC.With the recognition of the trade unions by the Trade Union Act of 1926, the trade union movements in India gained momentum. The fourth Congress of the Communist International sent a message to the AITUC to overthrow capitalism and imperialism. The left wing within the AITUC also became very active. The revolutionary of Muscovite group wanted to affiliate the AITUC with the Red Labour Union framed at Moscow. In the power struggle, the liberal leader N.M. Joshi left the AITUC and formed another organisation named’ Indian Trade Union Federation. Under the Leftist direction, the AITUC launched vigorous programmes against the capitalist class. It foreshadowed a socialist State in India with socialisation and nationalisation of the means of production. It organised meetings for protecting the freedom of speech, association, participation in national struggle etc.The Communist Party also flared up the flame. Though the government passed several Acts to satisfythe workers, still they carried on their programmes of strike and protest. The trade union activities were so rampant that in 1928 Viceroy Lord Irwin arrested the prominent leaders and brought them to Meerut for trial. After trial, S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, Joglekar, Spratt etc. were given transportation or rigorous

imprisonment.It aroused worldwide sympathy for the union leaders. However, it hurled a terrible blow on the trade union activities in India. Now the Leftists and Rightists joined their hands and defended the case.


During the Non-Cooperation Movement, the British Government suppressed the trade union leaders with iron hand. The Socialist Party formed in 1934 wanted to cement coherence between the moderate and the radical trade unions. During the popular governments between 1937-1938 the trade unions increased to 296. During Quit India Movement, the Trade Union Movement went on as usual. The nationalist leaders failed to capture the AITUC but the Communists had their hold over it. After independence, the trade unions are performing their rule as usual.



The name Bhagat Singh has become a synonym of revolution. He was one of the great revolutionaries who made supreme sacrifice for the nation. Thousands of young people sacrificed their lives in the altar of India’s liberation struggle but the name Bhagat Singh has a special place in the history of our independence. No other young revolutionary of India got much empathy in the minds of the people of India like Bhagat Singh. Still he is an inspiration source for the patriotic people of our motherland. It is important today to study the contributions of Bhagat Singh and his comrades when our country is again falling under the grip of imperialism and its designs. Unfortunately Bhagat Singh did not have much place in the history textbooks. There was a concerted effort to underestimate the contributions of revolutionaries who sacrificed everything for the liberation of our motherland.

Bhagat Singh came from a family of patriots and freedom fighters. His uncle, Ajit Singh was a pioneer in opposing the Colonization Act 1905 and had to remain in exile till the country gained independence. His father also was an active participant in the struggle for the liberation of the country from the colonial rule. While as a student Bhagat Singh came under the influence of the revolutionaries. The October revolution led by Lenin attracted Bhagat Singh and he started to collect and read the literatures about socialism and socialist revolution. The years of the twenties in general and those of 1928-30 in particular were of great significant in the history of India’s freedom struggle.

Due to the failure of first non-cooperation movement, the revolutionaries of that period were frustrated and started to think about some alternative action plan. The formation of the Hindustan Republican Association, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army and the Naujawan Bharat sabha (All India Youth League) all happened during this period. Bhagat Singh and his comrades were imbued with the ideas of revolution and socialism. The manifesto of HRA says “The immediate object of the revolutionary party in the domain of politics is to establish a federal republic of the United States of India by an organized and armed revolution. The basic principle of this republic shall be universal suffrage and the abolition of all system, which makes the exploitation of man by man possible. In this republic the electors shall have the right to recall their representatives if so desired, otherwise the democracy shall be a mockery”. India could not think about such ideas even after sixty years of independence!

The protest against the visit of Simon Commission turned into violence. Lala Lajpath rai died due to police lathicharge. The country witnessed unprecedented protest rallies. Bhagat Singh and his associates threw bombs in Central Assembly. A few days’ later bombs exploded in the Central Assembly they were arrested. The trial began in 1929 July. The farcical trial ended in October 1930 awarded death sentence to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The charge was conspiracy to overthrow the British rule and murder of a British official. They accepted the verdict with raising slogans. A few days before the execution Bhagat Singh wrote a letter to the British authorities demanding that as he and his two condemned comrades were prisoners of war, they should not be hanged but that the sentence should be executed by a firing squad of the British army. This was the unconquerable spirit and stuff of which Bhagat Singh was made.

The conduct of Bhagat Singh and his comrades during their historic trial at Lahore created new precedents of revolutionary behaviour. They were making use of the British courts as a forum to address the people, broadcast their revolutionary views and ideology. This was something different from the nationalist tradition set by Mahatma Gandhi. They appeared everyday in the nationalist press and every activity of theirs was watched by lakhs of people. Their revolutionary declarations were also denied publicly but this did not restrain them. Intent upon every aspect of British Court, justice and jail administration, they fought against every humiliating restriction, every discriminatory rule and demanded proper status for freedom fighters in jail. They refused to be treated as common criminals and demanded treatment in consonance with dignity and prestige of the freedom struggle. During the trial days Bhagat Singh and his comrades were asked to refrain from raising revolutionary slogans in the court. But they continued to shout ‘Inqilab Zindabad’. They were beaten and handcuffed in the court; they were assaulted with lathis till they bled profusely and fell unconscious. Bhagat Singh and his comrades succeeded in completely exposing the anti-Indian and arbitrary character of British justice in India and the barbarities of the British Indian jails. This was the aim of their fight for which they prepared to undergo all the tortures. They turned their trial into a public trial of the British government.

In a joint statement before the trial court, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Dutt explained why they threw the bombs in the Central Assembly. They said their purpose was not to harm anyone but to expose the dependent character of the Legislative assembly which was being paraded by the British as a Parliament create the belief that India was being democratically governed. The statement further says’A radical change, therefore, is necessary and it is the duty of those who realize this to reorganize society on a socialistic basis. Unless this thing is done and exploitation of man by man and nation by nations is brought to an end, sufferings and carnage with which humanity is threatened cannot be prevented. All talk of ending war and ushering in an era of universal peace is undisguised hypocrisy”. In the statement they explained about their concept about revolution. They said that” By revolution, we mean the ultimate establishment of an order of the society which may not be threatened by such breakdown and in which the sovereignty of the proletariat should be recognized and a world federation should redeem humanity from the bondage of capitalism and the misery of imperial wars” Bhagat Singh symbolized his struggle in the slogan he raised after he threw a bomb in the Legislative Assembly of Delhi- “Long Live revolution” (Inquilab Zindabad), a slogan totally unfamiliar at that time to the Indian people.

Bhagat Singh was not content with slogans. He embodied the indomitable courage, the death-defying spirit, the capacity to sacrifice everything and unflinching courage in the face of torture. In 1930 July Bhagat Singh told some of his fellow comrades in jail said, “This is the highest award for patriotism and I am proud that I am going to get it. They think that by destroying my terrestrial body they will be safe in this country. They are wrong. They may kill me, but they cannot kill my ideas. They can crush my body, but they will not be able to crush my spirit. My ideas will haunt the British like a curse till they are forced to run away from here. But this is one side of the picture. The other side is equally bright. Bhagat Singh dead will be more dangerous to the British enslavers than Bhagat Singh alive. After I am hanged, the fragrances of my revolutionary ideas will permeate the atmosphere of this beautiful land of ours. It will intoxicate the youth and make him mad for freedom and revolution and that will bring the doom of the British imperialist nearer. This is my firm conviction. I am anxiously waiting for the day when I will receive the highest award for my services to the country and my love for my people”. Now this is the duty of the present day youth to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of Shaheed-eAzam Bhagat Singh by organizing revolutionary movement against neo imperialism and neo colonialism. In this context the three slogans rose by Bhagat Singh and his comrades Long live revolution, long live proletariat and own with imperialism -are still relevant.

Surya Sen (1894-1934)

Surya Sen(March 22, 1894 – January 12, 1934) (also known as Masterda Surya Sen) was a prominent Bengali freedom fighter, an Indian independence activist and the chief architect of anti-British freedom movement in Chittagong, Bengal (now in Bangladesh).He was born on 22 March 1894 in Chittagong district now in Bangladesh. He participated in nationwide non-cooperation movement as a revolutionary. He was arrested in February 1933 by British and was hanged on 12 January 1934.The Government of India released a commemorative stamp on him in 1977. Bangladesh issued a commemorative stamp on him in 1999.

Early life

His father’s name was Ramaniranjan.  A resident of Noapara in Chittagong, he was a teacher by profession. He was initiated into revolutionary ideas in 1916 by one of his teachers while he was a student of Intermediate Class in the Chittagong College and joined the renowned revolutionary group Anushilan.  But when he went to Behrampur College for BA course, came to know about Jugantar and became more inspired with their ideas. On his return to Chittagong in 1918, he organized Jugantar there. All revolutionary groups were using Indian National Congress as umbrella to work. Consequently in 1929, Surya Sen became the president of the Chittagong district committee of the Indian National Congress. He continued to organize the hardline patriotic organisations and first became a teacher of the National school in Nandankanan and then joined the Umatara School at Chandanpura. Hence, he was known as Mastarda (teacher brother).

By 1923 Surya Sen spread the revolutionary organization in different parts of Chittagong district. Aware of the limited equipment and other resources of the freedom fighters, he was convinced of the need for secret guerrilla warfare against the colonial Government. One of his early successful undertakings was a broad day robbery at the treasury office of the Bengal Assam Railway at Chittagong on December 23, 1923.

Chittagong  armoury raid and its aftermath.

His major success in the anti-British revolutionary violence was the Chittagong Armoury Raid on April 18, 1930. Subsequent to the raid, he marched to the Jalalabad hills along with his fellow revolutionaries. After the battle with the British troops on April 22, he escaped from there. Surya Sen, being constantly followed up by the police, had to hide at the house of Sabitri Devi, a widow, near Patiya. A police and military force under Captain Cameron surrounded the house on 13 June 1932. Cameron was shot dead while ascending the staircase and Surya Sen along with Pritilata Waddedar and Kalpana Datta escaped to safety.

Surya Sen was always in hiding, moving from one place to another. Sometimes he used to take a job as a workman; sometimes he would take a job as a farmer, or milkman, or priest, houseworker or even as a pious Muslim. This is how he used to avoid being captured. Either because of money, or out of jealousy, or because of both, Netra Sen told the British Government that Surya Sen was at his house. As a result, the police came and captured him on February 16, 1933. This is how India’s supreme hero was arrested. But before Netra Sen was able to get his 10,000-rupee reward he was killed by the revolutionaries. This is how it happened. Netra Sen’s wife was all for Surya Sen, and she was horrified by her husband’s deed. She felt mortified by her husband’s betrayal of Surya Sen. One evening she was serving her husband food when a great admirer of Surya Sen came into the house. He was carrying a very big knife, which is called a “daa”. With one stroke of the dal he chopped off the head of Netra Sen in the presence of his wife. Then slowly and stealthily he went away.

When the police arrived to investigate, they asked Netra Sen’s wife if she had seen who the murderer was. She said, “I saw with my own eyes, but my heart will not permit me to tell you his name. I am sorry. I feel miserable that I was the wife of such a treacherous man, such an undivine man as Netra Sen. My husband betrayed the greatest hero of Chittagong. My husband betrayed a great son of Mother India. My husband cast a slur on the face of India. Therefore; I cannot tell the name of the person who took his life. He has definitely done the right thing. You can do anything with me. You can punish me, you can even kill me, but I shall never tell the name of the person who killed my husband. Our Master-da will be hanged, I know, but his name will forever be synonymous with India’s immortal freedom-cry. Everybody loves him. Everybody adores him. I, too, love him and adore him, for he is the brightest sun in the firmament of Chittagong. Surya means sun and he is truly our sun. “Tarakeswar Dastidar, the new president of the Chittagong Branch Jugantar Party, made a preparation to rescue Surya Sen from the Chittagong Jail. But the plot was unearthed and consequently frustrated. Tarakeswar and Kalpana along with others were arrested. Special tribunals tried Surya Sen, Tarakeswar Dastidar, and Kalpana Datta in 1933.

Surya Sen along with his Tarekeshwar Dastidar was hanged by the British rulers on January 12, 1934. Before the death sentence Surya Sen was brutally tortured. It was reported that the British executioners broke all his teeth with hammer and plucked all nails and broke all limbs and joints. He was dragged to the rope unconscious. After his death his dead body was not given any funeral. The prison authority, it was found later, put his dead body in a metallic cage and dumped into the Bay of Bengal.

His last letter to his friends, written on 11 January, stated, “Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards eternity …At such a pleasant, at such a grave, at such a solemn moment, what shall I leave behind you? Only one thing that is my dream, a golden dream-the dream of Free India…. Never forget the 18th of April, 1930, the day of the eastern Rebellion in Chittagong… Write in red letters in the core of your hearts the names of the patriots who have sacrificed their lives at the altar of India’s freedom.

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association before 1928 was known as the Hindustan Republican Association. It is reckoned as one amongst the Indian independence associations during the time of freedom struggle. Bhagat Singh, Yogendra Shukla and Chandrasekar Azad were the key functionaries of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. The group is also considered one of the first socialist organisations in India. HSRA was invigorated by the ideologies of the Bolsheviks involvement in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was first launched during a meeting in Bholachang village, Brahamabaria subdivision, East Bengal. Praiseworthy freedom fighters like- Pratul Ganguly, Narendra Mohan Sen and Sachindra Nath Sanyal were present at the meeting. The association was formed as an outgrowth of the Anushilan Samiti. The party was established with the aim to organise armed revolution in order to end the colonial rule and establish a Federal Republic of the United States of India. The name Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was implicative after a similar revolutionary body in Ireland.

During that period Gandhiji had declared to cancel the Non-cooperation movement after the Chauri Chaura incident. This decision of his created a lot of rancour amongst the youngsters. Some of them had jeopardised their careers for the movement.As HSRA was a revolutionary group, they attempted to loot a train. They were informed that the train was transferring government money.On 9th August 1925, the revolutionists ransacked the train. This now famous incident is known as the Kakori train robbery.As a result of the Kakori train robbery case, Ashfaqullah Khan, Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh, Rajendra Lahiri were hanged to death. It was an important setback for the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was aiming to create a Federal Republic of the United States of India. But later they changed their focus towards creating an India based on the Socialist ideals of Lenin and Marx. Bhagat Singh declared this at the Ferozshah Kotla Ruins in Delhi on 9th September 1928. Afterwards, the association was renamed Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, from Hindustan Republican Association. HSRA in non-violent protest advancement against the Simon Commission at Lahore decided to support Lala Lajpat Rai. But in the protest procession, the police plunged into a mass lathicharge and the wounds imposed on Lalaji proved life-threatening to him. This incident was witnessed by Bhagat Singh and he swore to take revenge.

It was decided by Hindustan Socialist Republican Association that the attempt would be taken against J.A Scott, who had ordered the unlawful lathi-charge. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Chander Shekhar Azad and Jai Gopal were given the charge to execute the plan. It was designed that Jai Gopal would signal Bhagat Singh and Rajguru when J.A Scott would come out of his office. At the appointed time, on 17th December 1928 at Lahore, a British official J. P.Saunders, the A.S.P., a youngman of 21 but a probationer stepped out of his office. Raj Guru swooped on the British official with a pistol at Jai Gopal`s signal. The bullet perforated through his neck and almost killed him. Bhagat Singh also rushed and pounced on him and fired four or five shots.J.P.Saunders died on the spot. Incidentally it was a terrible miscalculation on the part of Jai Gopal. He failed to differentiate between Scott and Saunders. Chanan Singh- a head constable came forth to chase Bhagat Singh and Raj Guru, but Chandra Shekhar Azad shot Chanan down. The next day, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association came forward in public and in their proclamation said, “Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution). We don`t enjoy killing an individual, but this individual was ruthless, mean and part and parcel of an unjust system. It is necessary to destroy such a system. This man has been killed; because he was a cog in the wheel of British rule. This government is the worst of all governments.” Another significant action carried out by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was the Assembly Bomb Case. The association adjudicated to burst a blank bomb in the Central Assembly in Delhi, in order to express opposition against the tyrannical legislation and arouse public opinion. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt offered to carry out the bombing and get arrested. The ideology behind the bombing was `to make the deaf government hear the voices of its oppressed people`. Bhagat Singh also believed that `the only way to successfully convey his message to the public of India was to propaganda from Court`. He believed that since all statements were registered in Court and then promulgated, they could benefit support for their crusade.

On April 8th 1929 when Vitthal Bhai Patel, President of the Central Assembly, moved up to give his ruling on failing to get an authority from the government that the bill would not be imposed retrospectively, a bomb was detonated near the empty treasure benches, followed by another bomb explosion. Panic predominated everywhere. Nobody got killed as it was not thought of. The hall got filled with smoke. Bhagat Singh and BK Dutt started crying out “Long Live Revolution, Down with Imperialism” as the smoke cleared. They also threw red leaflets on the floor, which began with the slogan of a French revolutionary “It needs a loud voice for a deaf to hear”.

On April 15th 1929, police raided the bomb factory of HSRA. As a result Kishori Lal, Sukhdev and Jai Gopal were arrested. The Assembly Bomb Case trial was started following this raid.On 23rd March 1931 Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged. The great nationalist Baikuntha Shukla was also hanged for murdering Phanindrananth Ghosh who had become a government approver which later on led to the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.Baikuntha Shukla joined the freedom struggle at a young age and took active part in the `Salt Satyagraha` of 1930.He was also associated with revolutionary organisations like the Hindustan Seva Dal and Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were executed in 1931, as a result of their trial in the `Lahore conspiracy case`. Their death penalty gave birth to tremendous agitation throughout the country. Phanindrananth Ghosh was a key figure of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. By turning into an approver, he betrayed the cause of the party. Baikuntha Shukla was given the charge to execute Phanindrananth Ghosh as an act of ideological revenge. He completed it in a successful manner on 9th November 1932.As a result Baikuntha Shukla was arrested and tried for murder. On May 14th 1934; Baikunth was convicted and hanged in Gaya Central Jail only at a young age of 28.

Another key revolutionary of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, Chandrasekar Azad was killed on 27th February 1931 in a gunfight with the police. With the death of Chandrashekar Azad and the hanging of its popular activists, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, the fate of the association was yet indecipherable. Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was always in the forefront of revolutionary movements in the northern parts of India. The association consisted of younger generations of U.P, Bihar, Punjab, Bengal and Maharashtra. The group possessed ideals, which were directly opposite to Mahatma Gandhi`s Congress.

Women in Liberation war

  1. Kalpana Datta Joshi (b.1913)

Born in Chittagong, Kalpana became an active member of Chittagong Jugantar party after the famous armory raid led by Master Da. Arrested along with Master Da and Tarekeshwar Dastidar from their hiding place after a fierce battle with a police/military squad, Kalpana was transported to the Andaman’s. After her release from the penal colony, Kalpana joined the communist party and married PC Joshi a prominent communist leader.

  1. Bina Das Bhaumik (1911)

An arts graduate, Bina was connected with Calcutta Chhatri Sangha, a quasi revolutionary organization for young girls. She was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for her failed attempt on the life of the Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson, in 1932 at the annual convocation meeting of Calcutta University. Following her release in 1938, Bina joined the Congress party and was elected the secretary of South Calcutta Congress Committee. Later Bina became a member of West Bangla Rajyo Sobha.  Bina married Jyotish Chandra Bhaumik, her comrade at arms and a college teacher.


The socialist movement began to develop in India with the Russian Revolution. However, in 1871 a group in Calcutta had contacted Karl Marx with the purpose of organising an Indian section of the First International. It did not materialise. The first article in an Indian publication (in English) that mentions the names of Marx & Engels printed in the Modern Review in March 1912.The short biographical article titled Karl Marx – a modern Rishi was written by the German-based Indian revolutionary Lala Har Dayal. The first biography of Karl Marx in an Indian language was written by R. Rama Krishna Pillai in 1914.

Marxism made a major impact in India media at the time of the Russian Revolution. Of particular interest to many Indian papers and magazines was the Bolshevik policy of right to self-determination of all nations.  Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were amongst the prominent Indians who expressed their admiration of Lenin and the new rulers in Russia. Abdul Sattar Khairi and Abdul Zabbar Khairi went to Moscow, immediately on hearing about the revolution. In Moscow, they met Lenin and conveyed their greetings to him. The Russian Revolution also had an impact on émigré Indian revolutionaries, such as the Ghadar Party in North America.

The Khilafat movement contributed to the emergence of early Indian communism. Many Indian Muslims left India to join the defence of the Caliphate. Several of them became communists whilst visiting Soviet territory. Even some Hindus joined the Muslim muhajirs in the travels to the Soviet areas. The colonial authorities were clearly disturbed by the growing influence of Bolshevik sympathies in India.A first counter-move was the issuing of a fatwa, urging Muslims to reject communism. The Home Department established a special branch to monitor the communist influence. Customs were ordered to check the imports of Marxist literature to India. A great number of anti-communist propaganda publications were published.

The First World War was accompanied with a rapid increase of industries in India, resulting in a growth of an industrial proletariat. At the same time prices of essential commodities increased. These were factors that contributed to the build up of the Indian trade union movement. Unions were formed in the urban centres across India, and strikes were organised. In 1920, the All India Trade Union Congress was founded.

One Indian impressed with developments in Russia was S. A. Dange in Bombay. In 1921; he published a pamphlet titled Gandhi Vs. Lenin, a comparative study of the approaches of both the leaders with Lenin coming out as better of the two. Together with Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala, a local mill-owner, a library of Marxist Literature was set up and publishing of translations of Marxist classics began. In 1922, with Lotvala’s help, Dange launched the English weekly, Socialist, the first Indian Marxist journal.

Regarding the political situation in the colonised world, the 1920 second congress of the Communist International insisted that a united front should be formed between the proletariat, peasantry and national bourgeosie in the colonial countries. Amongst the twenty-one conditions drafted by Lenin ahead of the congress was the 11th thesis, which stipulated that all communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic liberation movements in the colonies. Some of the delegates opposed the idea of alliance with the bourgeoisie, and preferred support to communist movements of these countries instead. Their criticism was shared by the Indian revolutionary M.N. Roy, who attended as a delegate of the Communist Party of Mexico. The congress removed the term ‘bourgeois-democratic’ in what became the 8th condition.

The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on 17 October 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Evelina Trench Roy (Roy’s wife), Abani Mukherji, Rosa Fitingof (Abani’s wife), Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya. The CPI began efforts to build a party organisation inside India. Roy made contacts with Anushilan and Jugantar groups in Bengal. Small communist groups were formed in Bengal (led by Muzaffar Ahmed), Bombay (led by S.A. Dange), Madras (led by Singaravelu Chettiar), United Provinces (led by Shaukat Usmani) and Punjab (led by Ghulam Hussain). However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.

On 1 May 1923 the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan was founded in Madras, by Singaravelu Chettiar. The LKPH organised the first May Day celebration in India, and this was also the first time the red flag was used in India. On 25 December 1925 a communist conference was organised in Kanpur. Colonial authorities estimated that 500 persons took part in the conference. The conference was convened by a man called Satyabhakta, of whom little is known. Satyabhakta is said to have argued for a ‘national communism’ and against subordination under Comintern.  Being outvoted by the other delegates, Satyabhakta left both the conference venue in protest. The conference adopted the name ‘Communist Party of India’.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan & Khudai Khidmatgars

Born in village Uttamazai (now in Pakistan) in a Pathan family, Abdul Ghaffar Khan had his early education in Peshawar. His meaningful political career began in 1919 during agitations against Rowlatt Act and Khilafat Movements. Thereafter, from 1920 to 1947, he took a prominent part in the activities of the Congress. He was involved in all major political movements such as Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience, Satyagraha and Quit India. For several years, he was a member of Congress Working Committee but declined the offer of presidentship of the organisation. During this period (1920- 1947), he was arrested several times and spent around fourteen crucial years of his lifetime in jail. In the 1920s, he came to be known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’ because of his close association with Gandhi. Abdul Ghaffar Khan resigned from the INC in 1939 because of his disapproval of the war policy of the Congress. He rejoined the organisation in 1940 when the policy was revised. He was then sent to Aligarh, where he had the opportunity of meeting several educationists and nationalists, including Reverend Wigram (his principal), Gandhi Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad. After returning to his own province (NWFP of British India), he worked for inculcation of ideas of nationalism in the minds of Pathans.

Apart from being an ardent freedom fighter, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a dedicated social reformer. Realising the need for social reconstruction, he propagated Gandhian principles—principles which he had himself adopted. He firmly believed in the cult of khadi, non-violence, the need for development of village industries and emancipation of depressed classes and women. For the purpose of bringing about positive social changes he set up an organisation, Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God) in 1929.

The organisation which was also known as ‘Red Shirts’ comprised non-violent revolutionaries who were also devoted social workers and played an active role in the nationalist movement. Because of his socialistic zeal, Ghaffar Khan was given the title Fakhar- e-Afghan (the pride of Afghan). In 1940, he founded another Khudai Khidmatgar on the banks of Sardaryab and named it Markar-e-Allai-e-Khudai Khidmatgar.

Ghaffar Khan also advocated national education. He was instrumental in the establishment of a number of national schools in his province, especially the Azad High School of Uttamanzai and the Anjuman-ul-Afghanie. In 1928, he started a monthly journal in Pushto, Pakhtoon, which was stopped in 1931. However, it resumed publication a few years later as Das Roza. Although a pious Muslim, Ghaffar Khan believed in secularism. He condemned the communal politics of the Muslim League and argued against the idea of partition.

After partition, he started a struggle for establishment of Pakhtoonistan for Pathans and was jailed several times by successive Pakistani governments. He lived in exile in Afghanistan for several years. In 1969, he was invited to India on the occasion of Gandhi centenary celebrations. In 1987, he was presented the Bharat Ratna. Ghaffar Khan passed away in 1988.

Purna Swaraj Resolution

In December 1929, the Congress held its annual session at Lahore. Jawaharlal Nehru was the president at this session. In this session, the Congress declared ‘Purna Swaraj’ or Complete Independence as its ultimate goal. It asked all Congressmen and nationalists not to participate in elections to the legislatures and to resign from the legislatures. It was decided that 26 January would be henceforth observed as the Independence Day every year. To achieve the aim of complete independence, the Congress decided to launch another mass movement – the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Civil Disobedience Movement Civil Disobedience Movement, launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, in 1930, was one of the most significant phases of Indian freedom struggle. The Simon Commission, which was formed in November 1927 by the British Government to chart and conclude a Constitution for India, included members of the British Parliament only. As a result, the Commission was boycotted by every section of the Indian social and political platforms as an `All-White Commission`. The opposition to the Simon Commission in Bengal was noteworthy. In disapproval against the Commission, a `Hartal` or Strike was observed on 3rd of February, 1928 in various parts of the region. Widespread demonstrations were held in Kolkata on 19th of February, 1928, the day of Simon`s arrival to the city. Further, on 1st of March, 1928, meetings were held simultaneously in all 32 wards of the city, spurring people to restore the movement for boycott of British goods.

Mahatma Gandhi was arrested on 5th of May, 1930, just days before his projected raid on the Dharasana Salt Works. The Dandi March and the resultant Dharasana Satyagraha drew worldwide attention to the Civil Disobedience Movement through widespread newspaper coverage. It continued for almost a year, ending with the release of Mahatma Gandhi from jail and after the discussions at the Second Round Table Conference with Viceroy Lord Irwin. The crusade had a significant effect on changing British attitudes toward Indian independence and caused huge numbers of Indians to aggressively join the fight for the first time. The Salt March to Dandi and the flogging of hundreds of non-violent protesters in Dharasana, marked the efficient use of civil disobedience as a method for fighting social and political injustice.

On 8th of April 1929, members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association attacked the assembly chamber of the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi. In response, Lord Irwin published a Public Safety Bill. Moreover, on 31st of October, Lord Irwin announced that the natural constitutional progress of India was the attainment of Dominion Status. The Congress Party indicated its willingness to cooperate in formulating a Dominion constitution. In November, measures were accepted in such a way that Congress rejected the declaration.

On 23rd of December, Lord Irwin met with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Tej Bahadur Sapru in New Delhi. Erwin however, could not arrive at an agreement for framing a constitution under Dominion Status. At the ensuing 1930 annual meeting of the Congress Party held at Lahore, the Congress declared itself for independence rather than Dominion Status and authorised a campaign of Civil Disobedience. Gandhi`s Civil Disobedience Movement came out as a march to Dandi, in objection to the tax on salt. Gandhi reached Dandi on April 6th, and explicitly violated the salt law.

On 18th of April, around one hundred revolutionaries attacked police and railway armouries at Chittagong. Mahatma Gandhi condemned the raid, which had made a deep impression throughout India. On 5th of May, the Government of India had Gandhi arrested and lodged at Yervada Jail near Pune. Following the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, the British faced the full programme of Civil Disobedience as composed of Indian raids on salt depots, refusal to pay taxes in chosen areas, spirits and avoidance of business with all British firms, disobedience of forest laws and boycott of foreign cloth.

On 30th of June, the Government of India outlawed the All-India Congress Committee and the Congress Working Committee. Further, on 23rd of July, Lord Irwin facilitated visits to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru by two Indian Liberals, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mukund Ramrao Jayakar, for the purpose of finding ways to end civil disobedience movement. On 25th of January 1931, Lord Irwin authorised Gandhi`s release from prison and withdrew prohibition of illegality against the Congress Working Committee.

Between February to March, 1931, Lord Irwin and Gandhi met in a series of talks seeking settlement of the issues originating from the civil disobedience movement. In the agreement reached on 5th of March, Gandhi agreed to discontinue Civil Disobedience as it embraced defiance of the law, non-payment of land revenue, publication of news-sheets, termination of its boycott of British goods and the restraint of aggressive picketing. The Government of India agreed to cancel ordinances opposing the movement, to release Indian prisoners, return fines and property.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact

This pact was signed between Mahatma Gandhi and the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin on 5 March 1931.

Salient features of this act were as following:

  1. The Congress would participate in the Round Table Conference.
  2. The Congress would discontinue the Civil Disobedience Movement.
  3. The Government would withdraw all ordinances issued to curb the Congress.
  4. The Government would withdraw all prosecutions relating to offenses other than violent one. The Government would release all persons undergoing sentences of imprisonment for their activities in the civil disobedience movement.

Salt Satyagraha succeeded in drawing the attention of the world. Millions saw the newsreels showing the march. Time magazine declared Gandhi its 1930 Man of the Year, comparing Gandhi’s march to the sea “to defy Britain’s salt tax as some New Englanders once defied a British tea tax.” Civil disobedience continued until early 1931, when Gandhi was finally released from prison to hold talks with Irwin. It was the first time the two held talks on equal terms, and resulted in the Gandhi–Irwin Pact. The talks would lead to the Second Round Table Conference at the end of 1931.

In the March of 1930, Gandhi met with the Viceroy, Lord Irwin and signed an agreement known as the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The two main clauses of the pact entailed; Congress participation in the Round Table Conference and cessation of The Civil Disobedience Movement. The Government of India released all satyagrahis from prison.

Round Table Conferences

The Simon Commissions in India induced the dissatisfaction throughout India. It met a violent resistance in India and later the British Government organized for the Rounds Table conferences in order to take into consideration the demands and grievances of the Indians directly. Demands for Swaraj, or self-rule, in India had been growing increasingly strong. By the year 1930, many British politicians believed that India needed to move towards dominion status. As announced by the viceroy on behalf of the Government of England on October 31, 1929, Round Table Conference was convened in London. After lengthy discussions, three basic principles were agreed in the Conference and the British Government was made to accept those principles.

Three basic principles were put forwards in the Round Table Conference. According to the agreement, it was demanded that form of the new government of India was to be an All India federation. The federal government, subject to some reservations would be responsible to the federal Legislature, according to the agreement. The provincial autonomy was also demanded by the Congress in the Round Table Conference. However, Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister, made a momentous declaration on behalf of His Majesty`s Government. According to the view of His Majesty`s government it was declared that the responsibility of the government should be placed upon legislatures, Central and Provincial with certain provisions as was considered necessary.

The absence of the Congress representations in Round Table conference led to a second session of the Round Table conference, where the Congress representatives would participate. Several efforts were made in that direction by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Sir M.R. Jayakar, which led to the famous Gandhi-Irwin Pact, which was signed in March 1931. According to the Poona Pact, all political prisoners were released and the Civil Disobedience Movement was called off.

In the second Round Table Conference, Gandhiji was appointed as the representative of the Congress, which was convened from 1st September to 1st December in the year1931.But the significant issue of the Second Round Table conference was to solve the communal problem, which was not solved. This was because; Mr.Jinnah inflexibility was secretly supported by the British statesman like the Secretary of State for India; Sir Samuel Hoare. Disappointed by the result of the session of the Second Round Table Conference, Gandhiji returned to India and subsequently arrested on his arrival in the country.

Ramsay Macdonald announced that in default of an agreed settlement as regards the respective quanta of representation of different communities, the British Government would have to arbitrate their claims. Subsequently, on August 4, 1932, Macdonald`s infamous “Communal Award” came into existence. The concept of Communal Award was related to the representation of different communities in the provincial legislatures. However the “Communal Award” declared by Ramsay Macdonald was partially modified by the Poona Pact. This was accepted by the Hindu rulers due to Gandhiji, who wanted to prevent a political breach between the so-called caste Hindus and the Scheduled Castes.

Consequently the third Round Table Conference was again convened in London on November 17th to December 24th in the years 1932. A White paper was issued in the year March 1933. The details of the working basis of the new constitution of India were enumerated in the White Paper. It was declared that according to the new constitution, there would be dyarchy at the Center and the responsible governments in the center. In February 1935, a bill was introduced in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for India, which subsequently passed and enacted as the government of India Act, 1935.

Thus the Government of India Act came into existence in the Third Round Table Conference. The Government of India Act drew its materials from the Simon Commission, the report of the All-Parties conference i.e. the Nehru Report, the discussions at the three successive Round Table Conferences, the detail enumerated in the White Paper and the reports of the Joint Select Committees.

Gandhian Methods of Struggles-Strategies


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was ‘a man of millennium’ who imparts the lesson of truth, Non- violence and peace. The philosophy and ideology is relevant still today.The philosophy of Gandhi was based on truth, sacrifice, non- violence selfless service and cooperation. In modern times, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest. According to Gandhi one should be brave and not a coward. He should present his views, suggestions and thoughts without being violent. One should fight a war with the weapons of truth and non violence. Gandhi said that ‘There is no god higher than truth’. According to Gandhi’s thoughts nonviolence is ultimate solution of every kind of problem in the world. Gandhi was single person who fought against the British with the weapons of truth and Non-violence by persuading countrymen to walk on the path of non-violence. Gandhi leading a decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India, which eventually helped India, wins its independence in 1947. By the efforts of Gandhi India became independent. Gandhi initiated non violence activities like Quit India movement and non-operation movement. Gandhi could never have done what he did alone, but with his ability to identify a seed here, a seed there and nurture it, he was able to create a forest of human change. He understood that it was not enough to be a leader, but to create leaders.

In quite simple and clear words, Gandhism consists of the ideas, which Mahatma Gandhi put forth before human world. Along with that, to the maximum possible extent, Mahatma Gandhi treated his individual life in accordance with these ideas. Clearly; Gandhism is a mixture of Gandhi’s concepts and practices. The basic ground ship of Gandhism happens to be non-violence. The non-violence is the most ancient eternal value. This non-violence is the ground of ancient-most civilization and culture of India.Mahatma Gandhi said on this very account while making his concepts and practices based on non-violence: ‘I have nothing new to teach you’ Truth and non-violence are as old as hill. As we know, non-violence and truth are two sides of the same coin. After knowing Gandhism, it is imperative for us to know clearly the concept of non-violence also as it accords the ground for Gandhism. Gandhi’s importance in the political world scenario is twofold. First, he retrieved non-violence as a powerful political tool and secondly manifestation of a higher spiritual goal, culmination in world peace. For Gandhi, means were as important as the end and there could be only one means – that of non-violence.

As a situation opposite to violence is non-violence, we can firmly state, total nonviolence consists in not hurting some other one’s intellect, speech or action per own thought, utterance or deeds and not to deprive some one of his life. Mahatma Gandhi fully agrees with above-mentioned derivation of non-violence. He himself has said, Non-violence is not a concrete thing as it has generally been enunciated. Undoubtedly, it is a part of non-violence to abstain from hurting some living being, but it is only an iota pertaining to its identity. The principle of nonviolence is shattered by every evil thought, false utterance, hate or wishing something bad unto someone. It is also shattered per possession of necessary worldly things. In this chain Mahatma Gandhi clarified in an edition of Young India: ‘To hurt someone, to think of some evil unto someone or to snatch one’s life under anger or selfishness, is violence. In contrast, purest non-violence involves a tendency and presuming towards spiritual or physical benefit unto every one without selfishness and with pure thought after cool and clear deliberations’. The ultimate yardstick of violence or non-violence is the spirit behind the action. There are many examples of their use like resistance, non-violent resistance, and civil revolution. Mahatma Gandhi had to struggle in his whole life, but he never disappointed, he continued his innate faith in non-violence and his belief in the methods of Satyagraha. The significance of Satyagraha was soon accepted worldwide. Martin Luther King adopted the methods of Satyagraha in his fight against the racial discrimination of the American authorities in 1950. Gandhism is very much contextual today on this accord. It is significant. We should grasp importance of Gandhism while analyzing it.

Presently a big portion of the world happens to be under Democratic system of Government. Theoretically, this system stands out to be the best up to now. This is a truth. It is the best because people are connected with it directly or indirectly at every level. Not only this, it is this very system, which provides maximum opportunities of public progress and development. People can themselves decide in this system the mode of their welfare. However, even though being theoretically the best system of government, if we peruse the democratic nations, we first of all find that there is non-equal development of the citizens. We subsequently find that these nations are more or less victimized by regionalism. They have problem relating to language. They are under clutches of terrorism and communalism. There is also the problem of negation of human rights in these nations. There are other vivid problems akin to mention above and peace is far away so long as these problems exist. All citizens must have equal development and they should have communal harmony towards making all citizens collective and unified partners in progress. But, in reality, it is not so. It is essential that the nations of democratic system of government should be free from above-mentioned problems, must be capable of ensuring equal development of their all citizens and the citizens concerned must march forward on path of progress in unified way along with rendering contribution to world peace.

Gandhi demonstrated to a world, weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to Truth and Non-violence is not meant for individuals alone but can be applied in global affairs too. Gandhi’s vision for the country and his dreams for the community as a whole still hold good for India. He got the community to absorb and reflect true values of humanity and to participate in tasks that would promote the greater good. These issues are still relevant to what free India is and represents. The main cause of worry today is intolerance and hatred leading to violence and it is here the values of Gandhi need to be adhered to with more passion.

Gandhian Strategy

Gandhian strategy is mainly comprised with:


Truth and honesty



Peace and love

Satyagraha – A holistic approach towards life, based on the ideals of truth and moral courage.

Satyagraha’s goal is winning over people’s hearts, and this can be achieved only with tremendous patience, Satyagraha is more than a political tool of resistance. The similarities of the Satyagraha to some of the greatest philosophical and religious tenets of the world have been observed and much written about. However, in the specific context of India, Satyagraha was an immense influence. It went a long way in instilling among the Indians a dignity for hard labor and mutual respect. In the traditional Indian society torn apart by caste and creed based discriminations, Satyagraha stated that no work was lowly. It championed secularism and went a long way in eradicating untouchability from the heart of India’s typically stratified society. Satyagraha glorified the role of women as an important member of the society. All in all, Satyagraha instilled in the Indian mind a dignity and a self respect that is yet unprecedented in its modern history. Gandhi’s system of Satyagraha was based on nonviolence, non-cooperation, truth and honesty. Gandhi used non violence in India’s freedom struggle as main weapon and India became independent from British rule.

Truth – The most powerful weapon.

Gandhism is more about the spirit of Gandhi’s journey to discover the truth, than what he finally considered to be the truth. It is the foundation of Gandhi’s teachings, and the spirit of his whole life to examine and understand for oneself, and not take anybody or any ideology for granted. Gandhi said: ‘The Truth is far more powerful than any weapon of mass destruction’. Truth or ‘Satya’ was the sovereign principle of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. The Mahatma’s life was an eternal conquest to discover truth and his journey to that end was marked by experiments on himself and learning from his own mistakes. Fittingly his autobiography was titled ‘My Experiments with Truth.’ Gandhi strictly maintained that the concept of truth is above and beyond of all other considerations and one must unfailingly embrace truth throughout one’s life. Gandhi pioneered the term Satyagraha which literally translates to ‘an endeavor for truth . ‘In the context of Indian freedom movement, Satyagraha meant the resistance to the British oppression through mass civil obedience. The tenets of Truth or Satya and nonviolence were pivotal to the Satyagraha movement and Gandhi ensured that the millions of Indians seeking an end to British rule adhered to these basic principles steadfastly.

Non-violence is ever lasting.

Gandhian strategy is the collection of inspirations, principles, beliefs and philosophy. The fundamentals of Gandhi’s non violence theory, Jainism and Buddhism were the most important influence. Both Jainism and Buddhism preached non-violence as the basic principal of existence. Gandhi was also influenced By Bhagvad Gita with its stress on non attachment and selfless action, Christianity, along with its massage of love and compassion, extended even to one’s enemies, was another important influence on Gandhi’s life. Gandhi’s life was based on truth, honesty and moral courage.

Mahatma Gandhi was great national hero, who served the nation with truth and non violence. Gandhi was against violence. He always disliked war on the ground of its violent nature. That’s why when the Second World War began in 1939; he opposed the stand of British government dragging India into war without consulting Indian leaders. Gandhi was in favor of non violence; therefore he was against in any cooperation in war efforts. According to Gandhi the use of non violence consists of anger, selfishness, hatred and enmity. According to him violence cannot do anything good to human beings. A Gandhian strategy for confronting terrorism, therefore, would consist of the following:

Stop an act of violence in its tracks. The effort to do so should be nonviolent but forceful. To focus solely on acts of terrorism, Gandhi argued, would be like being concerned with weapons in an effort to stop the spread of racial hatred. Gandhi thought the sensible approach would be to confront the ideas and alleviate the conditions that motivated people to undertake such desperate operations in the first place. As we know, non-violence and truth go side by side. After knowing Gandhism, it is imperative for us to know clearly the concept of non-violence also as it accords the ground for Gandhism.

For Gandhi, means were as important as the end and there could be only one means- that of non-violence. What is non-violence? Ordinarily, we attribute nonviolence as a dictum that prescribes non-snatching of anyone’s life. Really, this is not complete derivation pertaining to the concept of non-violence. Non-violence is quite opposite to violence. As such, it would be better to know the position relating to violence in order to know non-violence and to be in knowledge of its meaning. According to a Jain scholar: ‘Whenever, we hurt some other living being through our thought, utterance or action under non-cordial stipulation and non-apt learning, such an impure spirit or act of destroying life of some other one, including the impure tendency, utterance or presuming, is taken to be full of vice of violence. In such a situation, even if there is no sort of violence externally, it intrinsically ipso facto remains a tendency of violence’. There are three categories of violence:-

When we hit physically anybody.

When we think wrong and feel jealous with anybody.

When we aggressively speak and abuse to anybody.

All these categories create negative energy in human body. The negative energy has adverse affect on human body. Gandhi criticized violence. It is a body of ideas and principles that describes the inspiration, vision and the life work of Gandhi. It is particularly associated with his contributions to the idea and practice of non violence resistance, sometimes also called civil resistance. The term “Gandhism” also encompasses what Gandhi’s ideas, words and actions mean to people around the world, and how they used them for guidance in building their own future.  Gandhism also permeates into the realm of the individual human being, non-political and nonsocial. A Gandhian can mean either an individual who follows, or a specific philosophy which is attributed to, Gandhism.

In context of non-violence being perpetual, Mahatma Gandhi states, ‘When we peruse the era from beginning unto now relating to the period for which we gain historical evidence, we find that man has been ultimately treading path of nonviolence’. It is, as such, that non-violence came into existence along with man. In case it has not been with man from the very beginning, there might have been self-doom by man.  As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and non-existence.”

However, it has not been that and not only human race is alive in such a huge number but there has been gradual enhancement in development and nearness in spite of presence of various obstacles and nuisances. This could never have been, but because non-violence is perpetual, it happened. Mahatma Gandhi was against any form of exploitation and injustice. According to him, evils must be opposed at any cost. But he insisted that the weapons must be non violent and moral ones. The adoption of peaceful method made one superior and put the enemy at a disadvantage but the condition is the opponent must be dealt with mutual respect and love. Gandhi believed that only through love an enemy could be permanently won. Non violence is not passive. It is active, creative, provocative and challenging. Gandhi described non-violence as ‘A force more powerful than all the weapons of world combined’. Non violence is the greatest and most active force in the world. Gandhi wrote, It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of humanity. When we tap into the spirit of non-violence, it becomes contagious and can topple empires. In relation to violence, there are two options in the world. These options are, we fight back or run away. Non violence gives us third option: creative active, peaceful resistance to injustice. Non violence means standing unmoving against injustice until injustice is transformed into justice. Non-violence dose not harm to others and does not adversely affect other directly .but it works internally. Instead of killing others, we should do in the nonviolent struggle for justice and human rights. Non-violence begins in the heart then it moves out to our families, local communities, cities, nation and world.

Gandhi thought, debased those who adopted it. A violent posture adopted by public authorities could lead to a civil order based on coercion. For this reason Gandhi insisted on means consistent with the moral goals of those engaged in the conflict.


Gandhi dreamed of a new world of non-violence with overall peaceful environment. Non-violence is a universal phenomenon and it has great relevance and significance. It is the ultimate solution of all kinds of problems and conflicts in the society, nation and world. However, its result depends upon its understanding and proper application. The present scenario of violence and exploitation all over the world has raised an important issue. Any nation which has been suffered with communalism, dictatorship, corruption and power games really needs to go back to Gandhi’s conviction of nonviolence and truth as his mission. By adopting nonviolence, social, political, economic and religious conflicts shall be removed. Undoubtedly, the social doctrine of non violence that has emerged from Gandhian ideas has now become the key to forge and sustain the new social and political order. Today, there is need to adopt Ghandhian philosophy and ideology in overall world to remove all kind of problems and creating peaceful environment. Gandhi is not the past, he is the future. He is an early sign of what we can be.

Presently a big portion of the world happens to be under Democratic system of Government. Theoretically, this system stands out to be the best up to now. This is a truth. It is the best because people are connected with it directly or indirectly at every level. Not only this, it is this very system, which provides maximum opportunities of public progress and development. People can themselves decide in this system the mode of their welfare. However, even though being theoretically the best system of government, if we peruse the democratic nations, we first of all find that there is non-equal development of the citizens. We subsequently find that these nations are more or less victimized by regionalism. They have problem relating to language. They are under clutches of terrorism and communalism. There is also the problem of negation of human rights in these nations. There are other vivid problems akin to mention above and peace is far away so long as these problems exist. These nations should get themselves rid of these problems, all citizens of them must have equal development and they should have communal harmony towards making all citizens collective and unified partners in progress. But, in reality, it is not so.

It is essential that the nations of democratic system of government should be free from above-mentioned problems, must be capable of ensuring equal development of their all citizens and the citizens concerned must march forward on path of progress in unified way along with rendering contribution to world peace. Gandhism is very much contextual today on this accord. It is significant.

Gandhi inspires an alternative vision of politics and resistance at a time when oppression is not only getting more overt and physical but also more insidious. His ideology of nonviolence is a good point to start from. It may not succeed, but it opens a world of possibilities and encourages us to think outside the box. His life also illustrates how radical ideas are first dismissed, only to be tested and embraced later. Gandhi demonstrated to a World, weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to Truth and Non-violence is not meant for individuals alone but can be applied in global affairs too. Gandhi’s vision for the country and his dreams for the community as a whole still hold good for India. He got the community to assimilate and reflect true values of humanity and to participate in tasks that would promote the greater good. These issues are still relevant to what free India is and represents. The main cause of worry today is intolerance and hatred leading to violence and it is here the values of Gandhi need to be adhered to with more passion. He is relevant not yesterday or today but forever!!


Jawaharlal Nehru

Nehru’s Nationalism and his role in the Freedom Movement are closely interrelated, since it was the nature of Nehru’s Nationalist ideas that dictated his course of action in the freedom movement of India. Nehru’s Nationalism: Nehru’s nationalism was not one of mindless jingoism. He was able to reach a common ground between an erudite internationalism and a very keen understanding of the Indian condition. Nehru’s nationalism was marked by a fiery pride in the heritage of the country. But he was willing to temper this pride with his readings and his rationalist views that he received from his Western education in the West.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in the freedom movement of India has probably not received as much historical attention as it deserves. That is, of course no surprise, as Jawaharlal Nehru’s astounding success as a statesman who ushered in a new era of international relations through the formation of the NAM, and his stature as the first prime minister of independent India often adumbrate his position as a significant figure in the freedom movement of India. With his charm, highly impressive educational background, and selfless service to the nation, Nehru presented the face of a new and active India to thousands of Indians who looked up to him as a role model and a guide.

Early Years of Nehru in the Freedom Movement of India:

Jawaharlal Nehru was born into politics. His father Motilal Nehru was a veteran Congressman and committed to the cause of India’s freedom for a very long time. Nehru spent much of his educational years in England studying first at Harrow and then at Trinity College, Cambridge. However, the freedom of India was always on his mind. It was therefore no surprise that after his return from the British shores in 1912, the job of a lawyer was the last of Nehru’s priorities. As a student he already felt himself closely attached to the cause India’s freedom, and had his sympathies with the Extremist leaders of Congress. After his return, he involved himself directly into the political scenario of the country.

However, Nehru was still comparatively without a firm direction in these early years, not sure which path was the right path that would lead towards India’s freedom. His father’s moderate ideologies and elitist way of life disturbed him, as he thought him, like many other Congressmen of his generation, to be much dissociated from the ground realities of the land and the lives of the common people of India. He also realized that the direct application of Socialist measures would not suit India’s socio-economic profile. It was at that time that he found a direction in the mode of civil resistance as preached by Gandhi. Gandhi’s success in Champaran and Ahmedabad renewed and established his belief in Satyagraha. He was not slow to adopt the cultural aspects of Satyagraha as well. He read the Indian scriptures of India, and dressed in home-spun clothes becoming a staunch Gandhian in all senses. Motilal and his entire family adopted the Gandhian way of life. Nehru traveled across India, and was warmly received by the masses. This filled him with a renewed sense of self-confidence. It was time he decided to whole-heartedly commit himself to the cause of Indian freedom.

Jawaharlal Nehru and the Non-Cooperation Movement:

The first big involvement of Jawaharlal Nehru came at the onset of the noncooperation movement in 1920. Nehru joined in whole-heartedly in this Satyagraha based movement that stormed India. Nehru was arrested on charges of anti governmental activities and was released a few months later. In the rift formed within the Congress following the sudden closure of the non-cooperation movement after the Chauri Chaura incident, Nehru remained loyal to Gandhi’s camp and denied to join the Swaraj Party formed by Motilal Nehru and CR Das. After his release, Nehru’s fame as a dynamic Congress leader was well-established. He soon became the President of the Allahabad Congress Committee in 1923. However, towards the end of the decade, Nehru grew increasingly impatient with the pacifist nature of the senior Congressman. Along with Subhas Chandra Bose, Nehru was intent on complete freedom and believed in giving an ultimatum to the British Government to grant India dominion status. The senior leaders were bent on a slower and more patient approach. The Calcutta Congress of 1928 brought the rift into the open. Jawaharlal openly decried the Nehru Commission framed by Motilal Nehru, and it needed the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi to persuade Nehru to abandon his fiery stance of more direct action.

Nehru and the Civil Disobedience Movement:

The Lahore Congress of 1929 was monumental in the political career of Nehru as well as the history of India’s freedom struggle. Nehru was elected the president of Congress for the first time at a young age of forty. He used the platform of the Lahore conference to declare the goal of complete freedom or Purna Swaraj. The Civil Disobedience movement was formally launched after the Lahore Congress, and Nehru whole heartedly plunged himself in the non-violent protests and picketing that took the nation by storm. Nehru was arrested again in 1930, beginning the second and the longest phase of his prison stays. On his release, he formed the Socialist party within the Congress and insisted on more stern and immediate measures to realize the goal of India’s freedom.

Nehru and the last days of Indian Freedom Struggle:

The Government of India Act of 1935 called for nation-wide elections. Nehru campaigned vigorously for Congress, although he himself did not contest directly in the elections. With Gandhi concentrating on the spiritual development of his followers and gradually dissociating himself from direct political action, the stature of Nehru within the Congress ranks was now more than ever. He became the Congress President in the consecutive years of 1936 and 1937.By 1938, the rift in Congress was clear. With Bose and Gandhi forming the two feuding camps, Nehru was once more faced with a political dilemma. However, he decided to side with Gandhi and his methods. Bose resigned as the Congress president, and Nehru’s status in the Congress reached a height previously unattained. This year started a new phase in Nehru’s career, especially after his denial to come to a compromise with the Muslim League.

With the clouds of World War II looming large in the horizon, Nehru’s skill in international relations would be tested once more. Nehru did not support Bose’s policy of siding with the Axis forces, and intended to extend support to the Allies. In the mean time, the Second Round Table conference failed and Gandhi launched the Quit India movement in 1942. Nehru was arrested and was released only in 1945. By the time the World War II was over and the new Labor Government of Britain seemed willing to grant India it’s long deserved freedom. However, the British Government wanted to adopt a policy of waiting and watching the result of the general elections of 1945.

Nehru was once again at the center of activities. He was arrested. His refusal to comply with Jinnah’s claims made partition inevitable, as Jinnah called for direct action. Although his fight for Indian freedom stood on the verge of success, Nehru knew his work was far from over. He had to build a new India and had to guide the nascent economy towards success.

Subhas Chandra Bose

Subhas Chandra Bose was most dynamic leader of India`s struggle for independence. He is more familiar with his name Netaji. His contribution towards India`s Freedom struggle was of a revolutionary. Subhas Chandra Bose was born on 23rd Jan, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa, India. From his childhood he was a bright student and was a topper in the matriculation examination from the whole of Kolkata province. He graduated from the Scottish Church College in Kolkata with a First Class degree in Philosophy. Influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, he was known for his patriotic zeal as a student. He went to England to fulfil his parents` desire to appear in the Indian Civil Services. He stood fourth in order of merit. But he left civil Service`s apprenticeship and joined India`s freedom struggle.

During his service with the Indian National Congress, he was greatly influenced by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Sri Aurobindo. He did not agree with Gandhiji`s methods of achieving Independence through non-violence. He believed that the only way of achieving Independence was by shedding blood. He therefore returned to Kolkata to work under Chittaranjan Das, the Bengali freedom fighter and co-founder of the Swaraj Party. He was imprisoned for his revolutionary activities on various occasions. In 1921, Bose organized a boycott of the celebrations to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales to India for which he was imprisoned for the first time. Bose was elected to the post of Chief Executive Officer of the newly constituted Calcutta Corporation in April 1924. That same year in October, Bose was arrested on suspicion of terrorism. At first, he was kept in Alipur Jail and later he was exiled to Mandalay in Burma. Bose was once again arrested on January, 1930. After his release from jail on September 25, he was elected as the Mayor of the City of Kolkata. Netaji was imprisoned eleven times by the British over a span of 20 years either in India or in Rangoon. During the mid 1930s he was exiled by the British from India to Europe where he championed India`s cause and aspiration for self-rule before gatherings and conferences. Throughout his stay in Europe from 1933 to 1936, he met several European leaders and thinkers. He travelled extensively in India and in Europe before stating his political opposition to Gandhi. Subhash Chandra Bose married Emilie Schenkl, an Austrian born national, who was his secretary, in 1937 in German. Bose wrote many letters to Schenkl of which many have been published in the book “Letters to Emilie Schenkl”, edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose.

Subhas Chandra Bose became the president of the Haripura Indian National Congress against the wishes of Gandhiji in 1938. He was elected as the president for two consecutive terms. Expressing his disagreement with Bose, Gandhi commented “Subhas` victory is my defeat”. Gandhi`s continued opposition led to Netaji`s resignation from the Working Committee. He was left with no alternative but to form an independent party, the “All India Forward Bloc”.

In his call to freedom, Subhas Chandra Bose encouraged full participation of the Indian Masses to strive for independence. Bose initiated the concept of the “National Planning Committee” in 1938. His correspondence reveals that despite his clear dislike for British subjugation, he was deeply impressed by their methodical and systematic approach and their steadfastly disciplinarian outlook towards life. The contrast between Gandhi and Bose is captured with reasonable measure in a saying attributable to him “”If people slap you once, slap them twice”. Having failed to persuade Gandhi for the mass civil disobedience to protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow`s decision to declare war on India`s behalf without consulting the Congress leadership, he organised mass protests in Kolkata. The disobedience was calling for the `Holwell Monument` commemorating the Black Hole of Kolkata. He was thrown in Jail and was released only after a seven-day hunger strike. Bose`s house in Kolkata was kept under surveillance by the British. With two pending court cases; he felt that the British would not let him leave the country before the end of the war. This set the scene for Bose`s escape to Germany, via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. In Germany he instituted the Special Bureau for India under Adam von Trott zu Solz, broadcasting on the German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. Here he founded the “Free India Centre” in Berlin, and created the Indian Legion consisting of some 4500 soldiers who were the Indian prisoners of war. The soldiers had previously fought for the British in North Africa prior to their capture by Axis forces.

Workers and Peasants Party

The Workers and Peasants Party (WPP) was a political party in India, which worked inside the Indian National Congress 1925-1929. It became an important front organisation for the Communist Party of India and an influential force in the Bombay labour movement. The party was able to muster some success in making alliances with other left elements inside the Congress Party, amongst them Jawaharlal Nehru. However, as the Communist International entered its ‘Third Period’ phase, the communists deserted the WPP project. The WPP was wound up, as its leadership was arrested by the British authorities in March 1929.

Founding of the party The party was founded in Bengal on November 1, 1925, as the Labour Swaraj Party of the Indian National Congress. The founding leaders of the party were Kazi Nazrul Islam, Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, Qutubuddin Ahmad and Shamsuddin Hussain. The founding manifesto was signed by Kazi Nazrul Islam.During the first three month of existence, the party organisation was very provisional. At the All Bengal Praja Conference, held at Krishnagar on February 6, 1926, a resolution was moved by Faizuddin Hussian Sahib of Mymensingh for the creation of a workers-peasants party. The move was seconded by Braja Nath Das of Bogra. The resolution was passed by the conference, and in accordance with this decision the name of the party was changed to ‘Workers and Peasants Party of Bengal’.Dr.Naresh Chandra Sengupta was elected party president and Hemanta Kumar Sarkar and Qutubuddin Ahmad were elected as joint secretaries.

Build-up of the WPPs of Bengal and Bombay

As of 1926, the WPP of Bengal had only 40 members, and its growth in membership was very slow.A two-room party office was set up at 37, Harrison Road, Calcutta. British intelligence perceived that the Bengal Jute Workers Association, the Mymensingh Workers and Peasants Party (with branch in Atia), the Dhakeswari Mill Workers Union, the Bengal Glass Workers Union, the Scavengers’ Union of Bengal (with branches in Howrah, Dacca and Mymensingh) and the Workers Protection League were led by the party. Soon after the 1926 conference of the WPP of Bengal, the underground Communist Party of India directed its members to join the provincial Workers and Peasants Parties. All open communist activities were carried out through Workers and Peasants Parties. The Comintern  organiser M.N. Roy took part in the build-up of the WPP. A WPP was formed in Bombay in January 1927.D.R.Thengdi was elected president and S.S.Mirajkar general secretary. The WPPs gained influence within the Bombay and Bengal Pradesh Congress Committees. From the WPP of Bombay, K.N. Joglekar, R.S. Nimbkar and D.R. Tengdi were elected to the All India Congress Committee. From the WPP of Bengal, two party representatives were elected to the AICC. The WPP representatives together with Nehru were able to convince the AICC to make the Indian National Congress an associate member of the League against Imperialism.

Madras Congress

At the 1927 annual Congress session in Madras a leader of the WPP of Bombay, K.N.Joglekar presented a proposal for a resolution in the Subjects Committee, that the Indian National Congress should demand full independence for India. The proposal was seconded by Jawaharlal Nehru. At the open session of the Madras Congress, Nehru moved the resolution and Joglekar seconded it. The resolution was passed unanimously. This was the first time in history that the Indian National Congress officially demanded full independence from British rule. During the Madras session, the WPP functioned as a fraction. Directly after the Madras Congress, the WPP took part in a ‘Republican Congress’ meeting together with other left elements of the Congress Party and radical trade unionists. Nehru chaired the meeting.

Trade union struggles

Particularly the WPP of Bombay was successful in mobilising trade union work. It built unions amongst printing press, municipal and dock workers. It gained influence amongst the workers of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. During 1928 the WPP led a general strike in Bombay, which lasted for months. At the time of the strike, the Girni Kamgar Union was founded.

Anti-Simon struggle

During the protests against the Simon Commission, the WPP played a major role in organising manifestations in Calcutta and Bombay. In Bombay it also mobilised ‘hartal’ (general strike) in protest against the Simon Commission.

1928 Bengal party conference

The WPP of Bengal held its third conference in Bhatpara, in March 1928. After the conference the executive of the party published the conference documents in a book titled A Call for Action. In the book an argument is presented that national independence was not possible as long as capitalists dominated the freedom struggle. British intelligence sources claimed that Philip Spratt had been the author of the book.

Formation of WPPs in Punjab and UP

At a conference in Lyallpur in September 1928 the Punjab Kirti Kisan Party (Workers and Peasants Party of Punjab) was formed by the Kirti group. Chabil Das, a Lahore propagandist of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, was elected president of the party. In October 1928 two WPPs were formed in the United Provinces. One of them was the Bundelkhand Workers and Peasants Party, with N.L.Kadam as its secretary and headquartered in Jhansi. The party held its founding conference in Jhansi on October 28-October 29, 1928.Jhavwala from Bombay presided over the conference. The other was the U.P. Peasants and Workers Party which was founded at a conference in Meerut. P.C. Joshi was elected president and Dharamvir Singh was elected general secretary The Meerut conference was attended by Philip Spratt, Muzaffar Ahmed and Kedar Nath Sahgol.

All India WPP conference

In late November 1928 the WPP of Bengal executive committee met with Philip Spratt and Muzaffar Ahmed. They decided to appoint Sohan Singh Josh of the Punjab Kirti Kisan Party to chair the All India Workers and Peasants Conference, to be held in Calcutta in December. The provincial WPPs attended All India Workers and Peasants Conference in Calcutta on December 22-December 24, 1928, at which the All India Workers and Peasants Party was formed. A 16-member national executive was elected. The Bengal, Bombay, Punjab and United Provinces were allocated four seats each in the national executive. Out of these 16, ten were either identified as CPI members or as ‘communists’.R.S. Nimbkar was the general secretary of the party. The conference discussed an affiliation of the party with the League against Imperialism. Spratt and Ahmed urged the conference to approve the affiliation of the party to the League. The conference decision to postpone a decision on the issue to a later occasion.

1929 Bombay municipal election

The party contested the January 1929 Bombay municipal election, mustering around 12,500 votes.

Comintern turns against the WPP

The political fortune of the WPP was to be terminated by changes in policy of the Communist International. The July 1928 sixth congress of the Communist International declared that ‘The Union of all communist groups and individuals scattered throughout the country into a single, illegal, independent and centralized party represent the first task for Indian communists.’ This was a statement made in opposition to the building of the ‘multi-class’ WPP. The new line was promoted at the congress by the Finnish communist Otto Kuusinen. In his report, he stated that it was ‘necessary to reject the formation of any kind of bloc between the Communist Party and the national-reformist opposition’ in the colonies. Moreover, he claimed that parties like WPP could develop into petty bourgeois parties. Leon Trotsky concurred with this view. In June 1928, he had submitted a document which called WPP an invention of Joseph Stalin and that the party was a ‘thoroughly anti-Marxist formation’. Abani Mukherji, a founding member of CPI, had described WPP as a ‘Kuomintang Party’ and that WPP ‘is accumulating by itself the elements of future Indian Fascism.’. S.N.Tagore and the delegates of the Communist Party of Great Britain argued for retaining the WPP. This declaration created confusion amongst the communist ranks in India. On December 2, 1928, the Executive Committee of the Communist International had drafted a letter to the WPP, which singled out the WPP as consisting ‘…largely of petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and they were tied up with either the system of landlordism and usury or straight away capitalist interests.’ The letter did however take long time to reach the WPP. The Tenth Plenum of the ECCI, July 3-July 19, 1929, directed the Indian communists to break with WPP. When the communists deserted it, the WPP fell apart.

Meerut Conspiracy case

On March 20, 1929, arrests against WPP, CPI and other labour leaders were made in several parts of India, in what became known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case. Most of the WPP leadership was now put behind bars. The trial proceedings were to last for four years, thus outliving the WPP. Tengdi, the WPP of Bombay president, died whilst the trial was still going on.S.S. Mirajkar stated in his defense that:”It has already been pointed out to the Court that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party was a party inaugurated with a view to establish national independence through revolution.” Abdul Majid on his behalf stated that:”If there is any resemblance between the Communist Party and the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party is that the immediate programme of the former and the ultimate programme of the latter is one and the same … As both are revolutionary bodies it is necessary that their national revolutionary programme should resemble each other.”

The judgement in the case was ended with the following passage:

“As to the progress made in this conspiracy its main achievements have been the establishment of Workers and Peasant Parties in Bengal, Bombay and Punjab and the U.P., but perhaps of deeper gravity was the hold that the members of the Bombay Party acquired over the workers in the textile industry in Bombay as shown by the extent of the control which they exercised during the strike of 1928 and the success they were achieving in pushing forward a thoroughly revolutionary policy in the Girni Kamgar Union after the strike came to an end.”After the arrests of its main leaders, the WPP was dissolved.


The founding manifesto of the Labour Swaraj Party stressed that the party was organised on the basis of class struggle, for the liberation of the masses. The party combined demand for full independence with socio-economic demands. In 1927, the WPP of Bombay presented a programme of action to the All India Congress Committee. The programme proposed struggle for full independence combined with active socio-economic policies for the toiling classes. The WPP of Bengal had submitted a manifesto the Madras Congress session, which sought that the Congress should engage in mass struggles for full independence and that a Constituent Assembly should determine the constitution of an independent India. The party also worked for the abolishment of ‘zamindari’ system in agriculture.


The organ of the Labour Swaraj Party, and later the WPP of Bengal, was Langal (‘Plough’). The chief editor of Langal was Kazi Nazrul Islam and the editor was Manibhusan Mukhopadhaya. Langal stopped publication after 15 issues. On August 12, 1926 it was substituted by Ganavani. In 1928, the party also had a weekly Hindi organ, Lal Nishan (‘Red Flag’). A weekly newspaper in Kushtia, Jagaran (‘awakening’), was politically close to the party.In Punjab the publication Kirti (‘Worker’) had been started in 1926 by Santokh Singh of the Ghadar Party. Soon it became the organ of the Punjab Kirti Kisan Party and managed by Sohan Singh Josh.


When the Indian leadership failed to come up with a constitutional solution of the communal issue, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald announced his own formula for solving the problem. He said that he was not only a Prime Minister of Britain but was also a friend of the Indians and thus wanted to solve the problems of his friends. After the failure of the Second Round Table conference, Mr. MacDonald announced the ‘Communal Award’ on August 16, 1932. According to the Award, the right of separate electorate was not only given to the Muslims of India but also to all the minority communities in the country. The Award also declared untouchables as a minority and thus the Hindu depressed classes were given a number of special seats, to be filled from special depressed class electorates in the area where their voters were concentrated. Under the Communal Award, the principle of weightage was also maintained with some modifications in the Muslim minority provinces. Principle of weightage was also applied for Europeans in Bengal and Assam, Sikhs in the Punjab and North West Frontier Province, and Hindus in Sindh and North West Frontier Province.

Though the Muslims constituted almost 56 percent of the total population of Punjab, they were given only 86 out of 175 seats in the Punjab Assembly. The Muslim majority of 54.8 percent in Punjab was thus reduced to a minority. The formula favored the Sikhs of Punjab and the Europeans of Bengal the most. The Award was not popular with any Indian party. Muslims were not happy with the Communal Award, as it has reduced their majority in Punjab and Bengal to a minority. Yet they were prepared to accept it. In its annual session held in November 1933, the All India Muslim League passed a resolution that reads; “Though the decision falls far short of the Muslim demands, the Muslims have accepted it in the best interest of the country, reserving to themselves the right to press for the acceptance of all their demands.” On the other hand, the Hindus refused to accept the awards and decided to launch a campaign against it. For them it was not possible to accept the Untouchables as a minority. They organized the Allahabad Unity Conference in which they demanded for the replacement of separate electorates by joint electorates. Many nationalist Muslims and Sikhs also participated in the conference. The Congress also rejected the Award in Toto. Gandhi protested against the declaration of Untouchables as a minority and undertook a fast unto death. He also held meetings with the Untouchable leadership for the first time and try to convince them that they were very much part of the mainstream Hindu society. He managed to sign the Poona Pact with Dr.B.R. Ambedker, the leader of Untouchables in which the Congress met many of the Untouchables’ demands.

Poona Pact of 1932

Poona Pact of 1932 is an agreement between the untouchables or depressed classes of India and the Hindus. Dr. B.R.Ambedkar led the depressed class. The Poona Pact took place at Yerawada Jail in Pune, Maharashtra on 24th September, 1932.During the first Round Table Conference, Ambedkar favored the move of the British Government to provide separate electorate for the oppressed classes as was done in case of other minorities like Muslims, Sikh etc. The British invited various Indian leaders in Round Table Conferences during 1930-32 to draft a new constitution involving self rule for native Indians. Mahatma Gandhi did not attend the first Round Table but was present in the later ones. Gandhiji strongly opposed the proposal of separate electorate for the depressed classes as he thought that it would disintegrate Hindu society. He went for an indefinite hunger strike starting from September 20,1932 against the decision of the then British Prime Minister J.Ramsay Mac Donald. Mr. Ramsay granted communal award to the depressed classes as he gave them separate position in the constitution for governance of British India.

The whole country was agitated at the health concern of Mahatma Gandhi. A mass upsurge generated in India to save the life of Gandhiji.  Ambedkar was put in a great pressure and he was forced to soften his stand. The compromise between the leaders of caste Hindu and the depressed classes were achieved when Dr. B.R.Ambedkar signed the Poona Pact on September 24, 1932.The resolution was announced in a public meeting on September 25 in Bombay, which confirmed-” henceforth, amongst Hindus no one shall be regarded as an untouchable by reason of his birth and they will have the same rights in all the social institutions as the other Hindus have”. This was a landmark step for Dalit movement in India that gave share to the Dalits in the political empowerment of democratic India.

The following text represents the agreement achieved between the leaders acting on behalf of the oppressed classes and of rest of the community, regarding the position of that particular class in the legislature and certain other matters involved with their welfare.

1.There shall be reserved seats for the depressed classes out of general electorate seats in the provincial legislature as follows- Madras 30; Bombay with Sind 25; Punjab 8; Bihar and Orissa 18; Central Provinces 20; Assam 7; Bengal 30; United Provinces 20. Total 148.These figures are based on the Prime Minister`s (British) decision.

  1. Election to these seats shall be by joint electorate subjects by the following procedures – the members of the depressed classes formed the Electoral College, which was in liberty to elect the panel of the depressed classes. Voting system was taken into consideration then. The legislature pointed out that the method of the single vote and four persons getting the highest number of votes in such primary elections shall be the candidates for election by the general electorate.
  2. The symbol of the Depressed Classes in the Central Legislature shall be based on the principle of joint electorates and reserved seats by the method of primary election in the manner provided for in clause above for their representation in the provincial legislatures.
  3. In the Central Legislature eighteen per cent of the seats allotted to the general electorate for British India in the said legislature shall be reserved for the Depressed Classes.
  4. The system of primary election to a panel of candidates for election to the Central and Provincial Legislatures as herein-before mentioned shall come to an end after the first ten years, unless terminated sooner by mutual agreement under the provision of clause 6 below.
  5. The system of representation of Depressed Classes by reserved seats in the Provincial and Central Legislatures as provided for in clauses (1) and (4) shall continue until determined otherwise by mutual agreement between the communities concerned in this settlement.
  6. The Franchise for the Central and Provincial Legislatures of the Depressed Classes shall be as indicated, in the Lothian Committee Report.
  7. There shall be no disabilities attached to any one on the ground of his being a member of the Depressed Classes in regard to any election to local bodies or appointment to the public services. Every endeavour shall be made to secure a fair representation of the Depressed Classes in these respects, subject to such educational qualifications as may be laid down for appointment to the Public Services.
  8. In every province out of the educational grant an adequate sum shall be earmarked for providing educational facilities to the members of Depressed Classes.

Emergence of the Communist Party of India

The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on October 17, 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Evelina Trench Roy (Roy’s wife), Abani Mukherji, Rosa Fitingof (Abani’s wife), Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya. The CPI began efforts to build a party organisation inside India. Roy made contacts with Anushilan and Jugantar groups in Bengal.Small communist groups were formed in Bengal (led by Muzaffar Ahmed), Bombay (led by S.A. Dange), Madras (led by Singaravelu Chettiar), United Provinces (led by Shaukat Usmani) and Punjab (led by Ghulam Hussain). However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.

During the 1920s and beginning of 1930s the party was badly organized, and in practice there were several communist groups working with limited national coordination. The British colonial authorities had banned all communist activity, which made the task of building a united party very difficult. Between 1921 and 1924 there were four conspiracy trials against the communist movement; First Peshawar Conspiracy Case, Second Peshawar Conspiracy Case, Moscow Conspiracy Case and the Cawnpore Bolshevik Conspiracy Case. In the first three cases, Russian-trained muhajir communists were put on trial. However, the Cawnpore trial had more political impact. On March 17, 1924, M.N. Roy, S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, Nalini Gupta, Shaukat Usmani, Singaravelu Chettiar, Ghulam Hussain and R.C. Sharma were charged, in Cawnpore (now spelt Kanpur) Bolshevik Conspiracy case. The specific charge was that they as communists were seeking “to deprive the King Emperor of his sovereignty of British India, by complete separation of India from imperialistic Britain by a violent revolution.”Pages of newspapers daily splashed sensational communist plans and people for the first time learned such a large scale about communism and its doctrines and the aims of the Communist International in India. Singaravelu Chettiar was released on account of illness. M.N. Roy was in Germany and R.C. Sharma in French Pondicherry, and therefore could not be arrested. Ghulam Hussain confessed that he had received money from the Russians in Kabul and was pardoned. Muzaffar Ahmed, Nalini Gupta, Shaukat Usmani and Dange were sentenced for various terms of imprisonment. This case was responsible for actively introducing communism to a larger Indian audience. Dange was released from prison in 1925.

On December 25, 1925 a communist conference was organized in Kanpur. Colonial authorities estimated that 500 persons took part in the conference.The conference was convened by a man called Satyabhakta. At the conference Satyabhakta argued for a ‘national communism’ and against subordination under Comintern. Being outvoted by the other delegates, Satyabhakta left both the conference venue in protest.The conference adopted the name ‘Communist Party of India’. Groups such as LKPH dissolved into the unified CPI. The émigré CPI, which probably had little organic character anyway, was effectively substituted by the organization now operating inside India. Soon after the 1926 conference of the Workers and Peasants Party of Bengal, the underground CPI directed its members to join the provincial Workers and Peasants Parties. All open communist activities were carried out through Workers and Peasants Parties.

The sixth congress of the Communist International met in 1928. In 1927 the Kuomintang had turned on the Chinese communists, which led to a review of the policy on forming alliances with the national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries. The Colonial theses of the 6th Comintern congress called upon the Indian communists to combat the ‘national-reformist leaders’ and to ‘unmask the national reformism of the Indian National Congress and oppose all phrases of the Swarajists, Gandhists, etc. about passive resistance’. The congress did however some differentiation between the character of the Chinese Kuomintang and the Indian Swarajist Party, considering the latter as neither a reliable ally nor a direct enemy. The congress called on the Indian communists to utilize the contradictions between the national bourgeoisie and the British imperialists. The congress also denounced the WPP. The Tenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, July 3, 1929 – July 19, 1929, directed the Indian communists to break with WPP. When the communists deserted it, the WPP fell apart.

On March 20, 1929, arrests against WPP, CPI and other labour leaders were made in several parts of India, in what became known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case. The communist leadership was now put behind bars. The trial proceedings were to last for four years. As of 1934, the main centres of activity of CPI were Bombay; Calcutta and Punjab. The party had also begun extending its activities to Madras. A group of Andhra and Tamil students, amongst them P. Sundarayya, were recruited to the CPI by Amir Hyder Khan. The party was reorganised in 1933, after the communist leaders from the Meerut trials were released. A central committee of the party was set up. In 1934 the party was accepted as the Indian section of the Communist International. When Indian leftwing elements formed the Congress Socialist Party in 1934, the CPI branded it as Social Fascist. In connection with the change of policy of the Comintern toward Popular Front politics, the Indian communists changed their relation to the Indian National Congress. The communists joined the Congress Socialist Party, which worked as the left wing of Congress. Through joining CSP the CPI accepted the CSP demand for Constituent Assembly, which it had denounced two years before. The CPI however analysed that the demand for Constituent Assembly would not be a substitute for soviets.

In July 1937, the first Kerala unit of CPI was founded at a clandestine meeting in Calicut.Five persons were present at the meeting, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Krishna Pillai, N.C.Sekhar, K. Damodaran and S.V. Ghate. The first four were members of the CSP in Kerala. The latter, Ghate, was a CPI Central Committee member, who had arrived from Madras. Contacts between the CSP in Kerala and the CPI had begun in 1935, when P. Sundarayya (CC member of CPI, based in Madras at the time) met with EMS and Krishna Pillai. Sundarayya and Ghate visited Kerala at several times and met with the CSP leaders there. The contacts were facilitated through the national meetings of the Congress, CSP and All India Kisan Sabha. In 1936-1937, the cooperation between socialists and communists reached its peak.At the 2nd congress of the CSP, held in Meerut in January 1936, a thesis was adopted which declared that there was a need to build ‘a united Indian Socialist Party based on Marxism-Leninism’. At the 3rd CSP congress, held in Faizpur, several communists were included into the CSP National Executive Committee.

In Kerala communists won control over CSP, and for a brief period controlled Congress there. Two communists, E.M.S. Namboodiripad and Z.A. Ahmed, became All India joint secretaries of CSP. The CPI also had two other members inside the CSP executive. On the occasion of the 1940 Ramgarh Congress Conference CPI released a declaration called Proletarian Path, which sought to utilize the weakened state of the British Empire in the time of war and gave a call for general strike, no-tax, no-rent policies and mobilising for an armed revolution uprising. The National Executive of the CSP assembled at Ramgarh took a decision that all communists were expelled from CSP.

In July 1942, the CPI was legalised. Communists strengthened their control over the All India Trade Union Congress. At the same time; communists were politically cornered for their opposition to the Quit India Movement.CPI contested the Provincial Legislative Assembly elections of 1946 of its own. It had candidates in 108 out of 1585 seats. It won in eight seats. In total the CPI vote counted 666 723, which should be seen with the backdrop that 86% of the adult population of India lacked voting rights. The party had contested three seats in Bengal, and won all of them. One CPI candidate, Somanth Lahiri, was elected to the Constituent Assembly. In 1946 the party launched the Tebhaga movement in Bengal, a militant campaign against feudalism. During the period around and directly following Independence in 1947, the internal situation in the party was chaotic. The party shifted rapidly between leftwing and right-wing positions. In February, 1948, at the 2nd Party Congress in Calcutta, B.T. Ranadive (BTR) was elected General Secretary of the party. The conference adopted the ‘Programme of Democratic Revolution’. This programme included the first mention of struggle against caste injustice in a CPI document.

In several areas the party led armed struggles against a series of local monarchs that were reluctant to give up their power. Such insurgencies took place in Tripura, Telangana and Kerala. The most important rebellion took place in Telangana, against the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Communists built up a people’s army and militia and controlled an area with a population of three million. The rebellion was brutally crushed and the party abandoned the policy of armed struggle.BTR was deposed and denounced as a ‘left adventurist’.

In the general elections in 1957, the CPI emerged as the largest opposition party.In 1957, the CPI won the state elections in Kerala. This was the first time that an opposition party won control over an Indian state.E.M.S.Namboodiripad became Chief Minister. At the 1957 international meeting of Communist parties in Moscow, the Communist Party of China directed criticism at the CPI for having formed a ministry in Kerala.

A serious rift within the party surfaced in 1962. One reason was the Sino-Indian War, where a faction of the Indian Communists backed the position of the Indian government, while other sections of the party claimed that it was a conflict between a socialist and a capitalist state, and thus took a pro-Chinese position. There were three factions in the party – “internationalists”, “centrists”, and “nationalists”.”Internationalists”, including B.T.Ranadive, P.Sundarayya, P.C.Joshi, Makineni Basavapunnaiah, Jyoti Basu, and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, supported the Chinese stand. The “nationalists”, including prominent leaders such as S.A. Dange, A.K.Gopalan backed India.”Centrists” took a neutral view; Ajoy Ghosh was the prominent person in the centrist faction. In general, most of Bengal Communist leaders supported China and most others supported India. Hundreds of CPI leaders, accused of being pro-Chinese, were imprisoned. Some of the nationalists were also imprisoned, as they used to express their opinion only in party forums, and CPI’s official stand was pro-China. Ideological differences lead to the split in the party in 1964 when two different party conferences were held, one of CPI and one of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).


All India Kisan Sabha is the peasant or farmers’ wing of the Communist Party of India. The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, who had formed in 1929 the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights. Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across the rest of India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936, with Swami Sahajanand Saraswati elected as its first president. The other prominent members of this Sabha were N.G. Ranga, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Narendra Dev and Bankim Mukerji, and it involved prominent leaders like N.G. Ranga, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Pandit Karyanand Sharma, Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Pandit Yadunandan (Jadunandan) Sharma, Rahul Sankrityayan, P. Sundarayya, Ram Manohar Lohia, and Bankim Mukerji. The Kisan Manifesto, released in August 1936, demanded abolition of the zamindari system and cancellation of rural debts; in October 1937 it adopted the red flag as its banner. Soon, its leaders became increasingly distant with Congress and repeatedly came in confrontation with Congress governments, in Bihar and United Province.

In the subsequent years, the movement was increasingly dominated by Socialists and Communists as it moved away from the Congress. By the 1938 Haripura session of the Congress, under the presidency of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the rift became evident and, by May 1942, the Communist Party of India, which was finally legalized by the government in July 1942, had taken over AIKS all across India, including Bengal where its membership grew considerably. It took on the Communist Party’s line of People’s War and stayed away from the Quit India Movement which started in August 1942, though this also meant losing its popular base. Many of its members defied party orders and joined the movement. Prominent members like N.G. Ranga, Indulal Yagnik and Swami Sahajananda soon left the organization, which increasingly found it difficult to approach the peasants without the watered-down approach of pro-British and pro-war, and increasing its pronationalist agenda, much to the dismay of the British Raj which always though Communists would help them in countering the nationalist movement. The Communist Party of India (CPI) split into two in 1964; following this, so did the All India Kisan Sabha, which each faction affiliated to the splinters.

Government of India Act, 1935

The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 had brought a large scale discontentment among the people of India. The Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Gandhi had fanned the fire of this discontentment. In order to give some concession to Indians in the field of administration, the Government of India Act, 1935 was designed on the basis of the recommendation of Simon Commission. It envisaged an administrative set-up for India such as:

  1. A Federal government would be established in India with the inclusion of the native States.
  2. Diarchy introduced by the Act Of 1919 should be abolished from the State and established in the Centre.
  3. The provinces would be given complete autonomy and the administrative subjects divided into three lists i.e. Federal List that included the subjects assigned to the Central Government; the Provincial List that consisted of all the subjects under the sole jurisdiction of the provinces and finally, the Concurrent List upon whose subjects both the Centre and Provinces would exercise their combined authority.
  4. A Federal Court was established at the Centre.

Besides these main provisions, it also contained the provisions of the formation of the provinces of Sindh and Orissa, separate and communal electorate system with reduction of the qualification of voters; separation of Burma and Aden from India and so on. Accordingly, the Home Government in England was reformed. The Indian Council was abolished and a few advisers varying from 3 to 6 were appointed to advise the Secretary of States in his policy formulation towards India. The Secretary was normally not expected to poke his nose in the Indian affairs which were to be carried on by Governors.

Further, a High Commission was to be appointed by the Viceroy of India for a period of five years. Coming to the Federal Government, the Viceroy remained its head. He exercised a wide range of power concerning administration, legislation and finance. The Act had created provisions for Reserved Subjects which were looked after by Viceroy through Executive Councilors and transferred Subjects through the Indian ministers, not more than 10 in number selected from the Legislature. Thus, this system of Diarchy was fully introduced in the Centre. At the Centre the Federal Legislature consisted of two Houses, the Council of States and Federal Assembly consisting of 260 and 375 members respectively. The Council of States (Upper House) was permanent body whose one-third members retired every year.

In case of the Provincial Government, the Governor carried on the administration with the help of a Council of Ministers selected by him from among the members of the Provincial Legislature. Of course, the composition of the Provincial Legislature was different in several Provinces. The Legislatures of U.P., Bihar, Assam, Bengal, Madras and Bombay consisted of two Houses – the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council whereas in other provinces, it consisted of one House i.e.Legislative Assembly. The members of these Houses varied from Province to Province.

The India Act of 1935 was sugarcoated quinine as was apparent from the very beginning. Though it introduced Diarchy in the Centre and autonomy in the Province but the power of the elected or nominated members were limited. Further, it fanned the fire of communalism by retaining separate reserved electorates. In actual practice, this Act did not create scope for the self-experience of the Indian Legislators as they enjoyed only limited powers. On the other hand, the India Act, 1935 had its merits too. It introduced Diarchy in the Centre and granted provincial autonomy. It also created field for some practical experiences on the part of Indian leaders. In the ensuing election of 1936-37, the All-India Congress gained majority in Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, U.P., Bihar and Orissa. In Assam and northwestern frontier, it became the largest single party. Similarly, the Muslim League got absolute majority in Sindh. The legislators got experience in forming ministry in these provinces. The most important fact regarding the achievement of the Act can be stated that the political experience ingenerated in the minds of the Indian leaders went a long way in making the people of India conscious for their political liberty which they achieved in 1947.


The Provincial Elections of 1936-37 was a leading event which highlighted the clashing powers of both Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. Though the terms of the Government of India Act was not acceptable to both the parties yet both chose to contest the election which would help them to assess the view of the common mass and the popular acceptance of the parties. As such the parties depended on the outcome of the election to read the reaction of the common man towards the prevailing political upheaval.

Provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935

The provincial elections came as a result of the provision made in the Government of India Act of 1935 which stated that an electorate of nearly 36 million as compared to 7 million in 1920, representing 30 percent of the adult population, would elect 1585 representatives for the provincial legislature. This created excitement among all the Indian political parties who considered it to be the first constitutionally responsible effort made by the British government towards India making India constitutionally more responsible .The Act envisaged that the party which will win the majority of seats in the legislature will form the ministry that will function on collective responsibility.

The Outcome of the Provincial Election in 1936-1937

The Provincial Elections which came as an outcome of the Government of India Act of 1935 was contested by both the parties with an expectation to have a chance for creating one`s own government with their own representatives. In spite of their personal contentions over the provisions of Government of India Act, 1935 these parties decided to prepare the agenda for elections and contest it with utmost sincerity. The election manifesto of both the parties showed a lot of differences. While the manifesto of Muslim League was vague and could hardly impress its community with any particular promise except the concern showed towards the Muslim community for their religious rights which it claims to protect, further asks for the repeal of all the repressive laws, reduction of cost of administration, social, economic as well as political upliftment of the Muslim communities.

The election manifesto of the Congress, on the other hand, had been quite clear. As drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru it was more specific in which it rejected `the new constitution to its entirety`. It further presented the growing mass support of the people and the role played by them in participating in the freedom struggle. The election showed the popular strength of Indian National Congress all over the country. Out of 1161 seats it won 716 seats and secured a clear majority in almost six provinces out of eleven provinces in British India. It emerged as one of the largest party winning the majority of three large states of India. Congress fared best in the state of Uttar Pradesh where it secured 133 out of 288 seats, in Bihar 95 out of 152, in Bombay (now Mumbai) 88 out of 175 ,in Central Province 71 out of 112, in Madras (now Chennai) and Orissa it gained 150 out of 215 seats and 36 out of 60 seats respectively. The success of Congress in North West Frontier Province shattered the Muslim League. The League also fared badly in Muslim majority provinces like Bengal. Out of 117 seats it won 38, in Punjab 2 out of 84 and in Sindh 3 out of 33. Thus the election results exhibited the popularity of the Congress where the Muslim League could stand in no competition. However, even after winning popularity none of the parties could claim the Muslim representation as in case of Congress the election results could only show its popularity but not popular representation.



In September 1939, the Second World War broke out. Indian opinion was not sought but the British government dragged India in the war as a party. Britain which claimed to be fighting for freedom had destroyed the freedom of the Indian people and had dragged India into the war. But India cannot associate herself in a war said to be for democratic freedom, when that very freedom is denied to her. The Congress demanded the establishment of an Indian government responsible to the Central Legislative Assembly. The British government did not agree even to this.

In November 1939, the Congress resigned in protest. In October 1940, the Individual Satyagraha was launched by Gandhiji. Vinoba Bhave was chosen as the first person to offer the Satyagraha. Within six months about 25,000 persons were in jail. At this time Germany attacked U.S.S.R and Japan attacked the U.S. naval station at Pearl Harbor, and started advancing in South East Asia. These developments led to the widening of the war into a world war.

Indian national leaders were opposed to fascism and condemned it as the enemy of the freedom. Many countries, allies against fascism, put pressure on the British government to concede the demand of the Indian people. In March 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India to hold talks with the Indian leaders, which failed because the British were not willing to promise independence to India. At last, in August, 1942, Gandhiji  gave forth the slogan ‘Quit India’. The Congress passed a resolution on 8th August 1942, which mentioned the ‘immediate ending of British rule in India’. The day after the resolution was passed, the Congress was banned and all the important leaders were pushed behind the bars.

After the arrest of the leaders, there were spontaneous demonstrations all over India. The government tried to suppress the demonstrations. Hundreds of people were killed and over 70,000 persons arrested. In 1941, Subhash Chandra Bose had escaped from India and had reached Germany. In July 1943 he came to Singapore. The Indian National Army was organised from among the Indian soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the Japanese. In 1944, three units of Indian National Army along with Japanese troops moved into the Imphal Kohima. Though the attempt to liberate India failed, the activities of Subhash Chandra Bose and the INA served to strengthen the anti-imperialist struggle in India.

Quit India Movement

Quit India Movement which took place in the month of August has been one of the most popular mass movements during the freedom struggle of India. With the failure of Cripps Mission the political situation had worsened leaving every individual with full of frustration and disgust. People in total frustration eagerly waited for one such popular movement which could bring a complete end to Imperialism in India. It was at this moment when Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi called for Quit India Movement which turned out to be the most popular mass movement engulfing every section of the society. Quit India Movement was one of the active actions taken by the Indian National Congress passed through the resolutions of July and August 1942 insisting for an immediate independence for India. Against the background of Cripps Mission and the compulsive inclusion of India in the war the political scenario in India had worsened .As such if Congress was to keep its promises for an independent India , the time has come when Congress was to give a final blow to British paramount in India.

In July, Congress passed a resolution demanding immediate end of British rule in India. The resolution gave a brief account of the efforts made by the congress to convince the British Rulers of the necessity to make India free not only for the benefit for India but for the safety of the world as well as the end of Nazism, Fascism, militarism and other forms of imperialism all over the world. It further claimed that it had no intentions to humiliate the Allied Powers and so appealed the British Rule to withdraw its rule from India as soon as possible. It further reiterated its efforts to solve the ever existing the communal drifts and cooperate with the efforts of United Nations to create a peaceful world .As such if the government fails to grant the demands of the Congress then it will compel the party to go for a mass movement on the non violence basis which will gather all its non violent strength as collected since 1920 and organize a mass civil disobedience movement.

The July Resolution was purposely neglected by the government who now blamed the demands as wrong timed. This forced the Indian National Congress to pass another resolution in August 1942, which took the July resolution as the basis for the new resolution. The Resolution for Quit India was made in the Bombay (now Mumbai) session of Congress held in 8th August, 1942 .The agenda of the resolution declared that the committee resolves to sanction for the vindication of India`s alienable right to freedom and independence, the starting of a mass struggle on the non – violent lines on the widest possible scale so that the country must utilize all non violent strength which it has gathered since last twenty years. The committee placed the entire movement under Gandhi`s leadership and it was expected that with launching of the movement every man and woman who will be participating the movement must function within four general instruction of the party. In his famous `Do or Die` speech Gandhi declared four parameters of the Quit India Movement – firstly forget the differences between the Hindus and the Muslims and think yourself as an Indian only; secondly realize that our quarrel is not with the British people but with Imperialism under which they function; thirdly feel from today that you are a free man and not a dependent; and fourthly Do or Die, either free India or in the attempt.

In spite of his passing of the resolution he declared that the struggle has yet not started and it will commence only after he meets the Viceroy with these demands.  He appealed to all the journalists, civil servants, princes, soldiers and students to realize their responsibility towards the nation and participate if they wish to see India free on the non – violent means.

Reaction of British to the Movement

The attitude of the British Government had also changed which now wanted to suppress every movement which will hamper its war image .As a result the quit India resolution was passed on 8th August and by 24 hours on 9 August Gandhi and all prominent leaders were arrested. Congress was declared an illegal party and simultaneous arrests took place all over the country. Quit India Movement has been popularly divided into three phases .The first phase started from the day of Gandhi`s arrest. The news of Quit India Movement and Gandhi`s arrest took the people unaware but the reaction was spontaneous. All the major cities of India which included Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Patna and many more cities faced hartals and the entire nation came to a standstill. Government`s reaction was repressive which began with indiscriminate firing and mass arrest.

The second phase began from the middle of August when the, focus shifted from the center to the out skirts where mobs began to attack the court buildings. Places like Eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Midnapore in West Bengal , parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Orissa where infuriated mobs tried to set up parallel governments though short lived and unsuccessful. The large suppressions executed by the government helped the people to organize the third phase of the movement which entered its longest and most formidable phase. This was characterized by the terrorist activities of the educated youth and was directed against communications and police confrontations, occasionally rising to the level of guerrilla warfare. In Bombay (now Mumbai), Poona, Satara, Baroda, parts of Kerela, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh underground organizations became active. Government atrocities crossed all limits but failed to restrict the movement from reaching its climax.

On the other side the war also came in favour of Allied powers .This made the secretary of State to condemn the Congress as growing revolutionary under Gandhi which aimed at crippling the government. As the government continued to blame Mahatma Gandhi for the violence taking place after the declaration of Quit India Movement, Gandhi gave an ultimatum with a 21 days fasting which began in 10th February 1943 and ended in 3rd March. Its main purpose was to draw world`s attention towards India cause.

Overall the Quit India Movement was successful in breaking the myth o f the government that it was the most popularly accepted government and that it was run by the majority of people who were loyal to the crown. Turning out to be the most popular movement in the freedom struggle for India this movement saw participation from all sections of people.

Indian National Army

Indian National Army, also known as the Azad Hind Fauj, was formed for the liberation of India from the British rule. It was formed in South-East Asia in the year 1942 by pioneering Indian Nationalists and prisoners who wanted to throw off the yoke of foreign domination and liberate the country. The INA was initially formed under Mohan Singh, after the fall of Singapore, the captain in the 1/14th Punjab Regiment in the British Army. However, the first INA under Mohan Singh collapsed and finally it was revived under the leadership of Subash Chandra Bose in 1943. Bose`s army was declared as the Azri Hukumat e Azad Hind. Indian National Army emerged along with Mahatma Gandhi`s peaceful resistance movement within India. In contrast to Mahatma Gandhi, Bose advocated a more aggressive confrontation with the British authorities.

Origin of Indian National Army

INA was formed during the first world war when the Ghadar Party and the emergence form of the Indian Independence League planned to rebel in the British Indian Army from the Punjab through Bengal to Hong Kong. However, this plan met with failure after the information was leaked to British Intelligence. During the Second World War, the plan to fight the British found revival and a number of leaders and movements were initiated. These included the various “liberation armies” which were formed in as well as with the help of Italy, Germany as well as in South-east Asia. Thus in South East Asia the concept of the Indian National Army emerged. It was supported by the Japanese 15th army and led by Bose.

Composition of the Indian National Army

Indian National Army had many valued freedom fighters that helped in the battles. They all had a brilliant background and fought for a similar cause, freedom of India. The INA freedom fighters were from every sphere ranging from barristers to plantation workers. The revival of the Indian National Army was done by Subhash Chandra Bose. Most of the people who joined the army had no prior military experience and thus to ensure a well-trained army, Bose established an Officers Training School for INA officers and the Azad School for the civilian volunteers Many youth were also sent to the Imperial Military Academy in Japan for advanced training. Every soldier was required to spend about six to eight hours of training daily. The training included physical training, army drill and handling arms such as rifles, pistols, hand grenades and bayonets. The soldiers also attended lectures of Indian and world history and military subjects like map reading as well as signaling.

Battles of Indian National Army

The battles that were fought by the Indian National Army during World War II were fought in the South-East Asian region. The operations include Malayan Campaign in 1942 as well as Burma Campaign. The operations of the INA involved the battle of Imphal, Kohima, Pokoku and Irrawady River operations. It began a long march over land and on foot towards Bangkok, along with Subash Chandra Bose. At the time of Japan`s surrender in September 1945, Bose left for Manchuria to attempt to contact the advancing Soviet troops, and was reported to have died in an air crash near Taiwan. On the other hand the INA fighters were imprisoned. The prisoners faced the death penalty, life imprisonment or a fine as punishment if found guilty.

Women in Indian National Army

Indian National Army was structured in a way that lodged active participation from women. A women regiment was formed in 1943. INA had John Thivy, Dr. Lakhsmi Sehgal, Narayan Karruppiah as well as Janaki Thevar as its members. Among the masses attending Bose`s rally on 9 July, Dr.Lakshmi, responded immediately to his appeal to form a Women`s Regiment. She visited many families to persuade the women to join the INA. Many were reluctant; however, she managed to gather twenty enthusiastic girls who were willing to break the traditional barriers. The girls presented the guard-of-honour to Bose. He was impressed and invited Dr. Lakshmi to lead the Women`s Regiment. On 12 July 1943, Bose announced the formation of the Women`s Regiment, naming it “Rani of Jhansi Regiment” which in later years was considered to be a special characteristic of the INA. INA fighters were not invited to join the Indian Army after India`s independence. However, a few ex-INA members later have seen prominent public life or held important positions in independent India. The Indian National Army thus rose to power under the able leadership of Bose. Though it was ultimately disbanded, its heroic attempts at forming an army and taking a radical step towards Indian Independence marked a significant step in the Indian Independence Movement.

Cripps Mission

Cripps Mission was deputed by British parliament in early 1942 to contain the political crisis obtained in India. The mission was headed by Sir Stafford Cripps, a Cabinet Minister. Cripps, a radical member of the Labour Party and the then Leader of the House of Commons, was known as a strong supporter of Indian national movement. Cripps Mission was prompted by two considerations. First, Gandhi’s call for the Satyagraha (literally ‘insistence on truth’, generally rendered ‘soul force’) movement in October 1940 was designed to embarrass Britain’s war efforts by a mass upheaval in India and needed to be ended in the British interest. Secondly, the fall of Singapore (15 February 1942), Rangoon (8 March), and the Andamans (23 March) to the Japanese was threatening the entire fabric of British colonial empire. In the face of these crises, the British felt obliged to make some gestures to win over Indian public support.

The Cripps offer reiterated the intention of the British government to set up an Indian Union within the British Commonwealth as soon as possible after the war, and proposed specific steps towards that end. A constituent assembly would be elected by the provincial legislatures acting as an Electoral College. This body would then negotiate a treaty with the British government. The future right of secession from the Commonwealth was explicitly stated. The Indian states would be free to join, and in any case their treaty arrangements would be revised to meet the new situation.

The offer dominated Indian politics for the rest of the war. Although the British official circles claimed that the Cripps offer marked a great advance for its frankness and precision, it was plagued throughout, and ultimately torpedoed, by numerous ambiguities and misunderstandings. The Congress was very critical of the clauses regarding nomination of the states’ representatives by the rulers and the provincial option Jawaharlal Nehru had desperately sought a settlement largely because of his desire to mobilize Indian support in the anti-fascist war, while most Congress working Committee members and Gandhi himself had been apathetic. This embittered Congress-British relations and things were then rapidly moving towards a total confrontation in the form of quit India movement. But Cripps blamed the Congress for the failure of the Plan, while the Congress held the British government responsible for it. A chance of establishing a united independent India was thus lost.

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny (RIN Mutiny)

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny or the Bombay Mutiny was the revolt of the Indian sailors. The sailors who belonged to the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay harbour went for a strike and organised a mutiny on 18th February 1946.The whole mutiny involved 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors. This revolt subsequently came to be known as the RIN revolt. It started as a protest against their general conditions. The immediate reason for the outbreak of the mutiny was their pay and food. In addition to that there were more elementary matters such as racist behaviour by Royal Navy personnel towards Indian sailors, and disciplinary measures taken against the sailors who demonstrated nationalist sympathy. The R.I.N revolt started electing a Naval Central Strike committee, Signalman M.S Khan and Telegraphist Madan Singh were elected as the President and Vice-President respectively.

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny was widely supported by the Indian population. The one day strike spread to other cities from Bombay and the Royal Indian Air Force and local police forces also joined this mutiny. Furthermore, in Madras and Pune, the British garrisons had to face revolts within the ranks of the Indian Army. The mutinying ships hoisted three flags which were tied together those of the Congress, Muslim League, and the Red Flag of the Communist Party of India (CPI). The flags signified the unity and demarginalisation of communal issues among the mutineers. The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny was called off following a meeting between the President of the Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC), M. S. Khan, and Vallab Bhai Patel of the Congress. Vallab Bhai Patel was sent to Bombay to settle the crisis. Thus; Patel put forth a statement calling on the strikers to end their action. Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League also supported the statement of Patel. As a result, the strike ended and in spite of assurances of the good services there were widespread arrests of the Congress and the Muslim League. Furthermore, there were incidents of courts martial and large scale dismissals from the service. However, after independence none of the dismissed returned into either of the Indian or Pakistani navies.

INA Trials

The INA trials or the Red Fort Trials refer to the courts martial of a number of officers of the Indian National Army between November 1945 and May 1946 variously for treason, torture, murder and abetment to murder. The first, and most famous, of the approximately ten trials was held in the Red Fort in Delhi, hence deriving the name. In total, approximately ten courts-martial were held. The first of these, and the most celebrated one, was the joint court-martial of Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon and Major General Shah Nawaz Khan. The three had been officers in the British Indian Army and taken POW in Malaya or Singapore. They had, like a large number of other troops and officers of the British Indian Army, joined the Indian National Army and later fought in Imphal and Burma alongside the Japanese forces in allegiance to Azad Hind. These three came to be the only defendants in the INA trials who were charged of “Waging War against the King Emperor” (The Indian Army act of 1911 did not have a separate charge for treason) as well as Murder and abetment of Murder. Those charged later only faced trial for torture and murder or abetment of murder. The trials covered arguments based on Military Law, Constitutional Law, International Law, and Politics. These trials attracted much publicity, and public sympathy for the defendants who were perceived as patriots in India, and outcry over the grounds of the trial, as well as general emerging unease and unrest within the troops of the Raj ultimately forced the then Army Chief Claude Auchinleck to commute the sentences of the three defendants in the first trial.

Cabinet Mission

Cabinet Mission which arrived on 24th March 1946 was mainly aimed at devolution of power from the British crown to India giving India independence under Dominion Status in the Commonwealth of Nations. On 28th January 1946, the Viceroy, announced in the legislative Assembly, his intention to establish a new executive council with political leaders and to create a constitution -making body in India. Plans were finalised and devised with the sole enterprise of Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. On 19th February 1946, in Parliament, the British Government announced the forwarding of a team of three Cabinet Ministers to India to seek agreement on how to enact self-determination and Independence with the Indian political leaders. The Cabinet Mission included Lord Pethick Lawrence (1871-1961) the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps (1889- 1952), President of the Board of Trade and A.V.Alexander (1885-1965), First Lord of the Admiralty. Cabinet Mission also received the boost of Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India during the time.

Meetings held by the Cabinet

On its arrival on 24th march 1946 the mission aimed at having talks with all the major parties of India who had marked themselves on the political canvas of Indian politics. This included parties like Indian National Congress, Muslim League, The Sikhs, scheduled Casts and liberal leader Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. All the members surrounded around 472 members in total. The cabinet began its discussion on 16th to 18th April when it met Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah to outline two plans, comprising a small Pakistan with sovereignty or a big Pakistan in an All India Union. Jinnah avoided making a choice. Further, in the days of 5th to 12th May 1946, in Shimla, the Cabinet Mission convened a conference, including four members each from the Congress Party and Muslim League. They included for the Congress: Nehru, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Abdul Ghaffar Khan and for the Muslim League: Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Ismail Khan and Abdur Rab Nishtar. The Government of India invited Mahatma Gandhi to come and stand by if needed for consultation. The agenda treated the grouping of provinces, nature of a union and the constitution making process. Cripps` Union of All-India Plan failed to win the acceptance of either the Congress or Muslim League. On May 12th, it became evident that no solution was possible and the Mission announced the failure of the conference.

Proposals made by Cabinet Mission

Cabinet Mission, on its arrival in India, aimed at fulfilling three wide spectrum issues. Firstly, it came to hold a preparatory discussion with the elected members of British India and the Indian states in ordered to secure maximum agreement over the issue of framing a new constitution; secondly, to set up a constitution -making body; and thirdly, to establish a full self-government in India. Along with this regarding the minorities it claimed that they had full knowledge of the minorities but could not allow the minorities to place veto on the advance of majority party. The cabinet then sought to answer some of the vital questions which were engulfing Indian politics for long. On the issue of accepting an independent Pakistan, the Cabinet Mission completely rejected the idea on communal grounds and claimed that it would not solve the problem. As the committee estimated that the Hindu and Muslim population on the western zone were at a ratio of 62:38 and on the eastern zone it was 51.7:48.3.On the basis of these calculations the Cabinet came to a conclusion that a separate state of Pakistan was not viable. Secondly, the mission also raised question regarding the level of communication to be established with the new state falling under Pakistan .Even in case of distribution of Army also it will turn out to be a trouble. On a positive side the mission suggested creation of a federal Union consisting of British India and Indian states. The union will deal with the foreign affairs, defense and communication and authority to raise finances for these subjects

Reaction of the All India Parties to Cabinet Mission

The Cabinet Mission was received with a multiple reaction. As the Mission announced on16th May its three tier scheme for forming a Union of All-India consisting of Hindu-majority provinces, Muslim majority Provinces and the Indian States. On 25th June, the Congress Working Committee passed a resolution to accept the Cabinet Mission`s plan and to enter the Constituency Assembly. The Sikhs on other side were in favour of a united India. The scheduled castes were against the partition and wanted to guarantees of their human rights. The Hindu Mahasabha insisted on the favour of immediate transfer of power and indivisible India. Thus, the Cabinet Mission can be regarded as the most effective step adopted by the British government to reach India towards Independence. The mission for the first time made a public declaration of its intension to grant India free from subjugation. Though this mission only talked of an interim government with a dominion status it was later on condemned for this. Nevertheless it paved the way for the Indian leaders to experience the running of a nation as a whole.

The interim government of India

The interim government of India, formed on 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly of India, had the task of assisting the transition of India and Pakistan from British rule to independence. It remained in place until 15 August 1947, the date of the independence of the two new nations of India and Pakistan.


After the end of the Second World War, the British authorities in India released all political prisoners who had participated in the Quit India movement. The Indian National Congress, the largest Indian political party, which had long fought for national independence, agreed to participate in elections for a constituent assembly, as did the Muslim League. The newly elected government of Clement Attlee dispatched the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India to India to formulate proposals for the formation of a government that would lead an independent India.

The elections for the Constituent Assembly were not direct elections, as the members were elected from each of the provincial legislative assemblies. In the event, the Indian National Congress won a majority of the seats, some 69 per cent, including almost every seat in areas with a majority Hindu electorate. The Congress had clear majorities in eight of the eleven provinces of British India. The Muslim League won the seats allocated to the Muslim electorate.

Viceroy’s Executive Council

The Viceroy’s Executive Council became the executive branch of the interim government. Originally headed by the Viceroy of India, it was transformed into a council of ministers, with the powers of a prime minister bestowed on the vice president of the Council, a position held by the Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru. After independence all members would be Indians, apart from the Viceroy, in August to become the Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, who would hold only a ceremonial position, and the Commander-in-Chief, India, Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced after independence by General Sir Rob Lockhart. The senior Congress leader Vallabhbhai Patel held the second-most powerful position in the Council, heading the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Information and Broadcasting. The Sikh leader Baldev Singh was responsible for the Department of Defence and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was named to head the Department of Education and arts. Asaf Ali, a Muslim Congress leader, headed the Department of Railways and Transport. Scheduled Caste leader Jagjivan Ram headed the Department of Labour, while Rajendra Prasad headed the Department of Food and Agriculture and John Mathai headed the Department of Industries and Supplies.

Upon the Muslim League joining the interim government, the second highest-ranking League politician, Liaquat Ali Khan, became the head of the Department of Finance. Abdur Rab Nishtar headed the Departments of Posts and Air and Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar headed the Department of Commerce. The League nominated a Scheduled Caste Hindu politician, Jogendra Nath Mandal, to lead the Department of Law.


Although until August 1947 British India remained under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the interim government proceeded to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, including the United States. Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly, from which the Interim Government was drawn, struggled with the challenging task of drafting a constitution for independent India.

Wavell Plan, 1945

In October, 1943 Lord Wavell who had succeeded Lord Linlithgow as Governor General, made an attempt resolve the stalemate the deadlock in India. He went to England for consultations in March 1945.The result of Governor`s consultations was soon revealed. He broadcast to the people of Indian the proposals of the British Government to resolve the deadlock in India on 14th June.

Mr. Amery, he was the Secretary of State for India. On 14th June made a similar statement in the House of Commons: “The offer of March 1942 stands in it’s entirely without change and qualification.” He also proposed the renovation of the Governor General`s Executive Council pending the preparation of a new constitution. With the expectation of the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief all other member of the Executive Council would be nominated from amongst leaders of Indian Political life. This Council would have “a balanced representation of the main communities, including equal proportions of Muslims and caste Hindus. It would work, if formed, under the existing constitution. Though the Governor-General`s veto would not be abolished, it would not be used unnecessarily. The portfolio of external Affairs was to be transferred from the Governor-General to an Indian member of Council. A Conference of representatives chosen by the Viceroy was to be convened with a view to obtaining from the leaders of the various parties a joint list or failing it, separate lists of worthy people to constitute the new Executive Council”. It was also expected “that provincial ministers in Section 93 Province would resume office and that there would be coalition.”

The Congress Working Committee members were let out of jail. Their high hopes prevailed on all sides as invitations for the planned Simla Conference went out to the leaders including Gandhiji. The conference was adjourned after three days of discussion and the meeting was held on June 25, 1945. Mr. Jinnah had a short interview with the Viceroy on 11th July. In this interview he seems to have made it clear to the latter that the league, wishing to be regarded as the sole representative of Indian Muslims. That was firmly opposed to the inclusion of any long league Muslims in the Viceroy`s list. But the Viceroy could not agree to this point of view. Lord Wavell wound up the Conference by declaring a failure of the talks. The responsibilities for the failure lie partly on Lord Wavell himself and partly on Mr.Jinnah. Mr. Maulana Azad, the Congress President put the blame for the break down directly on the shoulders of Mr. Jinnah. Lord Wavell should have taken the leaders into confidence as regards the composition of his own list of members of the Executive Council. Possibly the Congress leaders might have been persuaded to accept that list either as a whole, or with minor modifications mutually agreed upon. He should not have allowed the league practically to veto the whole plan and thus alone to block the path of progress.

It must be noted in this connections that the Viceroy had assured the Congress President that “no party to the conference could be allowed to obstruct settlement out of wilfulness”, but it seems that as in the parallel case of Cripps, Wavell`s hands were stayed at the last moment. The tangible result of the failure of the Simla Conference was to strengthen the position of Mr.Jinnah and the Muslim League Which was clearly manifested in the elections of 1945-46.


Direct Action Day (1946)

Direct Action Day hartal called by the Muslim League on August 16, 1946 to get rid of ‘British slavery and contemplated future caste-Hindu domination’. The  backdrop of the Direct Action Day was not only the Muslim League’s acceptance of the cabinet mission plan, but also the loss of face it had to experience because of the plan’s rejection by the Congress. The ‘British betrayal’, as the Muslim League branded the Cabinet Mission’s successive failed proposals to placate the obstinate Congress, made Jinnah bid good-bye to constitutional methods and resort to a programme of ‘direct action for the achievement of Pakistan’, to quote a resolution of the Muslim League Council meeting (27-29 July 1946) in Bombay.

On the heels of this resolution the League Working Committee declared 16 August as ‘Direct Action Day’. Directives were issued to League leaders and the Muslim masses of the provinces to suspend all business on the 16 August and observe complete hartal on that day. As the architect of the reorganised Muslim League in Bengal, huseyn shaheed suhrawardy, the Chief Minister, felt that the Bengal hartal of the Day ought to be the most effective one. His immense preparations to make the Day a success led to communal carnage, something that he perhaps never intended to happen. But things went beyond his control and brutal communal violence ensued. A great portion of Calcutta was on fire for a couple of days. ‘The Direct Action’ riot in Calcutta soon spread throughout the country, and was particularly destructively in Bihar and Noakhali. Both Hindus and Muslims fought each other more or less evenly in Calcutta, but the encounter was mostly one sided elsewhere. In Bihar, mostly Muslims were killed and in Noakhali, Hindus. But on the whole Muslim casualties were heavier. Ironically ‘Direct Action Day’ had a direct result. The fate of India was decided on that day, and on that day was sealed the fate of the united Bengal. Direct Action Day made the partition of Bengal inevitable.

Inshort, following continued rejection by the Indian Congress of the proposal to divide India, the Muslim League planned a protest which began with a “Day of Direct Action”(16th August 1946) to assert the right of the Muslims to a separate homeland. The protests triggered riots in Calcutta in which 4,000 people lost their lives (known as the “great Calcutta Riots”).

Mountbatten plan

The British government sent a Cabinet Mission to India in March 1946 to negotiate with Indian leaders and agree to the terms of the transfer of power. After difficult negotiations a federal solution was proposed. Despite initial agreement, both sides eventually rejected the plan. An interim government with representatives of all the Indian parties was proposed and implemented. However, it soon collapsed through lack of agreement. While the Muslim League consented to join the interim government the Indian National Congress refused. By the end of 1946 communal violence was escalating and the British began to fear that India would descend into civil war. The British government’s representative, Lord Wavell, put forward a breakdown plan as a safeguard in the event of political deadlock. Wavell, however, believed that once the disadvantages of the Pakistan scheme were exposed, Jinnah would see the advantages of working for the best possible terms inside a united India. He wrote:  ‘Unfortunately the fact that Pakistan, when soberly and realistically examined, is found to be a very unattractive proposition, will place the Moslems in a very disadvantageous position for making satisfactory terms with India for a Federal Union.’ This view was based on a report, which claimed that a future Pakistan would have no manufacturing or industrial areas of importance: no ports, except Karachi, or rail centres. It was also argued that the connection between East and West Pakistan would be difficult to defend and maintain. The report concluded: ‘It is hard to resist the conclusion that taking all considerations into account the splitting up of India will be the reverse of beneficial as far as the livelihood of its people is concerned’.

Lord Mountbatten replaced Lord Wavell as Viceroy of India in 1947. Mountbatten’s first proposed solution for the Indian subcontinent, known as the ‘May Plan’, was rejected by Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru on the grounds it would cause the ‘balkanisation of India’. The following month the ‘May Plan’ was substituted for the ‘June Plan’, in which provinces would have to choose between India and Pakistan. Bengal and Punjab both voted for partition. On 3 June 1947, Lord Mountbatten announced his plan. The salient features were:- Mountbatten’s formula was to divide India but retain maximum unity. The country would be partitioned but so would Punjab and Bengal, so that the limited Pakistan that emerged would meet both the Congress and League’s position to some extent. The League’s position on Pakistan was conceded to the extent that it would be created, but the Congress position on unity would be taken into account to make Pakistan as small as possible. Whether it was ruling out independence for the princes or unity for Bengal or Hyderabad’s joining up with Pakistan instead of India, Mountbatten firmly supported Congress on these issues. The Mountbatten Plan sought to affect an early transfer of power on the basis of Dominion status to two successor states, India and Pakistan. For Britain, Dominion Status offered a chance of keeping India in the commonwealth for India’s economic strength and defense potential were deemed sounder and Britain had a greater value of trade and investment there.

The rationale for the early date for transfer of power was securing Congress agreement to Dominion status. The additional benefit was that the British could escape responsibility for the rapidly deteriorating communal situation. A referendum was to be held in NWEP to ascertain whether the people in the area wanted to join India or not. The princely states would have the option of joining either of the two dominions or to remain independent. The Provinces of Assam, Punjab and Bengal were also to be divided. A boundary commission was to be set up to determine the boundaries of these states.

Reasons for the acceptance of “Partition” by the Congress

By accepting the Mountbatten Plan/Partition, the Congress was only accepting what had become inevitable because of the long-term failure of the Congress to draw in the Muslim masses into the national movement and stem the surging waves of Muslim communalism, which, especially since 1937, had been beating with increasing fury. The Congress leaders felt by June, 1947 that only an immediate transfer of power could forestall the spread of Direct Action and communal disturbances. Sardar Patel rightly said, “a united India even if it was smaller in size was better than a disorganised and troubled and weak bigger India.” Difficulties created by the obstructionist policies and tactics of the League proved to the Congress that the leaders of the Muslim League were concerned only with their own interests and the future of India would not be safe with them in the government. They would act as a stumbling block in the path of India’s progress. The Congress leaders also felt that the continuance of British rule never was and never could be in the good interest of Indians. Sooner they quit, the better it would be.

Partition of India

Partition of India was one of the historical steps taken on the basis of religion dividing the nation into two parts namely Union of India (also known as Republic of India) and Dominion of Pakistan (further divided into Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Peoples` Republic of Bangladesh) on 14th and 15th of August 1947. With the dissolution of British India the Partition of India was incorporated through the division of two provinces of Bengal and Punjab as Bengal was divided into East Pakistan and West Bengal and Punjab was further divided into West Punjab and East Punjab.

Origin of Partition of India

The partition of India had been the real instance of peoples` demand through their representatives. The initial demand for a separate state was made by an eminent writer and philosopher Allama Iqbal who raised his voice for a separate electorate for the less represented group of Muslim Communities. With the passage of time this claim became the base of the newly emerging state of Pakistan. Among other reasons division of Indian subcontinent was important for various reasons. One such reason had been the old British policy of divide and rule which came into action in case of division of India and Pakistan. Also with the communal awards the hatred rather differences increased on both sides which could only be pacified through division of state. It was further claimed that the British wanted to make the Muslims their allies to oppose the apparent threat of the Hindu educated class. In order to gain support from the Muslims, the British supported the All-India Muslim Conference. They infused the notion that the Muslims were a separate political entity. In addition to that the Muslims were given separate electorates in local government all over British India by 1900s. With such moves the British followed a divide-and-rule policy in India. Hindus and Muslims were two separate identities which needed to be separated. All this growing anxiety only brought India closer to division. As a result such demand got its shape in the 1935 session when a formal resolution was passed claiming the separation.

The partition took place at the midnight of 14th and 15th August 1947. Mainly based on Famous Mountbatten Plan, the partition included division of geographical areas, population exchange, administrative structure and army, navy and air force as well. The main affected areas were Bengal, Punjab, Sindh and Jammu & Kashmir. Geographically the division included the division of rivers as well as land areas; the exchange of population meant movement of 14.5 million people crossing the borders with a total of 7,226,000 Muslims and 7,249,000 Hindus from each side. At the midnight of 14th august the ceremony of independence was organized a day after the birth of new state of Pakistan with New Delhi as India`s capital.

Impact of Partition of India

On 7th August Mohammad Ali Jinnah along with his old associations went to Karachi. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan met on 11th August and elected Jinnah as its President. Lord Mountbatten went to Karachi on 13 August and on the following day addressed the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. He attended the inauguration ceremony at Karachi. The birth of Pakistan was an eventful occasion in history. Officially, Pakistan became a Dominion on 15 August 1947, Jinnah was sworn in as Governor-General and Liaqat Ali Khan was sworn in as the new Pakistan Cabinet. The effect of Partition was deep rooted which raised some major issues of the day. One such issue had been the issue of refugees which remained the most painful result of Partition for both the nations. The city of Delhi received the maximum numbers of refugees and overall 35000 refugees landed up in the northern part of India including areas of Panipat and Kurukhshetra which were further used as camps for them. Huge expansion of cities took place which brought new areas in every city of northern India. Thus, the Partition of India did not remain a historical event only but came out as the most painful event of passed history. It affected not only the physical location of people but their psychology as well. Ending up into brutal riots all over the country the partition of India is regarded the bitterest experience of modern India.

Indian Independence Act, 1947

The Indian Independence Act 1947 was the legislation passed and enacted by the British Parliament that officially announced the Independence of India and the partition of India. The legislation of Indian Independence Act was designed by the Prime Minister Clement Attlee as Indian Political Parties agreed on the transfer of power from the British Government to the independent Indian Government and the Partition of India. This act received royal assent on 18th July, 1947.The Agreement was made with Lord Mountbatten, which was known as the 3 June Plan or Mountbatten Plan. Indian Independence Act was passed in June 1947, which specified the follows:

* The British rule of India should be over on the midnight of August 15, 1947.

* An independent dominion of India shall be created out of the United Provinces, Central Provinces, Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency, the Carnatic, East Punjab, West Bengal, Assam and the Northeast Frontier Agency. The territories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep Islands are also turned over to the Indian Dominion.

* An independent dominion of Pakistan shall be created out of the provinces of West Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Sindh and East Bengal.

* The all Princely states that were officially related to British Empire were made free from all the treaties and relationships and they could decide which dominion to join. Lord Mountbatten thought that if the princely state remained independent within the dominion that may lead to chaos and thus made their accession a necessity of the Indian Independence Act.

* Both the Indian and Pakistan Dominions would be members of the British Commonwealth and was allowed to leave whenever they pleased.

* Both Dominions of India and Pakistan were completely self-governing in their internal affairs, foreign affairs and national security but the British monarch will continue to be their head of state, represented by the Governor-General of India and a new Governor-General of Pakistan. Both Dominions shall convene their Constituent Assemblies and write their respective constitutions.

* The British monarch shall be permitted to remove the title of Emperor of India from the Royal Style and Titles. King George VI subsequently removed the title by Order in council on June 22, 1948.

Lord Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India under British rules and became the Governor General of Independent India. Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the President and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the Deputy Prime minister of India. Five hundred and sixty princely states were annexed with India, among which Junagadh and Hyderabad was took over after military action.

After-effects of Indian Independence Act

After passing the act some religion based riots were there. The situation was much violent. The Muslims had to migrate from the `Would be India` and Hindus had to migrate from the `Would be Pakistan`. All of their possessions and properties were left behind.


The era after India’s independence from colonial rule starts with its partition into two halves – India and Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten became the first Governor General of free India and M.A. Jinnah that of Pakistan. The transition was violent, with blood curling massacres all over the country, ample proof to the historic acrimony that the Indians shared within themselves.

This bitterness continues till today with India and Pakistan having fought three wars since independence. Events since independence have not quite been stable for both the countries. With both of them marred by sectarian clashes and violent terrorist attacks, which by now has claimed the lives of more than a million people throughout the sub-continent. India on its part has been successful in establishing a vibrant democracy and has ever looked forward towards positive directions. But Pakistan is still struggling to establish itself as a state and has not been able to overcome the colonial hang over. With its history marred by failed democratic experiments and successful military takeovers. People of Pakistan are struck with a Herculean task of choosing between democratic farce and autocratic misrule. It is not just Pakistan that has corrupt politicians and ambitious military. India too has its share of problems with politicians and bureaucracy but the best thing in India is that people out there know their limitations. With 1 billion people having successfully tasted democracy for the past fifty years, they have successfully reaffirmed their faith time and again in the institution. At the doorsteps of the 20th century both of them provide a contrasting picture. Both of them have their fare share of problems, but on one side India is looking forward to solving them on other side Pakistan is getting messed up with it.


Rejoicing in August 1947, the man who had been in the forefront of the freedom struggle since 1919, the man who had given the message of non-violence and love and courage to the Indian people, the man who had represented the best in Indian culture and politics, was touring the hate-torn lands of Bengal and Bihar, trying to douse the communal fire and bring comfort to people who were paying through senseless slaughter the price of freedom. In reply to a message of birthday congratulations in 1947, Gandhiji said that he no longer wished to live long and that he would invoke the aid of the all-embracing Power to take me away from this ‘vale of tears’ rather than make me a helpless witness of the butchery by man become savage, whether he dares to call himself a Muslim or a Hindu or what not.

The celebrations of independence had hardly died down when on 30th January 1948; a radical minded Hindu, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Gandhiji at Birla house, just before his evening prayers. The whole nation was shocked and stricken with grief and communal violence retreated from the minds of men and women. Expressing the nation’s sorrow, Nehru spoke over the All India Radio: ‘Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere . . . The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light . . . that light represented something more than the immediate present; it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom’.


The government had to stretch itself to the maximum to give relief to and resettle and rehabilitate the nearly six million refugees from Pakistan who had lost their all there and whose world had been turned upside down. The task took some time but it was accomplished. By 1951, the problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees from West Pakistan had been fully tackled. The task of rehabilitating and resettling refugees from East Bengal was made more difficult by the fact that the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal continued for years. While nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan had migrated in one go in 1947, a large number of Hindus in East Bengal had stayed on there in the initial years of 1947 and 1948. However, as violence against Hindus broke out periodically in East Bengal, there was a steady stream of refugees from there year after year until 1971. Providing them with work and shelter and psychological assurance, therefore became a continuous and hence a difficult task. Unlike in Bengal, most of the refugees from West Punjab could occupy the large lands and property left by the Muslim migrants to Pakistan from Punjab, U.P. and Rajasthan and could therefore be resettled on land. This was not the case in West Bengal. In addition, because of linguistic affinity, it was easier for Punjabi and Sindhi refugees to settle in today’s Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and western U.P., Rajasthan and Delhi. The resettlement of the refugees from East Bengal could take place only in Bengal and to a lesser extent in Assam and Tripura. As a result; a very large number of people who had been engaged in agricultural occupations before their displacement were forced to seek survival in semi-urban and urban contexts as the underclass.


Indian Independence Act, 1947 contains the following provision regarding Indian States: All treaties, agreements, etc between His Majesty`s Government and the rulers of the Indian States shall lapse. The words ‘Emperor of India’ shall be omitted from Royal Style and Titles. The Indian states will be free to accede to either of the new Dominion of India or Pakistan. Monarchy was abolished and hence, the princely states were to be annexed. In the National Provisional Government, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel headed the State Department. Patel and his chief aide, VP Menon appealed to the sense of patriotism of the Indian princes and persuaded them to join the Indian union. The annexations were to take place on the basis of surrender of three subjects of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication. Lord Mountbatten aided Patel in his mission too. As a result by 15th August, as many as 136 jurisdictional states acceded to the Indian union. Kashmir`s Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on 26th October, 1947 and the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1948. V P Menon, on the other hand, successfully negotiated instruments of accession with a number of small states of Orissa with the Province of Orissa. On 18th December, the Chattisgarh rulers merged with the Central Provinces. Between the periods of 17th to 21st January 1948, Menon acquired the agreement for scores of minor states in Kathiawar to form the Union of Kathiawar, which began to govern on February 15. This set the pattern for the subsequent accession and merger of many tiny remaining states over the next five months.

For geographical and administrative reasons, Baroda and Kolhapur were annexed to the then Bomaby Province; Gujarat states were also merged with the Bombay Province. A second form of integration of 61 states was the formation of the seven centrally administered areas. Thus the states of Himachal Pradesh, Vindhya Pradesh (present day Madhya Pradesh), Tripura, Manipur, Bhopal, Kutch and Bilaspur were formed. Apart from these the states of United States of Matsya, Union of Vindhya Pradesh, Madhya Bharat, Patiala and East Punjab States Union, Rajasthan and United states of Cochin-Travancore were also integrated to the India. However, the unification of India was still incomplete without the French and Portuguese enclaves. The French authorities were more realistic when they ceded Pondicherry (Puducherry) and Chandannagore to India on 1st November, 1954.However, the Portuguese Government maintained that since Goa was part of the metropolitan territories of Portugal, it could be in no way affected by the British and French withdrawal from India. When negotiations and persuasions did not move the Portuguese government, units of Indian army had to be mobilized and Goa, Daman and Diu were liberated and annexed to India on 19th December, 1961. Thus, after much toil Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and his aides successfully integrated the Indian states to form a unified country.


The Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950. Since then, the day is celebrated as Republic Day. However, before 1950, 26 January was called Independence Day. Since 26 January 1930, it was the day on which thousands of people, in villages, in mohallas, in towns, in small and big groups would take the independence pledge, committing themselves to the complete independence of India from British rule. It was only fitting that the new republic should come into being on that day, marking from its very inception the continuity between the struggle for independence and the adoption of the Constitution that made India a Republic. The process of the evolution of the Constitution began many decades before 26 January 1950 and has continued unabated since. Its origins lie deeply embedded in the struggle for independence from Britain and in the movements for responsible and constitutional government in the princely states. On 19 February 1946, the British government declared that they were sending a Cabinet Mission to India to resolve the whole issue of freedom and constitution making. The Cabinet Mission, which arrived in India on 24 March 1946, held prolonged discussions with Indian leaders. On 16 May 1946, having failed to secure an agreement;  it announced a scheme of its own. It recognized that the best way of setting up constitution-making machinery would ‘be by election based on adult franchise; but any attempt to introduce such a step now would lead to a wholly unacceptable delay in the formulation of the new constitution. Therefore, it was decided that the newly-elected legislative assemblies of the provinces were to elect the members of the Constituent Assembly on the basis of one representative for roughly one million of the population. The Sikh and Muslim legislators were to elect their quota based on their population.

It was only after this process had been completed that the representatives of all the provinces and those of the princely states were to meet again to settle the Constitution of the Union. The Congress responded to the Cabinet Mission scheme by pointing out that in its view the Constituent Assembly, once it came into being, would be sovereign. It would have the right to accept or reject the Cabinet Mission’s proposals on specifics. The Constituent Assembly was to have 389 members. Of these, 296 were to be from British India and 93 from the princely Indian states. Initially, however, the Constituent Assembly comprised only of members from British India. Elections of these were held in July-August 1946. Of the 210 seats in the general category Congress won 199. It also won 3 out of the 4 Sikh seats from Punjab. The Congress also won 3 of the 78 Muslim seats and the 3 seats from Coorg, Ajmer Merwara, and Delhi. The total Congress tally was 208. The Muslim League won 73 out of the 78 Muslim seats. At 11 a.m., on 9 December 1946, the Constituent Assembly of India began its first session. For all practical purposes, the chronicle of independent India began on that historic day. Independence was now a matter of dates. The real responsibility of deciding the constitutional framework within which the government and people of India were to function had been transferred and assumed by the Indian people with the convening of the Constituent Assembly. Only a coup d’etat could now reverse this constitutional logic. 207 members attended the first session. The Muslim League, having failed to prevent the convening of the Assembly, now refused to join its deliberations. Consequently, the seventy-six Muslim members of the League stayed away and the four Congress Muslim members attended the session. On 11 December, Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected the permanent Chairman; an office later designated as President of the Assembly. The third session was held from 28 April to 2 May 1947 and the League still did not join. On 3 June, the Mountbatten Plan was announced which made it clear that India was to be partitioned. With India becoming independent on 15 August 1947; the Constituent Assembly became a sovereign body, and also doubled as the legislature for the new state. It was responsible for framing the Constitution as well as making ordinary laws. The work was organized into five stages: first, committees were asked to present reports on basic issues; second, B.N. Rau, the constitutional adviser, prepared an initial draft on the basis of the reports of the reports of these committees and his own research into the constitutions of other countries; third, the drafting committee, chaired by Dr Ambedkar presented a detailed draft constitution which was published for public discussion and comments; fourth, the draft constitution was discussed and amendments.

Salient features of the constitution

The Constitution of India lays down a set of rules to which the ordinary laws of the country must conform. It provides a framework for a democratic and parliamentary form of government. The Constitution also includes a list of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles, the first, a guarantee against encroachments by the state and the second, a set of directives to the state to introduce reforms to make those rights effective. Though the decision to give India a parliamentary system was not taken without serious debate, yet the alternative of panchayat-based indirect elections and decentralized government did not have widespread support. Espoused by some Gandhians, notably Shriman Narayan, this alternative was discarded decisively in favour of a centralized parliamentary constitution.

Adult Suffrage

The Congress had demanded adult suffrage since the twenties. It was hardly likely to hesitate now that it had the opportunity to realize its dreams. A few voices advocated confining of adult suffrage to elections to the panchayats at the village level, and then indirect elections to higher-level bodies, but the overwhelming consensus was in favour of direct elections by adult suffrage not a small achievement in a Brahmanical, upper-caste dominated, male-oriented, elitist, largely illiterate, society!


The basic philosophy of the Constitution, its moving spirit, is to be found in the Preamble. The Preamble itself was based on the Objectives Resolution drafted by Nehru and introduced in the Assembly in its first session on 13 December 1946 and adopted on 22 January 1947.The Preamble states that the people of India in the Constituent Assembly made a solemn resolve to secure to all citizens, Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all, Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation.

Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles

The Fundamental Rights are divided into seven parts: the right of equality, the right of freedom, the right against exploitation, the right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, the right to property and the right to constitutional remedies. These rights, which are incorporated in Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution, primarily protect individuals and minority groups from arbitrary state action. But three of the articles protect the individual against the action of other private citizens: Article 17 abolishes untouchability, Article 15(2) says that no citizen shall suffer any disability in the use of shops, restaurants, wells, roads, and other public places on account of his religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth; and Article 23 prohibits forced labour, which, though it was also extracted by the colonial state and the princely states, was more commonly a characteristic of the exploitation by big, semi-feudal landlords. These rights of citizens had to be protected by the state from encroachment by other citizens. Thus, the state had to not only avoid encroaching on the citizen’s liberties; it had to ensure that other citizens did not do so either. A citizen whose fundamental right has been infringed or abridged could apply to the Supreme Court or High Court for relief and this right cannot be suspended except in case of declaration of Emergency. The courts have the right to decide whether these rights have indeed been infringed and to employ effective remedies including issuing of writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari.

The Directive Principles have expressly been excluded from the purview of the courts. They are really in the nature of guidelines or instructions issued to future legislatures and executives. While the Constitution clearly intended Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights to be read together and did not envisage a conflict between the two, it is a fact that serious differences of interpretation have arisen many times on this issue.

A Secular State

The constitution declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. Even though the terms secular (and socialist) were added only by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, the spirit embodying the Constitution was secular.


The reorganization of the states based on language, a major aspect of national consolidation and integration, came to the fore almost immediately after independence. The boundaries of provinces in pre-1947 India had been drawn in a haphazard manner as the British conquest of India had proceeded for nearly a hundred years. No heed was paid to linguistic or cultural cohesion so that most of the provinces were multi-lingual and multi-cultural. The interspersed princely states had added a further element of heterogeneity. The case for linguistic states as administrative units was very strong. Language is closely related to culture and therefore to the customs of people. Besides, the massive spread of education and growth of mass literacy can only occur through the medium of the mother tongue. Nehru appointed in August 1953 the States Reorganization Commission (SRC), with Justice Fazi Ali, K.M.Panikkar and Hridaynath Kunzru as members, to examine ‘objectively and dispassionately’ the entire question of the reorganization of the states of the union. Throughout the two years of its work, the Commission was faced with meetings, demonstrations, agitations, and hunger strikes.

Different linguistic groups clashed with each other; verbally as well as sometimes physically. The SRC submitted its report in October 1955. While laying down that due consideration should be given to administrative and economic factors, it recognized for the most part the linguistic principle and recommended redrawing of state boundaries on that basis. The Commission, however, opposed the splitting of Bombay and Punjab. Despite strong reaction to the report in many parts of the country, the SRC’s recommendations were accepted, though with certain modifications, and were quickly implemented. The States Reorganization Act was passed by parliament in November 1956. It provided for fourteen states and six centrally administered territories. The Telengana area of Hyderabad state was transferred to Andhra; merging the Malabar district of the old Madras Presidency with Travancore-Cochin created Kerala. Certain Kannada speaking areas of the states of Bombay, Madras, Hyderabad and Coorg were added to the Mysore state. Merging the states of Kutch and Saurashtra and the Marathi speaking areas of Hyderabad with it enlarged Bombay state.

The strongest reaction against the SRC’s report and the States Reorganization Act came from Maharashtra where widespread rioting broke out and eighty people were killed in Bombay city in police firings in January 1956.The opposition parties supported by a wide spectrum of public opinion students, farmers, workers, artists, and businesspersons organized a powerful protest movement. Under pressure, the government decided in June 1956 to divide the Bombay state into two linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat with Bombay city forming a separate, centrally administered state. This move too was strongly opposed by the Maharashtrians. Nehru now vacillated and, unhappy at having hurt the feelings of the people of Maharashtra, reverted in July to the formation of bilingual, greater Bombay. This move was, however, opposed by the people both of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The broad-based Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and Maha Gujarat Janata Parishad led the movements in the two parts of the state. In Maharashtra, even a large section of Congressmen joined the demand for a unilingual Maharashtra with Bombay as its capital; and C.D. Deshmukh, the Finance Minister in the Central Cabinet, resigned from his office on this question. The Gujaratis felt that they would be a minority in the new state. They too would not agree to give up Bombay city to Maharashtra. Violence and arson now spread to Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat. Sixteen persons were killed and 200 injured in police firings. In view of the disagreement over Bombay city, the government stuck to its decision and passed the States Reorganization Act in November 1956. However, the matter could not rest there. In the 1957 elections the Bombay Congress scraped through with a slender majority. Popular agitation continued for nearly five years. As Congress president, Indira Gandhi reopened the question and was supported by the President, S. Radhakrishnan. The government finally agreed in May 1960 to bifurcate the state of Bombay into Maharashtra and Gujarat, with Bombay city being included in Maharashtra, and Ahmedabad being made the capital of Gujarat.

The other state where an exception was made to the linguistic principle was Punjab. In 1956, the states of PEPSU had been merged with Punjab, which, however, remained a trilingual state having three language speakers ‘Punjabi, Hindi and Pahari’ within its borders. In the Punjabi-speaking part of the state, there was a strong demand for carving out a separate Punjabi Suba (Punjabi-speaking state). Unfortunately, the issue assumed communal overtones. The Sikhs, led by the Akali Dal, and the Hindus, led by the Jan Sangh, used the linguistic issue to promote communal politics. While the Hindu communalists opposed the demand for a Punjabi Suba by denying that Punjabi was their mother tongue, the Sikh communalists put forward the demand as a Sikh demand for a Sikh state, claiming Punjabi written in Gurmukhi as a Sikh language. Finally, in 1966, Indira Gandhi agreed to the division of Punjab into two Punjabi- and Hindi-speaking states of Punjab and Haryana, with the Pahari-speaking district of Kangra and a part of the Hoshiarpur district being merged with Himachal Pradesh. Chandigarh, the newly built city and capital of united Punjab, was made a Union Territory and was to serve as the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana. Thus, after more than ten years of continuous strife and popular struggles linguistic reorganization of India was largely completed, making room for greater political participation by the people.


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