Gandhian Phase of National Movement

24 Oct 2019

Gandhian Phase of National Movement

The Gandhian Phase of India’s Struggle for Independence:

Below are the Important notes on the Gandhian Phase of the Indian National Movement. Complete notes of the Gandhian era, how the Indian National Movement spread, and how it happened. Check the complete notes below and the PDF also available below for free download. Hope it will be helpful for UPSC, SSC, TNPSC, RRB, and other government exams.


Mahatma Gandhi arrived in India in 1915 from South Africa after fighting for the civil rights of the Indians there for about twenty years. He brought with him a new impulse to Indian politics. He introduced satyagraha, which he had perfected in South Africa, that could be practiced by men and women, young and old. As a person dedicated to the cause of the poorest of the poor, he instantly gained the goodwill of the masses. Before Gandhi, the constitutionalists appealed to the British sense of justice and fair play. The militants confronted the repression of the colonial state violently. Gandhi, in contrast, adopted non-violent methods to mobilize the masses and mount pressure on the British.

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(a) Evolution of Gandhi:

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 into a well-to-do family in Porbandar, Gujarat. His father Kaba Gandhi was the Diwan of Porbandar and later became the Diwan of Rajkot. His mother Putlibai, a devout Vaishanavite, influenced the young Gandhi. After passing the matriculation examination, Gandhi sailed to England in 1888 to study law. After becoming a barrister in June 1891 Gandhi returned to India as a firm believer in the British sense of justice and fair play. His experiences in London had not prepared him for the racial discrimination he would encounter in South Africa.

On returning to India, Gandhi’s attempt to practice in Bombay failed. It was during this time that a Gujarati firm in South Africa sought the services of Gandhi for assistance in a lawsuit. Gandhi accepted the offer and left for South Africa in April 1893. Gandhi faced racial discrimination for the first time in South Africa. On his journey from Durban to Pretoria, at the Pietermaritzburg railway station, he was physically thrown out of the first-class compartment. Indians were treated only as coolies. But Gandhi was determined to fight.

Gandhi called a meeting of the Indians in the Transvaal and exhorted them to form an association to seek redress of their grievances. He continued to hold such meetings, petitioned to the authorities about the injustices which were in violation of their own laws. Indians in the Transvaal had to pay a poll tax of £ 3, could not own land except in areas marked for them, and could not move outdoors after 9 p.m. without a permit. He launched a struggle against such unjust laws.

Gandhi was introduced to the works of Tolstoy and John Ruskin. He was deeply influenced by Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You, Ruskin’s Unto this Last and Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Gandhi’s ideas were formed due to a blend of Indian and Western thought. Despite being deeply influenced by Western thinkers he was highly critical of Western civilization and industrialization. Inspired by Ruskin Gandhi established the Phoenix Settlement (1905) and the Tolstoy Farm (1910). Equality, community living, and dignity of labor were inculcated in these settlements. They were training grounds for the satyagrahis.

Satyagraha as a Strategy in South Africa

Gandhi developed satyagraha (devotion to the truth, truth force) as a strategy, in which campaigners went on peaceful marches and presented themselves for arrest in protest against unjust laws. He experimented with it to fight the issues of immigration and racial discrimination. Meetings were held and registration offices of immigrants were picketed. Even when the police let loose violence no resistance was offered by the satyagrahis. Gandhi and other leaders were arrested. Indians, mostly indentured laborers turned hawkers continued the struggle despite police brutality. Finally, by the Smuts-Gandhi Agreement, the poll tax on indentured laborers was abolished. Gandhi’s stay in South Africa was a learning experience for him. It was there that Gandhi realized that people of different religions, regions, and linguistic groups could be welded into one to fight against exploitation. After the outbreak of the First World War, Gandhi returned to India.

Gandhi’s Early Satyagrahas in India

Gandhi regarded Gopal Krishna Gokhale, whom he had met on previous visits to India, as his political guru. On his advice, Gandhi traveled the length and breadth of the country before plunging into politics. This enabled him to understand the conditions of the people. It is on one of these journeys through Tamil Nadu that Gandhi decided to discard his following robes and wear a simple dhoti. Gandhi before returning to India visited England where he enlisted for the War to offer ambulance services. Considering himself a responsible citizen of the Empire he believed it was his duty to support England in its difficult times and even campaigned for the recruitment of Indians in the army. However, his views changed over the years.

(b) Champaran Satyagraha

In Champaranin Biharthe tinkathia system was practiced. Under this exploitative system, the peasants were forced by the European planters to cultivate indigo on three-twentieths of their landholdings. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, German synthetic dyes forced indigo out of the market. The European planters of Champaran, while realizing the necessity of relieving the cultivators of the obligation of cultivating indigo, wanted to turn the situation to their advantage. They enhanced the rent and collected illegal dues as a price for the release of cultivators from the obligation. Resistance erupted. Rajkumar Shukla, an agriculturist from Champaran who suffered hardships of the system, prevailed on Gandhi to visit Champaran. On reaching Champaran, Gandhi was asked by the police to leave immediately. When he refused he was summoned for trial. The news spread like wildfire and thousands swarmed the place in support of Gandhi. Gandhi pleaded guilty to disobeying the order, and the case had to be finally withdrawn. According to Gandhi, “The country thus had its first object- lesson in Civil Disobedience”. He was assisted by Brajkishore Prasad, a lawyer by profession, and Rajendra Prasad, who became the first President of independent India. The Lieutenant Governor eventually formed a committee with Gandhi as a member which recommended the abolition of the tinkathia system, thereby ending the oppression of the peasants by the Indigo Planters.

The success of Champaran Satyagraha, followed by his fruitful intervention in the Ahmedabad mill strike (1918) and the Kheda Satyagraha (1918) helped Gandhi establish himself as a leader of mass struggle. Unlike earlier leaders, Gandhi demonstrated his ability to mobilize the common people across the country.

(c) Rowlatt Satyagraha and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

In the aftermath of the First World War, people expected liberal political reforms from the British. The Government of India Act 1919, however, caused disappointment, as it did not transfer real power to the Indians. Besides, the government began to enforce the permanent extension of wartime restrictions. The Rowlatt Act was enacted which provided for excessive police powers, arrest without warrant, and detention without trial. Gandhi called it a ‘Black Act’ and in protest called for a nationwide satyagraha on 6 April 1919. It was to be a non-violent struggle with fasting and prayer, and it was the earliest anti-colonial struggle to spread across the country. The anti-Rowlatt protest was intense in Punjab, especially in Amritsar and Lahore.

Gandhi was arrested and prevented from visiting Punjab. On 9 April two prominent local leaders, Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal were arrested in Amritsar leading to protests in which a few Europeans were killed. Martial law was declared.

General Dyer’s Brutality

On 13 April 1919, a public meeting was arranged at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. As it happened to be Baisakhi day (spring harvest festival of Sikhs) the villagers had assembled there in thousands. General Reginald Dyer, on hearing of the assemblage, surrounded the place with his troops and an armored vehicle. The only entrance to the park that was surrounded on all sides by high walls was blocked, and firing took place without any warning. The firing lasted for ten minutes till the troops ran out of ammunition. According to official estimates, 379 were killed and more than a thousand injured. Unofficial estimates put the toll at more than a thousand. After the incident, martial law was declared and many people in Punjab especially Amritsar were flogged and forced to crawl on the streets.
The brutality enraged Indians. Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood. Gandhi surrendered his Kaiser-i-Hind medal.

Khilafat Movement

The First World War came to an end in 1918. The Caliph of Turkey, who was considered the head of Muslims of the world, was given a harsh treatment. A movement was started his support called the Khilafat Movement. Led by the Ali brothers, Maulana Mohamed Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali, it aimed to restore the prestige and power of the Caliphate. Gandhi supported the movement and saw in it an opportunity to unite Hindus and Muslims. He presided over the All India Khilafat Conference held in Delhi in November 1919. Gandhi supported Shaukat Ali’s proposal of three national slogans, Allaho Akbar, Bande Mataram, and Hindu-Musslamanki Jai. The Khilafat Committee meeting in Allahabad on 9 June 1920 adopted Gandhi’s non-violent non-cooperation program. Non-Cooperation was to begin on 1 August 1920.

Non-Cooperation Movement and Its Fall out

The Indian National Congress approved the non-cooperation movement in a special session held in Calcutta in September 1920. It was subsequently passed in the Nagpur Session held in December 1920, Chaired by Salem C. Vijayaraghavachariar.

The program of non-cooperation included:
1. Surrender of all titles of honors and honorary offices.
2. Non-participation in government functions.
3. Suspension of practice by lawyers, and settlement of court disputes by private arbitration.
4. Boycott of government schools by children and parents.
5. Boycott of the legislature created under the 1919 Act.
6. Non-participation in government parties and other official functions.
7. Refusal to accept any civil or military post.
8. Boycott of foreign goods and spread the doctrine of Swadeshi.

(a) No-Tax Campaign and Chauri Chaura Incident

Programs such as no-tax campaigns caught the imagination of the kisans (peasants). Gandhi announced a no-tax campaign in Bardoli in February 1922. These movements greatly enhanced Gandhi’s reputation as a national leader, especially among the peasants. Gandhi made a nationwide tour. Wherever he visited there was a bonfire of foreign cloth. Thousands left government jobs, students gave up their studies in large numbers and the lawyers gave up thriving practices. The boycott of British goods and institutions was effective. The boycott of the Prince of Wales’s visit to India was successful. During this boycott trade unions and workers participated actively. However, Gandhi suddenly withdrew the movement because of the Chauri Chaura incident.

On 5 February 1922, a procession of the nationalists in Chauri Chaura, a village near Gorakhpur in present-day Uttar Pradesh provoked by the police turned violent. The police finding themselves outnumbered shut themselves inside the police station. The mob burnt the police station 22 policemen lost their lives. Gandhi immediately withdrew the movement. This was done much against the wishes of many congressmen including young leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose who thought the movement was gaining momentum. Gandhi was arrested and was released only in 1924. Gandhi believed that the movement failed not because of any defect in the means employed, viz. non-violent non-cooperation but because of a lack of sufficiently trained volunteers and leaders. Soon after the Khilafat Movement also came to an end as the office of the Caliph (Caliphate) was abolished in Turkey.

(b) Swarajists

Meanwhile, Congress was divided into two groups viz. pro-changers and changers. Some of the Congressmen led by Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das wanted to contest the elections and enter the legislature. They argued that the national interest could be promoted by working in the Legislative Councils under Dyarchy and wrecking the colonial government within. They were called the pro-changers. Staunch followers of Gandhi like Vallabhbhai Patel, C. Rajaji, and others, known as no-changers, wanted to continue non-cooperation with the government. Despite the opposition, C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru formed the Swaraj Party on 1 January 1923, which was later approved by a special session of the Congress. Swaraj Party members were elected in large numbers to the Imperial Legislative Assembly and the various Provincial Legislative Councils. They effectively used the legislature as a platform for the propagation of nationalist ideas. In Bengal, they refused to take charge of transferred subjects, as they did not want to cooperate with the government. They exposed the true nature of the colonial government. However, the Swaraj Party began to decline after the death of its leader C.R. Das in 1925. Some of the Swaraj Party members began to accept government offices. Swaraj Party withdrew from the legislature in 1926.

(c) Constructive Programme of Gandhi

After the Chauri Chaura incident, Gandhi felt that the volunteers and the people had to be trained for a non-violent struggle. As a part of this effort, he focused on promoting Khadi, Hindu-Muslim unity and the abolition of untouchability. He exhorted the Congressmen, “Go throughout your districts and spread the message of Khaddar, the message of Hindu-Muslim unity, the message of anti-untouchability and take up in hand the youth of the country and make them the real soldiers of Swaraj.” He made it compulsory for all Congress members to wear khaddar. The All India Spinner’s Association was formed. Gandhi believed that without attaining these objectives Swaraj could never be attained.

Despite the cooperation of the Hindus and Muslims during the Khilafat Movement and the Non-Cooperation Movement, the unity was fragile. The 1920s saw a series of communal riots between the Hindus and the Muslims. Hindu Mahasabha was gaining in popularity under Madan Mohan Malaviya and the Muslim League under the Ali Brothers. Gandhi undertook a 21- day fast in between 1924 to appeal to the hearts of the Hindus and Muslims involved in communal politics. Serious efforts by Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who at that time believed Swaraj was possible only with Hindu-Muslim unity, failed to stem the communal riots.

(d) Boycott of Simon Commission

On 8 November 1927, the British Government announced the appointment of the Indian Statutory Commission. Composed of seven members headed by Sir John Simon it came to be widely known as the Simon Commission. It was an all-white commission with no Indian members. Indians were angered that they had been denied the right to decide their own constitution. All sections of India including the Congress and the Muslim League decided to boycott the commission. Wherever the Commission went there were protests, and black flag marches with the slogan ‘Go Back, Simon’. The protesters were brutally assaulted by the police. In one such assault in Lahore, Lal Lajpat Rai was seriously injured and died a few days later.

(e) Nehru Report

The Simon boycott united the different political parties in India. An all-party conference was held in 1928 to frame a constitution for India as an alternative to the Simon Commission proposals. A committee under the leadership of Motilal Nehru was formed to outline the principles based on which the constitution was to be drafted. The committee’s report, known as the Nehru Report, recommended,
1. Dominion status for India.
2. Elections of the Central Legislature and the Provincial Legislatures based on joint and mixed electorates.
3. Reservation of seats for Muslims in the Central Legislature and in provinces where they are in a minority and for the Hindus in North-West Frontier Province where they were in a minority.
4. Provision of fundamental rights, and universal adult franchise.

Jinnah proposed an amendment to the reservation of seats in the Central Legislature. He demanded that one-third of the seats be reserved for Muslims. Tej Bahadur Sapru supported him and pleaded that the Disobedience Movement would make no big difference. However, it was defeated in the All-Party Conference. Later he proposed a resolution that came to be known as Jinnah’s Fourteen Points. However, it was also rejected. Jinnah who was hailed as the Ambassador of Hindu–Muslim Unity thereafter changed his stand and began to espouse the cause of a separate nation for Muslims.

The Struggle for Poorna Swaraj and Launch of the Civil Disobedience Movement

Meanwhile, some congressmen were not satisfied with dominion status and wanted to demand complete independence. In the Congress session held in Lahore in December 1929 with Jawaharlal Nehru as the President, Poorna Swaraj was declared as the goal. It was also decided to boycott the Round Table Conference and launch a Civil Disobedience Movement. 26 January 1930 was declared as Independence Day and a pledge was taken all over the country to attain Poorna Swaraj non-violently through civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes. The Indian National Congress authorized Gandhi to launch the movement.

(a) Salt Satyagraha Movement

A charter of demands presented to the Viceroy Lord Irwin with an ultimatum to comply by 31 January 1930 included:
1. Reduction of expenditure on the army and civil services by 50%
2. Introduction of total prohibition
3. Release of all political prisoners
4. Reduction of land revenue by 50%
5. Abolition of the salt tax.

When the Viceroy did not respond to the charter of demands, Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement. The inclusion of the abolition of salt tax was a brilliant tactical decision. Salt was an issue that affected every section of society. It transformed the Civil Disobedience Movement into a mass movement drawing all sections of the population including women to the streets. At the break of dawn on 12 March 1930 Gandhi set out from Sabarmati Ashram with 78 of its inmates. The procession became larger and larger when hundreds joined them along the march. At the age of 61, Gandhi covered a distance of 241 miles in 24 days to reach Dandi at sunset on 5 April 1930. The next morning, he took a lump of salt breaking the salt law.

Salt Satyagraha in Provinces

In Tamil Nadu, C. Rajaji led a similar salt march from Tiruchirappalli to Vedaranyam. Salt marches took place in Kerala, Andhra, and Bengal. In the Northwest Frontier, Province Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan led the movement. He organized the Khudai Khidmatgar, also known as the Red Shirts. Government crushed the movement with brutal force, causing many casualties. The soldiers of the Garhwali regiment refused to fire on unarmed satyagrahis.

Gandhi was arrested at midnight and sent to Yeravada Jail. Jawaharlal Nehru, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and other leaders were swiftly arrested. Soon other forms of protests such as the boycott of foreign cloth, picketing of liquor shops, non-payment of taxes, breaking of forest laws, etc. were adopted. Women, peasants, tribals, students, even children, and all sections participated in the nation-wide struggle. It was the biggest mass movement India had ever witnessed. More than 90,000 people were arrested.

(a) Round Table Conferences

In the midst of the movement the First Round Table Conference was held at London in November 1930. Ramsay Macdonald, the British Prime Minister, proposed a federal government with provincial autonomy. There was a deadlock over the question of separate electorates for the minorities. Congress did not attend it as its leaders were in jail. The Conference closed without any decision on the question. It was clear that without Congress participation the discussions were of no value. Gandhi was released unconditionally.

(b) Gandhi-Irwin Pact

Lord Irwin held talks with Gandhi which resulted in the Gandhi–Irwin Pact on 5 March 1931. The British agreed to the demand for the immediate release of all political prisoners not involved in violence, the return of confiscated land and lenient treatment of government employees who had resigned. It also permitted the people of coastal villages to make salt for consumption and non-violent picketing. The Congress agreed to suspend the Civil Disobedience Movement and attend the conference. Gandhi attended the Second Round Table Conference which began on 7 September 1931. Gandhi refused to accept separate electorates for minorities. As a result, the second conference ended without any result.

(c) Renewal of Civil Disobedience Movement.

On returning to India, Gandhi revived the Civil Disobedience Movement. This time the government was prepared to meet the resistance. Martial law was enforced and Gandhi was arrested on 4 January 1932. Soon all the Congress leaders were arrested too. Protests and picketing by the people were suppressed with force. Nearly 80,000 people were arrested within four months. The nationalist press was completely gagged. Despite Government’s repressive measures, it is worth mentioning here that the movement continued till April 1934.

In the meantime, the Third Round Table Conference was held from 17 November to 24 December 1932. Congress did not participate in the conference as it had revived the Civil Disobedience Movement.

(d) Communal Award and Poona Pact

On 16 August 1932, Ramsay MacDonald, announced the Communal Award. It provided separate electorates to the minorities, viz. Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and women, and the “depressed classes”. Gandhi strongly opposed the inclusion of depressed classes in the list of minorities. Gandhi argued that it would not only divide the Hindus but also make the campaign against untouchability meaningless, as they would be considered distinct from the Hindus. However, he supported the reservation of seats. B.R. Ambedkar, the leader of the depressed classes, strongly argued for the separate electorate, as it, according to him, would give them political representation and power. On 20 September 1932, Gandhi went on a fast unto death against the separate electorates for the depressed classes. Madan Mohan Malaviya, Rajendra Prasad and others held talks with Ambedkar and M.C. Rajah the leaders of the depressed classes. After intense negotiations, an agreement has arrived between Gandhi and Ambedkar. Known as the Poona Pact, its main terms were:

1. The principle of separate electorates was abandoned. Instead, the principle of the joint electorate was accepted with reservation of seats for the depressed classes.
2. Reserved seats for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 148. In the Central Legislature, 18 percent of the seats were reserved.

(e) Campaign Against Untouchability

Gandhi devoted the next few years towards the abolition of untouchability. His engagement with Dr. B.R. Ambedkar made a big impact on his ideas about the caste system. He shifted his base to the Satyagraha Ashram at Wardha. He undertook an all- India tour called the Harijan Tour. He started the Harijan Sevak Sangh to work for the removal of discrimination. He worked to promote education, cleanliness, and hygiene and giving up liquor among the depressed class. He also undertook two fasts in 1933 for this cause. An important part of the campaign was the Temple Entry Movement.

8 January 1933 was observed as ‘Temple Entry Day’. His campaign earned the ire of the orthodox Hindus and an attempt was made on his life by obscurantists upper-caste Hindus. But this did not deter his mission. The work among the depressed classes and the tribals took the message of nationalism to the grassroots.

Beginnings of Socialist Movements

Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917 the Communist Party of India (CPI) was founded in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in October 1920. M.N. Roy, Abani Mukherjee, and M.P.T. Acharya were some of its founding members. The British government in India made vigorous efforts to suppress the communist movement by foisting a series of cases in the 1920s. In a further attempt to eliminate the threat of communism, M.N. Roy, S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, and M. Singaravelar among others were arrested and tried in the Kanpur Conspiracy Case of 1924. The charge on them was “to deprive the King-Emperor of his sovereignty of British India, by complete separation of India from imperialistic Britain.”

(a) Foundation of Communist Party

The communists used it as a platform to propagate their views and to expose the ‘true color of British rule in India’. In an attempt to form a party an All India Communist Conference was held at Kanpur in 1925. Singaravelar gave the Presidential Address. It led to the founding of the Communist Party of India on Indian soil. The Communists organized workers’ and peasants’ organizations in different parts of India. Several strikes were organized in the 1920s. Their efforts eventually led to the establishment of the All India Workers’ and Peasants’ Party in 1928. The progress in this direction was halted with the Meerut Conspiracy Case in 1929. Muzaffar Ahamed, S.A. Dange, S.V. Ghate, G. Adhikari, P.C. Joshi, S.S.Mirajkar, Shaukat Usmani, Philip Stratt, and twenty-three others were arrested for organizing a railway strike. They were charged with conspiring to overthrow the British government of India.

(b) Revolutionary Activities

The youths who were disillusioned with the sudden withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation Movement by Gandhi took to violence. In 1924 Hindustan Republican Army (HRA) was formed in Kanpur to overthrow the colonial rule by an armed rebellion. In 1925 Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan and others held up a train carrying government money and looted in Kakori, a village near Lucknow. They were arrested and tried in the Kakori Conspiracy Case. Four of them were sentenced to death while the others were sentenced to imprisonment. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and their comrades reorganized the HRA in Punjab.

Influenced by socialist ideas they renamed it as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association in 1928. Sanders, a British police officer, responsible for the lathi charge that led to Lala Lajpat Rai’s death was assassinated. Bhagat Singh along with B.K. Dutt threw a smoke bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly in 1929. It was not intended to hurt anyone. They threw pamphlets and shouted ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and ‘Long Live the Proletariat’. He along with Rajguru was arrested and sentenced to death. Bhagat Singh’s daring and courage fired the imagination of the youth across India, and he became popular across India. During the Gandhi–Irwin negotiations there was wide-spread demand to include the case of Bhagat Singh and Rajguru. The Viceroy was not willing to commute the death sentence.

In April 1930, the Chittagong Armoury Raid was carried out by Surya Sen and his associates. They captured the armories in Chittagong and proclaimed a provisional revolutionary government. They survived for three years of raiding government institutions. In 1933 Surya Sen was caught and hanged after a year.

(c) Left Movement in the 1930s

By the 1930s the Communist Party of India had gained strength given the economic crisis caused by the worldwide Great Depression. Britain transmitted the effects of the Depression to its colonies. The effects of the Depression were reflected in a decline in trade returns and a fall in agricultural prices. The governmental measures included the forcible collection of land revenue which in real terms had increased two-fold due to a 50% fall in agricultural prices, the withdrawal of money in circulation, retrenchment of staff, and expenditure on developmental works.

In this context, the Communist Party, fighting for the cause of peasants and industrial workers hit by the loss of income and wage reduction, and problems of unemployment gained influence and was therefore banned in 1934. The Congress, as a movement with a wide spectrum of political leanings, ranging from the extreme Left to the extreme Right, welded together by the goal of Swaraj, emerged as a powerful organisation. There was a constant struggle between the right and left in Congress during the 1930s. In 1934 the Congress Socialist Party was formed by Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Narendra Dev, and Minoo Masani. They believed that nationalism was the path to socialism and that they would work within the Congress. They worked to make Congress pro-peasant and pro-worker.

First Congress Ministries under the Government of India Act, 1935

The Government of India Act 1935 was one of the important positive outcomes of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The key features of the Act were provincial autonomy and dyarchy at the center. The Act provided for an all-India Federation with 11 provinces, 6 Chief commissioner’s provinces, and all those Princely states that wished to join the federation. The Act also provided autonomy to the provinces. All the subjects were transferred to the control of Indian ministers. The dyarchy that was in operation in provinces was now extended to the central government. The franchise, based on property, was extended though only about ten percent of the population enjoyed the right to vote. By this Act, Burma was separated from India.

(a) Congress Ministries and their Work

The Government of India Act 1935 was implemented with the announcement of elections in 1937. Congress immensely benefitted because of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The Congress called off its program of the boycott of the legislature and contested elections. It emerged victorious in seven out of the eleven provinces. It formed ministries in 8 provinces – Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, Orissa, Bihar, United Provinces, and Northwest Frontier Province. In Assam, it formed a coalition government with the Assam Valley Muslim Party led by Sir Muhammad Sadullah. The Congress Ministries functioned as a popular government and responded to the needs of the people. The salaries of ministers were reduced from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 500 per month. Earlier actions taken against nationalists were rescinded. They repealed the Acts which vested emergency powers in the government, lifted the ban imposed on political organizations except for the Communist Party, and removed the restrictions on the nationalist press. Police powers were curbed and reporting by the CID on political speeches was discontinued. Legislative measures were adopted to reduce the indebtedness of the peasantry and improve the working conditions of industrial labor. Temple entry legislation was passed. Special attention was paid to education and public health.

(b) Resignation of Congress Ministries

In 1939 the Second World War broke out. The colonial government of India entered the War on behalf of the Allies without consulting the Congress ministries. The Congress ministries resigned in protest. Jinnah who had returned from London with the determination of demanding a separate state for Muslims revived the Muslim League in 1934. He was one of the staunchest critics of the Congress Ministries. He declared the day when the Congress Ministries resigned as the ‘Day of Deliverance’. By 1940 he was demanding a separate state for the Muslims arguing that in an independent India the Muslims would lose all political power to the Hindus.

(c ) National Movement during the Second World War, 1939–45

In 1939 Subhas Chandra Bose became the President of the Congress by defeating Pattabhi Sitaramayya, the candidate of Gandhi. When Gandhi refused to cooperate, Subhas Chandra Bose resigned his post and started the Forward Bloc. The Communists initially opposed the War, calling it an imperialist war. However, with the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, they called it the ‘People’s War’ and offered cooperation to the British. As a result, in 1942, the ban on the Communist Party of India was lifted.

Hindu Communalism, Muslim Communalism, and Indian Nationalism

The Muslim League dubbed the Congress a Hindu organisation and claimed that it alone was the representative of the Muslims of India. Similarly, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) took a pronounced anti-Muslim stance. Both Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League claimed that the interests of the Hindus and Muslims were different and hostile to each other. The British policy of divide and rule, through measures such as the Partition of Bengal, and the Communal Award, had encouraged the vested interests out to exploit religious differences. In 1933, Rahmat Ali a student of Cambridge University conceived the idea of Pakistan, comprising the provinces of Punjab, Kashmir, Northwest Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan. Muhammad Iqbal, who was advocating Hindu-Muslim unity later changed his stance and began to campaign for the formation of a separate state for Muslims. Indian Nationalism represented by Gandhi, Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, and others opposed the idea of partitioning the country.

Developments leading to the Quit India Movement

(a) Individual Satyagraha

In August 1940 Viceroy Linlithgow made an offer in return for Congress’ support for the war effort. However, the offer of dominion status in an unspecified future was not acceptable to Congress. However, it did not want to hamper the British during its struggle against the fascist forces of Germany and Italy. Hence Gandhi declared limited satyagraha which would be offered by a few individuals. The objective was to convey to the world that though India was opposed to Nazism it did not enter the War voluntarily. Vinobha Bhave was the first to offer satyagraha on 17 October 1940. The satyagraha continued until the end of the year. During this period more than 25,000 people were arrested.

(b) Cripps Mission

On 22 March 1942, the British government sent a mission under Cabinet Minister Sir Strafford Cripps as the Japanese knocked on the doors of India. The negotiations between the Cripps Mission and the Congress failed as Britain was not willing to transfer effective power immediately. The Cripps Mission offered:
1. Grant of Dominion Status after the War
2. Indian Princes could sign a separate agreement with the British implying the acceptance for the demand of Pakistan.
3. British control of defense during the War.
Both the Congress and the Muslim League rejected the proposal. Gandhi called the proposals as a post-dated cheque on a crashing bank.

(c ) “Do or Die” Call by Gandhi

The outcome of the Cripps Mission caused considerable disappointment. Popular discontent was intensified by wartime shortages and the steep rise in prices. The All India Congress Committee that met at Bombay on 8 August 1942 passed the famous Quit India Resolution demanding an immediate end to British rule in India. Gandhi gave a call to do or die. Gandhi said, ‘We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery.” A non-violent mass struggle under Gandhi was to be launched. But early next morning on 9 August 1942 Gandhi and the entire Congress leadership was arrested.

(d) Cabinet Mission

In Britain, the Labour Party had won a landslide victory and Clement Atlee became the Prime Minister. He declared that he wanted to transfer power at the earliest. He sent a Cabinet Mission comprising Pethick Lawrence, Sir Strafford Cripps, and A.V. Alexander. Rejecting the demand for Pakistan, it provided for a Federal government with control over the defense, communications, and foreign affairs. The provinces were divided into three groups viz. Non-Muslim Majority Provinces, Muslim Majority Provinces in the Northwest and the Muslim Majority Provinces in the Northeast. A Constituent Assembly was to be elected and an interim government set up with representation for all the communities. The Congress and the Muslim League accepted the plan. However, both interpreted it differently. The Congress wanted the division of the provinces to be temporary while the Muslim League wanted it to be a permanent arrangement.

(e) Direct Action Day Call by Muslim League

The difference arose between Congress and the Muslim League when the former nominated a Muslim member. The League argued it was to be the sole representative of the Muslims and withdrew its approval. Jinnah declared 16 August 1946 as the ‘Direct Action Day’. Hartals and demonstrations took place which soon turned into the Hindu-Muslim conflict. It spread to other districts of Bengal. The district of Noakhali was the worst affected. Gandhi left for the worst affected regions and toured them barefoot bringing the communal violence under control and spreading the message of peace and non-violence.

For the Gandhian phase of the Indian National Movement PDF in English, Check the link – Download.
The Gandhian phase of Indian National Movement PDF in Tamil, Check the link – Download.

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