Modern history notes pdf

Modern history notes

Study Notes

Download notes  as a pdf

Modern history notes.pdf

Modern History Quizzes

Quiz 1  |  Quiz 2  |  Quiz 3  |  Quiz 4  |  Quiz 5  |





    The proud Mughal Empire which had ruled the north for two centuries was declining and soon the emperor of Delhi became a pensioner for the British. The process of disintegration began with Aurangzeb and his policies yet at the time of his death 1707 the Empire was still strong. After his death his sons quarreled amongst themselves and Bahadur Shah won. He had a more tolerant and secular policy. Under him the Rana’s of Mewar and Marathas were appeased and earlier policy of aggression was withdrawn. Sikhs too were conciliated by giving Guru Gobind Singh a Mansab rank. However due to grant of Mansabs and posts the royal treasury was exhausted. His death in 1712 plunged Delhi into civil war.


    Jahandar shah followed him to the throne as he was supported by the most powerful noble Zulfiqar khan. Zulfiqar khan controlled the administration and adopted a policy of tolerance towards chief of Mewar and Marathas. However against the Sikhs he continued the old policy of aggression. Soon the other nobles poisoned the emperor’s ears against Zulfiqar khan. He began secretly plotting against Zulfiqar khan. Finally Jahandar khan was killed by the next successorFarrukh Siyar.


    Farrukh Siyar was undependable and worthless successor. The Sayyid brothers were instrumental in helping him win. They got important posts in the administration. The emperor wanted to rule personally but the Sayyid brothers believed that the he should be a puppet and they should handle administration to reverse the decay of the Empire. This led to conflicts between the emperor and the Sayyid brothers and finally the emperor was killed. In his place three successor princes were nominated. Two died quickly and the last Muhammad shah took the throne.


Under the Sayyid brothers the Mughal ties with Rajputs, Marathas and Jats were strengthened. But corruption had increased. The Sayyid’s couldn’t rule properly due to continuous quarrels with other nobles. The death of the emperor had created public revulsion against them. The other nobles called the anti Islamic and anti Mughal due to their tolerant policy. The emperor too wanted to rule freely. Hence soon rebellion started against the Sayyid’s and they were killed.


Muhammad shah reigned for 30 years. An emperor who had sound knowledge of administration was needed to save the Empire but Muhammad shah wasn’t that. He led a life of luxury and pleasure. This disgusted his nobles and they left to carve semi independent states. The corruption too had increased under his reign. One such Wazir Nizam ul Mulk founded the south state of Hyderabad.


It was in this period the afghan king nadir shah descended in the north. He was attracted by the vast wealth. He invaded the North West frontier but met with no resistance. The nobles of Mughal court quarreled and wouldn’t unite even when the enemy was insight. This led to their heavy defeat. A bloodbath was seen in Delhi and Nadir Shah captured the Mughal treasury, Kohinoor diamond and the peacock throne. The Mughal emperor had been taken prisoner and released after he gave up all provinces west of Indus. After nadir shah the Mughals saw repeated attacks from Ahmed Shah Abdali. Abdali was nadir shahs ablest general and became the ruler of Afghanistan. He defeated the Marathas in 1761 at Panipat. The Mughal Empire had shrunk to just kingdom of Delhi but the Mughal never participated in the affairs of the state. Shah Alam II who ascended throne in 1759 spent the initial years wandering away from his kingdom as he was in mortal fear from his Wazir. He joined Shuja ud dawla and Mir Qasim in battle of Buxar against the English East India Company but was defeated. He remained as a pensioner in the Allahabad fort till 1772 and returned to Delhi under protective arm of the Marathas. When Delhi was captured by Marathas in 1803 till 1857 the Mughals were only political front of the British.


In fact after 1759 Mughals remained only because they symbolized political unity of the country in the minds of the people.


Causes of the decline of the Mughals:

  1.  Aurangzeb’s policy of expansion put pressure on men and material.
  2. His intolerant policy on Hindu chief Shivaji in Deccan and Sikhs put additional strain on the Empire. This drained the resources of the Empire and ruined trade and industry.
  3. The North West front was exposed as Aurangzeb concentrated on Deccan for 25 years.
  4. His inability to subdue the Marathas undermined prestige of the Empire and local chief too dreamed of independence.
  5. When Aurangzeb tried to re extend the imperial sway over Rajputs and earned the ire of Rajputs it further led to confrontation.
  6.  Weak successors who focused on personal pleasure were responsible for the decline. The absence of fixed rule of succession led to civil war among the princes this led to loss of life and weakened the administrative fabric of the Empire.
  7. Revenue policy of Aurangzeb too was harsh and affected the peasant. The agriculture produce declined which couldn’t sustain the mighty state. The jagirdars harassed the peasants for revenue; this wasn’t passed on to the treasury. The decline in trade and industry compared to Europe led to India lagging behind it economically and politically.
  8.  Absence of political nationalism meant that people were loyal to their respective kingdoms not the country.
  9. Foreign invasions by nadir shah and Abdali. Also rise of the British.
  10. Weakness of the army as the mansabdars couldn’t maintain their full quota of the soldiers.



After the decline of the Mughal Empire many kingdoms declared independence and newer states emerged in India.


Hyderabad was founded by Nizam ul Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724. He was a noble of theMuhammad shah the Mughal emperor. His repeated attempts of reforming the administration were rejected by the emperor and so he moved back to south to form his state. He formed an efficient administration. He followed a tolerant policy against all religions. He forced the powerful zamindar lobby to respect him. He successfully resisted Maratha’s from his land. However he failed to rid the revenue system of corruption due to his untimely death. After him the Hyderabad state too was in a state of turmoil.


Murshid quli khan too declared independence from the central authority after it grew weak. He however sent tributes to the Mughals. He suppressed the powerful zamindars and organized an efficient administration. He was tolerant and secular. He introduced agrarian reform but collected revenue cruelly. He promoted trade and industry. The Nawabs however were short sighted with regards to English east India Company. They forced it to obey laws of the land but didn’t take these trading companies as threats to the kingdom. They failed also in two more aspects building a strong army and checking corruption amongst local officials. Both these factors led to the defeat of Nawab Siraj ud dawlah at the hands of English east India Company in 1857.


Saadat khan burhan ul Mulk was the founder of Awadh. He was far sighted and able ruler. He too was disillusioned by the central government and chose to fortify his feudal area. He had to wage continuous wars against the big zamindars who had fortified their areas. He successfully suppressed them and brought relief to the farmers. He was secular towards all religions.


The end of Vijaynagar Empire gave a new lease of lie to Mysore kingdom. The minister Nanaraj and Devraj captured power and the king Krishna Raj became a mere puppet. Haider Ali was an ordinary soldier in the Mysore army. He took advantage of the opportunities that came his way and rose in rank. He learned western military tactics from French experts and applied them in battles. Soon he defeated Nanaraj and became king. Though he was illiterate he was an efficient administrator. He extended his power in Mysore and soon made it into a powerful kingdom. He fought the Nizam of Hyderabad, Marathas and British repeatedly and defeated them.

Haider Ali and British

First Anglo Mysore War

The English east India Company allied with Nizam of Hyderabad in 1766 to attack Haider Ali. But he fought back and threatened to attack madras. So a treaty was signed where conquered territories were handed back and mutual cooperation against each other’s enemies was assured. But when the Marathas attacked Haider Ali the British didn’t help hence he mistrusted them. British had secured support of Marathas after the first Anglo Maratha in 1782. Haider Ali inflicted defeats on them and forced them to surrender in large numbers. 

Second Anglo Mysore War

The British under Hastings bribed the Nizam and he withdrew from the alliance with Haider Ali. Hastings also diverted the army from the Maratha war against Haider Ali and finally defeated him. This was the second Anglo Mysore war. His son Tipu sultan succeeded him after his death in the second Anglo Mysore war. Finally as the war was a stalemate peace treaty was signed in 1784.


Tipu Sultan vs British

Tipu sultan was a complex character. He was deeply interested in literature and had a library. He took interest in French revolution. He had planted a tree of liberty in his kingdom and was a member of Jacobin club. His army was trained in western tactics and armed with muskets and bayonets with French help. He also was building a navy and had constructed ports.

The British regarded him as their deadliest enemy.

Third Anglo Mysore War

The treaty of 1784 had only postponed hostilities to the future. Tipu had attempted to establish contact with turkey and France by sending envoys there. The third Anglo Mysore war resulted in Tipu defeat in 1792. He had to pay a huge indemnity and surrender his sons to the British as hostages. It destroyed Tipu’s dominant position in south and established British supremacy there.

In 1798 the new governor general Wellesley took charge and brought his scheme of subsidiary alliance. By this the British would station an army in the allying kingdom and protect it from internal and external threats. In return the king should disband his army, accept a British resident and govern on his advice, relinquish all deals with other foreign powers and pay a tribute to British for the army or cede a territory to them. This ensured that the protectorate kingdom became a puppet in their hands. 

Fourth Anglo Mysore War

Wellesley knew Tipu would never accept this treaty and fourth the fourth Anglo Mysore war in 1799 and defeated Tipu.  When Tipu was finally defeated in 1799 even the British were amazed at his revenue administration. He was accused of being orthodox but he had given large donations to building of temples too.


The Rajputs took advantage of the weakness of the Mughals and freed themselves from central control. However they were divided and always in civil war or quarrels with each other. Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber was an outstanding ruler. He was an able administrator. He founded Jaipur and made it a seat of science and arts. He was a reformer and a law maker. He was also an astronomer and constructed observatories at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi.


Guru Nanak in 15th century founded Sikhism which spread amongst lower classes of Punjab and Jat peasants. Under Guru Gobind Singh they became a political and military force. He fought constant wars against Aurangzeb but became a noble under Bahadur shah.

After his death his follower Banda bahadur rallied the Sikhs and carried warfare against the Mughal army till he was killed in 1715. The Sikhs then rose gain after the foreigners invaded India and created a political vacuum. The Sikh organized themselves as misls and ruled different parts of Punjab and Kashmir. Initially they cooperated with each other but soon this unity faded.

At this time Ranjit Singh rose to prominence. He was a skilled administrator and a soldier. He soon formed a kingdom in Punjab and captured Kashmir, Lahore, Amritsar, Multan and Peshawar. He built an army of skilled soldiers of different religions and started manufacturing cannons. His army was second only to east India Company. He was tolerant and secular. When the English forbade him to expand east of Sutlej he kept quite. He was a realist and saved his Empire. But he didn’t fight the foreign threat and left it to his successors who weren’t as skilled and who were conquered by the British.

Maratha Power:

Shahu grandson of Shivaji Maharaj was a prisoner of Aurangzeb. After Aurangzeb’s death Shahu was released and a civil war broke out between him and his aunt Tarabai who had continued the fight against the Mughals under her son Shivaji II. Shahu won this war with the help of Balaji vishwanath who became the Peshwa. Balaji vishwanath was an able administrator and won many Maratha chiefs to Shahu’s cause. Shahu’s Empire now extended to all Maharashtra except Kolhapur where Tarabai ruled.

Peshwa Power

Balaji Vishwanath

Balaji vishwanath and his son made Peshwa the functional head of Marathas. Balaji vishwanath helped the Mughal heads ascend to throne like Zulfiqar khan, Farrukh Siyar and Sayyid’s. In return he got chauth and sardeshmukhi for the Marathas. He also increased ambition of Maratha chiefs to increase rule to the north by showing them the weakness of the Mughals. However he gave too much freedom to the Maratha sardars. They could collect the chauth and sardeshmukhi and keep a large part of it to themselves. They could also expand the Maratha Empire. Hence the Empire became huge but the autonomous sardars were in control. They didn’t hesitate to join the Mughals, Nizam or British if the central authority was too strict.

Baji rao I

Baji rao I was the next Peshwa and a skilled guerilla warrior comparable to Shivaji maharaja. He expanded the Maratha Empire to even Malwa, Gujarat and Bundelkhand too. He forced Mughal officials to grant them chauth and sardeshmukhi over new areas and conceded them to Maratha Empire. He also defeated the Nizam of Hyderabad, Siddis of janjira and Portuguese. His main fault was that he failed in establishing an administration over new areas.

Balaji Baji rao

His death made his son Balaji Baji rao the heir. King Shahu had before dying made the Peshwa the official head of the Marathas. The new Peshwa took Maratha power over entire India. He forced Bengal Nawab, state of Mysore, Mughals, Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs too pay tribute to them. The Mughal Wazir was now their puppet. They disposed the chief appointed by Ahmed Shah Abdali and this brought in direct conflict with the afghan warrior. In the battle of Panipat the Marathas were routed. This tragic news reached the Peshwa and he died due to the shock.

Reasons for the defeat of Maratha’s at Panipat:

  1. They failed to find any allies in the north as all mighty powers were incensed at their behavior.
  2. They meddled in the internal affairs of Rajputs and imposed fines on Jats and Sikhs who mistrusted them and refused to support them.
  3. Senior commanders of Marathas quarreled with each other.


Maratha Power 1761 – 1818

The defeat of the Marathas gave a chance to the east India Company to increase its power over Bengal and south India. The next Peshwa Madhav rao restored the Maratha prestige too some extends. The Mughals and Rajputs, Jats and Mysore were once again brought under control and forced to pay tribute. By now powerful Maratha families had emerged those were totally autonomous and not under the Peshwa’s control like Gaikwad at Baroda, Holkar, Scindia, and Bhosle.

After Madhav rao his brother Raghunath rao the brother of Balaji Baji rao and Narayan rao brother of Madhav rao fought for Peshwa post. The son of Madhav rao, Sawai Madhav rao was appointed head and Raghunath rao went to the British. The supporters of Sawai Madhav rao led by Nana Phadnis and supporters of Raghunath rao clashed constantly. The strong Maratha families now refused to participate in the Maratha affairs and remained autonomous.

The fight between Raghunath rao, British and Marathas was the first Anglo Maratha war. The British sided with Raghunath rao in hopes of making territorial gains in event of victory but they were defeated. The British then fought Mahadji Scindia but he too was an able soldier and their war [first Anglo Maratha war] was a stalemate. The British got 20 year of peace with the Marathas.

When Sawai Madhav rao died Baji rao II son of Raghunath rao succeeded him. He was a worthless ruler. He signed a subsidiary alliance with the British and became their puppet. The British power had now increased and they decided to end the Marathas by dividing and ending each of the Maratha sardars separately. The Holkar and Scindia remained unconquered. The expansionist policy of Wellesley had created a huge debt and he was recalled. The peace treaty was signed with Holkar.

The Marathas again made an effort to regain lost pride in 1817 but they failed to unite forces and draft a comprehensive strategy. This led to their defeats. The other Maratha houses remained as subsidiary power but Peshwa power was extinguished. Peshwa was pensioned off and a province of Bombay was created by marquis of Hastings. After these wars the British controlled all of India except Sind and Punjab. They now could expand beyond the frontiers of India.



Trade routes to India

India was famous for spices which were in high demand in European cuisine. The three prominent trade routes till the 15th century were through central Asia, through red sea and then Egypt and Europe via Mediterranean sea and Persian gulf by sea and then through Iraq and turkey and again by sea through Venice and Genoa. The Turkish lands were captured by Ottomans and the trade routes were affected. The renaissance had led to the quest for discovery of newer routes through sea to India. Finally Vasco da Gama found an all sea route to India via Cape of Good Hope.

The opening of trade routes to India and America were hailed as very important. The American islands were rich in precious minerals and soon they became consumers of European manufactured goods. The Atlantic became a zone of high trade activity. The Portuguese to were the first to enter into Africa and they became the pioneers of slave trade. The slaves were bought for manufactured European goods and sold in West Indies and American lands for sugar and cotton which were exchanged for manufactured goods in Europe. This triangular trade was dominated by Portuguese along with the eastern trade with India.

Though the Portuguese were ruthless and religious intolerant they lost their monopoly in later part of 16th century to the English, Dutch and French. The English due to their naval power and industrial revolution became the superpower of the world and had colonies in Africa, America and East Asia. The English though initially weak were by the end of the 16thcentury dominant in naval powers. 

English East India Company:

The English East Indian Company was formed and given a charter to trade in the east byQueen Elizabeth. The English Company was led by Captain Hawkins and received by Emperor Jahangir. Though initially they were well received by due to Portuguese influence they were expelled. The British realized that Portuguese influence had to be reduced in order to convince the Mughals. In the naval battle the Portuguese were defeated and so the Mughal emperor thought that in order to counter the supremacy of Portuguese in sea, friendship with the English is important.

A Mughal Farman gave them permission to open factories on the west coast. Thomas roe wasn’t satisfied with this and bargained for more concessions. The British also started harassing hajj pilgrims and Indian merchants taking advantage of its naval power. Finally the Mughals relented and gave them permission to open factories throughout the Mughal territory.

The Portuguese were angered by this and in the naval battles the English won. Hostilities were ended by giving the island of Bombay to British for marrying a Portuguese princess in 1662. Soon the Portuguese lost all their Indian possession to English, Marathas and Dutch except Daman Diu and Goa.

Dutch Conflict:

The conflict between Dutch and English too was intense but resulted in a stale mate. The English couldn’t remove the Dutch from their stronghold in Indonesia and the spice trade. But Dutch too couldn’t match the English might in India. Finally English decided to leave the Indonesian trade and focus on India only. And similarly the Dutch too left the Indian trade except for a few factories in the east coast. These too were lost to the English by 1795.

English east India Company:

After Surat the English power grew in India. When the tried to fortify their factory in Suratthey were arrested by the local authorities working for the Mughals. Similarly when the Company’s rivals attacked the Mughal shipping the Mughal forces arrested the Company officials till the ransom was paid. The south India was more favorable to them as no strong government existed there. The first factory in the south was opened in Masullipatinam and then in madras. The raja gave them permission to fortify the madras factory and the Englishman Francis day built there fort George.

After madras the island of Bombay came under British occupation. It too was fortified as the Surat area was under threat from the increasing Maratha power. The English now moved their sights on the east coast and opened factories in Orissa and Hugli. They wanted an independent fortified factory for Bengal. They had now become ambitious and wanted to capture India and turn it into a British colony. For this they challenged the mighty Aurangzeb but his force was great and the British lost all factories on the east coast and even their fort in Bombay was besieged. They gave up hope and resorted to flattery and forgiveness and asked for return to trade.

Aurangzeb permitted this as he felt that foreign traders couldn’t harm him. But the revenue they brought from trade increased the state treasury. Also the British naval might was great enough to ruin Indian trade with west. The British now fortified the few villages on the east coast in Bengal and it became Calcutta. Job carnock built the fort William there. But due to strong Nawabs in Bengal the east India Company was merely a zamindar.

The British had high hopes in south India as no strong kingdom existed there but it had to face competition from the French. The French east India Company was government controlled but had caught up with the English company in terms of trade and had factories in Bengal and Pondicherry. The Anglo French conflicts in the south and east lasted for a period of 20 years and ended with English supremacy. The French now lived under English protection in India. They were permitted to keep Pondicherry with condition that no fortification be allowed.

The English were now the mightiest power in India. The war had taught them a few lessons. In absence of modern nationalism in India they could be setup against each other easily. The western trained Indian soldiers were as good as Europeans. The absence of nationalism and respect of salt in the Indian mind made him a good and loyal soldier. Thus the British went on to rule India with an army officer-ed by British but with Indian Sepoy’s.

Chapter 4: British Conquest Of India From 1756 – 1818



The province of Bengal was the most fertile and suitable for trade and commerce. The British saw its importance and established a factory in Calcutta. The Farman issued by the Mughal emperor  allowed free trade in Bengal but the Farman didn’t apply to private trade by Company officials. The Nawabs of Bengal had forced the British to pay heavy taxes due to wrong interpretation of the Farman. Yet the Company officials continued to break rules whenever given a chance. Nawab of Bengal was now Siraj ud dawlah, he learnt of fortification by British and French. He ordered them to cease from this but the British continued. The Nawab waged a battle and defeated the British. But in haste he allowed them to escape to an island guarded by British navy. The Company officials waited there for reinforcements from madras. Meanwhile they managed to lure Mir Jafar and other nobles of Nawabs court to their side. In the battle between the English army led by Robert Clive and Admiral Watson and Nawab at Plessey the Nawab was defeated. He was captured and executed. Mir Jafar replaced him. Mir Jafar paid tributes to the Company but soon even he couldn’t meet their demands and the British felt that he wasn’t able to fulfill their expectations and soon he too was replaced by his son in law Mir Qasim.

Mir Qasim proved to be a threat to the British power in Bengal. He wanted to free Bengal from British control. For this he wanted to build a strong army and good administration. On the other hand the British wanted a titular Nawab. This led to confrontation between them and soon the Nawab with the help of Shuja ud dawlah, Nawab of Awadh and shah alam II, the fugitive Mughal emperor waged a war against British. In this battle of Buxar they were defeated.

The battle of Buxar established British supremacy in India. The British got diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. All conquerors of odissa wanted domination over the Puri temple as it gave legitimacy to their rule in minds of local.

The diwani rights gave the British full and legitimate control over Bengal. The governor of Bengal Robert Clive started a dual system of government where the British were in charge of collecting revenue and the army but Nawab and his officials were in charge of administration. In effect this system meant no responsibility for both sides. The Nawab was entrusted with the responsibility of collecting revenue on behalf of British so they plundered the peasants for as much as they could and passed on a share to the British. This led to untold oppression in Bengal.

Sind: The British feared that Russia might try to attack India through Persia or Afghanistan. This had to be prevented and hence British had to increase their influence in both these countries. To do this Sind had to be brought under control.

Policy of annexation from 1848 to 1856

    Lord Dalhousie came to India as the governor general and he wanted to extend the rule to all parts of India. This he felt as he believed the British rule was better than the corrupt and oppressive native rulers. He did this by his doctrine of lapse method. This meant that if the ruler of a protectorate state died without a natural heir then the state would be annexed by the British. The right of inheritance of the adopted child wasn’t recognized.


I.Warren Hastings.

He followed Robert Clive as the governor of fort William. He was a reformist and the steps he took were:

  • Abolished dual government system and the now the Company servants collected revenue on their own.
  • Board of revenue was created and collectors were established to collect revenue. The treasury was moved to a safer location of Calcutta from murshidabad. Calcutta soon became the capital of Bengal and then India.
  • To remove the highly corrupt judicial system. Civil courts were created presided by the collectors and criminal courts by an Indian judge. Appellate courts for civil and criminal cases were there in Calcutta. Highest court of appeal for civil cases was sadar diwani adalat and criminal cases were sadar Nizamat adalat.
  • A bank was established in Calcutta. Pre paid postal system was introduced. Police too were created to stop dacoits.
  • He was a patron of Indian languages and arts. He was a person of oriental tastes.


Regulating Act, 1773:


The controller of east India Company was the court of proprietors and court of directors. The three presidencies were independent and managed by governor and his council. The court of directors was elected annually and managed the affairs of the Company. The mismanagement of Indian territories led to bankruptcy of the Company and the directors asked for a loan. The government passed this act as a precondition for the loan.

It laid the foundations for a centralized administration in India. Governor of Bengal became the governor general of Bengal with an executive council of four to assist him. Decisions would be taken by majority and governor general could only vote in case of tie. Presidencies of Madras and Bombay lost their independence and became subordinate to Bengal.

It established a supreme court of justice at Calcutta. It prohibited the servants of EIC from accepting gifts and engaging in private trade.

Pitts Act, 1784:

    Board of control was established to control political affairs in India. So a system of dual government was created. The number of members in the governor’s council was reduced to 3. The board of control was responsible to the parliament and controlled political affairs. The court of directors was in control of commercial affairs.

An amendment to this act in 1786 allowed the governor general to overrule the majority of his council.

II.Lord Cornwallis

He was a respected aristocrat. He led the British army in the war against America. Although he had to surrender he still commanded deep respect amongst his fellow countrymen.

Salient points of his rule were:

  • He increased the salaries of the Company servants and prohibited their private trade.
  • He removed collectors from the post of judges of the civil courts. Separated judiciary and administration.
  • Indians judges were appointed at the lowest judicial levels. District and city courts had European judges. Provincial court of appeals had European judges. Highest court of appeal at civil and criminal courts was governor general in council.
  • He appointed darogas in every thanas for policing.
  • He was the father of the Indian civil service.
  • He was responsible for implementing permanent settlement in Bengal and Bihar.
  • He was responsible for reformation, modernization, rationalization of civil service. He started the covenanted civil service with only Europeans and un-covenanted civil service for others.


III. Richard Wellesley

He was famous for introducing the subsidiary alliance system.

  • Pindaris rose during his regime as the thousands of soldiers who became unemployed as they were dismissed due to the subsidiary alliance. These soldiers became dacoits.
  • He was the maker of madras presidency and creator of Agra province.

IV.Lord Hastings.

Salient features of his administration:

  • The Nepal and British territories were bordering each other. The Gurkha’s were aggressive and this led to confrontation. Lord Hastings declared war on Nepal and defeated them.
  • Ended the menace of the Pindaris.
  • Defeated the Marathas.
  • He was the maker of the Bombay province.

   V. William Bentinck

He was the first governor general to believe in serving the Indian people.

Salient features of his administration:

  1. He followed a policy of non intervention and non aggression with Indian princely states.
  2. He abolished the provincial court of appeals.
  3. Introduction of local languages in lower courts and English in higher courts.
  4. Responsible for abolition of sati, female infanticide and suppression of thugs.
  5. English became the official language of India. Calcutta medical college was established.
  6. Introduction of English education.

Charter Act, 1813: It reduced monopoly of EIC to trade with India. But it kept monopoly for trade with china. It also allocated an amount of Rs. 1 lakh for promotion of Indian education.

Charter Act, 1833: Ended all monopolies of EIC with respect to trade. Governor General of Bengal became the governor general of India. It laid the foundation of Indianisation of public services.

VI. Lord Dalhousie

He was the youngest governor general.


Salient features of his administration:

  1. He followed the policy of annexation by annexing Punjab, lower Burma, Oudh and central provinces to the British Empire.
  2. He annexed the princely states if the rulers died without natural heirs. His doctrine of lapse was the reason many kingdoms were added to the British Empire. This policy was one of the reasons for princes joining the 1857 mutiny.
  3. The annexation of Oudh affected the sepoy’s of the British army as many came from Oudh. They had privileged positions in the army but after the annexation they became same as the remaining population. This too became a reason for 1857 mutiny.
  4. He molded the new provinces into a centralized state. He shifted the Bengal artillery to Meerut and shiplap became the permanent headquarters of the army.
  5. Railways were started in India by him. The reasons were commercial, administrative and defense.
  6. Telegraph line was laid from Calcutta to diamond harbor. Telegraph and railways were very useful for crushing the 1857 mutiny.
  7. Post stamps were introduced. Uniform rate of half Anna was charged on post throughout the country.
  8. The universities of Calcutta, Madras and Mumbai were founded in 1857. John Wilson was first chancellor of Mumbai university and KT Telang was first Indian chancellor.
  9. He modernized the public works department and laid foundation for engineering service in India.

He introduced the process of modernization in India and is hailed as The Maker of Modern India.

VII. Lord Lytton

Salient features of his administration:

  1. The vernacular press act was passed to muzzle periodicals in Indian languages and curtail freedom of the press.
  2. Arms act was passed to prevent Indians from keeping arms without license.

VIII.  Lord Ripon

  1. Repealed the vernacular press act.
  2. Father of local self government. Started telephone in Kolkata in 1881.
  3. Appointed hunter commission for expansion and improvement in elementary education for the masses.
  4. Passed the factory act to improve working conditions in factory.
  5. Tied to pass the Illbert bill which would have allowed Indian magistrates to try Europeans. But the bill was rejected due to the popular protest against it.

IX. Lord Curzon

  • Passed the universities act that brought all universities under government control.
  • Police training schools were started for officers and constables.
  • Passed the legislation making it mandatory for government to protect archaeological monuments.
  • Partition of Bengal was done by him.

Note: The first census and statistical survey of India was conducted by Lord Mayo


Agrarian Policy

India was known for agriculture and handicraft. The national income, foreign trade, industrial expansion all economic activities depended on agriculture. British however started a policy of ruthless revenue collection without caring for the cultivators. 

            The principal types of land tenure obtained by the British were:


1. Zamindari or Permanent Settlement:


  • Covered Bengal and Bihar, odissa and extended to a total of 19% of India. It was introduced by Lord Cornwallis.
  • Zamindars were recognized as owners as long as they paid revenue to the Company. They had heritary positions. Once appointed couldn’t be removed. The revenue was high but fixed 89% would belong to Company and remaining to zamindars. The administrative and judicial powers of zamindars were taken. Ryots [tillers of soil] became the tenants. Ryots could be evicted easily.
  • The zamindars extorted as many as they could and passed on a fixed pat to the government. Many intermediaries were introduced for revenue collection. Illegal levies were common.
  • Company now dealt with zamindars rather than Lakhs of peasants.
  • In long term the Company faced losses as land productivity was high but the revenue for Company was fixed.
  • The cultivators were exploited and no agrarian reforms were introduced.

2.      Ryotwari

  •   Introduced in madras, Berar, Assam, Bombay by Thomas Munroe. It was operating in 51% of India.
  • The peasant was recognized as the owner who had full rights over his land as long as he paid the revenue.
  • Revenue had to be paid in cash. Farmers grew cash crops for this. During famines no relief was given so he borrowed from money lenders to pay revenue. This made him indebted.
  • Land revenue was fixed to 20-40 years.

3.      Mahalwari system

  • It was introduced in Punjab and North West provinces and operated in 30% of India.
  • Basic unit of revenue settlement was the village. The village lands belonged jointly to the village community and hence the responsibility of payment also belonged to the entire village.
  • There were no middlemen for collection of revenue.


British policy on handicraft


India was a leader in handicrafts. Its products on art and sculpture were famous. It was also known for its textiles. The shipping of cotton, silk, woolen products and embroidery was known. Even marbles and cutting polishing of precious stones, ivory and sandalwood was done. Despite enjoying fame in the world Indian handicrafts industry started declining by 18th century. The policies of east India Company were responsible for this.

  1. The British policy encouraged India to be a supplier of raw materials to England and consumer of finished British goods.
  2. The Indian markets were flooded with cheap manufactured goods of British.
  3. The tariff and octroi policies were also modified to suit British interests. A high export duty was imposed on Indian goods but a low import duty on British goods. Also the goods from England could only be brought by English ships.
  4. With the domination of British over Indian states the demand by Indian royalty for luxury domestic goods like art, objects of attire declined. Traditional royalty also were removed and this caused a decline in patronage to Indian handicrafts.
  5. Machines replaced manpower in India as well and power loom made goods were introduced replacing handloom made goods.

Language and Education Policy

          The British captured India in 1757 but education remained responsibility of Indians only. Warren Hastings was a prominent patron of oriental education. He started a madrassa in Calcutta for Muslim traditional learning. Then John Duncan started a Sanskrit college in Varanasi. Education was imparted only through these traditional institutions. In India there was one leaning center for every village.

          East India Company followed a dual policy by discouraging oriental education and encouraging education of western science and English language. In 1813, the charter act allotted Rs. 1 lakh for education in India. But due to the debate on education for the next 20 years not a penny was spent.


The British scholars were divided into two groups, orientalists [wanted promotion of oriental subjects in Indian languages for education] and Anglicists [wanted promotion of western science and literature though English].




Orientalists had interest in learning eastern culture, values and sciences. They learned Indian languages and the first oriental institute was created with the support of other like minded officials Asiatic society of Bengal.


They respected culture of east and west and felt study of ancient tradition would help in future development of India. They started translating ancient texts to help Indians rediscover ancient heritage and glory. They wanted to become guardians of Indian culture. By teaching Indians Persian, Sanskrit and literature the British would get their respect. The Orientalists favored social stability over modernization and believed in introducing western science gradually.


          The conservative policy changed as it didn’t lead to expansion of trade or perpetuation of British supremacy. Anglicist felt oriental thinking was unscientific and full of errors. They wanted education to teach useful and practical things and not for appeasement.


Lord Macaulay was an advocate of Anglicism. He rubbished eastern knowledge and emphasized English language. He wanted Indians to read English so that they would be familiar with the developments in the west. This would civilize them and change their culture and values.


He and Governor General Bentinck passed the policy of western science and education in English language in 1835.


Social policies and reforms:


The British had a policy of indifference for social and religious practices. They refrained from interference as they feared they might lose their trade advantage over others. But later on they indulged in criticism of it to create an inferiority complex in Indians.


Social and religious reforms launched in mid 19th century had caught the attention of British authorities. The work of Christian missionaries, impact of newspapers and western thought and education had created an impact on minds. William Bentinck and other governor generals and colonial authorities took steps to bring in reforms.

  1. Lord Bentinck abolished Sati and female infanticide by legislations
  2. Lord Dalhousie passed the widow remarriage act and the lex loci Act [Allowing converts to christainity to inherit ancestral property] 

   Voices were raised against child marriage and purdah system




I.  Warren Hastings.

He followed Robert Clive as the governor of Fort William. He was a reformist and the steps he took were:

  • Abolished dual government system and the now the Company servants collected revenue on their own.
  • Board of revenue was created and collectors were established to collect revenue. The treasury was moved to a safer location of Calcutta from murshidabad. Calcutta soon became the capital of Bengal and then India.
  • To remove the highly corrupt judicial system Civil courts were created presided by the collectors and criminal courts by an Indian judge. Appellate courts for civil and criminal cases were there in Calcutta. Highest court of appeal for civil cases was sadar diwani adalat and criminal cases were sadar Nizamat adalat.
  • A bank was established in Calcutta. Pre paid postal system was introduced. Police too were created to stop dacoits.
  • He was a patron of Indian languages and arts. He was a person of oriental tastes.


Regulating Act, 1773: 

The controller of East India Company [E.I.C] was the court of proprietors and court of directors. The three presidencies were independent and managed by governor and his council. The court of directors was elected annually and managed the affairs of the Company. The mismanagement of Indian territories led to bankruptcy of the Company and the directors asked for a loan. The government passed this act as a precondition for the loan.

It laid the foundations for a centralized administration in India.

Governor of Bengal became the Governor General of Bengal with an executive council of four to assist him. Decisions would be taken by majority and governor general could only vote in case of tie. Presidencies of Madras and Bombay lost their independence and became subordinate to Bengal.

It established a Supreme Court of Justice at Calcutta. It prohibited the servants of E.I.C from accepting gifts and engaging in private trade.

Pitts Act, 1784:    

Board of control was established to control political affairs in India. So a system of dual government was created. The number of members in the governor’s council was reduced to 3. The board of control was responsible to the parliament and controlled political affairs. The court of directors was in control of commercial affairs.

An amendment to this act in 1786 allowed the governor general to overrule the majority of his council.


II. Lord Cornwallis 

He was a respected aristocrat. He led the British army in the war against America. Although he had to surrender he still commanded deep respect amongst his fellow countrymen.

Salient points of his rule were:

  • He increased the salaries of the Company servants and prohibited their private trade.
  • He removed collectors from the post of judges of the civil courts. Separated judiciary and administration.
  • Indians judges were appointed at the lowest judicial levels. District and city courts had European judges. Provincial court of appeals had European judges. Highest court of appeal at civil and criminal courts was governor general in council.
  • Father of the Police System: He appointed darogas in every thanas for policing.
  • He was the father of the Indian civil service.
  • He was responsible for implementing permanent settlement in Bengal and Bihar.
  • He was responsible for reformation, modernization, rationalization of civil service. He started the covenanted civil service with only Europeans and un-covenanted civil service for others.



III. Richard Wellesley                

He was famous for introducing the subsidiary alliance system.

  • Pindaris rose during his regime as the thousands of soldiers who became unemployed as they were dismissed due to the subsidiary alliance. These soldiers became dacoits.
  • He was the maker of madras presidency and creator of Agra province.



IV. Lord Hastings

 Salient features of his administration:

  1. The Nepal and British territories were bordering each other. The Gurkha’s were aggressive and this led to confrontation. Lord Hastings declared war on Nepal and defeated them.
  2. Ended the menace of the Pindaris.
  3. Defeated the Marathas.
  4. He was the maker of the Bombay province.


V. William Bentinck

He was the first governor general to believe in serving the Indian people.

Salient features of his administration:

  1. He followed a policy of non intervention and non aggression with Indian princely states.
  2. He abolished the provincial court of appeals.
  3. Introduction of local languages in lower courts and English in higher courts.
  4. Responsible for abolition of sati, female infanticide and suppression of thugs.
  5. English became the official language of India. Calcutta medical college was established.
  6. Introduction of English education.

Charter Act, 1813: It reduced monopoly of EIC to trade with India. But it kept monopoly for trade with china. It also allocated an amount of Rs. 1 lakh for promotion of Indian education.

Charter Act, 1833: Ended all monopolies of EIC with respect to trade. Governor General of Bengal became the Governor General of India. It laid the foundation of Indianization of public services.



VI. Lord Dalhousie               

He was the youngest governor general.

Salient features of his administration:

  1. He followed the policy of annexation by annexing Punjab, lower Burma, Oudh and central provinces to the British Empire.
  2. He annexed the princely states if the rulers died without natural heirs. His doctrine of lapsewas the reason many kingdoms were added to the British Empire. This policy was one of the reasons for princes joining the 1857 mutiny.
  3. The annexation of Oudh affected the sepoy’s of the British army as many came from Oudh. They had privileged positions in the army but after the annexation they became same as the remaining population. This too became a reason for 1857 mutiny.
  4. He molded the new provinces into a centralized state. He shifted the Bengal artillery to Meerut and Shimla became the permanent headquarters of the army.
  5. Railways were started in India by him. The reasons were commercial, administrative and defense.
  6. Telegraph line was laid from Calcutta to diamond harbor. Telegraph and railways were very useful for crushing the 1857 mutiny.
  7. Post stamps were introduced. Uniform rate of half Anna was charged on post throughout the country.
  8. The universities of Calcutta, Madras and Mumbai were founded in 1857. John Wilson was first chancellor of Mumbai university and KT Telang was first Indian chancellor.
  9. He modernized the public works department and laid foundation for engineering service in India.

    He introduced the process of modernization in India and is hailed as The Maker of Modern India.


VII. Lord Lytton                 

Salient features of his administration:

  1. The vernacular press act was passed to muzzle periodicals in Indian languages and curtail freedom of the press.
  2. Arms act was passed to prevent Indians from keeping arms without license.

VIII. Lord Ripon


  1. Repealed the vernacular press act.
  2. Father of local self government. Started telephone in Kolkata in 1881.
  3. Appointed hunter commission for expansion and improvement in elementary education for the masses.
  4. Passed the factory act to improve working conditions in factory.
  5. Tried to pass the Illbert bill which would have allowed Indian magistrates to try Europeans. But the bill was rejected due to the popular protest against it. Lord Ripon took this as a personal failure and resigned.


IX. Lord Curzon

  1. Passed the universities act that brought all universities under government control.
  2. Police training schools were started for officers and constables.
  3. Passed the legislation making it mandatory for government to protect archaeological monuments.
  4. Partition of Bengal was done by him.

        The first census and statistical survey of India was conducted by Lord Mayo.

Chapter 7:REVOLT OF 1857


The Sepoy’s of Meerut reached Delhi and killed the European officers and entered the red fort. Theyurged the Mughal Emperor Bahadur shah [a pensioner for the east India Company] to become their leader and give legitimacy to their cause. The Mughal emperor was initially reluctant but gave in and was declared Shahenshah of Hindustan. Capture of Delhi provided a rallying point to the movement. 

The movement then spread to rest of north India, central and western India too. However southIndia, Punjab and Bengal were marginally affected.

Phase 1 of the Revolt

Before the Meerut incident the 19th native Behrampur infantry refused to use the Enfield rifles. 34th infantry soldier at Barrackpore Mangal Pande fired at his superior and was executed and his unit disbanded. Oudh infantry officers too had same fate.

The absence of leaders of military rank led to emergence of territorial aristocrats and feudal chiefs who had suffered under British. At Kanpur Nana sahib was the leader [son of last Peshwa Baji rao II]. In Awadh Begum Hazrat Mahal took over leadership under her son Birjis Qadr’s name. 

At Rohilkhand Bahadur khan offered resistance to the British by organizing an army. In Bihar Kunwar Singh a zamindar discontent with the British joined the mutiny. In Jhansi Rani Laxmibai joined the mutiny and was the most formidable opponent to the British. Initially she offered to the British to keep Jhansi safe if they recognized her adopted son as the heir [under Dalhousie doctrine of lapse adopted heir couldn’t succeed to the throne].

Reasons for Sepoy mutiny:    

  1. Lord Dalhousie’s policy of annexation had created strong anti British feelings in minds of people from areas unjustly annexed by British. The royal families and princes were alarmed by the doctrine of lapse.
  2. It was feared that the British were going to convert the army to Christianity and destroy the religion of the army. The army was dominated by upper caste Hindus and the British could segregate them on caste and other distinctions. This would have affected the cohesiveness of the unit.
  3. Indian soldier had to go overseas to fight and this meant a caste was lost. Thus he would be disbarred from his fraternity.
  4. Indian peasantry and artisans were exploited by the unfair British policies.
  5. Christian missionaries were allowed to preach to the soldiers. There were rumors that the cartridge of Enfield rifles was coated with grease of cow and pig. Thus the Sepoy felt his religion was in danger as cow is sacred to Hindus and pig meat is avoided by Muslims.
  6. He was given a poor remuneration compared to British counterpart. Also he was made to feel subordinate at every stage of promotion and privileges.
  7. The military revolt was followed by revolt by civilians as the British policies of taxation had affected people from all sections of society. Landed Taluqdars too faced humiliation as their lands were confiscated and hence they too joined the revolts. The orthodox Hindus and Muslims too felt that the British legislations favored missionary work. The educational institutes of Christian missionaries imparted western education in place of oriental subjects. The native population felt they were losing their social identity. Thus the civilians formed a coalition with the Sepoy’s to mutiny.

Reasons for the failure of the revolt:

  1. They had no source of arms and ammunition except the captured British arsenal. The British had the most modern weapons.
  2. The Sepoy’s had no system of communication and were isolated from each other. Due to this no coordination was possible.
  3. The intelligentsia, princely states and merchants actively supported the British. The princes even provided men and materials. This affected the Sepoy success.
  4. The rebels had no effective leadership. Leaders like Bahadur shah and Zeenat Mahal negotiated with the British. Taluqdars supported the mutineers only till their interest was protected.
  5. Half of the Indian Sepoy’s in the British army did not revolt but actively fought against their own kin. Rebels too lacked a vision. They were primarily fighting to gain lost privileges.

Aftermath of the Revolt

Though the revolt failed it inspired a national movement which achieved what the revolt couldn’t. It was hailed as the first war of independence by Vir Sawarkar.

PM of Britain Benjamin Disraeli called admitted it wasn’t a local revolt but a National Uprising.

The revolt led to change in the character of Indian administration. The administration was transferred from Company to the queen by a proclamation on 1st November 1858.

Lord canning became the last governor general and first viceroy.

Queen Victoria’s proclamation:

  1. Endorsed treaty made by the Company with the princes would be respected. The rights, powers, dignity and honor of princes would be protected.
  2. Indians would get equal protection of law and freedom of religion and social practices.
  3. Impartial admission to public services for Indians.
  4. Confirmed appointments of the officers of east India company.



British power was established in India after prolonged conquests and consolidation. These were met by minor resistances by routed Nawabs, zamindars, landowners and supported by tribals and peasants. The main cause of localized rebellions by civilians was the changes British brought into agrarian society ruining it by imposing high land revenues. Not even a part of the revenue was spent on improving agriculture or welfare of cultivators.

The zamindars and poligars were discontent since their lands were confiscated and they were replaced by government officials and moneylenders in the societal order.

The courts, police and the officials were further increasing resentment of the people.

The artisans and craftsmen were ruined due to the free trade with Britain that flooded India with machine made goods. They lost their markets abroad due to high tariff on exports.

They also lost their domestic market of princes, chieftains and zamindars.

British rule had affected scholarly and priestly classes as they lost their traditional patrons viz. princes, landowners and bureaucratic elite who were ruined by the British. Finally being under a foreigner rule humiliated all sections of the society.

The rebellions were scattered; their effects were local. They leaders were mostly interested in restoring the traditional order rather than freedom from foreign rule. They were not capable of fighting the organized British rulers. The repression to these was the main reasons why revolt of 1857 didn’t spread to south India or eastern and western India. Even though these rebels failed they had historical importance and inspired the future national movements.


Tribal’s rebelled as they were discontent due to British rule. The British had ended their isolation from the society and brought it in contact with colonialism. Tribal leaders became recognized as zamindars and were given responsibility to collect land revenue.

This also led to influx of missionaries increasing religious interference. The large number of moneylenders, traders and revenue farmers came to exploit tribals and made them into bankrupt, share croppers or landless people. They were evicted from lands that they had brought into cultivation.

They could no longer access forest lands for shifting cultivation nor take forest produce due to British policies. The officials used to harass them and outsiders forced them to do unpaid labor. All this uprooted their traditional lives and created conditions for revolts.

However the tribal’s resorted to armed rebellions but were no match for the organized British troops with the latest weapons. Lakhs of tribal’s died in these unequal wars.

Santhal and birsa uprisings were due to same reasons.


Indigo riots were due to the oppression of indigo planter, who were European, on the peasants. The planters forced the growers to produce indigo which would be processed in factories. The cultivators had to sow indigo on their best soil and put labor to sell the plant at a price below market.

He had to accept advance from the planter and since he couldn’t pay it back he had to keep planting indigo.  The forced and fraudulent contracts couldn’t be discarded by courts as process was time consuming and costly. The planters also had armed goons who would force the cultivator with violence. The Europeans judges that were in courts also sided with the planters.

The peasants had to rebel and they stopped growing indigo under duress. They were withstanding the assaults. The cultivators attacked planters, their factories and organized themselves into groups to fight the police and goons of the planters. The planters then tried to increase the rent of cultivators. But the peasants refused to pay it. They organized themselves into groups and pooled money to fight cases.

Ultimately the planters surrendered and closed the factories. The Indian society of intelligentsia was united behind them and so were the Christian missionaries. The government’s vary after the 1857 revolts pacified the rioters with a notification favoring their stand. The unity amongst rioters irrespective of caste, religion led to their victory.

The peasant riots during this period were based on legal tactics to solve cases and not armed rebellion. They were for immediate resolution of grievances. They were against the zamindar and not the British rule. Hence the tactics of government were also soft unlike on the 1857 rioters. The peasants revolted only when no other remedy was available and revolt was only alternative. The government to respond by pacifying rebels with legislations. Intelligentsia was in support of rioters here unlike in pre-1857.

Aftermath of the Revolts

Post 1857 most princes, landlords and zamindars were ruined and cultivators assumed important role in agrarian society. The feeling of humiliation of being under foreign rule wasn’t there.The peasant didn’t oppose imposition of land revenue or zamindar but only was against high land revenue and oppressive attitude of zamindars. The peasants didn’t understand the effect of colonialism at this stage.

However this was changed in 20th century when peasant discontent was merged with anti imperial discontent and they became part of the wider anti imperial struggle.


Pre – Congress Era

The congress was born as a culmination of a process started in 1860 and 1870s and reached pinnacle in the 1880s. The youth had started entering into radical nationalist politics and wanted formation of newer organizations that had replaced older ones.

Surendranath banerjee and Anand Mohan Bose founded on these lines the Indian Association and were organizing All India National Congress and were planning a second one. Due to this Surendranath banerjee couldn’t attend the founding session of the congress in Mumbai in 1885.

Several agitation s in the preceding years had encouraged Indians viz. cotton import duties protest, afghan was, Illbert bill controversy [ Indian judges could try Europeans], vernacular press act of Lord Lytton, arms act. These didn’t achieve results as they weren’t coordinated on an All India level. 

Creation of the Congress

O. Hume was instrumental in establishing it. WC Banerjee was the first president. The first meeting took place in Bombay shifted from pune due to outbreak of plague.

Hume was chosen as he was of high ideals. The leaders cooperated with Hume as they didn’t want to arouse official hostility at this period. They felt that the colonial state wouldn’t suppress an organization if its founder was a British.

The other opinion was that Hume had hoped to create the congress as a safety valve for public discontent against the British but this theory was rejected by Bipan Chandra.

Objectives of the congress: 

  1. The early leaders of the congress wanted to build a secular nation. And lay foundation of a secular and democratic national movement.
  1. Second objective was to create a common political program or platform around which political workers could gather and conduct their political activities, educating and mobilizing people around all India basis.
  1. Internalization and indigenization of political democracy.
  1. To develop and propagate anti colonial nationalist ideology


Socio – Religious Movements

Although religion reform was the integral part of these movements none of them were totally religious in character. They were humanist in aspiration and rejected salvation and otherworldliness as the agenda. They focused on worldly existence. The socio cultural regeneration in 19th century was influenced by colonial state but not created by it. 

The newly emerging middle class and the traditional or western educated intellectuals were responsible for it. The movements started with Raja Rammohan Roy.

Religion as a tool to Reform

The religious reform was a pre requisite for social reforms as social life of both Hindus and Muslims were influenced by religious tenets. Hinduism was dominated by superstitions and priests. Idolatry, animal sacrifice, physical torture was common to appease god. Social life too was depressing. Sati, female infanticide, child marriage and social boycott of widows were common. Caste system had created divisions in the society making it difficult to support a united mass movement. Untouchability was prevalent too.

Reformists sought to create a climate of modernization. They used faith to challenge such practices. They referred to the period of past where no such practices existed but they used it as only an aid and an instrument. Thus they wanted to prove that no practice like sati, child marriage etc were sanctioned by religion.


The movements believed in rationalism and religious universalism [god is one and all countrymen are brethren]. They emphasized the role of religion in progress of the society. However reform wasn’t always based on religious consideration. A rational and secular outlook was more important to prevalent social practices. E.g. medical opinion was cited as an aid to oppose child marriage.


Blind adherence to western ideology wasn’t practices but reform indigenous culture. Thusmodernization not westernization was the aim.

Leaders of the Emerging Nation

A.   Raja Ram Mohan Roy:

  1. Title of Raja was given to him by Mughal Emperor Akbar – II.
  2. Established Brahmo Samaj [initially the Atmiya Sabha] in 1828 to purify Hinduism and preach monotheism.
  3. He was called the first modern man of India. He was the pioneer of socio religious reforms.
  4. His Biggest Achievement – He helped Bentinck outlaw sati. He preached against female infanticide. He wanted equal rights for women and female education.
  5. His second most important contribution – He promoted western sciences and English education.

B.  Henry Derozia and Young Bengal movement:

  1. Founder of young Bengal movement. His followers were derozians. They attacked idol worship, casteism and superstitions.
  2. Movement was more progressive than any other of that period. The derozians wrote poems about Nationalism and love of the country, such things werent known before.

C.  Swami Dayanand Saraswati:

  1. He was founder of arya samaj. He believed Vedas were source of true knowledge. He advocated “Back to the Vedas”.
  2. He attacked casteism, idol worship and child marriage. He attacked inter caste marriage and widow remarriage.
  3. He was first to put forth ideas like ‘Swadeshi’ and ‘India for Indians’ and hence was called ‘Martin Luther of Hinduism’.

D.  Prathana samaj:

  1. It was an off shoot of brahmo samaj. It was founded by Atmaram Pandurang in Bombay.
  2. It promoted inter dining, inter caste marriage, widow remarriage, upliftment of women and depressed classes.
  3. Justice Ranade was an integral part of it. He was also called Nyaymurti. He wrote the book Rise of Maratha Power. Poona Sarwajanik Sabha was started by him to criticize legislative and administrative decisions.

E.   Swami Vivekananda:

  1. Original name was Narendranah Dutta. He was the follower of Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
  2. He too was against superstitions and caste system.
  3. He founded Ramakrishna mission as a charitable and social organization.

F.  Theosophical society:

  1. Founded by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Alcott.
  2. The main objectives were to form a universal brotherhood of men and fight distinctions on grounds of race, religion, color, caste and creed. They also promoted study of ancient religion and philosophies.
  3. Annie Besant took over the leadership from Alcott. She founded the central Hindu school which later became Banaras Hindu University.

G.  Jyoti Rao Phule:

  1. He founded Satyasodhak samaj to fight the caste system i.e. free lower caste from oppression of brahmins. He pioneered widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra.
  2. He and his wife Savitribai Phule founded the first girl’s school in pune. His work wasinspired by Thomas Paine.
  3. Called the Father of Indian Social Revolution.

Deoband School:

  1. The orthodox sections of the ulemas organized the Deoband movement.
  2. Its objective was to teach Muslims the lessons from Koran and hadis. To keep alive the spirit of jihad amongst Muslims against foreign rulers. The liberal interpretations of Islam created a political awakening amongst Muslims.

Gopal Ganesh Agarkar:

  1. Started Fergusson college and Deccan Education Society.
  2. Founder of Sudharak newspaper.

Baba Amte:

  1. Started Anandvan, Bharat Jodo .Quit India movement.
  2. Campaigned for Narmada Bachao. Worked for lepers.

Gopal Hari Deshmukh:

  1. Popularly called Lokhitwadi. Believed that if religion sanctions evil then religion should be changed as it’s a product of man.
  2. Started Shatpatre. Awarded title of Raobahadur.

Vinayak damodar Sawarkar:

  1. Known as Swatantraveer Sawarkar. Founded Abhinav Bharat [extremist] and Mitramela [moderates]. The Mitramela converted to Abhinav Bharat soon.
  2. Deported to Andaman and Nicobar.

Bhimrao Ambedkar:

  1. Also known as Babasaheb Ambedkar. The father of the Indian constitution.
  2. He established Bahishkrut Hitkarni Sabha [1924] for education of depressed classes and to uplift them socially and politically.
  3. He started Mooknayak periodical with help of Shahu Maharaja.
  4. Kalaram temple entry movement, burning of Manusmriti and Mahad water tank Satyagraha were highlights of his activism.
  5. He tried to pass the Hindu code bill to give freedom and equal rights to women. But as the bill was rejected he resigned and later went to Rajya Sabha.
  6. He founded independent labor party. He got doctorate in law from Colombia University.
  7. His biography is named “Waiting for a Visa”.
  8. He converted to Buddhism in October and died in December 1956. He was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1990.

Vinoba Bhave:

  1. National teacher of India.
  2. Started Bhoodan movement. Ideological follower of Gandhiji.

Subhash Chandra Bose:

  1. Popularly called ‘Desh Nayak’. He was born in odissa and selected in ICS. Upon Gandhijis advice worked under CR Das and joined Khilafat and Non cooperation movements. He went to Cambridge University.
  2. He called cancellation of the movement a national calamity. He became CEO of Calcutta Corporation and contested election of Bengal congress. He also went to jail during civil disobedience movement.
  3. He criticized Gandhiji’s ways and wanted congress to take advantage of the WW-II; he was put under house arrest but escaped to Kabul. He sought USSR help for the freedom movement but USSR joined the allies and his plan failed.
  4. He started Azad Hind Radio with Nazi support. He went to Berlin to setup a Free India center of Indian POW’s.
  5. He organized national planning committee to plan for development of India. This was forerunner to the planning commission.

Sardar Patel too was a prominent leader of congress. He was given the title of ‘Sardar’ by women of Bardoli Satyagraha. He was called the ‘Iron Man Of India’.

Gopal K Gokhale and Lokmanya Tilak

Gokhale was a moderate leader and known as the “Socrates of Maharashtra”. He was inspired by Ranade and Gandhiji called him his political guru.

He founded the “Servants of India” society to train Indians to dedicate life to the country.

Tilak was known as the “father of Indian Unrest”.

He started the Home Rule league in Mumbai and also the Ganpati and Shivaji festivals in 1893.



The early leaders of the congress, the moderates, were the first to develop an economic critique of colonialism. This was the most important contribution to the development of national movement in India.

Ideology of the Moderates

The moderates had faith in British justice and goodwill. They were called moderates as they adopted peaceful and constitutional methods for achieving demands. They were loyal to British and looked to it for inspiration. They confined their activities to political class only.

Disillusionment of the Moderates

Indian intellectuals in the early 19th century had positive attitude towards the British rule hoping it would modernize India. Later they were disillusioned by the rule as progress in new areas was slow but overall the country was regressing and under developing. This change of image led to a deeper probe into the reality of British rule and his impact on people.

Study of the Impact of Colonial Rule

Amongst the economist who studies Dadabhai Nauroji was the most prominent. He was the grand old man of India. He spent his entire life and wealth in forming a national movement. He was the first Indian to become member of the British House of Commons. He popularized the drain theory in his book “Poverty and UnBritish Rule in India”. He also founded Bombay Association in 1852 and East Indian Association.

Justice MG Ranade was his contemporary and taught an entire generation of Indians the importance of industrial development. RC Dutt examined minutely the entire economic impact of colonial rule from 1757.  GV Joshi, G Subramanium iyer, GK Gokhale, PC Ray were the others.

They understood that British imperialism was leading to subordination of Indian economy by British economy. They agitated against the British policies that aimed to turn India into supplier of raw materials and consumer of British manufactured goods.

Industrialization was believed to be the answer to all problems of poverty. So the economists tried to look into foreign trade, railways, currency, tariffs and labor legislations as it affected industrialization.

They also firmly believed that Indian capital and not foreign capital was the great need of India for industrialization. Foreign capital would only exploit India further and suppress Indian capital.

Drain Theory

Drain theory was also focal point of the economic critique. It said that large part of Indian capital would go into salaries and pensions of British officers, charges for maintaining an army andhome charges [charges needed to maintain administration, army, war expense, pensions to returned officers and expense in maintaining the colony]. The drain theory was easily understood even by common peasants and thus became the staple of nationalist political agitations during the Gandhian era.

Impact of their work

The work of the economists and the moderates eroded the people belief in the benevolence of the British rule. The nationalist raised that development of India would happen only when the political power would be in the Indian hands. 

The moderate leaders who till now professed loyalty to British rule began sowing seeds of disaffection and discontent and even sedition. This period 1875-1905 became a period for growing national consciousness and the seed time for the modern Indian national movement.

At the end of 1905 even prominent leaders like Dadabhai Nauroji asserted self government or Swaraj as the main political demand.  Due to the firm foundation laid by the economic critique the later nationalist could launch powerful mass agitations and movements. They didn’t waver in their anti imperial efforts due to this firm foundation.




The printing press was brought to India by the portugese missionaries in 15th century.

Early Developments

From the beginning of the 19th century the politically conscious Indian had realized the importance of the free press. Bengal gazette was the first Indian newspaper in 1780. 

Wellesley curtailed freedom of press in 1798 it was for Englishmen in India to prevent French from publishing anything that harmed the English.

Press: A tool for the national movement 

The later part of the 19th century didn’t involve mass movement and mobilization of the masses. It was limited to political education of the masses, formation and propagation of nationalist ideology. It was in this that the press became a chief instrument in arousing, mobilizing, training and consolidating nationalist public opinion.

The initial years of the congress were of heavy dependence on the press to propagate its resolutions, debates and meetings to the people. The congress didn’t have an organization for carrying out political work.

Role of the Press

Influence of the press extended beyond cities and towns and even beyond literate viewers. As even in rural areas the newspapers were being read by a person to ten others.

A local library became a center of political participation as it was read and the news items were discussed by all.

Newspapers thus had become political educators as well as tools of political participation.

Political controversies were conducted through the press. It also played an institutional role of opposition to the government.

As every act and policy of the government came to be heavily criticized in the press. Task of exposing colonial rule was done through it.

However doing all this was challenging as various laws and sections existed that punished even mild forms of dissent against the government. To circumvent these sections journalists used clever language and quotations from the British media in such a way that the reader would feel it was a critique to the government. Sarcasm, irony, mock seriousness were other forms of critique.

The national movement too defended the press whenever government tried to curtail its freedom. Freedom of press became integral part of the national movement. E.g. vernacular press act was passed by Lord Lytton to curb freedom of press of Indian language readers. This was due to fact that their readership went beyond the middle class. Draconian act provided for confiscation of press and was later repealed by Lord Ripon.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak – Leader of the Extremists

The most notable journalist activist was B. G. Tilak who founded Kesari [Marathi] and Maharatta [English] papers with the help of G. G. Agarkar. He was known as the Father of Indian Unrest.

He propagated anti British content using simple but direct language. In the year 1893 he startedGanesh festivals and in the year 1896 Shivaji festival to stimulate nationalism amongst young Maharashtrians.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly support the Chapekar brothers in their killing of Rand the official in charge of plague operations in pune.

Although Tilak had condemned the act as that of a fanatic he also critisized the government’s tactics against plague affected people. When he was tried he denied having any intention of preaching disaffection against the rulers.

Tilak became an all India hero after this episode and the tile of Lokmanya was given to him.

In 1908 when bomb attacks became common on the government. It again resorted to harsh measures against the press. At this time though Tilak condemned the attacks against individuals and the use of violence. But he held the government’s attitude responsible for it. For this article again Tilak was sentenced to 6 yrs in prison in Mandalay, Burma.




Though the legislative councils had no power till 1920 the nationalists used them as tools for growing the national movement.

Indian members could be nominated to the governor general’s legislative council but they had no powers. This was done to ensure Indian views were considered. Also mostly the Indian members were princes, retired government officials, zamindars and landlord and didn’t represent the nationalist community.

They took anti nationalist decisions and opposed the nationalist demands.

Initial years

The demands of the nationalists weren’t radical but only towards reforming existing institutions to make them more democratic. This was since they didn’t want to invite repression by the government.

The national agitations led the government to increase the size of the legislative councils and give them more powers but this was done to allow the vocal political leaders to get a chance to let off steam.

While doing so the British underestimated the zeal of the Indian leaders who converted these impotent mechanisms into forums for ventilating popular grievances, exposing bureaucratic administration and criticizing every policy of the colonial government.

Use of the legislatures

The nationalist leaders used these councils to enhance their own political stature and build a national movement. They kept up the political criticism of the government by sheer will, deep knowledge and skilled debating and thus generated a powerful anti imperialist sentiment.

Pherozshah Mehta and GK Gokhale were two most prominent leaders who put the councils to good use and introduced a new spirit in them. Mehta was known for his wit and oratory and was criticized by British but lauded by the Indians. Mehta retired in 1901 and was succeeded by GK Gokhale who proved to a worthy successor.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale – Leader of the Moderates

G.K. Gokhale was trained by Justice Ranade and G.V. Joshi. Though he was no orator like Dadabhai Nauroji or Tilak nor could he use satire as a weapon like Pherozshah Mehta but his speeches were based on deep study and careful data. 

Hence they captivated the listener on their intellectual content alone. Even his opponent Tilak had deep respect for him. Gandhiji considered him his political guru. 

He founded the “Servants of India Society” to train Indians to dedicate lives to cause of their country. He was called the Socrates of Maharashtra



The swadeshi movement was started as a response to the partition decision taken by Lord Curzon. The reason given was administrative but the truth was actual reason was political. The British wanted to crush the national movement at its nerve center “Calcutta”. The partition would have divided Bengal and turned it into a minority and prop up Muslim communalists as an alternative to the congress.

Protests against the Partition

When the partition proposals became public there was a furor of activity. 500 public meetings were held in east Bengal. Pamphlets were distributed, strong press support was seen, and numerous petitions were signed and sent to the British rulers. 

Even the big zamindars, loyalist of the raj, turned towards congress. The moderate thinking and style of leadership was at its height i.e. petitioning, speeches, memorandums, public meetings and purpose was to turn public opinion in India and England against the British.

When the government was unmoved and went ahead with partition it became clear that moderate methods weren’t working. At numerous meeting held in small towns it was decided to boycott foreign cloth and swadeshi movement had started. Processions, hartals, protests, fasts were common. Bande Mataram became a cry for unity.

Congress and the Partition

The movement spread outside Bengal too and the congress in its session presided by GK Gokhale supported the swadeshi call.

The extremist leaders Lal, Bal, Pal were interested in extending the movement to all India with an objective to get Swaraj. The moderates were not keen to do it.

At the 1906 session the president Dadabhai Nauroji declared that the goal of INC was self government on line of colonies like Canada and Australia.

The difference between the moderates and extremist regarding pace and objectives finally led to a split in 1907 under Congress President Rash bihari ghosh.

Rise of Extremism

In the swadeshi movement now extremists had a greater sway and politics of mendicancy was on a retreat. The purpose was to now extend the swadeshi call into a fully fledged non cooperation and passive resistance. The boycott call extended to boycott of government schools, colleges, jobs and titles. This period saw rise of swadeshi industries and schools and colleges too.

The base of the movement now extended to Zamindari sections and lower middle class in schools and towns. Though the movement failed to mobilize peasant in rural areas but for first time the peasants were exposed to modern political ideas.

Failures of the movement:

  1. They weren’t able to garner support of mass Muslims especially Muslim peasantry. This was due to the British strategy of divide and rule. All India Muslim league was propped up as a competitor to the congress. The British used communalism to turn Muslims against the congress.
  2. By 1908 the movement was a spent force. This was due to heavy handed repression by the government. The internal squabbles and the split within the congress also affected the movement. The entire leadership was imprisoned in one stroke making the movement leaderless.
  3. It lacked an effective organization and a party structure.
  4. Also the very nature of mass movements is that they can’t be endlessly sustained at the same pitch of militancy and self sacrifice.

Aftermath of Partition

The end of the movement saw a rise in revolutionary terrorism as the youth who participated in swadeshi movement weren’t ready to meekly settle down when the movement was ebbing.

However the movement wasn’t a failure it had successfully taken the ideas of nationalism to several sections of the people. The swadeshi influence on culture and ideas too was unparallel in Indian history.

The partition of Bengal was annulled by King George in Delhi Durbar in 1911. The capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi at the same time.

Chapter 15: SURAT SPLIT

Reasons for rise of revolutionary terrorism

The contribution of the moderates were great as they succeeded in creating a political education and awareness but their failures too were great as they failed to mobilize the masses. They did not form roots amongst the masses and hence their propaganda never reached the masses. Their politics had become moribund as they never started any mass campaigns nor did they head any if it was started [Swadeshi movement]. Due to this they invited contempt of the British and never could attract the youth.

Although initially the congress wasn’t repressed by the British who believed it would be confined to academic activity and reach out to a few intellectuals only. But as time passed they realized the wide reach of the congress and then resorted to publicly ridicule it. The British were eager to attack and finish of the congress. It knew that the congress was held by moderates who were loyal in their political perception but still they were anti colonist and nationalists.

Carrot and stick policy

However soon the British realized that the moderates could be useful as an alternative to the militant nationalists who were growing in popularity. So the British followed policy of carrot and stick. The policy involved repressing the extremists, making promises to the moderates for reforming institutions if they were to separate from the extremists and then once the extremists were repressed the moderates could be ignored. This strategy was successful and led to the split as both the moderates and extremists fell into the trap.

Surat Split

The moderates and extremists were working together for the Bengal movement. The extremists were of the view that the movement should be expanded and should target the government. The moderate leadership which was invited to see the process of administrative reforms by the British felt it would be dangerous to rouse the British at this time. Both sides thus viewed each other as the enemy.

The extremist leader Tilak and moderate leader Gokhale wanted to avoid split as they knew that divided congress could be easily subdued by the British. But they had to kneel before the other leaders of their factions. Finally on 1907 under president ship of Rash Bihari Ghosh the party split in Surat.

Immediately after the split the leaders of the extremists were repressed by the government and the faction was left leaderless. Tilak was imprisoned in Burma; Aurobindo Ghosh gave up politics for religion. Pal retired from politics and lala lajpat rai went abroad for an extended stay.

The moderates too were fooled and no concessions were given by the Morley Minto reforms. Instead it sowed the seeds of communal representation and which finally led to the partition of India. They lost their credibility and support. The period from 1907-1914 was a dark period for the congress.

Rise of revolutionary terrorism

It was here that the revolutionary terrorism raised its head. The youth of Bengal was not interested in the petition politics of the moderates. The extremists had effectively critiqued the moderates and were responsible for introducing the youth to politics of the bomb. But even though the extremists were successful in establishing a link with the masses and their methods of agitation were better and their willingness to sacrifice was greater. They couldn’t succeed in creating an effective expression to this anger and finally they top failed like the moderates.


This led the youth towards more violent tactics of militancy like the Russian nihilists. They aimed to assassinate unpopular officials and their action would then strike terror in the minds of rulers. If captured their trial would be propaganda to inspire others. Here the extremist leadership failed them. The extremist leaders couldn’t explain to the youth the misgivings of their ideas but Aurobindo Ghosh even encouraged them to fight force with force.

Reasons for failure

Around 186 different acts of militancy were recorded from 1908-1918 but eventually they petered out. As they too lacked the popular support and couldn’t match the mighty colonial state even though they were courageous. But despite their small numbers and failures they succeeded in contributing to the growth of nationalism in India.


Outbreak of the War

The outbreak of the World War I aided the national movements. Tilak and Annie Besant used this opportunity to launch home rule movements to get self government. Ghadar revolutionaries in North America used this to attempt overthrowing the British rule by violence.

Immigration in Canada

Western coast of North America was destination for steady immigration from Punjab. The peasants there would pawn all their belonging and leave for this destination to escape economic hardships at home.

They were not welcomed overseas and were faced with brunt of racial exploitation and humiliation at the hands of white labor unions that resented the competition. 

Politicians looking for popular vote supported them. The secretary of state for India too wasn’t keen on immigration as close familiarity of Indians with whites was not good for British prestige.

The discriminatory policies of the host countries soon created a flurry of political activity in nationalists. The sustained agitations in Canada and USA created national consciousness and solidarity amongst Indian immigrants. Their inability to convince the Indian government or the British government to intervene and stop the discriminatory practices against them led to blossoming of revolutionary movements.

Ghadar revolution:

  1. Lala hardayal a political exile came to USA and delivered lectures on anarchist movements to American intellectual, workers and radicals. The bomb attack on Lord Harding revived the revolutionary in him and he visualized the violent overthrow of British rule.
  2. He became the leader of Indian immigrants on west coast. He told them not to fight the USA but use the freedom here to fight the brtish. He reminded them that they were under the British rule and so would never be treated as equals by the Americans. The support of the army would have to be enlisted in this movement and so lala hardayal preached his members to do the same.
  3. A weekly periodical called Ghadar was started for the propaganda campaign.
  4. The members of the organization went to the Punjabi migrant community to spread awareness. Through the Ghadar periodical the evils of the English rule on India were listed and sent to the people. Ghadar poems had the highest impact and soon their message reached Indian immigrant communities in Far East too.
  5. Though lala hardayal believed that 10 years or a few years would be needed to start a revolution in India but he too was surprised at the response.
  6. The following events influenced Ghadar revolution: Arrest of hardayal, komagata maru incident and World War I.

Komagata Maru incident

The Canadian law prevented immigration of any ship except one that had made continuous journey from India. But the Supreme Court of Canada had allowed some Indians who didn’t fulfill these criteria too.  Komagata maru was a ship that was commissioned to transport Indian immigrants from Far East to Canada. 

It landed in many places but finally when it reached Canada the authorities didn’t allow immigrants to land. They were forced to return and on return journey the world war broke out and the passengers couldn’t get off except at Calcutta. 

Wherever the ship made port it set off a wave of resentment against colonial rulers. The Punjab press also supported. Finally the ship reached Calcutta and the irate passengers clashed with the police and many were dead or arrested.

World War and Ghadar

The world war too was an opportunity to the ghadarites to capitalize on the British rulers. The ghadarite leaders urged immigrants in the western coast of USA to go back to India and start an armed revolt with support of the army some leaders were sent to Far East countries to convince the Indians there to return. When they returned to India the government was already prepared for them. It arrested the dangerous men and allowed others to proceed.

The ghadarites found the Punjab state very different. No one supported them and the khalsa even branded them as fallen Sikhs. Their naïve attempts to turn the army’s loyalty too failed without effective leadership.

Finally they turned to revolutionary leaders to guide them but the government had successfully penetrated the Ghadar. And before the revolt most of them were arrested. The government’s response was brutal and an entire generation of political leadership was finished off.

Success of the Ghadar revolt:

  1. Deepened nationalist conscious
  2. Evolved and tested new strategies for struggle
  3. Created a tradition of resistance, secularism, democracy and egalitarianism.



Surat split and impact

The home rule league movement was led by Lokmanya Tilak and Annie Besant.

Tilak was released from prison in 1914 and he came back to a very different India. The moderates were disillusioned with the constitutional reforms of 1909. The congress was yet to recover from the Surat split. The firebrand leaders of the extremists had either taken sanyas or left for abroad.

Initially he spent his energy in trying to get admission to the INC a body that was now the representative of the Indian national movement. He also assured the crown that he was a loyalist. He dissociated himself from the revolutionary terrorist movements in Bengal and urged all to support the British in this hour of crisis i.e. during the World War I.

The congress which had lapsed into inactivity after the Surat split too wanted them back. There was considerable pressure for this from Annie Besant who had joined the congress.

Annie Besant

Annie Besant had come to India for her work with the theosophical society. She stayed close to madras and spread her message of theosophy amongst the people. She had gained a large number of followers.

In 1914 she wanted to enlarge her sphere of activity to build a movement of home rule league but she knew she would need the sanction of the congress and the support of the extremists for this.

However the 1914 session was a disappointment as the moderates refused to let them enter.So she and Tilak decided to revive political activity on their own and at same time continue to convince the congress to let extremists enter.

However the death of Pherozshah Mehta had weakened their opposition and the moderates decided to allow extremist to re-enter the congress. However the congress or Muslim league did not agree to her idea of starting home rule league. So she put a condition that if by September 1916 congress did nothing then she was free to start her own.

Home Rule League

Tilak meanwhile had already started the home rule league in Bombay province. Besant waited till 1916 September and when congress showed no sign of activity she too started with her own league. Tilak home rule movement was based in Maharashtra [excluding Bombay], Karnataka, central province and Berar. Besant’s movement was in rest of India.

Tilak wasn’t a Marathi chauvinist or a casteist or pro religions. He appealed to all on a wholly secular basis.

He said “If god tolerates untouchability I wouldn’t recognize him as god”.

The home rule league was popular with the moderates as it confined itself to political discussions and education. Many moderates who were dissatisfied with the congress for inactivity joined the home rule workers.

In 1916 Tilak and the extremists were welcomed back to congress by the president Ambika Mazumdar in Lucknow. The Lucknow session was also famous for Congress – league pact which was engineered by Tilak and Besant with support of Jinnah. The congress accepted the league demand for separate electorates, reservation for minorities in legislatures but apart from this the pact was necessary to dispel minority fears about majority domination.

Congress and Muslim league then confronted the colonial government together on demand of self government after the war. The negative thing about the pact was that it tacitly accepted that India had different communities with separate interest of their own. This opened the door for future communalism.

In 1917 the government of madras took harsh measures against home rule league to stop its popularity. The leaders like Besant, Arundale, Wadia were placed under arrest. However this had the reverse effects and the popularity soared. Many people who had initially stayed away joined the home rule movement.

The government now changed its stance and adopted a conciliatory approach. It made a declaration stating that the government’s aim was to increase association with Indians in every stream and a creation of a responsible government. After this declaration home rule demands were no longer seditious and Besant was released. At the height of her popularity she was made the congress president in 1917 on Tilak’s suggestion.

She became the first woman president of the congress.

Aftermath of the Movement

In 1917 several factors led to the dissolving of the league. Firstly the moderate congress workers were put off by passive resistance ideas from Tilak.

Besant herself couldn’t decide whether the government’s promise of reforms should be accepted or rejected.

Tilak went to London to pursue a libel case and was absent for critical months. All factors meant that the home rule movement was leaderless.



Initial years

The story of MK Gandhi started in 1893 when a 25 yr old barrister began a struggle of Indians against racial discrimination.

The 1890 was a period when Indian labor to South Africa had started. The laborers were called to work in sugar farms, following them were Indian merchants and traders. A third group who lived was ex laborers whose contract had ended and they lived with their children. All of them had no access to education.

It was at this time that MK Gandhi an English educated barrister came to South Africa. Young Gandhi hadn’t faced overt racism at any point in his life either in India or England. But when he was in South Africa he had tolerate racism from hotel owners, railways and even other South Africans.

After reaching Pretoria he called a meeting of all Indians there and asked them to protest against oppression. He also tried to arouse the Indians to a sense of own dignity and persuade them to resist all types of racial discrimination.

After settling the law suit for which he had come he was about to leave when the South African government passed a law to disenfranchise Indians. He was asked by the Indians there to stay for a month and draft their petitions. He went on to stay for 25 yrs. He being English educated demanded many facilities as a matter of right which the other Indians didn’t.

They felt that they were being discriminated as they weren’t westernized but Gandhiji showed them that the real reason was assumption of racial superiority by the South Africans. Many of the senior merchants of the Indian community chose him as the leader as he alone could speak to the rulers in their language.

Highlights of the struggle by Gandhiji: Return to India

Phase I: Moderate Methods

From 1894-1906 Gandhiji’s methods followed the moderate methods of petitioning and debating. He was convinced that by putting forward all evidence to the rulers the British sense of fairplay and justice would rouse and intervene. He also started newspapers to consolidate all sections of the society and publicize the demands of the Indian community. By 1906 Gandhiji was convinced these methods won’t work.

 Phase II: Satyagraha

The phase of passive resistance or civil disobedience called Satyagraha by Gandhiji had begun. It was first used when the government enacted a legislation declaring that all Indians must carry the registration certificate bearing their fingerprints at all times. Gandhiji and his supporters refused to obey the law as it was discriminatory and were sent to jail. Others followed them and the numbers increased to 155. Finally General Smuts called Gandhiji for talks and agreed to make registration voluntary. Gandhiji agreed to call of the agitation and became the first to register.

However Smuts had tricked him by ratifying voluntary registrations under the law. So Gandhiji and others decided to publicly burn their certificates.

Government brought in under law to control immigration and as opposition to this Indians marched from natal to Transvaal to break the immigration laws. They were arrested and deported. But the struggle continued. Soon there were signs of fatigue as the workers had no resources to continue. Hence Gandhiji started Tolstoy farm with help from his friend kallenbach where satyagrahi’s could stay and sustain themselves.

Talks between Gandhiji and the British government bore no results and government and satyagrahi’s were at an impasse. At this stage a new agitation was started to stop the poll tax on poor indentured laborer. This agitation saw entry of indentured laborers on large scale as the agitation was for their rights. Indian leaders and parties too supported the South African Indian community in their struggle.

Fuel to fire was added when the Supreme Court of South Africa ruled that all marriages of Indian community were unrecognized. This inflamed the entire community and the hunger for struggle had been inflamed again. Women too participated in this struggle by crossing over to Transvaal from natal. The brutal repression by the police incensed the Indian community in other parts of South Africa and they went on lightening strikes. The public sympathy of Indians and even the Viceroy of India Lord Hardinge was high for the South African Indian community.

At this stage a meeting was called between the General Smuts and Viceroy Harding, Gandhiji and British government representatives and a solution was proposed. Majority of the demands of the Indian community were accepted viz. poll tax, registration certificate, recognition of marriages etc.

The non violent civil disobedience was first applied in South Africa and this great experiment would now be needed in the Indian subcontinent. The title of Mahatma was given to him by his friend Pranjivan Mehta.

Return to India and Local Movements

Champaran Satyagraha:

The European planters forced the cultivators to grow indigo on 3/20th of their land. As synthetic dyes emerged and the value of indigo fell, the planters increased their rents and illegal dues to release the cultivators from the contracts. It was here that Gandhiji’s help was sought. Gandhiji reached the village but was asked by the local government to leave immediately. Gandhiji refused to obey this unjust order [this was a novel way as even veteran leaders like Tilak and Besant followed orders even though they were unjust!].

Gandhiji and fellow satyagrahi’s went from village to village interrogating people to ensure the information was correct. The government had appointed a commission of inquiry with Gandhiji as a member. All evidence collected by Gandhiji was presented to the committee and the committee ruled in the favor of the cultivators. Planters were asked to refund the illegal dues collected by them.

Ahmadabad mill strike:

The mill owners and the workers were in a dispute regarding the plague allowance. The owners wanted to withdraw it as the epidemic had passed. But the workers argued that the allowance was a compensation for the rising cost of living. Gandhiji persuaded the owners and the workers to decide matter by arbitration. But the owners withdrew from the promise and offered a 20% hike of allowance and threatened to dismiss those who wouldn’t accept this. Gandhiji then advised the workers to go on strike and as the time prolonged the workers resolve was weakening and Gandhiji himself started a fast. This had an effect on the owners and they too joined the tribunal. The tribunal awarded a 35% hike to the workers.

Kheda Satyagraha:

The peasants of Kheda were appealing for an exemption from land revenue as the crops had failed. Gandhiji investigated these claims and found them to be justified. Gandhiji was aided by Vthalbhai Patel who toured the villages and advised the peasant to not pay the land revenue and stand firm against the government’s repression. A secret government notification was given directing the authorities to collect revenue only from those who can pay.

First Major Application of Satyagraha: Rowlett Satyagraha

The government had passed the Rowlett bills on recommendation of a committee chaired by Rowlett. The civil liberties of people were to be curbed. This was seen as a backstabbing attempt by the government as the world war had ended and several concessions were expected. Gandhiji gave a call to the people to start a Satyagraha a constitutional protest had failed.

Members of the home rule league were contacted and they eagerly joined the movement.Finally the movement was launched. 

Jallianwala Baug Massacre

But it was observed that the Satyagraha was followed by violence. Gandhiji personally visited these places and urged people to be calm. In Punjab there were several incidents of violence and the state was handed to general dyer.

Dyer ordered a ban on all public gatherings. But on baisakhi day in jallianwala bag thousands had gathered to attend a public meeting. General Dyer opened fire on unarmed crowd without warning them and in this situation thousand s lost their lives. This incident stunned the nation. Seeing the atmosphere of violence Gandhiji withdrew the movement.



The start of 1920s disillusioned many Indians due to the violent events like martial law in Punjab, jallianwala bag massacre by general dyer and the Rowlett bills. The Indian Muslims too were affected as the British had promised fair treatment to turkey after the war but had reneged on it. Furthermore the hunter commission to investigate General Dyer’s actions had exonerated him. 

Khilafat Movement

The Treaty of Sevres had completed the dismemberment of turkey and so the khilafat committee formed by Ali brothers Maulana Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali and got a recommendation from Gandhiji to start a Satyagraha. The khilafat movement was later merged by Gandhiji with the non cooperation movement.

The congress too agreed to consider non cooperation with the government as it too was disillusioned by the failed promises of reform of Montague Chelmsford committee 1919 [Govt of India act 1919].

Non Cooperation Movement

The movement was launched on 1 august 1920 and the congress too accepted it. The main program was to:

  1. Surrender titles and honors.
  2. Boycott government schools, colleges, courts and foreign cloth

Resignation from civil service and non payment of taxes were not covered initially but were kept for later stage.

Strict non violence, Hindu Muslim unity, opening of national schools and panchayats were encouraged to solve disputes in the movement. Revolutionary terrorists groups too agreed to support this movement. A new constitution of congress was made by Gandhiji to attain Swaraj by peaceful means. A working committee, provincial committees and village level participation were introduced.

Educational boycott was very successful. CR Das and SC Bose were at the forefront of the movement in Calcutta. Boycott of courts was less successful. Most successful item was boycott of foreign cloth. A declaration made by Muhammad Ali [khilafat committee] that no Muslim should join the army was treated with contempt by the government and he was arrested. Subsequently all major leaders made the same declarations and the government was forced to ignore this incident.

The movement was however becoming increasingly violent as people targeted the known loyalists of the British. The congress volunteer corps was becoming a parallel police. The government now felt that its policy of ignoring protestors had failed and now started repressions by banning volunteer’s corps and raiding congress and khilafat offices.

The congress now persuaded Gandhiji to start the next phase of the non cooperation that was civil disobedience. Gandhiji petitioned to the Viceroy saying that civil disobedience shall be launched unless the restrictions on civil liberties were removed. This was ignored. Bardoli was chosen by Gandhiji to launch no tax campaign.

Abrupt Cancellation

However before this a procession of khilafat and congress was attacked by police in chauri chuara. The angered mob lit the police station and burnt 22 policemen.

On hearing this Gandhiji decided to withdraw the movement.

Fallout of the Cancellation

Few leaders blamed Gandhiji was unilaterally withdrawing the movement because of a stray incident.

It was argued that Gandhiji had done this for the safety of the property class as they would have to bear the brunt of the civil disobedience movement. Gandhiji was a pro capitalist.

But the reasons might be different like government could crush the civil disobedience movement under the excuse of a single violent incident or the movement was itself ebbing as the masses had no energy left to continue the movement or that one stray incident could have easily spread havoc in other parts or Gandhiji felt that the masses yet didn’t have the readiness for another campaign at such an early stage.

Chapter 20: Working class struggles



Before the 20th century the working class struggles were limited to a few cities and only to meet the immediate economic grievances. They were sporadic and local. The early nationalist used to fight for rights of European employed workers but not Indian employed workers as they didn’t want to create any division in Indian ranks by offending the Indian capitalists.

Dual Nature of Protests

The opposition by congress to factory and labor legislations was due to them being dictated by British interest. The government would try to make Indian manufacturing less competitive by introducing such legislations. Hence even newspapers didn’t report much on strikes in Indian owned industries.

However when foreign capitalists were exploiting Indian labor the congress would take up the cause and the press did wide reporting to highlight their problems. The swadeshi movement created an awakening and the workers were more organized after this movement. The reasons for strikes were also not limited to economic reasons but were connected to the national struggle. It got involved in mainstream politics too.

All India trade union congress was created in 1920 under guidance of Tilak and the first meeting in Parel was under president lala lajpat rai.

Soon by end of 1928 not a single public entity was without a union. The government too acted harshly too suppress the growing communist tendency. It enacted legislations “Public Safety bill” to prevent spread of socialist and communist ideas and to acquire power to arrest and deport any foreign national.

The bill was rejected by all sections of nationalists and even capitalist class. Having failed to pass the bill the government arrested entire leadership of the labor movement and tried them [Meerut conspiracy case]. 

The labor movement suffered a setback also when the communists changed their policy of aligning themselves with the national movement. This decision isolated them from the working class and they were thrown out of the AITUC in 1931.

The decision to not participate in the civil disobedience movement was suicidal. Although workers did take part in it. The dip in working class movements was seen from 1931-1936 and the next wave was during the provincial elections in 1937. The pro labor nature of congress ministries meant that the number of strikes and unions and membership increased. AITUC had given full support to the congress during the elections.

When the World War II broke out the workers were first to launch an anti war strike in spite of the severe repression by the government to prevent any disruptions during the war. But the Nazi attack on Soviet Union changed the communist stance. They refused to support Gandhiji’s call for quit India movement. They maintained peace with the employers to ensure that industrial production wasn’t affected.

Rise of the Left-wing:

Socialist ideas acquired roots in Indian soil and socialism became the creed of the Indian youth whose urges came to be symbolized by J Nehru and SC Bose. Gradually there emerged two parties in India, the congress socialist party and communist party of India.

The catalyst was the Russian revolution that had ended the czarist rule. Indian youth who had participated in non cooperation movement were influenced by socialism. They had no interest in either gandhian politics or swarajist.

The period also saw emergence of youth groups, unionism and peasant sabhas. Jawaharlal Nehru and Bose preached against capitalism and militarism. Socialism became even more popular after the economic depression of 1930’s. Congress to saw increase in left wing influence when Nehru and Bose were elected president.

It was Nehru who was the champion of the socialist cause. He wanted congress to follow a program of socialism if the cause of country had to be advanced. But he never wanted a separate organization outside the congress.




Akali movement in Punjab was a religious issue but ended up being an important part of the freedom struggle. 

Gurudwara Problems

Gurudwara’s were under the control of the corrupt mahants. They treated temple donations as personal property and lived a life of luxury. After British annexation of Punjab some control was exercised by government nominated managers who collaborated with the mahants.

The British government supported these mahants and directed them to preach the Sikhs to stay away from the national movement. However Sikh reformers wanted to remove these mahants. Their actions had shocked the community like they had banned ghadarites and honored General Dyer.

Reform Movements

Initially the reformers met with success as the agitators formed groups to compel the mahants and managers to hand over control to the local devotees. The government supported the reformers as it didn’t want to antagonize the reformers. 

But the real test was the gurudwara at nankana. The mahants there had organized an armed band of mercenaries and had been responsible for killing peaceful Akali followers. The agitation turned violent and the gurudwara was wrested by force. Many leaders of the congress expressed solidarity with the Sikhs in this. 

The government saw that the Akali movement was increasingly being integrated with the national movement. It passed a legislation to hand over control of gurudwara to akali’s to appease the moderates but used force to repress the extremist akali’s.

Impact of the Movement

The akali’s to emboldened by the support of the nationalist joined the non cooperation movement. They even participated in the protest demonstration when Prince Charles visited India. The government arrested many of the top leadership but decided not to confront the Sikhs on this issue and released them. Thus the final victory was of the Sikhs.

The Akali movement roused political and national consciousness in Punjab. It awakened the Punjab peasantry.




The withdrawal of non cooperation and the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Gandhiji led to stagnation in the congress. Here a new line of political activity emerged to continue the spirit of resistance this was suggested by CR “Deshbandhu” Das and Motilal Nehru. They wanted to participate in the legislative councils and obstruct their work completely from within. 


Das and Nehru put this before the congress but it was defeated. They resigned and formed theCongress khilafat Swaraj party or later called as Swaraj party. They were called as Pro-changers while their opponents became No-changers. The swarajist and the no changers differed on one issue: What to do during the inactive phase after the mass movement? This temporary void had to be filled with working in the council.

The no changers believed that council entry would lead to neglect of constructive work and working with the masses, loss of Zeal and political corruption. The differences between these two groups would have led to a split but both agreed on mutual accommodation. The split was avoided as both sides knew that only mass movement and not parliamentary work would give Swaraj, both agreed importance of Gandhiji’s leadership and also both realized importance of unity.

 Hence in 1923 the congress agreed to allow them to participate in the elections.

Although Gandhiji believed in the futility of council entry he too supported them in the interest of unity. In the Belgaum session of the congress which was presided by Gandhiji for first and last time he ratified their decision and ended conflict between pro changers and no changers.

Work by the Swarajist:

  1. Forced government to take executive route to enact legislations by defeating them in legislative councils at center and state.
  2. Delivered powerful speeches which were widely reported and read.
  3. Defeated government on repressive legislations and regulations.
  4. Inspired politicized people and kept their spirits alive.
  5. Their popularity led the no changers to win many municipalities. The no changers believed these could be used for constructive work.

Drawbacks of the Swarajist:

  1. In the absence of mass movements communalism raised its head.
  2. The limits of the politics of obstruction had reached and further confrontations weren’t possible. The real concessions could be obtained by only mass movements. But the swarajist had no policy of backing their working in the councils with mass movements.
  3. They couldn’t convince their coalition partners on every matter.
  4. A few swarajist couldn’t resist the pull of parliamentary privileges.

Aftermath of the Movement

During the second elections the swarajist faced pressure from communalists and the liberals. It got a lesser majority at the center and the provinces. It resigned from the central and provincial councils in response to Lahore sessions resolution and the beginning of civil disobedience.

The death of CR “Deshbandhu” Das also led to decline of the Swaraj Party.



As discussed the revolution of the bomb was just during the end of the Bengal partition movement. Such groups were suppressed during the world war but under the amnesty scheme were released. They actively participated in the non cooperation movement but the sudden withdrawal of the movement shattered their hopes.

These people started feeling disillusioned by the tactics of the national leadership of non violence. They had no interest in the council politics of the swarajist or the undramatic work by the no changers. They resorted to violence as they felt it was the only way of ensuring freedom.

Revolution of the Bomb

Under Ramprasad Bismil The Hindustan republican army was formed to overthrow colonial rule using force. Before the armed struggle, propaganda had to be spread and men had to be recruited, trained and armed. This needed funds. 

Kakori train robbery was done but the government’s response was harsh and Bismil was hanged with others. Several other leaders were sentenced to long imprisonments. Only Chandrasekhar azad remained at large. Bhagat Singh and others met at Pherozshah kotla ground in Delhi and organized the H.R.A under Chandrasekhar azad’s leadership and renamed itHindustan socialist republican army.

The HRSA moved away from individual assassinations and towards the mass movements. But the death of Sher e Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai,  by brutal lathi charge enraged them. Bhagat Singh and others assassinated the person responsible Deputy Superintendent Saunders. The HRSA wanted the masses to know about their changed objectives and the need for revolution. 

Bhagat Singh and Dutt were asked to throw bombs in the central legislative assembly where the Public safety bill was being passed. The aim wasn’t to kill but to make the deaf hear. The subsequent trial could be used to spread the propaganda and arouse the public opinion. This plan failed as due to betrayal by a fellow HRSA member the police found about the involvement of Bhagat Singh in the killing of DSP Saunders. 

Bhagat Singh and others were also tried for the Lahore conspiracy case [killing of Saunders] and sentenced to death. During the trial their fearless attitude was reported by the newspapers and Bhagat Singh became a household name. The news of his death was a day of mourning by all.

Gandhiji too tried to convince the viceroy for leniency to these youths but failed. This failure was seen by some as deliberate attempt to please the british by Gandhiji inorder to get concessions for the congress. In many places black flags were shown against Gandhiji.

Revolutionary movement in South

The Bengal branch of revolutionaries was also not behind. This group had links with the congress. Because of the congress it got access to the vast masses and the congress got links to grassroots groups. They aided the swarajist in their work. After the death of CR Das the congress leadership in Bengal got divided into two groups one led by SC Bose and other by JM Sengupta.

The Yugantar joined forces with the first and Anushilan with the second. The revolutionary groups then stagnated as the rivalries between Yugantar and Anushilan were constant. But younger groups developed which had fraternal relations with both Yugantar and Anushilan. Chittagong group was one such. It was under the leadership of Surya Sen. It organized a group raid on the armoury and several other raids.

The Bengal revolutionaries went ahead of northern revolutionaries as they organized collective acts on colonial rule but the aim was same to inspire youth and undermine and demoralize the bureaucracy.

Bhagat Singh:

Son of Ajit Singh was born in 1907. He was a voracious reader and most well read of political leaders of that time. He read all books on revolution, socialism, freedom struggles. He also established many studies circles for political discussions. He never believed in terrorism or individual heroism. His faith in Marxism which meant he believed in power of mass movements.

He was secular and was completely against communalism. He was an atheist.

Fallout of the Movement

The main drawbacks of revolutionaries were that they couldn’t start mass movement. They in fact had lost touch with the masses. They couldn’t politically activate them nor could they move them into political actions.

However their contribution to the national movement was great. They were fierce patriots. They helped develop a sense of sacrifice in the people.




The Government of India Act 1919 made a provision for a review committee on its working after 10 years. However the conservative government was staring at defeat and it felt that this constitutional question couldn’t be left in the hands of inexperienced labor party. Thus theIndian statutory commission popularly known as the Simon commission was appointed in 1927.

However as no Indian was on the committee it was met with boycott unanimously throughout India by all parties. The Muslim league was split on this but Jinnah carried majority with him in favor of boycott.

Protests against the Commission

Wherever the committee went it was greeted with black flags and hartals. The police response to was brutal and many places saw lathi charges even on senior leaders. The youth got a chance for political demonstrations and many youth leagues sprang up throughout the country. 

Jawaharlal Nehru and SC Bose were the leaders who toured the country and presided over innumerable youth conferences. Both these leaders were deeply influenced by socialism [though Nehru’s ideas were more scientific than Bose]. The youth drawn into the national struggle also were introduced to socialist ideas.

Nehru Report

The secretary of state had complained that the Indians couldn’t create a report on constitutional reforms that would be support by political opinion. In response to this the congress produced the Nehru report authored by Motilal Nehru. It demanded dominion status for India. 

Other demands were reservations for Muslims in Muslim minority areas not Muslim majority areas; separation of state and religion; freedom to form unions; equal right for women; universal adult suffrage, no separate electorates.

The Muslim league was opposed to the provision on no reservations in Muslim majority areas this led Jinnah to come up with his fourteen point plan.

Nationalists led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Bose to had objections on the Nehru report. They wanted Purna Swaraj as the goal of the congress and not dominion status. But Gandhiji and others felt that it would be too hasty. At the Calcutta session, a compromise was made here and it was decided to give the government a year to accept a constitution based on dominion status. If that didn’t happen then congress would accept complete independence as its goal and launch a civil disobedience to achieve it.

Recommendations of the Simon Commission

Simon Commission [1927]: The recommendations were continuation of communal representation, abolition of diarchy, extension of responsible government in provinces, creation of Indian federation of British India and princely states.

The new government of the labor party was in power and the PM Ramsey McDonald declared that once the Simon committee submits its report a round table would be convened to discuss dominion status to India. Following this declaration a conference of all major leaders met an issued the Delhi manifesto, it made clear that the purpose of the round table wouldn’t be too discuss when dominion status would be given but to make an implementation plan. Viceroy Irwin told Gandhiji that such a promise can’t be made. Hence the confrontation was necessary.

Lahore Session and Purna Swaraj

At the Lahore session of the congress the historic declaration of Purna Swaraj was made in 1929. The flag of Indian independence was unfurled on the banks of Ravi on 31st December 1929. On Gandhiji’s insistence Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed the president after his father Motilal Nehru. Gandhiji insisted this was due to the sacrifice of the youth and in recognizing their contribution to the Simon boycott.

On 26th January 1930 the Purna Swaraj pledge was taken by Indians. The Lahore session gave the working committee to chalk out a plan for civil disobedience. Gandhiji gave an ultimatum to Viceroy Irwin saying 11 points demanded have been ignored and so no other option is with the congress except civil disobedience.



Gandhiji started the program by marching with his followers from Ahmadabad to Dandi to break the salt tax. Gandhiji even asked women to participate in the movement by picketing in front of liquor shops.

Boycott on foreign cloth was strictly followed even by mill owners. In north where scope of salt Satyagraha was less people defied government authority by not paying chowkidari tax. No rent no revenue campaigns too were started in some states. 

Round table conference

The Simon commission submitted the report but no mention was made in it of dominion status. This infuriated the moderates. The round table conferences that were held to discuss with the parties but congress did not participate in this exercise which rendered it useless.

The British prime minister announced that the congress would be participating in the round table conference. Viceroy released Gandhiji and all the leaders of the congress so that they could respond to the PM’s message. The congress working committee then authorized Gandhiji to hold discussions with viceroy. In these talks Gandhi Irwin pact was signed which was a provisional settlement.

Under this pact all political prisoners not arrested for violence were released. The confiscated lands not yet sold were returned, government employees who had resigned were given leniency, the making of salt was allowed on coastal villages and non violent picketing was allowed.Congress also agreed to withdraw the civil disobedience. They would also participate in the second round table conference.

The decision of not returning land of those who had lost it to third party and no decision on commutation of death penalty of Bhagat Singh and others was criticized. The congress met in Karachi after the pact was signed to endorse it and let Gandhiji participate in the second round table conference. However six days earlier Bhagat Singh and others were hanged even though Gandhiji tried his best to save them he couldn’t. All along Gandhiji’s route to Karachi he was greeted with black flags.

Results of the civil disobedience movement:

  1. 90000 were imprisoned [thrice that of non cooperation movement]
  2. import of foreign cloth, liquor fell
  3. Government revenue from cigarettes and rent was affected.
  4. Elections to legislative assembly were boycotted.

Drawbacks of the movement:

  1. The participation of Muslims was less due to the advice of the communal leaders and the government’s efforts to push communalism as response to nationalism.
  2. Industrial workers didn’t participate in large number except in Nagpur.

The civil disobedience movement was the most popular and organized mass movement of the freedom struggle.

Karachi Session of the Congress

The Karachi session in 1931 was known for the drafting of the fundamental rights and the national economic program. This was for the first time that congress decided what Swaraj meant for the masses.

  1. Basic civil rights of free speech, free press, free assembly, and freedom of association;
  2. equality before the law irrespective of caste, creed or sex;
  3. neutrality of the state in regard to all religions;
  4. elections on the basis of universal adult franchise; and
  5. free and compulsory primary education.
  6. relief of agricultural indebtedness and control of usury;
  7. Better conditions for workers including a living wage, limited hours of work and protection of women workers;
  8. The right to organize and form unions to workers and peasants; and state ownership or control of key industries, mines and means of transport.
  9. Culture, language and script of the minorities and of the different linguistic areas shall be protected.

Result of Round table Conference

Gandhiji went to attend the second round table conference in London. The British political opinion was against giving any concessions to India. The government had handpicked communalists, careerist, landlord, bureaucrats for the round table conference. It wanted to show that congress didn’t represent majority. At the conference the British refused to concede the demand for freedom. Hence Gandhiji returned empty handed.

The British policy meanwhile had changed and their stance hardened. The new policy discarded all truce provisions and declared Gandhiji couldn’t be treated as equal with the government. Also it had prepared for a showdown with the nationalists to prevent any revival of the movement. The government had armed itself with draconian ordinances and martial law. It had unleashed brutality on peaceful picketers. Thousands were arrested and put in jails.

Second Phase of Civil disobedience

When Gandhiji landed back the congress working committee had called for a meeting to discuss the revival of civil disobedience. But government arrested all top leaders of the congress. The draconian ordinances passed were to establish martial law. Non violent protestors were brutally oppressed. No tax and no rent campaigns to were treated with harshness.

Though the people fought back the leaders couldn’t build a tempo and the movement was crushed. In all the second phase of the civil disobedience movement lingered till 1934 and then was withdrawn by Gandhiji.

Many leader like SC Bose and Vithalbhai Patel criticized Gandhiji’s decision. They wanted the congress to be reorganized with new leader. But the decision was due to the fact that people needed to rest and regroup for the next fight. They had not lost their faith in congress yet.



The communal award was given by British PM Ramsey McDonald. Under this the Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and even depressed classes would get separate electorates. Although the congress was against separate electorates as they divided the community it decided to remain neutral on the question of separate electorates for Christians, Sikh, and Muslims.

But all nationalists were completely opposed to separate electorates for depressed classes. The award was seen by Gandhiji as against Indian unity and nationalism. It would be harmful to both Hinduism and depressed classes and would halt the work of Hindu social reform. Gandhiji was for giving them reservations in seats.

He went on a fast for this question. Finally BR Ambedkar and other leaders worked on a solution were separate electorates were abandoned and reservations were given instead.

Post Civil Disobedience 1935-1937

Once the civil disobedience movement was withdrawn a new question emerged as to the activity during the future course. Gandhiji advocated constructive activity whereas other line of thought wanted revival of constitutional method of struggle and participation. The argument was that constitutional participation would extend the influence of the congress and prepare it for the next phase of the struggle. However it shall not amount to having faith in the constitutional politics. A new line of thought emerged due to the strong left trend in the country. The leftists wanted another mass struggle instead of constitutional work and constructive programs.

Nehru represented their thoughts. He believed that the withdrawal of the civil disobedience and return to constructive programs has become like a retreat. His alienation with Gandhiji too was highest at this point. He wanted to focus on class struggle of workers and peasants. He believed in organizing them into unions and affiliating these into the congress would integrate them with the freedom struggle. He also was opposed to gandhian plan ofStruggle -Truce-Struggle and wanted Struggle-Victory i.e. fights till victory was won.

This strong conflict between Nehru and leftists on one side and proponents of council entry on the other that a split was foreseen. Gandhiji emerged as the peace maker here and decided to allow the congressmen to fight elections. He laid a condition that they would not get sucked into constitutionalism or become self serving. He told the leftists that withdrawal of the movement didn’t come due to pressure from the bourgeois but reality of the political situation. He further appeased the left wing by supporting Nehru as president of congress.

In the legislative assembly elections the congress won a majority thus a victory for Gandhiji.

Government of India Act, 1935

The British knew that the civil disobedience was crushed but this situation couldn’t be kept for a long time. So with a view to integrate the congress with administrative structures and to internally divide it. Another phase of constitutional reforms was planned.

The British parliament approved the government of India act, 1935. Under this an all India federation would be created of provinces and princely states. The representatives of princely states would come from nomination by the princes and direct elections from the provinces. However franchise was limited and defense and foreign affairs were kept outside of it. The Viceroy and the governors were given special executive powers.

The colonial strategy was to back the constitutionalists and moderates of the congress by lure of constitutional powers. The British hoped that this would dissuade them from the politics of sacrifice. On the other hand the repressive measures against those who opted for extra legal means would further discourage the protestors. This would then lead to a split in the congress.

The part of this complex strategy was measures to promote division between left and right wings. And also constitutionalists and gandhians. The government wanted to lure the rightwing and the constitutionalists with the promise of reforms. The British hoped that the leftist would see this as a betrayal and would split from the congress or be removed.

Provincial autonomy was a part of this strategy. It would create big provincial leaders that would undermine the all India leadership of the congress.

The act however was unanimously rejected by all leaders of the congress.

Provincial Elections

British however immediately put into practice the provincial features of the act and declared elections to the provincial legislative assembly. The matter of elections again created a split in the opinion. There was full agreement that the congress should fight the elections. But whether or not to form a government was the question. Here the leftwing led by Nehru, Bose, congress socialists and communists were totally opposed. Office acceptance would mean that congress would become part of the repressive apparatus. They wanted the swarajist alternative i.e. to join government to obstruct it at every step.

On the right wing Rajendra Prasad explained that none believed that constitutional work would get freedom or was anyone going to be lured by the power of the office but it was necessary in the interest of people. They believed that administrative offices shouldn’t be left to pro-government parties. They wanted provincial ministries to be used for constructive work.

Gandhiji though against office acceptance believed that another mass movement couldn’t be launched due to the short span of time available. So he decided that a chance could be given to the congress. Also the mood in the congress was for this.

Congress won a massive mandate in the elections.





The congress won a majority in six provinces and formed coalitions in 2 more. The aim was to bring reform in legislature and administration and continue gandhian strategy of Struggle – Truce – Struggle.

Although the ministries had limited power but they took steps to implement reforms, reduce the draconian conditions; improve the condition of the people. The repealing of draconian laws, revoking bans on political groups, removing press censorship and returning arms licenses were some of the actions seen.

Police was the most repressive arm of the state and here too the ministries stopped the CID from shadowing political workers and police powers were curbed.

These measures were not seen in the non congress provinces. The lands confiscated during the civil disobedience movements were returned and pensions of those who had resigned during the movement were reinstated. Agrarian reforms were limited as the congress had to depend on the upper house which was dominated by landlords and bourgeois class for it.

Also the real power was in the hands of the governor and the viceroys. However the congress tried its best to implement agrarian reforms. Reservations were also given for depressed classes in government service. Labor reforms were carried out.

The congress government’s also aimed to develop planning through the National Planning Committee formed by SC Bose in 1938.

J Nehru said that political work and education of the masses too had to be carried out along with constitutional work.

Drawbacks of the congress rule:

  1. Great deal of factional and bickering on personal and ideological fronts.
  2. Careerist and opportunist joined the congress to associate with a party in power.
  3. Slackening of the movement and weakening of moral fibers.

The congress ministries resigned after British joined the WW-II and dragged India into it. The resignations had a positive effect that they brought both right and left wings closer on question of joining the war. The congress had shattered one myth of the British: That Indians aren’t fit to rule.

Chapter 28: PEASANT MOVEMENTS IN THE 1930’s AND 40’s



The great depression had affected the price of the produce which was reduced by nearly 50% but other factors like taxes and rent were still the same. This caused lot of stress on the farmer. The civil disobedience movement was launched and the farmers were asked to not pay rent or only pay 50% of it. The government repression was harsh on them. The young militant people were developed here.

They were influenced by the leftist ideology by Nehru and Bose and the communist, socialist group. After the movement was withdrawn these people were looking for an outlet to their anger.The kisan leaders then formed All India Kisan Sabha as an answer. The kisan manifesto was made and given to the congress. This was important to the influencing of agrarian program of the congress.

Faizpur session was the first session of congress in a rural area. It was presided over by Jawaharlal Nehru. Sane guruji worked hard to make in a success. The resolutions passed were related to peasant welfare, minimum wage for landless agriculture labor.

The main activities of kisan Sabha were to educate and organize the peasants. Exhort them to attend meetings, pass resolutions on key demands. Agitate to get rights. Organize cultural shows to create awakening. The main demands of kisan like rent relief, no forcible eviction and no illegal duties were taken up by the kisan sabhas. A march to the district headquarters was arranged to present demands to the authorities.

Tebhanga Movement

Here the tebhanga agitation was the most popular. The share cropper of Bengal demanded that the share of jotedar of the produce should be reduced from half to one third. Also the cultivators wanted to store the produce in their godown’s and not of the jotedar’s.

Second World war

The rising tide of peasant awakening was checked by the outbreak of WW-II. Here the congress ministries resigned and severe repression was unleashed by the government. When Hitler declared war on Soviet Union the communist party took a pro war stance. This created a rift between non communists and communists in the kisan Sabha. The call given by the main brass to stay away from the Quit India movement was seen as an alienating factor.

Features of the Kisan movement

The main features of the kisan movements were that they led to post independence agrarian reforms. Even though the demands of these movements were only related to immediate economic grievances and not the national struggle but they were important. 

They were not directed at overthrowing the agrarian structure but reforming its oppressive parts only. The national struggle had influenced the peasants struggle and he too used methods like Satyagraha and civil disobedience. The methods were non violent too.

The national movements had created an awakening and politicized the farmers which then led to peasant struggles.



Justice party represented the non Brahmin movement in the south and engineered a revolution against Brahmin domination in education and public services. The reasons for the anti Brahmin feeling were due to their domination everywhere including the madras legislative council. The Brahmins also dominated the press.

The following reforms were carried out by it in field of education:

  1. Free and compulsory education was introduced.
  2. Education of depressed classes, women were started and improved.

It provided for reservations in education and local bodies to non Brahmins to increase their proportion. Devdasi system was removed. Slum and housing schemes were started. Measures were taken for industrial development.



Capitalist were of the following categories one that remained neutral or pro British, one that gave financial support to the congress, one that came out in active support of the movement occasionally and the last group that completely identified with the movement and participated in the struggle and went to jail too.

Growth of the Indian Capitalists

The growth of Indian capital class was different and not seen in other colonial countries. The Indian capitalist grew as independent from foreign capitalist and not as their junior partners or friends. The capitalist weren’t tied up with pro imperial interests but a large section of them argued for comprehensive reforms, cooperatives of production, finance and marketing. 

The capitalist grew during the period of 1914-1947 due to import substitution. The Indian enterprises had captured round 70% of the domestic market. This growth which was unusual for any industry in a colony wasn’t achieved by siding with colonialists but by wresting space from them. The capitalists took anti imperialism stands but were careful not to choose a path that would threaten capitalism itself.

FICCI was established by the capitalist class as a body for lobbying with the colonial government. FICCI was treated as a guardian of trade, commerce and industry performing in the economic sphere functions of the national government. In this process the capitalists clearly saw the negative effects of imperialism on the home country. FICCI wasn’t merely a body created as a trade union but was to be strong enough to intervene in the politics.

Participation in the movement

The capitalists had their own ideas about how the anti imperial struggle should be waged. They were in favor of using constitutional reforms than civil disobedience. They feared that if the movement became too revolutionary it could threaten capitalism itself. Hence when the movement was getting out of hand they tried to bring it back to constitutional opposition.

They also weren’t in favor of all out hostility to the government as it hampered day to day interests.

They also joined the legislative forums but not because they were interested in being a part of the movement but because they wanted to prevent black elements from joining them. However they never accepted the government proposal blindly. They refused to cooperate with the government behind the backs of the congress.

The attitude towards civil disobedience was different. Although they saw it’s utility in getting concessions for their class as well as the nation, but they weren’t interested in protracted mass civil disobedience. But they never supported the government’s repression.

They were crucial in mediating truce between congress and the government for withdrawing the struggle but they never did it if the movement would be weakened.

From the above points one must remember that the national struggle was never influenced in a decisive way by this class nor was it dependent on its support.

The capitalist class became more involved in active politics due to its growing radicalization by the left and socialists. But at no point was it driven to the lap of imperialism by this. It refused support on public safety bill since it threatened nationalism even though the main aim was to stop communism.

British policy affecting iron and steel plants in India:

  1. The traditional patrons of swords and armory makers were the native princes and traditional powers of India. After the British defeated them the demand for Indian steel was reduced.
  2. Forest laws prevented Indian steel makers from accessing wood to get charcoal.
  3. High tax by the British to access forests.
  4. Indian ironsmiths too preferred British imports as the tariff policy favored them over Indians and Indian steel became costlier.
  5. Indian entrepreneurs setup large factories to compete with British and small scale Indian iron smelters didn’t have those resources.

Chapter 31: Communalism


Communalism moves in three main stages: one is people following same religion have same social, political, economic interests. The second notion is that in a multi religious society the interests of one religion are different from the others. The third stage is reached when the interests are seen to be incompatible or antagonistic to each other. 

Beginning of Communalism

In the 19th century Hindu Muslim unity was high. They fought shoulder to shoulder in the 1857 struggle. Even when Muslim intellectuals noticed their community tagging behind Hindus in jobs they didn’t blame the Hindus but the government’s anti minority stands.

Syed Ahmed Khan

Syed Ahmed khan began his educational activities in the 19th century without any communal bias. The Aligarh movement was started by him for social and educational advancements of Muslims in India. The scientific societies were founded by him to support education.

The Aligarh College was founded to fight the bias against modern education in the Muslims. It had received large donations from the Hindus. Also the faculty and student components were largely Hindus.

It was only when the congress was formed did he changed his stance and directed Muslims to stay away from politics. The Viceroy and the British administration were against the congress due to its anti imperialist stand. This led Syed Ahmed khan to criticize the congress as a Hindu body since he wanted Muslims to have more share in administrative jobs and professions which could happen only if they had sympathy of colonial rulers.

Syed khan also believed that English would be the best protector of Muslim interests in India. The congress wanted democratic elections but I such a situation the majority would clearly dominate the minority. He preached Muslims from supporting the congress. But he didn’t float a party of his own as the British were not keen on supporting any form of political organization. He preached the Muslims to remain non agitational in their objectives. The British thus saw the importance of communalism and actively supported it.

After his death however the charge that congress was a Hindu body didn’t hold ground. Many intellectuals joined the congress from Muslim religion. Badruddin tyabji was the first Muslim president of the congress. The Muslim intelligentsia argued that none of the congress demands were communal. Hence till 1920s the Hindu Muslim unity was high.

Second phase of communalism

The communal forces felt that the need to join politics was necessary. The all India Muslim league was formed due to this with ex bureaucrats, Nawabs and big zamindars. It was a communal, conservative political party. The aim was to protect Muslim interest by supporting the British, demanding separate electorates, safeguards in government jobs etc. The activities were directed against congress not the British.

At the same time even Hindu communalists started taking root. They blamed the congress for uniting the Indians under a single nation and appeasement of minorities. However for a long time the Hindu mahasabha remained smaller compared to its Muslim counterpart. This was due to the domination of big zamindars, ex bureaucrats, mullahs and Nawabs in Muslim community whereas in the Hindu community there was a domination of intelligentsia who weren’t interested in communal politics. The other reason was that the colonial government gave more concessions to the Muslim communalists and couldn’t placate both simultaneously.

The colonial government added fuel to the fire by introducing communal electorates for Muslims which meant that the particular community could ignore others and make inflammatory speeches for elections.

The younger Muslims however got tired of the upper class Muslims slavish mentality and were drawn to more radical nationalist ideas.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Abul kalam azad was one such scholar. He was educated from Cairo University. He propagated rationalist and nationalist ideologies in his paper Al Hilal. The nationalist then took over the leadership of the league and the brilliant congress leader Jinnah was invited to be the leader of the league. From 1912-1924 leagues policies were in sync with the congress. The league however wasn’t totally secular it looked at imperialism from point of view of religion i.e. colonial policies on caliphate.

Period of Waning

The years of non cooperation, khilafat and Rowlett bills were a period of great unity between Hindus and Muslims. The big zamindars and bourgeois had left the league and the league itself was overshadowed by the khilafat committee as many of the league leaders couldn’t handle the politics of mass movements. The drawback here was the religious politics of Muslims couldn’t be elevated to secular plane.

Rise of Communalism

After the non cooperation movement was withdrawn people felt disillusioned and frustrated. In this period communalism reared its head and league and Hindu mahasabha were revived. The fear psychology was created slowly and nationalists were riled as traitors. The leaders of congress too couldn’t withstand the pressure and turned communal or semi communal. A new group called responsivists emerged which cooperated with colonial government for concessions to Hindus. Old khilafat leaders too joined this trend and accused congress of being a communal party. The period from 1922-1927 saw many riots.

The congress tried to solve this situation by acting as an intermediary with different communal groups or mediating directly with different groups. One such attempt was the all India conference called between all leaders to jointly decide on a constitution. The Muslim communal leaders met at Delhi to frame their basic demands known as the Delhi proposals.

These included:

  1. Sind should be  a separate province
  2. NWFP should be treated same as any other provinces
  3. 1/3rd reservation in central legislatures for Muslims
  4. In Punjab and Bengal the reservation for Muslims should be in accordance with the population and in other provinces the existing structure should continue.

The congress response came as the Nehru report that envisioned amongst other things joint electorates, seats reserved for minorities in legislatures [center and state] on basis of their population. However it conceded first and second demand of Delhi proposals. A section of the league was willing to accept this report with three amendments [two were same as points 3 and 4 of Delhi proposal and an additional amendment that residuary powers should belong to the provinces]. Congress didn’t want a weak center envisioned by Jinnah. The section of Muslim league wanted separate electorates. The Hindu mahasabha and Sikh communal group were opposed to points on Sind, NWFP, Punjab and Bengal.

The Muslim communal forces came together and Jinnah too fell in line. Jinnah 14 point plan was proposed that had the Delhi proposals, 3 Calcutta amendments and separate electorates, reservations in jobs and government. These formed the basis of all communal propaganda in future.

Failure of the Congress

The congress’s policy of mediating with different communal groups was disastrous. It meant that the congress recognized these groups as representatives of communities. The concessions given to them hurt the Hindu middle class and inflamed Hindu communal tensions. Wherever the concessions were given newer more extreme concessions were demanded by the leaders. The appetite for concessions was unlimited. This strategy also weakened the secular community leaders. The congress couldn’t confront its own communal or semi communal leaders.

Gandhiji did make Hindu Muslim unity one pillar of nationalist political reforms. But the congress never provided a deeper analysis to communalism. However riots were confined mostly to cities. Communalists had a narrow social base. Peasant, trade and youth movements were fully secular.

Anti Simon commission protests and second civil disobedience pushed the communalists in the background and divided them on matters whether to support or oppose these.

New leash to communalism

The round table conferences gave a new lease of life to the communal movements and they joined it to persuade the British that Hindu Muslim interests were different. Each wanted the British to give concessions to their own community and promised support to British if these were made.

The British gave the communal award to Muslims accepting all their demands included in 14 point plan. However after this their path to was unclear. Till 1937 the communalists remained in the background.




Till 1937 the communalists were liberal i.e. though they wanted safeguards for their religion they believed in a united country. But after 1937 it all changed extreme communalism which recognized that communities can’t live together had started. This form was becoming more popular at the lower classes of Hindus and Muslims. The extreme communalists had started mass movements to recognize their demands. They also targeted co-religionist in nationalist parties.

This extreme communalism was due to the popularity of the congress which gave it a majority in 1937 elections. The landlord and Zamindari population in provinces felt that the congress would protect the tenants and they would face an existential crisis. Hence the Hindu zamindars went towards the mahasabha and Muslim went to Muslim leagues. Both the parties for attracting the zamindars criticized the congress policies of tenant protection.

Extreme Communalism

The other reason for the growth of communalism was the support given to it by colonial authorities. The British had failed to stop the nationalists so far. All other alternatives like right and left wings, linguistic and cultural differences, provincial differences and even landlords couldn’t prove too effective against the congress.

So reluctantly they backed the Muslim league even though they hated its leader Jinnah. The WW-II also inflamed communalism as Muslim leagues role became more important. The British refused to accept congress’s demands for freedom saying it didn’t represent Muslims. The league was treated as the sole spokesperson of the Muslims and given veto power over demands. The Hindu and Sikh communalists didn’t get any concessions from the British.

In the 1937 elections Muslim league and mahasabha led campaigns on communal lines but both fared poorly.  They realized that either they had to move towards mass based programs or give up politics. The very logic of communal politics leads to a progression towards more and more communal outlook. The constant demands and more and more concessions are needed to remain relevant. Hence liberal communalism turns to extreme form. The Muslim communalists took advantage of the congress’s limited contact with the Muslim masses for its purpose.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah

M A Jinnah was initially secular and nationalist. He was influenced by Dadabhai Nauroji and acted as his secretary. He was opposed to Muslim league when it was formed. He wanted joint electorates and advocated for them. He was called as the Ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity by Sarojini Naidu. He later became progressively communal and joined the league. He moved towards extreme communalism to save himself from oblivion when the congress won elections in 1937. He first put forth the two nation theory in 1940 at Lahore session of the league.

Gowalkar and the RSS

The same trajectory was followed by Hindu mahasabha and they too descended into extreme form of communalism after 1937.  Gowalkar who was the head of the RSS also blamed congress for turning Hindus as servants of Muslims in India. He said that India couldn’t have Hindu Muslim unity and Hindus had to be dominant. This wasn’t condemned by congress leaders some of whom were succumbing to communalist pressure. Muslim riots and hate mongering by Jinnah and other leaders led to similar response from Hindu communalists.

The fault for communalisms rise had to be up to some extent of congress leaders too. They had dealt with communal leaders treating them as representatives of their communities. When these leaders went on to become extreme communalist the congress couldn’t stop them effectively. Attempts made by the left and congress to wean the liberals in the communalists and pit them against the extreme elements had failed.

Aftermath of Communalism

However as it turned out ideologies have future repercussions. The damage of Jinnah’s communal politics is faced even today by Pakistani Muslims. On the other hand the secular ideology of congress has created harmonious conditions in India.




The growth of left wing influence and militancy within the nationalist ranks the stage was set for another round of nationalist mass movement but at this time there was a crisis at the top level.

Rise of Subhash Chandra ” Deshnayak” Bose

SC Bose was the unanimous choice of president in 1938 and he decided to contest once again in 1939 as the representative of militant nationalism and left wing. Bose declared that he represented new ideas, ideologies, programs and problems but other leaders like Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad issued a counter statement saying the president was just a constitutional head who represented unity and solidarity of the nation. With the blessings of Gandhiji they put P Sittaramaiya as the nominee. But he was defeated.

Bose after being elected declared that Gandhian supporters were right wing and were ready to compromise with the British and looked forward to ministerial and parliamentary work and hence opposed nomination of a leftist. Since he cast aspersions on the character of his colleagues Gandhiji and others including Nehru criticized him for this.

He differed with Gandhiji on matters of policy and estimating the strength of the congress. He felt that the world war could be used to our advantage and an ultimatum should be given to British failing which a mass civil disobedience should be launched. Gandhiji disagreed with him on this view as there was communal strife in the country, corruption within the congress and internal dissentions.

SC Bose had overestimated his majority in the congress elections. He was asked by other leaders to appoint a working committee on advice of Gandhiji but Gandhiji refused to impose a committee on him. Bose wanted Gandhiji to head the struggle but use tactics and style laid by the leftist and Bose. But Gandhiji refused to be in a situation where strategy was not his but implementation was his responsibility.

Bose made a mistake understanding the congress members mentality, although they had elected him but this didnt mean that they had lost belief in Gandhijis leadership. When Bose made comments on Gandhijis character he lost support of even his close allies in congress.

Bose resigned from president ship and Rajendra Prasad was elected.

The CPI and the congress socialists didn’t join Bose as they too wanted the support of a united congress under Gandhiji’s leadership.

Isolated Bose formed forward bloc within the congress and called for a nationwide strike. The congress took disciplinary action and barred him any congress office for 3 years. When Britain declared war on Germany, India too was dragged in it without being consulted. The congress was divided on this question. Gandhiji wanted support to the British, Bose and the leftist wanted a mass civil disobedience as the war was for imperialistic reasons [win colonies] but Nehru wanted the middle path that India shouldn’t fight the war till it gained independence nor launch a civil disobedience. Nehru asked the British government to issue a statement giving freedom to India after the war but the British reply was completely negative.

Claiming that the congress represents only Hindus, the British propped up communalists and declared that in the interest of minorities freedom can’t be given at this stage or after the war too. This was met with anger by all leaders and the congress ordered its ministries to resign immediately. However a mass struggle wasn’t launched as of yet

An alternative to the position of the gandhian’s was that of the forward bloc, CSP, CPI and other leftists. They believed that the war was an imperialist’s war and the situation should be used to the advantage of Indians by means of an all out struggle for independence. They accepted that weaknesses in the congress organization existed but these could be easily handled once the mass struggle began. Subhash Bose wanted the left wing to leave the congress and believed that people would support the left led mass movement. But even the left parties doubted this as they felt he overestimated their strength and no movement was possible without the support of Gandhiji and the congress.

Finally the majority of the congress party decided that no mass struggle for now but their patience was wearing and the government too was in no mood to relent and went on issuing ordinances that took away civil liberties. Finally government asked Gandhiji to take charge.

August Offer

To get congress support in the war British government made an announcement known as the August offer to it. The offer said that after the war a representative body of Indians would be setup to form the new constitution. Gandhiji wasn’t satisfied with this offer.

Gandhiji decided to launch individual Satyagraha [in response to august offer] – satyagrahi would inform the district magistrate about the place of making anti war speeches. If the government didn’t arrest the satyagrahi he would move to the next villages progressively towards Delhi [Chalo Delhi]. Thus Satyagraha in small doses was necessary so that the British would know that India doesn’t support their war efforts but at the same time not to disrupt the fight against Nazism.

The war by 1941 had reached the borders of India and the congress leaders released from prison were anxious in this situation working committee passed a resolution that if British agreed to give freedom after the war then congress would support British in war effort.

Cripps Proposal

The British responded to the pressure put by the allies of the war by sending Stafford Cripps to meet and negotiate with the leaders. The draft declaration made had the following points:

  1. Constitution making body after the war
  2. Dominion status
  3. Members of the constituent assembly shall be elected from provinces and nominated members from the princely states.
  4. Pakistan demand was partly accepted by giving freedom to provinces who didn’t want to join the constitution could sign a separate agreement with British.

The congress didn’t support the Cripps proposal as it didn’t have provision for complete independence. Gandhiji called it a post dated cheque from a crumbling bank. People frustration was at its peak and now a time comes for the final assault on imperialism.




The British had refused to offer any concessions to the Indians. Gandhiji and Nehru the two leaders who had steadfastly refused to launch any mass movement as it would have affected the right of those who were fighting the fascists felt that silence is no longer the option. Gandhiji hence put the proposal of quit India before the working committee in 1942.

Quit India

The need for a mass movement was necessary due to the situation of public discontent against the British for high handedness and shortage of essential supplies. The British had suffered serious reverses in the war. It had abandoned its possessions in Far East to the Japanese and people felt that in the event of Japanese occupation same would be done in India too. People had no faith in the British rule and were withdrawing cash and valuables from post office savings and banks.

All India congress committee was to met in Gowalia tank in Bombay to ratify this. Gandhiji addressed the citizens at the ground to do or die and not stop till freedom was won.

  1. government’s servants needed quit but they had to show allegiance to the congress
  2. soldiers too needn’t quit but couldn’t fire on their own people
  3. students who could remain firm should leave education
  4. Farmers who could remain firm and be ready to sacrifice could halt tax and revenue.
  5. Princely states should declare allegiance to the country and recognize sovereignty of thepeople.

This program was to be started after giving the government three weeks of time. But the government was prepared in advance and arrested all top congress leaders and transported them to unknown destinations.

The headless movement had the following features:

  1. Violent attacks on government installations
  2. Workers went on strike; students too boycotted schools and colleges.
  3. Underground networks of workers were being consolidated. Aruna asaf Ali and Sucheta kriplani were prominent here.
  4. Movement not led by top leaders
  5. Congress radio was started and broadcasted news to different cities. Usha Mehta and Ram manohar lohia played important roles in radio.
  6. Parallel government’s in many parts of the country.
  7. For the first time British government servants were sympathetic to the protestors.
  8. Totally spontaneous movement. But due to heavy repression by the government it lasted for 8 weeks.

Situation Post World War – II

Post war, events that were most important was the INA trials and the RIN [royal Indian navy] mutiny.

Indian National Army:

It was formed in 1942 with Indian POW’s in Japan. Subhash Chandra Bose became the president of Indian independence league and also the supreme commander of INA. He gave the country the slogan of Jai Hind. The names of thee Indian brigades were Subhash brigade, Gandhi brigade, Nehru brigade. The women’s brigade was laxmibai brigade. The INA won Kohima and marched towards Imphal but after the Japanese surrender it failed to win. Subhash Bose went to Taiwan and on his way to Tokyo his plane crashed and he died in 1945.

Royal Indian Navy:

The naval ratings struck work due to the racial discrimination met to them, constant abuses and unpalatable food. The people too joined in due to unpopular British sentiment. Shops were burnt; government establishments looted and ransacked normal life was paralyzed. RIN mutiny was also seen in other parts of the nation. The revolt by the armed forces had a liberating impact on the public consciousness. Sardar Patel however was able to convince the ratings to surrender.

The British decision to give freedom to the people was hastened by two factors:

  1. The paucity of English recruits to ICS had led to parity between Indians and British. The Quit India movement and the subsequent RIN and INA protests had eroded the loyalty of the Indian officials. The ICS was considered as the steel frame of the raj was fast weakening.
  2. The war had taken its consequences and the war weary bureaucracy was not keen on continuing the British policy in India.
  3. Loyalist officials were shaken when the government took no action against protestors of INA and RIN. The officials were already dismayed when the congressmen they suppressed in the civil disobedience became their masters in 1937 when the provincial elections took place.
  4. Officials were further affected when the congressmen demanded inquiries on the excesses committed by officials during the suppression of 1942 movement.

Due to this the British felt that if the congress launched another movement after the provincial elections then the official machinery could not handle it. The virtual disappearance of loyalty amongst the bureaucracy, army and police is what led the British to finally quit India. Hence a transfer of power was necessary and with this motive a cabinet mission was sent to India in 1946.

Cabinet Mission Plan

The British wanted a united India which would be helpful in commonwealth defense and which would have friendly relations with Britain was needed. This thought was also reflected in Attlee’s announcement that a minority shall not be allowed to veto the progress of the majority. The cabinet mission was convinced too that minority should be accommodated within the existing framework of united India.

Features of the cabinet mission plan:

  1. Provinces would be divided into three separate groups and each would meet to decide their own group constitutions.
  2. Union would be a common center controlling defense, foreign affairs and communications.
  3. Constituent assembly to frame the constitution. It would have members from princely states, provincial governments [indirectly elected] and nominated members.

The congress interpreted the plan as  positive to it since there was no provision for Pakistan and a single constituent assembly to be formed. The league accepted the plan interpreting it to have provisions for a separate Pakistan. However after Nehru declared the constituent assembly to be sovereign, Jinnah withdrew leagues acceptance of the plan.

The government however decided to continue with the formation of interim government with only congress members and Nehru as de facto head.  Jinnah threatened Attlee with direct action day which was communal riots for wresting a separate Pakistan. This led to 5000 deaths and the British feared a civil war like situation. To prevent this Viceroy invited league members to join the government even though they hadn’t accepted the cabinet mission plan.

Wavell was replaced by Lord Mountbatten who came to speed up the plan to transfer power to the Indians. The Mountbatten plan of 3rd June 1947 was to transfer power to India and Pakistan. Initially there would be dominion status for a while till the situation can be controlled. The dominion status was to keep India in the commonwealth as India’s economic strength and defense potential were deemed sounder and British trade and investment had higher potential here. A boundary commission by Radcliffe drew the boundary between India and Pakistan.

The partition plan was accepted because of the failure of the congress to develop a connect with the masses and to stem the surging waves of communalism. The direct action had led to riots and would have continued to do so. The interim government was powerless and had become a field of confrontation. The interim government had failed to check the governors and the provincial governments from abetting riots. The other advantage was that the princely states had to join India or Pakistan. Finally on 15th august the day of independence dawned.

Merger of the Princely state of Hyderabad

Hyderabad Freedom struggle [Operation Polo]:

Even though majority of population was Hindu it had a Muslim Nizam. The Nizam had appointed a Pakistani as prime minister. He also told Qasim Rizvi a leader of Rajakar to maintain Islamic domination in India. The army finally had to be sent to defeat the Nizam’s forces. In this freedom struggle, Swami Ramanand Teerth [second Shiv Chatrapati] played an important role. He was called father of Hyderabad freedom struggle.



Events that influenced our constitution and polity during the east India Company rule:

Government of India Act, 1858:

Governor General of India became the Viceroy of India. The board of control and court of directors were abolished and a new office of Secretary of State for India and his Indian council were created. They had supreme power to regulate all affairs.

The companies rule ended and Indian administration came under the direct control of the crown. The court of proprietors was abolished. 

Indian Council Act, 1861:

  1. Allowed nomination of Indians to the central legislative council.
  2. Started a portfolio system for convenient transaction of business.
  3. Viceroy could issue ordinances without consulting the legislative council [lifetime of ordinances = 6 months].
  4. Process of decentralization of legislative powers to the provinces began.
  5. The executive council could conduct legislative business and it would be called central legislative council when it handles legislations. The governor general could nominate non officials to this. Thus entry of Indians was permitted. But the powers of these members were limited.
  6. Similar provisions were made in the provinces. 


Indian Council Act, 1892:

Increased number of non-official members to the central and provincial legislative assemblies.

Official majority was retained; however more powers were granted to members like discussing budget and criticize financial policy of the government.

Certain non official members to the Central legislative assembly were nominated from provinces and Bengal chamber of commerce. Also non official members of the provincial assemblies were nominated from local bodies.

Limited franchise was introduced in India.


Indian Council Act, 1909 [Morley – Minto Reforms]:

Allowed non-official majority in the provinces but not in the central legislative council.

It increased number of members in the legislative councils. The councils could now pass resolutions and discus budget.

Allowed for a system of separate electorate [communal representation] for Muslims.

Indians were for the first time appointed to the Central Executive council. Indians were nominated to the Indian council in London.

Government of India Act, 1919 [Montague and Chelmsford reforms]:

Subjects on which legislation can be made were divided into central and provincial. Provincial were further divided into reserved and transferred. The reserved subjects were administered by Governors of provinces and their executive councils. Transferred subjects were to be administered with the help of ministers responsible to the provincial legislative councils.

The central legislative council was replaced by a bicameral legislature. Majority of members of both houses were non-official and chosen by direct elections.

Central executive council to have 3 Indian members out of six. Made provision for a public service commission.

Granted a limited franchise based on education and property.

Created a statutory body to inquire into and report on the working of the act in 10 years of its coming into force.

Government of India Act, 1935: 

It provided for establishment of All India federation of provinces and princely states. It divided legislative powers into Central, Provincial and Concurrent. Residuary powers were with the viceroy. However, the federation never came into existence as princely states didn’t join it.

It replaced diarchy in provinces with provincial autonomy. At provinces, governor would act with aid and advice of ministers responsible to the provincial legislative councils.

It introduced diarchy at the centre as central subjects were divided into reserved [Viceroy and executive council] and transferred [Viceroy with aid and advice of legislative council]. However this too never became operational.

Provision of a Reserve bank, provincial public service commission and Joint Public Service Commission. Establishment of a federal court. Extended franchise to Indians, separate representation to dalits. Replaced Indian council with an advisory team to the secretary of state.

Indian Independence Act, 1947:  

Ended British rule in India on 15 august 1947.  Abolished viceroy, secretary of state offices. British emperor would no longer be emperor of India. Provision for partition of India into India and Pakistan. Princely states given choice to accede or remain independent. Constituent assemblies to frame constitution for their dominion. GoI Act, 1935 would be enforced till new constitution was ready. Governor General of Centre and provinces would be nominal heads and act on aid and advice of Ministers.

Constituent assembly could enact, repeal, and amend any law. Thus it was made a legislative body too. When it worked a legislative body it was chaired by GV Malwankar till 1949.