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Gandhi remained in South Africa for almost 20 years. His experiments with Satyagraha started there. He started a newspaper – Indian Opinion – while he was in South Africa.

Gandhi returned India on 9th January 1915. He spent initial one year travelling all over India and understanding Indian conditions and Indian people and then in 1916 found Sabarmati Ashram, in Ahmadabad.

Major Influencing factors on his personality are –

  • Religious Factors – He borrowed the Karma Theory from Buddhism and took the idea of Ram Rajya from Hinduism while on the other hand his idea of Non-Violence is inspired from Jaina teachings and Hijra – leave the place where you are not respected – from Kuran.
  • Personalities – he was greatly affected by the works of likes of Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau. His idea of Civil Disobedience is influenced by Thoreau. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was Gandhiji’s Political Mentor.
  • Idea of Trusteeship – According to him the rich and well-off are the chosen one – the trustees – of the welth that is endowed upon them by the almighty. They should treat this wealth for the benefit of the deprived.
  • He believed in ‘Sarvodya’ – i.e. rise of all. This idea was further taken forward by Vinoba Bhave in his Bhoodan and Gramdan movements.
  • He believed in local self governance and local self rule. He had a great faith in cottage industries and panchayati raj. This is one of the differences of opinion between him and Nehru who favored industrialization.

Changed situation when Gandhi arrived –

  • After the World War, Imperialist forces were totally exposed and White Man’ Burden theory was now debunked
  • Russian Revolution of 1917 also showed way for new ideological revolution
  • A war affected India was facing high unemployment, peasantry was suffering from taxes and workers were affected by high costs of goods

Satyagraha philosophy of Gandhi – Satya means Truth; Aagraha means insistence.

The literal meaning of this word is insistence on truth. Initially Gandhi referred to this method of fighting injustice as passive resistance. As he refined the technique over the years he realized that it required true Satyagrahis to be totally fearless and nonviolently militant, and therefore he changed the definition to Truth Force. The goal of Satyagraha is to resolve the conflict with an opponent without inflicting physical or emotional injury to him, and with willingness to suffer physical or emotional injury to oneself. During the course of the conflict, the adversary’s essence is not violated, and the two sides develop respect and goodwill towards each other after the conflict is resolved. Both sides must not harbor resentment, bitterness and vengefulness during or after the conflict is resolved. Since Truth is relative, the Satyagrahi must be willing to compromise his initial demands to some extent.

After arriving in India, Mahatma Gandhi successfully organized Satyagraha movements in various places.

What differentiated Gandhi from hitherto existing leadership was his mass appeal and ability to connect to peasant class. Therefore he was able to appeal masses and peasantry into national struggle and raised their issues as well.

He spun charkha daily to signify dignity of human labor and self reliance.

Initial Stayagrahas by Gandhi after coming to India –

Champaran Satyagraha, 1917 – when Gandhiji returned from South Africa, he heard about the case in Champaran that the British forced the poor peasants to grow indigo and they had no other choice. More than cultivation of Indigo what was appalling was the sharing system that was prevalent – Tinkathia System – According to the Tinkathia System, farmers were under compulsion to grow Indigo on 3/20th of their land and were allowed to take only one-third of the indigo produced by themselves while two-thirds had to be given to the British/European planters. The Government favored the planters, overlooking any pleas including legal action. The Bengal Tenancy Act and other reactionary laws further helped exploit the peasants, requiring the peasants to plant 3/20, and sometimes up to 5/20, of their holdings with indigo.

Raj Kumar Shukla was an indigo cultivator of Champaran (Bihar), who met Gandhiji to make him aware of the plight of the cultivators in Champaran and persuaded him to come there. In 1917, he travelled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system. He began leading the clean-up of villages, building of schools and hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to undo purdah, untouchability and the suppression of women. He was joined by many young nationalists from all over India, including Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha, Ramarshi Deo Trivedi ‘Rishi Ji’, Brajkishore Prasad, J B Kriplani, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Jawaharlal Nehru. But his main assault came as he was arrested by police on the charge of creating unrest and was ordered to leave the province. He was released after massive protests. Gandhi led organized protests and strike against the landlords, who with the guidance of the British government, signed an agreement granting more compensation and control over farming for the poor farmers of the region, and cancellation of revenue hikes and collection until the famine ended. It was during this agitation, that Gandhi was addressed by the people as Bapu (This was given by Subhash Chandra Bose) and Mahatma (It was given by Rabindranath Tagore). (Earlier, he had also got the title of Kaiser-e-Hind from British government after he started Ambulance service during Boers War while he was in South Africa).

Ahembdabad Mills Strike, 1918 – In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi went to Ahmadabad to organize a satyagraha movement among cotton mill workers. Workers were, among other things, demanding continuation of ‘Plague Bonus’ post epidemic. Mahatma Gandhi intervened in a dispute and arbitrated between the workers and mill-owners of Ahmadabad. He advised the workers to go on strike and to demand a 35 per cent increase in wages. He went on fast unto death and mill owners agreed to give the hike to workers. Anasuya Behn was one of the major lieutenant of Gandhi during this Satyagraha. She was, however, sister of one of the mill owners and close friend of Gandhi – Ambalal Sarabhai.

He also founded – ‘Ahembdabad Textile Labor Association’ – after the mill strike. It gave Gandhi an urban and industrial base and is said to have set the tone of industrial relations in the city.

Kheda or Kaira Satyagraha, 1918 – He organized a Satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat. Affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic, the peasants of Kheda could notpay the revenue, and were demanding that revenue collection be relaxed. Despite their difficulties, British government raised the revenue. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and a close coterie of devoted Gandhians, namely Narhari Parikh, Mohanlal Pandya, Indulal Yagnik and Ravi Shankar Vyas toured the countryside, organized the villagers and gave them political leadership and direction. Many aroused Gujaratis from the cities of Ahmedabad and Vadodara joined the organizers of the revolt, but Gandhi and Patel resisted the involvement of Indians from other provinces, seeking to keep it a purely Gujarati struggle. British government after facing a united opposition agreed on a compromise and the revenue was waived for that year and next year.


Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act or Rowlatt Act – Termed as ‘Black Act’. After the dis-satisfaction from Montford Reforms of 1919, government passed Rowlett Act to suppress the freedom. The Rowlatt Act passed by the British in colonial India in March 1919, indefinitely extending ‘emergency measures’ (of the Defence of India Regulations Act, 1915) enacted during the First World War in order to control public unrest and root out conspiracy. The Act authorizes the authority to imprison a person suspected of terrorism for maximum of two years without trial. The Act was condemned by one and all including Congress and League.

The Rowlatt Satyagraha of 1919 turned out to be the first all-India struggle against the British government although it was largely restricted to cities.

Satyagraha launched in protest of this Act also marked the first attempt of Gandhiji for a nation wide movement. It was thus the first of Gandhian mass struggle. (Earlier events like Champaran and Ahembdabad mill strikes were mainly concentrated on local and specific issues). Emboldened with the success of initial efforts in Ahemdabad, Kheda and Champaran, Gandhiji in 1919 decided to launch a nationwide Satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act (1919). He gave a call to massive Hartal on 6th April 1919 and people participated enthusiastically.

Jinnah declared – ‘A government which enacts such Acts during peace time has no right to be called as a civilian government.’

During the Great War of 1914-18 (First World War), the British had instituted censorship of the press and permitted detention without trial under Defence of India Regulations Act, 1915. Now, on the recommendation of a committee chaired by Sir Sidney Rowlatt, these tough measures were continued.

This Act had been hurriedly passed through the Imperial Legislative Council despite the united opposition of the Indian members (Non-official Indian members to the Imperial Legislative Council like – Tej Bahadur Sapru, D E Wacha, and Surendranath Banerjee were opposed to the bill, though they didn’t like the idea of Satyagraha either).

The protests gathered huge momentum. It was during such protests that Jalianwalan Massacre took place. The Indians had been promised extension of democracy during the war. They felt humiliated and were filled with anger when they found that their civil liberties were going to be curtailed still further. The protests were particularly intense in the Punjab, where many men had served on the British side in the War – expecting to be rewarded for their service. Instead they were given the Rowlatt Act. This Satygraha launched Gandhi as a truly national leader.

During the protests against the Act two prominent leaders of Congress were arrested in Punjab – Saifudin Kitchlew and Satya Paul. People protested their arrest in Jalianwala Bagh which later saw the Jalianwala Massacre.

British Reaction to Satyagraha – Alarmed by the popular upsurge, and scared that lines of communication such as the railways and telegraph would be disrupted, the British administration decided to clamp down on nationalists. Local leaders were picked up from Amritsar, and Mahatma Gandhi was barred from entering Delhi.

On 10 April, the police in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful procession, provoking widespread attacks on banks, post offices and railway stations. Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command.


On 13 April 1919, the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh incident took place. On that day a crowd of villagers who had come to Amritsar to attend a fair gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwalla Bagh. They were also protesting the arrest of Dr Satyapaul and Saifuddin Kitchlew. Being from outside the city, they were unaware of the martial law that had been imposed. Dyer entered the area, blocked the exit points, and opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. His object, as he declared later, was to ‘produce a moral effect’, to create in the minds of satyagrahis a feeling of terror and awe. As the news of Jallianwalla Bagh spread, crowds took to the streets in many north Indian towns. There were strikes, clashes with the police and attacks on government buildings. In a protest, Tagore renounced his knighthood.

The government responded with brutal repression, seeking to humiliate and terrorize people – satyagrahis were forced to rub their noses on the ground, crawl on the streets, and do salaam (salute) to all sahibs; people were flogged and villages (around Gujranwala in Punjab, now in Pakistan) were bombed. Seeing violence spread, Mahatma Gandhi called off the movement.

The Satygraha failed in achieving what it aimed to – repealing of the Rowlatt Act, but it launched Mahatma Gandhi as national leader. In 1922, the Act was repealed by the government itself.


Government of India named an investigatory committee to be led by Lord William Hunter (1865-1957) charged with the examination of the violence which had occurred in Amritsar and elsewhere in Punjab, in consequence of the catastrophic Jalianwalabagh Amritsar massacre. On 8th March 1920, the Hunter Committee’s majority reprimanded Brigadier-General Dyer in its final report for his mistaken concept of duty. The report concluded that Brigadier-General Dyer was justified in firing on the mob, though notice should have been given and its duration shortened. However, Dyer was exonerated and the commission. This enraged Indians and they termed the commission as ‘Whitewash Commission’.


Ground for Hindu Muslim cooperation in national struggle has been prepared by Lucknow Pact of 1916. An opportune movement came in form of Turkey issue which was en-cashed by Gandhi to further forge unity ties among Hindus and Muslims for a joint struggle against British.


  • Jalianwala Bagh Massacre exposed the ugly face of repressive government. This forced Mahatma to go from cooperation to non-cooperation.
  • Hunter Commission whitewash further fueled the frustration of Indians.
  • Montague Chelmsford reforms failed on expectation of each and everyone.
  • Economic situation in country worsened in aftermaths of World War
  • Lucknow Pact has brought Congress closer to League
  • Radical Muslim leaders like Mohmmad Ali, Abdul Kalam Azad, Hakim Azmal Khan and Hsan Imam gained more say over the Aligarh school of thought.

While the Rowlatt Satyagraha had been a widespread movement, it was still limited mostly to cities and towns. Mahatma Gandhi now felt the need to launch a more broad-based movement in India. But he was certain that no such movement could be organised without bringing the Hindus and Muslims closer together. One way of doing this, he felt, was to take up the Khilafat issue.

The First World War had ended with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey. And there were rumors that a harsh peace treaty was going to be imposed on the Ottoman emperor Claiphet – the spiritual head of the Islamic world (the Khalifa). Caliphet (Khalifa) was viewed as symbolic representative of Pan-Islamic group and the leadership was abolished by ‘Treaty of Severs’ and instead a puppet sultan was put in his place (However, later Mustafa Kamal Attaturk replaced the puppet Sultan of Turkey and started modernizing Turkey. In the aftermaths, the treaty was also revised in favor of Turkey. This to some extent placated Muslims in India). British refused to make any moves in support of Khalifa (who at the starting of war was against British) and said that they will abide by Treaty of Severs. To defend the Khalifa’s temporal powers, a Khilafat Committee was formed in Bombay in March 1919 by Ali Brothers, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Abdul Kalam Azad, Hasrat Mohani etc. and All India Khilafat Conference was held in Delhi in November 1919. A young generation of Muslim leaders like the brothers Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, began discussing with Mahatma Gandhi about the possibility of a united mass action on the issue. Gandhiji saw this as an opportunity to bring Muslims under the umbrella of a unified national movement. At the Calcutta session of the Congress in September 1920, he convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-cooperation movement in support of Khilafat as well as for swaraj. (i.e. Non-cooperation was combined with Khilafat movement to maximize the impact).

Idea of Non-Cooperation – In his famous book Hind Swaraj (1909) Mahatma Gandhi declared that British rule was established in India with the cooperation of Indians, and had survived only because of this cooperation. If Indians refused to cooperate, British rule in India would collapse within a year, and swaraj would come. Embolden with the success of the Rowlatt Satyagrah, Gandhiji decided to take things to next level, from Satyagrah to Non-Cooperation.

From Cooperation to Non-Cooperation – While Gandhi was initially cooperative with British, but events of Punjab (Jalianwala, Marshel Law, Hunter report) and Treatment of Khalifa of Turkey forced him to take the route of Non-Cooperation. Further, as mentioned above, it was cooperation of Indians only which has sustained British rule in India and if Indians start to non-ccoperate, the rule will collapse.

Gandhiji proposed that the movement should unfold in stages. It should begin with the surrender of titles that the government awarded, and a boycott of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools, and foreign goods. Then, in case the government used repression, a full civil disobedience campaign would be launched.

Through the summer of 1920 Mahatma Gandhi and Shaukat Ali toured extensively, mobilizing popular support for the movement.

Concerns of Congress Regarding Non-Cooperation – Many within the Congress were, however, concerned about the proposals. They were reluctant to boycott the council elections scheduled for November 1920, and they feared that the movement might lead to popular violence. In the months between September and December there was an intense tussle within the Congress. For a while there seemed no meeting point between the supporters and the opponents of the movement.

Non cooperation movement (1920-22) was led by Mahatma Gandhi. Veterans like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant opposed the idea outright. But the younger generation of Indian nationalists were thrilled, and backed Gandhiji. The Congress Party adopted his plans, and he received extensive support from Muslim leaders like Abul Kalam Azad, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Abbas Tyabji, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali.


The ‘Non-Cooperation-Khilafat’ Movement was launched on 1st August 1920. Tilak died on same day.

Congress too passed a resolution in its Calcutta special session of September 1920 presided over by Lala Lajpat Rai and agreed Gandhiji’s plan for non-cooperation with the government till wrongs of Punjab (Jalianwala) and Khilafat are undone and Swaraj is established. It was ratified in Nagpur Session in December 1920. Though there was some reservation among veterans about Gandhi’s methods, it was Motilal Nehru who stood by him.

Various social groups participated in this movement, each with its own specific aspiration. All of them responded to the call of Swaraj, but the term meant different things to different people.Non-cooperation for the first time shook the roots of the British Empire since 1857 revolt.

Gandhiji famousluy said that – ‘Swaraj is possible within 1 year if Non-Cooperation is continued as a movement’.

Thousands of students left schools and colleges under Britsh and new crop of national schools and colleges cameup including Jamia Milia, Kashi Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapith etc. Many leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Zakir Hussain led these institutes.

Tilak-Swaraj fund was formed as a tribute to Tilak and fuel nationl sentiments which was oversubscribed at more than Rs 1 crore.

In November 1921 huge demonstrations greeted Prince of Wales during his visit to India.

Jinnah and Malviya opposed the idea of Swaraj and Jinnah left the Congress after an association of 15 years.

Spread of the Movement –

  • From Central provinces many big nationalists like – Motilal Nehru, Prushottam Das Tandon, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, G B Pant, Lal Bahadur Shastri etc participated.
  • From Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai.
  • Peasants in Avadh were led by Baba Ram Chandra
  • Tea Gardens in Assam were also largely affected by movement
  • There were also signs of non-revenue payment movements
  • In Andhra likes of T Prakasam and Pattabhai Sitaramaiya took the lead

Non-Cooperation in Towns – The movement started with middle-class participation in the cities. Thousands of students left government-controlled schools and colleges, headmasters and teachers resigned, and lawyers gave up their legal practices. The council elections of 1920 were boycotted in most provinces except Madras, where the Justice Party, the party of the non-Brahmans, felt that entering the council was one way of gaining some power – something that usually only Brahmans had access to. The effects of non-cooperation on the economic front were more dramatic. Foreign goods were boycotted, liquor shops picketed, and foreign cloth burnt in huge bonfires. The import of foreign cloth halved between 1921 and 1922, its value dropping from Rs 102 crore to Rs 57 crore. In many places merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade.

But the movement subdued in urban areas for many reasons – like – Khadi was more expensive that mass produced mill cloth and urban poor couldn’t afford it. Difficulties were there in complete boycott of the British institutions as they were providers of the major services.

Non-Cooperation in Rural Areas – The movement spread from cities to rural ares and included peasants tribal areas as well.

Different Interpretation of Non-Cooperation Movement –

In Awadh, peasants were led by ‘Baba Ramchandra’ – a sanyasi who had earlier been to Fiji as an indentured labourer. The movement here was against talukdars and landlords who demanded from peasants exorbitantly high rents and a variety of other cesses. Peasants had to do begar and work at landlords’ farms without any payment. As tenants they had no security of tenure, being regularly evicted so that they could acquire no right over the leased land. The peasant movement demanded reduction of revenue, abolition of begar, and social boycott of oppressive landlords. The peasant movement, however, developed in forms that the Congress leadership was unhappy with. As the movement spread in 1921, the houses of talukdars and merchants were attacked, bazaars were looted, and grain hoards were taken over. In many places local leaders told peasants that Gandhiji had declared that no taxes were to be paid and land was to be redistributed among the poor. The name of the Mahatma was being invoked to sanction all action and aspirations. In many places ‘nai – dhobi bandhs’ were organised by panchayats to deprive landlords of the services of even barbers and washermen.

‘Gudem Hill’ Tribe War, or Koya Rebellion or Rampa Rebellion 1922 – Tribal peasants interpreted the message of Mahatma Gandhi and the idea of swaraj in yet another way. In the ‘Gudem Hills’of Andhra Pradesh, for instance, a militant guerrilla movement spread in the early 1920s – not a form of struggle that the Congress could approve. Here, as in other forest regions, the colonial government had closed large forest areas, preventing people from entering the forests to graze their cattle, or to collect fuel-wood and fruits. This enraged the hill people. Not only were their livelihoods affected but they felt that their traditional rights were being denied. When the government began forcing them to contribute begar for road building, the hill people revolted. The person who came to lead them was ‘Alluri Sitaram Raju’. But at the same time he asserted that India could be liberated only by the use of force, not non-violence. The Gudem rebels attacked police stations, attempted to kill British officials and carried on guerrilla warfare for achieving swaraj. Raju was captured and executed in 1924, and over time became a folk hero.

Idea of Swaraj of Plantation Workers – Workers too had their own understanding of Mahatma Gandhi and the notion of swaraj. For plantation workers in Assam, freedom meant the right to move freely in and out of the confined space in which they were enclosed, and it meant retaining a link with the village from which they had come. Under the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, plantation workers were not permitted to leave the tea gardens without permission, and in fact they were rarely given such permission. When they heard of the Non-Cooperation Movement, thousands of workers defied the authorities, left the plantations and headed home. They believed that Gandhi Raj was coming and everyone would be given land in their own villages. They, however, never reached their destination. Stranded on the way by a railway and steamer strike, they were caught by the police and brutally beaten up.

Eka Movement – Towards the end of 1921, peasant discontent surfaced again after earlier Kisan Sabha movements in the districts of Hardoi, Bahraich and Sitapur of United Provinces with grievances relating to the extraction of a rent that was generally 50 percent higher than the recorded rent. Madari Pasi from the depressed class and the one of the key leaders who gave the movement direction opposing the non-violence methods and called for violent struggle.

Palnad Satyagraha or Forest Satyagraha – The ‘Forest Satyagraha’was of the ryots of Palnad in Guntur district in 1921 during Non-Cooperation Movement. The peasants of this place had to pay heavy tax for permission to graze their cattle in forests. When the crops failed that year, they decided to send their cattle into the forests without paying the fee and suffer the penalties. However authorities retaliated by compounding the cattle and a clash ensued between the cattle owners and the armed police. In the firing that took place Kannuganti Hanumanthu was killed. Meanwhile, Gandhiji called off the Non-Co-operation Movement due to some untoward incidents at Chowri Chowra and with this the Palnad Satyagraha also came to an end.

Chirala-Perala (name of two villages in Guntur district) episode during Non-Cooperation was led by Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya. The movement was against the merger of two villages into municipality, which would have attracted taxes and villagers opposed this move. The movement was against the encroachment upon the autonomy of the village. He urged people to refuse to pay taxes and as a result whole population of Chirala moved out of town and refused to pay taxes.

Tana Bhagat Movement – Just like the Birsa’s religious movement among the Mundas, a similar religious movement gained among the Oraon of Chotanagpur, Bihar known as Tana Bhagat. The movement aimed against the missionaries and British colonialistsDuring Non-Cooperation also they participated and they boycotted liquor.

Decline of Non-Cooperation Movement –

  • Chaura Chauri Incident – A crowd which was fired upon by police, burnt a police station in Chaura Chauri in which 22 policemen were killed and this distressed Gandhiji a lot. He deemed it as under-preparedness of the people to adopt his methods. Many Congress leaders including Subhash Chnadra Bose, Nehru were in disbelief over this decision of Gandhi. ‘For a sin of handful people down in the Himalayas, the entire nation has been brought down to its knees’ – SC Bose said on withdrawl of Non-Cooperation. However, Gandhi was aware that in the event of violence and a direct confrontation with the British, Indians are a no match to British power and they will be crushed brutally. Incidents like Chaura-Chauri would have led to a direct confrontation and ultimately loss to Indians.
  • Moplah Incident generated considerable acrimony between Hindu and Muslims
  • Support of Ali brothers and Muslims was on religious grounds rather than nationalistic grounds. As the cause diminished, their support to vanished.
  • Ali Brothers also started to give way and started to apologise to Viceroy Reading and they were arrested soon (their arrest was however resented by Gandhi and others and he called for the people to give their jobs up).
  • ‘The treaty of Severs’ was revised by the British in favor of Turkey. The cause of unity was no longer there and Muslims were no longer attached to Congress.
  • Mustafa Kamal Pasha toppled the theocratic puppet government installed by the British in Turkey and started a new era of modernization and made it a secular state. He took extensive steps to nationalized education, literate woman, develop agriculture etc and this broke the back of Khilafat.
  • After arrest of Ali Brothers and other leaders, Gandhi gave a memorandum to the government for their release and lift the ban from civil liberties or face mass civil disobedience (which he planned to start from Bardoli as a no-tax movement). But things took a different turn and Chaura-Chauri incident took place. Gandhi called off the movement (even in face of disappointment of leaders like Nehru, Subhash etc) and he was sent to Jail for 6 years which was reduced (1922-24) owing to his health. At this moment Gandhi declared his frustration with colonial government and declared that attitude of government has turned him from a supporter of government to its sharpest critic. He said during his trial – ‘I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically’. Judge handed down him same sentence as was given to Tilak in 1908.

Achievements of Non-Cooperation Movement –

Congress became a mass party – Hitherto, one of the important criticism of Congress had been that it was a party of elites representing only a minority. For the first time people from all sections participated. From 1920 Session of the Congress, joining fee was reduced (25 paisa per annum) considerably and so was reduced Age of Joining (18 years from 21 years), which took it into even villages and expanded its mass base.

  • Khilafat movement produced many leaders of tall stature like – Maulana Azad, Saifuddin
  • Charkha a National Symbol – Under Gandhi a new ideological support was given in form of Non-Violence and Satyagraha which later became important tools for national struggle
  • Muslims also Participated – Barring the incident of Moplah rebellion in Malabar the movement saw participation of Muslims also
  • Removed fear of British Might from the minds of people
  • Many educational institutes like Jamia Milia Islamia, Bihar Vidyapeeth, Kashi Vidyapith, Gujarat Vidyapith etc were established.

Failures of Non-Ccoperation Movement –

  • Swaraj – as it was claimed – was not achieved within 1 year. This disheartened many.
  • Alienation of Muslims – Failure of Non-Cooperation also menat failure of Khilafat. Ali brothers accused congress for failure. Further movements by Congress saw less enthusiastic participation from Muslims
  • Divide in Congress – With recall of movement, many resented this step and others became anxious to take part into Provincial elections and Swaraj Party is born.
  • Revival of Revolutionary Activities – This also gave birth to second phase of revolutionary activities after partition of Bengal
  • Mass Reach – Khadi was not affordable to poor and this was the reason that middle class and poor swept away from movement

Within the Congress, some leaders were by now tired of mass struggles and wanted to participate in elections to the provincial councils that had been set up by the Government of India Act of 1919. They felt that it was important to oppose British policies within the councils, argue for reform and also demonstrate that these councils were not truly democratic. C R Das and Motilal Nehru (alongwith N C Kelkar, Vithalbhai Patel, G S Kaparde, S Srinivas Iyenger (all were lawyers)) formed the Swaraj Party within the Congress to argue for a return to council politics. But younger leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose pressed for more radical mass agitation and for full independence.

Gaya Session of Congress debated this issue of joining the legislative council. Those who favored joining were termed as Pro Changers and involved C R Das, Motilal Nehru, Hakim Ajmal Khan and N C Kelkar. Those who were opposed of joining were termed as No Changers and included Gandhi and other veterans who favored idea of Non-Cooperation and hence boycott of assembly elections.


Gandhiji’s decision to call off the agitation caused frustration among masses. His decision came in for severe criticism from his colleagues like Motilal Nehru, C R Das and N C Kelkar, Vithalbhai Patel, G S Kaparde, S Srinivas Iyenger, M R Jaykar who organized the Swaraj Party. The foundations of the ‘Swaraj Party’ were laid on January 1, 1923, as the ‘Congress-Khilafat-Swarajya Patty’. It proposed then an alternative programme of diverting the movement from widespread civil disobedience programme to restrictive one which would encourage its member to enter into legislative councils (established under Montford Reforms of 1919) by contesting elections in order to wreck the legislature from within and to use moral pressure to compel the authority to concede to the popular demand for self-government.

The ones who favored the entry into council were called – ‘Pro Changers’ and involved C R Das, Motilal Nehru, Hakim Ajmal Khan and N C Kelkar, while others were called ‘No-Changers’ (included Vallabhai, Rajendra Prasad, Vijiaraghavachariar and C Rajgopalachari). Proposal of pro-changers for entry was rejected in Congress Gaya Session. They (No-Changers) argued that council entry will distract them from carrying out constructive work among masses and the legislatures entering councils will ultimately get sucked into system and will be reduced to mere rubber stamps.

Pro-Chagers insited upon the idea and formed a Swaraj Party. Later in 1923 meet at Delhi, the differences were reconciled to a large extant and it was declared that Swaraj Party is a part of Congress.

When Gandhiji returned from jail, he initially opposed the idea of Council Entry and he also didn’t like the idea of Swarajists putting hurdles in council work on ideological grounds. As British were hoping a split in Congress, Gandhi started to coming to terms with the constructive work of Swarajists and in Belgam Session of 1924 (which he himself presided) Swarajists were given full support.

Manifesto of Sawaraj Party declared – ‘While swaraj is ultimate aim of the party, the immediate goal would be Dominon Status’ and ‘it is a party within Congress and not a rival party’. It declared that they will take the Non-Cooperation inside the legislature and will disrupt the business in legislature and will attract attention towards national Issues.

Elections and Aftermaths – The party fought the 1923-24 elections and won majority of seats despite less time for preparations defeating ‘The Liberals’ (who have earlier seceded from Congress) and formed the coalition government in provinces and brought out important issues in legislative assemblies. Unionist Party of Sikandar Hyat Khan of Punjab was also in coalition.

After death of CR Das in 1925, in response to government’s failure to bring self-rule reforms, Swarajists decided to walk away from legislatures. However, some of the members decided to stay back and broke away (Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya, NC Kelkar and M R Jayakar) to form a separate party ‘Responsivist Party’ that still preferred co-operation with British. Likes of Lajpat Rai and Malviya accused Motilal of ignoring Hindu interests.

Swaraj party didn’t fare well in next elections and its leader again focused on mainstream Congress activities. In 1926 elections, party didn’t fare so well as earlier due to communal campaign by other parties, weakened leadership, anti-incumbancy etc. However it still managed to pull some good jobs like defeat of Public Safety Bill, 1928 which aimed at deporting the subversive elements inspired by communist ideology. In wake of imminent Civil Disobedience Movement, party completely pulled back from the assemblies in 1930.

Success of Swarajists –

  • They filled the political vacuum at a time when Gandhiji was absent from political scene and national movement was recuperat in its strength.
  • They exposed the hollowness of 1919 Act
  • Active participation of Motilal and CR Das in assemblies earned them good attention of media and this helped in making people interested in working of Legislative assemblies and heightened their political awareness level.
  • It exposed the true nature of provincial governments and hollowness of 1919 reforms.
  • It also exposed budget effectively and for the first time intense analysis of budget was done.

Failures of Swarajists –

  • They failed to make a dent into the policies of government
  • They soon indulged into power politics
  • They couldn’t connect to masses
  • They alienated Muslim members who vouched for peasant interests
  • They also couldn’t do much about plight of peasants of Bengal

No Changers in the meanwhile carried on constructive work and established many ashrams, carried out community service.


Communists emerged, trade unionism emerged, women’s organisation started to come up, peasant agitation, youth unrest, new wave of revolutionaries etc.


Against this background the new Tory government in Britain constituted a Statutory Commission under Sir John Simon to review the constitutional reforms (made during Government of India Act 1919) in Britain’s most important colonial dependency. It had 6 members – Clement Atlee, the future prime minister of Britain being one of them. (The commission was sent 2 years ahead as per 10 year review period suggested during GoI Reform Act of 1919).

Set up in response to the nationalist movement, the commission was to look into the functioning of the constitutional system facilitated by the 1919 Act in India and suggest changes.

The Government of India Act 1919 had introduced the system of diarchy to govern the provinces of British India. However, the Indian public clamoured for revision of the difficult diarchy form of government, and the Government of India Act 1919 itself stated that a commission would be appointed after 10 years to investigate the progress of the governance scheme. In the late 1920s, the Conservative government then in power in Britain feared imminent electoral defeat at the hands of the Labour Party, and also feared the effects of the consequent transference of control of India to such an ‘inexperienced’ body. Hence, it appointed seven MPs (including Chairman Simon) to constitute the commission that had been promised in 1919 that would look into the state of Indian constitutional affairs. The people of the India were outraged and insulted, as the Simon Commission, which was to determine the future of India, did not include a single Indian member in it.

The Commission’s recommendations were –

  • An outline of new constitution was put forward.
  • Diarchy should be scrapped and Ministers responsible to the Legislature would be entrusted with all provincial areas of responsibility. It strongly opposed diarchy at the center. In place of diarchy it called for responsible government in the provinces.
  • It suggested a formally federal union, including both British India and the Princely States, was the only long-term solution for a united, autonomous India.
  • It recommended that the franchise should be extended; and the Legislature should be enlarged

Congress in its Madras Session of 1927 decided to oppose it. Major reason behind its opposition was that – though the Commission aimed at reviewing constitutional reforms in India, all its members were white and there was no Indian member.

In 1928, when the Simon Commission arrived in India, it was greeted with black flags and the slogan ‘Go back Simon’. All parties, including the Congress, Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, participated in the demonstrations. When commission arrived in Lahore, it met with the huge protests and Lala Lajpat Rai was killed due to injuries sustained.

The outcome of the Simon Commission (and Round Table Conferences) was the Government of India Act 1935, which established representative government at the provincial level in India and is the basis of many parts of the Indian Constitution. In 1937 the first elections were held in the Provinces, resulting in Congress Governments being returned in almost all Provinces.

Rise of New Generation of Youth – Simon Commission provided an opportunity to youth to prove its mettle. It was this Commission and death of Lala Lajpat Rai that fired the spirit of likes of Bhagat Singh. It was after this commission that a new breed of young leaders like Bhagat Singh and Subhash rose to prominence. This upsurge of youth saw the germination of new ideas of socialism.

Lord Birkenhead challenged Indians to produce an agreed constitution. This was accepted by Indian leaders.

(Report of Commission was published in 1930 and it recommended federal constitution, provincial autonomy, enlargement of provincial councils. It didn’t mention either Dominion Status or right of secession. It disappointed both the Congress and Muslim League. Muslim league said that report has vouched for a Hindu raj)


Background – There was a longstanding demand on the part of people of India to new constitution and their greater say in its drafting. The report was an attempt to address this need for a new constitution. Lord Birkenhead had challenged Indians to produce an agreed constitution. This report came in that background.

The ‘Nehru Report’ (1928) was a memorandum outlining a proposed new Dominion constitution (it was an outline and not a constitution itself) for India. It was prepared by a committee of the All Parties Conference chaired by Motilal Nehru with his son Jawaharlal acting as secretary. There were nine other members in this committee including two Muslims.

The report didn’t seek complete independence but, the constitution outlined by the Nehru report was for India enjoying dominion status within the British Commonwealth. Motilal commented – ‘It’s an achievement on which any country in the world wight well be proud of’.

Recommendations –

  • It called for Dominion Status
  • Unlike the eventual Government of India Act 1935 it contained a Bill of Rights.
  • It did not provide for separate electorates for any community or weightage for minorities.
  • Separation of state from religion
  • A parliamentary form of Government
  • Residual powers with federal/central government
  • Adult franchise
  • Redistribution of provincial boundaries on a linguistic basis

Most of its recommendations formed the basis of constitution of independent India.

Controversies over report –

  • It did away with Communal/Separate Electorate – this attracted much ire from Muslim league and other minority communities
  • It asked for Dominion Status and not complete Independence – On this issue, even Jawahar Lal differed with his father (which was reflected a year later when he came up with a demand for Purna Swaraj). Nehru and Subhash formed ‘Independence for India League’.

Neither Muslim League nor Hindu Mahasabha nor ardent Sikhs agreed with the report and it set the stage for the communal confrontation.


With few exceptions League leaders rejected the Nehru proposals.They objected the provision of single electorate and wanted separate electorate. They also saw residual powers in federal structure with center as unacceptable as they were not in majority at national level and feared that this provision can be misused.

In reaction, Mohammad Ali Jinnah drafted his Fourteen Points in 1929 which became the core demands the Muslim community put forward as the price of their participating in an independent united India.

Main points of 14 Point Formula were –

  • Separate electorate
  • 33% seats reserved for Muslims in Central Legislatures
  • Residual powers vested with provinces IV. Provincial autonomy
  • No constitutional amendment by the by the center without the concurrence of the states constituting the federation.
  • Adequate representation of Muslims in services VII. Full religious freedom to all communities

However, Gandhi and a few others also, didn’t support the separate electorate for Muslim or Dalits as he saw it divisive and perpetuating the divide that exist.

Over Dominion status, Gandhiji and Motilal argued that consensus over it has been built by great efforts and 2 years should be given to see government response. After negotiations this time was reduced to 1 year and it was decided that if Dominion Status was not realized during this period a demand for full independence will be made and Civil Disobedience will be launched.

In 1929, just before demand for Poorna Swaraj, in an effort to win them over, the viceroy, Lord Irwin, announced in October 1929, a vague offer of ‘dominion status’ for India in an unspecified future, and a Round Table Conference to discuss a future constitution. This did not satisfy the Congress leaders.


Background – Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Satyamurti became more assertive after the Nehru Report which defied their expectations by announcing Dominion Status as their demand. However, Motilal Nehru and Gandhi were reluctant to shed the gains they have made by demanding Dominion Status and they demanded to give a 1 year’s time to government. But British didn’t relent. There was some hope after the new Labor government was elected in 1929 (headed by Ramsay McDonald) and new Secretary of State ‘Wedgewood Benn’ was also sympathetic to Indian cause. Viceroy Irwin too raised some hope among likes of Motilal and Gandhi when hinted towards Dominion Status (which was, however, not confirmed) a round table talk for the same. This, however, didn’t assuage the sentiments of neither liberals nor Jawahar Lal and others.

In December 1929, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Lahore Congress formalized the demand of ‘Purna Swaraj’ or full independence for India. Jawahar unfurled Indian flag at the bank of Ravi river on midnight of 31st December. He declared – ‘It’s a crime against man and God to submit any longer’.

Following broad decisions were taken –

  1. Boycott of Round Table Conference
  2. Demand for Poorna Swaraj
  3. All members of legislature may resign.
  4. It was declared that 26 January 1930, would be celebrated as the Independence Day when people were to take a pledge to struggle for complete independence.
  5. It was also decided that a Civil Disobedient movement will be launched under leadership of Gandhi

Lahore session also marked a leadership shift to younger generation. Call for nation wide meetings was made and it saw huge participation from both Rural and Urban areas and pledges were made for Purna Swaraj.


Background – After non-action of government over Nehru Report and failure of government to agree upon any demand for even dominion status, Gandhiji was looking for a new plan amidst growing restlessness among the Congress and nation as a whole.

Mahatma Gandhi found in salt a powerful symbol that could unite the nation. On 31 January 1930 – Soon after demand for Purna Swaraj, he sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands (11 points). In his letter to Viceroy he stated – ‘British rule has impoverished ‘the Dumb Millions’ by a system of progressive exploitation, reducing us to political serfdom and sapped us culturally, degraded us spiritually’.

Some of these were of general interest; others were specific demands of different classes, from industrialists to peasants. The idea was to make the demands wide-ranging, so that all classes within Indian society could identify with them and everyone could be brought together in a united campaign.

These included among others –

  • Release of political prisoners
  • Reduce expenditure on civil services and military
  • Issue of firearm licences
  • Reduce land revenue by 50%
  • Reduce Rupee Sterling exchange ratio to make Indian exports profitable
  • Reserve Coastal shipping for Indians
  • Abolition of Salt Tax.

The most stirring of all was the demand to abolish the salt tax. Salt was something consumed by the rich and the poor alike, and it was one of the most essential items of food. The tax on salt and the government monopoly over its production, Mahatma Gandhi declared, revealed the most oppressive face of British rule. Further, Salt Satyagraha had a potential of mass appeal and mass-involvement. Mahatma Gandhi’s letter was, in a way, an ultimatum.

Indian reaction to proposed 11 Points –

  • There was some resentment among nationalist leaders over the 11 points as they saw it running counter the Swaraj Declaration that was made just some time back. However Gandhi wanted to see the sincerity of British.
  • Industrial class wholeheartedly supported Gandhian demands in full as they saw them more of economic nature (levy of duty on foreign cloth and other demands if would have been accepted would have promoted domestic industry)

If the demands were not fulfilled by 11 March, the letter stated, the Congress would launch a civil disobedience campaign. Irwin was unwilling to negotiate and no-response was given to demands. Gandhi decided to go for Civil Disobedience. On this, Gandhi commented – ‘While he asked for the bread, he was given a stone’on the apathetic attitude of Viceroy and British government over their non-response to Gandhi’s pleas before he started Civil Disobedience Movement.

So, Mahatma Gandhi started his famous salt march accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers which also included Sarojini Naidu. Congress vested in Gandhi power to launch Civil Disobedience Movement. The march was over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi. The volunteers walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day. Thousands came to hear Mahatma Gandhi wherever he stopped, and he told them what he meant by swaraj and urged them to peacefully defy the British. On 6 April he reached Dandi, and ceremonially violated the law, manufacturing salt by boiling sea water. This marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Masses participated in the movement. Salt laws were broken everywhere. Even women participated in huge numbers. Kamla (wife of Nehru), Swarup Rani (Mother of Nehru) were at the forefront. In Tamil Nadu, C Rajagopalchari led the march, In Malabar K Kelappan took the lead.

Thousands in different parts of the country broke the salt law, manufactured salt and demonstrated in front of government salt factories. As the movement spread, foreign cloth was boycotted, and liquor shops were picketed. Peasants refused to pay revenue and chaukidari taxes, village officials resigned, and in many places forest people violated forest laws – going into Reserved Forests to collect wood and graze cattle.

Other Impacts –

  • There was a wide scale boycott of liquor shops and in protest toddy trees were cut down
  • Women participated at large scale for the first time
  • Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan launched a Khudai Khidmatgar Movement at the North West Frontier Provinces
  • Rani Gaidillieu at the age of 13 responded to Gandhian call in Manipur and was sentenced for life imprisonment and was released only in 1947
  • Chowkidar Tax Non-Payment Campaign was initiated in the Eastern part of the nation (Chowkidars were hated with their pro-government activities and were even considered government spies).
  • Forest laws were liberally violated in Southern and Central provinces
  • Bardoli Satyagraha was launched by Patel just before Civil Disobedience movement and it became a model no-tax campaign in other parts of the country during the Civil Disobedience movement.
  • UP saw another form of ‘No-Revenue, No Rent’ Campaign. No-Revenue call was for Zamindars and they were asked not to pay revenue to government and No-rent call was for cultivators.
  • A variety of mass mobilization techniques like Prabhat Pheris, Patrikas (illegal newsprint) were used. Children were organized into Vanar Sena and Girls into Manjari (cat) Sena.

Dharsana Satyagraha, 1930 – Dharasana Satyagraha was a protest against the British salt tax in colonial India in May, 1930. Following the conclusion of the Salt March to Dandi, Mahatma Gandhi chose a non-violent raid of the Dharasana Salt Works in Gujarat as the next protest against British rule. Hundreds of satyagrahis were beaten by soldiers under British command at Dharasana. In a peaceful move led by Sarojini Naidu, lines of Satyagrahis faced the lathis of police and they fell in line, only to be replaced by other line. The ensuing publicity attracted world attention to the Indian independence movement and brought into question the legitimacy of British rule in India.

British Response –

Worried by the developments, the colonial government began arresting the Congress leaders one by one. This led to violent clashes in many palaces. A frightened government responded with a policy of brutal repression. Peaceful Satyagrahis were attacked, women and children were beaten, and about 60,000 people were arrested. Big leaders like C Rajagopalachari, Vallabhai, Jawahar, Madan Mohan Malviya, J M Sengupta etc were also arrested. Gandhi too was arrested in May 1930 and leadership was transferred to Abbas Tyabji and he too was arrested. Later Sarojini took the lead, but she was also arrested. Government came up with many ‘repressive resolutions’, ‘Congress was declared illegal’.

Success of Movement –

  • It rallied masses like never before
  • Import of foreign goods was effectively boycotted
  • Students and Women participated in masses
  • Workers also joined the movement big time

Failures of Movement –

Not all social groups were moved by the abstract concept of swaraj. One such group was the nation’s ‘untouchables’, who from around the 1930s had begun to call themselves dalit or oppressed. For long the Congress had ignored the dalits, for fear of offending the sanatanis, the conservative high-caste Hindus. Dr B R Ambedkar, who organised the dalits into the Depressed Classes Association in 1930, clashed with Mahatma Gandhi at the second Round Table Conference by demanding separate electorates for dalits.

Muslims – except in NWFP under Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan – show apathetic response. They were polarized by communal rhetorics of leaders as well as government’s positive response to their demands. After the decline of the Non-Cooperation-Khilafat movement, a large section of Muslims felt alienated from the Congress. From the mid-1920s the Congress came to be more visibly associated with openly Hindu religious nationalist groups like the Hindu Mahasabha. As relations between Hindus and Muslims worsened, each community organised religious processions with militant fervour, provoking Hindu-Muslim communal clashes and riots in various cities.

  • Lukewarm Support from Industrial Class
  • Poor participant from peasants

Non-Cooperation vs Civil Disobedience – People were now asked not only to refuse cooperation with the British, as they had done in 1921-22, but also to break colonial laws. So, it was an ideological progression. This time objective was complete independence. There was poor Muslim participation this time and labor participation was also poor.

This movement, however, catapulted Gandhi on international arena and for the first time women also participated in large number in a national movement.


Background – As British repression became harder during Civil Disobedience Movement, it led to sufferance of common people. In such a situation, Mahatma Gandhi once again decided to call off the movement and he along with many others was arrested only to be released in 1931. Congress didn’t participate in first Round Table Conference which was though attended by Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Chamber of Princes, the Liberals and Dalits and it was speculated that any agreement without the participation of Congress will be futile. Irwin was also anxious to find a solution and in a gesture he released the political prisoners and decided to directly talk to Gandhi.

In this backdrop, Gandhi entered into a pact with Irwin on 5 March 1931. The Pact and direct Gandhi-Irwin talks put Congress on equal terms with government and this move of Irwin was also criticized in Britain for shedding too much space.

Below were the proposed conditions –

  • Discontinuation of the civil disobedience movement by the Indian National Congress
  • Participation by the Indian National Congress in the Round Table Conference
  • Withdrawal of all ordinances issued by the British Government imposing curbs on the activities of the Indian National Congress
  • Release of prisoners arrested for participating in the civil disobedience movement
  • Removal of the tax on salt, which allowed the Indians to produce, trade, and sell salt legally and for their own private use

Things that were not accepted by British as a part of Gandhi Irwin pact or Delhi Pact

  • Congress demand for a police inquiry into arrests and atrocities made during Civil Disobedience movement was rejected.
  • Commutation of sentences of Bhagat Singh and his comrades
  • The pact also didn’t accept demand of immediate return of the lands confiscated during movement (this caused much resentment among the radicals)

By this Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhiji consented to participate in a Round Table Conference in London and the government agreed to release the political prisoners. The pact was criticized by radicals for not extracting definite gains from government and compromising on the demand of Swaraj by agreeing to participate in Round Table Conference. Gandhij was perhaps aware that mass movements are essentially short lived and he tried to leverage the situation by extracting some gans from British government.


Background – The Gandhi-Irwin pact was criticised by radical nationalists, for Gandhiji was unable to obtain from the Viceroy a commitment to political independence for Indians; he could obtain merely an assurance of talks towards that possible end. It was organised even as many Congress leaders opposed the Gandhi-Irwin pact, for the government had not accepted even one of the major nationalist demands (viz – demand for police enquiry, return of confiscated peasant lands). It had not agreed even to the demand that the death sentence on Bhagat Singh and his two comrades be commuted to life imprisonment. It was termed as a bourgeoisie agreement, which ignored masses. However, the session aimed at approving Gandhi Irwin Pact.

Gandhiji prevailed upon the session to approve the agreement. He was greeted with black flag and flowers by angry protestors. Further, Gandhiji and Congress as national representatives in that congress was disputed by three sections – Muslim League, Princely states and BR Ambedkar (he accused congress of ignoring the welfare of lower castes).

However, the session is significant from following point of views –

  • It endorsed Delhi Pact or Gandhi Irwin Pact
  • For the first time it moved a resolution on Fundamental Rights and the draft resolution was prepared by Jawahar Lal Nehru (session was presided over by Vallabhai Patel)
  • It for the first time explained the concept of Purna Swaraj and reiterated it as goal
  • It also declared that interests of minority will be looked after and their culture will be preserved
  • It acknowledged the brave sacrifice of Bhagat Singh and others

Significance of the Karacahi Resolution lies in the fact that – it remained the basic essence of political and economic programmes of Congress in later years.

Karachi Congress Resolution, 1931 – Swaraj as conceived by the Congress should include real economic freedom of the masses. The Congress declares that no constitution will be acceptable to it unless it provides or enables the Swaraj Government to provide for –

  • Freedom of expression, association and meeting.
  • Freedom of religion.
  • Protection of all cultures and languages.
  • No disability in employment or trade or profession on account of religion, caste or sex.
  • Equal rights and duties for all in regard to public wells, schools, etc.
  • All to have right to bear arms in accordance with regulations.
  • No person to be deprived of property or liberty except in accordance with law.
  • Religious neutrality of State.
  • Adult Suffrage.
  • Free compulsory primary education.
  • No titles to be conferred.
  • Capital punishment to be abolished.
  • Freedom of movement for every citizen of India and right to settle and acquire property in any part thereof, and equal protection of law.
  • Proper standard of life for industrial workers and suitable machinery for settlement of disputes between employers and workers and protection against old age, sickness, etc.
  • All labour to be free from conditions of serfdom.
  • Special protection of women workers.
  • Children not to be employed in mines and factories.
  • Rights of peasants and workers to form unions.
  • Reform of system of land revenue and tenure and rent, exempting rent and revenue for uneconomical holdings and reduction of dues payable for smaller holdings.
  • Inheritance tax on graduated scale.
  • Reduction of military expenditure by at least half.
  • No servant of State ordinarily to be paid above Rs 500 per month.
  • Abolition of Salt tax.
  • Protection of indigenous cloth against competition of foreign cloth.
  • Total prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs.
  • Currency and exchange in national interest.
  • Nationalisation of key industries and services, railways, etc.
  • Relief of agricultural indebtedness and control of usury.
  • Military training for citizens.


Background – The Congress had boycotted the first Round Table Conference (1930) which was actively attended by princely states, Ambedkar and other non-Congress parties. Ambedkar also raised the issue of separate electorate for Dalits and Jinnah demanded more safeguards for the Muslims (these two demands were reflected in Communal Award of 1932). After Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhi was sent as a representative of Congress.

Objective of Round table Conference – Round table conference were in line with the constitutional progression envisaged by the British which were outlined by the Simon Commission as well to chart out a future course of action for political mechanism in India. One of the prime objective of Congress to participate in it was demand of Indians for more autonomy and dominion status.

Though the round table conferences were termed as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. It will be wrong to term as so because – it was basically a single conference that was held in three sessions.

In April, before Second Round Table Conference, Irwin was replaced by new Viceroy Willingdon and he was not ready to take a liberal attitude as taken by Irwin. Even before Gandhi left for Conference there were complaints regarding the non-release of prisoners in some areas, repression of Khudai Khidamtgars in NWFP and Gandhi was refused permission to go there.

Non-Congress parties were involved by the British in a big way at the 2nd Round Table Conference as well. In December 1931, Gandhiji went to London for the conference, but the negotiations broke downon the minority issue. Not only Muslims demanded separate electorate, this time minorities led by Ambedkar also demanded separate electorate. British also refused to grant Dominion Status a key demand of Congress. Gandhi pressed upon point of Constitutional reforms and leaving behind communal arguments. But no consensus was reached and he returned disappointed. It failed because of initial non-attendance by the Congress and because Gandhi, who later did attend, claimed he was the only representative of all of India.

Outcomes –

  • Two new Muslim majority provinces – NWFP and Sindh to be created
  • Setting up of Indian Consultative Committee
  • Prospect of a unilateral Communal Award if Indians failed to agree.
  • New right/conservative government under Churchill refused to put Congress on equal footing and adopted a stern attitude, in its aftermath new Viceroy refused to have a meeting with Gandhiji

Back in India, Gandhi discovered that the government had begun a new cycle of repression. Gaffar Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru were both in jail, the Congress had been declared illegal, and a series of measures had been imposed to prevent meetings, demonstrations and boycotts. Press was gagged and Congress was still facing ban. New Viceroy Wellington and Secretary of State had adopted a tough stance against Gandhi and they decided not to negotiate any further like the former Viceroy Irwin did earlier.

With great apprehension, Mahatma Gandhi relaunched the Civil Disobedience Movement. For over a year, the movement continued, but by 1934 it lost its momentum due to severe repression by government.

Causes of Failure of 2nd Phase of Civil Disobedience Movement –

  • Major Leaders were Behind Bars
  • Poor Support from Peasantry
  • Inertia and apparent disappointment from Gandhian politics

To break the lull in activities, council entry was suggested on the line of Swarajists by Satayamurti which was later endorsed by likes of Bhulabhai Desai, M A Ansari. As a result Congress participated in Central Legislative Elections of 1934 and it won a heavy majority.

Within Congress as well, an alternative ideological development happened and Congress Socialist Party was born as a left leaning faction.

In the meanwhile, many nationalists thought that the struggle against the British could not be won through non-violence. In 1928, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) was founded at a meeting in Ferozeshah Kotla ground in Delhi as an offshoot of Hindustan Republican Association visibly influenced by socialist ideas. Amongst its leaders were Bhagat Singh, Jatin Das and Ajoy Ghosh. In a series of dramatic actions in different parts of India, the HSRA targeted some of the symbols of British power. In April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Dutta threw a bomb in the Legislative Assembly. In the same year there was an attempt to blow up the train that Lord Irwin was travelling in.

New Viceroy Willigdon who replaced Irwin believed that government did a major mistake by reaching a truce with Congress and by putting Gandhi on equal par. He was determined this time to crush Congress.


Background – In the wake of inconclusive Round Table Talks, British government had declared that, if a consensus was not reached on separate representation of minorities, a unilateral communal award will be made. Government kept its promise in form of Communal Award of 1932.

The Communal Award was by the British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald on 4 August 1932 to grant separate electorates to minority communities in India, including Muslims, Sikhs, and Dalit (then known as the Depressed Classes or Untouchables) in India (during Round Table Discussions, separate electorate was demanded by not only Muslim Leaders but by Ambedkar and other minorities as well). The depressed classes were assigned a number of seats to be filled by election from special constituencies in which voters belonging to the depressed classes only could vote.

The award was opposed for provision of separate electorate by Congress and other nationalist leaders and was viewed as a part of ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of Britain. The Award was highly controversial and opposed by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi called the award as – ‘English Attack on Hindu-Muslim Unity’. He argued that what Dalits need is eradication of untouchability and discrimination and not further division. In the award he saw similar consequences of Muslim having separate electorate and ultimately demanding a separate nation. He began an indefinite hunger strike at Yerwada Central Jail from September 20, 1932 to protest this Award.

Communal Award was supported by many among the minority communities, most notably the Dalit leader, Dr. B R Ambedkar. Madan Mohan Malviya acted as a mediator between Gandhi and Ambedkar and after lengthy negotiations, Gandhi reached an agreement with Dr. Ambedkar to have a single Hindu electorate, with Dalits having seats reserved within it (in fact, seats for Dalits were increased after the Pact). This is called the Poona Pact. Electorates for other religions like Muslim and Sikh remained separate.

After this pact, Gandhi put renewed effort towards upliftment of Dalits. He started a magazine called – Harijan and he also spent one year in community service of Dalits and spreading the message of untouchability. However, orthodox Hindus sternly opposed his efforts.

Soon after that in 1934, Gandhi renounced the membership of Congress and expressed his desire to put Jawahar in as next leader. As a result, Jawahar was elected president in 1935 and 1936.


Background – Third Round Table Conference happened in 1932, and no Congress leader participated. However its discussion and discussions of earlier Round Tables and Simon Commission recommendations led to the enactment of 1935 Act.

The Act provided for an all India federal structure as a union of Princely States and Provinces. Inclusion of Princely States was an idea to act as a balance against the rising nationalism in the provinces.

Features of the Act –

  • It introduced Federalism in India with Princely States and Provinces being its parts and introduced Federal List, Provincial List and Concurrent List. However, this never became a reality for Princely States didn’t approve this.
  • Provincial Autonomy replaced Provincial Dyarchy (after unpopular nature of Dyarchy in Provinces, Simon Commission suggested its abolition) i.e. Responsible Government was introduced in Provinces. Governor has to now act on the advice of the ministers responsible to Provincial Legislature.
  • Bicameralism was introduced in 6 out of 11 Provinces.
  • There was also to be a bicameral federal legislature in which the (princely) states were given disproportionate weight age. Moreover, the representatives of the states were not to be elected by the people, but appointed directly by the rulers.
  • NWFP was given status of province and Burma was separated from India (Burma became part of India only during British)
  • Diarchy at federal/central level was introduced and abolished at provincial level
  • Emergency power was vested in Governor General and Governors in Provinces – The Governor-General and the Governors were to be appointed by the British government. Though power was given to provinces, the Governors were given special powers. They could veto legislative action. Moreover, they retained full control over the civil service and the police. Governor General was given ‘Emergency Powers’.
  • Separate Electorate was provided for Hindu and Muslims as was provided by 1909 and 1919 Acts too.
  • Limited Franchise – Only 14 per cent (1/6) of the total population in British India was given the right to vote. Even this legislature, in which the princes were once again to be used to check and counter the nationalist elements, was denied any real Power.
  • Key Portfolios were kept under British Control – Defense and foreign affairs remained outside its control, while the Governor-General retained special control over the other subjects.
  • Lower house termed as – Legislative Assembly and Upper House as Council of States
  • Vote on Budget was also allowed
  • ‘Vote of No Confidence’ and ‘Idea of Collective Representation’ was introduced.
  • There were also other features of the act like – Establishment of a Federal Court, A Federal Bank (RBI), Federal Public Service Commission etc.

Foreign rule was to continue as before; only a few popularly elected ministers were to be added to the structure and the Congress condemned the Act as ‘totally disappointing’. The act was condemned by one and all. Jawaharlal Nehru termed this Act as – ‘The Act is a car without engines, but all brakes’.

  • It didn’t mention the Dominion Status as was promised by Simon Commission.
  • It also carried on provision of separate electorate which would also lead to further communal divide.
  • Separate electorate was long opposed by Congress.

On the basis of the Act, the first ‘provincial elections’ were held in February 1937 and they conclusively demonstrated that a large majority of Indian people supported the Congress and it recorded majority in 8 out of 11 provinces. Congress ministries were formed in July 1937 in seven out of eleven provinces. However they had to work under supervision of governor.

Despite the criticism of the Act at that time, many of the provisions of the Act were adopted by the government of India after Independence and this act was landmark in terms of concessions provided to Indians and the changes that it proposed in the governing system. This is the reason that it is termed as ‘Point of no return to freedom’.

Congress for the first time officially demanded establishment of a Constitutional Assembly in its 1935 session based on adult franchise to draft Constitution.


Jawahar Lal Nehru, Bose, Congress Socialists and Communists were against the idea of entering into Provincial elections which were scheduled to be held in 1937 for the first time according to the 1935 Act. According to them it defeats their purpose because –

  • Participating would dilute their stand and will be akin to cooperating with the repressive government
  • Assuming offices after elections means having ‘responsibility without power’ as the governing structure has not changed much
  • Assuming the office would take away the revolutionary character that movement has assumed since 1919

Others argued that while focus of congress is still on the activities outside the legislature, entering the legislatures is only a short term tactic to bust the Act of 1935 from within and to practically demonstrate the hollowness of the Act. It was also termed as a part of all round strategy with ultimate goal as independence. With this assurance, Jawaharlal started his campaign extensively in 1936 and in his election manifesto made three things clear –

  1. Goal of Congress is still attainment of Independence
  2. Congress still rejects 1935 Act
  3. Formation of Constituent Assembly is still top priority of Congress (INC in 1936 for the time proposed to constitute the Constitution Assembly to form the Indian Constitution)

Congress won in majority of provinces with exception of Bengal, Sindh, Punjab, Assam, NWFP etc and it formed ministries in many of them. To match their acts with their electoral promises, leaders took the steps like – reduced their salaries, traveled through trains in second and third class. It initiated many reforms, passed many legislation, freed political prisoners.

The elections also had another undesirable outcome. It widened the rift between Congress and the League and it became more communal and more strident in its demand of a separate nation. The Congress’s failure to mobilise the Muslim masses in the 1930s allowed the League to widen its social support. The Congress’s rejection of the League’s desire to form a joint Congress League government in the United Provinces in 1937 also annoyed the League.

However, its performance was limited by various factors, especially in the field of agrarian reforms –

  • Inherent power still lied with center and Viceroys and Governors had the power to veto their resolutions
  • Congress had little financial resources as lion’s share was taken by the Center
  • Vested interests withing Congress also scuttled its plans of reforms and infightings and bickering further aggravated it

According to mechanism of bicameralism in provinces, most of the provinces, there were ‘legislative councils’ also which had elections on the basis of limited franchise and were occupied by the landlords, zamindars and other elites. A lower house support was often not enough to pass a legislation and this led to compromise on many issues including agrarian reforms which ran counter to the interests of these members.

Muslim League and 1937 election – The election came as a great disappointment for Muslim League. Jinnah was called from London to lead Muslim League in 1935, but despite that it secured only around 100 seats out of the allotted 480 seats. This failure left it with no choice but to resort to communalism and it got manifested in the 1937 by elections in UP when it rallied the voters on the name of Allah and Kuran. Nehru strongly condemned this Act. This was turning point in the history of communalism in India when it took an extreme form which was aggravated in coming years.


Gandhi had retired from Congress in 1934 and Congress under Jawahar’s leadership has acquired a taste of socialism and radicalism. Subhas was chosen unanimously in February 1938 session of Congress at Haripura to built upon that trend. In that session under the leadership of Bose, Congress passed a resolution to opposition to the impending imperialistic war.

Difference between Gandhi and Subhash – However, Gandhi had a sympathetic corner for British in this hour of difficulty and he also didn’t like the idea of Subhash to join the other European forces in a bid to bring freedom to India. Other issue was Subhash’s plan for industrialised development, which Gandhi opposed in favor of grass root level changes. These differences came in open in the next session of Congress of 1939 in Tirupuri when Gandhi fielded Patabhai Sitaramaiya as candidate and he was defeated and Bose re-elected.

Bose declared its opposition to fascism and imperialism alike and passed a resolution in this effect along with a resolution demanding independence and forming a constituent assembly. He also openly criticized moderate policies of Congress and called for an aggressive movement. This open criticism irked many veterans and 12 of the working Committee members (out of 15) resigned and in the same year Govind Vallabh Pant moved a resolution to form a new working committee under Gandhian leadership. The resolution was passed and Bose stepped down from presidency.

Congress Socialist Party refrained from voting and Bose called it as a betrayal. He formed Forwards Block in 1939, first as a part of Congress then parted ways with it.


In 1939 World war broke out and British declared participation of India in War without permission from or consultation with Indians. League (on conditional support that constitutional decisions will be taken with its consent) and Princely States supported the War.

Gandhi expressed sympathy, while Subhash urged for taking benefit of this situation to launch a full blown movement. Nehru was in middle and argued for refraining from the war and at the same time not taking advantage. ‘Tell me the difference between Imperialism and Fascism’, remarked Nehru.

British offered Dominion Status to India after War, but Congress found it too little too late. All Congress ministers resigned from provinces in 1939 in protest of alleged involvement of India in war without consultation with Indians. League celebrated 22 December 1939 as ‘Deliverance Day’ from Congress rule.

Congress agreed to provide conditional support and put forward two demands –

  1. After the war constituent assembly should be convened
  2. Immediately some form of responsible government should be established at the center

Viceroy Linglithgo rejected these demands. Government tried to use Chamber of Princes and Muslim League against Congress. It further wanted to regain lost ground on pretext of war.

A nationalist movement was not initiated by Congress during the war because –

  • Gandhi and other leaders thought that cause of Allied Forces was just and it will be unfair to go for a national movement at this difficult hour
  • Secondly, communal passions were at an all times high and this threatened any new national movement also and a movement may degenerate into a communal riot

Most importantly, leaders thought that people were not ready for the mass movement at this stage.

Gandhi wrote – ‘We don’t seek our Independence out of British ruin’. This view was summed up in the Ramgarh Session of the Congress when the working committee passed a resolution to this effect.

However, as the condition of Allied Forces aggravated and a danger loomed even on India, Congress agreed for a conditional support if the British free India after the war.

To negotiate the demands of Indians of Complete dependence Viceroy made an offer known as – ‘August Offer’ – which didn’t talk of independence and was rejected by both League and Congress.

In the meanwhile in 1940, Muslim league demanded a ‘separate constituency’ (still a demand for separate nation was not there) for Muslims in its Lahore Resolution.

Gandhi launched an Individual Satyagraha in the meanwhile.

Amidst this, British PM sent Stafford Cripps to forge a compromise with Gandhi and Congress and seek their support for war. Talks broke down, however, after the Congress insisted that if it was to help the British defend India from the Axis powers, then the Viceroy had first to appoint an Indian as the Defense Member of his Executive Council.


Amidst all the confusion over war and Congress’ dilemma of joining the war, Muslim League passed a resolution in its 1940 session declaring that ‘Muslims are not a minority, but a separate nation’. This gave rise to ‘Two nation Theory’. It called for the creation of ‘independent states’ for Muslims in British India. The constituent units of these states were to be autonomous and sovereign (The name ‘Pakistan’ had been suggested in 1933 by a Cambridge scholar Rehmat Ali, but was not formally announced in this resolution).


The August offer 1940 was made on August 8, 1940 by Viceroy Lord Linglithgow, the eve of the Battle of Britain in which it was beleagured to seek support of India by providing some concessions on front of self-rule that were earlier demanded by Indians.

The offer in principle accepted the demand for Constituent Assembly.

The Viceroy at the time, Lord Linlithgow, made a fresh offer that promised –

  • Dominion Status
  • The expansion of the governor-general’s Executive Council to include more Indians
  • The Establishment of an Advisory War council
  • Recognition of Indians’ right to frame their own constitution (after the war would end), framed ‘mainly’ by Indians.

In return, it was hoped that all parties and communities in India would cooperate in Britain’s war efforts.

However, the Congress as well as League rejected this offer, and Gandhi viewed it as having ‘widened the gulf between Nationalist India and the British ruler’ and he launched ‘Individual Satyagraha’ as result. Nehru reacted that – ‘Dominion Status is dead as door nail’.

However, this offer for the first time recognized right of Indians to frame their own constitution. Further, for the first time Dominion Status was explicitly offered.


Background – In 1940, after refusal of August Offer, Congress was in a fix again. While some wanted to organize a mass Civil Disobedience movement they saw it as a right opportunity as Britain was entangled in war, others – mainly Gandhi – wanted to go for Individual Satyagraha as he didn’t want to take advantage of difficult situation of the British.

Its aim was to show that nationalist patience was not a symbol of weakness and people made no difference between colonialism and Nazism. Further, it was a warning to government as well as giving it another opportunity.

There were three people who were nominated by Gandhi himself as Individual satyagrahi. First was Acharya Vinoba Bhave. He was arrested soon after he started it. Other two were Jawaharlal Nehru and Brahama Dutt. They too were arrested. Individual Satyagraha was very limited and was withdrawn by end of 1940. However it was relaunched in 1941 and this times it had some mass appeal and thousands were arrested.


Background – In 1939 the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, declared India a party to war without consulting Indian political leaders or the elected provincial representatives. This caused considerable resentment in India and provoked the resignation of elected Congress Party Provincial Governments in 1939 (which were elected in 1937), giving rise to the prospect of public revolt and political disorder in India. Government tried to reconcile with August Offer, but that was rejected and instead Individual Satyagraha was launched. News that ‘Atlantic Charter’ won’t be applicable to Indians (which was signed between US and Britain and provided the freedom to people to chose their own government) further angered Indian leaders.

It was another attempt in late March 1942 by the British government to secure Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in World War II. The offer was made in a situation in which, Britain was pushed against the wall in wake of rising fascism aggression –

  • As Japan approached towards Asia, British felt a need to garner support of British Indian Army.
  • There was also pressure from Allied forces to seek Indian cooperation.

Pandit Nehru and Mulana Azad were official negotiators with the Cripps Mission. Cripps spent a major chunk of his time in bringing congress and league on the same table. But, there was little trust between the British and Congress by this stage, and both sides felt that the other was concealing its true plans.

Major Features of Cripps Mission were (Almost same as August Offer) –

  • Dominion Status with later right to withdraw from Commonwealth
  • Reconstitution of Viceroy’s Executive Council
  • Constitutional Making Body for India – Consisting of elected members of provinces and representatives from princely states
  • War Executive Council – A war executive council was proposed having Indian representation, however Defense of India will be retained by the government
  • Provinces may have separate Constitution

Unlike August offer, it gave offer of Constitution making by Indians alone  and not ‘mainly’ by Indians as proposed in August Offer. Secondly, it was given right to withdraw from Commonwealth.

Failure of Cripps Mission –

  • It spent most of the time in negotiations with Congress and League which remain adamant
  • Viceroy and Secretary of State worked from behind to sabotage its efforts
  • Gandhi’s opposition led the Indian National Congress to reject the British offer
  • Cripps’ modification of the original British offer, which provided for no real transfer of power and offered only Dominion Status which was rejected by Indians
  • Another major reason was the Cripps incapacity to bargain, he was told to not go beyond the boundaries of Draft Plan

While the demand of Congress was of Independence, Gandhi said that Cripps’s offer of Dominion status after the war was a ‘Post dated cheque drawn on a crashing bank’.

Major objections of Congress were dominion status. It also objected to the basis of nomination of the princely states through nomination and not by people themselves. Right of provinces to secede also went against plan of united India. Muslim League criticized idea of a single union. Depressed felt that partition will leave them at the mercy of Hindu and Muslim majority elite.


Background – Failure of August offer and Cripps Mission has left Indians with little choice and government has also shown repressive tendencies as witnessed in Individual Satyagraha. Government was also adamant with its lame proposal of Dominion Status. There was a general price rise and hardship for common man in wake of war. News of reversals suffered by British in War and expectations of its imminent collapse as the Imperial Japanese Army advanced closer to India with the conquest of Burma, Indians perceived an inability upon the part of the British to defend Indian soil.

When the British remained unresponsive, Gandhi and the Congress began planning a major public revolt, the Quit India movement – the first truly pan Indian mass movement. This period concurred with the rise of the Indian National Army, led by Subhash Chandra Bose. The British response to the Quit India movement was to throw most of the Congress leadership in jail. Jinnah took a separate line and instead supported British and League even participated in provincial elections.

In the 8th August Bombay session, Congress passed the Quit India resolution at Gowalia Tank and its draft was prepared by Jawahar Lal Nehru and seconded by Patel. Gandhi called for a ‘Do or Die’ and gave slogans of ‘Quit India’ and ‘Bharat Choro’. Very next day of Gowalia Tank meet, major leaders were arrested under ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ launched by the British.

Common people showed unprecedented heroism, but they also faced unprecedented repression. On the name of war, government had armed itself with draconian provisions and laws.

There were other events like – Forcing people in Bengal and Orissa to restrict the use of their boats in fear of Japanese capture and use against British, news from South East were that British only evacuated white natives when Japanese attacked and thus leaving locals on their fate.

This lead to anger and confusion and people came on roads, hartaals ensued and clashes happened. Underground activities started and even parallel governments were formed like the one in Satara. A new underground leadership emerged led by Achyut Patwardhan, R M Lohia, Sucheta Kriplani, Chhotubhai Puranik, R P Goenka and J P Narayan.

A new event happened in 1943, when Gandhi announced a 10 day fast in Jail in response to British government’s exhortation to condemn the violence committed by people. Instead of condemning the violence, Gandhi fasted on. It raised public anger many a fold. He issued specific instructions to various groups –

  • Government Servants – Don’t resign, but declare your allegiance to the Congress.
  • Soldiers – Don’t leave the army, but don’t ire on your compatriots
  • Students – If confident leave the studies
  • Peasants – If Zamindars are pro-government, don’t pay the rent. If they are anti government, pay.
  • Princes – Support the masses and accept the sovereignty of people.

The movement was short lived, but significant as it marked a new high in mass participation and made it amply clear to British that it will no longer be possible to suppress the masses. Students and the peasantry served as the backbone, middle class and bureaucracy sided government.

Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the most fervent supporter of Gandhi’s proposal for an all-out campaign of civil disobedience during Quit India Movement. He participated in Gandhi’s call for individual disobedience, and was arrested in 1940 and imprisoned for nine months. He also opposed the proposals of the Cripps’ mission in 1942.

Muslim league after the Quit India came with its own ‘Divide and Quit’ demand.

Features of Quit India Movement –

  • It was a spontaneous movement
  • It was not non-violent like earlier movements of Gandhi, it was first violent movement and the last one too launched by Gandhi. There were many incidences of violence
  • It didn’t attract labor class in general
  • Gandhi didn’t call for the government servants to leave their jobs but declare their support to Congress. Similarly he asked army not to leave, but not fire on compatriots.

Phases of Quit India Movement –

  • Urban Phase – Lasted for only one week
  • Rural Phase – Sabotage of government communication lines and transportation. It lasted for a few months around 3-4 months
  • Under ground movement – it was the most violent and long lasting. All India Congress Radio was operated by Usha Mehta. Asif Ali and Aruna Asif Ali trained everyone to operate multiple centers.
  • Parallel Governments – Various parallel governments were formed –
    • Balia, UP – Under Chittu Pandey;
    • Tumluk, Bengal – Tamralipta National Government of Tumluk was different as it set up separate police, and revenue system. It also carried out relief work, supplied paddy from rich to poor. They also had an active Women’s Wing ‘Bidyut Vahini’. Its major leaders were – Ajoy Kumar Mukharjee, Matangini Hazara, Satish Chandra Samanta, Sushil Kumar Dhara.
    • Satara, Maharashtra – Under Achyut Patwardhan, YB Chavan, Nana Patil etc. Village libraries were formed and Nyayadan Mandals were organized, prohibition campaigns were organized.

Quit India repression was one of the most violent repressions since repression of 1857. Around 10,000 people lost their lives.

It made in a way final assertion of the will of people who were determined now not be held back by any false promises.


Background – Muslim League was intransigent on any issue of conciliation with Congress. Gandhi wanted a united India and sought to break this deadlock and on C Rajaji’s inducement he got ready for talks. C Rajagopalachari proposed a formula (or C R formula or Rajaji formula) to solve the political deadlock between the All India Muslim League and Indian National Congress on independence of India from the British. It was presented via a pamphlet ‘The Way Out’.

It offered the League the after independence, Pakistan based on plebiscite of all the peoples in the regions where Muslims made a majority and in turn Muslim League should support the demand for Independence. This in some way gave approval for separate Pakistan to which as per C Rajaji, Gandhi also agreed as formula had provision that after Independence if plebiscite called for a separate sovereign Pakistan, so it be.

Although the formula was opposed even within the Congress party, Gandhi used it as his proposal in his talks with Jinnah in 1944. However, Jinnah rejected the proposal and the talks failed. Jinnah refused to accept the Rajaji Formula as Itdid not meet the League’s full demand for Pakistan. The provision of plebiscite in the formula didn’t go down well with the Muslim leaders. They agreed for plebiscite only in some areas and not in all places.

In talks with Gandhi also, Gandhi loathed the idea of two separate nations which lead to their failure. Gandhi was adamant that any talk of partition should be held after British leave India which was not acceptable to Jinnah.

Hence, Jinnah rejected the initiative, telling his Council that it was intended to ‘torpedo’ the ‘Lahore resolution’; it was ‘grossest travesty’, a ‘ridiculous proposal’ and he termed it as – ‘a shadow and a husk, maimed, mutilated Pakistan’.


To end the deadlock another attempt was made. Bhullabhi Desai and Liaqat Ali Khan came up with a draft of forming an ‘interim government’ at the center, consisting of –

  • Equal number of representatives nominated by League and Congress
  • 20% seats reserved for minorities


As the Gandhi-Jinnah talks over Rajaji formula failed, government offered another way to reconcile the differences between the two. The Shimla Conference was a 1945 meeting between Viceroy Wavell and

the major political leaders of India at Simla, India to discuss composition of Viceroy’s Executive Council. Convened to agree on and approve the Wavell Plan for Indian self-government, it reached a potential agreement for the self-rule of India that provided separate representation to Muslims and reduced majority powers for both communities in their majority regions.

However, talks stalled on the issue of selection of Muslim representatives.The conference broke down on the insistence of Jinnah that his party should have an exclusive right to nominate Muslim members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. This was something which the Congress could not concede without repudiating its national composition and saw this as an attempt to brand itself a caste Hindu party.

This scuttled the conference, and perhaps the last viable opportunity for a united, independent India. When the Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League reconvened under the Cabinet Mission the next year, the Indian National Congress was far less sympathetic to the Muslim League’s requests despite Jinnah’s approval of the British plan.

In the meanwhile, Government changed in Britain and hostile Churchill was replaced by Clement Attlee of Labor Party. Pethwick Lawrence became new secretary of state.

Further, elections were held in 1945-46 in India too and both Muslim League and Congress won heavily in their respective constituencies. This further bolstered the confidence of Muslim League.


INA was first formed by Mohan Singh and was later reorganized by Rash Behari Bose. Mohan Singh, Niranjan Shah Gill and Mohammed Akram were the Indian expats who for the first time originally formed INA with the help of Japan. However, later due to disagreement with Japanese, INA was disbanded and they were again made PoW.

Rash Bihari Bose also contributed significantly to unite various local Indian Independence Leagues in East Asian countries to form All India Independence League. Command of INA was given to Subhash when he arrived in 1943.

Subhash formed a provisional government in Singapore and formed INA headquarters in Rangoon and Singapore and he famously gave the call of ‘Delhi Chalo’. Netaji hoisted Indian flag in Andaman in December 1943 and renamed the islands as – ‘Shahid’ and ‘Swaraj’ in memory of martyrs.

In 1944, INA started to advance along the eastern border and Kohima was taken. In the Imphal Campaign one Indian battalion led by Shah Nawaz was also allowed to go along Japanese. However, the failure of Imphal Campign and unequal treatment by Japanese demoralized INA soldiers. With the Japanese surrender in 1945, Azad Hind Fauj’s dream to liberate India was also shattered.

After surrender, famous INA trials at Red Fort took place in 1945-46. This saw massive rally of people and un-precedented emotional support for the brave patriots. Though the court martial held found the officers guilty, government under pressure released them. Trials garnered huge support cutting across the community lines as one of the main leaders was Hindu, Prem Sehgal, one was Muslim, Shah Nawaz Hussain and one a Sikh, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon.

During war time, Indian Armies were also employed to restore French and Dutch colonies and this also fuelled anti-imperialist sentiments as Britain on one hand was talking independence on the other hand was promoting colonialism.

In Calcutta, an INA officer Rashid Ali was sentenced for 7 years and this caused much anger.

In June 1944, with the end of the war in sight, Gandhiji was released from prison. Later that year he held a series of meetings with Jinnah, seeking to bridge the gap between the Congress and the League.

The prevailing conditions made it amply clear to the British that holding India away from Independence will no longer be feasible in a post war arena because –

  • It had become weak
  • Peer pressure from US and Russia
  • Signals from INA for other possible armed struggles

Final straw came by RIN mutiny, which proved that army which used to be the stronghold of Britsh cannot remain insulated to national events, further strike by Signals Corps at Jabalpur also indicated similar things. These events broke the notion of loyal-Indians and they realized that Indians can no longer be relied for administrative work.

In 1945, a Labour government came to power in Britain under prime minister Clement Attlee and committed itself to granting independence to India. Meanwhile, back in India, the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, brought the Congress and the League together for a series of talks. Elections took place with separate electorate and both Muslim league and congress participated and both recorded overwhelming majority in their respective reserved seats. And it made the political polarization complete, which culminated in the partition.


It started with an incident when a sailor on board of INS Talwar wrote ‘Quit India’ and he was arrested for this, however causes were deep rooted. Racil discrimination, unpalatable food, poor working conditions, abuse by senior officers, INA trials were the causes.

The Royal Indian Navy mutiny (also called the Bombay Mutiny) encompasses a total strike and subsequent mutiny by Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay (Mumbai) harbour on 18 February 1946. From the initial flashpoint in Bombay, the mutiny spread and found support throughout British India, from Karachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.

It was repressed by force by the British Royal Navy. Only the Communist Party supported the strikers; the Congress and the Muslim League condemned it.

Two interpretations of movement –

Revolt for Freeedom – Nationalist historians on the far left have looked at the mutiny as a revolt against the British Raj and imperial rule.

Revolt against Bad Condition of Sailors – However naval historians argue that internal conditions in the Royal Indian Navy were more important sources of unrest.

Notably, the mutinying ships hoisted three flags tied together — those of the Congress, Muslim League, and the Red Flag of the Communist Party of India (CPI), signifying the unity and demarginalisation of communal issues among the mutineers.

Rallies were organized in support of mutineers, food and essential items were sent on ships, hartals were organized.

The mutiny was called off following a meeting between the President of the Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC) and Vallabh Bhai Patel of the Congress, who had been sent to Bombay to settle the crisis. Patel issued a statement calling on the strikers to end their action, which was later echoed by a statement issued in Calcutta by Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League.

The mutiny was significant because till that day there has been no revolt from the armed forces and this had a moral effect on masses and it electrified the whole nation. It prompted British government to treat INA prisoners with leniency and only those who were accused of murder, and brutal crime were put to trial. Soon Cabinet Mission also followed.


In post world war time, Indians have revealed their heroic tendencies during Quit India and INA. New struggle took place in the form of massive movement against conviction of INA soldiers. Under enormous pressure, government set them free.

Change in attitude of government in post war period was because of –

  • Power equation changed in post war period and both USA and Russia supported cause of independence of colonies including India.
  • War caused huge economic drain on Britain
  • There was a government change in Britain and Labor party won elections. Hostile Churchill was replaced by a more pragmatic Clemen Attlee who supported Indian cause.
  • British soldiers were haggard after war and were not willing on further foreign jaunts.
  • British faith in Indian army and administrative machinery was also broken after RIN mutiny and Signals corps at Jabalpur.
  • Congress as well as Muslim League performed well in provincial elections giving boost to support for domestic rule.


After failure of Gandhi-Jinnha talks (1944) and Wavell plan (1945) Cabinet Mission was sent to India to –

  • Discuss the formation of interim government and outline of future government
  • Setting up of a constituent assembly.

Cabinet mission stood for united India. It was a last opportunity to avoid partition.

Attitude of British Government was now considerably changed due to following reasons –

  • War wearied away UK and it was no more a global superpower.
  • New Labor government was more sympathetic to Indian demands.
  • There was an anti-imperialist wave in South East Asia.
  • British soldiers were haggard and economy in a shambles.
  • RIN mutiny was a strong signal that Indians will no longer subjugate to imperial oppression

A Cabinet Mission sent in the summer of 1946 failed to get the Congress and the League to agree on a federal system that would keep India together while allowing the provinces a degree of autonomy.

The Cabinet Mission toured the country for three months and recommended a loose three-tier confederation. India was to remain united. It was to have a weak central government controlling only foreign affairs, defence and communications with the existing provincial assemblies being grouped into three groups. Initially all the major parties accepted this plan. It made following proposals initially –

  • A united Dominion of India would be given independence with opt-out clause.
  • Formation of a Constituent Assembly
  • There will be compulsory grouping with three groups.
  • Muslim-majority provinces would be grouped in two groups (Group B and C) – Baluchistan, Sind, Punjab and North-West Frontier Province would form one group, and Bengal and Assam would form another.
  • Hindu-majority provinces in central and southern India would form another group (Group A).
  • The central government would be empowered to run foreign affairs, defence and communications, while the rest of powers and responsibility would belong to the provinces, coordinated by groups. (this provision lend a truly federal structure, which was not acceptable to center leaning congress)
  • Princely states will no longer be under Crown and they will be free to join the successor or continue their relations with Britain.

June 16 Plan – Congress rejected the concept of grouping – while League was vouching for compulsory grouping, Congress wanted a choice for provinces to join any grouping – as well as power to provinces and in this wake a revision was made which envisaged separate states for Hindus and Muslims and a choice for provinces to take any of the sides (Though British suggest that that initially only provinces will be grouped compulsorily, later on after formation of constitution, they will be free to get out of their grouping to other grouping. But Congress rejected it).

Congress later ruled out the June 16 plan also calling it divisive. However Muslim League agreed to it.

Elections of Constituent Assembly in 1946 resulted in huge Congress majority which Jinnah termed as ‘Brute Majority’. This further stoked Muslim League’s apprehensions of Congress dominance in partition and it led to demand for separate nation which was rejected by Congress. The rejection of cabinet mission plan combined with recent Constituent Assembly results led to a resurgence of confrontational politics beginning with the Muslim League’s call for general strike known as‘Direct action day’ and they called for – ‘Lekar rahenge Pakistan, Larkar lenge Pakisatan’.

This led to confrontation on the day and subsequent communal riots and Bihar killings. Only Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan of the NWFP continued to firmly oppose the idea of partition.

In a last bid, Wavell was replaced by Mounbetton for last round of talks, but that too failed.

Out of senior Congress Leaders, it was Patel who was in favor of the Mountbetton Plan.


Since 1940 when the Muslim League raised the Pakistan proposal at its Lahore convention, it had adopted an increasingly hostile attitude. Talks after talks failed including Cripps Mission talks, CR Formula (Gandhi Jinnah Talks), Desai-Liaquat Pact and finally Cabinet Mission. In the 1946, the Muslim League contested the elections on the plank of Pakistan, and an overwhelming 97% of the Muslim population of Bengal voted for Muslim League, but it also resulted in huge Congress majority which Jinnah termed as ‘Brute Majority’. This further stoked Muslim League’s apprehensions of Congress dominance in partition. The Muslim League refused to accept the Cabinet Mission plan and also refused to join the Interim Government or Constituent Assembly. Congress on the other hand rejected the demand for a separate state for Muslims.

The rejection of cabinet mission plan combined with recent Constituent Assembly row led to a resurgence of confrontational politics beginning with the Muslim League’s ‘Direct action day’ (16 August 1946) as a general strike in Calcutta and they called for – ‘Lekar rahenge Pakistan, Larkar lenge Pakisatan’.

On that day meeting would be held all over the country to explain League’s resolution. In Bengal, the only Muslim League ruled province in British India, the day was declared a public holiday. However things turned ugly on the day of strike after initial skirmeshes between the two communities. Kolkata witnessed an unprecedented mass violence in the next five days, leaving 4,000 dead. Violence in Calcutta sparked off further religious riots in the surrounding regions of Noakhali, Bihar, United Province (modern Uttar Pradesh), Punjab, and the North Western Frontier Province. These events sowed the seeds for the eventual Partition of India.

Noakhali genocide was a series of massacres, rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindus and loot and arson of Hindu properties, perpetrated by the Muslim community in the districts of Muslim dominated Noakhali and Tipperah in the Chittagong Division of Bengal in October–November 1946. Gandhi, camped in Noakhali for four months and toured the district in a mission to restore peace and communal harmony.


Background – The failure of the Cabinet Mission was followed by the collapse of the Interim Government. Furthermore, by the end of 1946 communal violence increased in the country and the British feared that India would settle for a civil war. In such a tumultuous situation, Lord Mountbatten replaced Lord Wavell as Viceroy of India in 1947.

Mountbatten’s formula was to divide India and at the same time retain maximum possible unity.

The actual division between the two new dominions of India and Pakistan was accomplished according to what has come to be known as the 3rd June Plan or Mountbatten Plan. It was announced at a press conference by Mountbatten on 4 June 1947, and the date of independence was also announced – 15 August 1947.

The main points of the plan were –

  • Partition – Muslim-dominated areas may be separated to form a Dominion. In that case such domination would be constituted by a partition of Bengal and the Punjab Hindus and Muslims in Punjab and Bengal legislative assemblies would meet and vote for partition. If a simple majority of either group wanted partition, then these provinces would be divided.
  • Referendum for NWFP and Sylhet – The fate of North West Frontier Province and Sylhet district of Bengal was to be decided by a referendum.
  • India would be free by 15th August 1947.
  • Princely States – Independence of princely states was ruled out. They would either join India or Pakistan. Independence for Bengal also ruled out.
  • A boundary commission to be set up in case of partition.
  • The Muslim league’s demand of a separate state was thus conceded. Congress’ position on unity was also taken into account while integrating the princely states to India.

Gandhi and Azad had been totally opposed to Mountbatten Plan as it confirmed the division of country.


Indian Independence Act was passed in July 1947, which specified the following –

  • The British rule of India should be over on the midnight of August 15, 1947.
  • An independent dominion of India shall be created out of the United Provinces, Central Provinces, Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency, the Carnatic, East Punjab, West Bengal, Assam and the Northeast Frontier Agency. The territories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep Islands are also turned over to the Indian Dominion.
  • An independent dominion of Pakistan shall be created out of the provinces of West Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Sindh and East Bengal.
  • The all Princely states that were officially related to British Empire were made free from all the treaties and relationships and they could decide which dominion to join.
  • Both the Indian and Pakistan Dominions would be members of the British Commonwealth and was allowed to leave whenever they pleased.
  • Both Dominions of India and Pakistan were completely self-governing in their internal affairs, foreign affairs and national security but the British monarch will continue to be their head of state, represented by the Governor-General of India and a new Governor-General of Pakistan.


  • Right after the first rebellion of 1857, a section of Muslims Syed Ahmed Khan felt that Muslims are not getting due representation in India in every field.
  • Muslim League – Muslim League was founded in 1906.
  • Separate Electorate – It is argued that separate electorate of 1909 was one of the major acts that deepened the rift between Hindu and Muslims.
  • Lucknow Session of 1916 – It defacto gave consent to separate electorate.
  • Non-Partition in Civil Disobedience – Participation of Muslims in Civil Disobedience, 1930, was negligible
  • Demand of Autonomous Region – Iqbal for the first time in 1930 put forward demand of an autonomous region for the Muslims
  • Pakistan – Rehmat Ali a Cambridge scholar coined the term Pakistan in 1933 (Punjab, Afghaistan, Kashmir, Sindh, Baluchistan)
  • Congress Attitude in 1937 Elections – In 1937 elections after gaining majority, Congress denied forming coalition with League
  • Lahore Session and ‘Two Nation Theory’ – 1940 – The Lahore Session of League passed a resolution with Theory of Two Nations.
  • Divide and Quit – While Congress called for Quit India, League called for ‘Divide and Quit’ in 1942
  • Direct Action Day, 1946 – Muslim League called a general strike in August 1946 and called it Direct Action Day. Foreign government instead of curbing the riots that ensued after call of Direct Action Day rather encouraged these by their divisive policies perhaps to play the two newly independent states against each other.
  • Religious Angle – The efforts of the Arya Samaj to bring back to the Hindu fold (shuddhi) those who had recently converted to Islam irked Muslims. Hindus were angered by the rapid spread of tabligh (propaganda) and tanzim (organisation) after 1923.Other developments like Hindu groups like Hindu Mahasabha (1915), RSS, celebration of Hindu festivals etc further reinforced the Hindu Identity.

In the end, the secular and radical rhetoric of the Congress merely alarmed conservative Muslims and the Muslim landed elite, without winning over the Muslim masses.

Gandhi’s Bid to Restore Peace – He moved to villages of East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) to the villages of Bihar and then to the riot-torn slums of Calcutta and Delhi, in a heroic effort to stop Hindus and Muslims kill each other, careful everywhere to reassure the minority community. In October 1946, Muslims in East Bengal targeted Hindus. Gandhiji visited the area, toured the villages on foot, and persuaded the local Muslims to guarantee the safety of Hindus. Similarly Gandhi persuaded Hindus to

refrain from violence in other parts like Delhi. He held a fast in Delhi which made many to change their hearts and minds. However, the streak of hatred could be ended only with the martyrdom of Gandhi.


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