UPSC History Indian National Movement NCERT Extracts - Struggle for Swaraj-II (1927-1947)

NCERT Extracts - Struggle for Swaraj-II (1927-1947)

Category : UPSC

 Struggle for Swaraj-II (1927-1947) 

 

Emergence of New Forces

 

  • The year 1927 witnessed many portents of national recovery and the emergence of the new trend of socialism. Marxism and other socialist ideas spread rapidly.
  • Politically this force and energy found reflection in the rise of a new left wing in the Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose.
  • Indian youth were becoming active. The first All-Bengal Conference of Students was held in August, 1928 and was presided over by Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Socialist and Communist groups came into existence in the 1920s. The example of the Russian Revolution had aroused interest among many young nationalists.
  • N. Roy became the first Indian to be elected to the leadership of the Communist International.
  • In 1924, the government arrested Muzaffar Ahmed and S.A. Dange, accused them of spreading Communist ideas, and tried them along with other in the Kanpur Conspiracy
  • In 1925, the Communist Party came into existence.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, there was large-scale agitation among tenants for the revision of tenancy laws.
  • The tenants wanted lower rents, protection from eviction and relief from indebtedness.
  • In Gujarat, the peasants protested against official efforts to increase land revenue.
  • The famous Bardoli Satyagraha occurred at this time.
  • In 1928, under the leadership of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel the peasants organised a No Tax Campaign and in the end won their demand.
  • After an all India Conference, the Hindustan Republican Association was founded in October, 1924 to organise an armed revolution.
  • The Government struck at it by arresting a large number of youth and trying them in the Kakori Conspiracy Case (1925).
  • Seventeen were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Four were transported for life, and four, including Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla, were hanged.
  • The revolutionaries soon came under the influence of socialist ideas, and in 1928, under the leadership of Chandra Shekhar Azad changed of name of their organisation to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
  • The brutal lathi-charge on an anti-Simon Commission demonstration on 30 October, 1928 led to a sudden change.
  • The great Punjabi leader Lala Lajpat Rai died as a result of the lathi blows.
  • This enraged the youth and on 17 December, 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated Saunders, the British police officer who had led the lathi charge.
  • Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April, 1929. The bomb did not harm anyone, for it had been deliberately made harmless.
  • The aim was not to kill but, as their leaflet put it, "to make the deaf hear”.
  • Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt could have easily escaped after throwing the bomb but they deliberately chose to be arrested for they wanted to make use of the court as a forum for revolutionary propaganda.
  • In Bengal too revolutionary activities were revived. In April, 1930, a well-planned and large-scale armed raid was organised on the government armoury at Chittagong under the leadership of Surya Sen.
  • A remarkable aspect of the terrorist movement in Bengal was the participation of young women.
  • During the course of this hunger strike Jatin Das, a frail young man, achieved martyrdom after a 63-day long epic fast.
  • Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were executed on 23 March, 1931, despite popular protest.
  • In two of his last letters, the 23-year old Bhagat Singh also affirmed his faith in socialism,
  • He wrote : “The peasants have to liberate themselves not only from foreign yoke but also from the yoke of landlords and capitalists".
  • In his last message of 3 March, 1931 he declared that the struggle in India would continue so long as "a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends.
  • Bhagat Singh defined socialism in a scientific manner - it meant the abolition of capitalism and class domination.
  • He also made it clear that much before 1930 he and his comrads had abandoned terrorism. Bhagat Singh was also fully and consciously secular.
  • In 1926, he had helped establish the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha and had become its first secretary.
  • Chandra ShekharAzad was killed in a shooting encounter with the police in a public park, later renamed Azad Park, at Allahabad in febmary, 1931.
  • Surya Sen was arrested in February, 1933 and hanged soon after.
  • Hundreds of other revolutionaries were arrested and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment, some being sent of the Cellular Jail in the Andamans.
  • In March, 1929, thirty-one prominent trade union and Communist leaders (including three Englishmen) were arrested and, after a trial (Meerut Conspiracy Case) lasting four years, sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.

 

 

Boycott of the Simon Commission

 

  • The catalyst of the new phase of the movement was provided when, in November, 1927, the Bntish Government appointed the Indian Statutory Commission, known popularly after the name of its chairman as the Simon Commission, to go into the question of farther constitutional reform.
  • All the members of the Commission were Englishmen. This announcement was greeted by a chorus of protest from all Indians.
  • What angered them most was the exclusion of Indians from the Commission and the basic notion behind this exclusion that foreigners would discuss and decide upon India's fitness for self government.
  • At its Madras session in 1927, presided over by Dr. Ansari, the National Congress decided to boycott the Commission “at every stage and in every from”.
  • The Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha decided to support the congress decision.
  • The end result was the Nehru Report named after its chief architect, Motilal Nehru, and finalised in August, 1928.
  • Unfortunately, the All Party Convention, held at Calcutta in December, 1928, failed to pass the Nehru Report.
  • On 3 February, the day the Simon Commission reached Bombay, an all India hartal was organised. Wherever the Commission went, it was greeted with hartals and black-flag demonstrations under the slogan “Simon Go Back”.

 

Poorna Swaraj

 

  • Gandhi came back to active politics and attended the Calcutta session of the Congress in December, 1928. He now began to consolidate the nationalist ranks. The first step was to reconcile the militant left-wing of the Congress.
  • Jawaharial Nehru was now made the President of the Congress at the historic Lahore session of 1929.
  • This event had its romantic side too. Son had succeeded father (Motilal Nehru was the President of the Congress in 1928) as the official head of the national movement.
  • It passed a resolution declaring Poorna Swaraj (Complete Independence) to be the Congress objective.
  • On 31 December, 1929 was hoisted the newly adopted tri-colour flag of freedom.
  • 26 January, 1930 was fixed as the first Independence Day, which was to be so celebrated every year with the people taking the pledge that it was "a crime against man and God to submit any longer" to the British rule.
  • The Congress session also announced the launching of a civil disobedience movement.
  • But it did not draw up a programme of struggle. That was left to Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress organisation being placed at his disposal.

 

The Civil Disobedience Movement

 

  • The Civil Disobedience Movement was started by Gandhi on 12 March, 1930 with his famous Dandi March.
  • Together with 78 chosen followers, Gandhi walked nearly 375 km from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a village on the Gujarat sea-coast.
  • On 6 April, Gandhiji reached Dandi, picked up a handful a salt and broke the salt law as a symbol of the Indian people's refusal to live under British-made laws and therefore under British rule.
  • Gandhiji declared : 'The British rule in India has brought about moral, material, cultural, and spiritual ruination of this great country. I regard this rule as a curse. I am out to destroy this system of Government. ...Sedition has become my religion. Ours is a non-violent battle. We are not to kill anybody but it is our dharma to see that the curse of this Government is blotted out".
  • The movement now spread rapidly. Violation of salt laws all over the country was soon followed by defiance of forest laws in Maharashtra, Kamataka and the Central Provinces and refusal to pay the rural chaukidari tax in Eastern India.
  • Everywhere in the country people joined hartals, demonstrations, and the campaign to boycott foreign goods and to refuse to pay taxes.
  • A notable feature of the movement was the wide participation of women. Thousands of them left the seclusion of their homes and offered satyagraha.
  • They took active part in picketing shops selling foreign cloth or liquor.
  • They marched shoulder to shoulder with the men in processions.
  • The movement reached the extreme north-western comer of India and stirred the brave and hardy Pathans.
  • Under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as 'the Frontier GandhF, the Pathans organised the society of Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God), known popularly as Red Shirts.They were pledged to non-violence.
  • Another noteworthy incident occurred in Peshawar at this time.
  • Two platoons of Garhwali soldier refused to open fire on non-violent mass demonstrators even through it meant facing court martial and long terms of imprisonment.
  • The Manipuris took a brave part in it and Nagaland produced a brave heroine in Rani Gaidilieu, who at the age of 13 responded to the call of Gandhi and the Congress. She raised the banner of rebellion against foreign rule. The young Rani was captured in 1932 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • She wasted her bright youthful years in the dark cells of various Assam jails, to be released only in 1947 by the Government of free India.
  • Jawahar Lal Nehru was to write of her in 1937 : "A day will come when India also will remember her and cherish her”.
  • The govemmet's reply to the national struggle was the same as before.
  • Over 90,000 satyagrahis, including Gandhiji and other Congress leaders, were imprisoned. The Congress was declared illegal. The nationalist Press was gagged through strict censorship of news.
  • Meanwhile the British Government summoned in London in 1930 the first Round Table Conference of Indian leaders and spokesmen of the British Government to discuss the Simon Commission Report.
  • The National Congress boycotted the Conference and its proceedings proved abortive.
  • Finally, Lord Irwin and Gandhiji negotiated a settlement in March, 1931.
  • The Government agreed to release those political prisoners who had remained non-violent and conceded the right to make salt for consumption as also the right to peaceful picketing of liquor and foreign cloth shops.
  • The Congress suspended the Civil Disobedience Movement and agreed to take part in the Second Round Table Conference.
  • Many of the Congress leaders, particularly, the younger, left-wing section, were opposed to the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, for the government had not accepted even one of the major nationalist demands.
  • It had not agreed even to the demand that the death sentence on Bhagat Singh and his two comrades be commuted to life imprisonment. But Gandhiji was convinced that Lord Irwin and the British were sincere in their desire to negotiate on Indian demands.
  • Gandhiji went to England in 1931 to attend the Second Round Table Conference.
  • But in spite of his powerful advocacy, the British government refused to concede the basic nationalist demand for freedom on the basis of the immediate grant of Dominion Status.
  • In December, 1931, the Congress started a no-rent, no-tax, campaign.
  • The Government, now headed by the new Viceroy Lord Willingdon, who believed that a major error had been made in signing a truce with the Congress, was this time fully determined and prepared to crush the Congress.
  • On 4 January, 1932, Gandhiji and other leaders of the Congress were again arrested and the Congress declared illegal.
  • Over a lakh of satyagrahis were arrested; the lands, houses, and other property of thousands was confiscated.
  • Nationalist literature was banned while the nationalist newspapers were again placed under censorship.
  • The Civil Disobedience Movement gradually waned. The Congress officially suspended the movement in May, 1933 and withdrew it in May, 1934.
  • Gandhiji once again withdrew from active politics.
  • Once again many political activists felt despair. As early as 1933, Subhas Bose and Vithalbhai Patel had declared that "the Mahatma as a political leader has failed95.

 

The government of India Act, 1935

 

  • The Third Round Table Conference met in London in November, 1932, once again without the leaders of the Congress, its discussions eventually led to the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935.
  • The Act provided for the establishment of an All India Federation and a new system of government for the provinces on the basis of provincial autonomy.
  • The federation was to be based on a union of the provinces of British India and the Princely States. There was to be a bicameral federal legislature in which the States were given disproportionate Weightage.
  • Moreover, the representatives of the states were not to be elected by the people, but appointed directly by the rulers.
  • Only 14 per cent 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.
  • Defence and foreign affairs remained outside its control, while the Governor-General retained special control over the other subjects.
  • The Governor-General and the Governors were to be appointed by the British Government and were to be responsible to it.
  • In the provinces, local power was increased. Minister responsible to the provincial assemblies were to control all departments of provincial administration.
  • But the Governors were given special powers. They could veto legislative action and legislate on their own. They retained full control over the civil service and the police.
  • The Act could not satisfy the nationalist aspiration for both political and economic power continued to be concentrated in the hands of the British Government.
  • The federal part of the Act was never introduced but the provincial part was soon put into operation.
  • Bitterly opposed to the Act though the Congress was, it decided to contest the elections under the new Act of 1935, though with the declared aim of showing how unpopular the Act was.
  • The whirlwind election campaign of the Congress met with massive popular response, even though Gandhiji did not address a single election meeting.
  • The election, held in February, 1937, conclusively demonstrated that a large majority of Indian people supported the Congress which swept the polls in most of the provinces.
  • Congress ministries were formed in July, 1937 in seven out of eleven provinces.
  • Later, Congress formed coalition governments in two others. Only Bengal and Punjab had non-Congress ministries. Punjab was ruled by the Unionist Party and Bengal by a coalition of the Krishak Praja Party and the Muslim League.
  • Support was given to Khadi and other village industries. Modem industries too were encouraged. One of the major achievements of the Congress ministries was their firm handling of communal riots.

 

Growth of Socialist Ideas

 

  • The 1930s witnessed the rapid growth of socialist ideas within and outside the Congress.
  • In 1929 there was a great economic slump or depression in the United States which gradually spread to the rest of the world.
  • Everywhere in the capitalist countries there was a steep decline in production and foreign trade resulting in economic distress and large scale unemployment.
  • On the other hand, the economic situation in the Soviet Union was just the opposite.
  • Not only was there no slump, but the years between 1929 and 1936 witnessed the successful completion of the first two Five-Year Plans which pushed up the Soviet industrial production by more than four times.
  • The world depression, thus, brought the capitalist system into disrepute and drew attention towards Marxism, socialism, and economic planning.
  • It was Jawaharlal Nehru who played the most important part in popularising the vision of a socialist India both within the national movement and in the country at large.
  • Within the Congress the left-wing tendency found reflection in the election of Jawaharial Nehru as president for 1929, 1936 and 1937 and of Subhas Chandra Bose for 1938 and 1939.
  • Nehru argued the political freedom must mean the economic emancipation of the masses, especially of the toiling peasants from feudal exploitation.
  • In his presidential address to the Lucknow Congress (1936), Nehru urged the Congress to accept socialism as its goal and to bring itself closer to the peasantry and working class.
  • This was also, he felt, the best way of weaning away the Muslim masses from the influence of their reactionary communal leaders.
  • He said : "I am convinced that the only key to the solution of the world's problems and of India's problem lies in socialism, and when I use this word, I do so not in a vague humanitarian way but in the scientific, economic sense.

 

Karachi Session, 1931

 

  • A major point of departure was the resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy passed by the Karachi session of the Congress on the urging of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • The resolution declared : "In order to end the exploitation of the masses, political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving millions".
  • The resolution guaranteed the basic civil rights of the people, equality before law irrespective of caste, creed or sex, elections on the basis of universal adult franchise, and free and compulsory primary education.
  • It promised substantial reduction in rent and revenue, exemption from rent in case of uneconomic holdings, and relief of agricultural indebtedness and control of money-lending; better conditions for workers including a living wage, limited hours of work and protection of women workers; the right to organise and form unions by workers and peasants; and state ownership or control of key industries, mines and means of transport.
  • Radicalism in the Congress was further reflected in the Faizpur Congress resolution and the Election Manifesto of 1936 which promised radical transformation of the agrarian system, substantial education in rent and revenue, scaling down of rural debts and provision of cheap credit, abolition of feudal levies, security of tenure for tenants, a living wage for agricultural labourers, and the right to form trade unions and peasant unions and the right to strike.
  • In 1945 the Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution recommending abolition of landlordism.
  • During 1938, when Subhas Chandra Bose was it president, the Congress committed itself to economic planning and set up a National Planning Committee under the Chairmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Nehru and other leftists and Gandhi also argued for the public sector in large-scale industries as a means of preventing concentration of wealth in a few hands.
  • He also accepted the principal of land to the tiller He declared in 1942 that "the land belongs to those who will work on it and to no one else".
  • Outside the Congress, the socialist tendency led to the growth of the Communist Party after 1935 under the leadership of P.C. Joshi and the foundation of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 under the leadership ofAcharya Narendra Dev and Jai Prakash Narayan.
  • In 1939, Subhas Chandra Bose had been re-elected president of the Congress even though Gandhiji had opposed him.
  • But the opposition of Gandhiji and his supporters in the Congress Working Committee compelled Bose of resign from the presidentship of the Congress in April, 1939.
  • He and many of his left-wing followers now founded the Forward Bloc.
  • By 1939, within the Congress the left was able to command influence over one-third votes on important issues.
  • The 1930s also witnessed the foundation of the All India Students Federation and the All India Progressive Writers Association.
  • The 1930s witnessed the nation-wide awakening and organisation of the peasants and workers in India.

 

Congress and World Affairs

 

  • The Congress had from its inception in 1885 opposed the use of the Indian army and of Indians resources to serve British interests in Africa and Asia.
  • It had gradually developed a foreign policy based on opposition to the spread of imperialism.
  • In February, 1927, Jawaharlal Nehru on behalf of the National Congress attended the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities at Brussels organised by political exiles and revolutionaries from the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, suffering from economic or political imperialism.
  • The Congress was called to coordinate and plan their common struggle against imperialism.
  • Many left wing intellectuals and political leaders of Europe also joined the Congress.
  • Nehru was elected to the Executive Council of the League Against Imperialism that was bom at this Congress.
  • In 1927 the Madras session of the National Congress warned the government that the people of India would not support Britain in any war undertaken to further its imperialist aims.
  • In the 1930s the Congress took a firm stand against imperialism in any part of the world and supported national movements in Asia and Africa.
  • In 1937, when Japan launched an attack on China, the National Congress passed a resolution calling upon the Indian people "to refrain from the use of Japanese goods as a mark of their sympathy with the people of China".
  • And in the 1938, it sent a medical mission, headed by M. Atal, to work with the Chinese armed forces.
  • The National Congress fully recognised that the future of India was closely interlinked with the coming struggle between fascism and the forces of freedom, socialism and
  • The emerging Congress approach to world problem, the awareness of India's position in the world, were clearly enunciated in Jawaharlal Nehru's presidential address to the Lucknow Congress in 1936.

 

States People's Struggle

 

  • The fourth major development during this period was the spread of national movement to the princely States.
  • Appalling economic, political and social conditions prevailed in most of them.
  • The bulk of the State revenues were spent on the luxuries of the princes.
  • In several States serfdom, slavery, and forced labour flourished.
  • Throughout history, a corrupt and decadent ruler was checked to some extent by the challenge of internal revolt or external aggression.
  • Moreover, the British authorities began to use the princes to prevent the growth of national unity and to counter the rising national movement.
  • In 1921, the Chamber of Princes was created to enable the princes to meet and discuss under British guidance matters of common interest.
  • In the Government of India Act of 1935, the proposed federal structure was so planned as to check the forces of nationalism.
  • It was provided that the princes would get two-fifth of the seats in the Upper House and one-third of the seats in the Lower House.
  • People of many of the princely States now began to organise movements for democratic rights and popular governments.
  • The All-India States Peopled Conference had already been founded in December 1927 to coordinate political activities in the different States.
  • The Civil Disobedience Movement produced a deep impact on the minds of the people of these States and stirred them into political activity.
  • The National Congress supported the States People's struggle and urged the princes to introduce democratic representative government and to grant fundamental civil rights.
  • In 1938, when the Congress defined its goal of independence it included the independence of the princely States.
  • Next year, at the Tripuri session, it decided to take a more active part in the States People's movements.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru became the President of the All-India States People's Conference in 1939.

 

National Movement during the Second World War

 

  • The Second World War broke out in September, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in pursuance of Hitler's scheme for German expansion.
  • The Government of India immediately joined the war without consulting the National Congress or the elected members of the central legislature.
  • The National Congress was in full sympathy with the victims of fascist aggression.
  • It was willing to help the forces of democracy in their struggle against fascism.
  • But, the Congress leaders asked, how was it possible for an enslaved nation to aid others in their fight for freedom?
  • They therefore demanded that India must be declared free-or at least effective power put in Indian hands-before it could actively participate in the war.
  • The British Government refused to accept this demand and tried to pit the religious minorities and Princes against the Congress.
  • The Congress, therefore, asked its ministries to resign.
  • In October, 1940, Gandhi gave the call for a limited satyagraha by a few selected individuals.
  • The satyagraha was kept limited so as not to embarrass Britain's war effort by a mass upheaval in India.
  • Vinoba Bhave was the first to offer satyagraha.
  • The recently released Congress leaders denounced Japaness aggression and once again offered to fully cooperate in the defence of India and the Allied cause if Britain transferred the substance of power to India immediately and promised complete independence after the war.
  • The British Government now desparately wanted the active co-operation of Indians in the war effort.
  • To secure this cooperation it sent to India in March 1942 a mission headed by a Cabinet Minister, Sir Stafford Cripps, who had earlier been a radical member of the Labour Party and a strong supporter of the Indian national movement.
  • Even though Cripps declared that the aim of British policy in India was "the earliest possible realisation of self-government in India", detailed negotiations between him and the Congress leaders broke down.
  • The British Government refused to accept the Congress demand for the immediate transfer of effective power to Indians.
  • The failure of the Cripps Mission embittered the people of India.


 

The Quit India Movement

 

  • Their discontent was further fuelled by war-time shortages and rising prices.
  • The period from April to August, 1942 was one of daily heightening tension, with Gandhiji becoming more and more militant as Japanese forces moved towards India and the spectre of Japanese conquest began to haunt the people and their leaders.
  • The Congress now decided to take active steps to compel the British to accept the Indian demand for independence.
  • The All India Congress Committee met at Bombay on 8 August, 1942.
  • It passed the famous 'Quit India9 Resolution and proposed the starting of a non-violent mass struggle under Gandhi's leadership to achieve this aim.
  • The resolution declared : "... the immediate ending of British rule in India is an urgent necessity, both for the sake of India and for the success of the cause of the United Nations. ... India, the classic land of modem imperialism, has become the crux of the question, for by the freedom of India will Britain and the United Nations be judged, and the peoples of Asia and Africa be filled with hope and enthusiasm. A free India will assure this success by throwing all her great resources in the struggle for freedom and against the aggression of Nazism, Fascism and Imperialism”.
  • Addressing the Congress delegates on the night of 8 August, 1942, Gandhi said :I, therefore, want freedom immediately, this very night, before dawn, if it can be had. ... Fraud and untruth today are stalking the world. ... You may take it from me that I am not going to strike a bargain with the Viceroy for ministries and the like. I am not going to be satisfied with anything short of complete freedom. ... Here is a mantra, a short one that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is : “Do or Die".
  • But before the Congress could start a movement, the Government struck hard.
  • Early in the morning of 9 August, Gandhi and other Congress leaders were arrested and taken to unknown destinations, and the Congress was once again declared illegal.
  • The news of these arrests left the country aghast, and a spontaneous movement of protest arose everywhere, giving expression to the pent up anger of the people.
  • Left leaderless and without any organisation, the people reacted in any manner they could.
  • All over the country there were hartals, strikes in factories, schools and colleges, and demonstrations which were lathi-charged and fired upon.
  • In many places the rebels seized temporary control over towns, cities, and villages.
  • In some areas, such as Ballia in Eastern U.R, Tamluk in Midnapore district of Bengal, and Satara district of Bombay, the revolutionaries set up "parallel government’.
  • In general, the students, workers and peasants provided the backbone of the 'revolt' while the upper classes and the bureaucracy remained loyal to the Government.
  • The Government on its part went all out to crush the 1942 movement.
  • The Revolt of 1942, as it has been termed, was in fact short-lived.
  • Its importance lay in the fact that it demonstrated the depth that nationalist feeling had reached in the country and the great capacity for struggle and sacrifice that the people had developed.
  • In 1943, Bengal was plunged into the worst famine in recent history. Within a few months, over three million people died of starvation.
  • Subhas Chandra Bose had escaped from India in March. 1941 to go to the Soviet Union for help. But when the Soviet Union joined the allies in June, 1941, he went to Germany.
  • In February, 1943 he left for Japan to organise an armed struggle against the British rule with Japanese help.
  • In Singapore he formed the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army or INA for short) to conduct a military campaign for the liberation of India.
  • He was assisted by Rash Behari Bose, an old terrorist revolutionary.
  • Before the arrival of Subhas Bose, steps towards the organisation of the INA had been taken by General Mohan Singh (who had been a Captain in the British Indian Army).
  • Subhas Bose, who was now called Netaji gave his followers the battle cry of 'Jai Hind5. The INA joined the Japanese army in its march on India from Burma.
  • Inspired by the aim of freeing their homeland, the soldiers and officers of the INA hoped to enter India as its liberators with Subhas Bose at the head of the Provisional Government of Free India.
  • With the collapse of Japan in the War during 1944-45, the INA too met defeat, and Subhas Bose was killed in an aeroplane accident on his way to Tokyo.


 

Post-War Struggle

 

  • The Government decided to put on trial in the Red Fort at Delhi Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurdial Singh Dhillon, and Prem Sehgal, officers of the INA, who had earlier been officers in the British Indian army.
  • They were accused of having broken the oath of loyalty to the British Crown and thus of having become 'traitors'.
  • The British Government was this time in no position to ignore Indian opinion. Even though the Court Martial held the INA prisoners guilty, the Government felt it expedient to set them free.
  • The changed attitude of the British Government is explained by several factors.
  • Firstly, the war had changed the balance of power in the world.
  • Moreover, there was a change of government in Britain. The Conservatives were replaced by the Labour Party, many of whose members supported the Congress demands.
  • The INA had shown that patriotic ideas had entered the ranks of the professional Indian army, the chief instrument of British rule in India.
  • Another straw in the wind was the famous revolt of the Indian naval ratings at Bombay in February, 1946.
  • Moreover there were also widespread strikes in the Royal Indian Air Forces.
  • The Indian Signal Corps at Jabalpur also went on strike.
  • There was the Naval Mutiny and the struggle for the release of INA prisoners.
  • The most militant of the post-war struggles was the Tebhaga struggle by the share croppers of Bengal who declared that they would pay not one-half but one third of the crop to the landlords.
  • The British Government, therefore, sent in March, 1946 a Cabinet Mission to India to negotiate with the Indian leaders the terms for the transfer of power to Indians.
  • The Cabinet Mission proposed a two-tiered federal plan which was expected to maintain national unity while conceding the largest measure of regional autonomy.
  • There was to be a federation of the provinces and the States, with the federal centre and communications.
  • At the same time, individual provinces could form regional unions to which they could surrender by mutual agreement some of their powers.
  • Both the National Congress and the Muslim League accepted this plan.
  • But the two could not agree on the plan for an interim government which would convene a constituent assembly to frame a constitution for the free, federal India.
  • In the end, in September, 1946, an Interim Cabinet, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, was formed by the Congress.
  • The Muslim League joined the Cabinet in October after some hesitation; but it decided to boycott the constituent assembly.
  • On 20 February, 1947, Clement Attlee, British Premier, declared that the British would quit India by June, 1948.
  • But the elation of coming independence was marred by the large-scale communal riots during and after August, 1946.
  • The Hindu and Muslim communalists blamed each other for starting the heinous killings and competed with each other in cruelty.
  • Mahatma Gandhi, engulfed in gloom at this total disregard of elementary humanity and seeing truth and non-violence cast to the winds, toured East Bengal and Bihar on foot to check the riots.
  • Finally, Lord Mountbatten, who had come to India as Viceroy in March, 1947, worked out a compromise after long discussions with the leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League: the country was to be free but not united.
  • India was to be partitioned and a new state of Pakistan was to be created along with a free India.
  • The nationalist leaders agreed to the partition of India in order to avoid the large-scale blood-bath and communal riots threatened. But they did not accept the two-nation theory.
  • They agreed to the separation of only those areas where the influence of the Muslim League was predominant. Thus, Punjab, Bengal and Assam were to be partitioned.
  • The Muslim League was to get 'a moth-eaten’
  • In the North-West Frontier Province, and the Sylhet district of Assam where the influence of the League was doubtful, a plebiscite was to be held.
  • Even Jinnah was in the end forced to revise his two-nation theory lying at the heart of communalism.
  • The announcement that India and Pakistan would be free was made on 3 June, 1947.
  • The princely States were given the choice of joining either of the new states.
  • Under the pressure of the popular States People's movements and guided by the masterful diplomacy of Sardar Patel, the Home Minister, most of them acceded to India.
  • The Nawab of Junagadh, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir held back for some time.
  • The Nawab of Junagadh, a small State on the coast of Kathiawar, announced accession to Pakistan even though the people of the State desired to join India.
  • In the end, Indian troops occupied the State and a plebiscite was held which went in favour of joining India.
  • The Nizam of Hyderabad made an attempt to claim an independent status but was forced to accede in 1948 after an internal revolt had broken out in its Telengana area and after Indian troops had marched into Hyderabad.
  • The Maharaja of Kashmir also delayed accession to India or Pakistan even though the popular forces led by the National Conference wanted accession to India.
  • However, he acceded to India in October, 1947 after Pathans and irregular armed forces of Pakistan invaded Kashmir.
  • On 15 August, 1947, India celebrated with joy its first day of freedom.
  • The sacrifices of generation of patriots and the blood of countless martyrs had borne fruit.
  • In a memorable address to the Constituent Assembly on the night of 14 August, Jawaharlal Nehru, giving expression to the feeling of the people, said : "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.
  • Gandhiji had been touring the hate-torn parts of the country.
  • He had come to Calcutta from the Punjab and proposed going to Noakhali
  • He spent the Independence Day by fasting and spinning.
  • On the evening of 30 January, 1948, Gandhiji was shot dead.
  • Rabindranath Tagore had remarked there months before his death in 1941. "The wheels of fate will someday compel the English to give up their Indian Empire. But what kind of India will they leave behind, what stark misery? When the stream of their centuries administration runs dry at last, what a waste of mud and filth will they leave behind them".
  • The freedom struggle had, however, not only overthrown colonial rule, it had also evolved a vision of what free India would be like.

 

Some Important Facts

 

  • Dominion - Self-governing areas under the control of the British crown.
  • Knighthood - An honour granted by the British Crown for exceptional personal achievement or public service.
  • Provincial autonomy - Capacity of the provinces to make relatively independent decisions while remaining within a federation.


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