Modern India

Early Phase of National Movement ( Episode 3 )

Nationalists and the First World War

In June 1914 the First World War broke out between Great Britain, France, Russia and Japan on one side joined later by Italy and USA and Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey on the other. In India the years of the war marked the maturing of nationalism. In the beginning the Indian nationalist leaders including Lokmanya Tilak who had been released in June 1914 decided to support the war effort of the government in the mistaken belief that great Britain would repay India’s loyalty with gratitude and enable India to take a long step forward on the road to self-govt.They did not realise fully that the different powers were fighting the First World War precisely to safe-guard their existing colonies.

Home Rule League

Many Indian leaders felt that popular pressure should be brought to bear upon the govt if any real concessions were to be extracted. Hence real mass political movement was necessary. War had meant heavy taxation and roaring prices of the daily necessities of life. The people as a result were getting ready to join any militant movement of protest. Consequently the war years were years of intense nationalist political agitation. But this mass agitation had to be carried on outside the Congress for the party was dominated by the moderates. Therefore two Home Rule Leagues were started in 1915-1916 one under the leadership of Tilak and the other under the leadership of Annie Besant and S Subramaniyam Iyer.The two Home Rule Leagues carried out intense propaganda all over the country in favour of the demand for the grant of Home Rule or self govt to India after the war. The other prominent leaders who joined the agitation for Home Rule were Motilal Nehru and C.R Das.

The Govt resorted to repression.Mrs Annie Besant was arrested and many newspapers were banned. The war period also saw the growth of revolutionary movement. The growing nationalist feeling in the country and the urge for national unity produced two historic developments at the Lucknow Session of the INC in 1916. Firstly the two wings of the Congress were reunited. The old controversies had lost their meaning and the split in the congress had not benefited either group. At Lucknow the Congress and the All India Muslim League sank their old differences and put up common political demands before the govt.Congress accepted the principle of separate electorates. This unity is popularly known in history as the Lucknow Pact. Unfortunately this unity was based on the notion of bringing together Hindus and Muslims as separate entities. This left the way open to the future resurgence of communalism in Indian politics.

Nehru Report

In response to the appointment of Simon Commission and the challenge given by Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State for India, the All Parties Conference was called at Delhi on 12th February 1928. It was presided by MA Ansari. In May the All Parties Conference appointed a committee with Motilal Nehru as its chairman. The purpose was to consider and determine the principles of the constitution for India. The committee consisted of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Ali Imam, MS Aney, Mangal Singh, Shoaib Qureshi, GR Pradhan, NM Joshi, MR Jayakar and Subhash Chandra Bose. The main recommendations of the report included that India must be given dominion status which meant independence within the British Commonwealth. India would be a federation having a bicameral legislature at the center to which the ministry would be responsible. The Governor General would be only the constitutional head with the same powers as the British crown. There was no provision for separate electorate.

Citizenship was also defined and fundamental rights were enunciated. The Annual Session of the INC held in Calcutta in December 1928 approved the Nehru report and also served an ultimatum to the British government to accept the Nehru Report failing which the party would launch another mass movement with goal of Poorna Swarajya. The open session of the Muslim League meeting at Delhi on 28th March 1929 rejected the Nehru Report and accepted Jinnah’s fourteen points.

Jinnah’s Fourteen Points

Jinnah in Delhi announced the Fourteen Points on 28th March 1929 at a meeting of Muslim League. It did not accept the Jinnah’s Fourteen Points on the ground that it discarded separate electorates and other demands of minorities and presented his Fourteen Points.

  1. The form of the future constitution of India should be federal with residuary powers vested in the provinces.

  2. A uniform measure of autonomy should be granted to all provinces.

  3. All legislatures and other elected bodies should be constituted on the definite principle of adequate and effective representation of minorities.

  4. In the central legislature Muslim representation should not be less than 1/3.

  5. Representation of communal groups should continue to be by separate electorates as at present provided that it should be open to any community at any time to abandon its separate electorate in favor of joint electorate.

  6. Any territorial redistribution should not affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and the NWFP.

  7. Full liberty of belief, worship and observance propaganda, association and education should be guaranteed to all communities.

  8. No bill or resolution or any party should be passed in any legislature or any other elected body if three-fourths of the members of any community in that body opposed it as being injurious to the interests of that community.

  9. Sind should be separated from the Bombay Presidency.

  10. Reforms should be introduced in the NWFP and Baluchistan on the same footing as in other provinces.

  11. Adequate share for Muslims should be provided in the constitution in all services of the state subject to the requirements of efficiency.

  12. Adequate safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim culture, education, language, religion, personal laws and charitable institutions and for their due share in the grants-in-aid given by the state should be provided in the constitution.

  13. No cabinet either central or provincial should be formed without at least 1/3 of the ministers being Muslims.

  14. No changes should be made in the Constitution by the Central Legislature except with the concurrence of the state constituting the Indian federation.

Lahore Session of the Congress (1929 December)

The annual session of the Congress was held at Lahore 1929 where Jawaharlal Nehru was elected the president. The Lahore session of the Congress passed a series of landmark resolutions.

  • The Nehru Committee report had lapsed, as dominion status was not acceptable.

  • As per the Poorna Swaraj resolution passed at the Lahore Congress the word Swaraj in the Congress Constitution would mean complete independence.

  • All future elections were to be boycotted.

  • Round Table Conference decided to be held in London would be boycotted.

  • Civil Disobedience was to be launched. The Congress Working Committee allowed Gandhi to determine the time, place and issue on which movement was to be launched. Gandhi decided to launch the movement by violating the salt laws at the coast of Dandi, Gujarat.

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