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Indian National Congress

The Indian National Congress was established in the year 1855 by Allan Octavian Hume. A.O Hume is often called the ‘Father of Indian National Congress (INC)’. The Viceroy at that time was Lord Dufferin. Some of the prominent Indians were S. N. Banerjee, W. C. Bannerjee, Feroz Shah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, etc. The first session of the Congress met in Bombay in 1885 under the presidentship of W. C. Banerjee, a leading barrister of Calcutta.

The second session of INC was held at Calcutta and was presided over by Dadabhai Naoraoji. The third session of the Congress was held at Madras in 1887. The next was held at Lahore in 1888. Dadabhai was re-elected as the president of the Lahore session. The congress got split into two, they were the moderates and the extremists.

The Moderates (1885–1905) (Indian National Movement-First Phase)

The Moderates believed in bringing about a political change in India through the constitutional method. Few moderate leaders were Dadabhai Naoroji, Feroz Shah Mehta, D. E. Wacha, W. C. Banerjee, S. N. Banerjee, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, etc.
  1. They aimed at securing representation for the Indians in higher administrative posts.
  2. The moderates demanded to reduce the tax on land.
  3. They also demanded to abolish ‘salt tax.’
  4. They advocated rapid industrialisation.
  5. The moderates demanded the separation of judiciary from the executive.
  6. They also opposed the restrictions imposed by the government on the freedom of speech and press.
  7. The Moderates also demanded the expansion of reform of existing legislative council.

Extremists or Second Phase of Indian National Movement (1905–1920)

They did not believe in the constitutional methods of seeking justice through petitions and prayers. The high priest of this new nationalism, represented by the Extremists, was Arabindo Ghosh and the other members were Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal (known popularly as Lal-Bal-Pal), who popularised the Extremist movement.
  1. The Extremists tried to instill self-confidence among the people. Tilak started the slogan ‘Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it’. The attainment of complete independence was the main aim of the extremists.
  2. They wanted to expose the fact that the British were exploiting the Indians by posing that they were trying to civilise the Indians.
  3. The Extremists tried to promote Swadeshi movement. They boycotted foreign products.
  4. The Extremists wanted to follow a policy of non-cooperation towards the British rule in India.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856–1920)

He played a remarkable role in India’s struggle for Swaraj. A born fighter and a man of iron will, Tilak gave a new turn to Indian politics. When a terrible famine broke out in Bombay (1896), Tilak asked the people to boldly demand the implementation of famine relief measures by the Government. He started the newspapers Kesari andMaratta. Tilak organised the Ganapati and Shivaji festivals to instill patriotism. For his political views, Tilak was twice sentenced to imprisonment. He represented the new nationalist spirit.

Partition of Bengal

The partition of Bengal was made by Lord Curzon in 1905. He divided Bengal into Eastern Bengal and Assam, the rest of Bengal. The actual reason for this partition was to divide the Hindus and the Muslims and try to stop the rise of nationalism in Bengal.

Formation of the Muslim League

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, India witnessed the emergence of communalism which became a threat to the national unity and hampered the national movement. The factors that led to the formation of the Muslim League were:
  1. The formation of Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Association in 1893 to support the British.
  2. The partition of Bengal to divide the Hindus and the Muslims.
  3. Lord Minto assured that the Muslims’ political rights would be safeguarded in 1906 at Shimla.
  4. The Muslim League was formed on 30 December 1906 under the Presidentship of Nawab Salimullah.
The Lucknow Pact in 1916 united the Hindus and the Muslims to fight jointly against the British. The Muslim League demanded for Pakistan as a separate country in 1930 and in the 1940, in the session of the League at Lahore, Jinnah put forward his two-nation theory which was opposed by Indian National Congress and the British. It resulted in communal bloodshed. Finally, the League was successful in creating Pakistan.


The members of this group were bent upon achieving freedom by armed rebellion. They were called ‘Revolutionary Nationalists’. They resorted to violent methods to throw the British out of the country. They used weapons like bombs and pistols. Few leaders who belonged to this group were Damodar Chapekar and Balakrishna Chapekar (known as Chapekar brothers), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Khudiram Bose, Chandrashekar Azad and Bhagat Singh.

Gandhian Era (1919–1947)

Mahatma Gandhi came to India from South Africa in 1915. He used the weapon ‘satyagraha’ to fight against the British. The meaning of satyagraha is sathya meaning ‘truth’, Agraha/orgraha meaning ‘keenness to accept it’. He organised Satyagraha in 1916 in Champaran in Bihar to inspire peasants against the plantation owners. In 1917, he supported peasants of the Kheda district in Gujarat. In 1918, Satyagraha Movement was organised among the cotton mill workers.

Rowlatt Act

With the success of Satyagraha in South Africa, Gandhiji, in 1919, decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act. Rallies were organised; workers went on strike in railway workshops and shops closed down. Alarmed by the popular upsurge, the British barred Mahatma Gandhi from entering Delhi. Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command.

The Jallaianwalla Bagh Tragedy

A large number of people had peacefully assembled for a public meeting. On 13 April, 1919, General Dyer ordered his troops to fire at the crowd, hundreds were killed.

The Khilafat Movement

The movement was started by Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali in Bomaby to oppose the removal of the Caliph of Turkey who was defeated in the First World War. The Caliph was the religious head of the Muslims. Gandhi supported this movement to bring about unity between the Hindus and the Muslims.

Gandhi’s famous movements were:
  1. Non-Cooperation Movement (1919)
  2. Civil Disobedience Movement or Salt Satyagraha or Dandi March
  3. Quit India Movement

Non-Cooperation Movement (1920)

The Non-Cooperation Movement took place in 1920. Non-Cooperation Movement meant to bring the working of the government to a standstill by not cooperating with the administration.
The Non-Cooperation programme embodied two-phase action. The first phase was to make the British rule impossible in India by withdrawing the support from all spheres of governmental activity. In order to do this, the following actions were taken:
  1. The ensuing elections under the Government of India Act of 1919 were to be boycotted.
  2. Lawyers were not to attend law courts.
  3. Councilors were to boycott the legislatures.
  4. Students were to withdraw themselves from schools and colleges.
  5. Honorary offices and titles were to be surrendered.
  6. Foreign goods and clothes were to be boycotted.
  7. Nominated posts were to be resigned.
  8. Nobody was to attend the government darbars and officials or non-official functions held either by or in honour of government officials.
In its second phase, the programme suggested certain constructive measures to be taken up. These included:
  1. Private arbitration courts were to be set up and disputes were to be settled privately without recourse to the law courts.
  2. National schools and colleges were to be set up.
  3. Hand-spun and hand-woven khadi was to be used along with other country-made goods.
  4. Pure swadeshi was to be adopted.
  5. The evil of untouchability was to be fought.
  6. The people were asked to do all this in a non-violent and peaceful manner.
Progress of the Movement
When the Non-Cooperation Movement began, the British government started to suppress the movement. The leaders were put behind bars. But this made the movement violent. The congress boycotted the visit of the Prince of Wales in India. The Prince was greeted with hartals and black flag demonstrations.

Gandhi supported the Peasants’ Movements in Oudh and Andhra Pradesh. The plantation workers from Assam tried to support Gandhiji, but they were brutally beaten by the British. In 1922, Gandhi decided to withdraw this movement because violence broke out at Chauri-Chaura, a village in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. A large number of peasants supported by Congress clashed with the British authorities. They set the English police station on fire. As a result of this, a sub-inspector and 21 policemen were burnt alive. Gandhi was arrested on 10 March, 1922 and sentenced to six years of simple imprisonment. Gandhi was however released on 5 February 1924 on medical grounds much before the term of imprisonment ended.
Towards the Civil Disobedience Movement
C. R. Das and Motilal Nehru formed the Swaraj Party within the Congress to argue for a return to council politics. Young leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose pressed for mass agitation and for full independence.

The new Tory government in Britain constituted a commission under Sir John Simon to look into the functioning of the constitutional system in India and suggest changes. The Commission had all British members, not a single Indian member. When the Simon Commission arrived in India in 1928, it was greeted with the slogan ‘Go back Simon’. Both Congress and the Muslim League participated in the demonstrations.

In 1929, at Lahore under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, Congress formalised the demand for ‘Purna Swaraj’ or full independence for India.

Civil Disobedience Movement 1930

Gandhiji re-entered active politics in 1928 and gave a call to the Indian masses for adopting the Civil Disobedience. The Civil Disobedience Movement aimed at paralysing the administration of the British by performing specific illegal acts. Mahatma Gandhi himself started the Civil Disobedience by breaking the Salt Tax.

Historic Dandi March Gandhi trained his Ashram people in the techniques of Sathyagraha. The Satyagraha was marched on foot from Sabarmati Ashram in 1930 with historic Dandi March. He travelled a long distance of 200 miles, and reached Dandi (on 5 April 1930). Gandhi started the Civil Disobedience by picketing salt lying on the sea shore. He advised people to manufacture salt in violation of Salt Law. Along with this, he also included the following:
  1. Absentation from attending educational institution by the students and the office by the public sectors.
  2. Banning of foreign cloth.
  3. Banning of wine shops and liquor shops.
  4. Non-payment of taxes.
The government took out the repressive measures to put down the movement. Gandhi was arrested on 5 May 1930 along with Jawaharlal Nehru and other prominent leaders. The Civil Disobedience was suspended in April 1931 and Gandhi entered into a pact with Irwin, known as the ‘Gandhi–Irwin Pact’.

Gandhi attended the First Round Table Conference in London. But the negotiations broke down and Gandhi returned home disappointed.

In the Second Round Table Conference held in September 1931, Gandhi proposed for the abolition of the Salt Tax which was rejected by the British. Hence Gandhi re-launched the Civil Disobedience Movement. The Movement continued for a year, and by 1934 it lost its momentum.
The Third Round Table Conference took place in November 1932 and was boycotted by the Congress. The proposal of the Congress for an All India Federation consisting of British India and the Indian states was not accepted by the British.

Quit India Movement (1942)

Mahatma Gandhi’s another bold step taken to achieve freedom struggle was the Quit India Movement. It started because of the failure of the Cripps Mission (1942). Gandhi wanted to end the British rule in India. Gandhi started an ‘All India Agitation’ with a slogan for the British to ‘Quit India’. The resolution demanded from the British government was an immediate declaration of India’s Independence; otherwise the Congress would start a non-violent struggle.

Gandhi and other members of the Congress high command were taken into custody. But the people, even without Gandhi and other leaders, continued the movement. It spread like wildfire and became a country-wide struggle. It soon took a violent turn. ‘Do or Die’ became the popular slogan of the day. The government tried to suppress the movement by lathi charge and firing through rifles to curb the situation. The Indians burnt down police stations, post offices, damaged railways, telegraphic lines and killed British officers. The entire British administration was paralysed. In the struggle, several hundreds of Indians died and thousands were put under custody. The government succeeded in suppressing this movement because it lacked leadership and good planning.

Subash Chandra Bose and INA

Subash Chandra Bose joined the Indian Nation Congress in 1921. He was elected as the President of the Congress for two consecutive terms in 1938 and 1939. But due to difference of opinion between him and Gandhi, he resigned from the Congress Working Committee. He established a new party, the ‘Forward Bloc’ in 1939. The main objective of the Forward Bloc was to liberate India with the help of peasants, workers, youths and all radical organisations.

He was held under arrest for his nationalistic activities by the British. He escaped to Berlin in 1941 and met Hitler to help India. He went to Singapore and took command of Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj from Rash Behari Bose. After becoming the supreme commander of the INA on 26 August 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose set up a Provisional Government of free India on 21 October 1943. He gave the slogans ‘Delhi Chalo’ and ‘Jai Hind’. The INA fought against the British forces in the Burma front, and hoisted the Indian national flag at Imphal in Manipur. After Japan’s surrender in 1945, the ally of INA and Netaji had to retreat from the war.

Lord Mountbatten—The Last Viceroy of India

Mountbatten came to India with a specific instruction to carry necessary steps for the transfer of power. He succeeded in convincing the Indian leaders that time had come to divide India into two nations––India and Pakistan—for the well-being of millions of people. Mountbatten got the approval of British Parliament for his plan. He announced the plan for the partition of India on 3 June 1947. The All India Congress Committee accepted it with pleasure and gratitude.

It was on the basis of the Mountbatten Plan that the Indian Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament. This Bill or Plan was introduced by Clement Atlee, the Prime Minister of England, in the House of Commons on 4 July 1947. It was passed on 15 July 1947. Next day, it was passed by the House of Lords. On 18 July, it received the royal consent as well.

Indian Independence Act of 1947


The important provisions were—

  1. According to the Act, two dominions were created, India and Pakistan.
  2. Until a new constitution was framed for each dominion, the Act made the existing Constituent Assemblies to continue with the legislature.
  3. Each dominion was to have its own Governor General.
  4. The office of the Secretary of State for India was to be abolished and his work was to be taken out by the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth Affairs.
  5. All the princely states will be given freedom to join either India or Pakistan.

Thus, at the stroke of mid-night on the 14–15 August was born a new nation and India was set free for the first time in about 1000 years of long history. She was free once again to decide her own destiny, to choose and see her own power.

Lord Mountbatten, who was the last Viceroy, became the first Governor General of free India. In Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah became the first Governor General. Lord Mountbatten who remained in office up to 20 June 1948 was succeeded by C. Rajagopalachari; he held the prestigious office as the first and the last Indian Governor General of free India till 26 January 1950. The first President of Republic of India was Dr Rajendra Prasad, who took over on 26 January 1950 when India was declared a Sovereign Democratic Republic. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India.

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