The Congress and The Freedom Movement

BIRTH OF THE CONGRESS
 EARLY PHASE OF THE CONGRESS
NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT
 
SATYAGRAHA ERA
THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND THE CONGRESS
QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT
DO OR DIE
PLANS OF FREEDOM
RIOTS – PARTITION – RIOTS
THE DAWN OF FREEDOM

 

BIRTH OF THE CONGRESS

ITS GENESIS 

THE 1857 revolt was suppressed. The British Empire in India was saved, Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India and the new policy was ushered in. It was even more reactionary and in the long run proved very harmful. The native princes were now to be used as British tools and propped as bulwark against forces of resistance and progress. Government was no longer to encourage social reform. The benign rule was thus to carefully preserve decaying aristocracies, superstition and warring dogmas and cults. These were to provide the pattern for British imperialism with its foundations laid deep in the religious differences, caste and untouchability and the feudal states and the aristocracy.

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DISCONTENT

The policy of economic exploitation, however, became even worse though more subtle, Mass unrest was the inevitable result of the ever growing poverty and helplessness of the peasantry.

The common people, Hindus and Muslims, struggled against the terrible oppression, wherever they could and with whatever weapons they could muster. There was a new English educated class which was used to run the Government machinery. I was great admirer of everything Western which lent its support to the Government.

The belief of the educated classes in the English tradition of liberal thought and institutions received setbacks as a result of various Government measures. The Freedom of the press, introduced earlier by Metcalfe was soon done away with. The vernacular Press was gagged in 1878 and the Bengali Amrita Bazar Patrika had to change overnight into an English garb. The Arms Act was passed in 1879. This disillusionment advanced further when the filbert Bill to abolish “judicial discrimination, based, on racial distinction” had to be virtually dropped on accounts of fierce opposition by the European community and the Civil Service. The Europeans did not hesitate to threaten the Viceroy, Lord Ripon, with violence if the Bill was passed. Indians learned the’ lesson at time. In 1853 the first Cotton Mill was established in Bombay. The number of mills rose to 156 by 1880. This was an alarming progress and under pressure of Lancashire, all duties on cotton imports into India were removed in 1882.


SOCIAL RENAISSANCE

It was not merely the economic exploitation and the sense of political subjection that gave birth to the Congress. For fifty years and more before the birth of the Congress, the leaven of national rejuvenation had been at work. In fact national life was in a state of ferment as early as in the times of Rammohan Roy, who could in a w be regarded as the prophet of Indian Nationalism and the father of modern India. He has a wide vision and a broad outlook. While it is in that the socio-religious condition of his day was the subject of his special attention in his reformist activities, he nevertheless a keen sense of the grave political wrongs by which his country was afflicted at that time and made a strenuous effort to seek an early redress of those wrongs. Rammohan Roy was born in 1776 and passed away at Bristol in 1883. His name is associated with two great reforms in India, namely, the abolition of Sati and the introduction of western learning in the country. In the closing period of his life he chose to Visit England and his passion for liberty was so great that when he reached the Cape of Good Hope he insisted on his being carried to a French vessel where he the flag of liberty flying, so that he might be able to do homage to that flag, and when he saw the flag he shouted, “Glory, Glory, Glory to the Flag.” Although he had gone to England primarily as the ambassador of the Moghul Emperor to plead his cause in London, yet he took the opportunity to place some of the pressing Indian grievances before a Committee of the House of Commons. He submitted three papers, on the Revenue system of India, the Judicial system of India, and the Material condition of India. He was honoured by the East India Company with a public dinner. When in 1832 the Charter Act was before Parliament he vowed that if the Bill was not passed he would give up his residence in the British dominion and reside in America.

The Universities were established in 1858 and the High Courts and the Legislative Councils in India between 1861and 1963 Just before the “mutiny”, the “Widow Re-marriage Act” was passed as also the Act relating to conversion into Christianity. In the sixties of the nineteenth century, an intimate contact was established with Western learning and literature, Western legal institutions and Parliamentary methods were inaugurated, to mark a new era in the field of law and legislation. The impact of Western civilization on the East could not hut leave a deep impress upon the beliefs and sentiments of the Indian people who came directly under its influence.

The only parts of the country which had received some education on modern, lines were the provinces of Bengal, Bombay and Madras. The number of educated men even in these provinces was small. In the work of settlement that followed the mutiny, these educated men found ample scope for their ambition. These races of Babus began to think like their English masters, admired and emulated everything that came from the West.

Soon, however, there was a reaction against this process of denationalisation which assumed various forms, some of a synthesis of the West and the East and others of a revivalism going to the past.

BRAHMO SAMAJ & PRARTHANA SAMAJ

The germs of religious reform planted in the days of Rammohan Roy became widespread Keshab Chandra Sen on whose shoulders fell the mantle of Rammohan Roy spread the gospel of the Brahmo Samaj far and wide and gave a new social orientation to its tenets. He turned his attention to the temperance movement and. made common cause with the temperance reformers in England. He was largel responsible for the passing of the Civil Marriage Act III of 1872.

The Brahmo Samaj of Bengal had it’s repercussions all over the country. In Poona, the movement assumed the name of Prarthana Samaj under the leadership of MG. Ranade, who, it will be remembered was the founder of the Social Reform movement which for long years continued to be an adjunct of the Congress. One feature, however, to this reformist movement was a certain disregard for the past and a spirit of revolt from the time-honoured and traditional beliefs of the country, which arose from au undue glamour presented by the Western institutions and  heightened greatly by the political prestige associated with them.

ARYA SAMAJ

The Arya Sarnaj in the North West founded by the venerable Swami Dayanand Saraswati, and the Theosophical movement from the South furnished the necessary corrective to the spirit of heterodoxy and even heresy which the Western learning brought with it. Both of them were intensely nationalistic movements, only the Arya Samaj movement which owed its birth to the inspiration of the great Dayanand Saraswati was aggressive in its patriotic zeal, and while holding fast to the cult of the infallibility of the Vedas and the superiority of and the infallibility of the Vedic culture was at the same time not inimical to broad social reform. It thus developed a virile manhood in the Nation which was the synthesis of what is best in its heredity, with what is best in its environment. It fought some of the prevailing social evils and religious superstitions in Hinduism as much as the Brahmo Samnaj had battle against polytheism, idolatry amid polygamy.

THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT

The Theosophical movement while it extended its studies and sympathies to the wide world, laid special emphasis on a rediscovery as well as a rehabilitation of all that was great and glorious in the culture, It was this passion that led Mrs. Besant to start a college in Benares, the holy cit of India. The Theosophical activities, while developing a spirit of international brotherhood, helped to check that sense of rationalist superiority of the West and planted anew a cultural centre in India which attracted the savants amid scholars of the West once again to this ancient land.

RAMAKRISHNA MISSION

The latest phase of nation renaissance in India prior to the Congress was inaugurated in Bengal by that great sage, Ram Krishana Paramhansh, who later found in Swami Vivekanand his chief apostle carrying his gospel to East and West. The Ramakrishna Mission is not merely an organisation wedded to occultism or realism, but to a profound transcendentalism which, however, does not ignore the supreme duty of “Loke-Sangraha” or social service.

This “Cyclonic Hindu”, as Vivekananda was called in America, carried the message of India not only to America or Europe, Egypt, China and Japan but was himself influenced greatly by the West and preached a dynamic new gospel of regeneration in India, from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas. He stressed on the necessity for liberty amid equality and the raising of the masses. He wanted to combine he Western progress with Indian spiritual background. The one constant refrain of his speech and writing was Abhay “Be fearless, be strong for weakness is sin, weakness is death.”

A contemporary of Vivekananda and yet belonging to a much more later generation was Rabindranath Tagore. The Tagore family played a great part in various reform movements during the 19th Century in Bengal. It gave us Abhindranath Tagore and others,, great spiritual leaders and artists. The influence of Tagore over the mind of India and the stamp that he has left in the domain of literature, poetry, drama, music, soci4l and educational reconstruction and political thought is unsurpassed .in its beauty and depth. It is a marvel of human personality and mind affecting and giving colour to successive generations. The contribution of Tagore has been of a synthesis of the East and West, of the modern and the ancient and of the international with the national tide in the country.

These currents and movements were the real, lifeblood of the new national consciousness, urge and their embodiment that took shape partly and developed from, stage to stage in the form of the Indian National Congress.

THE IDEA OF AN ALL-INDIA ORGANISATION

The credit for the birth of the Congress is often sought to be given to A/art Octavian Hume, who with the’ blessings ‘of the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, inaugurated it. The British are thus said to be the foster parents of the Indian nationalism. It is true that Hume was the organiser of the Congress Session in 1885. But it will be seen that the Congress was the natural and inevitable production of various political, economic and social forces.

The more alert among the English administrators were not unaware of the rising unrest in the country. “A reckless bureaucratic Government sat at this time trembling upon the crumbling fragments of a mendacious budget on the one side on the sheathing and surging discontent of multitudinous, population on the other”. Mr. Hume collected widespread evidence of the imminence of a “terrible revolution” by the half-starved and desperate population and set about to find ways and means of direction the popular impulse into an innocuous channel.

He wrote a letter to “Graduates of Calcutta University” on March 1, 1883 and the “Indian National Union” was formed in 1884, in response to this, for constitutional agitation, on au all-India basis, and was to meet in Poona later. The Government who first patronised this organisation, however, found later that it outgrew their plans and the patronage was soon withdrawn. It came to be called the ‘factory of sedition’ in a few years and later Lord Dufferin himself tried to twit it as a body representing “microscopic minority” of India’s population.

There were various provincial political organisations that preceded the Congress. In Bengal which was at the vanguard of progress at this time, in 1843 was founded the British Indian Society to be merged later into the British Indian Association. This body had such stalwarts as Rajendralal Mitra, Ramgopal Ghosh, Peary Chand Mitter and Harish Chandra Mukherjee. In Bombay there was the Bombay Association with Jaggannath Sankerset, Dadabhai Naoroji, V.N, Mandlik and Nowrosjee Furdunjec.

Later, more popular bodies, the Indian Association in Bengal and Sarvajanika Sabha in Poona, under Ranade and 1ahajauia Sabha in Madras were established. Surendranath ‘Bannerjee went on an all India tour in 1877 and succeeding years and carried a campaign about Indian Home Rule and the political questions of the day. He attended the Delhi Durbar that year, and the idea of an all-India political organisation was mooted there.

In December 1884, the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society was held at Madras and there  some leading public men met and decided to inaugurate an all India national movement.

Thus, the ground was well prepared for the Government to take the initiative and the credit of forming the National Congress and keep it under control.

EARLY PHASE OF THE CONGRESS

The Indian National movement was primarily a movement for freedom from alien domina-nation. The movement has been one comprehensive effort embracing all aspects of the life of the community.

The birth of the Indian National Congress, perhaps the oldest and the biggest democratic organisation in the world, did not take place in an atmosphere of a fanfare of trumpets nor did it create a stir by passing flamboyant resolutions.

HUME’S INITIATIVE

In 1884, at the annual convention of the Theosophical Society at Adyar in Madras, Mr. Allan Octavian Hume laid bare to his friends his plan to organise the Congress. A committee was formed to make the necessary prepara tions for a session at Poona to be held in 1885.

The committee consisted of Mr. Hume, Mr. Surendra Nath Bannerji, Mr. Narendranath Sen, Mr. S. Subrarnania Iyer, Mr. P. Ananda Charlu, Mr. V.N. Mandalik, Mr.K.T. Telag, Sardar Dayal Singh, Lala Sri Ram.

Mr Hume, still a government servant, addressed an “Resolutions” that were passed on what were thought to open letter to the graduates of Calcutta University with a fervent appeal for self help.

He said “and if even the leaders of thought are all years, excepting ‘agitation’ on these resolutions in India either such poor creatures, or so selfishly wedded to and in England personal concern, that they dare not strike a blow for their country’s sake, then justly and rightly they are kept down and trampled on, for they deserve nothing better. Every nation secures precisely as good a government as it merits, If you the picked men, the most highly. educated of the nation cannot, scorning personal ease and selfish objects, make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country, a more impartial administration, a larger share in the management of your own affairs then we, your friends are wrong and our adversaries right, then Lord Rippon’s noble aspirations for your good are fruitless and visionary, then at present at any rate, all hopes of progress are at an end, and India truly neither lacks nor deserves any better government than she enjoys.

“Only if this be so, let us hear no more factious, peevish complaints that you are kept in strings and treated like children, for you will have proved yourself such, Men know how to act. Let there be no more complaints of Englishmen being preferred to you ill all important offices, for if you lack that public spirit, that highest form of altruistic devotion that leads men to subordinate private case to the public weal that patriotism that has made Englishmen what they are-then rightly are these preferred to you, rightly and inevitably have they become your rulers.. And rulers and task masters they must continue let the yoke gall your shoulders never so sorely, until you realise and stand prepared to act upon the eternal truth that self-sacrifice and unselfish ness are the only unfailing guide to freedom and happiness.”

THE FIRST SESSION

The first session, of the Congress was to meet at Poona hut owing to an outbreak of cholera the venue was shifted to Bombay and the session began on the 28th December 1885, with Mr. W. C. Bnnerjee, the doyen of the Calcutta Bar in the chair, though originally, it had been decided to request Lord Reay, Governor of Bombay, to be the first President of the Indian National Congress but the idea had to be dropped as the Governor was advised by the Viceroy not to accept the offer. 72 delegates came from different parts of the country and most important among them were Dadabhai Naoroji, Ranade, Pherozeshah Mehta K.T. Telang, Dinshaw Wacha, etc. The meeting was truly a national gathering consisting of leading men from all parts of India.

The president defined the objective of the Congress as “promotion of personal intimacy and friendship among all the more earnest workers in our country’s cause in the parts of the empire and eradication of race, creed or provincial prejudice and fuller development of national unity.”

In its early sessions, the Congress Organisation, by and large, limited its activities only to debates.

After the Madras Session in 1887, an aggressive propaganda was started among the masses. Hume published a pamphlet entitled “An Old Man’s Hope” in which he appealed to the people of England in these words: “Ah men, well-fed and happy, do you at all realise the dull misery of these countless myriads? From their births to their deaths, how many rays of sunshine think you chequer their gloom-shrouded paths? Toil, toil, toil; hunger, hunger, hunger, sickness, suffering, sorrow; these alas, alas, alas are the keynotes of their short and sad existence.

In December 1889, the Congress Session was held at Bombay under the Presidentship of Sir William  Wedderburn. It was attended by Charles Bradlaugh, a member of British Parliament He addressed the Congress  in words; “For whom should I work if not for the people? Born of the people, trusted by the people, I will die for the people, and I know no geographical or race limitation.”

Dadabhai Naoroji was re-elected as the President of the Lahore Session of the Congress held in December 1893, His journey from Bombay to Lahore presented the spectacle of a procession, and Citizens at various places on the way presented him addresses. At the Golden Temple at Amritsar, he was given a robe of honour. Addressing the audience at the Session, Dadabhai Naoraji declared: “Let us, always remember that we are children of our mother country. Indeed, I have never worked in any other spirit than that I am an Indian and owe duty to my work and all my countrymen. Whether I am a Hindu or a Mohammedan, a Parsi, a Christian, or of any other creed, Tam above all an Indian. Our country is I our nationality is Indian.”

THE MODERATES

The early Congressmen who dominated the affairs of the Indian National Congress from 1885, to 1905 were known as the Moderates. They belonged to a class which was Indian in blood and colour but British in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. They were supporters of British institutions. They believed that what India needed was a balanced and lucid presentation of her needs before the Englishmen and their Parliament. They had faith in the British sense of justice and fairplay.

The Moderates believed in orderly progress and constitutional agitation. They believed in patience, steadiness, conciliation and union. To quote Surendarnath Banerjee, “The triumphs of liberty are not to be won in a day. Liberty is a jealous goddess, exacting in her worship and claiming from her votaries prolonged and assiduous devotion.” In 1887, Badruddin Tyabji observed: “Be moderate in your demands just in your criticism, correct in your facts and logical in your conclusions.”

The Moderates believed in constitutional agitation within the four corners of law. They believed that their main task was to educate the people, to arouse national political consciousness and to create a united public, opinion on political questions. For this purpose they held meetings. They criticised the Government through the press. They drafted and submitted memorials and petitions to the- Government, to the officials of the. Government of India and also to the British Parliament. They also worked to influence the British Parliament and British public opinion. The object of the memorials and petitions was to enlighten the British public and political leaders about the conditions prevailing in India. Deputations of leading Indian leaders were sent to Britain in 1889. A British Committee of the Indian National Congress was founded in 1906 and that Committee started a journal called India. Dadabhai Naoroji spent a major part of his life and income in Britain doing propaganda among its people and politicians.

The object before the Moderates was “wide employment of Indians in higher offices in the public service and the establishment of representative institutions.”

The economic and political demands of the Moderates were formulated with a view to unifying the Indian people on the basis of a common political programme. They organised a powerful all-India agitation against the abandonment of tariff-duties on imports and against the imposition of cotton excise duties. This agitation aroused the feelings of the people and helped them to realise the real aims and purposes of British rule in India. They urged the Government to provide cheap credit to the peasantry through agricultural banks and to make avail able irrigation facilities on a large scale. They asked for improvement in the conditions of work of the plantation labourers, a radical change in the existing pattern of taxation and expenditure which put a heavy burden on the poor while leaving the rich, especially the foreigners, with a very light load.

The Moderates complained of India’s growing poverty and economic backwardness and put all the blame on the policies of the British Government. They criticised the individual administrative measures and worked hard to reform the administrative system.

The Moderates opposed tooth and nail the restrictions imposed by the Government on the freedom of speech and the press. In 1897, Tilak and many other leaders were arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for spreading disaffection against the Government through their speeches and writings. The Natu brothers of Poona were deported without trial. The arrest of Tilak marked the beginning of a new phase of the Nationalist movement. The Amrita Bazar Patrika wrote: “There is scarcely a home in this vast country where Tilak is not now the subject of melancholy talk and where his imprisonment is not considered as a domestic calamity.”

The basic weakness of the Moderates lay in their narrow social base. Their movement did not have a wide appeal. The area of their influence was limited to the urban community. As they 1id not have the support of the masses, they declared that the time was not ripe for throwing out a challenge to the foreign rulers. To quote Gokhale, “You do not realise the enormous reserve of power behind the Government. If the Congress were to do anything such as you suggest, the Government would have no difficulty in throttling it in five minutes.” However, it must not be presumed that the Moderate leaders fought for their narrow interests. Their pro-grammes and policies championed the cause of all sections of the Indian people and represented nation-wide interests against colonial exploitation. What they wanted was to reform or liberalise the existing system of government through peaceful, gradualist and constitutional means.

The influence of the moderates, however, declined with the rise of the militants who did not believe in gradualism and who criticized the moderates for their great faith in Britain and British political institutions.

RISE OF EXTREMISM

TIme moderates sought to make time provincial legislatures more representative and to increase the Indian element in the civil services, but the process was long and the progress slow slow, Repelled by the unsympathetic approach of the imperial bureaucracy and enraged by he unpopular policies of Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, and particularly his decision on the partition of Bengal, the youth of India moved towards militant politics and direct action. As a protest against the partition of Bengal (October 1905), the nationalists advocated the boycott of British goods.

In 1907, Bipin Pal made the paradoxical statement that the “viceroyalty of Lord Curzon…. had been one of the most beneficent if not decidedly the most beneficent viceroyalty that India ever had,” for Curzon, by pursuing his unpopular policies, had made Indians SO discontented that they demanded self-government with greater determination than ever before.  Aurobindo similarly declared that he considered the partition of Bengal to be a most beneficial measure because, by arousing intense opposition among the people, that measure had stirred up and strengthened national feeling.

As a result of the growing disillusionment about the activities of the British rulers and as a reaction against Curzon’s proposal for the partition of Bengal there came into existence the extremist part which advocated a policy of boycott, swadeshi and national education in January 1907, Tilak declared: ‘‘We are not armed, and there is no necessity of arms either. We have a stronger weapon, a political weapon in boycott.’’ Tilak also said: “When you prefer to accept swadeshi, you must bycott videshi  (foreign) goods. Without boycott, swadeshi cannot flourish.’’

Aurbindo Tilak and Pal asked the people not to cooperative with the government. The basic theory of Tilak, Aurbindo and Pal, which was later put into operation a mass scale by Mahatmna Gandhi, was that as the existence of the Government depended on he cooperation of the people, the Government would cease to function or to exist the very day the people withdrew their Cooperation from it.

With the rise of the militant movement the glamour of England and English institutions began to fade and English influence increasingly came to be replaced by the influence emanating primarily from the indigenous sources as also from the European literature or revolt. The study of British constitutional history had generated among the moderates a love for and faith in Dominion status. But such stories as how the Italians had driven the Austrians out of their land gave militant nationalists a new conception and in fact a new ideal of complete independence. Self-government under British promontory had been the goal of the moderate school, but the ideal of extremist or militant school was complete autonomy and elimination of all foreign control.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) and other extremist o wanted to adopt a policy of direct act and sistance, denounced what they called “the political mendicancy” of the moderates. During the anti partition agitation, in the first decade of the twentieth century Tilak wrote: “The time has come to demand Swaraj or self Government. No piecemeal reform will do. The system of the present administration is ruinous to the country. It must mend or end.” According to him Swaraj was the birthright of every Indian.

“The term Swaraj,” said Bipin Pal (1858-1932), another exremist leader, was not merely a political but primarily a moral concept. “The corresponding term in our language,” he said, “is not non-subjection which would be a literal rendering of the English word independence, but self-subjection which is a positive concept. Self- subjection means.... complete identification of the individual with the universal.”

Another Swarajist leader who, like Tilak, spoke of the ideal of Swaraj, was Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950). “We of the new school, “he said, ‘‘would not pitch our ideal one inch lower than absolute Swaraj-Self-Government as it exists in the United Kingdom.” And he added, “We reject the claim of aliens to force upon us a civilisation inferior to our own or keep us out of our inheritance on the untenable ground of a superior fitness.”

Lajpat Rai (1865-1928), along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Pal, constituted the swarajist triumvirate called “Lal-Bal-Pal”. Lajpat, like the other extremists, believed that India must rely oil her own strength amid should not look to Britain for help.

The swarajist said that however much Britain’s rule might be improved or liberalised, it could never be as beneficial to Indians as the self—rule. Their attitude was the same as that of the Irish Sinn Fein leader Arthur Griffith, who had said: I”…in those who talk of ending British misgovernment we See the helots. It is not British misgovernment, but British government in Ireland, good or bad, we stand opposed to.” The swarajists accordingly considered that freedom was their birthright.

THE SURAT SPLIT

In 1907, there was a split in the Congress and the Moderates parted company with the Extremists. That split was due to many causes. The moderates had controlled the Congress from its very beginning and even now they were ill control of it. They had their own ways of thinking and 1 which were not acceptable to the younger generation who were impatient with the speed at which the Moderates were moving and leading the nation. Under the circumstances, a confrontation between the two was inevitable and that actually happened in 1907.

The seeds of the split could be traced to the Calcutta Session in 1906, where the Moderates had accepted the resolutions on Swaraj, national education, boycott and Swadeshi on account of the pressure brought of them from all quarters. In their hearts, they had not accepted the new resolutions. Their fear was that the growing pace of the national struggle might lead to lawlessness and that would provide the British with an excuse to deny the reforms on the one hand and to crush all political activity on the other. They had no self-confidence. They did not believe that sustained and dignified national struggle was possible and desirable. They considered the Extremists irresponsible persons who were likely to put in danger the future of the country. The British Government also tried to win over the Moderates against the Extremists. While the Extremists were roughly handled by the Government, the Moderates were shown all the favours. Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardai Ajit Singh, Tilak and man leaders of Bengal were deported.

The break—up of the Surat Congress was no doulbt au unpleasant affair. It marked a direct open breach between the Moderates and the Nationalist parties not only in Maharashtra but throughout India. For the first time in the history of the Congress, there was at Surat an open fight between the delegates of the Congress and sonic blood was drawn, but it did not stop at that. The split led to a cleavage in the sense that the name of the Indian National Congress had to be kept in abeyance for the time and a new entity called he convention was installed in its place. Of course as the name itself implies, the Convention was a stop-gap expedient, intended to function in the place of the Congress only till such time as the national Congress could meet again in its old form. The old form had this peculiarity that there was not much ceremony observed in the election oft he delegates to the Congress. There were no conditions of membership. There was no constitution as such for the Congress, no election of delegates. In fact the membership was open to anyone that might choose to attend the Congress session as a delegate. There was no competition as such in the election of the delegates for the simple reason that there was no numerical allotment fixed for an province, it was an open rally of all that chose to attend.

Tilak and his party were of course ousted from the Convention because they would not sign a prescribed creed of political faith, which practically excluded the ideal of independence, if only an ideal so far. The Convention and the Nationalist party met in two separate camps at Surat. It must be noted here that even with this definite split in the Congress each party duly affirmed its love for the Congress which alone was regarded as the true national Assembly for the country and in both the camps the hope was expressed that sooner or later there might again be held a Congress united as before.

Nobody could openly allege the break-up of the Congress as a criminal offence, but the split was taken into consideration by the government as an open challenge to the policy of constitutional agitation. After Tilak’s conviction by the High Court, the National party led by him became sullen and almost went underground. For six years from 1908 to 1914, the Nationalist Party could not decide as to what it should do about entering the Congress. There was an attempt made to call a meeting of a rival Congress at Nagpur. But while government banned the session, there was also want of unanimity in the party itself about the starting of a rival Congress which might make the split absolutely permanent. The cooler wings in the Party thought that there was no wisdom in setting up a rival to the old Congress as without unity among political parties the show as presented by separate parties was bound to be poor. A group within the Tilak Party was trying to negotiate matters with the leaders of the Moderate party for making the entry of this group and others of its persuasion into the Congress on its own terms, that is to say, without the restriction of a creed and with the old facilities for unfettered election of delegates. But the other view was more insistent and prevailed, namely, that nothing should be done in this matter until Tilak returned from Mandalay.

TILAK’S LOYAL ATTITUDE

Things came to a head after his return, It was soon discovered that Tilak was against setting up of a rival Congress though b this tune it was also discovered that the Moderate party had a very poor following in t lie Congress, so much so that the total number of delegates of the Congress at one tune did not mount to even 350, though the session was held under the presidency of such an illustrious personage as Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, and also held in the vantage ground of northern. India. This loyal attitude of Tilak towards the Congress was well-known to the Moderates but was not appreciated by them. In fact, they resisted by every means in their power, all efforts made by Tilak and his friends to re enter the Congress.

Both Tilak and Mrs. Besant ioined hands and two Home Rule Leagues were formed, one in Maharashtra and the other in Madras. By the time of the Lucknow Congress in 1916, most of the open sores were healed. There was an urge in the mind of both Parties towards re union on honourable conditions. Some conditions about the membership of the Congress were agreed to, and the Moderate Party opened its arms to the Nationalist Party. Tilak attended the Lucknow Congress after an absence of 8 years and was given the honours of the one and sole political hero of the time. It must also be mentioned that the Moderate group in the Congress could not yet make up its mind to instal Tilak as the president of the Congress. But it was well-know that Tilak never hankered after this honour. On the contrary, he was determined to practise an ordinance of self-denial in this matter, for it was well-know that though elected president of the Congress which was to have been, but was not held, in 1907, in Nagpur by the Reception Committee at Nagpur, Tilak withdrew his name and suggested that of Lala Lajpat Rai in his own place. For two years however, that is to say, in 1916 and 1917, Tilak was of course the leading figure at the annual Congress session and also at the special session held at Bombay. It was practically on the eve of Tilak’s departure for England for the prosecution of the Chirol case, that he was elected to the presidentship of the Congress, but he was of course unable to accept it for he was given a passport to England only for the Chirol case and it was not expected that he could find time to devote’ to politics during his stay in England. He resigned it since it was of no practical use to him for some time. But he carried with him the capacity of the president of the Tilak Home Rule League and gave evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Montague’s Government of India Bill, as the Chirol case was disposed off and there was an open invitation by the British Government to all Indian political parties to send delegations to England for the purpose. The last thing to be mentioned in connection with relations between Tilak and the Congress is the collection of a crore of rupees by Mahatma Gandhi’ in the name of the Tilak Swaraj Fund, though it must also be mentioned that this Fund was spent on activities and propaganda to which Tilak could not be supposed to have given his cordial approval, namely the non-co operation policy and the cult of Ahinsa as a political weapon.

THE HOME RULE MOVEMENT

When Great Britain was involved in the First World War, Indian leaders like Tilak and Annie Besant decided to put new life in the national movement in the country. As the Englishmen did not like the word Swaraj and considered the same to be “seditious and dangerous,” Tilak decided to use the term “Home Rule” in place of Swaraj as the goal of his movement. In December 1915, he had deliberations with his colleagues and on 28 April 1916 the Indian Home Rule League was set up with its headquarters at Poona. The object of this League was to “attain Home Rule or self—government within the British Empire by all constitutional means and to educate and organise public opinion in the country towards the attainment of the same.” A similar Home Rule League was founded by Annie Besant on 15 September 1916 with its headquarters at Adyar near Madras.

 The advocates of the Hone Rule Movement believed’ in Constitutional methods and were opposed to violence and revolutionary agitation. The had no desire to embarrass the British Government which was fighting against Germany and Austria-Hungary. They were prepared to offer their cooperation to the British Government so that it could win the war. However, the believed that the great of Home Rule to India was in the interests of the British Empire in its war against Germany and Austria as she could then fight with greater moral force.

The year 1917 was an eventful year in the sense that the two Home Rule Leagues of Tilak and Annie Besant worked in co operation with each other. Tilak confined his activities to the Bombay presidency and the Central Provinces and the rest of India was left to Annie Besant. The branches of the Home Rule League were set up all over the country and there was a popular demand for Home Rule.

Tilak went on a whirlwind tour of the country in 1916 and appealed to the people to unite under the banner of the Home Rule League. His target was not the British Empire or the Emperor of India but the bureaucracy in India. In his public speeches, he declared emphatically that Home Rule was the only cure for India’s political ills and grievances, that liberty was tile birthright of every man and that the aspiration to get one’s liberty was the essence of human nature A small minority from outside India could not be allowed to rule the country arbitrarily.

Annie Besant also toured the country amid created a lot of enthusiasm among the people for the national cause. Her articles in the Commonweal and New India were very popular. C.Y. Chintamani says: “Annie Besant stirred the country by tile spoken as well as the written word, as scarcely as ally one else could do.” Annie Besant’s work was particularly among the Women of India who showed ‘‘uncalculating heroism, endurance and tile selfless sacrifice of the feminine nature.

The British Government could not be expected to keep quiet in the face of a stir created by the Home Rule Leagues and their leaders and it decided to curb the activities of those leaders who were in the forefront of the movement. The existing statutes were tightened. There was already an ordinance to prevent tile entry of undesirable aliens into India. The Defence of India Act, 1915 superseded the ordinary criminal law of country and action under it could be taken against agitators. The provisions of the Indian Press Act 1910 were strictly enforced to stop the propaganda of the Home Rule Leaguers. Circulars were issued by which the students of schools and colleges were forbidden from taking part in the Home Rule Movement. In July 1916, Tilak was prosecuted for delivering seditious speeches and was ordered to furnish a personal bond of Rs. 20,000. Externment orders were served on him and he was ordered not to enter Delhi and the Punjab. Similar action was taken against Annie Besant. She was ordered to furnish security for her press and the Commonweal and New India. In all, she deposited Rs. 20,000 arid the whole that amount was forfeited by the Government. The Government also took action against Annie Besant and her two associates, B.P. Wadia and G,S. Arundale. The Governor of Madras called Annie Besant for an interview and told her that she was to be interned. There was a lot of indignation all over the country against her intern Protest meetings were held all over the country at repression by the police was condemned.

NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT

In the critical closing year of the war, the repressive policy of the British Government was becoming worse and worse. The Press Act was severely enforced. There were restrictions on Tilak and Mrs. Besant. In Bengal the number of youngmen interned ran upto nearly three thousand. There was great hardship and discontent, specially in the Punjab on account of recruiting and war fund activities of the Government.

The war had come to a close already when the Congress met at Delhi.in19 18 under the Presidentship of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviva, The allies had been successful and the principle of self-determination had been declared b President Wilson, Llvod George and other statesmen. In the light of this situation, the Delhi Congress re-examined the position with regard to the Montague-Chelmsford scheme, demanding Dominion Status’ and representation on Peace Conference, and nominating Lokmanya, Gandhiji and Hussan lmam as its representatives. The Congress also urged the withdrawal of all repressive laws.

But the demands of the Delhi Congress were not only unheeded but as 1919 showed-the Government having won the war, felt itself free now, to deal with the agitation and rebellion in India, in its own way. The Rowlatt Bills were introduced in February 1919 in the Supreme Legislative Council which provided for severe curtailment of civil liberties.

GANDHI ENTERS ACTIVE POLITICS

It was at this time that Gandhiji entered the field of Indian politics actively. He took the history decision to begin for the first time, a satygraha movement in the country to protest against the Rowlatt Act.

On the 18th March he published the pledge: “Being conscientiously of opinion that the Emil known as the Indian Criminal law Emergency Powers Bill, No 2 of 1919, are unjust, subversive of the principals of liberty and justice and destructive of the elementary rights of an individual on which the safety of India as a whole and the State itself is based, we solemnly affirm that in the event of these Bills becoming law and until they are withdrawn, we shall refuse civily to obey these law and such other laws as the Committee, hereafter to be appointed, may think fit, and we further affirm that in the struggle we will faithfully follow truth and refrain from violence to life, person or property.”

The 30th of March 1919 was fixed for a hartal, a day of fasting, penance and prayer, hut was changed to 6th April which can be called a red letter day in Indian history. The response of the people startled the Government, which flushed with victory, lost its head. There was firing at place. At Delhi, Swami Sharadhananda when threatened with shooting by British soldiers, bared his chest for the bullets. There were glorious scenes of Hindu-Muslim fraternisation. Swami Shradhananda was allowed to preach from the pulpit of Jamma Masjid. The country took to this new idea, as if they had been waiting for it, all along. A new chapter in the national struggle had begun. The happenings in the Punjab soon provided the immediate source of a deep and torrential flood of national awakening.

PUNJAB ATROCITIES

The story of the Punjab is toowell-known and remembered to be repeated in any detail. The Punjab has been the citadel of British Imperialism, recruiting ground of the army of occupation; and reaction - and ruthlessness has distinguished the Punjab Government policy ever since the beginning uptil the last days of British departure. The legacy of that policy still overclouds our outlook and the situation in the Punjab is still the tragedy and menace of our country. In 1919, the Punjab was ruled by a more forthright imperialist in the person of Sir Michael O’Dwyer who was determined to save the Punjab from contamination of political agitation elsewhere.

The Congress was to be held in Amritsar in 1919 and Sir Michael O’Dwyer sent for the local Congress leaders, Dr Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal to his house and they were spirited away to unknown places. This was on the 10th April 1919. Crowds of people gathered and wanted to meet the District Magistrate to ask the where about of these popular leaders. There was firing and brickbats and the casualties made the people very agitated and the mob killed five Englishmen and burnt a bank and some other buildings. There were similar incidents at Gujeranwalla and Kasur and minor outbreaks elsewhere. Martial law was declared in the Punjab and same day.

JALLIANWALLA BAGH MASSACRE

On 12 April 1919, a proclamation was issued--by General Dyer, who had taken charge of the troops the day before, that no meetings or gatherings of the people were to be held. However, no steps were taken to see that the proclamation was brought to the notice of the people living in the various localities of the city. The result was that, it was announced on 12 April evening that there would be public meeting on 13 April 1919 at 4.30 p.m. in the Jallianwala Bagh. Neither General Dyer nor other authorities took any action to stop the meeting. The meeting started at the right time and there were about 6,000 to 10,000 people present in the meeting. All of them were practically unarmed and defenceless. The Jallianwala Bagh was closed practically on al sides by walls except one entrance. General Dyer entered the Jallianwala Bagh with armoured cars and troops. Without giving any warning to the people to disperse, he ordered the troops to fire and he continued to do so till the whole of the ammunition at his disposal was exhausted At least one thousand persons were killed. The contention of General Dyer was that he wanted to teach the people a lesson so that they might not laugh at him. He would have fired and fired longer, he said, if he had the required ammunition He h only fired 1,600 rounds because his ammunition had run out The regime of Dyer imposed some unthinkable punishments The water and electric supply of Amritsar were cut off Public flogging was common How ever, the “Crawling Order” was the worst of all

The news of events in the Punjab, suppressed at first soon sent a wave of horror and fury throughout the length and breadth of the country. This massacre proved to be a turning point in the history of the freedom movement.

For eight months the Government tried to draw a veil over the Punjab massacre. After the Congress had conducted and published an enquiry into the facts by a committee consisting of Gandhjji, Motilal Nehru, C. R. Das, Abbas Tyabji and Jaykar, and in face of widespread agitation the Government set up a committee under Lord Hunter. Inspite of the ugliest findings, this committee tried to whitewash and justify the perpetrators of the crimes, with mild regret. The House of Commons did not fail to glorify General Dyer and public subscriptions were raised in England to honour him.

GANDHIJI’S DECISION

Mahatma Gandhi had so far believed in the justice and fairplay of the British Government. He had given his full cooperation to the Government during the First World War, inspite of opposition from men like Tilak. But the tragedy at Jallianwala Bagh, the imposition of Martial Law in the Pun jab findings of the Hunter Committee in 1920 on the tragic events of the Punjab, completely shattered the faith of Mahatma Gandhi in the good sense of the Britishers. He, therefore, decided to start Non cooperation Movement. He felt that the old methods must be given up.

A special session of the Congress met at Calcutta from 4th to 9th September, 1920. Here Gandhiji himself moved the resolution on non-cooperation. He was opposed not only by the President elect, Lala Lajpatrai and by other stalwarts like Chittaranjan Das, but ultimately he carried the day. Pandit Motilal Nehru joined Gandhiji at once and gave up his practice. The resolution was carried by a majority of 1855 votes as against 873.

The country had now found a way to express its intese desire for freedom and a new atmosphere soon began to pervade it. The non-cooperation programme was to be finally discussed and ratified at Nagpur. An unprecedented of delegates attended the Nagpur session. The Nagpur Congress really marked the new era in the Freedom movement The old feeling of impotent range and importunate request gave place to a new sense of responsibility and a self reliance Lalali and Deshbandhu came to oppose proposals but stayed to be converted.

The Nagpur Congress made Gandhiji the indisputedly supreme authority in the Congress and outside. Seasoned leaders like B.C. Pal and Malaviyaji, Jinnah and Khaparde, and stalwarts like C.R. Das and Lalaji were all won over. The Nagpur Congress also changed the creed of the Congress, “in such a fashion as to eliminate the declared adherence of that body to the British connection and to constitutional methods of agitation.”

THE PROGRAMME

The programme of the Non-Cooperation Movement was clearly stated in the non-cooperation resolution. It involved the surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from nominated posts in the local bodies. The non-cooperators were not to attend Darbars and other official and semi-official functions held by the Government officials or in their honour. They were to withdraw their children gradually from schools and colleges and establish national schools and colleges. They were to boycott gradually the British courts and establish private arbitration courts. They were not to join the army as recruits for service in Mesopotamia. They were not to stand for election to the Legislatures and they were also not to vote. They were to use Swadeshi cloth. Handi-spining and hand-weaving were to be encouraged. Untouchability was to be removed as there could be no Swaraj without this reform. Mahatma Gandhi promised Swaraj within one year if people followed his programme sincerely and whole-heartedly. Ahimsa or non-violence was to be strictly observed by the non-co-operators. They were not to give up Satya or truth under any circumstances.

The Non Cooperation Movement captured the imagination of the pet Both the Hindus and Muslims participated in it There was wholesale burning of foreign goods. Many student left schools and colleges and the Congress set up such national educational institutions the Kashi Vidyapeeth, Benares Vidyapeeth, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Bihar Vidyapeeth, Bengal National University, National College of Lahore, Jamia Millia in Delhi and the National Muslim University of Aligarh. Seth Jamma Lal was declared that he would give Rs. one lakh a year for the maintenance of non-practising lawyers. Forty lakh volunteers were enrolled by the Congress. Twenty thousand Charkhas were manufactured, The people started deciding their disputes by means of arbitration.

The non-cooperation movement had both a positive and a negative aspect. The positive aspect included the revival of hand-spinning and weaving, removal of untouchability, promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity and prohibition. The negative aspect fell into three parts: boycott of legislatures, courts, and government educational institutions. This boycott movement spread like wild fire. The Government tried to crush the movement by large-scale arrests, but this only helped to strengthen the movement.

In July 1921 the All India Congress Committee decided to counter the government policy of repression by not participating in the welcome to the Prince of Wales who was to visit India in November- December 1921. When the Prince of Wales came to India, he was “greeted” with hartals throughout the country. The Government persisted in the policy of repression; the Congress and the Khilafat Volunteers’ Organisation were declared illegal and large numbers of Congress workers were put behind prison bars.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Mahatma Gandhi was convinced that the only way to make the Government see reason was to start the civil disobedience movement and he decided to start the, same in Bardoli in Gujarat. The Congress Working Committee called upon the people of India to cooperate with the people of Bardoli “by refraining from mass or individual civil disobedience of an aggressive character, except upon the express consent of Mahatma Gandhi previously obtained.” Mahatma Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy and gave 7 days to accept his demands. The Viceroy held, the Congress responsible for all the lawlessness in the country. Mahatma Gandhi was left with no alternative but to launch the civil disobedience movement.

Unfortunately, at this time, the tragedy of Chauri Chaura occurred which changed the course of Indian history. What actually happened was that a mob of 3,000 persons killed 25 policemen and one inspector on 5 February, 1922. Similar tragic events had already occurred on 17 November, 1921 in Bombay and on 13 January 1922 in Madras. This was too much for Mahatma Gandhi who stood for complete non-violence. The result was that Mahatma Gandhi gave orders for the suspension of the Non-cooperation Movement at once. The Goverment was not satisfied with this action of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress. It was feared that Mahatma Gandhi was out for a bigger trouble and conseq-uently he was arrested on 13 March,1922. His trial began in Ahmedabad and he pleaded guilty. He took upon himself full responsibility for the occurrences in Madras, Bombay and Chauri Chaura and told Mr. Broomfield, the British judge, that he would “do the same again” if he was set free. He was sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment.

The action of Mahatma Gandhi in suspending the movement was severely criticised from many quarters. According to Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, “Long letters were written from behind the bars by Pt.

Motilal Nehru and Lalà Lajpat Rai They took Gandhi to task for punishing the whole country for the sins of a place.”

Dr. R.C. Majumdar says that the most outstanding feature of the Non-cooperation Movement was the willingness and ability of the people in general to endure hardships and punishments inflicted by the Government. It is true that the movement collapsed but the memory of its greatness survived and was destined to inspire the nation to launch a more arduous campaign. The movement served as a baptism of fire which initiated the people to a new faith and new hope and inspired them with a new confidence in their power to fight for freedom. As a result of this movement, the Congress movement for the first time became a really mass movement. The national awakening not only penetrated to the people at large but also made them active participants in the struggle for freedom. Moreover, the Indian National Congress was turned into a genuine revolutionary organisation. It was no longer a deliberative assembly but an organised fighting party pledged to revolution.

THE SWARAJIST PARTY

When C. R. Das and the other Bengal leaders were in Alipore Cenral Jail, they evolved a new programme of non-cooperation with the Government through legislatures. Their idea was to enter the legislatures in large numbers and “carry on a policy of uniform, continuous and consistent opposition to the Government.” Motilal Nehru also shared the views of C.R. Das. In July 1922, C.R. Das came out of jail and began to carry on propaganda in favour of Council-entry.

When a meeting of the All-India Congress Committee was held at Calcutta in November 1922, there were differences of opinion among the Congress leaders on the question of Council-entry. While C,R. Das, Motilal Nehru and Hakim Ajmal Khan were in favour of it, C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. Ansari, etc., were opposed to it. In spite of lengthy debates, no decision was arrived at. At the annual session of the Congress held at Gaya in December 1922, the “No-changers” won a victory and the programme of Council-entry was rejected. C.R. Das who presided over the session resigned from the Congress and announced his decision to form the Swarajist Party. The Object of the new party was to wreck the Government of India Act, 1919 from within the Councils. In March 1923, the first Conference of the Swarajist Party was held at the residence of Motilal Nehru at Allahabad and the future programme of the Party was decided. The keynote of the programme of the Party was obstructionism. Its members were to contest elections on the issue of the redress of the wrongs done by the British bureaucracy, to oppose every measure of the Government and to throughout all legislative enactments proposed by the British Government. This view of the Swarajists was that the seats in the legislatures must be captured so that they did not fall into the hands of undesirable persons who were tools in the hands of the bureaucracy in India. The leaders of the Swarajist Party declared that outside the Councils, they would co operate with the constructive programme of the Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and in case their methods failed, they would, without any hesitation, join Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement if and when launched by him.

The Swarajist Party fought the elections in 1923 and refused to come to any understanding with the Liberal Federation. The Swarajist Party won a majority in the Legislative Council of the Central Provinces. It was the dominant Party in Bengal. It also won good support in U.P. and Bombay. However, the Swarajist party was at its best in the Central Assembly under the leadership of Motilal Nehru. By winning over the support of the Nationalist Party and a few other members, the Swarajist Party was able to command a working majority and was thus able to accomplish a lot. On 18 February, 1924, the Swarajist Party was able to get a resolution passed by which the Government was requested to establish full responsible Government in India. A demand was also made that a Round Table Conference consisting of the representatives of India should be called at an early date to frame a Constitution for India. The appointment of the Muddiman Committee was the result of a resolution of the Swarajist Party. Motilal Nehru was requested to become a member of this Committee but he refused. Some of the demands in the budget of 1924-25 were rejected by the Central Assembly as a result of the efforts of the Swarajist Party. The Assembly also refused to allow the Government to introduce the entire Finance Bill. In February 1925, V.J.Patel introduced a Bill asking for the repeal of certain laws and with the exception of one, the Bill was passed. A resolution was passed with the help of the Swarajist Party demanding the release of certain political prisoners. The Swarajists resorted to walkouts as a mark of protest against the policy of the Government. They boycotted all receptions, parties or functions organised by the Government. What was done in the Central Assembly was also done in those provincial legislatures where the Swarajists had some influence.

According to R. C. Majumdar, the Swarajist Party rendered a signal service to the country. For the first time, the Legislative Assembly wore the appearance of a truly National Assembly where national grievances were fully voiced, national aims and aspirations expressed without any reservation and real character of the British rule exposed. The British autocracy and Indian bureaucracy stood exposed to the whole world.

SIMON COMMISSION AND NEHRU REPORT

The Government of India Act, 1919, had provided that a review of the constitutional position would be made after ten years. However, the British Government appointed Royal Commission headed by

SirJohn Simon in 1927, two years ahead of time, to go into the question of constitutional reforms. This Commission did not contain any Indian members; its all-white composition was treated by the people of India as an to national dignity. When Simon landed in Bomb he was treated with black flags and shouts of “Simon, go back”, and there was a countrywide hartal. Anti-Simon, demonstration took place all over the country anti Lala Lajpat Rai, the “Lion of Punjab”, was struck with lathi blows of the police, and he died soon afterwards.

The Congress, on the other hand, appointed an all-parties Committee to draft a new Constitution for India. As a result, there emerged a report which, drafted under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru, was called the Nehru Report. The Nehru Report marked a watershed in the constitutional thinking of Indian nationalists. The Nehru report came up before the Calcutta Congress for approval. At the Cakutta Session of the Cohgress held in 1928, it was intended to pass a resolution declaring complete independence as the goal of India. However, Mahatma Gandhi. intervened and Dominion Status was declared to be the goal of India. Mahauna Gandhi gave the assurance that he himself would lead the movement for independence if by the end of 1929 the British Government did not confer Dominion Status on India. The year 1929 had been a year of waiting.

INDEPENDENCE PLEDGE

When the Congress leaders met on the banks of the river Ravi, near Lahore, in 1929 they were disappointed over the attitude of the British Government. Leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and Srinivas Iyengar asked for bold action against the Government. In his presidential address Jawaharlal Nehru condemned British imperialism, Kings and Princes and declared himself to be a socialist and a republican. He called upon the leaders assembled there to take strong action in these words: “Talking of high stakes and going through great dangers were the only way to achieve great things.” He declared that complete independence should be the goal of the Congress. Mahatma Gandhi also approved of that goal but he did not like to precipitate matters. A resolution was passed that the word Swaraj in the Congress Constitution means “complete independence.” All Congressmen taking part in the National Movement were asked not to take part, directly or indirectly, in future elections and the sitting members were asked to resign their seats. The All India Congress Committee was authorised to launch a programme of civil disobedience including the non-payment of taxes. On midnight of 31 December 1929, as the new year was ushered in the Tricolor Flag of Puma Swaraj was hoisted on the banks of the river Ravi by the Congress President, Jawaharlal Nehru.

26 January 1930 was declared Independence Day and a pledge was taken by the people of India on that date and the same independence pledge was repeated year af year. The Independence pledge began with the words: “We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life so that they may have full opportunity for growth. We believe also that if any Government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have further right to alter it or abolish it. The British Government of India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually”.

SATYAGRAHA ERA

PURNA SWARAJ celebrations throughout the county on 26thJanuarv, 1930, in the wake of the famous Lahore Session, revealed the pent-up feelings, enthusiasm and readiness of the people for sacrifice. The independence pledge had rekindled the smouldering fire and a new upsurge was in the offing.

It was iii this atmosphere that All India Congress Working Committee met in February at Sabarmati and authorised Gandhiji to start Civil Disobedience Movement at a time and 1 of his choice.

It was not yet clear what would be the programme of action. Gandhiji’s strategy was not dear even to his closest associates. But the country had unbounded faith in Gaudhiji’s leadership. Earlier he had made his 11-point demand on the Victory and had offered inspite of every thing that had happened, to call of T Civil Disobedience. These points included total prohibition, reduction of Rupee ratio to Is. 4d. reduction of Land Revenue by half, reduction of all Military expenditure by half, protective Tariff on foreign cloth, relaxation of the Arms Act for self-defence and abolition of Salt Tax.

It soon became known that Salt Tax was to he chosen for (tired action campaign. This, when it started, appeared fantastic and ridiculous to time Moderates amid the Government. But soon the country was ablaze with the mighty movement that is remembered with pride ‘‘In it one might have said, the progress of a thousand ears was encompassed within the events of a year.”

Gandhiji was to start on Dandi March to take possession of the salt deposits of the Government-Salt Depot in the seashore. Before starting this march, Gandhiji, sent a letter to the Viceroy apprising him of his plan. This letter, sent through Mr. Reginald Reynolds, an Englishman Ashramite, gave a tale of India’s ruination, poverty and serfdom under the British Raj, and demanded redress on the lines of the 11 points. If, however, no redress came, “On the 11th day of this month. shall proceed, with such co workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws. I regard this tax to be the mast iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil, The wonder is that we have submitted to the cruel monopoly for so long. It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me, and, in the act of disobeying the Salt Act, to lay themselves open to the penalties of a Law that should never have disfigured the Statute Book.”

The Victory’s reply to this ultimatum came back quickly, and was unequivocal. His Excellency expressed his regret that Mr. Gandhi should have been “Contemplating a course of action which was clearly bound to involve violation of the law and danger to the public peace.”

Gandhiji wrote, “On bended knees I asked for bread and received the stone instead English Nation responds only to force, and I am not surprised by the Viceregal reply. The only public peace the Nation knows is the peace of the public prison. India is a vast prison-house. I repudiate this (British) Law and regard it as my sacred duty to break the mournful monotony of compulsory peace that is choking the heart of the Nation for want of free vent.”

HISTORIC MARCH TO DANDHI

Gandhiji began his march at 6.30 a.m. on 12th March, 1930 accompanied by his 79 Ashramites. It was a historic scene, calling back to our minds, the old legends coupled with the names of Shri Rama and the Pandavas. Motilal Nehru compared it to the march of Shri Rama Chandrato Sri Lanka. C.F. Andrews regarded it as Moses leading the exodus of Israelities. Americans compared the epic march to Lincoln’s decision to maintain the Union and his sending troops to the southern States. And all this by one frail unarmed man at 61, challenging the then strongest empire.

The March was widely reported and anxiously watched all over the country. Each day added to the fervour and enthusiasm. 300 Village officers tendered their resignations from the area through which Gandhiji passed. Gandhiji had said earlier “Wait till I begin. Once I march to the place, you will know what to do.” He had a clear vision of this scheme of resistance when others were in the dark.

Government had not yet arrested Gandhiji but Sardar Vallabhbhai and some other leaders had already been put in jail.

The road was watered, the path was strewn with flowers and leaves and decorated with flags and festoons. Crowds gathered everywhere to witness the march and pay homage to this strange army and its general. Gandhiji preached his old Gospel along the route. Khaddar, abstinence from drink and removal of untouchability were the three favourite themes, but he also enjoyed that all should join the Satyagrahis. During the march he declared that he would either die on the way or else keep away from the Ashram until Swaraj was won. Gandhiji’ s march lasted 24 days. They had traversed a distance of 200 miles. All along he was emphasising that the march was a pilgrimage, a period of penance not to be spent in feteing and feasting.

On the morning of April 5th, Gandhiji reached Dandi. Soon after the morning prayers, Gandhiji and his volunteers proceeded to break the Salt Law by picking up the salt lying on the seashore. Immediately after this Gandhiji issued a press statement: “Now that the technical or ceremonial breach of the Salt Law has been committed, it is now open to anyone who would take the risk of prosecution under the Salt Law to manufacture salt wherever .he wishes, and wherever it is convenient.”

ARREST OF GANDHIJI

The country had been held back and was now ablaze from end to end, being permitted to start salt satyagraha as from the 6th of April, the national week. Huge public meetings were held in all big cities, the audience running up to six figures. The events at Karachi, Shiroda, Ratnagiri, Patna, Peshawar, Calcutta, Madras and Sholapur constituted a new experience in self-sacrifice and also laid bare the mailed fist of the British Government. There were military firings, lathi charges and arrests. Special Ordinances were promulgated to suppress the movement The press was stricken hard Gandhiji had been guiding the movement through his speeches and his Navjivan all along The Government had expected the movement to fizzle out if Gandhiji was left alone Gandhiji then drafted his second letter to the Viceroy announcing his intention of raiding the salt works of Dharsana and Chharsada Then came the time for the arrest of Gandhiji It was ten past one in the night when he was placed in a police car and taken to Yerwada prison.

Mr Ashmead Bartlett of the London Telegraph wrote: “There was something intensely dramatic in the atmosphere while we were waiting for the train, for we all felt we were sole eye-witnesses of a scene which may become historical, this arrest of a prophet, false or true for, false or true, Gandhi is now regarded as a holy man and a saint by millions of Indians Who knows whether one hundred years from now he may be worshipped as a supreme being by 300 million people We could not shake off these thoughts and it seemed incongruous to be at a level-crossing at dawn to take the prophet into custody.”

Before the arrest, however, Gandhiji had dictated at Dandi his last message advising on what was to be done. In this he had said, “After I am arrested, neither the people nor my colleagues should be daunted The conductor of this fight is God and not I” “Whole villages should come forward to pick or manufacture salt Women should picket liquor and opium shops and foreign cloth shops In every house young and old should begin spinning on takli and heaps of yarn should be daily woven. There should be bonfires of foreign cloth. Hindus should regard none as untouchables. Hindus, Muslims, Parsees and Christians, all should heartily embrace one another. The major communities should be satisfied with what remains after satisfaction of minor communities. Students should leave Government schools, and Government servants should resign and be employed in the service of the people, like the brave Patels and Talatis who have resigned. Thus shall we easily complete Swaraj.”

AFTER THE ARREST

Gandhiji’s arrest was followed by demonstrations from one end of the country to the other. It was the signal for voluntary and complete Hartals in Bombay, Calcutta and several other places. The whole city of Bombay was astir with the huge procession and several public meetings About 50,000 men had struck work in the mills. Railway Workshops had to be closed. Cloth merchants decided on a 6-day hartal. Resignations from Honorary officers and services were announced at frequent intervals. There were serious disturbances at Sholapur and in Calcutta.

Gandhiji’s arrest had raised a worldwide protest There were sympathetic hartals among Indian businessmen in places as far wide as Panama, Sumatra and the boycott movement was a matter of concern to the press in England, Germany and France In America an influentially signed message was cabled to Mr Ramsay Mecdonald by prominent clergymen led by Dr John Hayne Holmes

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE EXTENDED

Mr Abbas Tayabji took up Gandhiji’s place as Leader of the salt satyagra his but was soon arrested Arrests, lathi charges and repression was let loose in towns and villages but was met with an increasing tempo of resistance by the people After Gandhiji’s arrest, the Working Committee met in May at Allahabad and extended the scope of Civil Disobedience. It called upon the entire nation to make all sacrifices that they were capable of. Boycott of foreign cloth throughout the country was to be completed without delay and production of Khadi was to be intensified. Contraband salt manufacture was to be extended. Forest Laws were to be disobeyed. Foreign cloth was to be boycotted. British goods including British banking, insurance, shipping and similar other institutions were to be boycotted. Lastly, “The Committee is of opinion that the time has arrived for the in of No-tax campaign by non-payment of special taxes in certain Provinces, and that a beginning should be made by non payment of the land tax in the Provinces were the ryotwari system prevails, such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnatak, Andhra, Tamil Nad and the Punjab, and the non-payment of the Chowkidari tax in Provinces like Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It calls upon such Provinces to organize campaigns of non-payment of the land tax or Chowkidari tax in areas selected by, the Provincial Congress Committees.”

DHARSANA RAID

After the arrest of Mr. Tayabji, Shrimati Sarojini Naidu was to direct the raid at Dharsana. She was also arrested with her batch of volunteers. Batches of volunteers-later rushed towards the salt depot. They were beaten and chased out. The same evening another batch of 220 volunteers were arrested. Fresh batches of volunteers congregated arid more salt raids took place. A mass raid at Dharsana took place on the 21st May when 2,500 volunteers participated. They w. led by Imam Saheb the 62 year old colleague of Gandhiji in South Africa, The volunteers commenced the raid early in the morning and as they attacked the salt heaps at different places, the Police would charge them with lath and beat them back. The Imam Saheb and other leaders were arrested. Hundreds of volunteers were injured, some of them fatally. As they were removed to Hospitals or prison camps by the Police, fresh batches came to Dharsana-to take their places.

WADALA RAIDS

A succession of raids were also made on the Wadala salt depot and hundreds of volunteers took part in them. But-the most demonstrative raid took place on the 1st June. On the morning of the first, nearly 15,000 volunteers and others participated in a mass raid at Wadala. Successive batches marched up to the-port Trust level-crossing and were held up by a police Cordon. Soon the raiders among whom were women children broke through the Cordon, splashed through slime and mud and ran over the pans The-raiders were repulsed by the Police who were acting under immediate supervision of the Home Member. Such mass raids took place in other parts of the country also. The way these raids were dealt with by the Police raised public indignation to high pitch. Mr. Webb Miller writing to the ‘New Freeman- expressed abhorrence of the sights at Dharsana:-

“In eighteen years of reporting in twenty-two countries, during which I have witnessed innumerable civil disturbances, riots, street fights and rebellions, I have never witnessed such harrowing scenes as at Dharsana. Sometimes the scenes were so painful that I had to turn away momentarily. One surprising feature was the discipline of the volunteers. It seemed they were thoroughly imbued with Gandhi’s don-violence creed.” -

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE SPREADS

The Civil Disobedience movement assumed various aspects and was carried with varying success in different Provinces. The boycott of foreign cloth had become more effective. The business community in Bombay including the mill owners rendered enthusiastic support. Bombay was the chief centre and guide for the rest of the country. The movement was of revolt and defiance of the British authority on the one hand and constructive work for the masses on the other. Boycott of cloth was coupled with khadi. Prohibition took the shape of cutting down all Toddi trees and picketing all wine shops. Suppression of the newspapers was met with by innumerable cyclostyled news-sheets. There were processions and meetings in defiance of the Police.

The repression that was let loose to subdue this new spirit and situation was also diverse in shape and mounting to new heights in severity. The Working Committee of the Congress was declared unlawful and Pandit Motilal Nehru arrested.

The repression, however, served to intensify the movement specially its boycott aspects. The volunteer organizations in Bombay became more thoroughgoing. Women came to be front. Braving the sun and rain, and lath is and arrests these tender girls and women, made picketing very effective at the liquorshops and cloth shops. When a shopkeeper would not stop to sell his goods, his wife or daughter would go and picket his shop. The young and old women brought up in the seclusion of their homes had rallied to the call and found a new world in the sacrifice and suffering for the country. Their participation was electrifying in its effect, and incidentally brought them a new social emancipation in the process.

Incidents of heroism and names of places and persons that specially distinguished themselves in those glorious days are too numerous to be commemorated. We can but make mention of a few.

At Peshawar the Pathans once notoriously blood-thirsty and valiant, had been transformed into a non -violent people under the leadership of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan affectionately called the Frontier Gandhi. They gave an account of themselves which has become a legend for the whole country. There were serious cases of firings at Peshawar, but the spirit of people remained totally unsubdued. At one time as the leader of the procession was shot down by the military police, another came to take his place and was shot down to be replaced by a third till there were several casualties in cold blood.

Another incident co with Peshawar fills one with pride. There was a wholesale firing on the unarmed crowds. Two Platoons of the second battalion of the 18th Garhwali  Rifles, Hindu troops, in the midst of a Muslim crowd, refused the order to fire and fraternised with the people. A court- martial imposed savage sentences on 17 men of Garhwali rifles. One was given life transportation, another 15 years rigorous imprisonment and rest terms varying from 3 to 10 years. This incident infused a new spirit among the people. From April 25th to May 4th Peshawar was in the hands of the people and had to be recaptured by powerful British forces with Air Squadrons.

In Bengal for some months, the district of Midnapore appeared to be beyond the reach of the Bengal Government. The revolutionary party, disagreeing with Gandhiji’s non-violence were also active. The armoury raid in Chittagong, which even Gandhiji had to admit was a “daring deed”, electrified the country. There were news, carried by the illicit hews-sheets and emissaries, of a strange new life and existence, in villages and towns. Young and old, men and women cheerfully braved the Police lathis, squatted on the road in passive resistance for hours on end when processions were blocked, and the satyagrahis were accompanied and seen off to jails with flowers and celebrations, by families and Friends. At Bombay a boy named Babu Ganno stood across a Police lorry at the Kalbadevi Road to prevent its progress and was crushed under it.

BARDOLI ONCE MORE

In Gujarat, the great event was no-tax campaign successfully carried out in Bardoli and Borsad Talukas. The oppression by the authorities and the resistance of the peasantry was so great that 80,000 people left their homes and migrated to villages in the neighbourhood of Baroda State. Mr. Brails ford has given a description of the exodus, part of which is given below: “And then began one of the strangest migrations in history. One after another, acting with a unanimity of which only Indians with their tight caste organisations are capable, these villagers packed their belongings into their bullock carts and drove them across the border into Baroda. A few even burned the rich crop which they were too late to remove. I visited one of their camps. They have built. Temporary shelters with matting for walls and palm leaves on sacking for a roof. The rains are over; they will suffer no grave hardship till May. But they are crowded together with their beloved cattle, and packed in the narrow space are all their notice hold goods, the great jars in which they store their rice, cloth and chums, chests and beds, shining pots of brass, here a plough, there a picture of the gods, and everywhere, at intervals, the presiding genius of this camp a photograph of Mahatma Gandhi. I asked a big group of them why they had left their homes. They women gave the promptest and simplest answer, “Because Mahatmaji is in prison.” The men were still conscious of an economic grievance; “farming does not pay, and tax is unjust.” One or two said, “To win Swaraj” or Self-Government. “I spent two memorable days touring the deserted villages is company with the Chairman of the Congress organization of Surat. One passed row after row of the padlocked cottages, and through the bars of the windows one could see only empty rooms. The streets were silent lakes of sunlight. Nothing moved until a monkey swung himself over a roof.”

The heroic incident of the women of Borsadh may also be mentioned here. On the 21st January 1931 a demonstration was to be staged at Borsad. The Police determined to counter this demonstration, tried to over-awe the volunteers. The women of Borsad showed fearless resistance. Their pots were broken. They were dispersed by force, thrown down and the Police trod upon their chests with boots.

The Police spared, and respected nobody. S. Vallbhabhai’s own mother aged over 80 was cooking her food and the boiling pot was knocked down by the Police. United Province was the only province where a general no-tax campaign was inaugurated. Both the Zamindars and tenants being called upon to withhold payment of rent and revenue.

In Bihar, the Chowkidar tax was withheld in large areas, The Province suffered to the full from the imposition of punitive police and confiscation of large properties in lieu of petty sums. In the Central Provinces various satyagrahis were successfully launched and continued inspite of the heavy finese and police excesses. Karnatak also organised no-tax campaign in which more than 800 families participated.

The Punjab gave a good account of itself, specially in the boycott of foreign cloth. Women picketers including Muslim ladies took part. Siapa-mock funeral wailing was practised on the houses of those who would sell foreign cloth. On 31st December, 1931, the anniversary of the independence resolution was celebrated. At Lahore Subhas Chandra Bose who had been released from jail after serving a year’s term, was severely beaten while marching in a procession.

This harrowing tale and the epic of this glorious time in the national struggle constitutes the most memorable days of our freedom struggle.

As to the fall-out of the civil disobedience movement of 1930, Louis.Fischer writes. “Gandhi did two things in 1930. He made the British aware that .they were cruelly subjugaating India and he gave Indians the conviction that they would, by lifting their heads and straightening their spines, lift the yoke from their shoulders. The British beat the Indians with batons and rifle buts. The Indians neither avenged nor complained nor retreated.. That made England powerless and India invincible.”

GANDHI-IRWIN PACT AND FIRST ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE

While the Civil Disobedience Movement continued vigorously in spite of untold repression, efforts were made for a compromise and after several attempts of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mr. M.R. Jayakar, an agreement was reached after 15 clays’ strenuous discussions between the Viceroy and Mahatma Gandhi. This agreement, better known as the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, was signed on 5 March, 1931. Under the agreement, the Government was to make concession take stops for the participation of the representatives of Congress in the Second Round Table Conference, and the Congress on part, its had to withdraw the Civil disobedience Movement.

Meanwhile, a Round Table Conference had met in London early 1931. The intention seemed to have been, to set off the stage, before the world of “repres entative gathering” of Indians trying for an agreed plan for the future government of their country. It was not Indians, but the Viceroy and his officials who chose these representatives. What they actually did was’ to carefully assemble all the diverse elements, every creed, every party, every racial minority, every interest in this subcontinent. They collected-princes, princesses, untouchables, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, land-lords, commercial magnates, official representatives of Labour, but the true representatives of he country, the Leaders of the Congress, were not there. They were enjoying hospitality in jails.

The spirit in which the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed did not last long. In spite of protests from all quarters, the Government carried out the execution of Sardar Bagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Dev and Raj Guru on 23’ March ‘1931. On 18 April 1931, Lord Irwin was succeeded by Lord Willington. The new Viceroy had no intention to abide by the terms of the Pact.

SECOND ROUND-TABLE CONFERENCE

In the meantime, however, the Congress Working Committee passed a resolution that Mahatma Gandhi should represent the Congress at the Second Round Table Conference to be convened later in193 1 in London. Mahatma Gandhi did attend the Conference as the sole representative of the Congress. As was expected, the communal question and the differences among the Indian people loomed large in this conference and all efforts to solve it by consent proved unsuccessful. Gandhiji put up a valiant light and some of the speeches he delivered were most striking. Speaking on the Congress that he represented, he said: “I am but a poor humble agent acting on behalf of the Indian National Congress, which is, if lam not mistaken, the oldest political organisation we have in India It has had nearly 50 years of life during which period it has, without any interruption, held its annual session. It is what it means-National.  It represents no particular community, no particular class, no particular interest It claim to represent  all Indian interests and 411 classes It is a matter of the greatest pleasure to me to state that it was first convinced in an English brain, Allan Octavian Hume. It was nursed by two great Parsees, Pherozeshah Mahta and Dadabhai Naoroji, whom all India delighted to recognise as its Grand Old Man. From the very commencement, the Congress had Mussalmans, Christians, Anglo-Indians, I might say all religious, sects, creeds, represented upon it more or less fully. The late Budruddin Tyabji identified himself with, the Congress. We have had Musalmans as Presidents of the Congress, and P too. We have had women as our Presidents; Dr. Annie Besant was the first, and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu followed.

“The Congress ha from its very commencement taken up the cause of the so-called ‘untouchables’. Just as the’ Congress considered Hindu-Muslim unity, thereby meaning unity amongst all the classes, to be indispensable for the attainment of S so also did the Congress’ consider the removal of the curse of untouchability as an indispensable condition for the attainment of full freedom.

“Above all the Congress represents, in its essence, the dumb semi-starved millions scattered over the length and breadth of the land in its 7,00,000 villages, no n whether they come from what is called British India, or what is called Indian India.

 

“One word more as to the so-called untouchables,” said he, “I can understand the claims advanced on behalf of other communities, but the claims advanced on. behalf of the ‘untouchables’ are to me the unkindest cut of all. It means a perpetual bar sinister. We do not want the ‘untouchables’ to be classified as a separate class. Sikhs mayremain such in perpetuity, so may Muslims and Christians. Will the untouchables remain untouchables in perpetuity? I would far rather that Hinduism died than that untouchability lived. Those who speak of the political rights of untouchables do not know India and do not know how Indian society is constructed. Therefore, I want to say with all the emphasis I can command that if I was the only person to resist this thing, I will resist it with my life.”

Apparently the Government’s scheme at the Round Table Conference was only a scheme for Indians sharing power with the beaurocracy and not one designed to achieve responsible Government. “I wish them well and the Congress is entirely out of it. The Congress will wander,” said Gandhiji, “no matter how many years, in the wilderness, rather than bend itself to a proposal under which the hardy tree of freedom and Responsible Government can never grow.” An impasse had developed over the communal question.

When the conference concluded on the first of December, Gandhiji proposed the vote of thanks to the chair and pointed out that they had come to the parting of ways and that their ways would take different directions. He said, “the dignity of human nature is such that we must face the storms of life. I do not know in what direction my path would lie. But it does not matter to me. Even though I may have to go in an exactly different direction, you are still entitled to a vote of thanks from the bottom of my heart.”

Gandhiji returned empty-handed from the Round Table Conference. The condition on which the Congress had agreed to participate, abandonment of stark repression, was also being broken. Jawaharlal Nehru and T.A.K. Sherwa ni had been arrested and put in jail again. In the North West Frontier Province Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Dr. Khan Saheb were also arrested. Special Ordinances had been enforced in the United Provinces, the North West Frontier Province and in Bengal.

CONGRESS DECLARED UNLAWFUL

Gandhiji had strictly warned the Congressmen not to initiate any aggressive campaign but not to suffer any insults to national self-respect. The truce period had been the period of preparation on the part of the Government for renewed hostilities. The Working Committee severely condemned the atrocities and the terrible losses and indignities inflicted on innocent people in pursuance of the policy of terrorism. The President of the Congress that year, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, had addressed the Government on several occasions with no result. Gandhiji asked the Viceroy for an interview but was refused. The beaurocracy now wanted to teach the Congress a lesson. Gandhiji was arrested on January 4, 1932, and the principal Congress leaders all over the country were simultaneously put in jail. Congress was declared illegal. Their funds, premises and property confiscated, their press was banned. Ready made ordinances were broght forth and enforced.

The Congress and the country took up this ruthless challenge. By March 2nd, 1932 already there were 80,000 arrests. By April they rose to 1,20,000. Repression, this time, also exceeded by far the level of 1931. There were wholesale shootings and violence. Enormous fines on persons and villages and seizure of lands and property along with arrests, were made. The Government had contemplated that the movement would be over in six weeks time but it was not before 29 months that the fight had to be given up.

During this period, in spite of precautions taken by the Government and in face of ruthless prosecutions, the annual session of the Congress was held in brief electrifying hours at Delhi and in Calcutta.

GANDHIJI’S EPIC FAST

In September 1932 Gandhiji declared a fast unto death, to undo the provisions of the Communal Award of Ramsay McDonald, the then British Prime Minister, providing for the scheme of separate representation for the depressed classes, since that would yivisect Hinduism.

In May, 1933 Gandhiji undertook another last not against the Government but “for purification of myself and my associates and for greater vigilance and watchfulness in connection with the Harijan cause.” The president of the Congress in consultation with Gandhiji announced the suspension of the Civil Disobedience movement for 6 weeks. In July l9 asked for interview with the Viceroy which was refused.. The Government, however, continued its course of repression Gandhiji who was later released decided to devote his Lime to Harijan work.

The struggle was finally suspended by the All India Congress Committee who were allowed to meet at Patna and decided to call off the Civil Disobedience unconditionally, except for the provision that Gandhiji alone, when he thought. it necessary, could offer Civil Disobedience.

Gandhiji decided to start an individual Civil Disobedience movement, as from 1 August 1933, but he was arrested the previous night. He was released after a couple of days but was ordered to reside at Poona. Gandhi disobeyed this order, was re-arrested and sentenced to. one year’s imprisonment. Thereupon hundreds of Congressmen followed Gandhiji to prison. This movement continued till the early part of April; 1934.

Throughout this period the government continued to pursue a policy of severe repression which included imprisonment, police firing, beating in lock-up, shooting of detenus, atrocity on women, blockading of villages, and even looting and pillage.

During the Civil Disobedience movement of 1930-31, more than 60,000 persons were imprisoned and during the Second Civil obedience movement of 1932-34 the .number of persons who courted arrest were, about 66,000. The programme or the boycott of British goods which was part of the movements led to a substantial fall in the import of British goods into India. Further, the Civil Disobedience movements roused the India people in general, including villagers and women folk. Women rarely came out of the seclusion of their homes in order to the part in take struggle for freedom. This not only gave an inpetus to the freedom movement, but also helped in bringing out another social revolution: the emancipation of women.

When the Civil Disobedience movement came to an end in April, 1934, Gandhiji appealed to Congressmen to devote themselves a nation-building activities: promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity, removal of untouchability, and spread of hand-spinning.
 

THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND THE CONGRESS

The Second World War began on 1st September, The Second World War 1939. Two days later, the Viceroy of India declared war against Germany without consulting or taking into confidence the Indian leaders. Indian troops were sent to the various theatres of war for the defence of the British Empire. Congress Reaction After having done all this, the Victory started consultations with the Indian leaders. The Working Committee of the Congress met at Wardha in September, 1939 and after prolonged deliberations, a resolution was adopted in which it was declared that if the war was “to defend the status quo, imperialist possessions, colonies, vested interests and privileges, then India could have nothing to do with it. If, however, the issue was democracy and a world based on democracy then India is intensely interested in the maintenance and extension of it. If Great Britain was fighting for democracy, then she must necessarily end imperialism in her own possessions and establish full democracy in India.” The British Government was called upon to declare its war aims “in regard to democracy and ‘imperialism” and also to declare whether those aims were “going to apply to India and to be given effect to at present.”

Almost a year later, another resolution was passed by the Congress at Ramgarh in which an offer of co-operation in the war was made provided India’s demand for independence was conceded and a provisional National Government responsible to the then Central Assembly was formed at the Centre. On 8th August, 1940, the Viceroy issued a statement in which it was declared that the new Constitution of India would primarily be the responsibility of the Indians themselves. However, it was made contemplate transfer of their clear that Great Britain “could not present responsibilities for the peace and welfare of India to any system of Government whose authority is directly denied by large and powerful elements in India’s national life, nor could they be parties to the coercion of such elements into submission of such a Government.” It was also declared that after the war a “representative Indian constitution-making body would be set up and the Indian proposals as to its form and operation would at any time be welcome.” The Congress was wholly disappointed with this offer.

INDIVIDUAL SATYAGRAHA

In September, 1940, the AICC resolved, that the self imposed restraint of the Congress could not be carried to the extent of self- extinction. It was decided to launch Satyagraha in support of the modest demand and the issue of freedom of speech. On October 17, individual satyagraha commenced and Vinobha Bhave was the first nominee. Pandit Nehru was to follow him but was arrested on October31, 1940, and was sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment.

This campaign was of a most restricted character so that the British Government might not be embarrassed in their hour of trial. The campaign thus, went on smoothly for 14 months. There was no attempt directly to interfere with the Government’s war effort. Many of the leaders were later released. The war was drawing near India’s border.

THE CRIPPS MISSION

The spectacular success of Japan and the pressure of the allies of Britain, during the early months of 1942 forced the British Government to make a serious attempt to end the deadlock in India. On March 11, 1942, Mr. Churchill announced that Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the War Cabinet, would go to India to explain certain constitutional proposals. Sir Staffoid Cripps  arrived at Delhi on March 22, 1942, and left Karachi for London on April 13. 1942.

The declaration of the British Government contained the following provisions (1) An elected constitution-making body would be set up in Indian after the war; (2) Provision would we made for the participation of the Indian States in the above constitution-making body: (3) The British Government would accept and implement the constitution-making body; but any  Province of British India should have the right to reject the new constitution: (4) Revision of treaties with Indian States would be necessary: and (5) Until the new constitution could be framed, the British Government would remain, responsible for the defence of India. It will be seen that the provision about the non-accession of Provinces to the Indian Union and the arrangement about defence was quite unacceptable to the Congress. On April 2, 1942, the Working Committee adopted a resolution explaining the causes of its rejection of the Cripps Scheme. It was observed: “To take away defence from the sphere of responsibility at this stage is to reduce that responsibility to a farce and a nullity, and to make it perfectly clear that India is not going to be free in any way and her Government is not going to function as a free and independent Government during the pendency of the war.” In his ‘Discovery of India’ Pandit Nehru made it clear that Lord Linlithgow and the Civil Services sabotaged the Cripps Plan. The rejection of the plan by the Congress was followed by its rejection by the League, of course, for other reasons. Mahatma Gandhi remarked that the Cripps, “offer was a post-dated cheque on a crashing bank.” He is stated to have told him thus: “Why did you come if this is what you have to offer? If this is your entire proposal to India, I would advise you to take the next plane home.” Sir, Stafford’s reply was “I will consider that.”

QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT

The failure of the Cripps-Congress talks which had initially raised public expectations and excitement to a high pitch, caused a lot of disappointment.

Soon after the departure of Cripps, Gandhiji decided that the time for sterner policy and programme had come. The Japanese were knocking at India’s gates. The suffering of the people as a result of prolonged war and a prevailing misgovernment was becoming unbearable. The attitude of the British Government did not show any change of heart. Gandhiji once again took up a revolutionary stand and started a campaign in his weekly paper, Harijans, holding forth Quit India idea. Gandhiji felt convinced that the British presence was the incentive for the Japanese attack. He said: “I am convinced that the time has come for the British and the Indians to be reconciled to complete separation from each other. Complete and immediate orderly withdrawal of the British from India at least in reality will at once put the Allied cause on a completely moral basis. The first condition of British success is the undoing of the wrong. I ask every Briton to support me in my appeal to the British at this hour to retire from every Asiatic and African possession. And when one puts morals, in the scales, there is nothing but gain to Britain, India and the world. I ask for a bloodless end of an unnatural domination and for a new era. Leave India to God and if that be too much, leave her to anarchy, necessity for withdrawal lies in its being immediate.”

GENESIS

The Working Committee, however, passed a resolution on July the 14th at Wardha, based on “Quit India” demand. The Congress gave 24 days to the Government to make a favourable response. On 15 July, 1942 Mahatma Gandhi told the foreign press that if the movement had to be launched it would be a non-violent one. On 25 July, 1942, President Chiang Kai-shek wrote to President Roosevelt to intervene so that the Congress was not forced to launch the movement. The letter was forwarded to Churchill but nothing came out of it.

A meeting of the All India Congress Committee was held in Bombay on 7 August, 1942 as scheduled, and on August 8, the now famous “Quit India” resolution was passed. The A.I.C.C. meeting at Bombay was one of the most remarkable gatherings and was more like a Congress session judged by the number of people that it attracted. The atmosphere was most tense and the speeches that were delivered on the resolution showed the intensity .of feeling that had been raised. Pandit Jawharlai Nehru moved this resolution, and Sardar Patel seconded it. The text of this fateful resolution that w destined to let loose a cataclysm of mass uprising beyond precedent and expectation in the following months, throughout the country; is given below.

QUIT INDIA RESOLUTION (August 7-8,1942, Bombay, A.I.C.C.)

“The All India Congress Committee has given the most careful consideration to the reference made to it by the Working Committee iii their resolution dated July 14, 1942, and to subsequent events, inducing the development of the war situation, the utterances of responsible spokesman of the British government, and the comments and criticisms made in India and abroad. The Committee approves of and endorses that resolution and is of the opinion that events subsequent to it have given it further justification, and have made it clear that 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. The continuation of that rule is degrading and enfeebling India and making her progressively less capable of defending herself and of contributing to the cause of world freedom.

The committee has viewed with dismay the deterioration of the situation on the Russian and Chinese hunts and conveys to the Russian and Chinese people its high appreciation oh their heroism in defence of their freedom. This increasing peril makes it incumbent on  all those who strive for freedom and who sympathise with the victims of aggression, to examine the foundations of the policy so fair pursued by the Allied Nations, which have led to repeated and disastrous failure, It is not by adhering to such aims and policies and methods that failure can be converted into success, for past experience has shown that failure is inherent in them. These policies have been based not on freedom so much as on the domination of should and colonial countries, and the continuation of the imperialist tradition and method. The possession of empire, instead of adding to the strength of the ruling Power, has become a burden and a curse. India, the classic land of modern imperialism has become the crux of the question, for by the freedom of India will Britain and the United Nations be judged, and the people of Asia Africa be filed with hope and enthusiasm. The ending of British rule in this country is thus a vital and immediate issue on which depend the future of the war and the success of freedom and democracy. 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. This will not only affect materially  the fortune of the war, but will bring all subject and oppressed humanity on the side of the United Nations, and give these Nations, whose ally Indians would be, the moral and spiritual leadership and the tent of that imperialism will affect the fortune of all the United Nations.

 “The peril of today, therefore, necessitates the independence of India and the ending of British domination. No future promises or guarantees can affect the present situation or meet that peril. They cannot produce tile needed psychological effect on the mind of the masses. Only the glow of freedom now can release that energy and enthusiasm of millions of people which immediately transform the nature of the war.”

‘‘The A.I.C.C. therefore repeats s all emphasis the demand for the withdrawal of the British Power from India. On the declaration of India’s Independence, a Provisional Government will he formed and Free India will become an ally of the United Nations, sharing with them in the trials and tribulations of the joint enterprise of the struggle for freedom. The Provisional Government can only be formed by the co-operation of the principal parties and groups in the country. It will thus be a composite government, representative of all important sections of the people of India. Its primary functions must be to defend India and resist aggression with all the armed as well as the non-violent forces at its command, together with its Allied powers, to promote the well-being and progress of the workers in the fields and factories and elsewhere, to whom essentially all power and authority must belong. The Provisional Government will evolve a scheme for a Constituent Assembly which will prepare a constitution for the Government of India acceptable to all sections of the people. This constitution according to the Congress view, should be a federal one, with the largest measure of autonomy for the federating units, and with the residuary powers vesting in these units. The future relations between India and the Allied Nations will be adjusted by representatives of all these free countries conferring together for their mutual advantage and for their co-operation in the common task of resisting aggression. Freedom will enable India to resist aggression effectively with the people’s united will and strength behind it.

“The freedom of India must be the symbol of and prelude to the freedom of all other Asiatic nations under foreign dominations. Burma, Malaya, Indo-China, the Dutch Indies, Iran and Iraq must also attain theircompletefreedom. It must be clearly understood that such of these countries as are under Japanese control now must not subsequently be placed under the rule or control of any other Colonial Power.

“While the A.I. C.C. must primarily be concerned with the independence and defence of India in this hour of danger, the Committee is of opinion that the future peace, security and ordered progress of the world demand a World Federation of free nations, and on no other basis can the problems of the modern world be solved, Such a World Federation would ensure the freedom of its constituent nations, the prevention of aggression and exploitation by one nation over another, the protection of national minorities, the advancement of all backward areas and peoples, and the pooling of the world’s resources from the comman good of all. On the establishment of such a World Federation, disarmament  would be practicable in all countries, national armies, navis and air forces would no longer been necessary, and a World Federation Defence Force would keep the world peach and prevent aggression.

 “An independent India would gladly join such a World Federation and co-operate on an equal basis with other nations in the solution of international problems.

“Such a Federation should be open to all nations who agree with its fundamental principles. In view of the war, however, the Federation must inevitably, to begin with, be confined to the United Nations. Such a step taken now will have a most powerful effect on the war, on the peoples of the Axis countries, and on the peace to come.

“The Committee regretfully realises, however, that despite the tragic and overwhelming lessons of war and the perils that overhang the world, the governments of few countries are yet prepared to take this inevitable step towards World Federation. The reactions of the British Government and the misguided criticism of the foreign press also make it clear that even the obvious demand for India’s independence is resisted, though this has been made essentially to meet the present peril and to enable India to defend herself and help China and Russia in their hour of need. The Committee is anxious not o embarrass in any way the defence of China or Russia, whose freedom is precious and must be preserved, or to jeopardise the defensive capacity of the United Nations But the peril grows both to India and these nations, and in action and submission to a foreign administration at this stage is not only degrading India and reducing her capacity to defend herself and resist aggression, but is no answer to that growing peril and is no service to the peoples of the United Nations The earnest appeal of the Working Committee to Great Britain and the United Nations has so far met with ho response, and the criticisms made in many foreign quarters have shown an ignorance of India’s and the world’s need, and sometimes even hostility to India’s freedom, which is significant of a mentality of domination and racial superiority which cannot be tolerated by a proud people conscious of their strength and of the justice of their cause.

“The A. I. C. C. would yet again, at this last moment, in the interest of world freedom, renew this appeal to Britain and the United Nations But the Committee feels that it is no longer justified in holding the nation back from endeavouring to assert its will against and imperialist and authoritarian government which dominates over it and prevents it from functioning in its own interest and in the interest of humanity. The Committee resolves, therefore, to sanction for the vindication of India’s inalienable right to freedom and independence, the starting of a mass struggle on non-violent lines on the widest possible scale. so that the country might utilise all the non-violent strength it has gathered during the last twenty two years of peaceful struggle Such a struggle must inevitably be under the leadership of Gandhiji and the Committee requests him to take the lead and guide the nation in the steps to be taken.

“The Committee appeals to the people of India to face the dangers and hardships that will fall to their lot with courage arid endurance, and to hold together under the  leadership of Gandhiji, and carry out his instructions as disciplined soldiers of Indian freedom, whey must remember that non-violence is the basis of this movement, A time may come when it may riot be possible to issue instructions or for instructions to reach our people, and when no Congress Committees can function. When this happens, every man and woman, who is participating in this movement must function for him self or her self within the four corners of the general instructions issued. Every Indian who desires freedom and strives for it must be his own guide urging him on along the hard road where there is no resting place and which leads along ultimately to the independence and deliverance of India.

“Lastly, whilst the A.I.C.C. has stated its own view of the future governance under free India, the A.I.C.C. wishes to make it quite clear to all concerned that by embarking on mass struggle it has no intention of gaining power for the Congress. The power when it comes, will belong to the whole people of India.”

DO OR DIE

NOTHING LESS THAN FREEDOM

Speaking on the resolution after it was passed, Mahatma Gandhi said that he would want freedom immediately, “This very night before dawn if it can be had.” The text of the speech follows.

“I congratulate you on the resolution that you have just passed. I also congratulate three comrades on the courage they have shown in pressing their amendments to a division, even though they knew that there was an overwhelming majority in favour of the resolution, and I congratulate the thirteen friends who voted against the resolution. In doing so, they had nothing to be ashamed of. For the last twenty years we have tried to learn not to lose courage even when we are in a hopeless minority and are laughed at. We have learned to hold on to our beliefs in the confidence that we are in the right. It behoves us to cultivate this courage of conviction, for it ennobles man and raises his moral stature. I was-, therefore, glad to see that these friends had imbibed the principle which I have tried to follow for the last fifty years and more.

“Having congratulated them on their courage, let me say that what they asked this Committee to accept through their ‘amendments was not the correct representation of the situation. These friends ought to have pondered over the appeal made to them by the Maulana to withdraw their amendments; they should have carefully followed the explanations given by Jawaharlal. Had they done so, it would have been clear to them that the right which they now want the Congress to concede has already been conceeded by the Congress.

“The Congress has no sanction but the moral one for enforcing its decisions. It believes that true democracy can only be the outcome of non-violence. The structure of a world federation car be raised only on a foundation of non-violence, and violence will have to be totally abjured from world affairs.

“The Congress has agreed to submitting all the differences to an impartial international tribunal and to abide by its decision If even this fairest of proposals is unacceptable, the only course that remains open is that of sword, of violence, How can I persuade myself to agree to an impossibility? To demand the vivisection of a living organism is to ask for its very life. It is a call to war. The Congress cannot be party to such a fratricidal war.

“I, therefore, want freedom immediately, this very night, before dawn, if it can be had. Freedom cannot now wait for the realization of communal unity. If that unity is not achieved, sacrifices necessary for it will have to be much greater than would have otherwise sufficed. But the Congress must win freedom or be wiped out in the effort. And forget not that the freedom which the Congress is struggling to achieve will not be for the Congressmen alone but for all the forty crores of the Indian people. Congressmen must forever remain humble servants of the people.

“It is not a make-believe that I am suggesting to you. It is the very essence of freedom. The bond of’ the slave is snapped the moment he considers himself to be a free being. He will plainly tell the master:  I was your bondage till this moment, but I am a slave no longer You may kill me if you like, but you keep me alive, I wish to tell you that if you release me from the bondage of your own accord, I will ask for nothing more from you. You used to feed and clothe me, though I could have provided food and clothing for myself by my labour I hitherto depended on you instead of on God, for food and raiment God has now inspired me with an urge for freedom and I am today a free man and will no longer depend on you”

“You may take it from me that I am not going to strike a bargain with the Viceroy for ministries and the like lam not going to be satisfied with anything short of complete freedom Maybe, he will propose the abolition of salt tax, the drink evil, etc But I will say ‘Nothing less than 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.’ We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or (Congress) woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the

the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery Congressman or (Congress) woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage  and slavery. Let that be your pledge. Keep jails out of your consideration. If the Government keep me free, I will spare you the trouble o the jails. I will not put on the Government the strain of maint3ining a large number of prisoners at a time when it is in trouble. Let every man and woman live every moment of his or her life hereafter in the consciousness that he or she eats or lives for achieving freedom and will, die, if need be, to attain the goal. Take a pledge with God Sand your own conscience as witness, that you will no longer rest till freedom is achieved and will be prepared to lay down your lives in the attempt to achieve it. He who loses his life will gain it; he who will seek t save it shall lose it. Freedom is not for the coward or the fainthearted.

A word to the journalists.  I congratulate you on the support you have hitherto given to the national demand. I known the restrictions and handicaps under which you have to labour. But I would now ask you to snap the chains that bind you. It should be the proud privilege of the news to lead and set an example in laying down one’s life for freedom. You have the pen which the Government can’t suppress. I know you have large properties in the form of printing-presses, etc., and you would be afraid lest the Government should attach them. I do not ask you to invite an attachment of the printing- press voluntarily. For myself, I would, not suppress my pen, even if the press was to be attached. As you know my press was attached in the .past and returned later on. But I do not ask from you that final sacrifice. I suggest a middle way. You should now wind up your Standing Committee, and you may declare that you will give up writing under the present restrictions and take up the pen only when India has won her freedom. You may tell Sir Frederick Puckle that he can’t expect from you a command performance, that his Press notes are full of untruth, and that will refuse to publish them. You will openly declare that you are wholeheartedly with the Congress. If you do this, you will have changed the atmosphere before the fight actually begins.

“Soldiers too are covered by the present programme. I do not ask them just now to resign their posts and leave the army. Soldiers come to me, Jawaharlal and to the Maulana and say: “We are wholly with you. We are tired of the government tyranny.” To these soldiers I would say: “You may say to the Government, ‘Our hearts are with the Congress. We are not going to leave our posts. We will serve you so long we receive you salaries. We will obey your just orders, but will refuse to fire on our own people.”

“To those who lack the courage to do this much I have nothing to say. They will go their own way. But if you can do this much, you may take if from me that the whole atmosphere will be electrified. Let the Government then shower bombs, if they like. But no power on earth will then be able to keep you in bondage any longer.

“If the students want to join the struggle only to go back to their studies after a while, I would not invite them to it. For the present, however, ‘till the time that I frame a programme for the struggle, I would ask the students to say to their professors: ‘We belong to the Congress. Do you belong to-the Congress or to the Government? If you belong to the Congress, you need not vacate your post. You will remain at your posts but teach us and lead us unto freedom.’ In all fights for freedom, the world over, the students have made very large contributions.”

“If in the interval that is left to us before the actual fight begins, you do even the little I have suggested to you, you will have changed the atmosphere and will have prepared the ground for the next step.”

IT IS GOING TO BE A FIGHT TO FINISH

In his speech, Jawaharlal Nehru who had moved the resolution ‘himself, said that it was going to be fight to finish.

“The conception of resolution is not narrow nationalism, but it not narrow nationalism, but it has an international background. The arguments for the resolution have already been sufficiently put before the public. I am sure the bona fides of the resolution have been fully understood by all friends. The resolutions is in no sense a challenge to anyone. If the British Government accept the proposed it would change the positions both internal and international, for the better from every point of view. The position of China would be improved. I am convinced that whatever change might come about in India, it must be for the better. The A.I.C.C. knows that Mahatma Gandhi has agreed that the British and other foreign armed forces stationed in India may continue. This has been agreed to in order not to allow the Japanese to come in.”

“I am surprised how intelligent people .in England and America could have misunderstood the Congress stand unless, of course, they deliberately chose to misunderstand it. I have regretfully come to the conclusion that to some extent other governments are also following the British line of thought towards India. Today, the British Government is opposed to the Indian national movement for freedom. I am convinced that the British Government can never really think in terms of advancing the cause of the freedom of India unless, of course, the entire character of the present British Government is changed I am not personally concerned with such a change, but I stand for dissociating myself with that government anti that country. It is not for me to advise the  British people what government they should have.

“There is a great deal of criticism in America, too, about what India wants We are accused, by some newspapers, that we are blackmailing It is curious charge for a people to make who themselves had for generations carried on a struggle for freedom If for demanding freedom we are called blackmailers then surely our understanding of the English language has been wrong. Whatever may happen in Whitehall, it is not going to stop us from working for our independence. We live for it and will die for it. I do not want to say anything at the present moment which might add to the feeling of bitterness that exists everywhere. I know that this War has produced great emotional reactions in people’s minds which is one of the worst effects of the War and which makes it very difficult for the people to think and not to think in terms of violent hatred.

“Nobody in Whitehall can think straight, I suppose. There is falsity everywhere. You listen to the. r London, Berlin or Tokyo. One does not know what is the truth. I am prepared to make many allowances for the emotional background in England and America. I do not really mind if people there angry. But I feel sorry for the people in England and America who have a perverted way of looking at the Indian question. They are so wrong that they will certainly land themselves in difficulty. After all, just think what would have been the course of history; particularly that of Britain, if she had taken right steps with regard to India in the last two years If Britain had acted rightly, the entire history of the War would have been different. But in spite of perils and disasters, England has stuck to her imperialism and “rapier. The fact is patent to me that the British Government and, for certain, the Government of India think the Indian National Congress to be their enemy number one. If the Government of India is going to treat the people of India like this, then we also know how to behave with them. We have seen in the last  few months  unparalleled example of inefficiency and in competency of this government. The whole system is a rotten one. I do not want to associate myself with the creaking, shaking machinery that the  Government of India is. As for the so-called National War Front, there is neither the nation, nor the war, nor any front in it. All that this front is now doing is opposing the Congress. I certainly do not mind that. The whole Government of India is built that way. The only occasion when it does function actively and efficiently is when overnight it starts rounding up large numbers of people. One of these some such efficient functioning will reappear against Congressmen!

‘It is curious tangle that we are in. It is not going to be resolved by shouting or by the approaches of the British Government. May I, with all respect, suggest to the great people of America that they have all gone wrong in regard to India, China and the whole of Asia. Americans. have looked upon India as an appendage to Britain, and Asia as the dependent of E rope and America. Some of them have thought in terms of benevolence towards these countries, but always with a taint of road superiority They have s considered themselves, because of their inventions during this machine age, to be infinitely. Better then us and also that we are a benighted back people. But the people of Asia do no propose to be that manner any longer. Asia is the mother-continent of the world, and India and China constitute the real mother countries of the-world, What is the good of such people, who’, simply because they have some very great material achievements to their credit, have forgotten or are not learning the very essence and art of living? They have built and are building better motorcars. This is .a machine age. We will also learn to build machines-better machines. Americans have forgotten the magnificent achievements of China and India. It is China and India, with the experience of ages, who have learned the art of living decently even without the material achievements considered necessary for such living.

“I hate poverty. My grievance against the British is that they has made Indians miserable, poverty stricken wrecks of humanity. We are now taking a step from which there will be no going back. If there is goodwill on other side, then everything would be all right and the whole course of the War and future of the world would be changed. The change would be not merely emotional but in the material sense also. But that is not to be. There might be some difficulty. It is my conviction that this resolution is the only way, the effective way, in which we can help china and Russia and I know how terrible the situation is there. Britain and America must change their whole conception of the War. It is no good looking at Asia as a side-show. Asia is the centre of the War and it is Asia that is going to determine the final result of the War. Therefore, I want to prepare today, even at some risk and peril, so that the final result of the War should be the right kind of result. We must go forward even though it involves certain perils. I should like-my friends, who do not agree with this resolution or who do not try to understand it, to respect our bona fieds. People should realise that if there is any trouble in India, it is we who would suffer. If there is internal trouble or an external invasion by Japan, it is we who would suffer, England might he distantly affected but we have to die immediately. The problem of meeting aggression concerns us deeply. How can I, after seeing the incompetence of the government, trust them? Their whole attitude is one of retreat. We, however, want to be valiant fighters. It is not a narrow nationalist resolution. I am proud of Indian nationalism because if is broadbased and has an international background.

“The movement contemplated is not for merely achieving national ends but for achieving world freedom. The Congress is plunging into a stormy ocean and it would emerge either with a free India or go down. Unlike in the past, it is not going to be a movement for a few days, to be suspended and talked over. It is going to be a fight to the finish. The Congress has now burnt its boats and is about to embark on a desperate campaign. I can never persuade myself to work with a government which has neither vision nor intelligence. Nor would I remain a passive spectator of the great happenings that are taking place in the world. It appears to me, perhaps, I would live in eternal opposition to the Axis power. I repudiate the suggestion that the Congress amid Mahatma Gandhi are bargaining and haggling. In moments of excitement people are prone to say certain things, but this should not be dubbed. as bargaining. How, by granting India’s independence, would the war efforts of the United Nations be hampered or how would chaos and anarchy follow in India? The resolution does not give out even one tenth of the real feelings of the Indians towards the British Government.

“The debate on this resolution is over and I have also had my say. There are just a few points which I have partly said and partly not said—which I would like to say in English for the benefit of my friends who may not have followed me.

“What is the resolution? You have seen and read it. It is not a threat. It is not an invitation. It is an explanation. It is an offer of cooperation. It is all that. It is not a threat but still behind it there is obvious warning that certain consequences will follow if certain not happen. It is an offer of cooperation but of a free India with other-free peoples. There is going to be no cooperation on any ether terms. On any other terms this resolution can only, promise conflict and struggle. Let that be clear. Some of our friends abroad may think that we are acting unwisely. I do not blame them. They move in their own environment, I waist them to realise what we are saying. We are in dead earnest about the course we are going to adopt. Let there be no doubt about it. You may occasionally cheer and clap but the fact is that we are on the brink of a precipice and we are in dead earnest about it. I think this resolution of ours is not only a resolution of the All India Congress Committee but it does represent as on many other occasion our resolutions have represented-the voice of India. I would even go a step further and say that it represents the voice- of the entire oppressed humanity. If, by a miracle, Britain had accepted this resolution and acted according to its demands you would have seen such a wonderful change, not only in India but all over the world. It would have changed the whole nature of the War.

“Now, remember that the essential thing about this War is that it is something infinitely more than a war; it is a World War. That is big enough; but it is bigger than that: it is a part of, and to prelude to, and precursor of a vast revolution that is enveloping the whole world. This War may end or it it may be carried on for sometime, but no peace will be established, no equilibrium attained until this revolution runs, its appointed course. Our misfortune has been that the leaders in the West did not realize the revolutionary significance of this War, o if they realized, they did not act accordingly. They are still carrying in the same old way and think only in terms of more tanks and more aeroplanes. Probably in their position I would have done the same thing. They are not  thinking of the vast surge of the elemental emotion of humanity. Unless they do this, they can never attain success. I hope they will learn, but sometimes, I hear, that they will learn, it too late.

“Mr. Churchill and other Englishmen have not got over thinking in terms of the Anglo-Saxon race. In a recent speech Mr. Churchill visualised the day when the Anglo-Saxon race would march through the world in dignity and majesty. This is not a pleasant picture to contemplate and it is a thing not going to be tolerated by Asia at any rate. Let that be clear. There is too much talk of majesty and dignity of the Anglo-Saxon race or the German race or the Italian race. There are other races also in the world and we have had enough of such talks, This racial superiority can no more be tolerated. We are-going to cooperate with the British when we think it right to do so and when there is a right cause; but we are not going to act with that we think that the cause is not right At the present time, the Allied cause is only negatively right in the sense that Germany and Japan are worse But Indian freedom would change the whole nature of the War and m it right positively Even the P: of Nazi Germany and those who are helping the Germans would feel the impact of the change. It would be a turning point of the War. Bt they simply talk about their own problems which have no significance for us and ask us not to do this and that and go oil in their own ruts. The people in England, America and elsewhere looking at ‘question from the narrow standpoint of a soldier. And it does not matter to them how other people view the Indian question. India says something which, we believe-and I honestly believe-is not only in the interest of India but enormously in the interest of the Allied cause provided they accept it. They talk about blackmailing and threaten us. I can only tell them that we will not be deterred from our course by any amount of threats on the other hand Westerners ought to realise that at this stage threats could only make the position Infinitely worse and more difficult for them. We have decided to take this course on which there is no going back. I repeat again: we shall try to remain calm. We have got big t ahead-a big task for our country, and a big task for the world. Whether we function as Indian National Congress or not, time may come when each individual will represent the Indian National Congress and work on his own. We must not in the excitement of the movement forget our high aims and objectives-high aims for India whose freedom we consider precious, and high aims and objectives-with regard to the whole world. We are nationalists and we are proud of this fact. But we should not settle down to a narrow nationalism. We should always remember that we have develop a right type of internationalism but not pseudo-internationalism, of the present day world or of the league of Nations.

“I beg everybody to ‘consider this resolution in this spirit. Whether there are internal perils or external perils, after all, if the Japanese reach this country, you and I will suffer and not the people in London and Washington. You and I will have to die, face the situation, may have to face untold miseries and sufferings-we will have to face all that. People talk to us from Washington, New York and various other places. You know what Japan is. We know what subjection is and we know it better than Americans and Englishmen. We have had it for about two hundred years. We have come to the decision that it is better-to throw off the fetters into the fire and come out as a free nation than be reduced to ashes.

“We are prepared to pay any price for unity except ‘the price of independence. What obstructions have not been placed in our path which have had no relation to the real issue? I can talk and negotiate with anybody who recognises the need for democratic freedom for India, but I Cannot negotiate with anyone who refuses to recognise the fundamental issue-the freedom of India. I was told during the Cripps negotiations that a certain leader insisted on behalf of Muslims that the Victory’s power of veto should not be removed or in any way qualified If any section wants that the British Viceroy should exercise his veto power against the decisions of his Indian cabinet, it means clearly that that section is against the freedom of India. I do not want to injure anyone’s feelings especially at a time when we ace about to launch a great struggle for freedom. I tried, for one whole year, to find out what the League wanted, but I was unable to understand what they wanted.

“I have not been able to find a parallel to such a situation in the history of the world. I have not come across anywhere else such a situation except in the land of Hitler. The Sudden crisis bears similarity to the situation here. For purposes of negotiations we were not allowed to select our own representatives. We are told that we cannot send Muslims to represent the Congress. This is an insult to our great organization and to our revered President. We were prepared to stake everything consistent with our dignity and self-respect for finding a satisfactory settlement. Whenever we knocked at the doors we found them bolted, and we knocked ourselves against a wall. Are we beggars to be treated like this? Are we going to be so dishonourable as to sacrifice the mansion of Indian freedom which we want to build? Are we going to be kicked about by men who have made no sacrifice for the freedom of India and who can never think in terms of freedom at all?”

The broad outlines of the events of 1942 are quite well known by this time. The carefully prepared plan of the Government was put into operation and before day-break on August 8, Gandhiji and other leaders were spirited away to unknown prisons. The place of imprisonment of the Working Committed members was kept a well guarded secret for a long time. The A.I.C.C. members were arrested at Bombay or in trains on their way home. The Congress Committees everywhere were declared unlawful bodies and Congress Offices were seized and locked. Swaraj Bhawan was occupied and all provincial headquarters in all provinces were simultaneously taken possession of. Even social service organisations like Khadi and Harijan centres were not spared.

At Bombay, the entire police and military force was mobilised. Tear gas and lathis were used and rally of Deshsevikas was one of the targets. This was repeated all over the country in various provinces.

The spontaneous resistance began from the people equally promptly. Mrs. Asaf Ali hoisted the flag at Bombay despite police warning and there were processions and demonstrations, not only in Bombay but in far off towns and villages against the arrest of the leaders.

REVOLUTION SPREADS

Bombay: The city of Bombay served as the focal point and the Headquarters of the movement. Congress Socialist Party gave such guidance and co-ordination to the movement as was possible, under the circumstances. Students and Labourers played a great role in Bombay. A few mills in Bombay remained closed for about a week but there was a-complete strike for over three months in all the mills in Ahmedabad. 50,000-workers sacrificed and suffered and went hack to their native places while the mill owners were carrying on war business. The students observed hartals, took out processions and played a hide and seek game with the police in a prolonged struggle.

Bihar: It was in the villages that the movement assumed a mass character. Bihar was perhaps the most widely affected province in the whole country. This province and the eastern parts of U.P. had and a strategic position. The lifeline for war supplies to the eastern front passed through this area. The target of attack in Bihar was the communications, railway stations, roads and bridges as well as police stations and the courts and other Government buildings. Trouble in Bihar started with the firing on a peaceful procession in Bihar Secretariat compound on the 10th August.

U P: After Bihar, the movement was most widespread in the United Province The district of Ballia specially distinguished itself. On 10th August, the District Magistrate at Ballia under pressure of a demand from the people had to release the arrested Congress leaders of the district, and people took over the Government and the officials had to take refuge in the police lines in a panic All communications with the outside world were cut off from the 11th. For 9 days the town and district was entirely ruled by the people. There was no crime during this period and there was all round peace. On August 19th the ‘invasion’ force appeared and Ballia was reconquered. The U.P. Government was headed by ‘strong’ man, Mr. Hallett and he wanted to teach a lesson to the rebels of Ballia and other equally rebellious places— Madhuban in Azamgar, Shaganj and other places in Gorakhpur, The police started a furious campaign of burning houses, shooting men, women and children and looting whatever they could get. A reign of terror now prevailed for a week. In the towns of U.P. at Lucknow, Meerut, Allahabad and Benares the same story repeated itself. The police provoked peaceful procession, opened fire and killed men to terroise them. The students including girls often faced lathi charges and many of them received bullet wounds. It is estimated that over three hundred girls received injure. There was a procession at Allahabad headed by a batch of University girls.

C. P: Like U. P., the province of C. P. also brought some unknown places on the map of India. These are Chimur, Ashti, Ramtek, Yavli and others. Chimur is a jungle district with a population of 6000. On 16th August a peaceful procession in the district was greeted by lathis and bullets and the local leaders were arrested. Infuriated mob had a clash with the police and a S.I. was killed and Government buildings were burnt up and the bridges and roads were damaged and blocked. This brought the troops on the 17th. A similar sequence of events repeated itself at Ashti where highly respected Congress leaders were shot down by the police.

Maharashtra: In Maharashtra the district of Satara became famous in 1942 as a site of Patri-Sarkar Sata had earned similar fame in the early Satyagraha movement of 1930-32. In 1942, when the resistance in the rural areas, as elsewhere, had been suppressed by ruthless repression, the underground workers organised a parallel Government at Satara. Such an experiment was possible in this hilly area, with various Indian States bordering on the British India districts.

The experiment of course did not last long and would have been completely crushed by military force of the Government but for the fact that the Working Committee members were released and the political atmosphere in the country took a different turn.

Punjab, Assam & Sind: Other provinces such as Assam, Orissa, Sind and the Punjab gave a good account of themselves. The pattern of events in all these places was similar. Mass demonstration were held against the arrest of the leaders, and police firing. Incidents of sabotage followed ruthless repression.

The conditions in the Punjab were particularly difficult and the task of the underground workers was specially hazardous. The district of Rawalpindi, which was, by-the way, the military Headquarters of the British Government, played the most distinguished part.

N.W.F.P: Under the guidance of Badshah Khan, the movement remained perfectly peaceful in he land of the brave pathans. It began with mass demonstrations, processions and picketing of liquor shops, till 4th September, 1942, when the Congress and the Khudai Khidmatgars repudiated the British Raj in the province. Badshah Khan and his party started on fraternal marches in the villages and roused tremendous enthusiasm. Final phase of the movement, after a month, took the form of organised raids on Law Courts throughout the province, in a strictly non-violent manner Khudai Khidmatgars were injured in a large number by lathi charges and were later fired upon and killed. Efforts at demoralisation having failed, the Government was now forced to resort to arrests. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan headed a force of volunteers for ‘raid’ or for taking possessions of Mardan Law Court, as a symbol of the Government authority. He was severely beaten and had to b removed to jail an unconscious state with his two ribs broken. Only one case of looting of a post office was reported n this province and this was condemned unequivocally when Badshah Khan came to know of it.

Bengal: In Bengal, serious trouble had developed by the ruthless action of the police in Calcutta and tram car and other traffic was completely dislocated. Roads were barricaded for a number of days. The police and the military opened fire several times in various parts of the city. A secret radio station also worked in Calcutta as in Bombay for a long time till all its workers were arrested. The movement in Calcutta was carried on mostly by the students and the enthusiasm was unprecedented even in the history of Bengal, The repression that followed was equally unprecedented. For six long months, people in Calcutta resisted doggedly the mighty concentration of the’ police and military. Jails were filled with the arrested men and women, There were workers’ strikes in military workshops.

1942 movement revealed the strength and daring initiative of our people in the villages in away that makes every Indian proud and happy, even those who might not like the incidents of murders and violence that marred the movement from the Congress point of view. The first place among various districts and provinces, that distinguished themselves in 1942, is that of Midnapore.

Although the movement did not bring about immediate it prepared the ground for independence in 1947. After the revolt, no doubt was left in the minds of the British rulers that the days of their domination were numbered. It was only a question of time. The revolt marked the culmination of the Indian freedom movement. It have utterance to India’s anger against imperialism and her determination to be free.
 

PLANS OF FREEDOM

The suppression and frustration of the aspirations of the people during the War gave birth to an irresistible upsurge. The British administration had been showing signs of complete bankruptcy. The desperate attempts to divert the popular upsurge into fratricidal channels of communal strife had only depended the crisis. This policy had weakened and demoralised the administrative apparatus and had given rise to corruption, inefficiency and a deepening food crisis. It also had spread contempt for law and Order and the menace of a general conflagration loomed on the horizon.

The Quit India Movement and the emergence of the phenomenon of AZAD HIND FAUJ had made the situation in the country very explosive. Further, the British found it difficult to cope with the changed international situation. Also a Labour Government had come into power in Britain after a dramatic ouster of the War hero, Mr. Winston Churchill.

In this state of affairs, in the words of Sir Stafford Cripps, there were fundamentally two alternatives before the Government. First, they could endeavour to strengthen British control in India on the basis of a considerable reinforcement of British troops. The second alternative was to accept the fact that the, first alternative was not possible.

The two events that accelerated the British decision to reach a settlement before the situation passed entirely out of their hands were the trial of the I.N.A. prisoners and the revolt of Indian naval service.

SUCCESSIVE PLANS

Three successive Plans were proposed: Cabinet Mission Plan in June, ‘46, Attlee Declaration in February, ‘47 and lastly the Mount batten Plan of June, ‘47. One common factor of all these Plans, as of the earlier Cripps proposals was, the building up of an elaborate structure based on the communal lines.

‘The political scene in India at that time was marked by negotiations between the British Government, League and the Congress: the Congress eager to attain country’s freedom, the British eager to make a formal transfer and at the same  time, trying to protect the British political, economic and strategic interests, in several parts of India , and the League playing what it thought to be a clever game of ‘Carving out a separate State, for Muslims.

A delegation of British M.P.’s was sent to India in early January, 1946 to ascertain the views of the Indian leaders. Prof. Laski, the political philosopher of the Labour Party had expressed his fear that unless Britain settled with India, “it may be too late after the summer.” The M.P.s later reported to Premier Attlee saying that I.N.A. dominated the Indian scene and that labour unrest and impending famine would be very grave factors to reckon with.

Mr. Attlee announced on February 19, 1946 that a Mission consisting of three Cabinet members would visit India shortly On the very next day the leader of the M.’P.’s delegation said, “We must quit India quickly or we shall be kicked out.” Mr Jinnah on his part said that Pakistan would be the guiding principle of his talks with Britain.

CABINET MISSION

The British Cabinet Mission consisting of Lord P Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Albert V. Alexander arrived in India towards the end of March and after interviewing the leaders of different groups, parties and communities arranged a Conference at Simla. This Conference lasted about a week and broke down on the issue of Pakistan and parity in the proposed interim Government. Though unsuccessful, the Simla Conference cleared the issues and in a way subsequent, plans followed from it.

The Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy then issued a statement on May 16 1946, saying that though no agreement had been reached, immediate arrangements should be made whereby Indians may decide the  future constitution of India and an Interim Government be set up until the new constitution could be brought into being.

The statement pointed out that after examining the question of a separate and fully independent sovereign state of Pakistan as claimed by the Muslim League, the Mission had come to the conclusion that “the setting up of a separate sovereign state of Pakistan on the lines claimed by the Muslim League would not solve the communal minority problem, nor can we see any justification for including within a sovereign Pakistan those districts of the Punjab, Bengal and Assam in which the population is predominantly non-Muslim “ They considered, further, whether a smaller sovereign Pakistan, confined to the Muslim majority areas alone, might be a possible basis of a compromise, but they felt that “neither a larger nor a smaller sovereign state of Pakistan would provide an acceptable solution for the communal problem.” In the end, they said: “We are, therefore, unable to advise the British Government that the power which at present resides in British hands should be handed over to two entirely separate sovereign states.”

INTERIM GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED

Meanwhile, the Viceroy continued negotiations with the representatives of the Congress and the Muslim League on the number of members and personnel of the proposed Interim Government As these negotiations did not result in an agreement between the parties, the Viceroy announced the names of the candidates for the Interim Government consisting of six Hindus, all members of the Congress, including one member of the Depressed Classes, five Muslim representatives of the Muslim League, one Sikh, one Christian and one Parsi.

On the 25th of June, 1946, the Congress Working Committee announced their rejection of the plan of an Interim Government. They adopted a comprehensive resolution saying that the  “Congress can never give up the national character of the Congress, or accept an artificial and unjust parity or agree to the veto of communal group The Committee are unable to accept the proposals for the formation of an interim Government as contained in the  Government’s statement of June 16. The Committee, however, decided that the Congress should join the  proposed Constituent Assembly with a view to framing the Constitution of a free, united and democratic India.”

The Muslim League accepted the plan with certain provisions. But in view, of the refusal of the Congress to join the Interim Government, Lord Wavell announced on June 26, 1946 that he would set up a temporary ‘caretaker’ Government of officials to carry on in the interim period.

The Council of the All-India Muslim League met towards the end of July and passed a resolution withdrawing its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals. By another resolution,  the Council resolved that ‘now the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to direct action to achieve Pakistan, to assert their just rights, to vindicate their honour and to get rid of the present British slavery and the contemplated future ‘caste- Hindu domination.’

The Viceroy invited Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on’ 6th of August to constitute an interim Government, which he did.’ It consisted of six Hindus, including one Depressed Class member, ‘three Muslims, of whom two belonged neither to the Congress nor to the League, one Sikh, one Christian-and one Parsi. The members took office on September 2, 1946.

THE LEAGUE BROUGHT INTO THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT

Soon after the In Government was formed, the Viceroy started negotiations with the Muslim League with a view to bringing in its representatives and inducing them ‘to join it. The League was, however, required to accept the Statement of May 16 and thereby indicate their readiness to join the Constituent Assembly before they could be admitted into the Interim Government. Lord Wavell, it would appear, did not get a clear decision from the League on that point. He assumed that Mr. Jinnah had accepted the stipulation regarding acceptance of the Statement of May 16 and accordingly invited him to nominate five persons to the Interim Government. The League joined the Interim Government in the last week of October, 1946. The League -however were not prepared to accept the Interim Government as a Cabinet, but only as an Executive Council under the Government of India Act.

A deadlock was often created and the position became more and more difficult, and a demand was made on behalf of the Congress that the Muslim League Members should accept the Statement of May 16 and decide to join the Constituent Assembly and recognise the basis of working the Interim Government, or go out of the Interim Government.

On invitation from the British Government Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Baldev Singh, Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Liaqat Au Khan went to London with Lord Wavell in the last week of November, 1946 for discussions which, as was not unexpected, failed to bring about an agreed settlement.

JUNE 3RD STATEMENT—THE MOUNTBATTEN PLAN

Lord Mountbatten had first sent some of his Advisers under Lord Ismay to consult with His Majesty’s Government, and subsequently he himself flew to London. He returned to India with a statement on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, and the authority to such steps as were necessary to effect transfer of power. The statement was published simultaneously in India and London on June 3, 1947. It laid down the method for ascertaining the wishes of those Provinces and parts of the country which, were supposed to be in favour of secession, and in case of division was decided upon, the procedure to effect that division If the decision by a of them was in favour of a division of the Province. The Province was to be divided and the boundaries were to be settled by a Boundary Commission which would take into consideration all factors and not only the population of a district, “-in determining the boundaries. The statement announced that legislation would be introduced in Parliament conferring Dominion Status on India, then almost immediate and that if division was decided upon in India, then there would be two Dominions, otherwise only one Paramountcy would cease simultaneously with the establishment of cominion Status. It was expected that legislation will be completed and power transferred by the middle of August at the latest, thus anticipating the dead originally fixed, for transfer of power by ten months or so.

North West Frontier Province was asked to decide the question by a referendum an4in the British Baluchistan same method was to be adopted for ascertaining the wishes of the people. As regards’ Assam, there was only one district, Sylhet, which had a Muslim majority, and in case it was decided that Bengal should be partitioned, a referendum was to be held in Sylhet district to decide whether it should continue to form part of Ass or be amalgamated with the Province of Eastern Bengal. This statement of policy was accepted by the Working Committee of the Congress, and its acceptance was later endorsed by the A.I.C.C. The Council of the All-India Muslim League accepted the plan at a meeting held on June 9, 1947 with certain reservations.

As was expected the division was decided in the Punjab- and the Bengal. The referendum resulted in N W F Provinces, Baluchistan and parts of Assam joining the seceding parts of India.

The referendum in the N.W.F. had taken place in opposition of the strong protest and boycott of the party in power there, Dr. Khans party, who had only recently been returned in a clear majority in the provincial elections.

The Indian Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament in July 1947 and on 14th August, M.A. Jinnah was declared the Governor General of Pakistan.

RIOTS – PARTITION - RIOTS

During 1946-47, while the political settlement was keeping our leaders feverishly busy, the situation on the ground was anything Jut good. Communal strife resulting from the Muslim League’s attitude had become the order of the day.

LEAGUE’S DIRECT ACTION

In pursuance of its resolution passed on July 29, the Muslim League had fixed August 16 as ‘Direct Act-ion Day’, to be observed by Muslims all over the country. Demonstrations were organized on a large scale, and in Bengal, the day was declared a public holiday by the League Ministry in spite of protests from all classes outside the League. The day opened in Calcutta with rioting, loot, murder and arson, which lasted for several days causing immense loss of life and property. Communal rioting broke out in several other places also. The riots in Calcutta were followed shortly afterwards by a very serious outbreak in East Bengal, in the district of Noakhali which spread to the adjoining districts of Comilla, Chittagong, Dacca, etc The Hindus suffered terribly. The news of the atrocities committed in Calcutta and in Noakhali reached Bihar from where large numbers used to go to Bengal for employment and there was very serious rioting in Bihar, and in ‘some parts of the U.P. Some time later, the riots started in the North West Frontier Province and the Punjab where the Hindu and the Sikhs were subjected to tremendous loss of life and property.

GANDHIJI IN NOAKHALI

In November, 1946, reports of large scale disturbances in Noakhali shook Gandhiji as he rushed from Delhi to Calcutta on his way to Naokhali. In Calcutta, he heard about the disturbances in Bihar. Gandhiji’s threat to fast unto death and the energetic efforts of the Interim Government did bring about a quick end to riots in Bihar. In Naokhali, Gandhiji went about staying in Muslim houses, trekking from place to place In the special batch of his chosen companions and workers there were several young women, Sushila Nair, his granddaughter and daughter-in law, Sucheta and a Muslim lady, Bhen Amtul Salam.

Dr. Pattabhi describes the role of Gandhiji in Noakhal.i as follows:

 “In all this harrowing tale of woe, of families wiped out, villages burnt, women raped, abducted and forcibly married, in this tragedy which has outdone the tragedies of history, the notorious Armenian massacres of old, the Black and Tan pogroms of Ireland, and the more recent slaughter of Jews in Germany, there remains but one bright spot, one shining light, one solitary individual, marching alone and unfriended, melancholy and slow throughout the marshes of  East Bengal, witnessing forborne houses by the thousand and forsaken families by the million, carrying however with him the torch of hope and peace, exhorting people to shed fear, and learn to believe, dwelling upon the essential good in human nature and the ultimate triumph of love over hatred, holding aloft the torch of Truth in the midst of untruth, of light in the midst of darkness and of life in the midst of death.”

RIOTS SPREAD

But while Gandhiji’s work at Noakhali was having a sobering effect in Bengal Bihar and U P it was considered by the League as a sabotage of its doctrine of hatred and two nations. On the day Direct Action had been inaugurated by the League at Delhi, Mr. Feroz Khan Noon and Mr. Ghazanfar Ali prophesied happenings that would put the memory of Changiz and, Qatlu Khan into shade. These prophecies were soon realised in the’ districts of Rawalpindi and Multan. These districts had been ‘the recruiting ground of the British Indian army, with most backward, fanatical and ignorant people. Many of these ex-servicemen had arms and the war had brutalised them even more. Across the border were the backward frontier districts, ever ready for loot and rapine. The minority communities, Sikhs and Hindus were either in the towns or in isolated small pockets and had lived peacefully for generations with their neighbours. Then suddenly these villages found themselves surrounded by thousands of armed gangs of marauders. The villages were looted, and burnt; men, women and chil4ren maimed and killed, women abducted and dish9noured. Many women jumped into wells or burnt themselves and men shot their own families to save them from torture and dishonour. Charigiz and Qatlu Khan would blush in their graves if their names were associated with such doings as were enacted at Rawalpindi and Multan. These things went on with Impunity and photographs published later in the press, taken from air, showed columns of armed with rifles, some with camels and horses carrying their booty swarming the countryside below. Military aid reached the surviving villages but later. The tales of horror, that were carried by those who escaped, kindled a fire that was later to blaze into a conflagration.

These ghastly happenings were taking place when the League had already joined the Interim Government at the Centre. The League was playing a double role. While on the one hand it openly preached violence and jehad against non-Muslim’s, at the same time it held office in the provinces and at the centre controlling police and justice. On being asked his opinion about this, Gandhiji had demand this grave anomaly. “It is so bad that it cannot last long”, he had said.

CONGRESS ACCEPTS MOUNTBATTEN PLAN

In fact it was the horror of this fratricidal war and the failure of the experiment of a composite Government at the centre that ultimately induced the Congress leaders to accept the Mountbatten Plan with severing of some parts, but lesser parts than Jinnah’s original demand. Similar earlier offer by Rajaji’s formula had been turned down by Jinnah as a “truncated and moth-eaten” Pakistan.

Gandhiji had taken up a stand against vivisection, but recognised that alternative was revolution, or a civil war on one side and a new fight with the British who supported the League demand. The ever- increasing and ever-deepening chain of communal disturbances involving mass murder, arson or loot accompanied by unthinkable atrocities and horrors obliged the Congress Working Committee to consider the entire communal and political situation afresh. The only way out of the difficulty appeared to be the partitioning of India. Jawaharlal Nehru referred to this fact in these words on 3rd of June, 1947: “There has been violence, shameful, degrading and revolting violence in various parts of the country. This must end.” The country, its press and leaders of all schools were taken by surprise and in the majority expressed disapproval and dismay at the acceptance by the Congress of a scheme of division. In the A.I.C.C. meeting, however, there was scarcely any opposition excepting by the valiant fight put up by Sri Purshotam Das Tandon. Nehruji had explained that the alternative was murder. It was not a question of being afraid of being killed, but the killing on both sides was of your own people. Sard Patel said that it was decided to amputate a limb rather than allow the poison to affect the whole body. The A.I.C.C. members including Rajendra Babu expressed their conviction that the decision would restore good arid that with it and the force of economic and other factors there would be a reunion at an early date. The Congress was not happy about the partitioning of India as it had consistently fought for 4he liberation of a united India The following words of Jawaharlal Nehru give an Idea of the working of his inner mind; “For generations we have dreamt and struggled for a free and independent united India. The proposal to allow certain parts to secede, if they so will, is painful for any of us to contemplate.

The poison, it would seem, had became too deep and widespread that the acceptance of Pakistan, instead of having a sobering effect and bringing peace, unleashed the forces that League had been rearing and a fast-developing story of bloodshed, hatred and lawlessness overshadowed the parts that were feeling the glow of the coming Pakistan.

It would also seem that the evil star of India had not ceased to have its baneful influence even while it was setting. The then Punjab Government had the worst type of die-hard civilian officers. They must have found it hard to reconcile themselves to their throwing away of the Empire Some of the Governors like Khizar Hayat Khan tried to tip the balance in favour of the League. The Muslim police and officers had had a free hand inspite of various protests of the minority community. The hidden official hand in spreading of riots was clearly discernable and the worst affected areas were those with European District Officers.

With the opening of the Boundary Commission, these communal riots reached another phase. Hopes were held to some communities of more justice being done, on the basis of the ‘Other Factors clause but these were sadly belied in the Boundary award. The patience of the communities was completely exhausted. Tins started a train of incidents of increasing ferocity and magnitude till these merged into an all-out war of one community against the other some unspeakable horrors were committed against women by both sides. The Boundary Commission seem to have added to the strife by taking sides.

CRISIS IN INDIA’S SOUL

Thus on the threshold of our freedom, a mounting crisis of frenzy and madness was spreading devastation in the Punjab and for the Sikh and Hindu population of N.W.F.P., Baluchistan and Sindh. Loot and arson, abduction and forcible contusions were going on a mass scale, soon began, a two way tract of miserable, terror-stricken men and women from one part of the country to the other. Many dropped on the roadside out of hunger and exhaustion. Many were killed or abducted on the way. In long straggling trails of pedestrians cattle, bullock tarts dragging its weary course, uprooted from their ancestral homes, bereft of lands, houses and all belongings, living in momentary terror of marauding bands, people began to move from the two directions to establish Mr. Jinnah’s dream of two nations Many million people were thus forced to leave their homes, mostly with bare clothes on their backs, to seek shelter in refugee camps that were by then springing up, and live on such charity as was available.

This Crisis in India s Soul as Nehru put it had almost synchronised with August 15th, though the peak was to come a few days later. Thus we came to live the most humiliating chapter in India’s long’ history on the eve of her greatest glory.

This human earthquake as Nehru called it had affected not only those who were its victims directly, but had shaken all our cherished ideals and the structure ol our national life to its foundations.

“ONE BRIGHT FLAME”

Recalling the happenings Pandit Nehru said:

‘Freedom came to us and it came with minimum of violence. But immediately after, we had to wade though oceans of blood and tears Worse than the blood and tears was the shame and disgrace that accompanied them. Where were our values and standards then, where was our old culture, our humanism and spirituality and all that India had stood for in the past? Suddenly darkness descended upon this land and madness seized the people.

“Fear and hatred blinded our minds and all the restraints which civilization imposes were swept away. Horror piled on horror and a sudden emptiness seized us at the brute savagery of human beings The lights seemed all to go out; not all, for a  few still flickered in the raging tempest. We sorrowed for the dead and the dying and for those whose suffering was greater than that of death. We sorrowed even more for India, our common mother, for whose freedom we had laboured these long years.

“The lights seemed to go out but one bright flame continued to burn and shed its light on the surrounding gloom and, looking at that pure flame strength and hope returned to us and we felt that whatever momentary disaster might overwhelm our people, there was the spirit of India strong and unsullied, rising above the turmoil of the present and not caring for the petty exigencies of the day.

“How many of you realise what it has meant to India to have the presence of Mahatma Gandhi during these months? We all know of his magnificent services to India and to freedom during the past half- century and more. But no service could have been greater than what he has performed during the past four months when, in a dissolving world, he has been like a rock of purpose and a lighthouse of truth, and his firm, low voice has risen above the clamours of the multitude, pointing out the path of rightful endeavour.”

 


THE DAWN OF FREEDOM

The suffering and the sacrifices of countless men and women finally bore fruit and India woke up to freedom on the midnight of August 14-15. The travails and tribulations had come to an end. The joyous moment of having broken off the shackles of subjugation was there inspite of the pain and agony of Partition. The time had come when we could look forward to the sun of freedom and the opportunity that freedom brings.

The ceremony of the Assumption of Power by India through her chosen representatives in the Constituent Assembly which had begun its Constitution-making activity on Dec. 9, 1946, was fixed to take place on the midnight of August 14-15. The time chosen was perhaps to commemorate another midnight session, equally memorable, when a similar hazardous journey was undertaken and equally solemn dedication made. Some of the very men and women who took part in the drama on August 14-15-and many others who thronged and cheered on the road outside and lit lamps and put up flags and festoons in towns and villages, had taken part in that earlier session and in the struggle that began on that midnight of Dec. 31. 1929-Jan. 1, 1930 in Lahore.

And yet how different was the setting. The city of thatch and canvass on the banks of the Ravi the biting winter night and this gilded chamber, air-conditioned, lit by chandelier lights, the decorous benches and galleries. What a tame picture they make when we recall the tumultuous scenes, the midnight revelry led by the Rashtrapati himself, from camp to camp on that earlier midnight. It was strange that a revolution had culminated in this way and an event of such colossal historical importance as the freedom of 400 million people was recorded in this brief manner.

The session in the chamber began at 10-45 P.M. The galleries were full of a colourful crowd. A surging mass had gathered outside. The proceeding commenced with the ‘Bande Mataram sung by Mrs. Sucheta Kripalani, the wife of the then Congress President. This was followed by a brief opening address by the President of the Consembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Nehru then moved the pledge. He made a stirring speech with deep emotion. The motion was seconded by Chaudhury Khaliquzzaman and supported by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. The members of the Constituent Assembly took the pledge of dedicating themselves “to the service of India and her people to the end so that this ancient land attain her rightful and honoured place in the world and make lie, lull and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and welfare of mankind.

The pledge was read out by Dr. Rajendra Prasad first in Hindi and the in English and repeated sentence by sentence by members rising in their seats, followed In blowing conch-shells and lusty shouts of ‘‘Mahatama Gandhi Ki Jai.”

Before Pandit Nehru moved the pledge: a two minute silence was observed memory of those who died in the struggle for freedom in India and elsewhere.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad moved the following resolution from the Chair admist thunderous cheer, and acclamation:

 “I propose that it will be intimated to his Excellency the viceroy that Constituents Assembly of India has assumed the power for the Government of India, and the Constituent Assembly of India has endorsed the recommendation that Lord Mountbatten be the Governor-General of India from August 15, 1947, and that lb is message be conveyed forth with to Lord Mount batten by the President and Pantdit Nehru.”

The house approved it admist acclamation. Mrs. Hansa Mehta then presented the National Flag of India to the Indian Constituent Assembly. In presenting the Flag to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Mrs. Mehta said: ‘‘it is in the fitness of things that the first flag that is flying over this august House should be the gift from the women of India.’

Dr. Prasad showed the Flag round. Proceeding came to a close with the singing of “Hindustan Hamara”, a poem by Dr. lqbal and “Janaganamana Adhinasaka” by Rabindranath. Mrs. Sucheta KrIpalani conducted the chorus.

A TRYST WITH DESTINY

Moving the resolution prescribing an oath for the members in the Constituent Assembly, free India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, declared:

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 substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. it is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger ca of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Ire we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the me of this sorrow. Sonic of those pains continue non Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of these or resting by incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges be have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the serve of the million who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and d and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye.  That may he beyond us as there are tears and-suffering, so long our work will not be over.

 And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to he indivisible: so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split in to isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming other. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TIMELINE
OVERVIEW
THE NATIONAL FLAG
CONGRESS SESSIONS
PAST PRESIDENTS
CONGRESS & THE FREEDOM MOVEMENT
LOOKING BACK AT THE BATTLE OF FREEDOM
SATYAGRAHA LABORATORIES OF MAHATMA GANDHI
CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAMMES AND THE CONGRESS
GANDHIAN MARCH TO PORTALS OF FREEDOM
INDIA’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
INDIAN NATIONAL ARMY
SOME PROMINENT MARTYRS OF INDIA’S FREEDOM STRUGGLE
NEHRU’S STATEMENT AT ALLAHABAD TRIAL
GANDHIJIS ATATEMENT AT AHMEDABAD TRIAL
WOMEN AND INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
ROLE OF PRESS IN INDIA’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
CONGRESS AND COLONIAL STRUGGLES
BRITISH FRIENDS OF INDIA

 

 

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