Monday, 29 August 2016

Main Events during the Gandhian Era

Rowlatt Act (1919): During the viceroyalty of lord Chelmsford, a section committee was appointed by the government in 1918 with justice Rowlatt which made certain recommendations to curb seditious activities in India. The Rowlatt Act 1919, gave unbridled powers to the government to arrest and imprison suspects, without trial. The act caused a wave of anger among the act was passed, popular agitation began against it. Gandhi Ji decided to fight against this act and he gave call for Satyagraha on April 6, 1919. He was arrested on April 8, 1919. This led to further intensification of the agitation in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Punjab.

Jallianwala bagh Massacre (April 13, 1919): The arrest of Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr. Satypal on April 10, 1919, under the Rowlatt act in connection with Satyagraha caused serious unrest in Punjab. A public meeting was held on April 13, 1919 in a park called Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar where thousands of people including women and children assembled. Before the meeting could start General O’Dyer ordered indiscriminate heavy firing on the crowd and the people had no way out to escape. As a result hundreds of men, women and children were killed and more than 1200 people wounded. The massacre was turning point in Indo-British relations and inspired the people to provide a more unrelenting fight for freedom.

Note: Sardar Uddham Singh, an Indian patriot from Punjab, shot down Gen. O’Dyer in London in 1940.

Khilafat movement (1920-22): The Caliph (or, Khalifa) sultan of Turkey, was looked upon by the Muslims as their religious head, During the first world war, when the safety and welfare of Turkey were threatended by the British thereby weakening the Caliph’s position. Indian Muslims adopted an aggressive anti-British attitude. The Ali Brothers-Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali - launched an anti-British movement in 1920 - the Khilafat also led the movement. It was supported by Gandhi Ji and INC which paved the way for Hindu-Muslim unity.

Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22): At the Calcutta session in Sep. 1920, the congress resolved in favour of the Non-cooperation movement and defined Swaraj as its ultimate aim (according to Gandhi). The movement envisaged ; (i) Surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from nominated offices; (ii) Refusal to attend government darbars and official general public to offer themselves afor military and other government jobs, and boycott of foreign goods etc. Gandhiji, along with the Ali brothers (of Khilafat movement fame) undertook a nationwide tour during addressing of meetings. The educational boycott was especially successful Bengal with Punjab too, responding under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai. A part from educational boycott, there was boycott of law courts which saw major lawyers like Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, C. Rajagopalachari, Saifuddin Kitchlu, Vallabh Bhai Patel, Aruna Asaf Ali, etc. giving up their lucrative practices in their fields. The non-cooperation movement also saw picketing of shops selling foreign cloth and boycott of the foreign cloth by the followers of Gandhi Ji. Another dramatic event during this period was the visit of the prince of Wales. The day he landed in India (in Bombay on Nov. 17, 1921) he was greeted with empty streets and downed shutters wherever he went.

The attack on a local police station by angrey peasants at Chauri-Chaura, in Gorakhpur district of UP, on Feb. 5, 1922, changed the whole situation. Gandhi, shocked by Chauri-Chaura incident, withdrew the Non-Cooperation movement on Feb. 12, 1922.

Swaraj Party (1923): Gandhi’s decision to call off the agitation caused frustration among massed. His decision came in for severe criticism from his colleagues like Motilal Nehru, C. R. Das and N. C. Kelkar, who organsied 1923, as the ‘Congress Khilafat-Swaraj Party’. It proposed then an alternative programme of diverting the movement from widespread civil disobedience programme to restrictive one which would encourage its member to enter into legislative councils (established under Mont-ford Reforms of 1919) by contesting elections in order to wreck the legislature from within and to use moral pressure to compel the authority to concede to the popular demand for self-government. In the election held in 1923 the Swaraj Party captured 45 of the 145 seats. In provincial elections they secured few seats but I the Central Province they secured a clear majority. In Bengal, the Swaraj Party was the largest party. They followed the policy of undiluted opposition. The Swarajists demanded the release all the political prisoners, provincial autonomy, repealing of the repressive laws imposed by the government. However, after the death of C. R. Das in 1925 they drifted towards policy of cooperation with the government. This led to dissension and the party broke up in 1926.

Simon Commission (1927): The activities of the Swaraj Party had induced the British government to review the working of the dyarchy system introduced by the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 and to report as to what extent a representative government could be introduced in India. The British government appointed the Simon Commission in Nov. 1927 for the task. All members of this commission were Europeans (Whites). Indian political leaders felt insulted and decided to boycott the commission. Wherever the commission went there were cries of ‘Simon Go Back’. It was while leading a demonstration against the Simon Commission in Lahore that a fatal lathi-blow was dealt to Lala Lajpat Rai. It was his death Bhagat Singh and his comrades were seeking to avenge when they killed a white police official, Saunder, in Dec. 1928.

Nehru Committee Report (1928): The committee was set up under the chairmanship to Motilal Nehru to determine the principles of the constitution before actually drafting it. The chief architects of the report were Motilal Nehru and Tej Bahadur Sapru. The recommendation evoked a lively debate concerning the goal of India-dominion Status of Complete Independence.

14 Points of Jinnah (March 9, 1929): Jinnah, the leader of Muslim league, did not accept the Nehru Report. Jinnah thereafter drew up a list demands, which was called ’14 points of Jinnah’.

Lahore Session (Dec. 1929): At its annual session held in Lahore in Dec, 1929, under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian National Congress passed a resolution declaring ‘Poorna Swaraj’ (Complete Independence) to be the goal of the national movement.

On Dec. 31, 1929, the newly adopted tricolor flag was unfurled and Jan. 26 was fixed as the Independence Day which was to be celebrated every year, pleading to the people not to submit to British rule any longer.

Dandi March/Salt Satyagraha (1930): To achieve the goal of ‘Complete Independence’, Gandhi launched another civil disobedience movement. Along with 78 followers, started his famous march from Sabarmati Ashram on March 12, 1930 for the small village Dandi (Navsari DDistract) to break the salt law. Gandhi covered a distance of 240 miles in 24 days (March 12 – April 5). On reading the seashore on April 6, he broke the Salt Law by picking up salt from the seashore. By picking a handful of salt, Gandhi inaugurated the Civil Disobedience Movement, a movement that was to remain unsurpassed in the history of Indian National Movement for the countrywide mass participation it unleashed. The movement became so powerful that is sparked off patriotism even among the Indian soldiers in the army. The Garhwal soldiers refused to fire on the people at Peshawar. Gandhi Ji was arrested on May 5, 1930. This was followed by another round of boycott of foreign goods and it took the shape of nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement in which ladies also participated. Soon thereafter followed repressive measures such as mass arrests, lathi-charge, police firing etc. About 1,00,000 people went in jail.

The First Round Table Conference (1930): It was held in London on Nov. 12, 1930, to discuss the Simon Commission, but was totally boycotted by the Indian National Congress. The Commission had proposed self-government in the provinces and federation of British India and the princely states at the Centre. However, the representative of the Muslim League, Liberals and other parties had assembled for the discussion o the commission report. But in absence of the premier political party, the First Round Table Conference had to be adjourned to Jan. 2, 1931.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact/Delhi Pact (March 5, 1931): Early in 1931 two moderate statesman ,Sapru and Jakar, initiated efforts to bring about rapprochement between Gandhi and the government. Sic meeting with Viceroy Lord Irwin finally led to the signing of a pact between the two on March 5, 1931, whereby the congress called off the movement and agreed to join the Second Round Table Conference. Regarding Gandhi-Irwin Pact J. L. Nehru remarks, ‘This is the way the worlds ends, / not with a bang, but a whimper’.

The Second Round Table Conference (1931): It was held in London during the vice-royalty of Lord Willingdon during Sep. - Dec. 1931 and Gandhi Ji attended it on behalf of Indian National Congress. Nothing much was expected from the conference for the imperialist political forces, which ultimately controlled the British Government in London, were opposed to any political or economic concession being given to India which could lead to its independence. The Conference, however, failed as Gandhi Ji could not agree with British Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald on his policy of communal representation and refusal of the British Government on the Basic Indian demand for freedom. The conference closed on Dec. 1, 1931, without any concrete result.

The Communal Award/Mac Donald Award (Aug. 16, 1932): While Gandhi was arrested on his return from London after the Second Round Table Conference, British Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald announced his Award on communal representation in Aug. 16, 1932. Besides containing provisions for representation of Muslims, Sikhs and Europeans, it envisaged communal representation of Depressed Classes also. Gandhi was deeply grieved by this and underwent a fast in protest against this award since it aimed to divide India on a communal basis. While many political Indians saw the fast as a diversion from the ongoing political movement, all were deeply concerned and emotionally shaken. Almost everywhere in India mass meetings took place, political leaders of different persuasion, like Madan Mohan Malviya, B. R. Ambedkar and M. C. Raja became active. In the end the succeeded in hammering out an agreement, known as the Poona Pact.

Poona Pact/Gandhi-Ambedkar Pact (Sep. 25, 1932): As discussed, the communal Award created immense dissatisfaction among Hindus. Gandhi who was on fast in protest staked his life to get the Award repudiated according to the pact, the idea of separate electorate for the Depressed Classes was abandoned but seats reserved for them in the provincial legislatures were increased from 71 in the Award to 147, and in the central legislature to 18% of the total. Ultimately the fast ended with the Poona Pact which annulled the Award. The leaders of the various groups and parties among Hindus, and B. R. Ambedkar on behalf of the harijans, signed the pact. The Poona Pact between caste Hindus and the Depressed Classes agreed upon a joint electorate.

The Third Round Table Conference (Nov. 17-Dec. 24, 1932): It was held in 1932 but again approved fruitless since the national leaders were in prison.

The Government of India Act, 1935: The Simon Commission report submitted in 1930 formed the basis for the Government of India Act, 1935. The new Government of India Act received the royal assent on Aug. 4 1935. The Act continued and extended all the existing features of earlier constitutional reforms. But in addition there were certain new principle Introduced. It provided for a federal type of government. Thus, the act: (i) introduced provincial autonomy (ii) Abolished dyarchy in provinces (iii) Made ministers responsible to the legislative and federation at the centre. The act of 1935 was condemned by nearly all sections of Indian Public opinion and was unanimously rejected by the congress. The congress demanded itself the convening of a constituent assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise to frame a constitution for an independent India. Regarding the Government of India Act, 1935 J. L. Nehru remarks, ‘It was a new charter of Slavery’. 

Although the congress opposed the act, yet it contested the elections when the constitution was introduced on April 1, 1937; and formed ministries, first in 6 provinces and then in another 2, The Muslim League was however, not happy with the congress rule, esp. Mr. Jinnah, who described it in those words: ‘Congress was drunk with power and was oppressive against Muslims.’

Congress Ministries Resign (Dec. 22, 1939): The Second World War broke out in Europe on Sep. 3, 1939 that brought Britain also within its fold. Without consulting the Indian leaders, the Viceroy declared India also as a belligerent country. This evoked sharp criticism from Indians and the Congress took the stand that India could not associate herself in war said to be for democratic freedom when the very freedom was denied to her. The congress demanded that India should be declared an independent nation. Then only would the country help Britain in the war. The Viceroy in his reply dated Oct. 17, 1939 rejected the congress demand as impracticable and took the stand that the Government could think over the entire constitutional scheme after the war. The Congress condemned the Viceroy’s reply and the congress ministries everywhere resigned on Dec. 22 1939. Jinnah was happy over this and he called upon the Indian Muslims to celebrate the resigning day of congress ministries as ‘the day of deliverance’.

Pakistan resolution/Lahore Resolution (March 24, 1940): It was is 1930 that Iqbal suggested the union of the Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Sindh and Kashmir as Muslim state within the federations. This proved to be a creative idea which germinated during the early thirties to burst into vigorous life with the advent of the new reforms. The idealist Chaudhry Rehmat Ali developed this conception at Cambridge, where he inspired a group of young Muslims and invented the term ‘Pakstan’ (later ‘Pakistan’) in 1935. His ideas seemed visionary during that time, but within 7 days they turned into a political programme by Jinnah with the new name as its slogan or banner. The ideology of Iqbal, the vision of Rehamat Ali, and the fears of Muslims were thus united by the practical genius of Jinnah to blind Muslim together as never before during the British period and ultimately led to the vivisection of India and creation of Pakistan. Pakistan Resolution was an important landmark in this context. The Lahore Session of the Muslim Legue, held on March 24, 1940, passed Pakistan Resolution and rejected the Federal scheme as envisaged in the government of India Act, 1935.

August Offer/Linlithgow Offer (Aug. 8, 1940): On Aug 8, 1940, the Viceroy Linlithgow came out with certain proposals, known as August Offer declaring that the goal of British Government was to establish Dominion Status in India. It accepted that framing of a new constitution would be the responsibility of the Indians. It also laid down that full weight would be given to the views of minorities in the constitution. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, President of the Congress in the ongoing world war. The Muslim League, however welcomed the offer as it ensured that no further constitution would be adopted without the prior approval of Muslims. The League declared that the most difficult problem of India’s future constitution could be solved only by the partition of India. In brief, the August Offer failed in gaining Indian’s co-operation for war and, in fact, further widened the gulf between the congress and the Britishers as well as between the Congress and the Muslims League.

Individual Civil Disobedience/Individual Satuagaraha (oct, 1940 Dec, 1941): The congress working committee decided to start individual civil disobedience on Oct. 17, 1940. Vinoba Bhave was the first Satyagarahi who was arrested on Oct. 21, followed soon by many more including Nehru and Patel. But the movement created little enthusianism and Gandhi suspended it. 

The Cripps Mission (March-April 1942): In 1942, the British government realized that it could not ignore the Indian problems any more. As a result of the world war, the situation worsened for the British with Japanese advance towards Indian borders. By March 7, 1942. Rangoon fell Japan occupied the entire South-East Asia. The British government, with a view of getting cooperation from Indians, sent Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the British cabinet to India to settle terms with Indian leaders who were forthwith released. Cripps proposed Dominion Status after the war but his proposal was rejected by all the political leaders. As no party agreed to accept these proposals, the Cripps Mission ended in failure. Regarding the Cripps Mission proposals Mahatma Gandhi remarks, ‘A post-dated cheque on a crumbling bank’.

Quit India movement (1942): On Aug. 8, 1942, the congress in its meeting at Gowaliya Tank, Bombay passed a resolution known as ‘Quit India’ resolution, whereby Gandhi Ji asked the British to quit India and gave a call for ‘Do or Die’ (we shall either free India or die in the attempt) to his country men. On Aug. 9, 1942 all the prominent leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel etc. were arrested but the rest most of (J. P., Lohiya, Aruna Ashaf Ali, Usha Mehta etc.) continued the revolutionary struggle. Violence spread throughout the country, several government offices were destroyed and damaged, the telegraph wires were cut and communication paralyzed. Parallel government was established in some places viz. 1. Balia, U. P. (by Chittu Pandeya) - first parallel govt. 2. Tamulak, Midnapur Distt., Bengal (by Satis Samant) 3. Satara, Maharashtra (by Y. B. Chahvan and Nana Patil) – the longest (term) parallel govt. 4. Talchar, Orissa. The movement was, however, crushed by the government. 

Gandhi Ji’s Fast (Feb. 10 – March 7, 1943): Gandhi Ji undertook a 21 day fast in jail. His condition deteriorated after 13 days and all hopes of his survival were given up. However, as a result of his moral strength and spiritual stamina, he survived and completed the 21 day fast. This was his answer to the government which had been constantly exhorting him to condemn the violence of the people in the Quit India Movement. Gandhi not only refused to condemn people to violence but unequivocally held the government responsible for it.

C. R. Formula (1944): In 1944, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (C. R.) proposed to appoint a commission to demarcate the districts in North-West and East where Muslims were in majority. In such areas, a plebiscite was proposed to be held on the basis of adult suffrage to decide the issue of separation. They would be given freedom it they favoured a sovereign state. In case of acceptance of partition, agreement was to be made jointly for safeguarding defence, commerce, communications etc. Muslim League was to endorse congress demand for independence and cooperate in the formation of provisional government. Jinnah objected, as he wanted congress to accept two nation theory and wanted only Muslims of the North-West and East of India to vote in the plebiscite. Hindu leaders led by V. D. Savarkar condemned the plan.

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