Indian National Movement
“Though conceived by an Englishman Hume (affectionately called the Father), the India National Congress had members from all communities: the Hindus, the Muslims, the Parsis, the Englishmen. As an all-India organization, the Congress was national in its character and modest in its objectives, devised, in fact, as a safety value for the escape of great and growing forces as Hume himself described it and as a means to save the British empire in India as Lala Lajpat Rai had once said. At the time of its inception, the Congress was blessed even by the Viceroy, Dufferin, himself.
“The history of the Congress may be marked into periods such as
(a) the period of the moderate nationalists (1885 – 1905),
(b) the period of the militant nationalists (1905 – 1919), and
(c) the Gandhian period beginning from Gandhiji’s entry on the Indian political scene since 1920.
“The moderate nationalists (Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, S.N. Banneerjee, Pherozeshah Mehta, Gopal Krishan Gokhale, M.G. Ranade, M.M. Malaviya, Badruddin Tyabiji and the like) sought reforms such as reorganisation of the Councils (Executive and Legislative), the repeal of the Arms Act, the separation of judiciary from the executive, the reduction of military expenditure etc. “They, having faith in the British sense of justice, adopted peaceful methods—propaganda through the press, sending resolutions passed in the sessions of the annually-held sessions, pressing upon the English people and the Parliament to introduce reforms in India. “The monthly paper, India, supplied authoritative information about India; Dadabhai Naoroji and William Wedderburn did a lot as members of the English Parliament, protecting and promoting the Indian interest; and emphasized on the Indian cause through men like John Bright, Henry Fawcett, Charles Bradlaugh—all members of the English Parliament. “The attitude of the British authorities towards the Congress was, after 1888, of ridicule and contempt, describing it as ‘a microscopic minority of the population of India’, though during the first 2-3 years, they welcomed the formation of the Congress. During the first twenty years, the Congress was able to get only one legislation, the Indian Councils Act of 1892, passed, yet it did a great amount of spade work in national consciousness, political education and in uniting the Indians.
“The militant nationalists (Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai, Aurbindo Ghosh and the like) sought swaraj for the Indians and adopted relatively harsher measures (like the passive resistance, strikes, boycott of the foreign-made goods) against the British rule. It was during this period that the revolutionary activities to oust the Britishers from India became popular in Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Madras, and in other regions. “The major developments during 1905-1919 included the partition of Bengal and the emergence of Swadeshi (1905), the formation of the Muslim League (1906), the split of the Congress into moderates and extremists (1907), the growth of extremism and of revolutionary activities, 1905 onwards, the passage of the Indian Councils Act (1909), also called the Morley-Minto reforms introducing the separate representation electorate system, World War I (1914-18), the reunion of the two factions of the Congress and also the Lucknow Pact, the Montague Declaration (1917) promising a gradual association of the Indians in administration and the like. “The Gandhian period (1920 – 1947) of the Indian National Congress was significant in many respects. Dissatisfied with the Government of India Act—1919 (also called the Mont-Ford reforms), together with the agitation against the Rowlatt Bills, and the subsequent Jallianwala Bagh massacre—all in 1919, Gandhiji decided to launch his Non-cooperation Movement (1920 – 22), supporting in the process the Khilafat Movement launched by Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali against the British attempt to seek the dismemberment of Turkey. “The Non-Cooperation Movement was to be launched on the principles of non-violent Satyagrah, an experiment Gandhiji had gained successfully during his more than twenty years stay in South Africa. “The movement was withdrawn owing to the outbreak of violent activities at Chauri Chaura in Gorakhpur district of the United Provinces. “The other notable movements launched by Gandhiji included the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930 – 34), the Individual Satyagrah (1940) and the Quit India movement (1942) from which Gandhiji separated himself as and when the movement went violent. With every movement, Gandhiji’s stature grew and he emerged as a father-figure of the nationalist movement. His contribution lies in bringing India closer to independence and making the Congress movement into a truly nationalist as well as a people’s movement, though the role of other leaders was no less significant. “The major developments during the Gandhian period of the nationalist movement included the formation of the Swaraj Party—1923, the Purna Swaraj resolution of the Congress 1929, the three round table conferences of 1930, 1931 and 1932, the passage of the Government of India Act 1935, the formation of the Congress ministries between 1937 and 1939, the World War II 1939-45, the Cripps Mission and the Cabinet Mission plans of 1942 and 1946 respectively, the Indian Independence Act 1947, granting India her freedom and also the partition of the country.
“The legacy of the nationalist movement has its own importance. “The movement was a mass movement and had encompassed numerous perspectives liberal, conservative, socialist, Marxist, Dalit and radical. It was, by and large, a non-violent movement, though violence did erupt occasionally. “The democratic ideals and ideas were the basis of India’s national movement fighting against the tyrannical and repressive rule of the colonial British government, and fighting for the rights and civil liberties of the Indians. “The movement was pro-poor, though the support from the other sections of the Indian society was always sought. Since its inception our national movement was secular, regarding religion as the private and individual matter, and equal respect for all the religions. “Though the nationalist movement recognized the importance of diversities, it laid emphasis on the integration, unity in diversity, and/or on all-Indianness. “The tradition of compromise, accommodation, reconciliation and consensual methods in conflict resolution was respected during the nationalist movement, though the dominance of Gandhiji had overshadowed other leaders.