Reunion and Alliance Extremists, Lucknow Pact

(a) Reunion between the Moderates and the Extremists

Ever since the Surat Split of 1907, the desire to bring about a unity of the moderates and extremists had always been present in the country. Sir William Wedderburn and some other nationalists had made sincere efforts in that direction but nothing had been achieved. The moderate leaders who controlled the Congress were uncompromising.

The release of Tilak (after six years) in June 1914 brought the question of reunion of the Congress wings again in the fore-front. Mrs. Annie Beasant and Subba Rao took up the matter in right earnest. The death of Ferozeshah Mehta and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who were opposed to the union, in 1915 brightened the prospects. Hence at the Congress session of Lucknow in 1916, the extremists were admitted to the Indian National Congress after nine years. This was followed by a close alliance between the Congress and the Muslim League.

(b) The Lucknow Pact

The annulment of the Partition of Bengal in 1911, the attitude of England in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and of Turkey against England in the World War I, caused estrangement between the League and the British. The progressive youngmen of the Muslim League began to draw nearer and closer to the Congress. The arrest and detention of some eminent nationalist Muslims for their Pro-Turkish activities acted as a further incentive to the Muslim League to come to an understanding with the Congress. The bond of alliance between the two was cemented by their holding the annual sessions simultaneously at Bombay in 1915. Many a prominent Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya attended the deliberations of the League. A committee to prepare a scheme for India in consultation with the Congress was appointed. This committee submitted its report at the joint session of the Congress and the League at Lucknow in 1916 and provided the basis of what is known as Lucknow Pact of 1916.

The main clauses of the Lucknow Pact were:

  1. The same method should be adopted for the Executive Councils as of the appointment Governors.
  2. The Indian Council need be abolished.
  3. The salaries of the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs be paid by the British government and not from Indian funds.
  4. Of the two Under Secretaries, one should be Indian.
  5. The executive should be separated from the judiciary.
  6. The number of Muslims in the provincial legislatures should be laid down province by province.
  7. There should be the provision for self government in India. 8.
  8. Muslims be given one-third representation in the Central Government.
  9. There should be separate electorates for all communities until they ask for joint electorate.
  10. System of weight-age be adopted.
  11. Term of Legislative Councils be fixed for 5 years.
  12. Indians need to be half of the members of Imperial Legislative Council.

The Congress-League scheme was hailed as establishing the Hindu-Muslim unity on a solid foundation. According to Coupland “The Pact was the most striking expression of Indian nationalism so far achieved within the boundaries of British India.” Tilak’s well-known paper, “the ‘Kesari’ wrote : “Friday, 19th  December, 1916 is a day worthy to be written in golden words”. But it must be noted that the result was achieved by accepting communal representation, the principle of weightage and also communal vote in legislation. Thus the Muslims gained all the points which were persistently demanded by them and against which the moderates and nationalist leaders had hitherto fought with equal obstinacy. R.C. Majumdar writes; “the communal electorates stand in the nostrils of these leaders in 1909, and evoked from them fierce denunciation against the British for the insidious poison they had administered into the Indian body politic.

But now they swallowed the poison even in greater doses, and committed politic Hara-kiri….. The Congress leaders gambled their whole fortune on one stake and sacrificed the future for immediate gain. No one can doubt, in the light of the subsequent events, that the Congress session in 1916 truly laid the foundation of Pakistan thirty years later”. The Congress, no doubt, paid a very heavy price for the Hindu-Muslim unity. But the far-reaching results of the pact could not be foreseen at the moment. The Hindu-Muslim pact was, therefore, hailed with delight by all sections of Indians as another milestone in the arduous march towards freedom. The Government of India was more surprised than anybody else, for the pact seemed to deprive them of the one trump card they had in their hands to stem the tide of Indian nationalism.


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