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Freedom Movement  I (from 1905 to 1922)


Formation of Muslim League (1906)

In December, 1906, All India Muslim League was set up under the leadership of Aga Khan, Nawab Salimullah of Dacca and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk at Dacca. It was the results of the British policy of divide and rule along with the parochial vision of some Muslim elitist leaders.

The League supported the partition of Bengal, opposed the Swadeshi movement and demanded special safeguards for its community and a separate electorate of Muslims.

However, for sometime the leadership of League went into the hands of the Young and nationalist leaders like Mohammad and Shakut Ali, Hasrat Mohani etc. these leaders were pan-Islamic, militant and accommodating towards the Hindus. They also realized the true character of British Raj and thus Muslim League and Congress formed a joint front.

Calcutta Session of INC (1906)

In Dec. 1906 at Calcutta, the INC under the leadership of Dada Bhai Naoroji adopted ‘Swaraj’ as the goal of Indian people. Naoroji in his presidential address declared that the goal of the INC was ‘self government of Swaraj like that of United Kingdom’. The 4 important resolutions adopted by Congress in this session were:

  • Swaraj
  • Swadeshi
  • National education
  • Boycott

Surat Split (1907)

The INC split into the two groups i.e. the extremists and the moderates at the Surat session in 1907. The extremists were led by Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal while the moderates were led by Pheroz Shah Metha.

The extremists wanted to extend the agenda of swaraj, boycott, sawdeshi and national education on the pan –Indian level. The reason for this was the success of Swadeshi movement in Bengal. However, the moderates anticipated the reforms promised by the British government and were in no mood to antagonize government with the revolutionary agenda of the extremists.

After the Surat spilt the government launched a massive attack on the extremists by suppressing the newspaper and arresting their main leader, Tilak, and sending him to Mandalay Jail (Burma) for 6 years.

The extremists were not able to organize an effective alternative party or to sustain the movement. Aurbindo Ghosh gave up politics and left for Pondicherry. Bipin Chandra Pal also left politics temporarily. Lajpat Rai left for Britain. After 1908, the national movement as a whole declined.

Morley-Minto Reforms (1909)

Morley-Minto Reforms were introduced in 1909 during the period when Lord Minto was the Viceroy of India while Morley was the secretary of the state. The reforms laid the foundation of institutionalized communalism as per the policy of divide and rule by introducing the separate electorates for Muslims.  

As per the provisions of the reform Muslims could only vote for Muslim candidates. This was done to encourage the notion that the political, economic and cultural interests of Hindus and Muslims were separate and not common. Indian political leaders were however dissatisfied by these reforms.

In 1916 through the Locknow Pact, Congress and Muslim League joined the hands. One of the important consequences of this union was the fact that Congress accepted the separate electorates for Muslims.

Home Rule Movement (1915-16)

B.G Tilak was released from the Mandlay jail in the year 1914. In 1915 he reentered INC. B.G. Tilak founded Indian Home Rule League at Pune on 28 April, 1916. Annie Besant, inspired by the Irish rebellion, started Home Rule Movement in India in Sep., 1916. She started two newspapers i.e. Young India and Commonweal. The leagues advocated passive resistance and civil disobedience.

The movement spread rapidly and branches of the Home Rule League were established all over India.

The activities of the league ended by the following two events:

  1. Annie Besant accepted the proposed Montage-Chelmasford reforms
  2. Tilak went abroad to for the libel suit against Valentine’s Chirol’s Indian Unrest.

Lucknow Pact-Congress-League Pact (1916)

An important step forward in achieving Hindu-Muslim unity was the Lucknow Pact  (1916). Anti-British feelings were generated among the Muslims following a war between Britain and Turkey which opened way for Congress and Muslim League unity. Both the Congress and the Muslim League held session at Lucknow in 1916 and concluded the famous Lucknow pact. The congress accepted the separate electorate and both organizations jointly demanded ‘dominion status’ for the country.

Montagu Declaration (August Declaration of 1917)

Montague made the landmark statement in the context of self rule in India in 1917. He said that the control over the Indian government would be transferred gradually to the Indian people. This was the result of Hindu-Muslim unity exhibited in Lucknow pact.

Rowlatt Act and Jaliawalla Bagh massacre

The First World War started in 1916, in order to gain support of Indians, the British government promised many reforms after the completion of the war. The Government also curtailed public liberties in India under “emergency measures” on the pretext of the War.

The war over in 1919 and Indians expected reforms as promised by the government. Ironically instead of introducing reforms in India, the British government extended the “emergency measures” for indefinite period on the recommendation of Rowlatt committee. The Rowlatt Act was a law passed by the British in colonial India in March 1919.

Gandhi gave a call for Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act on April 6, 1919 and took command of the nationalist movement for the first time. On April 6, a "hartal" was organized where people suspended all the business and fast as a sign of their hatred for the legislation. This is known as the Rowlatt satyagraha.

In the Punjab the protest movement was very strong, and on April 10, two outstanding leaders of the congress, Dr. Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, were arrested and taken to an unknown place.

To protest against the arrest of the two leaders, the protest took place at several places in Punjab. A protest was held in Amritsar, which led to the infamous Jalliawalan massarce. At Jalliawalan Bagh the British General Dyer opened fire at the peaceful protest meeting without any warning. Gandhi returned back the title Kaisar-i-Hind gold medal and Rabindra Nath Tagore return back his “Knighthood” to protest against Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

Khilafat movement

The main objective of the Khilafat movement was to force the British Government to change its attitude to Turkey and restore the Turkish Sultan to his former position. The All India Khilafat Conference at Delhi called for the non cooperation and elected Gandhi as its president (Nov. 1919).

The following events radicalized the Khilafat movement:

  • Treaty of Serves with Turkey was considered as too harsh by Muslims.
  • The Hunter commission report on Punjab disturbances which gave clean chit to General Dyer in Jallianwala massacre

Non cooperation movement (1920-22)

The Non cooperation was the first mass movement launched under the leadership of Gandhi. The following were the causes for the launch of the movement:

  1. The Punjab wrongs and the Hunter commission report after which the House of Lords in Britain favored the action of General Dyer.
  2. The ill treatment of Turkey and Caliph by British after 1st World War. The Muslims regarded the Caliph of Turkey as their spiritual head and were upset by the Treaty of Serves by which the Caliph lost control over the holy places.
  3. The Montague-Chelmsford reforms introduced diarchy which failed to satisfy Indians.
  4. To achieve Swaraj.

The movement changed the goal of Congress. Prior to Non cooperation movement, the Congress aimed at attainment of self rule by constitutional and legal means, which changed to attainment of self rule by peaceful and legitimate means.

In order to galvanize the mass movement, the changes were made in the organizational structure and the working of Congress as well. These changes were:

  1. A working committee of 15 members came into being to look after the day-to-day affairs.
  2. The Provincial Congress Committees were organized for the first time on the linguistic basis
  3. In order to penetrate at local level the ward committees were formed at the village levels
  4. The membership fee was reduced to 4 annas per year to allow active participation of economically weaker section as well.

The program of non-cooperation included:

  1. Surrender of titles
  2. Boycott of government affiliated educational institutions
  3. Boycott of courts of law
  4. Boycott of foreign cloth
  5. Nonpayment of taxes

Chaura Chouri incidence (1922)

On 12th February 1922, the Non Cooperation Movement was called off by Gandhi because of an unfortunate incidence at Chaura Chauri in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

In this incidence the crowd participating in the Non Cooperation and Khilafat procession indulged into the violence with the police. As a result the crowd burnt a Police station and in the incidence 22 policemen were killed.

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