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- Freedom Struggle of India
- Activities of Early Nationalists
- Conflict between Moderates and Extremists
- Khilafat and non-Cooperation Movement
- Role of Gandhi in Independence Struggle
- Struggles of Gandhi
- Trial of INA
- People’s Movement and Princely States
- National Movement during World War-II
- Moderates and Indian Masses
Freedom Struggle of India
Question: “The period between 1935 and 1939 witnessed no major agitation against the British but the country could manage to garner global support for its freedom struggle.” Comment.
Ans: After the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 and the Round Table Conferences, no major event took place in the Nationalist Movement till the Second World War broke out in 1939. The Act of 1935 could not alter materially the imperialist character of the British rule. But this period was useful, as several important political events and developments took place, giving a new turn to the nationalist movement.
One of the major developments was the ‘globalization’ of nationalist movement due to the increasing interest that the Congress took in the world affairs. British government would invariably send the Indian Armed Forces to any part of the world where there was any armed challenge to the authority of the British rule. Congress opposed this practice. Jawaharlal Nehru, in particular, opposed the use of Indian Army and the Indian resources to serve the British interests in Africa and Asia.
In 1937 Congress Party passed a resolution calling upon the Indian people to boycott the Japanese goods as a mark of sympathy with the people of China. In 1938, it sent a medical mission to work with the Chinese Armed Forces.
At this stage itself the Congress was clear that it was opposed to any participation of the British Indian government in a war between imperialist powers. Congress also extended its unflinching and full support and cooperation to the progressive forces of the world that stood for freedom of humanity. The forces yearning for political and social bonds in the world were also duly supported.
It is apparent that this crucial time period was utilized by the nationalist forces to build a public opinion in the world in favour of India’s independence. The imperialist forces were condemned and the weaknesses of their misrule were exposed to the entire world. The work done internationally also helped the nationalist movement to have a wider base within the country as well. While the countries all over the world became aware of the plight of Indian masses and the economic exploitation by the British, the intelligentsia within the country also understood the problem from international point of view and garnered more support for non-violent struggle against imperialism.
It was primarily due to the above stance taken by the nationalist forces during the period before the Second World War that the country finally took a decision to disassociate itself from the Second World War, which was fought between the fascist and imperialist forces. The ground work done before the War also helped the nationalist forces to mobilize support of the masses on the stand taken by them at the outbreak of the War. The stand reaffirmed the leadership taken by the country in this regard, even though it was under the complete domination of an imperialist power. It also raised the stock of Indian leaders in the international arena.
Activities of Early Nationalists
Question: What were the programmes and activities of early nationalists? Did they succeed in their goals?
Ans: The period after the revolt of 1857 witnessed the emergence of early nationalism in the country. Broadly, it was the policies of the British, their racialism, economic exploitation of the country by them and imperialism which became main factors responsible for the growth of early nationalism in India. Western thought and education, emergence of the print media and setting up of the communication systems were some of the environmental factor that fuelled the rise of early nationalism in India.
Till 1885, the feeling of nationalism was like a rudderless boat. After the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885, the vacuum for a political organisation, felt by many, was filled up to a great extent. The early objectives and programmes of the Congress were declared to be the promotion of friendly relations between the nationalist political workers, consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of caste, relation or province, formulation of popular demands and their presentation before the British and generation of nationalist public opinion in the country. All these objectives and programmes later resulted in growth of a strong feeling of nationalism among the masses.
In pursuance of this objective, the early nationalists tried to formulate the popular demands of the Indians on country-wide basis. Such an attempt also resulted in national integration and unity in a nation, which was still on the road to become one after centuries of political fragmentation.
The policy of the British to export the cheaper raw material from India for their industries back home in England, without any restrictions/duties, and import of the finished goods from there to India, was well known to the educated but the masses in the country were required to be made aware of it. The nationalists of the day brought out the economic policies of the British which resulted in ruin of the traditional handicraft industries. Failure of the growth of modern industries to help the cause of the common man was also highlighted.
The idea of swadeshi, which gained currency later, was also popularised to a considerable extent during the later part of nineteenth century.
In addition to the above, the early nationalists felt that the country should move towards democratic self- governance and raised this demand in various forums from time to time. Demand for giving the required freedom and liberties was also highlighted.
It is felt by many that the early nationalist could not achieve much, as very few demands raised by them were accepted by the British. But considering from the view that the level of illiteracy was low, nationalist feeling was dormant and it was for the first time that the concepts like nationalism, unification and swadeshi were being used and introduced, it was wrong to expect immediate discernible results. The contribution of the early nationalists in creating awareness about some of the issues of national importance, which later were caught the fancy of common man in India, cannot be overlooked.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
Conflict between Moderates and Extremists
Question: What were the points of conflict between the moderates and extremist in the Indian National Congress during the initial stages of the nationalist movement? Methods of which of the two ideologies ultimately guided the nationalist movement in the later years?
Ans: Formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was the fist organized step to manifest the need for a nationalist movement. The initial years of the Congress were marked by the learning of the democratic methods. Till the beginning of the twentieth century, the methods of the nationalist leaders continued to be highly democratic and respectful in nature. These methods evolved under the bonafide belief of the leaders that the British government was responsive towards various needs and suggestions of the people of India and were willing to make certain changes as requested by them from time to time.
But, gradually the people began to get disillusioned with this method of nationalism. It was realized that on most of the issues the British government adopted dilatory tactics and avoided taking any decisions. Most of the petitions ultimately bore no results. The Congress leaders who still believed in these methods were referred to as the moderate leaders.
The moderates failed to produce any results and most of the moderate leaders like Surendranath Banerjea and Gopal Krishan Gokhale failed to lead the masses and could not force the British government to take any steps towards the welfare of the people of the country. Within the Congress, certain new generation leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chander Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak began to disagree with the methods of the moderate leaders and formed a new faction with the Congress which wanted to deviate from the traditional methods of written protests and petitions and wanted direct action in the form of agitations and strong physical protests. This group of the nationalist was not satisfied with the demand for dominion status and wanted complete independence from the British rule. These leaders came to be known as the extremists.
Gradually, the people could gauge the fruitlessness of the moderates. The extremist Congress leaders with their ideal of ousting the British from India, could get more support from the masses and the moderate leaders gradually disappeared into oblivion and irrelevance. The newly found confidence of the extremist leaders was accentuated by the advent of Gandhiji on the Indian nationalist scene.
With his firm belief in truth and non-violence, Gandhiji emerged as a leader of the masses. The ideology and methods of the extremist leaders got a fillip and resurrected nationalist movement caught the fancy of the masses. With appropriate direction to the movement, efficient leadership and plethora of movements and agitations, the masses not only got involved in the nationalist movement but also believed that it was only the aggressive and non-violent policy of agitation that could result in ultimate independence for the country.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
Khilafat and non-Cooperation Movement
Question: Write a detailed note on the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement. Did the outcomes of this movement succeed in achieving its goals?
Ans: After the agitation against the government decision to partition Bengal, the most important national level movement against the British Empire was the Non-Cooperation Movement (1919-22), also called the Khilafat Movement. The unique feature of this movement was the united action by the Hindus as well as Muslims. Muslim community was attracted to the Khilafat Movement because of the shabby treatment meted out by the British to the Ottoman Empire and the Caliph of Turkey. The position of the Sultan of Turkey, who was regarded as head of the Muslim community (Caliph) all over the world, was also undermined to a great extent.
The Khilafat Committee formally launched the Khilafat Movement on August 31, 1920. Immediately after this, the Indian National Congress convened a special Session in September 1920 in Calcutta, where Gandhi presented a plan for non-cooperation with the government till the wrongs in Punjab and those in Turkey were mended by the British. Congress agreed with the plan of Gandhi and gave a call for boycotting the government educational institutions, offices and law courts. Call was also given to boycott the foreign cloth and adopt Khadi. The programme included the actions like resigning from the government jobs, surrendering the government conferred titles etc. Gradually, the movement also included mass civil disobedience and refusal to pay taxes.
Nagpur Session of the Congress held in December 1920 endorsed the decision of the Congress and decided to reach the villages with the message against the imperial British rule. The Movement took off with a lot of euphoria and turned into a catalyst for national struggle against foreign rulers.
After the Chauri Chaura violence incident in 1922, the Movement was suspended by Gandhiji. But despite this, the Movement could achieve several positives. It provided a platform for all the religious communities to come closer and jointly oppose the foreign rule in a united voice. Further, it provided to the nationalist movement the required impetus and mass support for future agitations and movements. The people of the country, who were otherwise scared of the might of the British became fearless and lost their sense of fear against the mighty British. The Movement gave tremendous self-confidence to the common men and filled them with the feeling of self-respect and self-esteem. Muslim community which was not fully represented in the nationalist movement received the required representation and the community became fully involved in the struggle for independence.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
Role of Gandhi in Independence Struggle
Question: Bring out the role of Gandhi in the struggle for India’s independence.
Ans: The struggle for India’s independence is replete with outstanding contributions from various luminary nationalist leaders. The contributions of leaders like Jawahar Lal Nehru, Gopal Krishan Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, etc have been laudable. But if one were asked to name a leader who undisputedly contributed the most, the name of Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi would undoubtedly be at the apex. Before he came to the Indian scene in 1915-16, the nationalist movement was progressing very slowly. There was no leader with the mass appeal and the nationalists were sharply divided in two groups i.e. the moderates and the extremists. The methods adopted by the pre-Gandhi nationalists were too democratic to have any material effect on the colonial power ruling the country.
The advent of Gandhi changed the very complexion of the nationalist movement. His methods included the involvement of people in a big way and adoption of non-violent methods of agitation.
Gandhi’s role was primarily that of a leader who identified himself with the Indian masses. He gradually emerged as a natural leader of the masses and took complete control of the movement against the imperialist force. It was mainly after the British became aware of the strong character of Gandhi and complete involvement of the masses in the Movement that they finally decided to quit India in the year 1947.
The methods used by Gandhi can be broadly classified into the following categories:
(a) Involvement of Masses: Prior to Gandhi, the nationalist movement was being run by a handful of intellectuals and the masses were neither involved nor adequately informed of the developments of the nationalist movement. This trend was reversed after Gandhi came on the national scene.
(b) Non-Violence: One of the important Gandhian methods was the adoption of complete non-violence during all his satyagrahas and movements. He knew that the poor Indians could not match the might of the British government and adoption of any violent means would only result in more casualties on the Indian side.
(c) Truthfulness: Just like non-violence, truthfulness was the hallmark of Gandhi’s personality and methods. He not only preached it but also practiced absolute truthfulness and sincerity. Truthfulness not only gave him the inner strength to fight the mighty British but also convinced the masses of his honest and sincere intentions.
(d) Non-cooperation and Satyagraha: One of the most common methods used by Gandhi was non-cooperation with the civil authorities and Satyagraha. Satyagraha, as explained by Gandhi himself, was different from the passive resistance and was fearless agitation based on the principles of non-cooperation, fearlessness and truthfulness. These three methods were employed by Gandhi to bend the civil authorities more than once and to accept the genuine demands of the Indian people.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
Struggles of Gandhi
Question: Give a brief account of the struggle of Gandhi during the initial years of his advent on the Indian scene, with special reference to Champaran Satyagraha.
Ans: Before the advent of Gandhi on the scene of the nationalist movement, there was hardly any charismatic leader who could motivate the common man to join hands to oust the colonial power. After several years of struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and mastering the techniques of Satyagraha based on non-violence and truth, Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and straightaway joined the struggle for independence of the country.
Gandhi’s first experiment with Satyagraha in India came in the year 1917 in Champaran District of Bihar. The opportunity was provided by the indigo planters there, who were exploited and oppressed by the European planters. Gandhi arrived in Champaran along with other leaders like Dr Rajendra Prasad, J.B. Kriplani, Mazhar-ul-Haq and Mahadev Desai and made inquiries about the conditions of the peasants in Champaran. The District authorities ordered Gandhi to immediately leave Champaran. Gandhi defied this order and agreed to face trial and imprisonment.
Fearing a backlash, the British authorities did not try him and withdrew the earlier order and appointed a Committee of Inquiry on which Gandhi was also nominated as a member. Finally, the disabilities from which the peasants were suffering were reduced considerably and Gandhi won his battle without much resistance from the British authorities.
Again in the year 1918, a dispute was reported among the mill owners of Ahmedabad and the workers. The dispute was for wage hike. Gandhi advised the workers to go on strike and demand 35 per cent increase in wages. Gandhi also undertook fast unto death. His fast pressurized the mill owners who, on 4th day of his fast agreed to 35 per cent wage increase for the workers.
Another opportunity also came along in the same year. Due to adverse weather conditions, the crops failed in Kheda District of Gujarat but the British government refused to accept the genuine demand of the peasants for remission of land revenue. Gandhi supported the peasants and asked them to withhold the payment of revenue till the demand for its remission was met. Sardar Patel actively supported Gandhi during this agitation. The government relented and accepted the demand for remission of land revenue for whole of the District.
Beginning with Champaran Satyagraha, the above three incidents brought Gandhi in close contact with the Indian masses. His success in all these experiences brought him closer to their heart and they began to feel that with his methods, he could get them freedom from the British.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
Trial of INA
Descriptive Question: The trial of the prisoners of Indian National Army was the hallmark of Nationalist Movement during the post-Second World War period. Discuss
Ans: Indian National Army (INA) under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose fought valiantly against the British forces during the Second World War. But with the collapse of Japan in the year 1945, the INA too met with defeat. As the war ended, the Quit India Movement in India was also on the wane and that is the time when the British began the trial of the officers and soldiers of the INA. The British treated these prisoners as traitors, but people of India regarded them as national heroes. Trial of three officers of the INA, namely Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurdial Singh Dhillon and Prem Sehgal, at the Red Fort was opposed by the entire country. The masses did not want these heroes to be punished. So great was the pressure from the public that even after the court martial held them guilty, the British had to set them free.
The Britishers could judge the determined mood of Indian masses. Moreover, the Second World War had shattered the economic and military might of the British Empire. There was also a mutiny in the Navy against the said trial. In addition, there were numerous strikes, hartals and demonstrations in various parts of the country, including several Princely States. Although there was no major movement after the Second World War, the people’s struggle against the trial of the INA prisoners filled the void. Most dangerous signals to the British came from mutiny in Navy and the strikes in the Indian Air Force and the Corps of Signals in the Army. The police and the bureaucracy were also showing the signs of nationalist leanings. The writing on the wall was clear. The centuries old British rule in India was about to end. Other important events like Cabinet Mission in 1946 and Indian Independence Act of 1947 only worked out the detailed formula for independence.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
People’s Movement and Princely States
Question: What was the contribution of the People’s Movement in Princely States under the British rule?
Ans: During the British Rule, along with the Nationalist Movement against the British by the Indian masses, there was a parallel movement by the people of the Princely States. While most of the territory of India had passed into the hands of the British by the beginning of the 20th century, some parts of the country were still under the princely rulers/Nawabs. Though most of the rulers had accepted the suzerainty of the British, yet most of them were despotic and callous towards the welfare of their people. Economic condition of people was poor with extremely high demands of land revenue and other taxes. Modern education and other social services were neglected by most of the rulers.
The people of these States were greatly influenced by the Nationalist Movement. The movements like the “Prajamandal Movement” and “All India States’ and People’s Conference” came to the fore. The Civil Disobedience Movement also spread to the States like Rajkot, Jaipur, Kashmir, Hyderabad and Travancore. The Princes suppressed these Movements with a heavy hand. They also used the communal cards to crush the movements. By 1935, the Indian National Congress came forward openly to espouse the cause of the States’ people. In the year 1935, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru became the President of All India States’ People’s Conference, which gave the required impetus to the Movement in these States.
The Nationalist Movement in the Princely States not only brought the nationalist consciousness among the States’ people, but it also brought them in the national mainstream. It also put the added pressure on the British to leave India and forced the Princely States to merge with the Indian Union as per the provisions of the Indian Independence Act. The new consciousness among these people also resulted in a united India after independence.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
National Movement during World War-II
Question: Describe major events under the National Movement during the Second World War.
Ans: The period of Second World War was a testing time for India’s National Movement. Before the outbreak of the War in 1939, there was a lull in the National Movement. After German invasion of Poland, the British government of India joined the war effort along with allied forces without consulting the elected members of the Central Legislature or the Indian National Congress. The nationalist forces were completely opposed to fascist aggression and were willing to extend help to the democratic forces of the world. But the nationalist leaders wanted to know as to how an enslaved nation like India could help other countries of the world to secure emancipation.
All the nationalist forces joined hands on this issue and demanded that the British must set India free before India could actively participate in war against the Nazi forces. The British refused to accept this demand, which prompted the Congress to give a call to all its ministries to resign. As a token of resentment in October 1940, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for limited Satyagraha by a few individuals. It was aimed at conveying that in an enslaved state, the Indians were not with the British in their war effort. It was also conveyed through limited Satyagraha that there was hardly any difference between Nazism and the British colonialism. But at the same time, the Congress did not want to embarrass the British by initiating a major upheaval in the country during the War.
Vinoba Bhave was one of the prominent persons who offered limited Satyagraha during the war. By 1941, more than 25,000 Satyagrahis were already in British jails. War scenario witnessed two major events in this year. Firstly, Germany, after capturing most of the East Europe, attacked the Soviet Union and, secondly, Japan launched a surprise attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour by joining hands with Italy and Germany. This, on the one hand, ensured direct involvement of Japan along with Axis forces, and, on the other, forced the US and the Soviet Union to actively support the Allied forces. Japan captured many parts of South East Asia in a blitzkrieg operation and subjugated Philippines, Indo-China, Indonesia, Malaya and Burma, bringing the War to the doorstep of India.
Rash Behari Bose and Capt Mohan Singh, along with many Indian soldiers captured by the Japanese army, formed Indian National Army (INA) to assist the Japanese forces to drive the British out of India. The leadership of INA was later handed over to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. At this stage the British wanted active Indian support in their war effort. The British government sent a Mission under Sir Stafford Cripps in the year 1942 for this purpose. But since the Cripps Mission did not concede to the Indian demand of immediate transfer of power, it failed and went back. This fuelled discontentment among the Indians and pressure increased to force the British to accept the demand for independence. The Congress passed the famous “Quit India” resolution in Bombay on August 8, 1942. A non-violent mass struggle under the leadership of Gandhi began. The British government came down heavily and immediately arrested most of the nationalist leaders. The Movement spread to many parts of the country, in the forms of Satyagraha, demonstrations and hartals. Over 10,000 people were killed in police and military firing and lakhs were arrested. Finally, the government succeeded in crushing the leaderless movement, as most of the leaders were in jail.
The post-war movement witnessed a new type of struggle, triggered by the trial of three INA officers viz. Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurdial Singh Dhillon and Prem Sehgal. Despite the British government’s resolve to punish these officers for sedition, the whole country regarded them as national heroes and was fully behind them. Even though the military court at the Red Fort held them guilty, sensing the belligerent mood of Indian masses, the British government decided to set them free. It was then evident that the days of British Empire in India were numbered.[Indian History Related Essay or Descriptive Questions for UPSC and Banking Exams]
Moderates and Indian Masses
Question: Why did the moderates lose appeal with Indian masses and failed to get the desired response from the people?
Ans: Between the period from 1885 to 1905, the Indian National Congress was dominated by moderate leaders, prominent among them being Dada Bhai Nauroji, Badrudin Tayabji, Surendra Nath Banerjee, M.G. Ranade, Madan Mohan Malaviya and G. Subramanya Iyer. As the expression ‘moderate’ suggests, most of these leaders believed in constitutional methods of agitation and pursuing limited objectives. Their basic objective was to arouse the political consciousness and national spirit among the Indians. Most of them had complete faith in British administration and justice. Their methods included passing of resolutions, holding meetings and sending petitions. Though their methods did not fetch them immediate gains, yet their contribution towards political and national awakening was of paramount value to the country.
But gradually, this group of early nationalists began to lose appeal with the Indian masses. There were several reasons and the foremost was the Boycott and Swadeshi Movement during the Bengal Partition. Many moderate leaders did not associate themselves with this movement and younger people within Congress started realising the futility of the ideology and techniques of moderate leaders. As a result, during the agitation against Bengal Partition, a large section of Indians lost faith in the sense of justice of the British. This resulted in loss of goodwill of the moderates and emergence of a new group of nationalists, popularly known as the extremists.
Emergence of new generation leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, B.C. Pal and Arbinda Ghosh caught the fancy and following of the masses. Economic exploitation, resulting in impoverishment during the British rule, was also a major factor responsible for growing disillusionment against the British as well as the moderates. It was realised by all that the primary cause of poverty in India was the anti-Indians economic policies followed by the British.[Read here about great personalities of India.]
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