Split in Congress - 1907
As a fallout of the Swadeshi and Boycott movement, two distinct schools of thoughts emerged. The two groups differed on the extent of loyalty to the British Empire and one of them would go as far as to demand complete independence. The other, called the moderates, would accept British rule as a necessary platform for demanding certain rights for Indian citizens and would believe in the politics of prayers and petitions, rather than active agitation in favour of independence. The former would include Aurobindo Ghosh, while the later, among others, Surendranath Bannerjee.
As early as 1902 even Bipin Chandra Pal was in the moderate camp when he proclaimed during the Shivaji festival, loyalty to the Empire as 'natural', 'unconscious', and 'automatic.' He echoed the statements of Sir Henry Cotton that "the British Government was viewed by Indians as an irrevocable necessity that has done immense service to them." But the attitude of the Government towards Partition of Bengal dashed that hope. Pal had no qualms in declaring in 1907 that Curzon and his total disregard of popular will destroyed his old illusion about British India. These political disillusion set in motion the creation of an alternate school of thought in the country, which differed from that of the moderates within Congress. Historians have labelled this thought as Extremists, but "Radical" may be a better term. The Partition of Bengal and the Swadeshi and Boycott movements increased the chasm between the moderates and the radicals. Moderates could not reconcile themselves to the Boycott of foreign goods and the educational institutions. The Extremist party became an all India party under the leadership of Tilak, Khaparde, Lajpat Rai, Bipin Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh. At this time the Liberal Party of Britain came to power and John Morley was appointed the Secretary of State for India. This raised the hope of the Moderates. British also played their politics of divide and rule and tried to be close to the Moderates. According to Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Moderates did not realize that they were valued by the British only because of their apprehension of the Extremists. Both Morley and Minto who took over as Viceroy wanted to win over the Moderates with the help of Gokhale. When Gokhale did not play along Morley and Minto were furious. Gokhale criticized the Moely Minto reform proposal in 1909.
The real difference of the two parties, moderates and radicals was in their political goals and methods. While moderates preferred Congress's goal of Colonial type self rule, radicals preferred complete autonomy and freedom from foreign rule. Extremist Party aimed at attending Swaraj or Self Government. Aurobindo wrote "Political Freedom is the life breath of a Nation." Radicals also rejected petitioning as the means as they considered that in the event of clash of interests, rarely the powerful interested party gives in. Extremist party prescribed passive resistance as the means by which the Nation could get rid of a foreign bureaucracy, by opposing them under all circumstances. After Congress session of 1906, Tilak undertook a tour to preach this doctrine of passive resistance. He advocated Boycott as an effective political weapon as that would prevent the British from collecting taxes and using the country's resources to carry out their own agenda, be it war or peace. He decried the Moderate Party's propensity to believe in the liberal ideals and the intentions of the British. He predicted that Morley would be handicapped by the opposition of the Anglo Indian Bureaucracy to give power to Indians and his prediction came true.
Tilak summed up the differences between the approaches of the Moderates and the Extremists. He said that the Radicals believed that they must ask for rights being conscious of the fact that those demands could not be refused and that there was a great difference between demanding and petitioning. People should be ready to fight if there demands were turned down.He advised not to count upon the sympathy of the rulers. In short, no ruler ever gave in to meek and submissive subjects, as the examples of Ireland, Japan and Russia showed. Aurobindo Ghosh wrote a series of articles on Passive Resistance in Bande Mataram in April 1907.He explained Passive Resistance as opposed to Active Resistance as - not doing anything which by which the Government would be benefited as opposed to doing something that would harm the Government. This was later adopted by Gandhiji during Non Cooperation. Aurobindo emphasized on Boycott of the Government institutions and the refusal to pay taxes as well as the Boycott of British goods as the means of Passive Resistance.
Moderates criticized the ultimate goal of the Extremists and the methods suggested as they believed that the future progress of the country was possible only under the British rule as Indians were not yet capable of ruling and were not united. Gokhale had said that 'only mad men outside lunatic asylum could think or talk of independence." Gokhale believed that there was no alternative to British rule "for a long time to come." Dadabhai Naoroji strongly defended the politics of prayers and petitions which the Extremists termed as mendicancy. Moderates also thought that the idea of Passive Resistance was impracticable. The Moderates pointed out the failures of Boycott of the goods like sugar and cotton, the pitfalls of Boycotting educational institutions and the fallacy in assuming that people would Boycott en masse the Government services. Moderates held the view that it would be better to take advantage of the meager services provided by the Government rather than Boycotting them. Moderates believed in the sense of justice of the British and expected that over a long period of time British Government would have change of heart and would provide more benefits. Some of the Moderate leaders viewed the Extremists having evil designs of jeopardizing any little progress that could be made by Congress through its policy of appeasing the British Government. Aurobindo gave a spiritual dimension to the politics by viewing patriotism as a form of devotion. He regarded the Nationalism as a form of worship of the Mother Goddess in the form of the Nation. He regarded it as a duty of every Indian to fight against foreign tyranny and oppression just as he would if "a demon sits on the breast of his mother and is about to drink her blood." He and other Extremist leaders therefore regarded sacrifice to the altar of the Mother as the great worship and hence no means to be spared to attain that objective. To Aurobindo goes the credit of this emergence of the Extremists or Radicals and the virtual wash out of the Moderates.
Aurobindo, Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai took over the reigns from the old guard of Surendranath, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gokhale etc. Bande Mataram paper of Aurobindo became very popular in evoking the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of the divine mother, to raise the spirit of Nationalism. Aurobindo became the undisputed leader of freedom movement. In 1907 the fissure between Moderates and Extremists developed into a full blown war in the Surat Congress. The difference between the new Nationalist party of the Extremists and the old Congress party of the Moderates was irreconcilable and it was evident after the Varanasi Congress in 1905. Lajpat Rai held the view that British were disinterested about the problems of India and suffering of her people. Therefore India will have to evolve the Self Governance not under British rule, but all by herself, by seeking freedom. Moderates like Gokhale on the other hand believed that Self Government within then Empire was to be the goal of India. They were also divided over the principles behind Swadeshi and on application of Boycott as a tool. Moderates believed that Boycott would not work practically. Nationalist leaders believed that withdrawal of all kinds of cooperation to the British rule in all spheres of public and administrative activity was the need of the hour. Tilak and Pal went on a tour across India to preach this principle. Before the 1906 Calcutta session the Moderates were enthused by the victory of the Liberal party in Britain. Nationalists on the other hand were inspired by the victory of Japan over Russia. Moderates also pinned their hopes on the new Secretary of State John Morley. Extremists leaders gathered strength and support, particularly in Bengal. Moderates scored a victory by electing Grand Old Man Dadabhai Naoroji as the President. The 82 year old President, who was out of touch with the aspirations of the younger generation, repeatedly emphasized on agitation for securing benefits. Congress also accepted resolutions of Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education and the President also spoke about Swaraj without giving it a concrete shape. It was in effect a compromise between the two groups.
1907 Surat Congress was a watershed moment as the compromize made in Calcutta Congress was abandoned by the moderates under the influence of Phiroze Shah Mehta. The resolution adopted did not include Boycott, Self Governance and National Education. Rashbehari Ghosh was proposed to be the president from the Moderate camp. There was a pitched battle between the two camps. A shoe was hurled at Tilak which hit Surendranath and Phiroz Shah. The session was adjourned Sine Die. Moderates had decided to change their resolution at the insistence of John Morley and Lord Minto. Therefore British had again played their dirty game of divide and rule and Indians esp. the Moderates simply followed. Gokhale had a tacit agreement with Morley despite knowing for dure that Morley regarded the question of self Governance as a pipe dream. It was the invisible hand of Morley and Minto that pulled the strings that engineered the split between the Moderates and the Extremists and the low self esteem of the Moderates and their willingness to believe their British masters were the prime reasons for the same.
Even after Surat Congress Tilak tried for a patch up but Moderates regarded him as a traitor and would have nothing to do with him. Tilak appealed through Kesari to not to let differences of opinions come against the interest of the country. But Moderates were more interested in placating the Morle Minto group by keeping the extremists at bay. Tilak, with his slogan of "Swaraj is my Birthright and I will have it" increased the popularity of the Nationalists, particularly among the youth.
The Extremists, whose activities were severely daunted after the deportation of Tilak, finally were admitted to Congress in 1916. This was after the Moderate leaders like Gokhale had left their mortal coils and a new leader, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, protégé of Gokhale, was rising, and Tilak and Annie Bessant had joined hands to launch the Home Rule movement.
Alienation of Muslims
In the beginning of the partition of Bengal movement a section of the Muslims were supportive of the protest or were generally unconcerned. However Curzon played a cunning game by appealing to the divisive and the communal sections of the Muslims by promising them a better deal. Muslims intellectuals and thinkers were already inspired by the Two Nation theory originating in the Aligarh movement of Sir Syed Ahmed. curzon visited East Bengal and convinced Dhaka Nawab Salimullah that the Muslims would derive great benefit from the Partition.Therefore with the creation of the united province of East Bengal and Assam, Muslims were very enthusiastic as they were the majority in that province. Writes Dr. R.C Majumdar that even though the Aligarh movement had promised the Muslims a separate identity and a nation, it had no home base except Punjab where Muslims were a majority. Many Muslim leaders who supported the Congress were also in favour of the Partition of Bengal for the same reason. The Muslim leaders met in Dhaka in December 1906 and passed a resolution upholding the Partition as beneficial to the Muslim community. The resolution also condemned the Boycott and the anti Partition movements. The Central Committee of the Muslim League met in 1908 in Dhaka and expressed concern over the "Hindu" agitation against Partition. In the Imperial Council meeting of 1910 when Bhupendranath Basu raised the question of reversing the Partition of Bengal, Shamsul Huda of Bengal and Mazhar Ul Haq from Bihar strongly objected. It is to be noted that even Maulana Muhammad Ali, who championed the Khilafat movement and was close to Gandhi, in 1923, as President of the Congress referred to the reversal of the Partition of Bengal as an important cause for the alienation of the Muslims from British Government (Dr. R.C Majumdar - History of Freedom Movement of India volume 2).
The baton of Aligarh movement had passed to Mohsin Ul Mulk. He and Aga Khan, made a deputation to Lord Minto on the question of safeguarding the rights and interests of the Muslims in the new legislation. They demanded Muslim representation in every governing body so that Muslim interests could be upheld, ensuring employment of Muslims in government services, appointment of Muslim judges, a Muslim University, and so on. Minto, in his address, gave an official seal to the demand that Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate electoral entities whose interests would be safeguarded separately. Minto also accepted the demand to show undue favour to the Muslims in their representation in the Legislative Council by making it far in excess of their numerical ratio to the population. These demands formed the basis of foundation of Pakistan down the line. This deputation, according to Dr. R.C Majumdar, was engineered by the Government, to ensure that the Muslims stayed away from the anti Government movements and the special favour given to the Muslims formed the basis of the worst communal genocide forty years down the line and the line of the communal politics of appeasement and violence in the name of protecting community interests to be followed thereafter. The English press also took this opportunity to ridicule the concept of Indian Nationhood and were delighted to see the Indians pitted against one another on the basis of religion.
After the Partition of Bengal and later when the Constitutional reforms were announced, Muslims thought that they should have an organization of their own to counter the growing influence of the Hindus. In the Muhammedan Educational conference in Dhaka Nawab Salimullah proposed that a new central political organization of Muslims should be formed that would look only into the interests of the Muslim community and would support the British Government. It would also give an outlet to the politically conscious section of the Muslim youth, a platform to join, instead of joining the Indian National Congress. The League was opposed to the ideals and visions of Congress and professed loyalty to the British Government. They were opposed to the political ambition of Hindus to rule over India after the departure of the British. Muslims were opposed to Shivaji festivals and were not ready to accept Hindu heroes as icons of Nationalism. Mohsin Ul Mulk went to the extent of saying that even though Muslims did not have the might of the pen, they still had their sword (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India, Vol 2). The Aligarh Muslim University in particular, the seat of Sir Syed Ahmad's radical views, was hostile to the Nationalist Movement and asked the Muslim students abroad to refrain from taking part in the Indian Home Rule League. Muhammad Ali, on whom Gandhiji had deposed faith and trust during the later period, also belonged to the anti Hindu camp as early as 1908 when he presided over the Muslim League Session. He ridiculed the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity. Muslim leaders therefore largely viewed the interest of the Muslims as different from that of the Hindus. They were Muslim first and Indian afterwards (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India, Vol 2).
Needless to say that the British fully exploited the differences of the two communities. British had favoured the Muslims to the detriment of the interest of the Hindus as they viewed the Hindus as the Nationalists and aniti British, while Muslims were loyal subjects. The Partition of Bengal and the foundation of Muslim League widened the cleavage between the Hindus and the Muslims. The separate electorate proposal of the Muslims, with the explicit consent of Lord Minto, was hotly debated upon. The number of Nationalist Muslim leaders were very few and Muslims believed that Hindus would vote only for Hindu candidates and that would be detrimental to the fair and proportionate representation of the Muslims. In actual practice there were a larger no. of Muslims who got elected even from Hindu majority areas. There were few dissenting voices among Muslims on the issue of a separate electorate, like that of Nawab Sadiq Ali Khan of Lucknow. Muslims also exploiuted the eagerness among the Hindu leaders to forge unity. They demanded more than fair share of representation across all levels.
In addition Muslim hotheads also actively fanned serious communal riots across the country in the wake of the Swadeshi and the Boycott movements, in the Mymensingh and the Kumilla districts, but the riots were not confined to Bengal alone. In 1910 a severe riot broke out in Peshawar. Riots broke out in 1917 in Bihar in which largely Muslims were victims in the hand of petty Hindu landlords. In 1918 riots in UP around 30 Muslims were killed by the Hindus. The troubles continued unabated even after Khilafat movement and Moplah riots in Malabar and the communal violence in Bengal in 1926 were noteworthy. The Hindu Muslim forged by leaders like Gandhi and Chittaranjan Das lay shattered in the wake of murder of Swami Sraddhanand of Arya Samaj, by a Muslim fanatic. The only point of unity was ever reached with the establishment of Azad Hind Provisional Government under Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose where Hindus and Muslims were equal stakeholders.
The first annual session of the Muslim League was held at Karachi on 29 Dec, 1907. Karachi was chosen because it was the capital of Sindh where Muhammad Bin Qasim came first, "with the torch of the religion and the gift of the Hadis." (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol 2). Muslim League appointed its British Committee in India under the presidentship of Syed Amir Ali. The League whole heartedly supported the Morley Minto reform proposal of a separate communal electorate for the Muslims. Hindus leaders were under the delusion that t would be easier to forge the bond of unity by appeasing the Muslims and giving in to their demands. But the result would invariably be that Muslim demands scaled up higher and higher. Even Gopal Krishna Gokhale opined that the Muslim fear of being dominated by a Hindu majority should be respected. Mohandas Gandhi said that the "Hindus should yield upto the Mohammedans what the latter desire and in so doing they should rejoice. We can expect unity only if such mutual large heartedness is displayed." Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar remarks in his History of Freedom Movement in India that the "first sentence is one of the pro-Muslim sayings which bore the special trademark of Gandhi and did incalculable harm to the Hindu Muslim unity by putting a premium on Muslim intransigence. It was repeated in 1947 when Gandhi made the proposal that Jinnah should be the supreme ruler of India." Dr. Majumdar was scathing in his attack when he said, "the word mutual in the second sentence is meaningless, as Gandhi never dared make similar request to the Muslims and they never showed the slightest intention of doing any such foolish thing." Mohammad Ali and other Muslim League leaders never hid their intention that the Muslims formed a separate communal political entity in India. When the Muslim League, being disillusioned by British hypocrisy and their international policies in Islamic countries, viz. occupation of Egypt, Anglo French agreement w.r.t Morocco and support of the invasion of the Turkish province of Tripoly by Italy, had adopted a new constitution in 1913, that accepted the ideal of Self Governance under British rule, by promoting unity and cooperation with other communities. Dr. R. C. Majumdar stated in the History of the Freedom Movement that by doing so Muslim League did not fundamentally deviate from their position, but only reiterated the fact that the Communal politics was more important to them than national interest and they would extend their cooperation to the other communities only if their community interest was in alignment with the interest of the other communities. In other words, the resolution clearly stated that there were three parties in India - viz. Muslims, Hindus and the British Government, and the Muslims were free to cooperate with one or the other based on their own community's interest. This resolution thus formed the groundwork of the two nation theory of Jinnah. Congress and the other parties hailed the resolution without understanding what intention lay beneath the words - that Congress was no longer the representative of the who country and the Muslim interest was served only by Muslim League. Also the interest of the Islamic world and the Islamic countries counted more to the Muslims (they still do) than to the wider national interest. Muslim League as the representative of a section of the Muslims, did not hesitate to cooperate with the British and keep India under the subjugation of British, and only raised the red flag of rebellion when the interests of the Islamic nations were compromised in the First World War.
In 1916 Congress and Muslim League entered into a common understanding. Congress accepted the League demand of separate electorate of the Muslims, in a way giving space to the rise of the politics of the appeasement of the Muslims. All the demands of the Muslim League were accepted by Congress for the sake of forging the illusive Hindu Muslim unity for which the Muslim leaders were not really interested. Congress action in 1916 had truly led to the foundation of Pakistan thirty years later. For the time being however it seemed to be smart move as the Government of India was surprised to see their trump card, of forging enmity between the two principal communities, had backfired.
First World War and India's Contribution
The First World War had begun with the declaration of the war against Germany by England on 4th August, 1914. The preparations of the war had begun long back with German alliance with Austria, Franco Russian alliance, British French entente and British Russian treaty that would help them curve out spheres of influence in Persia. The Germans, who were were denied any lebensraum by the worldwide colonies already established by Britain, France and Holland, resented it and aspired to become dominant by building a powerful army and navy. Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece had initially allied against Turkey but after driving out Turkey Serbia battled against Bulgaria and Austro-Hungarian Empire supported Bulgaria. Thus when Franz Ferdinand, the Arch Duke of Austria and the Heir Apparent, was murdered in Serbia, Austria declared war against Serbia and was soon joined by Germany. Russia and France came to the support of Serbia, while Britain remained neutral. However when Belgium was overrun by Germany to get a faster passage to France, Britain declared war on Germany and her allies and British India was by default pulled into the war effort. Indians had no voice in the matter despite the widespread suffering that the war would bring on them in the form of a stunted economy that had already been bled to the last drop through systematic plundering and organized looting of her resources by the Imperial mercantile Britain. Even Indian politicians through utter naivete or in absence of a better judgement supported the British war effort and even encouraged Indians to join the volunteer corps as soldiers, the foremost among such blatantly misjudging politicians was Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was earlier supported the British Government in South Africa in the Boer war. Indian politicians expected some rewards in the form of better reforms and perhaps self governance at the end of the war but as we shall see, their hopes were dashed. The common man and woman in India had even less to eat during the war and because of high prices could not afford clothes. There are heart wrenching tales of women committing suicide being unable to protect their modesty in absence of garments. At the outbreak of the war there were about 230,000 serving Indian army men. About 1.2 million men were recruited during the war largely through terror and violence. Writes Dr. R. C Majumdar, "Indian troops were mercilessly sacrificed at the altar of the British interest from the very beginning." They were used as cannon fodders against the advancing German army in Ypres in 1914. When the Germans had broken past the British barriers in Flanders and were rapidly advancing towards Paris, an ill equipped Indian army was flung across to check on their advancement and fought gallantly to achieve the aim, but very few of them were left. Naturally Britain cheered to obtain such a victory with so less British lives lost. Writes Dr. Majumdar, "Verily, England fought to the last Indian."
In September 1914, a division of British Indian Army was sent to Africa and expedition which was managed by the India office, resulted in a disastrous failure. The campaign in Mesopotemia, that had resulted in a crushing defeat at the hands of the Turks, was managed by the British India Office under Government of India. The expedition was so hopelessly mismanaged that in 1916, finally, the war office in England under Lloyd George took over. Lloyd George in his report had reflected on the "mismanagement, stupidity, criminal neglect, and amazing incompetence of the military authorities responsible for the expedition and the horrible and unnecessary suffering of the gallant men who were sent to failure and defeat through the blunders of those in charge."
In his History of Freedom Movement of India, Dr. R.C Majumdar points out that India's supply in men, money and material was so large that the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge declared in the House of Commons and repeated in his autobiography, that India had been bled white by the War Office. Altogether during the war 1.1 mn Indians were recruited and 1.2 mn were sent overseas, of whom about 100,000 had become casualties. India had to bear the heavy expense of maintaining this army. India represented by her British masters also gifted Britain one hundred million pound sterling for conducting her Imperial war. This amount exceeded the annual revenue of the Government of India and increased her national debt by thirty percent. The total war expenditure of the Government of India, upto 31st March, 1918, was about pound 128 mn Sterling (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India Vol 2). The princely states contributed another pound 2.1 mn in cash. Many Indians were recruited for the war effort by force. A quota of war loans and recruits was fixed for each district of Punjab and the officers who failed to achieve that target were subjected to severe punishment. All these were the handiwork of the notorious Michael O'Dwyer , the chief perpetrator of Jalianwalabagh massacre, in Punjab.
It is to be noted that during the war the allied forces and their leaders, esp. Britain and America, had declared that their fight was for liberty. "No people must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live" was the tall statement of American President Woodrow Wilson. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Britain after winning the war had declared that the wishes of the inhabitants must be the supreme consideration in the re settlement of the German colonies. The English and American diplomats repeatedly stressed that they were "waging war to make the world safe for democracy." Of course all these frothy sentiments and noble intentions were forgotten after the war. Indian politicians had thought that Britain would be willing to give the right of self determination or Dominion Status to India as a reward for the loyalty. But sadly they did not understand the extent of European hypocrisy and lie. India got her reward, in the form of blood bath and mayhem as later events would testify.
Home Rule Movement
The release of Tilak in 1914 and the World War 1, had brought the Nationalists to the forefront of the Indian politics. Hitherto that space was ceded to the revolutionaries because of the inaction of the Moderate section. Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Phirozeshah Mehta died in 1915. The political life of India was characterized by lethargy and inaction under the Moderates as Partition of Bengal was reversed and Revolutionaries under Rashbehari Bose and the Ghadar Party had taken the center stage of fight against the British. Almost all Moderate leaders favoured the reentry of Extremists into Congress and Tilak strongly advocated the idea. Annie Bessant, who had joined active politics, met both Gokhale and Tilak and an agreement was reached on the subject. Gokhale however backtracked and Bhupendra Nath Bose revealed that he received a letter from Gokhale opposing reentry of the Extremists on the ground that Tilak had openly avowed his intention of adopting Boycott of the Government. Tilak denied the allegation. Gokhale had suspected that Tilak wanted to demand self Government of Indians and until that was achieved Indians should have nothing to do with the public services or the Legislative Councils or the local bodies. On the eve of the Madras Congress, Phirozshah Mehta's rigid stance against the Extremist method that would destroy the ideals that Moderates stood for, influenced Gokhale.
After Gokhale's death, the two sides came much closer to an agreement. Tilak passed a resolution which would was accepted by his followers, which supported entry into Congress, as a means to make Indian Nationalism more progressive, more militant and more active. Congress session in Bombay in 1915 adopted a resolution to make way for the entry of the Nationalists within its fold. Attainment of self Government under British Empire by constitutional means was one of the stated objectives. The Lucknow session of Congress was one of the landmark in the history of freedom movement. After nine years, Moderates and Extremists came on the same platform and resolved all their differences. Tilak and his party were carried by a Home Rule Special and they received many ovations. A royal reception awaited Tilak. Annie Besant, an Irish Lady, who became the President of the Theosophical Society in 1907, also advocated Self Government within the British Empire. In 1914 she had travelled to England and tried to cultivate sympathy for India's cause through her lectures. She declared that the "Price of India's loyalty is India's freedom." She set up a Home Rule League in London. After her return she brought out a daily paper called New India in Madras. Her idea of Home Rule was that the country would be having a Government by councils, elected by its people, and the Government would be responsible for the House. Economic power would be in the hands of the representatives of the people. Provinces and provincial parliaments would also be elected. Governor would be like the king of England, his power being limited.
Moderates did not like the idea of forming Home Rule Leagues as according to them such an institution would weaken the Congress. Home Rule League was formally inaugurated in September 1916 and its branches were formed in several major cities of India including Bombay and Madras. Mrs. Besant began her active propaganda using the infrastructure of the Theosophical Society. She toured and lectured all over the country on her ideas and distributed propaganda literature. She had a gift of oratory skill which she used fully to rouse the country through her stirring speeches. She also had an "indomitable will" and "concentrated purposefulness." Eminent leaders like Tej Bahadur Sapru and Matilal Nehru joined the Home Rule League. At one point of time she was being considered for being the President of the Congress in 1916
In the meanwhile Tilak had also taken up the cause of the Home Rule and the idea of forming Home Rule League. He summoned a conference of the Nationalists in Bombay and Puna in December 1915, and appointed a committee to look into proposal to set up a League for Home Rule. The Committee voted in favour of a limited number of League branches to set up as pilot, in Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar. The report of the Committee was placed before Belgaum Conference in April 1916. The League was established in 1916 with Joseph Baptista as President and N.C Kelkar as Secretary. Tilak did not take up any office. Tilak wrote stirrimg articles in his weeklies Maratha and Kesari, arguing for Home Rule. He asked for a time limit for Home Rule in a Parliamentary Bill for the legitimate demand of Swaraj. He also undertook an extensive lecture tour educating the masses on Home Rule and requesting them to become members of the Home Rule League. He narrated his vision that Home Rule would be a rule of the representatives of the people of India under the British crown, unlike the rule of the British bureaucrats.
Tilak's speeches and writings in simple languages made him a hero among people and earned him the epithet Lokamanya (revered by the masses). Home Rule Movement posed a stark contrast to the extreme and almost slavish bhakti displayed by the Congress Moderate leaders like Bhupendranath Basu and S.P Sinha who had publicly proclaimed their support during the "darkest hours of Britain" being deliberately blind to the oppressions in Punjab, and even going to the extent of professing their deep loyalty and gratitude to the British rule. They rejected the idea of Home Rule as according to them India was not yet ready to receive freedom - "nations like individuals must grow into freedom". Writes Dr. R.C Majumdar, that "It would be hardly an exaggeration to say that the Home Rule Movement re awakened the true spirit of Indian politics generated by the Swadeshi Movement after it had gone into torpor during the seven year's of Moderate party's domination over the Indian National Congress."
Even though the Home Rule Leagues of Tilak and Mrs. Besant were separate they carried their work together and there was a formal understanding between them. The British Indian Government decided to crush the movement ruthlessly. Tilak and Mrs. Besant were fined for their speeches. However the Home Rule Movement spread all over India because of the efforts of the two leaders. In 1917 Bombay & Central Provinces Government prohibited Mrs. Besant from entering Bombay and C.P while Governments of Punjab and Delhi banned Tilak and B.C Pal from entering their jurisdiction. The Government of Madras interned Besant and prohibited other leaders from entering Madras province. But these measures could not deflate people's spirit. Sir Subramanya Aiyer, an eminent lawyer, became an ardent champion of Home Rule. The internment of Besant was criticized even in Britain. Many Nationalist leaders who had stood aloof, now joined the Home Rule League. The Home Rule League membership swelled and even villagers were brought into its fold. Government was alarmed but at the same time had no intention of giving way. A joint meeting of All India Congress Committee and Muslim League was convened in July 1917. Passive Resistance was being mooted as the instrument of carrying out the battle. Madras Provincial Congress Committee passed the resolution favouring Passive Resistance. E.S Montagu, the new Secretary of State made an announcement declaring Responsible Government as the goal of British policy in India and pledged that "substantial" steps would be taken in that direction as soon as possible. Subsequently the idea of Passive Resistance was dropped and Annie Besant herself was against that idea. The younger Nationalists were greatly disappointed.
Tilak continued with the Home Rule Agitation as he knew that this agitation was responsible for the British to agree to grant some concessions. Muslim leaders like Jinnah and Maulana Mohammed Ali, joined him. Montagu met Tilak in November 1917 and described him to be the "most powerful leader in India at present." Congress session was held in Calcutta in 1917 with Mrs. Besant as its President. Name of Mrs. Besant as the President was proposed by Tilak and was accepted by the Moderates as well as the Nationalists. This was a historic conference marked by the participation of a large of women delegates and Annie Besant demand the end of autocracy and bureaucracy in India through declaration of the self Government as early as in 1923 and no later than in 1928. Mrs. Besant in her stirring speech, put a case for the Home Rule by citing that 1) Freedom is the birthright of every Nation and 2) India's most important interests are now subservient to the interests of the British Empire without her consent and her resources are not utilized for her greatest needs. She quoted Asquith who spoke against the foreign domination of England to justify the war against Germany and asked why it was different for India. She said that "India's eyes are opening and myriads of her people realize that they are all men, with a man's right to manage his own affairs." She continued, "India is demanding her rights and not begging for concessions." This was the first time such sentiments were aired in unison from the platform of the Congress which had reduced itself to placating its Master, the British Empire. Nationalists had voiced this ten years back and were immediately driven out of Congress by the Moderates.
According to Dr. R.C Majumdar, the "Home Rule Movement was the fitting end of Tilak's noble political career, which shines brilliantly, in contrast with the transformation that came over his colleague Mrs. Besant, a little later. Thsi great movement shows him at his best, - a sincere, fearless, unbending patriot, who fought for his country with a religious zeal without caring for favour or frown, either of the people or of the Government." Tilak paved the way for Gandhi to take over the reigns and had prepared the mass basis for the movements to follow.
Even with Montagu Chelmsford reforms, came the infamous Rowlatt Bill of 1918. Thus the British policy of giving a few crumbs of bread while cracking the whip most severely continued and predictably the stooges, the Moderates of Congress were happy to receive the crumbs. The Nationalists felt that the reforms fell far short of the legitimate expectations of Indians. The British conservatives and the die hard Imperialists fought tooth and nail against the proposed reforms. Tilak opposed it on grounds of being "entirely unacceptable." As a result of this "disagreement" Moderates virtually split from Congress again by abstaining from the Bombay session in 1918. Tilak wanted to press his demand of Home Rule by visiting England in 1918, but the Government of India recalled his passport and thus hounded him back. Tilak summed up the attitude of Britain towards India - "The British just want you to supply soldiers whom they want for war. They tell us a 'calamity is hanging over India.' What is that to us? Why should we come forward to protect that India in which we have no rights, in which we are treated like slaves?... the Bureaucracy has overrun the whole nation; and we are not prepared to become soldiers to increase the power of these men." Annie Besant had changed her stance by 1918 and was chanting the Moderate lines. Later she was to become even more pro British. Tilak was later allowed to visit England and carried out his propaganda work among prominent politicians. He was supported by the Congress Delegation led by Vithalbhai Patel. It was by the effort of Tilak that Congress was able to get the support of the Labour Party. Even though Besant tried her best to prevent Labour leaders from bringing amendments to the Government of India Bill, Tilak had persuaded them to do so. While Tilak was thus busy in England promoting India's interest, British police in Punjab carried out atrocities at an unprecedented level in Punjab and committed the massacre in Jalianwallah Bagh. During this phase the political leadership in India passed on from Tilak to Gandhi.
Jalianwala Bagh Massacre - April 1919
According to Dr. R. C Majumdar, year 1919 was a momentous year in the history of India. It was remarkable for the four outstanding events -
1. Rowlatt Bill and its consequences, the reign of military terror in Punjab culminating in the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre that killed thousands of innocent Indians
2. Rise of Mohandas Gandhi as the supreme political leader in India, displacing Tilak
3. Montegu Chelmsford Reforms and consequent passage of Government of India Act
4. Rise of Pan Islamism in Indian politics and its open support by Gandhiji and Congress