Indian History
General Knowledge

Main Events during the Gandhian Era

Main Events during the Gandhian Era

Rowlatt Act (1919)

During the viceroyalty of Lord Chelmsford, a sedition committee was appointed by the government in 1918 with Justice Rowlatt which made certain recommendations to curb seditious activities in India. The Rowlatt Act 1919, gave unbridled powers to the government to arrest and imprison suspects, without trial. The act caused a wave of anger among the people. Even before the act was passed, popular agitation began against it. Gandhiji decided to fight against this act and he gave a call for Satyagraha on April 6, 1919. He was arrested on April 8,1919. This led to further intensification of the agitation in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Punjab.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (April 13, 1919)

The arrest of Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr. Satypal on April 10, 1919, under the Rowlatt Act in connection with Satyagraha caused serious unrest in Punjab. A public meeting was held on April 13, 1919 in a park called Jalliamvala Bagh in Amritsar where thousands of people including women and children assembled. Before the meeting could start General Reginald Edward Harr}' (R.E.H.)Dyer ordered indiscriminate heavy firing on the crowd and the people had no way out to escape. As a result hundreds of men, women and children were killed and more than 1200 people wounded. At that time Miachel O'Dwyer was the lieutenant governor of the Punjab. The massacre was a turning point in Indo-British relations and inspired the people to provide a more unrelenting fight for freedom.

Khilafat movement (1920-22)

The Caliph (or, Khalifa) Sultan of Turkey, was looked upon by the Muslims as their religious head. During the first World War, when the safety and welfare of Turkey were threatened by the British thereby weakening the Caliph's position, Indian Muslims adopted an aggressive anti- British attitude. The Ali Brothers-Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali-launched an anti-British movement in 1920 - the Khilafat Movement for the restoration of the Khilafat. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad also led the movement. It was supported by Gandhiji and INC which paved the way for Hindu-Muslim unity.

Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22)

At the Calcutta session in Sep. 1920, the Congress resolved in favour of the Non-cooperation Movement and defined Swaraj as its ultimate aim (according to Gandhi). The movement envisaged : (i) Surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from nominated offices; (ii) Refusal to attend government darbars and official functions and boycott of British courts by the lawyers; (iii) Refusal of general public to offer themselves for military and other government jobs, and boycott of foreign goods etc. Gandhijit along with the Ali Brothers (of Khilafat Movement fame) undertook a nationwide tour during addressing of meetings. The educational boycott was specially successful in Bengal with Punjab too, responding under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai. Apart from educational boycott, there was boycott of law courts which saw major lawyers like Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, C. Rajagopalachari, Saifuddin Kitchlu, Vallabh Bhai Patel, Aruna AsafAIi, etc. giving up their lucrative practices in their fields. The non-cooperation movement also saw picketing of shops selling foreign cloth and boycott of the foreign cloth by the followers of Gnndhiji. Another dramatic event during this period was the visit of the prince of Wales. The day he landed in India (in Bombay on Nov. 17,1921) he was greeted with empty streets and downed shutters wherever he went.
The attack on a local police station by angry peasants at Chauri - Chaura, in Gorakhpur district of UP, on Feb. 5, 1922, changed the whole situation. Gandhi, shocked by Chauri - Chaura incident, withdrew the Non-Cooperation Movement on Feb. 12,1922.

Swaraj Party (1923)

Gandhi's decision to call off the agitation caused frustration among masses. His decision came in for severe criticism from his colleagues like Motilal Nehru, C. R. Das and M.C. Kelkar, who organsied the Swaraj Party. The foundations of the Swaraj party were laid on Jan. 1,1923, as the' Congress Khilafat-Swaraj Party It proposed then an alternative programme of diverting the movement from widespread civil disobedience programme to restrictive one which would encourage its member to enter into legislative councils (established under Mont-ford Reforms of 1919) by contesting elections in order to wreck the legislature from within and to use moral pressure to compel the authority to concede to the popular demand for self government. In the election held in 1923 the Swaraj Party captured 45 of the 145 seats. In provincial elections they secured few seats but in the Central Province they secured a clear majority. In Bengal, the Swaraj Party was the largest party. They followed the policy of undiluted opposition. The Swarajists demanded the release all the political prisoners, provincial autonomy, repealing of the repressive laws imposed by the government. However, after the death of C.R. Das in 1925 they drifted towards a policy of cooperation with the government. This led to dissension and the party broke up in 1926.

Nehru Committee Report (1928)

The Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru to determine the principles of the constitution before actually drafting it. The chief architects of the report were Motilal Nehru and Tej Bahadur Sapru. The recommendation evoked a lively debate concerning the goal of India-Dominion Status or Complete Independence.

14 Points of Jinnah (March 9,1929)

Jinnah, the leader of Muslim League, did not accept the Nehru Report. Jinnah thereafter drew up a list of demands, which was called '14 points of Jinnah'.

Lahore Session (Dec., 1929)

At its annual session held in Lahore in Dec, 1929, under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru the Indian National Congress passed a resolution declaring 'Pooma Swaraj' (Complete Independence) to be the goal of the national movement.
On Dec. 31, 1929, the newly adopted tricolour flag was unfurled and Jan. 26 was fixed as the Independence Day which was to be celebrated every year, pleading to the people not to submit to British rule any longer.

Dandi March/Salt Satyagraha (1930)

To achieve the goal of 'Complete Independence', Gandhi launched another civil disobedience movement. Alongwith 78 followers, Gandhi started his famous march from Sabarmati Ashramory March 12, 1930 for the small village Dandi (Navsari District) to break the Salt Law. Gandhi covered a distance of 240 miles in 24 days (March 12 - April 5). On reaching the seashore on April 6, he broke the Salt Law by picking up salt from the seashore. By picking a handful of salt, Gandhi inaugurated the Civil Disobedience Movement, a movement that was to remain unsurpassed in the history of Indian National Movement for the countrywide mass participation it unleashed. The movement became so powerful that is sparked off patriotism even among the Indian soldiers in the army. The Garhwal soldiers refused to fire on the people at Peshwar. Gandhiji was arrested on May 5, 1930. This was followed by another round of boycott of foreign goods and it took the shape of a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement in which ladies also participated. Soon thereafter followed repressive measures such as mass arrests, lathi-charge, police-firing etc. About 1,00,000 people went in jail.

The First Round Table Conference (1930)

It was held in London on Nov. 12, 1930, to discuss the Simon Commission, but was totally boycotted by the Indian National Congress. The Commission had proposed self-government in the provinces and federation of British India and the princely states at the Centre. However, the representative of the Muslim League, Liberals and other parties had assembled for the discussion on the commission report. But in absence of the premier political party, the First Round Table Conference had to be adjourned to Jan. 2,1931.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact/Delhi Pact (March 5,1931)

Early in 1931 two moderate statesman, Sapru and Jayakax initiated efforts to bring about rapprochement between Gandhi and the government. Six meeting with Viceroy Lord Irwin finally led to the signing of a pact between the two on March 5,1931, whereby the congress called off the movement and agreed to join the Second Round Table Conference. Regarding Gandhi-Irwin Pact J.L. Nehru remarks, 'This is the way the worlds ends,/ Not with a bang, but a whimper'.

The Second Round Table Conference (1931)

It was held in London during the viceroyalty of Lord Willingdon during Sep. - Dec. 1931 and Gandhiji attended it on behalf of Indian National Congress. Nothing much was expected from the Conference for the imperialist political forces, which ultimately controlled the British Government in London, were opposed to any political or economic concession being given to India which could lead to its independence. The Conference, however, failed as Gandhiji could not agree with British Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald on his policy of communal representation and refusal of the British government on the basic Indian demand for freedom. The conference closed on Dec. 1,1931, without any concrete result.

The Communal Award / Mac Donald Award (Aug. 16, 1932)

While Gandhi was arrested on his return from London after the Second Round Table Conference, British Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald announced his Award on communal representation in Aug. 16,1932. Besides containing provisions for representation of Muslims, Sikhs and Europeans, it envisaged communal representation of Depressed Classes also. Gandhi was deeply grieved by this and underwent a fast in protest against this Award since it aimed to divide India on a communal basis. While many political Indians saw the fast as a diversion from the ongoing political movement, all were deeply concerned and emotionally shaken. Almost everywhere in India mass meetings took place, political leaders of different persuasions, like Madan Mohan Malviya, B. R. Ambedkar and M. C. Raja became active. In the end the succeeded in hammering out an agreement, known as the Poona Pact.

Poona Pact/Gandhi - Ambedkar Pact (Sep. 24, 1932*)

As discussed, the Communal Award created immense dissatisfaction among Hindus. Gandhi who was on fast in protest staked his life to get the Award repudiated. According to the pact, the idea of separate electorate for the Depressed Classes was abandoned but seats reserved for them in the provincial legislatures were increased from 71 in the Award to 148, and in the central legislature to 18% of the total. Ultimately the fast ended with the Poona Pact which annulled the Award. The leaders of the various groups and parties among Hindus, and B.R. Ambedkar on behalf of the harijarts, signed the pact. The Poona Pact between caste Hindus and the Depressed Classes agreed upon a joint electorate.

The Third Round Table Conference (Nov. 17-Dec. 24, 1932)

It was held in 1932 but again proved fruitless since the national leaders were in prison.

The Government of India Act,1935

The Simon Commission report submitted in 1930 formed the basis for the Government of India Act, 1935. The new Government of India Act received the royal assent on Aug. 41935. The Act continued and extended all the existing features of earlier constitutional reforms. But in addition there were certain new principle introduced. It provided for a federal type of government. Thus, the act:
1. Introduced provincial autonomy
2. Abolished dyarchy in provinces
3. (iii) Made ministers responsible to the legislative and federation at the centre. The Act of 1935 was condemned by nearly all sections of Indian, public opinion md was unanimously rejected by the Congress. The Congress demanded itself the convening of a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise to frame a constitution for an independent India. Regarding the Government of In Act, 1935 J. L. Nehru remarks, 'It was a new charter of Slavery.
The Muslim League was however, not happy with the Congress rule, esp. Mr. Jinnah, who described it in those in those words : Congress was drunk with power and was oppressive against Muslims.

Congress Ministries Resign (Dec. 22,1939)

The Second World war broken out in Europe on Sep.3, 1939 that brought Britain also within its fold. Without consulting the Indian leaders, the Viceroy declared India also as a belligerent country. This evoked sharp criticism from Indians and the congress took the stand that India could not associate herself in a war said to be for dem ocratic freedom when the very freedom was denied to her. The Congress demanded that India should be declared an independent nation. Then only would the country help Britain in the war. The Viceroy in his reply dated Oct. 17,1939 rejected the Congress demand as impracticable and took the stand that the Government could think over to entire constitutional scheme after war. The Congress condemned the Viceroy’s reply and the Congress ministries everywhere resigned on Dec. 22 1939 Jinnah was happy over this and he called upon the Indian Muslims to celebrate the "Signing day of Congress ministries as ‘the day of deliverance'.

Pakistan Resolution/Lahore Resolution (March 24,1940)

It was is 1930 that Iqbal suggested the union of the Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Sindh and Kashmir as Muslim state within the federations. This proved to be a creative idea which germinated during the early thirties to burst into vigorous life with the advent of the new reforms. The idealist Chaudhry Rehmat Ali developed this conception at Cambridge, where he inspired a group of young Muslims and invented the term ‘Pakstan’ (later 'Pakistan') in 1935. His ideas seemed visionary during that time, but within 7 years they turned into a political programme by Jinnah with the new name as its slogan or banner. The ideology of Iqbal, the vision of Rehamat Ali, and the fears of Muslims were thus united by the practical genius of Jinnah to blind Muslim together as never before during the British period and ultimately led to the vivisection of India and creation of Pakistan. Pakistan Resolution was an important landmark in this context. The Lahore session of the Muslim League, held on March 24,1940, passed Pakistan Resolution and rejected the Federal scheme as envisaged in the government of India Act, 1935.

August Offer / Linlithgow Offer (Aug. 8,1940)

On Aug. 8, 1940, the Viceroy Linlithgow came out with certain proposals, known as August Offer declaring that the goal of British Government was to establish Dominion Status in India. It accepted that framing of a new constitution would be the responsibility of the Indians. It also laid down that full weight would be given to the views of minorities in the constitution. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad President of the Congress, rejected the August Offer which aimed at bringing the Congress in the ongoing world war The Muslim League, however welcomed the offer as it ensured that no further constitution would be adopted without the prior approval of Muslims. The League declared that the most difficult problem of India's future constitution could be solved only by the partition of India. In brief, the August Offer failed in gaining Indian s co-operation for war and, in fact, further widened the gulf between the Congress and the Britishers as well as between the Congress and the Muslim League.

Individual Civil Disobedience/Individual Satyagaraha (Oct., 1940 - Dec., 1941)

The Congress Working Committee decided to start individual civil disobedience on Oct. 17, 1940. Vinoba Bhave was the first Satyagrahi who was arrested on Oct. 21, followed soon by many more including Nehru and Patel But the movement created little enthusiasms and Gandhi suspended it.

The Cripps Mission (March-April 1942)

In 1942, the British Government realized that it could not ignore the Indian problems any more. As a result of the World War, the situation worsened for the British with Japanese advance towards Man borders. By March 7,1942, Rangoon fell and Japan occupied the entire South¬East Asia. The British government, with a view of getting cooperation from Indians, sent Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the British cabinet to India to settle terms with Indian leaders who were forthwith released. Cripps proposed Dominion Status after the war but his proposal was rejected by all the political leaders. As no party agreed to accept these proposals, the Cripps Mission ended in failure. Regarding the Cripps Mission proposals Mahatma Gandhi remarks 'A post-dated cheque on a crumbling bank'.

Quit India movement (1942)

On Aug. 8, 1942, the Congress in its meeting at Gowaliya Tank, Bombay passed a resolution known as 'Quit India' resolution, whereby Gandhi ji asked the British to quit India and gave a call for ‘Do or did (We shall either free India or die in the attempt) to his countrymen. On Aug. 9,1942 all the prominent leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel etc. were arrested but the rest most of (J.P., Lohiya, Aruna Ashaf Ali, Usha Mehta etc.) continued the revolutionary struggle. Violence spread throughout the country, several government offices were destroyed and damaged, the telegraph wires were cut and communication paralyzed. Parallel government were established in some places viz. 1. Baliat U.P. (by Chittu Pandeya)-first Parallel govt. 2. Tamulak Midnapur Distt., Bengal (by Satis Samant) 3. Satara, Maharashtra (by Y. B. Chahvan and Nana Patil) - the longest (term) parallel govt. 4. Talchar, Orissa. The movement was, however, crushed by the government.

Gandhiji's Fast (Feb. 10 - March 7,1943)

Gandhiji undertook a 21-day fast in jail. His condition deteriorated after 13 days and all hopes of his survival were given up. However, as a result of his moral strength and spiritual stamina, he survived and completed the 21-day fast. This was his answer to the government which had been constantly exhorting him to condemn the violence of the people in the Quit India Movement. Gandhi not only refused to condemn people resorting to violence but unequivocally held the government responsible for it

C.R. Formula (1944)<

In 1994, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (C.R.) proposed to appoint a commission to demarcate the districts in North-West and East where Muslims were in majority. In such areas, a plebiscite was proposed to be held on the basis of adult suffrage to decide the issue of separation. They would be given freedom if they favoured a sovereign state. In case of acceptance of partition, agreement was to be made jointly for safeguarding defence, commerce, communications etc. Muslim League was to endorse Congress demand for independence and cooperate in the formation of provisional government. Jinnah objected, as he wanted Congress to accept two-nation theory and wanted only Muslims of the North-West and East of India to vote in the plebiscite. Hindu Leaders led by V.D. Savarkar condemned the plan.

Wavell Plan and Shimla Conference (June 14-July 14, 1945)

The war situation in Europe improved in the beginning of the year 1945. India s good will was, however, needed as the war against Japan was expected to last for a about two years. The situation within the country was worsening day by day as a result of deteriorating economic situation and famines. The British Government was compelled to come forward with some sort of plan to satisfy the Indians. After consultations with the British Government on the Indian problem, Lord Wavell the Viceroy of India, issued a statement known as Wavell Plan. The Plan, which chiefly concerned Viceroy's Executive Council, proposed certain changes in the structure of the council. One of the main proposals was that the Executive Council would be constituted giving a balanced representation to the main communities in it, including equal representation to Muslims and Hindus.

INA Trial (Nov., 1945)

P. K. Sehgal, Shah Nawaj Khan and Gurubaksh Singh | Dhillon were put on trial at the Red Fort in Nov., 1945. To elucidate, despite the best efforts of the Congress to win the legal battle the trial of INA prisoners led to their outright conviction on the charge of waging war against the King Emperor. j The pressure of the Indian public opinion against this conviction however, soon mounted high. This shook the British Government and it was compelled to suspend the sentences imposed on the INA convicts. Further, disaffection spread fast among the soldiers. The chief defence advocate during the INA trial was Bhulabhai Desai. Other defence lawyers were Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Asaf Ali and Md.. Ali Jinnah.

Royal Indian Navy (RIN)/Ratings Mutiny (Feb. 18,1946)

On Feb., 18,1946, Bombay Ratings of HMS Talwar struck work due to flagrant racial discrimination, unpalatable food and abuse after the arrest of B .C. Dutt who had scrawled Quit India on the ship. On Feb. 19, HMS Hindustan, in Karachi also mutinied. Vallabh Bhai Patel and Jinnah jointly persuaded the Ratings to surrender on Feb. 23,1946. The Britishers for the first time seriously realized that with this awakening among the Indians and revolt in armed forces, it could not perpetuate its hold on India any more.

Cabinet Mission (March - June, 1946)

The British Prime Minister, Lord Attlee, made a declaration on March 15, 1946, that British Cabinet Mission would visit V India to make recommendations regarding constitutional reforms to be introduced in India. The Cabinet Mission which included of Lord Patliick Lawrence, Stafford Cripps and A. V. Alexander visited India and met the representative of different J political parties, but a satisfactory solution to the constitutional difficulties could not be found. The mission envisaged the establishment of a Constituent Assembly to frame the constitution as well as an interim government. The Muslim League accepted the plan on June 6, 1946, while maintaining its rights of striving for a separate Muslim state. The Congress also partially accepted the plan.

Direct Action Campaign (Aug. 16, 1946)

Provoked by the success of the Congress (in the voting for Constituent Assembly), the Muslim League launched a 'direct action' campaign on Aug. 16,1946, which resulted in wide spread communal riots in the country.

Interim Government ( Sep. 2, 1946 )

On Sep. 2,1946, an interim government was formed. Congress members led by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru joined it but the Muslim League did not, on the contrary it withdrew its earlier acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan.

Formation of Constituent Assembly (Dec. 9,1946)

The Constituent Assembly met on Dec. 9,1946, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected its President. The Muslim League did not join the Assembly.

Attlee's Announcement (Feb. 20,1947)

On Feb. 20,1947, British Prime Minister Attlee announced that the British would withdraw from India by June 30,1948 and that Lord Mountbatten would replace Wavell.

Mountbatten Plan (June 3,1947)

In March, 1947, Lord Mountbatten replaced Lord Wavell. He announced his plan on June 3,1947. His earlier Plan Balkan was abandoned for this June 3, Plan. It offered a key to the political and constitutional deadlock created by the refusal of Muslim League to join the Constituent Assembly formed to frame the constitution of India. Mountbatten's formula was to divide India but retain maximum unity. The country would be partitioned but so would be Punjab and Bengal, so that the limited Pakistan that emerged would meet both the Congress and the League's position to some extent. The League's position on Pakistan was conceded in that it would be created, but the Congress position on unity would be taken into account to make Pakistan as small as possible. He laid down detailed principles for the partition of the country and speedy transfer of political powers in the form of dominion status to the newly formed dominions of India and Pakistan. Its acceptance by the Congress and the Muslim League resulted in the birth of Pakistan.

The Indian Independence Act, 1947

The Bill containing the provisions of the Mountbatten Plan of June 3, 1947, was introduced in the British Parliament and passed as the Indian Independence Act, 1947. The Act laid down detailed measures for the partition of India and speedy transfer of political powers to the new governments of India and Pakistan.

Integration of States

By Aug. 15, 1947, all states except Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad had signed the Instrument of Accession with India. The Maharaja of Kashmir acceded to India in Oct., 1947 when irregular Pakistani troops invaded his state. The Nawab of Junagadh was a Muslim whereas most of its people were Hindus. In Feb. 1948, through a referendum the people of this state decided to join India. The Nawab of Junagadh, therefore, left for Pakistan. The Nizam of Hyderabad was forced to accede to the Indian Union under the pressure of internal anarchy and military action against him in Sep., 1948.