2India before 1915Prior to the British, India was ruled by the Mughal Emperors, who did so through agreements with local rulers.Europeans arrived to trade from 1498 onwards, but it was only in the 17th Century that the East India Company began its involvement.As the Mughal Empire collapsed the Company stepped in to protect its interests, and by 1850 they controlled almost all the subcontinent.The brutal way in which they ruled led to the 1857 rebellion which, although eventually put down, spelled an end to Company rule.The British government took direct control and introduced a number of reforms to prevent a rebellion on that scale ever occurring again.Before the arrival of Europeans, India was ruled by the Muslim Mughal Emperors whose ancestors had invaded India from the north. The Mughals ruled by making deals with local rulers who provided them with money and soldiers, but there was no real central government. Following Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a new sea-route to India, European traders began to arrive in India. The British arrived in great numbers in the early 17th Century under the guise of the East India Company. Over the course of the next 150 years it defeated the other European powers within the region and expanded its influence throughout the subcontinent. As the Mughal Empire collapsed, the Company stepped in to prevent instability disrupting their commerce, and by 1850 they controlled all of modern day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 1857 a huge rebellion by soldiers employed by the Company took place in northern and central India, known to the British at the time as the Indian Mutiny. The rebellion was suppressed brutally, and the British government, determined an uprising on that scale should never happen again, took direct control, dissolving the East India Company. The British strategy remained one of ‘divide-and-rule’, playing different sections of Indian society such as Muslims and Hindus against each other, and rewarding Indians who collaborated with them with money, land and honours.
3The Indian nationalist movement The Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, convened annually to discuss the issues facing India. They sent the resolutions they passed to the regime, which tended to ignore them.The Congress was overwhelmingly Hindu, and almost all its delegates were western-educated elites.Other religious groups were worried that an independent India, or even a more autonomous India would lead to the Hindu majority oppressing them.Before the First World War the Congress split between radicals, who wanted immediate independence for India, and moderates, who wanted reform within the existing structure.There were some small terrorist groups, but their impact was minimal – although the British could use them as a pretext for supressing other nationalists.In 1885 the Indian National Congress was founded, a body which convened every December, held in depth discussions about issues facing the nation, and sent their resolutions to the British. Most of the delegates were western-educated lawyers, teachers or journalists, and many saw themselves as a ‘loyal opposition’ seeking not the overthrow of the British raj, but reform within it. The first congressman to openly argue for complete independence for India was Bal Ganghadar Tilak. The issue split the Congress between moderates and radicals, and eventually Tilak was forced to leave the party. In these years there were also a few small, scattered terrorist groups who sought to kill British officials and disrupt British rule. Tilak’s article defending two of these terrorists landed him in prison in 1908.In some ways the Congress was a bona-fide national organisation, and in the years before the First World War it without doubt helped put reform, and independence on the agenda. Nevertheless it had one major weakness: it was overwhelmingly Hindu. The Congress found itself completely unable to attract Muslims, who felt threatened by what the Hindu majority would do with more power and in 1906 they set up the rival All-India Muslim League.
4Gandhi’s goals and principles Gandhi sought swaraj, a word many took to mean political independence for India, but had many more aspects for Gandhi.Swaraj for him was a spiritual concept including freedom from ignorance, self-control and a better society.Gandhi, throughout his time in India, did not seek only to win concessions and ultimately independence from the British, but to combat what he saw as social ills: illiteracy, poor hygiene, animosity between Hindus and Muslims, child marriage, discrimination against the lower castes etc.Gandhi sought swaraj, a word taken by many to mean political independence for India. For Gandhi it meant more, however, and whilst it did incorporate a freedom from British rule freedom, it also meant from ignorance, self-control and self-restraint. It had spiritual connotations. In Gandhi’s pursuit of this goal he sought to lead the Indian people to greater self-discovery and enlightenment, and therefore a better society. He did this by encouraging unity between different religious groups, such as Hindus and Muslims, opposing the practice of child marriage, and attempting to break down the social barriers and prejudices of the caste-system.
5Gandhi’s return to India Gandhi returned to India relatively well-known in nationalist circles due to his achievements in South AfricaHe made a vow of a year’s silence on political matters and spent most of it travelling the countryGandhi made a point of associating with Muslims and Hindus from the lowest classes as he sought to break down social barriersGandhi founded an ashram where inmates lived lives of manual labour, celibacy and nonviolence, and used only Indian productsGandhi, in contrast to members of the Congress, advocated a non-western style of education in the vernacular language and with a more traditional curriculum.Gandhi returned to India with a reputation among nationalists for what he had achieved in South Africa, and yet he didn’t jump straight into national politics. He made a vow of a years’ silence on political issues, and spent much of his first year back travelling the country in order to truly understand the situation in each and every region. During this period Gandhi associated with Muslims and members of the lower castes, rather than the educated few who dominated national politics; and he didn’t join any political party or faction. He founded a traditional Hindu religious community, or ashram, where inmates lived simple lives of manual labour, celibacy and nonviolence. He also encouraged education - not in the western tradition - but in the vernacular with much emphasis on religious teaching and practical skills such as farming and weaving. He also encouraged people to buy only Indian products - especially Indian cloth – something he saw as a cure for poverty, as peasants could spin at home to supplement their earnings.
6Champaran Satyagraha 1917The Champaran region of the Bihar and Orissa province was a very rural area, overwhelmingly reliant on agriculture.Most of the population were illiterate (95%+), and the area was largely isolated from the nationalist movement.Gandhi was asked to travel there to investigate the grievances of workers on indigo plantations in December 1916.The European indigo planters used their powers to raise illegal levies from their tenants, deny them grazing and tree-felling rights, and covered their losses by asking for extra rent in the place of indigo when the international price of the commodity fell.Gandhi led a series of protests and strikes, obtaining a compromise agreement which was overseen by the government and incorporated into law.Gandhi’s first entrance into Indian politics took place almost by accident in 1917 in the Champaran area of the Bihar and Orissa province. The Champaran region was an overwhelmingly rural area, with even the higher castes dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Most of the population was uneducated, with only 4.2% of over-twenties able to read and write in the vernacular and only 0.27% able to do so in English. It was not an area where people were much interested in or affected by the nationalist movement. In December 1916 Gandhi was invited to travel to Champaran by the son of a prosperous local cultivator to help address the issues facing workers on indigo plantations. The European planters stood accused of abusing their power over their tenant workers in a variety of ways, including the collection of illegal levies, the denial of grazing and tree chopping rights, and forcing tenants to make money payments in the place of indigo at times when the price of the product had fallen. The authorities were worried that Gandhi would cause unrest in the region, but felt unable to arrest him or remove him because it risked causing an even greater outcry. Gandhi travelled the region to gain a full understanding of the situation and began a campaign of protests and strikes against the planters that eventually led to a compromise agreement. The agreement, overseen by the government, was incorporated into the Champaran Agrarian Act of 1917 that abolished the practice of asking for extra rent in the place of indigo, properly enforced the laws on illegal levies and reduced rents in general.The Champaran Satyagraha increased Gandhi’s reputation within India, both in terms of winning him respect from the nationalist movement and in further transforming him into a mythical figure of the popular imaginiation. Nevertheless it was directed at a narrow group of specific grievances and was not carried out directly against the authorities. It was limited both in scope and in scale.
7Kaira Satyagraha 1918The Gujurat district of Kaira in the Northern Division of the Bombay presidency suffered bad harvests in 1917 and 1918, and was also hit by sickness and cholera.Gandhi led a satyagraha in which the farmers refused to pay their taxes, and responded to coercion non-violently.Gandhi travelled the region encouraging the protestors and also sought to raise publicity in the rest of the nation for their struggle.A compromise agreement was eventually reached protecting the farmers from the worst consequences of non-payment of tax.As in Champaran, it spread the idea of political protest to another region of India.In November 1917 Gandhi was asked to Kaira to preside over a conference of the Gujarat Home Rule Leagues, and he stayed to expand the work they had begun. That year heavy rain had damaged the harvest considerably and in addition both plague and cholera hit the region in The poor harvest led to a rise in prices, not just for crops but for all commodities, and coupled with the added pressures of bad health the people of Kaira were in severe difficulties, especially those who lived on fixed incomes. At first Gandhi and the farmers sought to appeal to the government, but to no avail, and so a satyagraha was launched in March 1918 which lasted until June. Gandhi sought a suspension of taxes for a period to alleviate the suffering of the people there, and urged the farmers not to pay their land revenue as an act of nonviolent civil-disobedience. Gandhi toured the villages encouraging those who had pledged themselves to the campaign to stay strong, and sought to raise public sympathy by writing to friends, talking to the press and public speaking in Mumbai. Eventually the authorities and Gandhi came to a compromise, which, while falling short of the independent enquiry Gandhi had called for, provided the farmers with many more safeguards, protecting them from losing their land or being fined if they were unable to pay their taxes. It also brought the concept of political protest to another region that had until this point been largely unaffected by the nationalist movement.
8Ahmedabad Satyagraha 1918Gandhi also led a similar movement in Ahmedabad, Indias 8th largest city.Ahmedabad was a hotbed of industry, and rising prices, combined with lock-outs and the loss of a plague bonus meant mill-workers were also unable to meet the cost of living.Gandhi organised a strike until the demand for a 35% pay increase was met, and used leaflets to encourage and educate the strikers.Gandhi eventually launched a personal hunger-strike, which brought the employers to the negotiation table.Eventually the 35% pay increase was achieved.Gandhi also organised a similar campaign in Ahmedabad which received less publicity because it was conducted against Indian employers and not government officials. In contrast to Champaran and Kaira, Ahmedabad was one of India’s larger cities with a population of about 275,000 and a burgeoning set of industries. Ahmedabad also suffered from crippling price increases in 1918, and this coincided with a shortage of coal and wartime restrictions on railway traffic, both of which led to lock-outs of mill-workers. In addition to all this, a plague bonus of as much as 75% of wages, which had been paid to keep workers during a 1917 epidemic was withdrawn in this period. This combination left mill-workers in Ahmedabad unable to meet the costs of living, much like the farmers in Kaira. Gandhi organised a pledge for the mill-workers that they wouldn’t return to work until they received a 35% pay increase, and he issued a series of leaflets to publicise and encourage this, as well as giving guidelines on how to carry out the satyagraha. In March Gandhi announced that he would fast until a settlement was reached, and frightened by the idea that such a popular figure could fast to death the mill-owners agreed to negotiate and they set a 27.5% pay increase until the ruling of an independent arbiter who would decide a permanent figure. The arbiter, a professor at Gujurat College, decided that 35% was indeed a fair figure for a pay increase – and thus the satyagraha ended in more or less complete success.
9Rowlatt Act 1919The Act extended wartime measures from the Defence of India Act including juryless trials, indefinite detention without charge and strict control of the press.Many nationalists found this completely unacceptable and Gandhi decided to organise another satyagraha, this time on a nationwide scale.On the 6th April they held a hartal – or day of mourning – where people stopped work and went to meetings. Gandhi then planned to openly sell prohibited books.In some regions, like the Punjab, some protests descended into violence.Government repression was brutal, most infamously in Amritsar, where at least 379 people were killed.The Rowlatt Act of 1919 extended measures that had been introduced during the war such as juryless trials, indefinite detention without charge and strict censorship of the press. The nationalists we’re appalled, seeing the government retention of autocratic powers as fundamentally undermining any reforms they had been working towards. Gandhi agreed, saying “For myself if the Bills were to be proceeded with, I feel I can no longer render peaceful obedience to the laws of a power that is capable of such a piece of devilish legislation”. When the bill was passed, Gandhi responded once again by organizing a campaign of civil disobedience, but this time it was on a nationwide scale. From February to April he planned the satyagraha, also writing letters to the Viceroy and to any politicians he thought would disagree with him to explain his actions. Moderate politicians in particular thought the Rowlatt Act should be opposed through the existing constitutional structure, and that a campaign like the one Gandhi envisaged might damage their chances of being granted greater autonomy.The protests began on the sixth of April, a day designated by Gandhi as a hartal, a customary day of mourning, which was followed by the open sale of prohibited literature. Unfortunately for Gandhi, although the hartal went as planned, in some regions the civil-disobedience then descended into violence. 50 buildings were burned down and 28 people were killed in Ahmedabad, and in the Punjab protestors fought running battles with police in the streets. In response General Reginald Dyer banned public gatherings in the Punjab city of Amritsar and, seeing his orders had been ignored, commanded his men to fire on a peaceful meeting of nationalists. The British reported that 379 people were killed, though Indian estimates were much higher. Over the course of the next few weeks the British continued to crack down, imposing curfews, torturing prisoners and executing people in public. Gandhi was shocked by the violence, and fasted for three days in penitence, but he also hardened in his attitude to the British, condemning the raj as “satanic”.
10Khilafat MovementA movement among Indian Muslims aimed at pressuring the British into protecting the Ottoman Sultan, who as Caliph was head of the Islamic world, following the First World War.Gandhi agreed to champion the movement, something which won him much Muslim support, which was a great help in his non-cooperation campaign of the early twenties.A growth in communalism and the eventual collapse of the Khilafat Movement led to more Hindu-Muslim animosity from the mid-twenties onwards.Gandhi responded to the state violence by organizing a nationwide campaign of non-cooperation with, for the first time, independence as the stated goal. Gandhi was able to attract Muslim support to the campaign due to his decision in 1920 to champion the Khilafat movement. The Khilafat movement was a protest against the British organised by Indian Muslims. It was born out of the distress caused by the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, and sought to pressure the British into protecting the Sultan, who as Caliph was seen as head of the Islamic world, and ensuring the respect of Muslim holy sites in the region. Following the campaign of non-cooperation in the early twenties, the disintegration of the Khilafat movement and a rise in communalism throughout India led to an increase in Hindu-Muslim tensions, and Gandhi was never again able to achieve the same degree of Muslim participation in his campaigns.
11Non-cooperationGandhi was handed leadership of Congress in 1921 and he changed it from a debating society into an instrument for non-cooperation.The 1922 campaign envisaged: boycotts of courts and schools, resignations from Indian civil servants, boycott of foreign cloth, the adoption of hand-spinningSmall, tightly controlled acts of civil-disobedience also plannedThe boycott of foreign cloth was a success, but the other elements less so. Nevertheless it marked the first major mass mobilisation of people for independence.There were outbreaks of violence once more, showing the limits to which Gandhi was able to control the actions of people who were seen as his followers.Gandhi began preparing for non-cooperation by reforming the Congress, of which he was handed the leadership in He introduced a new constitution, expanded its network of provincial and local committees, and even changed the dress code from suit and tie to the khadi, a garment of hand-spun cloth. Through the Congress he sought to organise a nationwide campaign of non-cooperation, beginning with a boycott of schools and courts, a boycott of foreign cloth, the resignation of Indian civil servants and the promotion of hand-spinning. Gandhi also envisaged carefully prepared civil disobedience in a few specific regions, hoping that tight control would prevent the violence that had marred the Rowlatt satyagraha.In reality, few lawyers boycotted the courts, few civil servants resigned and most students returned to the schools. However it did represent the first time Congress had attempted to mobilize the masses for the cause of national independence. Gandhi travelled the country spreading his message to all groups of people, and the boycott of foreign cloth was largely a success.One problem Gandhi and the Congress encountered was that in many areas people were side-tracked from the issue of independence and instead made their protests about smaller local issues. Another issue was again outbreaks of violence. In Uttar Pradesh peasants raided their landlords’ homes, and Europeans were attacked by crowds in Mumbai. Gandhi was distraught, remarking “If I can have nothing to do with the organized violence of the Government, I can have less to do with the unorganized violence of the people.”The campaign of non-cooperation of the early twenties shows just how far Gandhi had risen, just how much influence he had. Yet whilst he was a symbol of great national appeal, he struggled to get the diverse groups of the subcontinent to accept his ideas. To some Gandhi’s swaraj was merely national independence, for others it was a world free of landlords and rent, for others still it was a justification for looting.
12Gandhi’s arrest and imprisonment Following the massacre of 22 police constables Gandhi called off non-cooperation in February 1922.Soon after he was arrested and sent to prison. He was released in February 1924Both Gandhi and Congress switched their focus away from campaigns of non-cooperation.Congress sought to gain independence through constitutional means, and Gandhi returned to his so-called ‘constructive work’.The campaign of non-cooperation was called off in February 1922 following the massacre of 22 police constables in Uttar Pradesh, and Gandhi was arrested a few weeks later. He was sent to prison for 6 years, but only served 2, as he was released for an appendix operation. During the next few years the Congress, and Gandhi following his release, switched their focus away from non-cooperation and disobedience, and sought to attain independence through constitutional means. Gandhi returned to his constructive work of building schools and working for greater unity in Indian communities.
13The Nehru ReportIn 1927 the commission reviewing the results of reforms in India in order to determine if she ought to be granted more autonomy failed to include a single Indian.In response some delegates of the Congress drew up the Nehru Report, a draft constitution for India as an autonomous dominion within the Empire.Gandhi brokered a deal between moderates and radicals which involved giving the British until the end of 1929 to accept the Nehru Report or launching a nonviolent campaign for full independenceThis all changed in 1927 when a commission to review the results of 1919 reforms with an eye to perhaps granting further autonomy to India failed to include a single Indian. The nationalists saw this as a sign the British were not prepared to treat them as part of the process for deciding the future of the country. Gandhi called it an “organized insult to a whole people”. Some members of the Congress drew up the Nehru Report, named after one of its drafters, which mapped out a constitution for India as an autonomous dominion within the British Empire, with a parliament elected by nationwide universal suffrage. The document split the nationalist movement, Muslims unhappy there was no provision for decentralized states and radicals angry it stopped short of demanding complete independence. Gandhi was asked to step in, and he brokered a deal between the moderates and radicals. Congress accepted the Nehru Report and gave the British until the end of 1929 to accept, or they would face a nonviolent struggle for full independence.
14The Salt SatyagrahaThe British did not respond, and so Gandhi launched his salt satyagraha.The salt tax was chosen as the focus of civil-disobedience because it was clearly unjust, but also because it didn’t threaten the raj so much as to illicit an overly brutal response.The centre-piece of the campaign was Gandhi’s three-week salt march to Dandi, on the coast, to make his own salt. He was accompanied by 12,000 people.Salt-making took place nationwide, especially in coastal Bengal, Madras and Mumbai.The authorities eventually resorted to violence.In 1931 the Delhi Pact marked the end of the campaignThe British did not accept the Nehru Report and Gandhi launched his satyagraha against the salt-tax. The tax was clearly unjust, affecting the poorest of society the most, and yet it didn’t provide an excessively large proportion of government revenue, so the satayagraha was unlikely to provoke an overly harsh response, something that was important for Gandhi. The centre-piece of the campaign was the march from Ahmedabad to Dandi, which took three weeks and led to 12,000 people convening at the seaside village to make their own salt. This sparked salt-making all across the country, although it became a mass activity only in Bengal, Madras and Mumbai. Although Gandhi was subsequently arrested, this eventuality had been expected and the movement continued. In some areas the police resorted to violence in an attempt to stop the civil-disobedience, and in many ways the great victory of the salt satyagraha was that it showed British rule as nothing more than government at gunpoint. Eventually in 1931 a truce was made with the Delhi Pact, but in reality it drew few concessions from the government.
15WWII, ‘Quit India’ and independence In the mid thirties Gandhi returned to his constructive work and Congress returned to the pursuit of independence by constitutional means.The declaration of war on Germany without consultation of Indian opinion saw Congress move once again into open opposition to the government.The ‘Quit India’ campaign led to a violent rebellion with 1,000 killed and 100,000 people arrested.India and Pakistan were granted independence in 1947, though Gandhi was bitterly disappointed that they hadn’t remained united.In 1948 he was assassinated by a Hindu communalist.In the mid-thirties Gandhi returned to his constructive work, liberating untouchables and women, promoting village industries and improving education and sanitation. Congress continued to fight for independence, but following a set of reforms in 1935, did so increasingly within the system.The Second World War changed all this, as the colonial government declared war on Germany without any consultation of Indian opinion. Congress ordered the resignation of its provincial ministers and the 1942 ‘Quit India’ campaign triggered a spontaneous and violent rebellion which saw 100,000 people arrested and 1000 killed.Britain emerged from the war in tatters, and continued repression in India would have been a step too far for her beleaguered economy. In addition the new Labour government was much more sympathetic to the nationalist movement. In 1947 an agreement was reached with the Congress and the Muslim league whereby independence would be granted to two states: India and Pakistan (which also included modern day Bangladesh).Gandhi was disappointed that India had been split, and that Indian society had not been transformed as he had envisaged, and he died at the hands of a Hindu communalist in 1948 still working towards his vision of swaraj.