India's independence struggle - Study Material 1 - The 1857 Mutiny | India after 1857 | Indian National Congress


In the modern history of India, the independence struggle against the British Raj was as traumatic as it was glorious. A new India took shape through its trials and tribulations. Here, we study (1) The 1857 Mutiny, (2) India after 1857, and (3) The Indian National Congress.


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A.1 Introduction

The first domestic uprising which seriously threatened British rule in India has been named by historians variously (depending on their leanings). Some names are 'The Sepoy Rebellion', 'The Great Mutiny', and 'The Revolt of 1857'. However, most Indians prefer to call it India's first war of independence. Undoubtedly, it was the culmination of mounting Indian resentment towards British economic and social policies over many decades. Until the rebellion, the British had succeeded in suppressing numerous riots and 'tribal' wars or in accommodating them through concessions till the Great Mutiny in the summer of 1857, during the viceroyalty of Lord Canning.

A.2 Causes

[Though the immediate cause of the Indian Revolt of 1857 was a minor change in the weapons used by the British East India Company's troops, there were many other religious and economic causes because of which the rebellion spread like wildfire. The East India Company upgraded to the new Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle, which used greased paper cartridges. In order to open the cartridges and load the rifles, sepoys had to bite into the paper and tear it with their teeth.,,
Rumors began in 1856 that the grease on the cartridges was made of a mixture of beef tallow and pork lard; eating cows, of course, is forbidden in Hinduism, while consumption of pork is haram in Islam. Thus, in this one small change, the British had managed to seriously offend both Hindu and Muslim troops. There were some additional causes also. Due to the British policy of ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, adopted children were ineligible for their thrones. Based on this doctrine the British had annexed a lot of princely states. This was an attempt to control succession in many of the princely states that were nominally independent from the British.

The British East India had confiscated large amount of land from the land-holders and redistributed them to the peasants. However, they had also imposed heavy land revenues on the peasant community. This angered both the peasants and the landlords. Oudh was particularly volatile because there were a large number of sepoys from Oudh and it directly impacted their families.

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    • The British reformist zeal also had a contribution in fomenting trouble. The East India Company forbade certain religious practices and traditions, including Sati or widow-burning, to the outrage of many Hindus. The company also tried to undermine the caste system, which seemed inherently unfair to post-Enlightenment British sensibilities. In addition, British officers and missionaries began to preach Christianity to the Hindu and Muslim sepoys and conversions had started happening. The Indians believed, quite reasonably, that their religions were under attack by the East India Company.
    • Finally, Indians regardless of class, caste or religion felt oppressed and disrespected by the agents of the British East India Company. Company officials who abused or even murdered Indians were seldom punished properly; even if they were tried, they were rarely convicted, and those who were could appeal almost indefinitely. A general sense of racial superiority among the British angered Indian across the country. Economic policies of the British East India Company were also a cause for widespread and popular discontent. The peasants suffered due to high revenue demands and the strict revenue collection policy. 
    • Artisans and craftsmen were ruined by the large-scale influx of cheap British manufactured goods into India which, in turn, made their hand-made goods uneconomical to produce. People who made a living by following religious and cultural pursuits lost their source of livelihood due to the withdrawal of royal patronage caused by the displacement of the old ruling classes. A corrupt and unresponsive administration added to the miseries of the people. 

Hence the reasons can be summarized as under:

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    • Economic exploitation by the British
    • British Land Revenue laws, and Law and Order systems
    • British tendency to prove themselves superior as compared to Indian history
    • British policy of regional capture - Awadh's annexation and merger made the rulers angry
    • One of the immediate reasons was the poor state of the soldiers in the Army
    • The inclusion of the Enfield Rifle whose cartridges had animal fat thereby upsetting the religious sentiments of both Hindus and Muslims, and
    • The fear of spread of Christianit>y

A.3 The beginning of the Revolt

On 29 March 1857, an Indian sepoy of the 34 Regiment, Mangal Pandey, killed two British officers on parade at Barrackpore. The Indian soldiers present refused to obey orders and arrest Mangal Pandey. However, he was arrested later on, tried and hanged.

The news spread like wildfire to all cantonments in the country and very soon a countrywide sepoy revolt broke out in Lucknow, Ambala, Berhampur and Meerut.

On 10 May 1857, soldiers at Meerut refused to touch the new Enfield rifle cartridges. The soldiers, along with other civilians, went on a rampage shouting ‘maro firangi ko’. They broke open jails, murdered European men and women, burnt their houses and marched to Delhi. Next morning, the appearance of the marching soldiers, in Delhi was a signal to the local soldiers, who in turn revolted, seized the city and proclaimed the 80-year-old Bahadur Shah Zafar, as the Emperor of India.

Within a month of the capture of Delhi, the revolt spread to the different parts of the country: Kanpur, Lucknow, Banaras, Allahabad, Bareilly, Jagdishpur and Jhansi. In the absence of any leader from their own ranks, the insurgents turned to traditional leaders of Indian society. At Kanpur, Nana Saheb-the adopted son of last Peshwa, Baji Rao II-led the forces. Rani Lakshmi Bai in Jhansi, Begum Hazrat Mahal in Lucknow and Khan Bahadur in Bareilly were the others in command. However, apart from a commonly shared hatred for alien rule, the rebels had no political perspective or a definite vision of the future. They were all prisoners of their own past, fighting primarily to regain their lost privileges. Unsurprisingly, they proved incapable of ushering in a new political order. John Lawrence rightly remarked that 'had a single leader of ability arisen among them (the rebels) we would have been lost beyond redemption'. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

A.4 Spread of the Revolt

The epicenters of the Revolt of 1857 were at Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareilly, Jhansi, and Arrah in Bihar. At Delhi the nominal and symbolic leadership belonged to the Emperor Bahadur Shah, but the real command lay with a Court of Soldiers headed by General Bakht Khan who had led the revolt of the Bareilly troops and brought them to Delhi. In the British army he had been an ordinary subedar of artillery. The court consisted of ten members, six from the army and four from the civilian departments. All decisions were taken by a majority vote. The court conducted the affairs of the state in the name of the 'Emperor The Government at Delhi'. However, Bahadur Shah Zafar's weak personality and old age and his lack of leadership qualities created political weakness at the nerve centre of the Revolt and resulted in a lot of damage to the rebellion.

At Kanpur Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa, led the revolt. He expelled the English from Kanpur with the help of the sepoys and proclaimed himself the Peshwa. At the same time he acknowledged Bahadur Shah as the Emperor of India and declared himself to be his Governor. The chief burden of fighting on behalf of Nana Sahib fell on the shoulders of Tatya Tope, one of his most loyal servants. During the siege of Kanpur, forces loyal to Nana Saheb launched an attack on the British forces holed up in the area. Eventually, many British army personnel were taken prisoner or killed (These killings later on became an excuse for the British to commit large-scale massacres of civilian populations in several centres of revolt, including Delhi). By the time British forces reached Kanpur, Tatya Tope and Nana Saheb had left the city. But the 1857 rebellion was not over yet. Tatya Tope continued to fight against a far superior British army. By November 1857, he had gathered a substantial force, many of them rebels from Gwalior, and tried to re-take Kanpur in an audacious bid. It was a bloody fight but the East India Company's forces emerged victorious. The Kanpur phase of the rebellion was effectively over.

Tatya Tope regrouped, at one stage joining hands with the legendary queen of Jhansi Rani Laxmi Bai, who was finally killed in battle.

He continued his guerilla campaign against the British for more than a year by aligning and realigning with various smaller rajas. He fought against the British near Sanganer, by the river Banas, and at Chotta Udaipur, among other places, quickly regrouping after every battle. Yet, with the rebellion firmly put down in most of north and central India, it was only a matter of time before the British, with their formidable military capabilities, would get hold of the last of the rebels, including Tatya Tope. Besides, Tatya Tope's forces had scattered and dwindled. According to mainstream historical accounts, he was finally captured in April 1859 after being betrayed by an aide, and executed by the British on 18 April, following a short military trial.

Nana Sahib was defeated at Kanpur. Defiant to the very end and refusing to surrender, he escaped to Nepal early in 1859, never to be heard of again.

At Lucknow Begum Hazrat Mahal proclaimed her young son, Birjis Kadr, as the Nawab of Awadh and led the revolt. Helped by the sepoys at Lucknow, and by the zamindars and peasants of Awadh, the Begum organised an all-out attack on the British. Compelled to give up the city, the latter entrenched themselves in the Residency building. In the end, the seige of the Residency failed, as the small British garrison fought back with exemplary fortitude and valour.

One of the great leaders of the Revolt of 1857, and perhaps one of the greatest heroines of Indian history was the young Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi.

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    • In 1842, Manikarnika as she was named by her parents was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi Raja Gangadhar Rao and was thereafter named Lakshmibai, a name which would go down in history and earn great respect. In 1851, the couple had a baby boy who they named Damodar Rao, but unfortunately the baby died when he was only four months old. Following the death of their infant son, the Raja and Lakshmibai adopted the son of Gangadhar Rao's cousin, named Anand Rao and renamed him Damodar Rao. 
    • This adoption was witnessed by a British political officer. Raja Gangadhar Rao also gave a letter to the British officer requesting them to give Lakshmibai the government of Jhansi for the rest of her life. The Raja died in November 1853 and the British, under Governor General, Lord Dalhousie applied the Doctrine of Lapse, stating that they would not recognize the adopted child as the legal heir of the Raja and would hence annex Jhansi to British territory.
    • In reaction of the unfairness on the part of the British regarding her territory, Lakshmibai consulted a British lawyer and appealed for the hearing of her case in London. This appeal was turned down. The British seized the state jewels of Jhansi and, in 1854, gave Lakshmibai a pension of Rs.60,000 and ordered her to leave her palace and the fort. She moved into a place called Rani Mahal, which has now been converted into a museum.

After being expelled from her palace, Lakshmibai was firm about protecting Jhansi from British annexation. Lakshmibai began securing her position and formed an army of both men and women who were given military training in fighting a battle. 

The young Rani then decided to throw in her lot with the rebels, she fought valiantly at the head of her troops. Tales of her bravery and courage and military skill have inspired her countrymen ever since. Driven out of Jhansi by the British forces after a fierce battle in which "even women were seen working the batteries and distributing ammunition", she administered the oath to her followers that "with our own hands we shall not our Azadshahi [independent rule] bury". She captured Gwalior with the help of Tatya Tope and her trusted Afghan guards. Maharaja Sindhia, loyal to the British, made an attempt to fight the Rani but most of his troops deserted to her. Sindhia sought refuge with the English at Agra.

On June 16th 1858, General Rose's forces annexed Morar. On June 17th of the same year, near Phool Bagh in Gwalior, British troops under Captain Heneage fought Indian forces being commanded by Lakshmibai as they were trying to leave the area. Lakshmibai dressed as a man in a Sowar's uniform, completely armed on horseback, with her infant son tied to her back, began attacking the British troops. The British attacked back and Lakshmibai was grievously wounded. Since she did not want her body to be captured by the British she told a hermit to cremate her. Upon her death on June 18th 1858, her body was cremated as per her wishes. Three days after the death of Lakshmibai, the British captured the Fort of Gwalior.

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The chief organiser of the Revolt in Bihar was the 80 year old Kunwar Singh, a ruined and discontented zamindar of Jagdishpur near Arrah. He was perhaps the most outstanding military leader and strategist of the Revolt. Maulavi Ahmadullah of Faizabad was another outstanding leader of the Revolt. He was a native of Madras where he had started preaching armed rebellion. In January 1857 he moved towards the north to Faizabad where he fought a large-scale battle against a company of British troops sent to stop him from preaching sedition. When the general revolt broke out in May, he emerged as one of its acknowledged leaders in Awadh.

The greatest heroes of the Revolt were, however, the sepoys, many of whom displayed great courage in the field of battle and thousands of whom unselfishly laid down their lives. More than anything else, it was their determination and sacrifice that nearly led to the expulsion of the British from India. In this patriotic struggle, they sacrificed even their deep religious prejudices. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

A.5 Various uprisings, mutinies, revolts

A.6 Weaknesses and the final end

The Revolt of 1857 covered a wide territory and was very popular. However it could not embrace the entire country or all the groups and classes of Indian society. South India and most of Eastern and Western India remained relatively calm.  Rulers of many Indian states and the big zamndars refused to join in. On the contrary they gave active help to the British in suppressing the Revolt. In fact, only about one percent of the chiefs of India joined the Revolt. Governor-General Canning later remarked that these rulers and chiefs "acted as the breakwaters to the storm which would have otherwise swept us in one great wave".  Though the popular feeling in Madras, Bombay, Bengal and the Western Punjab favoured the areas remained relatively calm.

Most of the propertied classes were either cold towards the rebels or actively hostile to them. Even many of the taluqdars (big zamindars) of Awadh, who had joined the Revolt, abandoned it once the Government gave them an assurance that their estates would be returned to them. This made it very difficult for the peasants and soldiers of Awadh to sustain a prolonged guerrilla campaign.

The money-lenders who were the chief targets of the villagers' attacks were naturally hostile to the Revolt. The merchants, too, gradually became unfriendly. The rebels were compelled to impose heavy taxation on them in order to finance the war or to seize their stocks of foodstuffs to feed the army. The merchants often hid their wealth and goods and refused to give free supplies to the rebels. The zamindars of Bengal which were a creation of the British remained loyal. Moreover, the hostility of Bihar peasants towards their zamindars frightened the Bengal zamindars. Similarly, the big merchants of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras supported the British because their main profits came from foreign trade and economic connections with the British merchants.

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    • The modern educated Indians were repelled by the rebels appeals to superstitions and their opposition to progressive social measures. The educated Indians wanted to end the backwardness of their country. They mistakenly believed that the British rule would help them accomplish these tasks of modernisation while the rebels, led by zamindars, old rulers and chieftains and other feudal elements, would take the country backward. It took them many more decades to realize that foreign rule was incapable of modernising the country and that it would instead impoverish it and keep it backward. The revolutionaries of 1857 proved to be more far-sighted in this respect and had a better and better instinctive understanding of the evils of foreign rule and of the necessity to get rid of it. However unlike the educated intelligentsia they could not realize that the country had fallen prey to foreigners precisely because it had stuck to rotten and outmoded customs, traditions and institutions. 
    • They failed to see that national salvation lay not in going back to feudal monarchy but in going forward to a modem society, a modern economy, scientific education and modern political institutions. In any case, it cannot be said that the educated Indians were anti-national or loyal to a foreign regime. As events after 1858 were to show, they were soon to lead a powerful and modern national movement against British rule. The lack of unity among Indian's was perhaps unavoidable at this stage of Indian history. Modern nationalism was yet unknown in India. Patriotism meant love of one's small locality or region or at most one's state. All-India interests and the consciousness that these interests bound all Indians together were yet to come. In fact, the Revolt of 1857 played an important role in bringing the Indian people together and imparting to them the consciousness of belonging to one country. 
    • In the end, British imperialism, with a developing capitalist economy and at the height of its power the world over, and supported by most of the Indian princes and chiefs, proved militarily too strong for the rebels. The British Government poured immense supplies of men, money and arms into the country, though Indians had later to repay the entire cost of their own suppression.

History has shown us time and again that sheer courage cannot win against a powerful and determined enemy who has planned every step. The rebels were dealt an early blow when the British captured Delhi on 20 September 1857 after prolonged and bitter fighting. The aged Emperor Bahadur Shah was taken prisoner. The Royal Princes were captured and butchered on the spot. The Emperor was tried and exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862, lamenting bitterly the fate which had buried him far away from the city of his birth. With this came to an end the great house of Mughals which had lost much of its greatness after Aurangzeb.

With the fall of Delhi the focal point of the Revolt disappeared. The other leaders of the Revolt carried on toe brave but unequal struggle, with the British mounting a powerful offensive against them. John Lawrence, Outram, Havelock, Neil, Campbell, and Hugh Rose were some of the British commanders who earned military fame in the course of this campaign. One by one, all the great leaders of the Revolt fell.

By the end of 1859, British authority over India was fully re-established, but the Revolt had not been in vain. It is a glorious landmark in our history. Though it was a desperate effort to save India in the old way and under traditional leadership, it was the first great struggle of the Indian people for freedom from British imperialism. It paved the way for the rise of the modem national movement.

The heroic and patriotic struggle of 1857, and the series of rebellions preceding it, left an unforgettable impression on the minds of the Indian people, established valuable local traditions of resistance to British rule, and served as a perennial source of inspiration in their later struggle for freedom. The heroes of the Revolt soon became household names in the country, even though the very mention of their names was frowned upon by the rulers. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

A.7 Subaltern Movements of 19th and 20th Centuries


Tribal Movements

Caste and Peasant Movements

A.9 The India of those times

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Lecture continues here ...


B.1 Introduction

The revolt of 1857 gave a severe jolt to the British administration in India and made its reorganization inevitable. The Government of India's structure and policies underwent significant changes in the decades following the Revolt. But more important for changes in Indian economy and Government was the inauguration of a new stage of colonialism in India.

The second half of the 19th century witnessed the spread and intensification of the Industrial Revolution. Gradually other countries of Europe, the USA and Japan underwent industrialization, and the manufacturing and financial supremacy of Britain in world economy came to an end. Intense world-wide competition for markets, sources of raw materials and outlets for capital investment now began. The competition for colonies and semi-colonies became increasingly intense and bitter as areas open to fresh colonial domination became scarce. Facing a challenge to its dominant position in the world capitalism from newcomers, Britain began a vigorous effort to consolidate its control over its existing empire and to extend it further.

Moreover, after 1850, a very large amount of British capital was invested in railways, loans to the Government of India, and to a smaller extent in tea plantations, coal mining, jute mills, shipping, trade and banking. It was necessary that, to render this British capital secure from economic and political dangers, British rule in India be clamped down even more firmly. Consequently, there was a renewed upsurge of imperial control and imperialist ideology which was reflected in the reactionary policies of the viceroyalties of Lytton, Dufferin, Lansdowne, Elgin and, above all, Curzon. 

B.2 Statutory changes in British administration

An Act of Parliament in 1858 transferred the power to govern from the East India Company to the British Crown. While authority over India had previously been wielded by the directors of the Company and the Board of Control, now this power was to be exercised by a Secretary of State for India aided by a Council. The Secretary of State was a member of the British Cabinet and as such was responsible to Parliament. Thus the ultimate power over India remained with Parliament.
Under the Act, government was to be carried on as before by the Governor-General who was also given the title of Viceroy or Crown's personal representative. With the passage of time the Viceroy was increasingly reduced to a subordinate status in relation to the British Government in matters of policy as well as execution of policy. The Secretary of State controlled the minutest details of administration. Thus the authority that exercised final and detailed control and direction over Indian affairs came to reside in London, thousands of miles distant from India. Under such conditions, Indian opinion had even less impact on government policy than before. On the other hand, British industrialists, merchants, and bankers increased their influence over the Government of India. This made the Indian administration even more reactionary than it was before 1858, for now even the pretence of liberalism was gradually given up. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

The Indian Councils Act of 1858 provided that the Governor-General would have an Executive Council whose members were to act as heads of different departments and as his official advisers. The Council discussed all important matters and decided them by a majority vote; but the Governor-General had the power to override any important decision of the Council.

The Indian Councils Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor-General's Council for the purpose of making laws, in which capacity it was known as the Imperial Legislative Council. The Governor General was authorized to add to his Executive Council between six and twelve members of whom at least half had to be non-officials who could be Indian or English. The Imperial Legislative Council possessed no real powers and should not be seen as a sort of elementary or weak parliament. It was merely an advisory body. It could not discuss any important measures and no financial measures at all, without the previous approval of the Government. It had no control over the budget. It could not discuss the actions of the administration; the members could not even ask questions about them.

In other words, the Legislative Council had no control over the executive. Moreover, no bill passed by it could become an Act till it was approved by the Governor-General. On top of all this, the Secretary of State could disallow any of its Acts. Thus, the only important function of the Legislative Council was to ditto official measures and give them the appearance of having been passed by a legislative body. In theory, the non-official Indian members were added to the Council to represent Indian views. But the Indian members of the Legislative Council were few in number and were not elected by the Indian people but were nominated by the Governor-General whose choice invariably fell on princes and their ministers, big zamindars, big merchants, or retired senior government officials. They were thoroughly unrepresentative of the Indian people or of the growing nationalist opinion. The Government of India remained, as before 1858, an alien despotism. This was, moreover, no accident, but a conscious policy. Charles Wood, the Secretary of State for India, while moving the Indian Councils Bill of 1861, said: "All experience teaches us that where a dominant race rules another, the mildest form of government is despotism".

B.3 Provincial administration

The British had divided India for administrative convenience into provinces, three of which - Bengal, Madras and Bombay - were known as Presidencies. The Presidencies were administered by a Governor and his Executive Council of three, who were appointed by the Crown. The Presidency governments possessed more rights and powers than governments of other provinces which were administered by Lieutenant Governors and Chief Commissioners appointed by the Governor-General.

The provincial governments enjoyed a great deal of autonomy before 1833 when their power to pass laws was taken away and their expenditure subjected to strict central control. But experience soon showed that a vast country like India could not be efficiently administered on the principle of strict centralization.

The evil of extreme centralization was most obvious in the field of finance. The revenues from all over the country and from different sources were gathered at the centre and then distributed by it to the provincial governments. The Central Government exercised strict control over the smallest details of provincial expenditure. But this system proved quite wasteful in practice. It was not possible for the Central Government to supervise the efficient collection of revenues by a provincial government or to keep adequate check over its expenditure. The authorities therefore decided to decentralize public finance.

The first step in the direction of separating central and provincial finances was taken in 1870 by Lord Mayo. The provincial governments were granted fixed sums out of central revenues for the administration of certain services like Police, Jails, Education, Medical Services, and Roads and were asked to administer them as they wished. Lord Mayo's scheme was enlarged in 1877 by Lord Lytton who transferred to the provinces certain other heads of expenditure like Land Revenue, Excise, General Administration, and Law and Justice. To meet the additional expenditure a provincial government was to get a fixed share of the income realized from that province from certain sources like Stamps, Excise Taxes, and Income Tax. Further changes in these arrangements were made in 1882. The system of giving fixed grants to the provinces was ended and, instead, a province was to get the entire income from certain sources or revenue within it and a fixed share of the income from other sources. Thus, all sources of revenue were now divided into three - general, provincial, and those to be divided between the centre and the provinces.

The different measures of financial decentralization discussed above did not really mean the beginning of genuine provincial autonomy or of Indian participation in provincial administration. They were much more in the nature of administrative reorganization whose chief aims were to keep down expenditure and increase income. In theory as well as in practice, the central Government remained supreme and continued to exercise effective and detailed control over the provincial governments. This was inevitable, for both the Central Government, and the provincial governments were completely subordinated to the Secretary of State and the British Government.

B.4 Local bodies

Financial difficulties led the Government to further decentralize administration by promoting local government through municipalities and district boards. The industrial revolution of the 19th century gradually transformed the European economy and society. India's increasing contact with Europe and new modes of imperialism and economic exploitation made it necessary that some of the European advances in economy, sanitation, and education should be transplanted in India. Moreover, the rising Indian nationalist movement demanded the introduction of improvements in civic life. Thus the need for the education of the masses, sanitation, water supply, better roads, and other civic amenities was increasingly felt. The Government could no longer afford to ignore it. But its finances were already in disorder due to heavy expenditure on the army and the railways. It could not increase its income through new taxes as the burden of the existing taxation was already very heavy on the poor and a further addition to it was likely to create discontent against the Government. On the other hand, the Government did not want to tax the upper classes, especially the British civil servants, planters and traders. But the authorities felt that the people would not mind paying new taxes if they knew that their proceeds would be spent on their own welfare. It was therefore decided to transfer local services like education, health, sanitation and water supply to local bodies that would finance them through local taxes. Many Englishmen had pressed for the formation of local bodies on another ground also. They believed that associating Indians with the administration in some capacity or the other would prevent their becoming politically disaffected. This association could take place at the level of local bodies without in any way endangering British monopoly of power in India.

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    • Local bodies were first formed between 1864 and 1868, but almost in every case they consisted of nominated members and were presided over by District Magistrates. They did not, therefore, represent local self-government at all. Nor did the intelligent Indians accept them as such. They looked upon them as instruments for the extraction of additional taxes from the people. 
    • A step forward, though a very hesitant and inadequate one, was taken in 1882 by Lord Ripon's Government. A government resolution laid down the policy of administering local affairs largely through rural and urban local bodies, a majority of whose members would be non-officials. These non-official members would be elected by the people wherever and whenever officials felt that it was possible to introduce elections. 
    • The resolution also permitted the election of a non-official as Chairman of a local body. But the elected members were in a minority in all the district boards and in many of the municipalities. They were, moreover, elected by a small number of voters since the right to vote was severely restricted. District officials continued to act as Presidents of district boards though non-officials gradually became chairmen of municipal committees.

The Government also retained the right to exercise strict control over the activities of the local bodies and to suspend and supersede them at its own discretion. The result was that except in the Presidency cities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, the local bodies functioned just like departments of the Government and were in no way good examples of local self-government. All the same, the politically conscious Indians welcomed Ripon's resolution and worked actively in these local bodies in the hope that in time they could be transformed into effective organs of local self-government.

B.5 Changes in the army

The Indian army was carefully reorganized after 1858, most of all to prevent the recurrence of another revolt. The rulers had seen that their bayonets were the only secure foundation of their rule. Several steps were taken to minimize, if not completely eliminate, the capacity of Indian soldiers to revolt. Firstly, the domination of the army by its European branch was carefully guaranteed. The proportion of Europeans to Indians in the army was raised and fixed at one to two in the Bengal Army and two to five in the Madras and Bombay armies. Moreover, the European troops were kept in key geographical and military positions. The crucial branches of the army like artillery and, later in the 20th century, tanks and armored corps were put exclusively in European hands. The older policy of excluding Indians from the officer corps was strictly maintained. Till 1914 no Indian could rise higher than the rank of a subedar.

Secondly, the organization of the Indian section of the army was based on the policy of 'balance and counterpoise' or 'divide and rule' so as to prevent its chance of uniting again in an anti-British uprising.

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    • Discrimination on the basis of caste, region and religion was practiced in recruitment to the army.
    • A fiction was created that Indians consisted of 'martial' and 'non-martial' classes. 
    • Soldiers from Awadh, Bihar, central India, and south India, who had first helped the British conquer India but had later taken part in the Revolt of 1857, were declared to be non-martial. They were no longer taken in the army on a large scale.
    • On the other hand, Punjabis, Gurkhas, and Pathans who had assisted in the suppression of the Revolt, were declared to be martial and were recruited in large numbers.
    • By 1875, half of the British Indian army was recruited from Punjab. In addition, Indian regiments were made a mixture of various castes and groups which were so placed as to balance each other.
    • Communal, caste, tribal and regional loyalties were encouraged among the soldiers so that the sentiment of nationalism would not grow among them. For example, caste and communal companies were introduced in most regiments.
Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India, wrote to the Viceroy Canning in 1861:

"I never wish to see again a great Army, very much the same in its feelings and prejudices and connections, confident in its strength, and so disposed to rise in rebellion together. If one regiment mutinies, I should like to have the next regiment so alien that it would be ready to fire into it."

Thus the Indian Army remained a purely mercenary force. Moreover, every effort was made to keep it separated from the life and thoughts of the rest of the population. It was isolated from nationalist ideas by every possible means. Newspapers, journals and nationalist publications were prevented from reaching the soldiers. But, as we shall see later, all such efforts failed in the long run and sections of the Indian army played an important role in India's struggle for freedom.

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The Indian army became in time a very costly military machine. In 1904 it absorbed nearly 52 per cent of the Indian revenues. This was because it served more than one purpose. India, being the most prized colonial possession of the time, had to be constantly defended from the competing imperialisms of Russia, France and Germany. This led to a big increase in the size of the Indian army. Secondly, the Indian troops were not maintained for India's defence alone. The Indian army was the chief instrument for the expansion and consolidation of British power and possessions in Asia and Africa. Lastly, the British section of the army served as an army of occupation. It was the ultimate guarantee of the British hold over the country. Its cost had, however, to be met by the Indian revenues; it was in fact a very heavy burden on them.

B.6 Public Services

We have seen above that Indians had little control over the Government of India. They were not permitted to play any part in the making of laws or in determining administrative policies. In addition, they were excluded from the bureaucracy who put these policies into practice. All positions of power and responsibility in the administration were occupied by the members of the Indian Civil Services who were recruited through an annual open competitive examination held in London. Indians also could sit in this examination. Satyendranath Tagore, brother of Rabindranath Tagore, was the first Indian to do so successfully in 1863. Almost every year thereafter, one or two Indians joined the coveted ranks of the Civil Service, but their number was negligible compared with that of the English entrants. In practice, the doors of the Civil Service remained barred to Indian for they suffered from numerous handicaps. The competitive examination was held in London. It was conducted through the medium of the alien English language. It was based on Classical Greek and Latin learning which could be acquired only after a prolonged and costly course of studies in England. In addition, the maximum age for entry into the Civil Service was gradually reduced from twenty-three in 1859 to nineteen in 1878. If the young Indian of twenty-three found it difficult to succeed in the Civil Service competition, the Indian of nineteen found it almost impossible to do so. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

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In other departments of administration - Police, Public Works, Medicine, Posts and Telegraphs, Forests, Engineering, Customs and, later, Railways - the superior and highly paid posts were likewise reserved for British citizens.

This preponderance of Europeans in all strategic posts was not accidental. The rulers of India believed it to be an essential condition for the maintenance of British supremacy in India. Thus Lord Kimberley, Secretary of State, laid down in 1893 that "it is indispensable that an adequate number of the members of the Civil Service shall always be Europeans"; and the Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, stressed "the absolute necessity of keeping the government of this widespread Empire in European hands, if that Empire is to be maintained".

Under Indian pressure the different administrative services were gradually Indianised after 1918; but the positions of control and authority were still kept in British hands. Moreover, the people soon discovered that Indianisation of these services had not put any part of political power in their hands. The Indians in these services functioned as agents of British rule and loyally served Britain's imperial purposes.

B.7 Relations with the Princely States

The Revolt of 1857 led the British to reverse their policy towards the Indian States. Before 1857, they had availed themselves of every opportunity to annex princely states. This policy was now abandoned. Most of the Indian princes had not only remained loyal to the British but had actively aided the latter in suppressing the Revolt. As Lord Canning, the Viceroy, put it, they had acted as "breakwaters in the storm". Their loyalty was now rewarded with the announcement that their right to adopt heirs would be respected and the integrity of their territories guaranteed against future annexation. Moreover, the experience of the Revolt had convinced the British authorities that the princely states could serve as useful allies and supporters in case of popular opposition or revolt. Canning wrote in 1860:

"It was long ago said by Sir John Malcolm that if we made All India into Zillahs (districts), it was not in the nature of things that our Empire should last 50 years: but that if we could keep up a number of Native States without political power, but as royal instruments, we should exist in India as long as our naval supremacy was maintained. Of the substantial truth of this opinion have no doubt; and the recent events have made it more deserving of our attention than ever."

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 It was, therefore, decided to use the princely states as firm props of British rule in India.  As the British historian P.E. Roberts remarked: "to preserve them as a bulwark of the Empire has ever since been a principle of British policy".

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    • Their perpetuation was, however, only one aspect of the British policy towards the princely states. The other was their complete subordination to the British authorities. While even before the Revolt of 1857 the British had in practice interfered in the internal affairs of these states, in theory they had been considered as subsidiary but sovereign powers. This position was now entirely changed.
    • As the price of their continued existence, the princes were made to acknowledge Britain as the paramount power. In 1876, Queen Victoria assumed the title of the Empress of India to emphasize British sovereignty over the entire Indian subcontinent. Lord Curzon later made it clear that the princes ruled their states merely as agents of the British Crown. 
    • The princes accepted this subordinate position and willingly became junior partners in the Empire because they were assured of their continued existence as rulers of their states.

As the paramount power, the British claimed the right to supervise the internal government of the princely states. They not only interfered, in the day to day administration through the Residents but insisted on appointing and dismissing ministers and other high officials. Sometimes the rulers themselves were removed or deprived of their powers. One motive for such interference was provided by the British desire to give these states a modern administration so that their integration with British India would be complete. This integration and the consequent interference were also encouraged by the development of all-India railways, postal and telegraph systems, currency, and a common economic life. Another motive for interference was provided by the growth of popular democratic and nationalist movements in many of the states. On the one hand, the British authorities helped the rulers suppress these movements; on the other, they tried to eliminate the most serious of administrative abuses in these states.

B.8 Administrative policies

The British attitude towards India and, consequently, their policies in India changed for the worse after the Revolt of 1857. While before 1857 they had tried, however half-heartedly and hesitatingly, to modernize India, they now consciously began to follow reactionary policies. As the historian Percival Spear has put it, "the Indian Government's honey-moon with progress was over".

We have seen above how the organs of administrative control in India and in England, the India army and the Civil Service were reorganized to exclude Indians from an effective share in administration. Previously at least lip-service had been paid to the idea that the British were 'training' and 'preparing' the Indians for self-government and would eventually transfer political power to their hands. The view was now openly put forward that because of their inherent social and cultural defects the Indians were unfit to rule themselves and that they must be ruled by Britain for an indefinite period. This reactionary policy was reflected in many fields.

B.9 Divide and Rule

The British had conquered India by taking advantage of the disunity among the Indian powers and by playing them against one another. After 1858 they continued to follow this policy of divide and rule by turning the princes against the people, province against province, caste against caste, group against group and, above all, Hindus against Muslims.

The unity displayed by Hindus and Muslims during the ‘Revolt of 1857’ had disturbed the foreign rulers. They were determined to break this unity so as to weaken the rising nationalist movement. In fact, they missed no opportunity to do so. Immediately after the Revolt they repressed Muslims, confiscated their lands and property on a large scale, and declared Hindus to be their favorites. After 1870 this policy was reversed and an attempt was made to turn upper class and -middle class Muslims against the nationalist movement.

The Government cleverly used the attractions of government service to create a split along religious lines among the educated Indians. Because of industrial and commercial backwardness and the near-absence of social services, the educated Indians depended almost entirely on government service for employment. There were few other openings for them. This led to keen competition among them for the available government posts. The Government utilized this competition to fan provincial and communal rivalry and hatred. It promised official favors on a communal basis in return for loyalty and played the educated Muslims against the educated Hindus.

B.10 Hostility to educated Indians

The Government of India had actively encouraged modern education after 1833. The Universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were started in 1857 and higher education spread rapidly thereafter. Many British officials commended the refusal by educated Indians to participate in the Revolt of 1857. But this favorable official attitude towards the educated Indians soon changed because some of them had begun to use their recently acquired modern knowledge to analyze the imperialistic character of British rule and to put forward demands for Indian participation in administration. The officials became actively hostile to higher education and to the educated Indians when the latter began to organize a nationalist movement among the people and founded the Indian National Congress in 1885. The officials now took active steps to curtail higher education. They sneered at the educated Indians whom they commonly referred to as 'seditious babus'.

Thus the British turned against that group of Indians who had imbibed modern western knowledge and who stood for progress along modern lines. Such progress was, however, opposed to the basic interests and policies of British imperialism in India. The official opposition to the educated Indians and higher education shows that British rule in India had already exhausted whatever potentialities for progress it originally possessed.

B.11 Attitude towards the Zamindars

While being hostile to the forward-looking educated Indians, the British now turned for friendship to the most reactionary group of Indians, the princes, the zamindars, and the landlords. We have already examined above the changed policy towards the princes and the official attempt to use them as a dam against the rise, of popular and nationalist movements. The zamindars and landlords too were placated in the same manner. For example, the lands of most of the talukdars of Awadh were restored to them. The zamindars and Landlords were now hailed as the traditional and 'natural' leaders of the Indian people. Their interests and privileges were protected. They were secured in the possession of their land at the cost of the peasants and were utilised as counterweights against the nationalist-minded intelligentsia. The Viceroy Lord Lytton openly declared in 1876 that "the Crown of England should henceforth be identified with the hopes, the aspirations, the sympathies and interests of a powerful native aristocracy". The zamindars and landlords in return recognised that their position was closely bound up with the maintenance of the British rule and became its firm supporters. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

B.12 Attitude towards Social Reforms

As a part of the policy of alliance with the conservative classes, the British abandoned their previous policy of helping the social reformers. They believed that their measures of social reform, such as the abolition of the custom of sati and permission to widows to remarry, had been a major cause of the Revolt of 1857. They, therefore, gradually began to side with orthodox opinion and stopped their support to the reformers.

Thus, as Jawaharlal Nehru has put it in the “Discovery of India”, "Because of this natural alliance of the British power with the reactionaries in India, it became the guardian and upholder of many an evil custom and practice, which it otherwise condemned". In fact, the British were in this respect on the horns of a dilemma. If they favoured social reform and passed laws to this effect, the orthodox Indians opposed them and declared that a government of foreigners had no right to interfere in the internal social affairs of the Indians. On the other hand, if they did not pass such laws, they helped perpetuate social evils and were condemned by socially progressive Indians. It may, however, be noted that the British did not always remain neutral on social questions. By supporting the status quo they indirectly gave protection to existing social evils. Moreover, by encouraging casteism and communalism for political purposes, they actively encouraged social reaction.

B.13 Extreme backwardness of social services

While social services like education, sanitation and public health, water supply, and rural roads made rapid progress in Europe during the 19th century, in India they remained at an extremely backward level. The Government of India spent most of its large income on the army and wars and the administrative services, and starved the social services. For example, in 1886, of its total net revenue of nearly Rs. 47 crore the Government of India spent nearly Rs. 19.41 crore on the army and Rs. 17 crore on civil administration but less than Rs. 2 crore on education, medicine, and public health, and only Rs. 65 lakh on irrigation. The few halting steps that were taken in the direction of providing services like sanitation, water supply and public health were usually confined to urban areas, and that too to the so-called civil lines or British or modern parts of the cities. They mainly served the Europeans and a handful of upper class Indians who lived in the European part of the cities.

B.14 Labour legislation

The condition of workers in modern factories and plantations in the 19th century was miserable. They had to work between 12 and 16 hours a day and there was no weekly day of rest. Women and children worked the same long hours as men. The wages were extremely low, ranging from Rs. 4 to 20 per month. The factories were overcrowded, badly lighted and aired, and completely unhygienic. Work on machines was hazardous, and accidents very common.

The Government of India, which was generally pro-capitalist, took some half-hearted and totally inadequate steps to mitigate the sorry state of affairs in the modern factories, many of which were owned by Indians. In this it was only in part moved by humanitarian considerations. The manufacturers of Britain put constant pressure on it to pass factory laws. They were afraid that cheap labor would enable Indian manufacturers to outsell them in the Indian market. The first Indian Factory Act was passed in 1881.

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    • The Act dealt primarily with the problem of child labor. It lay down that children between 7 and 12 would not work for more than 9 hours a day. Children would also get four holidays in month. The Act also provided for the proper fencing off of dangerous machinery. The second Indian Factories Act was passed in 1891. It provided for a weekly holiday for all workers. Working hours for women were fixed at 11 per day; whereas daily hours of work for children were reduced Hours of work for men were still left unregulated.
    • Neither of the two Acts applied to British-owned tea and coffee plantations. On the contrary, the Government gave every help to the foreign planters to exploit their workers in a most ruthless manner. Most of the tea plantations were situated in Assam which was very thinly populated and had an unhealthy climate. Labour to work in the plantations had therefore to be brought from outside. The planters would not attract workers from outside by paying high wages.
    • Instead they used coercion and fraud to recruit them and then keep them as virtual slaves on the plantations. The government of India gave planters full help and passed penal laws in 1863, 1865, 1870, 1873 and 1882 to enable them to do so. Once a labourer had signed a contract to go and work in a plantation, he could not refuse to do so. Any breach of contract by a laborer was a criminal offence, the planter also having the power to arrest him.

Better labour laws were, however, passed in the 20th century under the pressure of the rising trade union movement. Still, the condition of the Indian working class remained extremely depressed and deplorable. The average worker lived below the margin of subsistence. Summing up the condition of the Indian workers under British rule, Prof. Jurgen Kuczynski, the well-known German economic historian, wrote in 1938: "Underfed, housed like animals, without light and air and water, the Indian industrial worker is one of the most exploited of all in the world of industrial capitalism".

B.15 Restrictions on the press

The British had introduced the printing press in India and thus initiated the development of the modern press. The educated Indians had immediately recognized that the Press could play a great role in educating public opinion and in influencing government policies through criticism and censure. Rammohan Roy, Vidyasagar, Dadabhai Naoraji, Justice Ranade, Surendranath Banerjea, Lokamanya Tilak, G. Subramaniya Iyer, C. Karunakara Menon, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, and other Indian leaders played an important part in starting newspapers and making them a powerful political force. The Press gradually became a major weapon of the nationalist movement.

The Indian Press was freed of restrictions by Charles Metcalfe in 1835. This step was welcomed enthusiastically by the educated Indians. It was one of the reasons why they had for sometime supported British rule in India. But the nationalists gradually began to use the press to arouse national consciousness among the people and to sharply criticize the reactionary policies of the Government. This turned the officials against the Indian Press and they decided to curb its freedom. This was attempted by passing the “Vernacular Press Act” in 1878. This Act put serious restrictions on the freedom of the Indian language newspapers. Indian public opinion was now fully aroused and it protested loudly against the passage of this Act. This protest had immediate effect and the Act was repealed in 1882. For nearly 25 years thereafter the Indian Press enjoyed considerable freedom. But the rise of the militant Swadeshi and Boycott Movement after 1905 once again led to the enactment of repressive Press laws in 1908 and 1910.

B.16 Racial antagonism

The British in India had always held aloof from the Indians believing that social distance from Indians had to be maintained to preserve their authority over them. They also felt themselves to be racially superior. The Revolt of 1857 (first struggle for independence) and the atrocities committed by both sides had further widened the gulf between the Indians and the British who now began to openly assert the doctrine of racial supremacy and practice racial arrogance. Railway compartments, waiting rooms at railway stations, parks, hotels, swimming pools, clubs, etc., reserved for 'Europeans only' were visible manifestations of this racialism. The Indians felt humiliated. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru:

"We in India have known racialism in all its forms ever since the commencement of British rule. The whole ideology of this rule was that of 'Herrenvolk' (a German word meaning the Master Race), and the structure of government was based upon it; indeed the idea of a master race is inherent in imperialism. There was no subterfuge about it; it was proclaimed in unambiguous language by those in authority. More powerful than words was the practice that accompanied them and generation after generation and year after year, India as a nation and Indians as individuals, were subjected to insult, humiliation and contemptuous treatment. The English were an imperial Race, we were told, with God-given right to govern us and keep us in subjection; if we protested we were reminded of the 'tiger qualities of an imperial race'."

B.17 Foreign policy

Under the British rule, India developed relations with its neighbors on a new basis. This was the result of two factors. The development of modern means of communication and the political and administrative consolidation of the country impelled the Government of India to reach out to the natural, geographical frontiers of India. This was essential both for defense and for internal cohesion. Inevitably this tended to lead to some border clashes. Unfortunately, sometimes the Government of India went beyond the natural and traditional frontiers. The other new factor was the alien character of the Government of India. The foreign policy of a free country is basically different from the foreign policy of a country ruled by a foreign power. In the former case it is based on the needs and interests of the people of the country; in the latter, it serves primarily the interests of the ruling country. In India's case, the foreign policy that the Government of India followed was dictated by the British Government. The British Government had two major aims in Asia and Africa: protection of its invaluable Indian Empire and the expansion of British commerce and other economic interests in Africa and Asia. Both these aims led to British expansion and territorial conquests outside India's natural frontiers. Moreover, these aims brought the British Government into conflict with other imperialist nations of Europe who also wanted extension of their territorial possessions and commerce in Afro-Asian lands. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

The desire to defend their Indian Empire, to promote British economic interests, and to keep the other European powers at arm's length from India often led the British Indian Government to commit aggression on India's neighbors. In other words, during the period of British domination, India's relations with its neighbors were ultimately determined by the needs of British imperialism. We have covered many of those clashes in the World History topic.

But, while Indian foreign policy served British imperialism, the cost of its implementation was borne by India. In pursuance of British interests, India had to wage many wars against its neighbours; the Indian soldiers had to shed their blood and the Indian taxpayers had to meet the heavy cost.

War with Nepal, 1814: The British desire to extend their Indian Empire to its natural geographical frontier brought them into conflict, first of all, with the northern Kingdom of Nepal. In October 1814 a border clash between the border police of the two countries led to an open war. The British were far superior in men, money and materials. In the end, the Nepal Government had to make peace on British terms. It accepted a British Resident. It ceded the districts of Garhwal and Kumaon and abandoned claims to the Tarai areas. It also withdrew from Sikkim. The agreement held many advantages for the British. Their Indian Empire now reached the Himalayas. They gained greater facilities for trade with Central Asia. They also obtained sites for important hill-stations such as Shimla, Mussoorie and Nainital. Moreover the Gurkhas gave added strength to the British-Indian army by joining it in large numbers.

Conquest of Burma: Through three successive wars the independent kingdom of Burma was conquered by the British during the 19th century. The conflict between Burma and British India was initiated by border clashes. It was fanned by expansionist urges. The British merchants cast covetous glances on the forest resources of Burma and were keen to promote export of their manufactures among its people. The British authorities also wanted to check the spread of French commercial and political influence in Burma and the rest of South-East Asia.

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    • Burma and British India developed a common frontier at the close of the 18th century when both were expanding powers. After centuries of internal strife, Burma was united by King Alaungpaya between 1752-60. His successor, Bodawpaya, ruling from Ava on the river Irrawaddi, repeatedly invaded Siam, repelled many Chinese invasions, and conquered the border states of Arakan (1785) and Manipur (1813) bringing Burma's border up to that of British India. Continuing his westward expansion, he threatened Assam and the Brahmaputra Valley. Finally, in 1822, the Burmese conquered Assam. The Burmese occupation of Arakan and Assam led to continuous friction along the ill defined border between Bengal and Burma.
    • In 1824, the British Indian authorities declared war on Burma. After an initial setback, the British forces drove the Burmese out of Assam, Cachar, Manipur and Arakan. The British expeditionary forces by sea occupied Rangoon in May 1824 and reached within 72 km of the capital at Ava. Peace came in February 1826 with the Treaty of Yandabo. The Govemment of Burma agreed: (1) to pay one crore of rupees as war compensation; (2) to cede its coastal provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim; (3) to abandon all claims to Assam, Cachar, and Jamtia; (4) to recognise Manipur as an independent state; (5) to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain; and (6) to accept a British Resident at Ava while posting a Burmese envoy at Calcutta. By this treaty the British deprived Burma of most of its coastline, and acquired a firm base in Burma for future expansion.

The Second Burmese War: It broke out in 1852 and was almost wholly the result of British commercial greed. British timber firms had begun to take interest in the timber resources of Upper Burma. Moreover, the large population of Burma appeared to the British to be a vast market for the sale of British cotton goods and other manufactures. The British, already in occupation of Burma's two coastal provinces, now wanted to dominate commercial relations with the rest of the country. They also wanted to strengthen their hold over Burma by peace or by war before their trade competitors, the French or the Americans, could establish themselves there. A full British expedition was dispatched to Burma in April 1852. This time the war was much shorter than in 1824-26 and the British victory was more decisive. The British annexed Pegu, the only remaining coastal province of Burma. There was, however, a great deal of popular guerrilla resistance for three years before Lower Burma was brought under effective control. The British now controlled the whole of Burma's coastline and its entire sea-trade. The brunt of fighting the war was borne by Indian soldiers and its expense was wholly met from Indian revenues.

Relations between Burma and the British remained peaceful for several years after the annexation of Pegu. The British, of course, continued their efforts to open up Upper Burma. In particular, the British merchants and industrialists were attracted by the possibility of trade with China through Burma. In 1885, King Thibaw signed a purely commercial treaty with France providing for trade. The British were intensely jealous of the growing French influence in Burma. The British merchants feared that the rich Burmese market would be captured by their French and American rivals. The chambers of commerce in Britain and the British merchants in Rangoon now pressed the willing British Government for the immediate annexation of Upper Burma. The British invaded Burma on 13 November 1885. King Thibaw surrendered on 28 November 1885 and his dominions were annexed to the Indian Empire soon after.

The ease with which Burma had been conquered proved to be deceptive. The patriotic soldiers and officers of the Burmese army refused to surrender and vanished into the thick jungles. From there they carried on widespread guerrilla warfare. The people of Lower Burma also rose up in rebellion. The British had to employ a 40,000 strong army for nearly five years to suppress the popular revolt. The expenses of the war as well as of the campaign of suppression were once again thrown on the Indian exchequer. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

After the First World War, a vigorous modern nationalist movement arose in Burma. A wide campaign of boycotting British goods and administration was organised and the demand for Home Rule was put forward. The Burmese nationalists soon joined hands with the Indian National Congress. In 1935 the British separated Burma from India in the hope of weakening the Burmese struggle for freedom. The Burmese nationalists opposed this step. The Burmese nationalist movement reached new heights under the leadership of U Aung San during the Second World War. And, finally, Burma won its independence on 4 January 1948.

Relations with Afghanistan: The British Indian Government fought two wars with Afghanistan before its relations with the government of Afghanistan were stabilized. Afghanistan was placed in a crucial position geographically from the British point of view. It could serve as an advanced post outside India's frontiers for checking Russia's potential military threat as well as for promoting British commercial interests in Central Asia. If nothing else it could become a convenient buffer between the two hostile powers. The British wanted to weaken and end Russian influence in Afghanistan but they did not want a strong Afghanistan. They wanted to keep her a weak and divided country which they could easily control.

The British decided to replace the independent ruler of Afghanistan, Dost Muhammed, with a 'friendly', i.e., subordinate, ruler. Their gaze fell on Shah Shuja, who had been deposed from the Afghan throne in 1809 and who had been living since then at Ludhiana as a British pensioner, and they decided to put him back on the Afghan throne. Thus without any reason or excuse the British Government decided to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and to commit aggression on this small neighbour. The British launched an attack on Afghanistan in February 1839. Most of the Afghan tribes had already been won over with bribes. Kabul fell to the English on 7 August 1839, and Shah Shuja was immediately placed on the throne. But Shah Shuja was detested and despised by the people of Afghanistan, especially as he had come back with the help of foreign bayonets. Many Afghan tribes rose in revolt. Then suddenly, on 2 November 1841, an uprising broke out at Kabul and the sturdy Afghans fell upon the British forces.

On 11 December 1841, the British were compelled to sign a treaty with the Afghan chiefs by which they agreed to evacuate Afghanistan and to restore Dost Muhammed. But the story did not end there. As the British forces withdrew they were attacked all along the way. Out of 16,000 men only one reached the frontier alive, while a few others survived as prisoners. Thus the entire Afghan adventure ended in total failure. The British Indian Government now organised a new expedition. Kabul was reoccupied on 16 September 1842. But it had learnt its lesson well. Having avenged its recent defeat and humiliation, it arrived at a settlement with Dost Muhammed by which the British evacuated Kabul and recognized him as the independent ruler of Afghanistan.

The First Afghan War cost India over one and a half crores of rupees and its army nearly 20,000 men.

The British now followed a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs. During the 1868, as Russia again turned its attention to Central Asia after its defeat in the Crimean War, the British followed the policy of strengthening Afghanistan as a powerful buffer. They gave the Amir of Kabul aid and assistance to help him discipline his rivals internally and maintain his independence from foreign enemies. Thus, by a policy of non-interference and occasional help, the Amir was prevented from aligning himself with Russia.

From 1870 onwards, there was a resurgence of imperialism all over the world. The Anglo-Russian rivalry was also intensified. The British statesmen once again thought of bringing Afghanistan under direct political control so that it could serve as a base for British expansion in Central Asia. To force British terms on Sher Ali, the Afghan ruler, a new attack on Afghanistan was launched in 1878. This is known as the Second Afghan War. Peace came in May 1879 when Sher-Ali's son, Yakub Khan, signed the Treaty of Gandamak by which the British secured all they had desired. They secured certain border districts, the right to keep a Resident at Kabul, and control over Afghanistan's foreign policy.

The British success was short-lived. The national pride of the Afghans had been hurt and once again they rose to defend their independence. On 3 September 1879, the British Resident, Major Cavagnari, and his military escort were attacked and killed by rebellious Afghan troops, Afghanistan was again invaded and occupied. But the Afghans had made their point. The British reversed their policy and went back to the policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of a strong and friendly Afghanistan. Abdur Rahman, a grandson of Dost Muhammed, was recognised as the new ruler of Afghanistan. Abdur Rahman agreed not to maintain political relations with any power except the British. Thus the Amir of Afghanistan lost control of his foreign policy and, to that extent, became a dependent ruler. At the same time, he retained complete control over his country's internal affairs.

The First World War and the Russian Revolution of 1917 created a new situation in Anglo-Afghan relations. The Afghans now demanded full independence from British control. Habibullah, who had succeeded Abdur Rahman in 1901 as Amir, was assassinated on 20 February 1919 and his son, Amanullah, the new Amir, declared open war on British India. Peace came in 1921 when, by a treaty, Afghanistan recovered its independence in foreign affairs.


Lecture continues here ...


C.1 Introduction

The second half of the 19th century witnessed the full flowering of national political consciousness, and the growth of an organized national movement in India. In December 1885 was born the Indian National Congress under whose leadership Indians waged a prolonged and courageous struggle for independence from oppressive foreign rule, a struggle which India finally won on 15 August 1947.

C.2 What came before

By the 1870s it was evident that Indian nationalism had gathered enough strength and momentum to appear as a major force on the political scene. The Indian National Congress, founded in December 1885, was the first organized expression of the Indian national movement on an all-India scale. It had, however, many predecessors.

Raja Rammohan Roy was the first Indian leader to start an agitation for political reforms in India. Many public associations were started in different parts of India after 1836. All these associations were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements - called in those days 'prominent persons' - and were provincial or local in character. They worked for reform of administration, association of Indians with the administration, and spread of education, and sent long petitions to the British Parliament, putting forward Indian demands.

The period after 1858 witnessed a gradual widening of the gulf between the educated Indians and the British Indian administration (due to obvious wariness of Britishers for their Indian ‘subjects’ post the 1857 revolt). As the educated Indians studied the character of British rule and its consequences for India, they became more and more critical of British policies in India. The discontent gradually found expression in political activity. The existing associations no longer satisfied the politically conscious Indians. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

In 1866, Dadabhai Naoroji organized the East India Association in London to discuss the Indian question and to influence British public men to promote Indian welfare. Later he organized branches of the Association in prominent Indian cities. Born in 1825, Dadabhai devoted his entire life to the national movement and soon came to be known as the 'Grand Old Man of India'. He was also India's first economic thinker. In his writings on economics he showed that the basic cause of India's poverty lay in the British exploitation of India and the drain of its wealth. Dadabhai was honoured by being thrice elected president of the Indian National Congress. In fact he was the first of the long line of popular nationalist leaders of India whose very name stirred the hearts of the people.

The most important of the pre-Congress nationalist organizations was the Indian Association of Calcutta. The younger nationalists of Bengal had been gradually getting discontented with the conservation and pro-landlord policies of the British India Association. They wanted sustained political agitation on issues of wider public interest. They found a leader in Surendranath Banerjee who was a brilliant writer and orator.

He was unjustly turned out of the Indian Civil Service (ICS) as his superiors could not tolerate the presence of an independent-minded Indian in the ranks of this service. He began his public career in 1875 by delivering brilliant addresses on nationalist topics to the students of Calcutta. Led by Surendranath and Ananda Mohan Bose, the younger nationalists of Bengal founded the Indian Association in July 1876. The Indian Association set before itself the aims of creating strong public opinion in the country on political questions and the unification of the Indian people on a common political programme. In order to attract large numbers of people to its banner, it fixed a low membership fee for the poorer classes. Many branches of the Association were opened in the towns and villages of Bengal and also in many towns outside Bengal.

The younger elements were also active in other parts of India. Justice Ranade and others organised the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha in the 1870s. M. Viraraghavachari, G. Subramaniya Iyer, Ananda Charlu and others formed the Madras Mahajan Sabha in 1884. Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T. Telang, Badruddin Tyabji and others formed the Bombay Presidency Association in 1885.

The time was now ripe for the formation of an all-India political organisation of the nationalists who felt the need to unite politically against the common enemy - foreign rule and exploitation. The existing organisations had served a useful purpose but they were narrow in their scope and functioning. They dealt mostly with local questions and their membership and leadership were confined to a few people belonging to a single city or province. Even the Indian Association had not succeeded in becoming an all India body.

C.3 The INC arrives

Many Indians had been planning to form an all-India organization of nationalist political workers. But the credit for giving the idea concrete and final shape goes to A.O. Hume, a retired English Civil Servant. He got in touch with prominent Indian leaders - and organized with their cooperation - the first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in December 1885. It was presided over by W.C. Bannerjee and attended by 72 delegates.

The aims of the National Congress were declared to be the promotion of friendly relations between nationalist political workers from different parts of the country; development and consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of caste, religion or province, formulation of popular demands and their presentation before the Government, and most important of all, the training and organization of public opinion in the country. It has been said that Hume's main purpose in encouraging the foundation of the Congress was to provide a 'safety valve' or a safe outlet to the growing discontent among the educated Indians. He wanted to prevent the union of a discontented nationalist intelligentsia with a discontented peasantry.

The 'safety valve' theory is, however, a small part of the truth and is totally inadequate and misleading. More than anything else, the National Congress represented the urge of the politically conscious Indians to set up a national organization to work for their political and economic advancement. We have already seen above that a national movement was already growing in the country as a result of the working of powerful forces. No one man or group of men can be given credit for creating this movement. Even Hume's motives were mixed ones. He was also moved by motives nobler than those of the 'safety valve'. He possessed a sincere love for India and its poor cultivators. In any case, the Indian leaders, who cooperated with Hume in starting this National Congress, were patriotic men of high character who willingly accepted Hume's help as they did not want to cause official hostility towards their efforts at so early a stage of political activity. They hoped that a retired civil servant's active presence would allay official suspicions. If Hume wanted to use the Congress as a 'safety valve', the early Congress leaders hoped to use him as a 'lightning conductor'.

Thus with the foundation of the National Congress in 1885, the struggle for India's freedom from foreign rule was launched in a small but organized manner. The national movement was to grow and the country and its people were to know no rest till freedom was won. The Congress itself was to serve from the beginning not as a party but as a movement. In 1886 delegates to the Congress, numbering 436, were elected by different local organizations and groups. Hereafter, the National Congress met every year in December, in a different part of the country each time. The number of its delegates soon increased to thousands. Its delegates consisted mostly of lawyers, journalists, traders, industrialists, teachers and landlords. In 1890, Kadambini Ganguli, the first woman graduate of Calcutta University, addressed the Congress session. This was symbolic of the fact that India's struggle for freedom would raise Indian women from the degraded position to which they had been reduced for several centuries.

The Indian National Congress was not the only channel through which the stream of nationalism flowed. Provincial conferences, provincial and local associations, and nationalist newspapers were the other prominent organs of the growing nationalist movement. The Press, in particular, was a powerful factor in developing nationalist opinion and the nationalist movement. Of course, most of the newspapers of the period were not carried on as business ventures but were consciously started as organs of nationalist activity. Some of the great presidents of the National Congress during its early years were Dadabhai Naoroji, Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozeshah Mehta, P. Ananda Charlu, Surendranath Banerjee, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Ananda Mohan Bose and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Other prominent leaders of the Congress and the national movement during this period were Mahadev Govind Ranade, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Brothers Sisir Kumar and Motilal Ghose, Madan Mohan Malaviya, G. Subramaniya Iyer, C.Vijayaraghava Chariar and Dinshaw E. Wacha.

C.4 Early nationalists

Early nationalist leadership believed that a direct struggle for the political emancipation of the country was not yet on the agenda of history. What indeed was on the agenda, was the arousal of a national feeling, consolidation of this feeling, the bringing of a large number of the Indian people into the vortex of nationalist politics, and their training in politics and political agitation. The first important task in this respect was the creation of public interest in political questions and the organization of public opinion in the country. Secondly, popular demands had to be formulated on a country-wide basis so that the emerging public opinion might have an all-India focus. Most important of all, national unity had to be created, in the first instance, among the politically conscious Indians and political workers and leaders. The early national leaders were fully aware of the fact that India had just entered the process of becoming a nation - in other words, India was a nation-in-the-making. Indian nationhood had to be carefully promoted. Indians had to be carefully welded into a nation. Politically conscious Indians had to constantly work for the development and consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of region, caste or religion. The economic and political demands of the early nationalists were formulated with a view to unifying the Indian people on the basis of a common economic and political programme. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

C.5 Economic imperialism's review

Perhaps the most important part of the early nationalists' political work was their economic critique of imperialism. They took note of all the three forms of contemporary colonial economic exploitation, namely, through trade, industry and finance. They clearly grasped that the essence of British economic imperialism lay in the subordination of the Indian economy to the British economy. They vehemently opposed the British attempt to develop in India the basic characteristics of a colonial economy, namely, the transformation of India into a supplier of raw materials, a market for British manufactures, and a field of investment for foreign capital. They organized a powerful agitation against nearly all important official economic policies based on this colonial structure.

The early nationalists complained of India's growing poverty and economic backwardness and the failure of modern industry and agriculture to grow; and they put the blame on British economic exploitation of India. Thus, Dadabhai Naoroji declared as early as 1881 that the British rule was "an everlasting, increasing, and every day increasing foreign invasion" that was "utterly, though gradually, destroying the country". The nationalists criticized the official economic policies for bringing about the ruin of India's traditional handicraft industries and for obstructing the development of modern industries. Most of them opposed the large-scale investment of foreign capital in the Indian railways, plantations and industries on the ground that it would lead to the suppression of Indian capitalists and the further strengthening or the British hold on India's economy and polity.

  • [col]
    • They believed that the employment of foreign capital posed a serious economic and political danger not only to the present generation but also to the generations to come. The chief remedy they suggested for the removal of India's poverty was the rapid development of modern industries. They wanted the Government to promote modern industries through tariff protection and direct government aid. They popularized the idea of Swadeshi or the use of Indian goods, and the boycott of British goods as a means of promoting Indian industries. For example, students in Poona and in other towns of Maharashtra publicly burnt foreign clothes in 1896 as part of the larger Swadeshi campaign.
    • The nationalists complained that India's wealth was being drained to England, and demanded that this drain be stopped. They carried on persistent agitation for the reduction of land revenue in order to lighten the, burden of taxation on the peasant. Some of them also criticized the semi feudal agrarian relations that the British sought to maintain. The nationalists also agitated for improvement in the conditions of work of the plantation laborers. They declared high taxation to be one of the causes of India's poverty and demanded the abolition of the salt tax and reduction of land revenue. They condemned the high military-expenditure of the Government of India and demanded its reduction. As time passed more and more nationalists came to the conclusion that economic exploitation and impoverishment of the country and the perpetuation of its economic backwardness by foreign imperialism more than outweighed some of the beneficial aspects of the alien rule.

Thus, regarding the benefits of security of life and property, Dadabhai Naoroji remarked: "The romance is that there is security of life and property in India; the reality is that there is no such thing. There is security of life and property in one sense or way - i.e., the people are secure from any violence from each other or from Native despots ... But from England's own grasp there is no security of property at all and, as a consequence, no security for life. India's property is not secure. What is secure, and well secure, is that England is perfectly safe and secure, and does so with perfect security, to carry away from India, and to eat up in India, her property at the present rate of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 a year... I therefore venture to submit that India does not enjoy security of her property and life... To millions in India life is simply 'half-feeding', or starvation, or famine and disease."

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With regard to law and order, Dadabhai said: “There is an Indian saying: 'Pray strike on the back, but don't strike on the belly'. Under the native despots the people keep and enjoy what they produce, though at times they suffer some violence on the back. Under the British Indian despot, the man is at peace, there is no violence; his substance is drained away, unseen, peaceably and subtly - he starves in peace and perishes in peace, with law and order!”

Nationalist agitation on economic issues led to the growth of an all-India opinion that the British rule was based on the exploitation of India, was leading to India's impoverishment and was producing economic backwardness and underdevelopment. These disadvantages far outweighed any indirect advantages that might have followed the British rule.

C.6 Political work of early nationalist leaders

The Indian national movement up to 1905 was dominated by leaders who have often been described as moderate nationalists or ‘Moderates’. The political methods of the Moderates can be summed up briefly as constitutional agitation within the four walls of the law, and slow, orderly political progress. They believed that if public opinion was created and organized and popular demands presented to the authorities through petitions, meetings, resolutions and speeches, the authorities would concede these demands gradually and step by step.

Their political work had, therefore, a two-pronged direction. Firstly, to build up a strong public opinion in India to arouse the political consciousness and national spirit of the people, and to educate and unite them on political questions. Basically, even the resolutions and petitions of the National Congress were directed towards this goal. Though ostensibly their memorials and petitions were addressed to the Government, their real aim was to educate the Indian people. For example, when in 1891 the young Gokhale expressed disappointment at the two-line reply of the Government to a carefully proposed memorial by the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Justice Ranade replied: "You don't realise our place in the history of our country. These memorials are nominally addressed to Government. In reality they are addressed to the people, so that they may learn how to think in these matters. This work must be done for many years, without expecting any other results, because politics of this kind is altogether new in this land."

Secondly, the early nationalists wanted to persuade the British Government and British public opinion to introduce reforms along directions laid down by the nationalists. The Moderate nationalists believed that the British people and Parliament wanted to be just to India but that they did not know the true state of affairs there. Therefore, next to educating Indian public opinion, the moderate nationalists worked to educate British public opinion. For this purpose, they carried on active propaganda in Britain. Deputations of leading Indians were sent to Britain to propagate the Indian view. In 1889, a British Committee of the Indian National Congress was founded. In 1890 this Committee started a journal called India. Dadabhai Naoroji spent a major part of his life and income in England in popularizing India's case among its people.

A student of the Indian national movement sometimes gets confused when he reads loud professions of loyalty to the British rule by prominent Moderate leaders. These professions do not at all mean that they were not genuine patriots or that they were cowardly men. They genuinely believed that the continuation of India's political connection with Britain was in the interests of India at that stage of history. They, therefore, planned not to expel the British but to transform the British rule to approximate to national rule. Later, when they took note of the evil of the British rule and the failure of the Government to accept nationalist demands for reform, many of them stopped talking of loyalty to the British rule and started demanding self-government for India. Moreover, many of them were Moderates because they felt that the time was not yet ripe to throw a direct challenge to the foreign rulers.

C.7 The partition of Bengal

The conditions for the emergence of militant nationalism had thus developed when in 1905 the partition of Bengal was announced and the Indian national movement entered its second stage.

On 20 July 1905, Lord Curzon issued an order dividing the province of Bengal into two parts : Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million, and the rest of Bengal with a population of 54 million, of whom 18 million were Bengalis and 36 million Biharis and Oriyas. It was said that the existing province of Bengal was too big to be efficiently administered by a single provincial government. However, the officials who worked out the plan had also other political ends in view. They hoped to stem the rising tide of nationalism in Bengal, considered at the time to be the nerve centre of Indian nationalism. Risley, Home Secretary to the Government of India, wrote in an official note on 6 December 1904: “Bengal united is a power. Bengal divided will pull in several different ways. That is what the Congress leaders feel: their apprehensions are perfectly correct and they form one of the great merits of the scheme... One of our main objects is to split up and thereby to weaken a solid body of opponents to our rule.” This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

The Indian National Congress and the nationalists of Bengal firmly opposed the partition. Within Bengal, different sections of the population - zamindars, merchants, lawyers, students, the city poor, and even women - rose up in spontaneous opposition to the partition of their province.

The nationalists saw the act of partition as a challenge to Indian nationalism and not merely an administrative measure. They saw that it was a deliberate attempt to divide the Bengalis territorially and on religious grounds, for in the Eastern part Muslims would be in a big majority and in the Western part Hindus. Thus it would disrupt and weaken nationalism in Bengal. It would also be a big blow to the growth of Bengali language and culture. They pointed out that administrative efficiency could have been better secured by separating the Hindi-speaking Bihar and the Oriya speaking Orissa from the Bengali speaking part of the province. Moreover, the official step had been taken in utter disregard of public opinion. Thus the vehemence of Bengal's protest against the partition is explained by the fact that it was a blow to the sentiments of a very sensitive and courageous people.

C.8 The anti-partition movement

The Anti-Partition Movement was the work of the entire national leadership of Bengal and not of any one section of the movement. Its most prominent leaders at the initial stage were moderate leaders like Surendranath Banerjee and Krishna Kumar Mitra; militant and revolutionary nationalists took over in the later stages. In fact, both the moderate and militant nationalists co-operated with one another during the course of the movement.

The Anti-Partition Movement was initiated on 7 August 1905. On that day a massive demonstration against the partition was organised in the Town Hall in Calcutta. From this meeting delegates dispersed to spread the movement to the rest of the province.

The partition took effect on 16 October 1905. The leaders of the protest movement declared it to be a day of national mourning throughout Bengal. It was observed as a day of fasting. There was a hartal in Calcutta. People walked barefooted and bathed in the Ganga in the early morning hours. Rabindranath Tagore composed the national song, 'Amar Sonar Bangla', for the occasion which was sung by huge crowds parading the streets. This song was adopted as its national anthem by Bangladesh in 1971 after liberation. The streets of Calcutta were full of the cries of 'Bande Mataram' which overnight became the national song of Bengal and which was soon to become the theme song of the national movement. The ceremony of Raksha Bandhan was utilised in a new way. Hindus and Muslims tied the rakhi on one anothers wrists as a symbol of the unbreakable unity of the Bengalis and of the two halves of Bengal.

In the afternoon, there was a great demonstration when the veteran leader Ananda Mohan Bose laid the foundation of a Federation Hall to mark the indestructible unity of Bengal. He addressed a crowd of over 50,000.

C.9 Swadeshi and Boycott

The Bengal leaders felt that mere demonstrations, public meetings and resolutions were not likely to have much effect on the rulers. More positive action that would reveal the intensity of popular feelings and exhibit them at their best was needed. The answer was “Swadeshi” and “Boycott”. Mass meetings were held all over Bengal where Swadeshi - or the use of Indian goods - and the boycott of British goods were proclaimed and pledged. In many places public burning of foreign cloth were organized and shops selling foreign cloth were picketed. The Swadeshi Movement was an immense success. According to Surendranath Banerjee: “Swadeshism during the days of its potency coloured the entire texture of our social and domestic life. Marriage presents that included foreign goods, the like of which could be manufactured at home, were returned. Priests would often decline to officiate at ceremonies where foreign articles were offered as oblations to the gods. Guests would refuse to participate in festivities where foreign salt or foreign sugar was used”.
An important aspect of the Swadeshi Movement was the emphasis placed on self-reliance or 'Atmashakti. Self-reliance meant assertion of national dignity, honor and self-confidence. In the economic field, it meant fostering indigenous industrial and other enterprises. Many textile mills, soap and match factories, handloom weaving concerns, national banks, and insurance companies were opened. Acharya P.C. Ray organized his famous Bengal Chemical Swadeshi Stores. Even the great poet Rabindranath Tagore helped to open a Swadeshi store.

The Swadeshi Movement had several cultural consequences. There was a flowering of nationalist poetry, prose and journalism. The patriotic songs written at the time by poets like Rabindranath Tagore, Rajani Kant Sen, Syed Abu Mohammed and Mukunda Das are sung in Bengal to this day. Another self-reliant, constructive activity undertaken at the time was that of National Education. National educational institutions where literary, technical, or physical education was imparted were opened by nationalists who regarded the existing system of education as denationalising and, in any case, inadequate. On 15 August 1906, a National Council of Education was set up. A National College with Aurobindo Ghose as Principal was started in Calcutta.

C.10 Role of students, women, Muslims

A prominent part in the Swadeshi agitation was played by the students of Bengal. They practiced and propagated Swadeshi and took the lead in organizing picketing of shops selling foreign cloth. The government made every attempt to suppress the students. Orders were issued to penalize those schools and colleges whose students took an active part in the Swadeshi agitation; their grants-in-aid and other privileges were to be withdrawn, they were to be disaffiliated, their students were not to be permitted to compete for scholarships and were to be barred from all service under the government. Disciplinary action was taken against students found guilty of participating in the nationalist agitation. Many of them were fined, expelled from schools and colleges, arrested, and sometimes beaten by the police with lathis. The students, however, refused to be cowed down.

A remarkable aspect of the Swadeshi agitation was the active participation of women in the movement. The traditionally home-centred women of the urban middle classes joined processions and picketing. From then on they were to take an active part in the nationalist movement.

Many prominent Muslims joined the Swadeshi Movement including Abdul Rasul, the famous barrister, Liaquat Hussain, the popular agitator, and Guznavi, the businessman. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad joined one of the revolutionary terrorist groups. Many other middle and upper class Muslims, however, remained neutral or, led by the Nawab of Dhaka, (who was given a loan of Rs. 14 lakh by the Government of India), even supported Partition on the plea that East Bengal would have a Muslim majority. In this communal attitude, the Nawab of Dhaka and others were encouraged by the officials. In a speech at Dhaka, Lord Curzon declared that one of the reasons for the partition was "to invest the Mohammedans in Eastern Bengal with a unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussalman Viceroys and Kings".

C.11 All India nature of the movement

The cry of Swadeshi and Swaraj was soon taken up by other provinces of India. Movements in support of Bengal's unity and boycott of foreign goods were organised in Bombay, Madras and northern India. The leading role in spreading the Swadeshi Movement to the rest of the country was played by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He quickly saw that with the inauguration of this movement in Bengal, a new chapter in the history of Indian nationalism had opened. Here was a challenge and an opportunity to lead a popular struggle against the British Raj and to unite the entire country in one bond of common sympathy.

C.12 The growth of militancy

The leadership of the Anti-Partition Movement soon passed to militant nationalists like Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose. This was due to many factors.

Firstly, the early movement of protest led by the Moderates failed to yield results. Even the liberal Secretary of State, John Morley, from whom much was expected by the moderate nationalists, declared the Partition to be a settled fact which would not be changed. Secondly, the Governments of the two Bengals, particularly of East Bengal, made active efforts to divide Hindus and Muslims. Seeds of Hindu-Muslim disunity in Bengal politics were perhaps sown at this time. This embittered the nationalists. But, most of all, it was the repressive policy of the government which led people to militant and revolutionary politics. The Government of East Bengal, in particular, tried to crush the nationalist movement. Official attempts at preventing student participation in the Swadeshi agitation have already been mentioned. The singing of Bande Mataram in public streets in East Bengal was banned. Public meetings were restricted and sometimes forbidden.

Laws controlling the Press were enacted. Swadeshi workers were prosecuted and imprisoned for long periods. Many students were even awarded corporal punishment. From 1906 to 1909, more than 550 political cases came up before Bengal courts. Prosecutions against a large number of nationalist newspapers were launched and freedom of the Press was completely suppressed. Military police was stationed in many towns where it clashed with the people. One of the most notorious examples of repression was the police assault on the peaceful delegates of the Bengal Provincial Conference at Barisal in April 1906. Many of the young volunteers were severely beaten up and the Conference itself was forcibly dispersed.

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On December 1908, nine Bengal leaders, including the venerable Krishna Kumar Mitra and Ashwini Kumar Dutt, were deported. Earlier, in 1907, Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh had been deported, following riots in the canal colonies of the Punjab. In 1900, the great Tilak was again arrested and given the savage sentence of 6 years' imprisonment. Chidambaram Pillai in Madras and Harisarvottam Rao and others in Andhra were put behind bars.

As the militant nationalists came to the fore, they gave the call for passive resistance in addition to Swadeshi and Boycott. They asked the people to refuse to cooperate with the Government and to boycott government service, the courts, government schools and colleges, and municipalities and legislative councils, and thus, as Aurobindo Ghose put it, "to make the administration under present conditions impossible". The militant nationalists tried to transform the Swadeshi and Anti-Partition agitation into a mass movement and gave the slogan of independence from foreign rule. Aurobindo Ghose openly declared: "Political freedom is the lifebreath of a nation". Thus, the question of the partition of Bengal became a secondary one and the question of India's freedom became the central question of Indian politics. The militant nationalists also gave the call for self-sacrifice without which no great aim could be achieved.

It should be remembered, however, that the militant nationalists also failed in giving a positive lead to the people. They were not able to give effective leadership or to create an effective organisation to guide their movement. They aroused the people but did not know how to harness or utilise the newly released energies of the people or to find new forms of political struggle. Passive resistance and non-cooperation remained mere ideas. They also failed to reach the real masses of the country, the peasants. Their movement remained confined to the urban lower and middle classes and zamindars. They had come to a political deadend by the beginning of 1908. Consequently, the government succeeded to a large extent in suppressing them. Their movement could not survive the arrest of their main leader, Tilak and the retirement from active politics of Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose.

But the upsurge of nationalist sentiments could not die. People had been aroused from their slumber of centuries; they had learned to take a bold and fearless attitude in politics. They had acquired self-confidence and self-reliance and learnt to participate in new forms of mass mobilisation and political action. They now waited for a new movement to arise. Moreover, they were able to learn valuable lessons from their experience. Gandhiji wrote later that "after the Partition, people saw that petitions must be backed up by force, and that they must be capable of suffering". The Anti-Partition agitation in fact marked a great revolutionary leap forward for Indian nationalism. The later national movement was to draw heavily on its legacy.

C.13 Growth of revolutionary nationalism

Government repression and frustration caused by the failure of the leadership to provide a positive lead to the people ultimately resulted in revolutionary terrorism. The youth of Bengal found all avenues of peaceful protest and political action blocked and out of desperation they fell back upon individual heroic action and the cult of the bomb. They no longer believed that passive resistance could achieve nationalist aims. The British must, therefore, be physically expelled. As the Yugantar wrote on 22 April 1906 after the Barisal Conference: "The remedy lies with the people themselves.  The 30 crores of people inhabiting India must raise their 60 crores of hands to stop this curse of oppression. Force must be stopped by force".

But the revolutionary young men did not try to generate a mass revolution. Instead, they decided to copy the methods of the Irish terrorists and the Russian Nihilists, that is, to assassinate unpopular officials. A beginning had been made in this direction when, in 1897, the Chapekar brothers assassinated two unpopular British officials at Poona. In 1904, V.D. Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) had organised the Abhinava Bharat, a secret society of revolutionaries. After 1905, several newspapers had begun to advocate revolutionary terrorism. The Sandhya and the Yugantar in Bengal and the Kal in Maharashtra were the most prominent among them.

In December 1907 an attempt was made on the life of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, and in April 1908 Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw a bomb at a carriage which they believed was occupied by Kingsford, the unpopular Judge at Muzaffarpur. Prafulla Chaki shot himself dead while Khudiram Bose was tried and hanged. The era of revolutionary terrorism had begun. Many secret societies of terrorist youth came into existence. The most famous of these were the Anushilan Samiti whose Dhaka Section alone had 500 branches, and soon revolutionary terrorist societies became active in the rest of the country also. They became so bold as to throw a bomb at the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, while he was riding on an elephant in a state procession at Delhi. The Viceroy was wounded.

The revolutionaries also established centres of activity abroad. In London, the lead was taken by Shyamaji Krishnavarma, V.D. Savarkar, and Bar Dayal, while in Europe Madame Cama and Ajit Singh were the prominent leaders.

Terrorism too gradually petered out. In fact, terrorism as a political weapon was bound to fail. It could not mobilise the masses; in fact it had no base among the people. But the terrorists did make a valuable contribution to the growth of nationalism in India. As a historian has put it, "they gave us back the pride of our manhood". Because of their heroism, the terrorists became immensely popular among their compatriots even though most of the politically conscious people did not agree with their political approach. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

C.14 The INC - 1905-1914


The agitation against the partition of Bengal made a deep impact on the Indian National Congress. All sections of the National Congress united in opposing the Partition. At its session of 1905, Gokhale, the President of the Congress, roundly condemned the Partition as well as the reactionary regime of Curzon. The National Congress also supported the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement of Bengal.

There was much public debate and disagreement between the moderate and the militant nationalists. The latter wanted to extend the Swadeshi and Boycott movement from Bengal to the rest of the country and to extend the Boycott to every form of association with the colonial government. The Moderates wanted to confine the Boycott movement to Bengal and even there to limit it to the boycott of foreign goods.

There was a tussle between the two groups for the presidentship of the National Congress for that year (1906). In the end, Dadabhai Naoroji, respected by all nationalists as a great patriot, was chosen as a compromise. Dadabhai electrified the nationalist ranks by openly declaring in his presidential address that the goal of the Indian national movement was " 'self-govemment' or Swaraj, like that of the United Kingdom or the Colonies".

But the differences dividing the two wings of the nationalist movement could not be kept in check for long. Many of the moderate nationalists did not keep pace with events. They were not able to see that their outlook and methods, which had served a real purpose in the past, were no longer adequate. They had failed to advance to the new stage of the national movement. The militant nationalists, on the other hand, were not willing to be held back. The split between the two came at the Surat session of the National Congress in December 1907. The moderate leaders having captured the machinery of the Congress excluded the militant elements from it.

C.15 The INC - Surat Split

The Surat split is an important event in the modern history of India. It took place in 1907 when the Moderates parted company with the Extremists. The split in the Congress was due to many reasons. The Moderates had controlled the Congress from its very beginning and had their own ways of thinking and doing, which were not acceptable to the younger generations who were impatient with the speed at which the moderates were moving and leading the nation. The differences between the two were inevitable and the split took place in the year 1907.

The fundamental differences between the Moderates and the Extremists were on the question of loyalty to the English throne and the continuance of British rule in India. The Moderates had faith and believed in loyalty to the English throne. They also believed that the continuance of the British rule was in the interest of the people in India. On the other hand the Extremists felt that the British rule was a curse and there should be no question of loyalty to the British throne. The emphasis on the ultimate goal and also the actual form of the ultimate goal was a point of differences between the Extremists and the Moderates. The Moderates believed in the policy of conciliation and compromise. They were not dissatisfied with the meager concessions given by the British parliament to India from time to time. The Extremists did not bother about the petty concessions given by the British government. They felt that "Swarajya" alone was the final remedy. The Moderates believed in adopting strictly constitutional methods for agitation and that also of the feeblest type so that there was not the slightest chance of any violence. They believed in reasoned and emotional appeals, lucid presentation of the case, irresistible statements of facts, irrefutable arguments and presenting petitions. The Moderates were not prepared to resort to a policy of non-cooperation or passive resistance. They did not accept even the programmes of Swadeshi whole-heartedly. They considered boycott as a vindictive act which was liable to create a feeling of ill-will. On the other hand, the Extremists believed that the national problems could not be solved by resorting to argument, ethics and piety, and only a vigorous agitation could meet the need of the situation.

Another point of difference between the Moderates and Extremists was with regard to their approach and strategy. The Moderates depended for their success on the goodwill and sympathy of the Englishmen. However the Extremists rejected such an approach and believed that the people of India were the masters of their own destiny and not any foreign powers. The Moderates believed that the people of India were still not fit for self-government. The Extremists believed that the people of India were fit to rule themselves and self-government could not be denied to them on the ground of their so-called unfitness. The Moderate believed that they would get what they asked for without any sufferings, while the Extremists were of the definite view that the salvation of India was not possible without sufferings and self-sacrifice. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya portal, PT education

On account of these differences, there were clashes between the Moderates and the Extremists which eventually led to the split. There is no denying the fact that the Moderates were as much vehement in their denunciation of the partition of Bengal as the Extremists, but they had their own limitations and could not go beyond them. The Congress indeed passed resolutions on boycott, Swadeshi and national education in 1906 but faced opposition from the Moderates. The Moderates did not approve of all that happened at the Calcutta session of the Congress in 1906 and tried to undo the same at the next session in 1907 at Surat. The Extremists were not prepared to allow them to do so. Under the circumstances, an open clash between them was inevitable.

C.16 Effects of the INC Surat Split 

The Surat split not only weakened the Indian National Congress but it virtually destroyed its effectiveness till the Lucknow session in 1916. For the next eight years, India`s Nationalist Movement remained a house divided against itself, half constitutional and half revolutionary in aspiration. This suited the British Raj in India, no doubt!

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PT's IAS Academy: India's independence struggle - Study Material 1 - The 1857 Mutiny | India after 1857 | Indian National Congress
India's independence struggle - Study Material 1 - The 1857 Mutiny | India after 1857 | Indian National Congress
In the modern history of India, the independence struggle against the British Raj was as traumatic as it was glorious. A new India took shape through its trials and tribulations. Here, we study (1) The 1857 Mutiny, (2) India after 1857, and (3) The Indian National Congress.
PT's IAS Academy
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