Lakshmi Rameshwar Rao, Hyderabad

The revolt of 1857 started as a mutiny; soon it spread all over the country to overthrow foreign supremacy.  It sparked the fire for independence, which ultimately resulted in bringing an end to British rule in India.

The Champaran Satyagraha (1917) was the first Satyagrah movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in British India. This farmer’s uprising took place in Champaran (a district Bihar).

Gandhi had returned to India from South Africa in 1915.  He saw peasants in Northern India being oppressed by indigo planters.  Tenant farmers were forced to grow some indigo on a portion of their land as a condition of their tenancy. Indigo was used to make dye.

Champaran Satyagraha was the first popular Satyagrah movement. Under colonial-era law, tenant farmers were forced to grow indigo on a portion of their land as a condition of their tenancy. The Germans had invented a cheaper artificial dye so the demand for indigo fell. However, during the First World War the German dye ceased to be available and so natural indigo became profitable again.  Tenants were once again forced to grow it on a portion of their land- as was required by their lease.

This created anger and resentment once again. Gandhi led organised protests and strike against the landlords, who with the guidance of the British government, had signed an agreement granting more compensation and control over farming for the poor farmers of the region, and cancellation of revenue hikes and collection until the famine ended.

It was during this agitation that Gandhi was called “Bapu” (Father) by Sant Raut and “Mahatma” for the first time. Gandhi himself did not like being addressed as “Mahatma”, preferring to be called Bapu.

The Champaran movement concluded with the introduction of the ‘Champaran Agrarian Bill’ by W. Maude, Member of Executive Council, Government of Bihar and Orissa, “consisting of almost all recommendations Gandhi Mission had made and it became the Champaran Agrarian Law (1918: Bihar and Orissa Act I).

Rowlatt Act

This law was passed in March 1919 by the Imperial Legislative Council which gave them the power to arrest any person without any trial. To abolish this act, Gandhi and the other leaders called for a Hartal (suspension of work) to show Indians’ objection to this rule, called the Rowlatt Satyagraha.

Many Indian leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah resigned from the legislative assembly and criticised the dictatorship of the British and the lack of constitutional rights for the Indian citizens.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

There were riots and protests against the Rowlatt Act in Punjab. Gandhi called for an all India strike (hartal) accompanied by prayers and fasts. But violence broke out in different parts of the country and two leaders were arrested and two British ladies were injured.  The festival of Baisakhi on 13th April 1919 that year in Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden in Amritsar, a crowd of non-violent protestors had gathered

The British military officer, Brigadier General Dyer had been stationed at Amritsar. He banned all meetings. On that Baisakhi day hundreds of people had gathered on the festival and the general opened fire without warning. Hundreds died.

Among the crowd were pilgrims who had come to celebrate Baisakhi. At that time Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, then Michael O’Dwyer, and Lord Chelmsford was Viceroy. General Dyer came there with his troops and blocked the only narrow entrance to the garden.

Without warning, he ordered his troops to fire at the unarmed crowd, which included children as well. The indiscriminate firing went on for about 10 minutes until the 1650 rounds of ammunition were exhausted. This resulted in the deaths of at least 1000 people and injured more than 1500 people.

In protest against the massacre and the British failure to bestow  justice, Rabindranath Tagore gave up his knighthood and Gandhiji’s relinquishing  his title ‘Kaiser-e-hind’ bestowed on him by the British for his services during the Boer War in South Africa.

The non-cooperation movement

The non-cooperation movement was to oppose the oppressive policies of the British Indian government such as the Rowlatt Act of 18 March 1919, as well as to the Jallianwala massacre of 13 April 1919. The movement was a political campaign launched on 4 September 1920, by Mahatma Gandhi.

The non-cooperation movement was launched in 1920 with the aim of obtaining self-governance and ultimately getting the British colonial authorities to grant full independence to India.

Gandhi’s planning of the non-cooperation movement included persuading all Indians to withdraw their labour from any activity that sustained the British government including the economy in India, British industries and educational institutions..

The non-cooperation movement aimed to challenge the colonial economic and power structure, and British authorities would be forced to take notice of the demands of the independence movement.

In 1922, at Chauri Chaura, an incident took place in the town, when protesters set fire to a police station and killed at least 22 policemen in retaliation to police firing on several protesters who had taken part in the non-cooperation movement as part of the Indian freedom struggle.

Gandhi was disappointed with the rise of the violent nature of the movement. He did not want the movement to degenerate into a contest of violence, with police and angry mobs attacking each other back and forth and the victimizing of civilians.

Gandhi appealed to the Indian public for all resistance to end, went on a fast and on 12 February 1922 called off the non-cooperation movement.

Dandi (Satyagraha) March

The Salt Satyagraha was a mass civil disobedience movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi against the salt tax imposed by the British government in India. He led a large group of people from the Sabarmati Ashram on 12th March 1930 till Dandi, a coastal village in Gujarat, to break the salt law by producing salt from seawater.

Mahatma Gandhi was asked to plan and organise the first act of protest. He chose to break the salt tax in defiance of the government. The British dismissed his choice of salt. Sarojini Naidu joined Gandhi for the march. Many women entered the Satyagraha and broke the salt law. This was seen as alarming by the viceroy.

The march received widespread coverage in national and international media. With the salt march, the civil disobedience movement spread like wildfire throughout India. People all over began producing illegal salt.

There were similar marches in other places. Gandhi’s associate and friend, C. Rajagopalachari conducted another salt march from Trichy to Vedaranyam.

Indians had been making salt from seawater free of cost until the passing of the 1882 Salt Act that gave the British monopoly over the production of salt and authority to impose a salt tax. It was a criminal offence to violate the salt act. It was a commodity required by all and the poor people were hurt because of the salt tax.

Mahatma Gandhi started the 24-day march from his Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal town of Dandi to produce salt from the sea and defy the salt law. This is known as the Dandi March or the Salt March and is an important event in India’s struggle for independence.

The British were on the whole shaken by the Satyagraha. They were confused as to how to deal with non-violent protests. They also received a lot of bad press in the international community.

The movement went on until early 1931. Then, Gandhi was released from jail and Lord Irwin held talks with him as ‘equals’.

Quit India Movement

The Quit India Movement was a call given by Mahatma Gandhi on 08 August 1942 from the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee in Mumbai. It was part of the Civil Disobedience Movement also launched by Gandhi to end British rule in India.

Gandhiji’s slogan “Do or Die” in his speech at the Gowalia Tank Maidan, is now popularly known as delivered at August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai.

The Quit India Movement had three phases:

In the first phase, there were strikes and demonstrations across the country. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. Several other leaders were also detained by the Britishers.

The second phase of the Quit India Movement saw many peasant rebellions marked by the destruction of communication sys­tems, such as railway tracks and stations, telegraph wires and poles, attacks on government buildings or any other visible symbol of colo­nial authority.

The third and final phase of the Quit India Movement witnessed the formation of national governments or parallel governments in isolated pockets like Satara.

The Quit India movement was repressed by the British government in India. The Britishers resorted to lathi-charge and other violent means to suppress the movement. Villages were burned and enormous fines were imposed on officials who supported the movement. The Britishers declared Indian National Congress an unlawful association. Most of the popular leaders who supported or participated in the movement were arrested. The Quit India did not have a specific programme of action. Therefore, it ultimately failed.

The immediate cause for the Quit India movement was the collapse of Cripps Mission. The Cripps Mission was sent by the British government to India in March 1942 to obtain Indian cooperation for the British war efforts in World War ll. It was headed by Sir Richard Stafford Cripps, a labour minister in Winston Churchill’s coalition government in Britain.

After the failure of the mission, Cripps returned to England, and the Congress led by Gandhi started their new campaign, the Quit India Movement in August 1942. 

Indian Independence League 1947

The Indian Independence League (also known as IIL) was a political organisation which operated from the 1920s to the 1940s to organise those living outside India seeking the removal of British colonial rule in India. The Indian Independence League was formed in 1907 in California.

The Berlin Committee, known as the Indian Independence Committee after 1915, was an organisation formed in Germany in 1914 during World War I by Indian students and political activists residing in the country.

The Indian independence league was formed to unite the people of India living overseas against colonial rule in India, during 1920s to 1940s. The league worked effectively in gaining the support of Indians residing in South –East Asian countries. A branch of Indian Independence league was opened in Tokyo Japan to gain the support of Indian people living in Japan.

Rash Behari Bose was the founder president of IIL (Indian Independence League.). Subhash Chandra Bose became the president of Indian independence league in 1943.

The Delhi conspiracy in which Lord Harding was attacked in Connaught Place, which took place in 1912 was planned by Rash Behari Bose. With the end of World War II, the incoming Labour government decided to grant full independence  to India, and negotiated with representatives from the two main political parties, the Hindu-dominated Congress Party and the Muslim League. Viceroy Mountbatten had declared that India would become independent on 15 August 1947 forcing Parliament to rush through its Indian Independence Act, which received Royal Assent on 18th July 1947.

Indian Independence Act of 1947

The Indian Independence Act was passed by the British parliament in 1947. It effectively ended British rule over India. The country was partitioned into India and Pakistan (east and west). The act also repealed the use of the title ‘Emperor of India’ by the British Crown.

After the transfer of power by the Independence Act the Indian Constituent Assembly drafted the Indian Constitution in 1949 which finally came into effect on January 26, 1950, declaring India a republic. Most of the princely states signed the instrument of accession to one of the dominions.

(The writer has a Masters in Adult Education from Jamia Milia Islamia. She has many years teaching experience at the school level as also ten years of experience in book publishing and some published writing in newspapers and more students’ books. Lakshmi has retired and lives in Hyderabad.)

Previous articleविश्व मासिक धर्म एवं स्वच्छता दिवस के अवसर पर राज्य स्तरीय कार्यक्रम 
Next articleAli Khans — The Story of Musical Legends


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here