Essay on Constitutional Reforms made in India

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From the beginning the early nationalists believed that India should eventually move towards democratic self-government. But they did not ask for the immediate fulfillment of their goal.

Their immediate demands were extremely moderate. They hoped to win freedom through gradual steps. They were also extremely cautious, lest the government suppress their activities. From 1885 to 1892 they demanded the expansion and reform of the Legislative Councils.

The British government was forced by their agitation to pass the Indian Councils Act of 1892. By this Act the number of members of the Imperial Legislative Council as well as the provincial councils was increased. Some of these members could be elected indirectly by Indians, but the officials’ majority remained.

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The nationalists were totally dissatisfied with the Act of 1892 and declared it to be a hoax. They demanded a larger share for Indians in the councils as also wider powers for them.

In particular, they demanded Indian control over the public purse and raised the slogan that had earlier become the national cry of the American people during their War of Independence: ‘No taxation without representation’.

At the same time, they failed to broaden the base of their democratic demands; they did not demand the right to vote for the masses or for women-

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the nationalist leaders advanced further and put forward the claim forswarajya or self-government within the British Empire on the model of self-governing colonies like Australia and Canada. This demand was made from the Congress platform by Gokhale in 1905 and by Dadabhai Naoroji in 1906.

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