Notes on Indian National Movements (1927-1947)


1. Communal parties were narrow minded in outlook and displayed an anti-national, unpatriotic attitude towards the problem of independence. Their immediate goal was not freedom for India, but the extraction of petty favours from the British for the upper-classes of their communities.

They openly expressed religious bias that often resulted in communal tension and riots. Their orthodoxy and fundamentalism were displayed when they started conversion movements, for example the Tabligh movement of the Muslims and Shuddhi movement of the Hindus.

Communal parties like the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha wasted their energies in protesting against each other to the British and propagating to the masses the validity of the two-nation theory. They created a serious obstacle to unity in the national movement, when the Muslim League broke away from the Congress and made the demand for Pakistan.


The British ‘divide and rule policy succeeded with the formation of separate electorates for Muslims. Social reforms, equality and the fight against poverty receded into the background as communalism not only delayed independence but resulted in India’s partition.

2. The British government of India joined the Allies in the Second World War without consulting the Indian National Congress or the elected members of the Central Legislature. The Congress expressed sympathy with the victims of fascist aggression and was willing to help the forces of democracy in their struggle to destroy fascism.

But it questioned the British about how India could help other countries to win independence when it itself was denied freedom. Thus the Congress demanded immediate freedom or at least power in Indian hands, before it could effectively participate in the war.

The British refused to accept this demand and the Congress retaliated by ordering its ministries to resign. Gandhiji started a limited, individual satyagraha which was led by Vinoba Bhave. The Stafford Cripps Mission was sent to India with proposals in order to get Congress support for the war.


But the negotiations broke down, as the British refused to promise independence even after the war and rejected the Congress proposal for forming a national Government during the war. Consequently the Congress passed the Quit India Resolution (1942), demanding immediate end to the British rule.

The Bengal famine (1943) and the British indifference to it resulted in three million deaths. It made the Indians determined not to support the war and to concentrate on achieving puma swaraj.

3. Proposals made by the British during the Second World War; Cripps Mission was sent to India (1942) to secure active cooperation of the Indians in the War. The Mission declared that the aim of the British was “the earliest possible realization of self-government in India”.

It however refused the Congress demand for immediate transfer of power to Indians. All effective powers remained centralized in the Viceroy. The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, also declared that the Atlantic Charter of 1942 which spoke of the restoration of self-government and sovereign right to colonial people did not apply to India.


4. Proposals by the Cabinet Mission (1946) after the end of the Second World War : Clement Atlee, the new Prime Minisiter, announced British willingness to grant independence to India. One of the proposals was the formation of a Union of India with provinces grouped into four zones, each having their own constitutions and being autonomous except in defence, communications and foreign affairs.

The Mission also proposed the formation of the a constitution making body elected indirectly by provincial legislatures on the basis of communal elected indirectly by provincial legislatures on the basis of communal electorates, with princely rulers nominating their members.

Reason for Congress” acceptance of the proposal: To avoid any further delay in getting independence, the Congress accepted the proposal of a constitution making body, even though its demand for an assembly elected by universal adult franchise had been overlooked.

5. Apart from fighting for Indian independence, the Congress took a keen interest in world affairs. Since its formation in 1885, the Congress opposed the use of Indian soldiers and resources to serve British interests in Asia and Africa. The national movement strongly opposed imperialism in all its forms.


In 1927, Jawaharlal Nehru represented the Congress at the Brussels Congress of Oppressed Nationalities, organised by revolutionaries from colonial countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many left-wing intellectuals and political leaders of Europe joined the Congress to strengthen its lease of socialism and struggle against imperialism.

In the 1930s, the Congress supported national movements in Asia and Africa. Fascist countries like Italy, Germany and Japan were condemned. Indian nationalists supported the peoples of Ethiopia, Spain, Czechoslovakia and China against aggression by fascist powers.

When Japan attacked China in 1937, the Congress asked Indians not to buy or use Japanese goods and sent a medical mission to work with the Chinese army. The national movement recognised that India’s future was interlinked with the struggle between fascism on the one hand and the forces of freedom, socialism and democracy on the other.

Therefore, the Congress refused to help the British in its war against other imperialist powers but offered cooperation to it against fascist countries during the Second World War.


6. Indian nationalism began in the nineteenth century due to changes brought about by the British rule like political unification, new social and economic patterns, beginning of industry, communications, the rise of an English-educated middle class, extreme exploitation and racial discrimination and repression. The socio-religious reform movements and anti-British revolts laid the foundations for nationalism.

The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 and was dominated by the Moderates till 1905. They emphasised national unity, representative institutions and Indianization of civil services and opposed the drain of India’s wealth and the repressive policies of the British. They advocated the methods of appeals, resolutions and petitions for agitating. The extremists dominated the national movement from 1905 to 1919. They started the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement and demanded swaraj.

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