|British India 1612–1947
|East India Company||1612–1757|
|Company rule in India||1757–1857|
|British rule in Burma||1826–1947|
|Partition of India||1947|
The term Indian independence movement encompasses a wide spectrum of political organizations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending British colonial authority in South Asia. The term incorporates various national and regional campaigns, agitations and efforts of both nonviolent and militant philosophy.
The first organised militant movements were in Bengal, but it later took political stage in the form of a mainstream movement in the then newly formed Indian National Congress (INC), with prominent moderate leaders seeking only their basic rights to appear for civil services examinations and more rights, economic in nature, for the people of the soil. The beginning of the early 1900s saw a more radical approach towards political independence proposed by leaders such as the Lal Bal Pal and Sri Aurobindo. Militant nationalism also emerged in the first decades, culminating in the failed Indo-German Pact and Ghadar Conspiracy during World War I.
The last stages of the freedom struggle from the 1920s saw the Congress adopt the policies of nonviolence led by Mohandas Gandhi. Some leaders, such as Subhash Chandra Bose, later came to adopt a military approach to the movement, and others like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati who along with political freedom wanted economic freedom of peasants and toiling masses of the country. The World War II period saw the peak of the movements like the Indian National Army (INA) movement and the Quit India movement.
The movement culminated in the formation of the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan in 1947. India remained a dominion of The Crown until 26 January 1950, when it adopted its Constitution to proclaim itself a republic. Pakistan proclaimed itself a Republic in 1956 but faced a number of internal power struggles that has seen suspensions of democracy. In 1971, the Pakistani Civil War culminating in the 1971 War saw the splintering-off of East Pakistan into the nation of Bangladesh.
The Indian independence movement was a mass-based movement that encompassed various sections of society at the time. It also underwent a process of constant ideological evolution. While the basic ideology of the movement was anti-colonial, it was supported by a vision of independent capitalist economic development coupled with a secular, democratic, republican and civil-libertarian political structure. After the 1930s, the movement took on a strong socialist orientation, due to the increasing influence of left wing elements in the INC as well as the rise and growth of the Communist Party of India.
European traders came to Indian shores with the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 at the port of Calicut in search of the lucrative spice trade. After 1757 Battle of Plassey, during which the British army under Robert Clive defeated the Nawab of Bengal, the British East India Company established itself. This is widely seen as the beginning of the British Raj in India. The Company gained administrative rights over Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa in 1765 after the Battle of Buxar. They then annexed Punjab in 1849 after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839 and the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46) and then the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–49).
The British parliament enacted a series of laws to handle the administration of the newly-conquered provinces, including the Regulating Act of 1773, the India Act of 1784, and the Charter Act of 1813; all enhanced the British government's rule. In 1835 English was made the medium of instruction. Western-educated Hindu elites sought to rid Hinduism of controversial social practices, including the varna (caste) system, child marriage, and sati. Literary and debating societies initiated in Bombay and Madras became forums for open political discourse. The educational attainment and skillful use of the press by these early reformers created the growing possibility for effecting broad reforms within colonial India, all without compromising larger Indian social values and religious practices.
Even while these modernising trends influenced Indian society, Indians increasingly despised British rule. As the British increasingly dominated the continent, they grew increasingly abusive of local customs by, for example, staging parties in mosques, dancing to the music of regimental bands on the terrace of the Taj Mahal, using whips to force their way through crowded bazaars (as recounted by General Henry Blake), and mistreating sepoys. In the years after the annexation of Punjab in 1849, several mutinies among sepoys broke out; these were put down by force.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a period of uprising in the northern and central India against British rule in 1857–58, which was the result of a combination of several factors. The conditions of service in the East India Company's army and cantonments increasingly came into conflict with religious beliefs and prejudices of the sepoys. The predominance of members from the upper castes in the army, loss of caste due to overseas travel, and rumours of secret designs of the Government to convert them to Christianity led to deep discontentment among the sepoys. The sepoys were also disillusioned by their low salaries and racial discrimination vis-a-vis British officers in matters of promotion and privileges. The indifference of the British towards Indian rulers like the Mughals and ex-Peshwas and the annexation of Oudh were political factors triggering dissent amongst Indians. Dalhousie’s policy of annexation, the doctrine of lapse or escheat, and the projected removal of the descendants of the Great Mughal from their ancestral palace to the Qutb, near Delhi also angered some people.
The final spark was provided by the rumoured use of cow and pig fat in the newly-introduced Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle cartridges. Soldiers had to bite the cartridges with their teeth before loading them into their rifles, and the reported presence of cow and pig fat, was offensive to Hindu and Muslim soldiers. On 10 May, the sepoys at Meerut broke rank and turned on their commanding officers, killing them. They then reached Delhi on May 11, set the Company's toll house afire, and marched into the Red Fort, the residence of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II. They asked the emperor to become their leader and reclaim his throne. He was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed and was proclaimed Shehenshah-e-Hindustan by the rebels.
Soon, the revolt spread throughout northern India. Revolts broke out in places like Meerut, Jhansi, Kanpur, Lucknow etc. The British were slow to respond, but eventually responded with brute force. British moved regiments from the Crimean War and diverted European regiments headed for China to India. The British fought the main army of the rebels near Delhi in Badl-ke-Serai and drove them back to Delhi before laying siege on the city. The siege of Delhi lasted roughly from 1 July to 31 August. After a week of street fighting, the British retook the city. The last significant battle was fought in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. It was during this battle that Rani Lakshmi Bai was killed. Sporadic fighting continued until 1859 but most of the rebels were subdued. Some notable leaders were Maulavi Ahmedullah Shah, an advisor of the ex-King of Oudh; Nana Sahib; his nephew Rao Sahib and his retainers, Tantia Tope and Azimullah Khan; the Rani of Jhansi; Kunwar Singh; the Rajput chief of Jagadishpur in Bihar; Firuz Saha, a relative of the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah and Pran Sukh Yadav who along with Rao Tula Ram of Rewari fought with the British at Nasibpur, Haryana.
The war of 1857 was a major turning point in the history of modern India. The British abolished the British East India Company and replaced it with direct rule under the British crown. A Viceroy was appointed to represent the Crown. In proclaiming the new direct-rule policy to "the Princes, Chiefs, and Peoples of India," Queen Victoria promised equal treatment under British law, but Indian mistrust of British rule had become a legacy of the 1857 rebellion.
The British embarked on a program in India of reform and political restructuring, trying to integrate Indian higher castes and rulers into the government. They stopped land grabs, decreed religious tolerance and admitted Indians into the civil service, albeit mainly as subordinates. They also increased the number of British soldiers in relation to native ones and allowed only British soldiers to handle artillery. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon, Burma where he died in 1862, finally bringing the Mughal dynasty to an end. In 1877, Queen Victoria took the title of Empress of India.'
The decades following the Sepoy Rebellion were a period of growing political awareness, manifestation of Indian public opinion and emergence of Indian leadership at national and provincial levels. Dadabhai Naoroji formed East India Association in 1867, and Surendranath Banerjee founded Indian National Association in 1876. Inspired by a suggestion made by A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant, seventy-three Indian delegates met in Mumbai in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress. They were mostly members of the upwardly mobile and successful western-educated provincial elites, engaged in professions such as law, teaching, and journalism. At its inception, the Congress had no well-defined ideology and commanded few of the resources essential to a political organization. It functioned more as a debating society that met annually to express its loyalty to the British Raj and passed numerous resolutions on less controversial issues such as civil rights or opportunities in government, especially the civil service. These resolutions were submitted to the Viceroy's government and occasionally to the British Parliament, but the Congress's early gains were meagre. Despite its claim to represent all India, the Congress voiced the interests of urban elites; the number of participants from other economic backgrounds remained negligible.
The influences of socio-religious groups such as Arya Samaj (started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati) and Brahmo Samaj (founded, amongst others, by Raja Ram Mohan Roy) became evident in pioneering reform of Indian society. The inculcation of religious reform and social pride was fundamental to the rise of a public movement for complete nationhood. The work of men like Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Sri Aurobindo, Subramanya Bharathy, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Rabindranath Tagore and Dadabhai Naoroji spread the passion for rejuvenation and freedom.
By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization, its achievement was undermined by its singular failure to attract Muslims, who felt that their representation in government service was inadequate. Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow slaughter, and the preservation of Urdu in Arabic script deepened their concerns of minority status and denial of rights if the Congress alone were to represent the people of India. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1920 not in 1921). Its objective was to educate wealthy students by emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern western knowledge. The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration.
The first spurts of nationalistic sentiment that rose amongst Congress members were when the desire to be represented in the bodies of government, to have a say, a vote in the lawmaking and issues of administration of India. Congressmen saw themselves as loyalists, but wanted an active role in governing their own country, albeit as part of the Empire. This trend was personified by Dadabhai Naoroji, who went as far as contesting, successfully, an election to the British House of Commons, becoming its first Indian member.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first Indian nationalist to embrace Swaraj as the destiny of the nation. Tilak deeply opposed the British education system that ignored and defamed India's culture, history and values. He resented the denial of freedom of expression for nationalists, and the lack of any voice or role for ordinary Indians in the affairs of their nation. For these reasons, he considered Swaraj as the natural and only solution. His popular sentence "Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it" became the source of inspiration for Indians.
In 1907, the Congress was split into two. Tilak advocated what was deemed as extremism. He wanted a direct assault by the people upon the British Raj, and the abandonment of all things British. He was backed by rising public leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, who held the same point of view. Under them, India's three great states - Maharashtra, Bengal and Punjab shaped the demand of the people and India's nationalism. Gokhale criticized Tilak for encouraging acts of violence and disorder. But the Congress of 1906 did not have public membership, and thus Tilak and his supporters were forced to leave the party.
But with Tilak's arrest, all hopes for an Indian offensive were stalled. The Congress lost credit with the people, A Muslim deputation met with the Viceroy, Minto (1905–10), seeking concessions from the impending constitutional reforms, including special considerations in government service and electorates. The British recognised some of Muslim League's petitions by increasing the number of elective offices reserved for Muslims in the Government of India Act 1909. The Muslim League insisted on its separateness from the Hindu-dominated Congress, as the voice of a "nation within a nation."
In 1905, Curzon, the Viceroy and Governor-General (1899–1905), ordered the partition of the province of Bengal for improvements in administrative efficiency in that huge and populous region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The partition outraged Bengalis. Not only had the government failed to consult Indian public opinion, but the action appeared to reflect the British resolve to divide and rule. Widespread agitation ensued in the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British products under the banner of swadeshi. People showed unity by tying Rakhi on each other's wrists and observing Arandhan (not cooking any food).
During the partition of Bengal new methods of struggle were adopted. These led to swadeshi and boycott movements. The Congress-led boycott of British goods was so successful that it unleashed anti-British forces to an extent unknown since the Sepoy Rebellion. A cycle of violence and repression ensued in some parts of the country (see Alipore bomb case). The British tried to mitigate the situation by announcing a series of constitutional reforms in 1909 and by appointing a few moderates to the imperial and provincial councils. In what the British saw as an additional goodwill gesture, in 1911 King-Emperor George V visited India for a durbar (a traditional court held for subjects to express fealty to their ruler), during which he announced the reversal of the partition of Bengal and the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to a newly planned city to be built immediately south of Delhi, which later became New Delhi. However, ceremony of transfer on 23 December 1912 was marked by the attempt to assassinate the then Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, in what came to be known as the Delhi-Lahore conspiracy.
World War I began with an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill towards the United Kingdom from within the mainstream political leadership, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt. India contributed massively to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. However, Bengal and Punjab remained hotbeds of anti colonial activities. Nationalism in Bengal, increasingly closely linked with the unrests in Punjab, was significant enough to nearly paralyse the regional administration. Also from the beginning of the war, expatriate Indian population, notably from United States, Canada, and Germany, headed by the Berlin Committee and the Ghadar Party, attempted to trigger insurrections in India on the lines of the 1857 uprising with Irish Republican, German and Turkish help in a massive conspiracy that has since come to be called the Hindu-German Conspiracy This conspiracy also attempted to rally Afghanistan against British India. A number of failed attempts were made at mutiny, of which the February mutiny plan and the Singapore mutiny remains most notable. This movement was suppressed by means of a massive international counter-intelligence operation and draconian political acts (including the Defence of India act 1915) that lasted nearly ten years.
In the aftermath of the World War I, high casualty rates, soaring inflation compounded by heavy taxation, a widespread influenza epidemic, and the disruption of trade during the war escalated human suffering in India. The Indian soldiers smuggled arms into India to overthrow the British rule. The pre-war nationalist movement revived as moderate and extremist groups within the Congress submerged their differences in order to stand as a unified front. In 1916, the Congress succeeded in forging the Lucknow Pact, a temporary alliance with the Muslim League over the issues of devolution of political power and the future of Islam in the region.
The British themselves adopted a "carrot and stick" approach in recognition of India's support during the war and in response to renewed nationalist demands. In August 1917, Edwin Montagu, the secretary of state for India, made the historic announcement in Parliament that the British policy for India was "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." The means of achieving the proposed measure were later enshrined in the Government of India Act 1919, which introduced the principle of a dual mode of administration, or diarchy, in which both elected Indian legislators and appointed British officials shared power. The act also expanded the central and provincial legislatures and widened the franchise considerably. Diarchy set in motion certain real changes at the provincial level: a number of non-controversial or "transferred" portfolios, such as agriculture, local government, health, education, and public works, were handed over to Indians, while more sensitive matters such as finance, taxation, and maintaining law and order were retained by the provincial British administrators.
Mohandas Gandhi (also known as Mahatma Gandhi), had been a prominent leader of the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, and had been a vocal opponent of basic discrimination and abusive labour treatment as well as suppressive police control such as the Rowlatt Acts. During these protests, Gandhi had perfected the concept of satyagraha, which had been inspired by the philosophy of Baba Ram Singh (famous for leading the Kuka Movement in the Punjab in 1872). The end of the protests in South Africa saw oppressive legislation repealed and the release of political prisoners by General Jan Smuts, head of the South African Government of the time.
Gandhi, a stranger to India and its politics after twenty years, had initially entered the fray not with calls for a nation-state, but in support of the unified commerce-oriented territory that the Congress Party had been asking for. Gandhi believed that the industrial development and educational development that the Europeans had brought with them were required to alleviate many of India's problems. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a veteran Congressman and Indian leader, became Gandhi's mentor. Gandhi's ideas and strategies of non-violent civil disobedience initially appeared impractical to some Indians and Congressmen. In Gandhi's own words, "civil disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments." It had to be carried out non-violently by withdrawing cooperation with the corrupt state. Gandhi's ability to inspire millions of common people became clear when he used satyagraha during the anti-Rowlatt Act protests in Punjab.
Gandhi’s vision would soon bring millions of regular Indians into the movement, transforming it from an elitist struggle to a national one. The nationalist cause was expanded to include the interests and industries that formed the economy of common Indians. For example, in Champaran, Bihar, the Congress Party championed the plight of desperately poor sharecroppers and landless farmers who were being forced to pay oppressive taxes and grow cash crops at the expense of the subsistence crops which formed their food supply. The profits from the crops they grew were insufficient to provide for their sustenance.
The positive impact of reform was seriously undermined in 1919 by the Rowlatt Act, named after the recommendations made the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council by the Rowlatt Commission, which had been appointed to investigate what was termed the "seditious conspiracy" and the German and Bolshevik involvement in the millitant movements in India. The Rowlatt Act, also known as the Black Act, vested the Viceroy's government with extraordinary powers to quell sedition by silencing the press, detaining the political activists without trial, and arresting any individuals suspected of sedition or treason without a warrant. In protest, a nationwide cessation of work (hartal) was called, marking the beginning of widespread, although not nationwide, popular discontent. The agitation unleashed by the acts culminated on 13 April 1919, in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (also known as the Amritsar Massacre) in Amritsar, Punjab. The British military commander, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, blocked the main entrance, and ordered his soldiers to fire into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 5,000 men, women and children. They had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled in courtyard in defiance of the ban. A total of 1,651 rounds were fired, killing 379 people (as according to an official British commission; Indian estimates ranged as high as 1,499) and wounding 1,137 in the episode, which dispelled wartime hopes of home rule and goodwill in a frenzy of post-war reaction.
It can be argued that the independence movement, even towards the end of First World War, was far removed from the masses of India, focusing essentially on a unified commerce-oriented territory and hardly a call for a united nation. That came in the 1930s with the entry of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi into Indian Politics in 1915.
The first satyagraha movement urged the use of Khadi and Indian material as alternatives to those shipped from Britain. It also urged people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts; resign from government employment; refuse to pay taxes; and forsake British titles and honours. Although this came too late to influence the framing of the new Government of India Act of 1919, the movement enjoyed widespread popular support, and the resulting unparalleled magnitude of disorder presented a serious challenge to foreign rule. However, Gandhi called off the movement following the Chauri Chaura incident, which saw the death of twenty-two policemen at the hands of an angry mob.
In 1920, the Congress was reorganized and given a new constitution, whose goal was Swaraj (independence). Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee, and a hierarchy of committees was established and made responsible for discipline and control over a hitherto amorphous and diffuse movement. The party was transformed from an elite organization to one of mass national appeal and participation.
Gandhi was sentenced in 1922 to six years of prison, but was released after serving two. On his release from prison, he set up the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, on the banks of river Sabarmati, established the newspaper Young India, and inaugurated a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society — the rural poor, and the untouchables.
This era saw the emergence of new generation of Indians from within the Congress Party, including C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and others- who would later on come to form the prominent voices of the Indian independence movement, whether keeping with Gandhian Values, or diverging from it.
The Indian political spectrum was further broadened in the mid-1920s by the emergence of both moderate and militant parties, such as the Swaraj Party, Hindu Mahasabha, Communist Party of India and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Regional political organizations also continued to represent the interests of non-Brahmins in Madras, Mahars in Maharashtra, and Sikhs in Punjab. However, people like Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathi, Vanchinathan and Neelakanda Brahmachari played a major role from Tamil Nadu in both freedom struggle and fighting for equality for all castes and communities.
Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by Indians, an all-party conference was held at Bombay in May 1928. This was meant to instill a sense of resistance among people. The conference appointed a drafting committee under Motilal Nehru to draw up a constitution for India. The Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress asked the British government to accord dominion status to India by December 1929, or a countrywide civil disobedience movement would be launched. By 1929, however, in the midst of rising political discontent and increasingly violent regional movements, the call for complete independence from Britain began to find increasing grounds within the Congress leadership. Under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru at its historic Lahore session in December 1929, The Indian National Congress adopted a resolution calling for complete independence from the British. It authorised the Working Committee to launch a civil disobedience movement throughout the country. It was decided that 26 January 1930 should be observed all over India as the Purna Swaraj (total independence) Day. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries of a wide spectrum united to observe the day with honour and pride.
Gandhi emerged from his long seclusion by undertaking his most famous campaign, a march of about 400 kilometres from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat between 12 March and 6 April 1930. The march is usually known as the Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha. At Dandi, in protest against British taxes on salt, he and thousands of followers broke the law by making their own salt from seawater.
In April 1930 there were violent police-crowd clashes in Calcutta. Approximately 100,000 people were imprisoned in the course of the Civil disobedience movement (1930–31), while in Peshawar unarmed demonstrators were fired upon in the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre. The latter event catapulted the then newly formed Khudai Khidmatgar movement (founder Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi) onto the National scene. While Gandhi was in jail, the first Round Table Conference was held in London in November 1930, without representation from the Indian National Congress. The ban upon the Congress was removed because of economic hardships caused by the satyagraha. Gandhi, along with other members of the Congress Working Committee, was released from prison in January 1931.
In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free (Although, some of the key revolutionaries were not set free and the death sentence for Bhagat Singh and his two comrades was not taken back which further intensified the agitation against Congress not only outside it but with in the Congress itself). In return, Gandhi agreed to discontinue the civil disobedience movement and participate as the sole representative of the Congress in the second Round Table Conference, which was held in London in September 1931. However, the conference ended in failure in December 1931. Gandhi returned to India and decided to resume the civil disobedience movement in January 1932.
For the next few years, the Congress and the government were locked in conflict and negotiations until what became the Government of India Act of 1935 could be hammered out. By then, the rift between the Congress and the Muslim League had become unbridgeable as each pointed the finger at the other acrimoniously. The Muslim League disputed the claim of the Congress to represent all people of India, while the Congress disputed the Muslim League's claim to voice the aspirations of all Muslims.
The Government of India Act 1935, the voluminous and final constitutional effort at governing British India, articulated three major goals: establishing a loose federal structure, achieving provincial autonomy, and safeguarding minority interests through separate electorates. The federal provisions, intended to unite princely states and British India at the centre, were not implemented because of ambiguities in safeguarding the existing privileges of princes. In February 1937, however, provincial autonomy became a reality when elections were held; the Congress emerged as the dominant party with a clear majority in five provinces and held an upper hand in two, while the Muslim League performed poorly.
In 1939, the Viceroy Linlithgow declared India's entrance into World War II without consulting provincial governments. In protest, the Congress asked all of its elected representatives to resign from the government. Jinnah, the president of the Muslim League, persuaded participants at the annual Muslim League session at Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Lahore Resolution, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu; sometimes referred to as Two Nation Theory. Although the idea of Pakistan had been introduced as early as 1930, very few had responded to it. However, the volatile political climate and hostilities between the Hindus and Muslims transformed the idea of Pakistan into a stronger demand.
Apart from a few stray incidents, the armed rebellion against the British rulers was not organized before the beginning of the 20th century. The Indian revolutionary underground began gathering momentum through the first decade of 1900s, with groups arising in Maharastra, Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and the then Madras Presidency including what is now called South India. More groups were scattered around India. Particularly notable movements arose in Bengal, especially around the Partition of Bengal in 1905, and in Punjab. In the former case, it was the educated, intelligent and dedicated youth of the urban Middle Class Bhadralok community that came to form the "Classic" Indian revolutionary, while the latter had an immense support base in the rural and Military society of the Punjab. Organisations like Jugantar and Anushilan Samiti had emerged in the 1900s. The revolutionary philosophies and movement made their presence felt during the 1905 Partition of Bengal. Arguably, the initial steps to organize the revolutionaries were taken by Aurobindo Ghosh, his brother Barin Ghosh, Bhupendranath Datta etc. when they formed the Jugantar party in April 1906. Jugantar was created as an inner circle of the Anushilan Samiti which was already present in Bengal mainly as a revolutionary society in the guise of a fitness club.
The Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar opened several branches throughout Bengal and other parts of India and recruited young men and women to participate in the revolutionary activities. Several murders and looting were done, with many revolutionaries being captured and imprisoned. The Jugantar party leaders like Barin Ghosh and Bagha Jatin initiated making of explosives. Amongst a number of notable events of political terrorism were the Alipore bomb case, the Muzaffarpur killing tried several activists and many were sentenced to deportation for life, while Khudiram Bose was hanged. The founding of the India House and the The Indian Sociologist under Shyamji Krishna Varma in London in 1905 took the radical movement to Britain itself. On 1 July 1909, Madan Lal Dhingra, an Indian student closely identified with India House in London shot dead William Hutt Curzon Wylie, a British M.P. in London. 1912 saw the Delhi-Lahore Conspiracy planned under Rash Behari Bose, an erstwhile Jugantar member, to assassinate the then Viceroy of India Charles Hardinge. The conspiracy culminated in an attempt to Bomb the Viceregal procession on 23 December 1912, on the occasion of transferring the Imperial Capital from Calcutta to Delhi. In the aftermath of this event, concentrated police and intelligence efforts were made by the British Indian police to destroy the Bengali and Punabi revolutionary underground, which came under intense pressure for sometime. Rash Behari successfully evaded capture for nearly three years. However, by the time that World War I opened in Europe, the revolutionary movement in Bengal (and Punjab) had revived and was strong enough to nearly paralyse the local administration.
The Ghadar Party operated from abroad and cooperated with the revolutionaries in India. This party was instrumental in helping revolutionaries inside India catch hold of foreign arms.
After the First World War, the revolutionary activities began to slowly wane as it suffered major setbacks due to the arrest of prominent leaders. In the 1920s, some revolutionary activists began to reorganize. Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was formed under the leadership of Chandrasekhar Azad. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929 protesting against the passage of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill. Following the trial (Central Assembly Bomb Case), Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged in 1931. Allama Mashriqi founded Khaksar Tehreek in order to direct particularly the Muslims towards the independence movement.
Surya Sen, along with other activists, raided the Chittagong armoury on 18 April 1930 to capture arms and ammunition and to destroy government communication system to establish a local governance. Pritilata Waddedar led an attack on a European club in Chittagong in 1932, while Bina Das attempted to assassinate Stanley Jackson, the Governor of Bengal inside the convocation hall of Calcutta University. Following the Chittagong armoury raid case, Surya Sen was hanged and several others were deported for life to the Cellular Jail in Andaman. The Bengal Volunteers started operating in 1928. On 8 December 1930, the Benoy-Badal-Dinesh trio of the party entered the secretariat Writers' Building in Kolkata and murdered Col. N. S. Simpson, the Inspector General of Prisons.
On 13 March 1940, Udham Singh shot Michael O'Dwyer, generally held responsible for the Amritsar Massacre, in London. However, as the political scenario changed in the late 1930s — with the mainstream leaders considering several options offered by the British and with religious politics coming into play — revolutionary activities gradually declined. Many past revolutionaries joined mainstream politics by joining Congress and other parties, especially communist ones, while many of the activists were kept under hold in different jails across the country.
Indians throughout the country were divided over World War II, as Linlithgow, without consulting the Indian representatives had unilaterally declared India a belligerent on the side of the allies. In opposition to Linlithgow's action, the entire Congress leadership resigned from the local government councils. However, many wanted to support the British war effort, and indeed the British Indian Army was one of the largest volunteer forces, numbering 205,000 men during the war. Especially during the Battle of Britain, Gandhi resisted calls for massive civil disobedience movements that came from within as well as outside his party, stating he did not seek India's freedom out of the ashes of a destroyed Britain. However, like the changing fortunes of the war itself, the movement for freedom saw the rise of two movements that formed the climax of the 100-year struggle for independence.
The first of these, the Azad Hind movement led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, saw its inception early in the war and sought help from the Axis Powers. The second saw its inception in August 1942 led by Gandhi and began following failure of the Cripps' mission to reach a consensus with the Indian political leadership over the transfer of power after the war.
The arbitrary entry of India into the war was strongly opposed by Subhash Chandra Bose, who had been elected President of the Congress twice, in 1937 and 1939. After lobbying against participation in the war, he resigned from Congress in 1939 and started a new party, the All India Forward Bloc. When war broke out, the Raj had put him under house arrest in Calcutta in 1940. However, at the time the war was at its bloodiest in Europe and Asia, he escaped and made his way through Afghanistan to Germany to seek Axis help to raise an army to fight the shackles of the Raj. Here, he raised with Rommel's Indian POWs what came to be known as the Free India Legion. This came to be the conceptualisation in embryonic form of Bose's dream of raising a liberation Army to fight the Raj. However, the turn of tides in the Battlefields of Europe saw Bose make his way ultimately to Japanese South Asia where he formed what came to be known as the Azad Hind Government as the Provisional Free Indian Government in exile, and organized the Indian National Army with Indian POWs and Indian expatriates at South-East Asia, with the help of the Japanese. Its aim was to reach India as a fighting force that would build on public resentment to inspire revolts among Indian soldiers to defeat the Raj.
The INA was to see action against the allies, including the British Indian Army, in the forests of in Arakan, Burma and Assam, laying siege on Imphal and Kohima with the Japanese 15th Army. During the war, the Andaman and Nicobar islands were captured by the Japanese and handed over by them to the INA; Bose renamed them Shahid (Martyr) and Swaraj (Independence).
The INA would ultimately fail, owing to disrupted logistics, poor arms and supplies from the Japanese, and lack of support and training.  The supposed death of Bose is seen as culmination of the entire Azad Hind Movement. Following the surrender of Japan, the troops of the INA were brought to India and a number of them charged with treason. However, Bose's audacious actions and radical initiative had by this time captured the public imagination and also turned the inclination of the native soldiers of the British Indian Forces from one of loyalty to the crown to support for the soldiers that the Raj deemed as collaborators.
After the war, the stories of the Azad Hind movement and its army that came into public limelight during the trials of soldiers of the INA in 1945 were seen as so inflammatory that, fearing mass revolts and uprisings — not just in India, but across its empire — the British Government forbade the BBC from broadcasting their story. Newspapers reported the summary execution of INA soldiers held at Red Fort. During and after the trial, mutinies broke out in the British Indian Armed forces, most notably in the Royal Indian Navy which found public support throughout India, from Karachi to Mumbai and from Vizag to Kolkata. Many historians have argued that it was the INA and the mutinies it inspired among the British Indian Armed forces that were the true driving force behind India's final independence.
The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan) or the August Movement was a civil disobedience movement in India launched in August 1942 in response to Gandhi's call for immediate independence of India and against sending Indians to the World War II.
At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September 1939, passed a resolution conditionally supporting the fight against fascism, but were rebuffed when they asked for independence in return. In March 1942, faced with an increasingly dissatisfied sub-continent only reluctantly participating in the war, and deteriorations in the war situation in Europe and South East Asia, and with growing dissatisfactions among Indian troops- especially in Europe- and among the civilian population in the sub-continent, the British government sent a delegation to India under Stafford Cripps, in what came to be known as the Cripps' Mission. The purpose of the mission was to negotiate with the Indian National Congress a deal to obtain total co-operation during the war, in return of progressive devolution and distribution of power from the crown and the Viceroy to elected Indian legislature. However, the talks failed, having failed to address the key demand of a timeframe towards self-government, and of definition of the powers to be relinquished, essentially portraying an offer of limited dominion-status that was wholly unacceptable to the Indian movement. To force the Raj to meet its demands and to obtain definitive word on total independence, the Congress took the decision to launch the Quit India Movement.
The aim of the movement was to bring the British Government to the negotiating table by holding the Allied War Effort hostage. The call for determined but passive resistance that signified the certitude that Gandhi foresaw for the movement is best described by his call to Do or Die, issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay, since re-named August Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Ground). However, almost the entire Congress leadership, and not merely at the national level, was put into confinement less than twenty-four hours after Gandhi's speech, and the greater number of the Congress khiland were to spend the rest of the war in jail.
On 8 August 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, a massive Civil Disobedience would be launched. However, it was an extremely controversial decision. At Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, Gandhi urged Indians to follow a non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi told the masses to act as an independent nation and not to follow the orders of the British. The British, already alarmed by the advance of the Japanese army to the India–Burma border, responded the next day by imprisoning Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. The Congress Party's Working Committee, or national leadership was arrested all together and imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Fort. They also banned the party altogether. Large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. The movement also saw widespread acts of sabotage, Indian under-ground organisation carried out bomb attacks on allied supply convoys, government buildings were set on fire, electricity lines were disconnected and transport and communication lines were severed. The Congress had lesser success in rallying other political forces, including the Muslim League under a single mast and movement. It did however, obtain passive support from a substantial Muslim population at the peak of the movemet.The movement soon became a leaderless act of defiance, with a number of acts that deviated from Gandhi's principle of non-violence. In large parts of the country, the local underground organisations took over the movement. However, by 1943, Quit India had petered out.
The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny (the RIN Mutiny or the Bombay Mutiny) encompasses a total strike and subsequent mutiny by the Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments at Mumbai (Bombay) harbour on 18 February 1946. From the initial flashpoint in Mumbai, the mutiny spread and found support through India, from Karachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.
The RIN Mutiny started as a strike by ratings of the Royal Indian Navy on the 18th February in protest against general conditions. The immediate issues of the mutiny were conditions and food, but there were more fundamental matters such as racist behaviour by British officers of the Royal Navy personnel towards Indian sailors, and disciplinary measures being taken against anyone demonstrating pro-nationalist sympathies. By dusk on 19 February, a Naval Central Strike committee was elected. Leading Signalman M.S Khan and Petty Officer Telegraphist Madan Singh were unanimously elected President and Vice-President respectively.. The strike found immense support among the Indian population already in grips with the stories of the Indian National Army. The actions of the mutineers were supported by demonstrations which included a one-day general strike in Mumbai, called by the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma. The strike spread to other cities, and was joined by the Air Force and local police forces. Naval officers and men began calling themselves the Indian National Navy and offered left-handed salutes to British officers. At some places, NCOs in the British Indian Army ignored and defied orders from British superiors. In Chennai and Pune, the British garrisons had to face revolts within the ranks of the British Indian Army. Widespread rioting took place from Karachi to Calcutta. Famously the ships hoisted three flags tied together — those of the Congress, Muslim League, and the Red Flag of the Communist Party of India (CPI), signifying the unity and demarginalisation of communal issues among the mutineers.
The true judgment of contributions of each of these individual events and revolts to India’s eventual independence, and the relative success or failure of each, remains open to historians. Some historians claim that the Quit India Movement was ultimately a failure and ascribe more to the destabilisation of the pillar of British power in India the British Indian Armed forces. Certainly the British Prime Minister at the time of Independence, Clement Attlee, deemed the contribution of Quit India as minimal, ascribing stupendous importance to the revolts and growing dissatisfaction among Royal Indian Armed Forces as the driving force behind the Raj’s decision to leave India Some Indian historians, however, argue that, in fact, it was Quit India that succeeded. In support of the latter view, without doubt, the war had sapped a lot of the economic, political and military life-blood of the Empire, and the powerful Indian resistance had shattered the spirit and will of the British government. However, such historians effectively ignore the contributions of the radical movements to transfer of power in 1947. Regardless of whether it was the powerful common call for resistance among Indians that shattered the spirit and will of the British Raj to continue ruling India, or whether it was the ferment of rebellion and resentment among the British Indian Armed Forces what is beyond doubt, is that a population of millions had been motivated as it never had been before to say ultimately that independence was a non-negotiable goal, and every act of defiance and rebel only stoked this fire. In addition, the British people and the British Army seemed unwilling to back a policy of repression in India and other parts of the Empire even as their own country was recovering from war.
On 3 June 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General of India, announced the partitioning of the British Indian Empire into a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan. On 14 August 1947, Pakistan was declared a separate nation from them. At midnight, on 15 August 1947, India became an independent nation. Violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims followed. Prime Minister Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel invited Mountbatten to continue as Governor General of India. He was replaced in June 1948 by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. Patel took on the responsibility of unifying 565 princely states, steering efforts by his “iron fist in a velvet glove” policies, exemplified by the use of military force to integrate Junagadh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Hyderabad state (Operation Polo) into India.
The Constituent Assembly completed the work of drafting the constitution on 26 November 1949; on 26 January 1950 the Republic of India was officially proclaimed. The Constituent Assembly elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India, taking over from Governor General Rajgopalachari. Subsequently, a free and sovereign India absorbed three other territories: Goa (from Portuguese control in 1961), Pondicherry (which the French ceded in 1953–1954) and Sikkim which was absorbed in 1975. In 1952, India held its first general elections, with a voter turnout exceeding 62%.
The Government of India had hoped, by prosecuting members of the INA, to reinforce the morale of the Indian army. It succeeded only in creating unease, in making the soldiers feel slightly ashamed that they themselves had supported the British. If Bose and his men had been on the right side — and all India now confirmed that they were — then Indians in the Indian army must have been on the wrong side. It slowly dawned upon the Government of India that the backbone of the British rule, the Indian army, might now no longer be trustworthy. The ghost of Subhas Bose, like Hamlet’s father, walked the battlements of the Red Fort (where the INA soldiers were being tried), and his suddenly amplified figure overawed the conference that was to lead to independence.