India 1914-20 (2a.1)

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The Lucknow Pact 1916

- Agreement reached between the Muslim League and Congress.

- Muslims are promised a fixed proportion of seats in an Indian parliament and extra seats in areas where they were in a minority.

- An example of Hindu-Muslim rapproachment.

- However, some historians (such as Judith M. Brown) feel that the agreement was never between the INC and the whole Muslim community because at this time the Muslim League only had between 500-800 members and the negotiations had largely been carried out by United Provinces 'Young Party' Muslims.  

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The Montagu Declaration 1917

- 20thAugust 1917.

- Edwin Montagu, secretary of state for India, made a speech to the House of Commons stating that India should have more self-government. However, there was no timescale for this process of self-government which showed that the British were in no hurry to completely let go of India. However it did commit Britain to granting some form of self-government to India.

- After making the declaration, Montagu made a tour of India from November 1917 to May 1918 to get an idea as to the attitudes and opinions of the Indians.

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The Rowlatt Acts March 1919

- The British moved quickly to renew the powers they had gained during the war owing to the Defence of India Act 1915. Most Indians had expected the Act to have been repealed in early 1919.

- They passed the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act (more commonly known as the Rowlatt Act after the Scottish Judge who created it).

- Powers: imprisonment without trial, trial by judges sitting without a jury, censorship and house arrest of suspects.

- Montagu was reluctant to sanction the Act.

- Jinnah resigned from the Indian Legislative Council and wrote a furious letter to viceroy Chelmsford.

- The Act was repealed in 1922 but the damage had been done.

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Response to the Rowlatt Act

- Opposition to the Rowlatt Act flared up throughout India, nowhere more fiercely than in the Pubjab, and especially in Amritsar.

- Hartals (a stoppage of work, usually accompanied by a lock-out) were organised for the 30th March and the 6th April 1919 and this was a clear display of Hindu-Muslim solidarity.

- However, rioting was triggered following the arrest of the two organisers, Dr Kitchlew and Dr Pal - this was initially in support of them but it turned into a general anti-Raj protest. Banks were stormed, buildings fired at and three Europeans were killed.

- A mission doctor, Marcia Sherwood was cruelly beaten in the street but she was saved and treated by Hindus.

By the 11th of April, 100 terrified and exhausted European women had taken refuge in the Gobindgarh Fort - the British had lost control of Amritsar.

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The Amritsar Massacre (April 13th) 1919

- The governor of the Punjab, Michael O'Dwyer, was convinced that this rioting in Amritsar was the beginnings of an uprising and he summonded General Rex Dyer for help.

- General Dyer led a force of 1000 soldiers (one third of whom were British) into Amritsar of the 12th of April. The soldiers were jeered in the streets and this along with the information that there had been similar rioting in the other cities of the Punjab (e.g Lahore) convinced Dyer that an uprising was imminent.

- The 13th of April was Baisakhi Day (the beginning of one of the most important religious festivals in the Punjab) and hundreds of worshippers converged on the Jallianwala Bagh (a large park close to the Golden Temple).

- Jallianwala Bagh was surrounded by high walls and had four exits. Dyer entered through one of these exits effectively blocking it off. Meaning only three exits remained which Dyer also blocked with his troops. With no word of warning –as Dyer felt his proclamations around the city were warning enough- he opened fire at the crowds.  He ordered the troops to ‘aim at the thickest part of the crowd’, injuring 1,500 and leaving 400 dead. The troops left immediately, leaving the wounded to fend for themselves, calling out for hope and hoping other Indians would break the curfew to help them.

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After the Massacre

- Dyer then introduced martial law in Amritsar. This was specially designed to humiliate the Indians living there: any Indian who passed a European had to salaam, public floggings became commonplace and the worst punishment of all was the crawling order. Some feel that this aroused greater anger than the massacre itself (especially Hindus whose caste system was based on purity).

- Michael O’Dwyer, governor of Punjab, praised Dyer for his actions and he was also made an honorary Sikh. The news of the massacre spread through Britain and divided opinions. Winston Churchill condemned it as ‘a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation’. In Britain the House of Lords and House of Commons were also divided, unsure as to whether he was the hero of the Empire a villain.

- Lord Hunter, a Scottish judge, reported on the events in the Jallianwala Bagh. Dyer appeared to defend himself, but its conclusions were damning; he was strongly censured and forced to resign from the Indian Army. Whereas O’Dwyer was only gently reprimanded. Amongst the Indian subjects of the Raj the massacre aroused deep feelings of anger and resentment toward the British and their rule in India. 

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Significance of 1919 for British rule

- 1919 saw British rule in India suffer; as a result of the Rowlatt Acts and subsequent Amritsar Massacre the Indian nationalist movement gained support throughout India, with many previously loyal Indians turning their backs on their British rulers.

- The Government of India act was both positive and negative. It did give the Indian provincial councils more power, but through the diarchy system the British showed that they were not willing to fully let go of India. This angered many Indians as they had hoped for self-determination post-WW1.

- Overall, 1919 saw anti-British sentiments increase significantly, and paved the way for individuals such as Gandhi to oppose the British rule with the support of the Indian people.

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Home Rule Leagues 1916

- The two main Home Rule Leagues were mutually supportive of each other. Both set up in 1916. Bal Tilak’s Home Rule League operated in western India (mainly in Maharashtra and Karnataka) and quickly gained 32,000 members.

- Annie Besant (an English socialist and social reformer –appointed leader of Congress in 1917 till 1923, but lost nationalist support and was eclipsed by the campaigns of Gandhi) set up the All-India Home Rule League, which grew more slowly than Tilak’s but soon had a network of communities that covered most of India. Home Rule was not separation from Britain, but focused on domestic affairs, leaving the defence and foreign policy matters to Britain. Besant and Tilak travelled widely, giving public lectures. They used newspapers, rallies, pamphlets and even songs so generate interest in home rule. They were members of each other’s organisations. Many members of Congress and the ML joined - Jinnah joined Besant’s All-India Home Rule League in 1917.  

Petitions demanding home rule (and other concessions) were signed by thousands of Indians and presented to the British authorities. The most important impact of the HRLs was that they spread political awareness, even to the most rural and previously unpoliticised areas of India –Gandhi would later build on this with his approach of satyagraha which was popular with those living in rural areas. The provincial assemblies and the Raj were alarmed by the growth of the HRLs and Tilak was arrested for sedition and was required to put up 40,000 rupees as a surety of good behaviour. Besant was interned in June 1917. However, both the INC and ML swung behind Home Rule.

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