The Indian National Congress

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  • Created on: 29-04-16 11:54

The Raj

  • British Crown took over rule in India in 1858, Parliament's involvement in Indian affairs increased
  • The governance of India was reviewed 
  • British Parliament passed a total of 196 Acts concerning India between 1858 and 1947
  • The government of the Raj consisted entirely of British officials and was headed by the viceroy and the appointed members of his council
  • Indian Councils Act was passed in 1861 this council acted as a cabinet and also as part of an imperial legislative council
  • There were a small number of Indian council members who were part of the local elite, appointed solely for consultative purposes councils remained merely advisory
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Government of the Raj

Empress of India

British rule over India was reinforced when in 1876 Parliament passed the Royal Titles Act, which formally presented Queen Victoria with the title of Empress of India.

Indian electors

The 1909 Act allowed a small number of Indians to be elected to both the imperial legislative council and the provincial legislative councils by small groups of Indian electors

Representatives of specific religious and social groups, such as Muslims or landowners were elected, the governor was in no way responsible to these elected representatives. 

There was a wide-scale of dissatisfaction with British rule. But it was events after the First World War that caused a crisis for the Raj.

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The Indian National Congress 1885

·   Widely regarded as a key turning point in formalising opposition to the Raj

·  Was often dominated by factionalism and opposing political strategies.

·  Example were the 'pro-changers' (who believed working the constitutional structures to weaken it from within)

·  And 'no-changers' (who wanted to distance themselves from the Raj) during the 1920s

·  Split within Congress between those who believed that violence was a justifiable weapon in the fight against imperial oppression (Subhas Chandra Bose, who went on to form the Indian National Army                                 and those who stressed non-violence-Gandhi

·  Factionalism; groups of people formed around a leader who reject the status and actively work against established authority within a society, such as state institutions, political parties, economic interests

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Became dominant figure in Indian politics

introduced non-violent non-cooperation or 'satyagraha' (meaning 'truth' or 'soul' force')

Gandhi oversaw three major nationwide movements which achieved varying degrees of success in 1920-1922, 1930-1934 and in 1942.

These mobilised the masses on the one hand, while provoking the authorities into draconian repression.

Educated to university level and trained as a lawyer in London

‘satyagraha’ (‘devotion to truth')> This was a form of protest inspired by his Hindu religion which

used a combination of non-violent protest& moral pressure

lead protests against British rule using 'satyagraha’ methods

He transformed the Indian National Congress, using a programme of mass, but peaceful, non-cooperation with the British

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Reasons for independence

The British Raj unravelled quickly in the 1940s, perhaps surprising after the empire in the east had so recently survived its greatest challenge in the shape of Japanese expansionism

  • The pressure from the rising tide of nationalism made running the empire politically and economically very challenging
  • This pressure  in the activities of large pan-national organisations like the Congress, pressure - through the acts of peasant & tribal resistance, trade union strikes and individual acts of subversion and violence
  • Furthermore, with US (one of the superpowers) foreign policy pressurising the end of western subjugation and imperialism
  • The Labour party had a tradition of supporting Indian claims for self-rule

independence owed a great deal to World War Two and the demands it put on the British government and people.

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How did British rule in India work?

  • Population of India was very diverse : different races, religions, social classes,cultures who spoke different languages
  • British politicians portrayed British rule (the Raj) as an honest & fair authority
  • This kept the peace between the many different groups and made them believe they were all treated equally and fairly
  • In reality the British Raj was founded on a policy of ‘divide and rule’-were the means to achieve & keep power
  • End of the WW1 there were significant challenges to British rule- different Nationalist groups were leading for greater independence 
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  • Born into a wealthy Muslim family
  • Educated in England and then returned to India-practise as a lawyer in 1912
  • Joined the Indian National Congress in & was heavily influenced by Gandhi
  • Imprisoned alot by the British in 1920s &1930s for civil disobedience
  • Elected President of Congress in 1928 
  • Generally seen as Gandhi’s successor by 1945
  • Negotiated the final stages of Indian independence
  • Opposed the division of India into Muslim and Hindu states in 1947
  • 1947-became the 1st  prime minister of independent India
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Mohammed Ali Jinnah

  • Joined the Congress and then the Muslim League in 1913
  • Opposed Congress campaigns against British rule in 1920s resigned from the movement.
  • Jinnah feared that an independent India would be dominated by Hindus and would discriminate against Muslims
  • Always believed that Hindu–Muslim unity was possible
  • But reluctantly came to the view that partition was necessary to safeguard the rights of Indian Muslims.
  • His campaigns on behalf of Muslims led the British to partition India & create the state of Pakistan in August 1947
  • Jinnah became the first governor general of Pakistan
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The Amritsar Massacre

The 1919 Government of India Act outraged supporters of the Empire at home in Britain, it upset many members of Congress even more

  • Widespread protests, many of which resulted in violence
  • The British passed 'emergency measures', in order to control public unrest and root out conspiracy in India, the Rowlatt Act in 1919 

 Gandhi was extremely critical of these measures, more protests followed one of these demonstrations was in Amritsar 1919.

 British commander Dyer wanted to crush the demonstration and make an example for other protesters

He ordered his troops to open fire on the unarmed crowd around 400 protesters were killed (although some estimates put the numbers much higher)

The implications of this event were huge

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The protests continued for another 3 years.

Gandhi organised boycott of British rule, asking Indians to ignore British schools, courts, taxes and other institutions.

Gandhi’s protests made British rule look like a violent empire clinging on to land against the wishes of its people.

Gandhi also revolutionised Congress’s membership and organisation. 

He expanded the movement by recruiting local kisan or peasant organisations

The main disadvantage of this approach was that the movement became harder to control.

Gandhi called off the campaign in 1922 because many protests were leading to violence, often between Hindu and Muslim communities. 

The British Raj had survived this challenge.

Gandhi stepped back from political action and concentrated on social welfare projects for the poor.

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Government of India Act in 1935

  • Lord Willingdon clamped down on protesters w/ arrests + harsh treatment of protesters, including flogging with knotted ropes.
  • At the same time the British also tried to defuse some of the discontent w/political concessions
  • 1st 1919 Government of India Act -expand the participation of Indians in the Government of India
  • They introduced another Government of India Act in 1935. This gave India a federal system of government with a central government and eleven self-governing provinces.
  • Critics back in Britain were appalled by the new measures , Churchill (was viewed by Indians)  had a very low opinion of Indians and an obsessive determination to hold on to India. 
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Willingdon realised that India was changing

  • Its population was rising rapidly& most of this population was in big cities w/complex social problems.
  • Around 15% of the population were now literate, which meant they could read Nationalist Publications
  • The majority of government posts in India were now held by Indians, including around 90 percent of judges.
  • Indian-owned business & industry was developing rapidly+many of the new business owners supported Congress financially
  • India was becoming less important to Britain economically. E.G most of its textiles were now imported from Japan/made in India, rather than coming from Lancashire and Yorkshire.
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India 1930- independence

 Nehru made a detailed statement in January 1930 in which he condemned British rule and set out Congress’s programme for independence for India. 

The most famous protest was led by Gandhi:

Sea Salt- a widespread programme of protest and civil disobedience.

This was illegal in India as the government controlled salt making and made large amounts of money from it. 

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hindu vs muslim

  • 1939 Nehru demanded a commitment from Britain to independence after the war.The British did not give a clear commitment.
  • So Nehru ordered all of the Congress-controlled provincial governments to resign. But the Muslim League governments did not resign

Jinnah said disputes between Hindus and Muslims were not internal disputes within one nation They were disputes between two separate nations – Hindus and Muslims

  • Jinnah’s Declaration was a massive blow to Nehru
  • Congress could no longer claim to represent all Indians. It also meant there were fewer Indians to call on to make their protests work.

Nehru started another campaign of civil disobedience in October 1940 after the British made an offer in August to involve more Indians in running the war effort through a War Advisory Council.

It was a half-hearted attempt to involve the Nationalist leaders and Nehru rejected it.

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japan's attack 1941–42

 Japan’s armies swept aside British forces in Asia

These disasters for the British undermined British rule in India in three main ways:

• It destroyed the myth that Europeans were superior to Asians and could not be defeated by them.

•   The Raj lost another of its main justifications for ruling India – that British rule protected India

  • The British suffered disastrous losses at sea + defeats on land
  • By mid-1942 it was the US Navy which was defending India rather than the Royal Navy.

• Congress and other Nationalist leaders began to see that a Japanese victory over Britain might give them independence 

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pressure from USA

 1941–42: Roosevelt admired the British people but he disliked the idea of empires and colonies

Roosevelt made public speeches that the USA was fighting to end imperialism.


In these difficult times Churchill was forced to bow to pressure from President Roosevelt+ from the Labour ministers in his own government.

He reluctantly agreed to a declaration that after the war an elected body would work out a new constitution to put power in Indian hand.

  • Sets of proposals on 30 March 1942 was published

Congress and the Muslim League rejected the proposals because they did not go far enough.

Congress responded with a new campaign called ‘Quit India’ in August 1942

Britain arrested all the main Congress leaders including Nehru during campaign. British used mass arrests and brutal beatings on Congress protesters. Riots and violence broke out

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Raj failing 1944

War, weather and crop failures brought about disastrous food shortages in Bengal.

British government’s actions were completely inadequate:

  • They failed to distribute food or even introduce rationing
  • The administration also failed to control prices or stop profiteers from buying up food and selling it on the black market.
  • The British even destroyed around 50,000 small boats, which could have been used to ferry food supplies to needy areas

- BAD BRITISH PUBLICITY- final death toll by the end of 1944 has been estimated at between 3- 4 million 

Once again the British Raj had failed to meet one of its justifications – that it provided good government for the benefit of the Indian people.

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Indian Nationalism 1945

The year 1945 was the final year of the war and proved to be very important for Indian nationalism

Churchill had resigned himself to giving up India in the long term.

The critical issue was whether India would be one state after independence or whether it would be divided into Hindu and Muslim states.

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Independence 1946–47

Muslims in Hindu-dominated areas wondered fearfully what would happen to them after independence vice versa.

Initial agreement:

India would remain one state but it would be a federal state.

Each of the provinces would be more or less self-ruling.

Jinnah agreed reluctantly to these proposals in June.

Nehru’s change of mind in June 1946: Nehru also agreed at first, but in July he changed his position and insisted that there should also be a central government

Jinnah felt he had been betrayed. He called for a Direct Action Day.

The violence of 1946: Direct Action Day on 16 August- violence, but tensions were high and demonstrations in Calcutta turned into bloody riots between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

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The appointment of Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy

Mountbatten (a popular, high profile figure)

  • Was a member of British royal family, which helped him to influence the princes and convince them to co-operate w/ new India.

Aim: try to work a compromise between Nehru and Jinnah

August Mountbatten+his officials met with Nehru, Jinnah & their teams-long+hard negotiation

Nehru continued to argue for a united India but Jinnah would not budge on his demand for a Muslim state of Pakistan.

Meanwhile violence between Muslims, Sikhs and HindusIndia was tearing apart 

Partition Plan was completed:

  • 15 August the transfer of power took place.
  • The new state of Pakistan came into existence with Jinnah as its President.
  • The new state of India came into existence with Nehru as its Prime Minister. 
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Consequences of partition

Worst violence was in the Punjab where Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs committed terrible atrocities against each other

Mountbatten’s Punjab Boundary Force was only 23,000 strong & had to control an area w/a population of 15 million, much of this population was frightened, suspicious + armed

Some of the worst atrocities were committed against trains of refugees – either Hindus fleeing to India/ Muslims fleeing to Pakistan

Most of the migrants lost most of their possessions in the migration

Gandhi again went on hunger strike in an attempt to influence the warring factions to put down their weapons.

Although he himself was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic in January 1948. All in all, the death toll and the misery were appalling.

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