Phases of Nationalist Movement: Liberal Constitutionalists (MODERATES PHASE)
Congress politics during the first twenty years since its inception was moderate in nature.
Congress: members were mostly part-time politicians who were successful professionals in their personal life; members from upper class and had been thoroughly anglicized.
The moderates were influenced primarily by Utilitarian theories as JS Mill and Edmund
To the moderates, British rule seemed to be an act of providence destined to bring in modernization. Indians needed some time to prepare themselves for self-government, and till that time British parliament could be trusted.
The politics of the moderates was limited in goals and methods.
Although they were aware of the exploitative nature of British rule, they wanted its reform and not its expulsion.
The moderates never visualized a separation from the British empire. They wanted limited self-government within the imperial framework.
i. Broaden Indian participation in the legislature through an expansion of central and provincial legislatures.
ii. New councils for the North-Western Provinces and Punjab.
iii. Two Indian members in the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
iv. The budget should be referred to the legislature which will have the right to discuss and vote on it.
They initially demanded democratic rights only for the educated members of the Indian society who would substitute for the masses.
Their expectation was that full political freedom would come gradually and India would be ultimately given the self-governing rights.
In return, they merely received the Indian Councils Amendment Act of 1892 which only provided for marginal expansion of the legislative councils at the centre and the provinces which was to be constituted through selection by the viceroy at the centre and the governors at the provinces rather than election.
The Government of India was given the power to legislate without referring to the legislature.
Therefore, very few of the constitutional demands of the moderates were fulfilled by this act.
6.Reformation of the Administrative System Moderates demanded an Indianization of the services as an Indianized civil service would be more responsive to the Indian needs.
7. They demanded a simultaneous civil service examination both in India and London and raising the age limit for appearing in such examinations from 19 to 23.
8. Charles Wood, the president of the Board of Control, opposed this on the premise that there is no institution that could train the boys in India for the examination.
9.Although in 1892, 93, a resolution in the House of Commons was passed for simultaneous examination, the maximum age for the exam was further lowered to the disadvantage of the Indians.
10. Military Expenditure
i. The British Indian army was being used in the imperial wars in all parts of the world.
ii. This put a very heavy burden on the Indian finances.
iii. The moderates demanded that the military expenditure should be shared evenly by the British government; the Indians should be taken in the army as volunteers and appointment of more Indians in higher ranks.
iv. These demands were rejected.
v. The idea of volunteer service was abhorred because it was feared that Maratha and Bengali volunteers because of their nationalism would find their way in the army and subvert its integrity.
11. The idea of appointing Indians in commissioned ranks was also despised as no European officer would like being ordered by an Indian commander.
12. The British government agreed to only share a small fraction of military expenditure and the burden on Indian finances remained the same.
13. The moderates also demanded the extension of the Permanent Settlement, abolition of salt tax and a campaign against the exploitation of the indentured labour at the Assam tea gardens. These demands represented a plea for racial equality. But, none of these demands were even considered by the colonial administration.
Economic Critique of Colonialism
Most significant historical contribution of the moderates.
This is often referred to as economic nationalism and was further developed in the subsequent period of Indian nationalist movement.
Three main names:
i) Dadabhai Naroji – a successful businessman
ii) Justice MG Ranade
iii) R.C Rutt, a retired ICS officer who published The Economic History of India in two volumes (1901-03)
The main focus of this economic nationalism was on Indian poverty created by the application of the classical economic theory of free trade.
This turned India into a supplier of agricultural raw materials and foodstuffs to and a consumer of manufactured goods from the mother country. India was thus reduced to the status of a dependent agrarian economy and a field for British capital investment.
Investment of foreign capital meant a drainage of wealth through expatriation of profit. This, known as the drain theory, was central to economic nationalism.
It was argued that direct drainage of wealth took place through military charges, home charges etc.
Rise of Extremists and The Swadeshi Movement
By the end of the nineteenth century, the failure of moderate politics became apparent.
Ergo, a reaction set in from within the Congress, referred to as the Extremist trend.
The moderates – criticized – for being too cautious.
Extremist politics developed in three mains regions under the leadership of three important individuals:
Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal
Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra
Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab
Reasons of the Rise of Extremism
Historians observed a good deal of faction fighting at almost every level of organized public life in India.
Bengal : division within the Brahmo Samaj and the faction fighting between Aurobindo Ghosh on the one hand and Bipin Chandra Pal and Brahmabandhab Upadhyay on the other, over the editorship of Bande Mataram.
Maharashtra : competition between Gokhale and Tilak for controlling the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha. In 1895, Tilak captured the organization and Gokhale in 1896 started a rival organization, the Deccan Sabha.
Punjab : Arya Samaj divided after the death of Dayanand Saraswati, between the more moderate and radical revivalist group.
B. Frustration with Moderate Politics
Major reason behind the rise of extremist politics.
The social reformism of the moderates, inspired by Western liberalism, also went against popular orthodoxy.
Moderate politics had reached a dead end, as most of their demands remained unfulfilled and this was a major reason behind the rise of extremism.
This increased the anger against colonial rule and this anger was generated by the moderates themselves through their economic critique of colonialism.
C. Role of Lord Curzon
He initiated a number of unpopular legislative and administrative measures, which hurt the susceptibilities of the educated Indians.
For example, the Indian Universities Act of 1904 placed Calcutta University under the most complete governmental control and the Indian Official Secrets Amendment Act of 1904 further restricted press freedom.
His Calcutta University convocation address wherein he described the highest idea of trust as a Western concept hurt the pride of educated Indians.
Last in the series was the partition of Bengal in 1905, designed to weaken the Bengali nationalists who allegedly controlled the Congress.
But instead of weakening the Congress, the Curzonian measures revitalized it as the extremist leader now tried to take over Congress in order to commit it to the path of more direct confrontation with colonial rule.
The goal of the extremists was swaraj which different leaders interpreted differently.
Tilak: Swaraj = Indian control over the administration, but not a total severance of relations with Great Britain.
Bipin Chandra Pal: Swaraj = As no self-government was possible under British paramountcy, so for him swaraj was complete autonomy, absolutely free of British control.
Aurobindo Ghosh: Swaraj = absolute political independence.
Change in the forms of agitation
The radicalization was manifested in the change in the method of agitation with a shift from the old methods of prayer and petition to passive resistance.
This meant opposition to colonial rule through its violation of unjust laws, boycott of British goods and institutions, and development of their indigenous alternatives - swadeshi and national education.
The inspiration for this new politics came from the new regional literature which provided a discursive field for defining the Indian nation in terms of its distinct cultural heritage.
A) This was a revivalist discourse as it invoked an imagined golden past and used symbols to arouse nationalist passions.
B) This was also a response to the gendered discourse of colonialism that had stereotyped the colonized society as effeminate, and therefore unfit to rule, which created a psychological condition for the subject state to recover their virility in Kshatriyahood in an imagined Aryan past.
C) Historical figures that represented velour were now projected as national heroes.
D) Tilak started the Shivaji festival in Maharashtra in April 1895.
E) The Marathas, Rajput's and Sikhs were now placed in an Aryan tradition and appropriated as national heroes.
The Indian political leaders also looked back to Indo-Aryan political traditions as alternatives to Anglo-Saxon political systems.
The Indian traditions were described as more democratic with strong emphasis on village self-government.
The concept of dharma was also evoked which restricted the arbitrary powers of the king.
This was directly to counter the colonial logic and moderate argument that British rule was an act of providence to prepare Indians for self-government.
a. This was the central problem of Indian nationalism.
b. The moderates wanted the Indian nation to develop through a modernistic course, but the extremists that sought to oppose colonial rule, talked in terms of a non-Western paradigm.
c. They tried to define the Indian nation in terms of distinctly Indian cultural idioms, which led them to religious revivalism invoking a glorious past – sometimes even unquestioned acceptance and glorious fixation of that past.
d. The English-educated Indians also felt proud of the achievements of the Vedic civilization.
e. This was essentially an “imaginary history” with a specific historical purpose of instilling a sense of pride in the minds of a selected group of Indians involved in the process of imagining their nation.
The Swadeshi movement launched in the early 20th Century was a direct fallout of the decision of the British India government to partition Bengal.
Use of Swadeshi goods and boycott of foreign made goods were the two main objectives of this movement.
A Boycott Resolution was passed in Calcutta City Hall on August 7, 1905, where it was decided to boycott the use of Manchester cloth and salt from Liverpool.
In the district of Barisal, the masses adopted this message of boycott of foreign-made goods, and the value of the British cloth sold there fell sharply.
Bande Mataram became the boycott and Swadeshi movement theme song.
Among the movement’s various forms of struggle, it was the boycott of foreign-made goods that encountered the greatest visible success on the practical and popular level.
Boycott and public burning of foreign clothes, picketing of shops selling foreign goods, all became common in remote corners of Bengal as well as in many major cities and towns across the country.
Another form of mass mobilization widely used by the Swadeshi movement was the corps of volunteers (samitis).
Ashwini Kumar Dutt, a school teacher, set up the Swadesh Bandhab Samiti in Barisal was the best – known volunteer organization of all of them.
The Shivaji and Ganapati festivals in Western India (Maharashtra) were organized by Lokmanya Tilak to spread the swadeshi message and boycott movements among the masses.
The Swadeshi and boycott movements placed great emphasis on ‘ Atmasakti ‘ or self – reliance as a means of reasserting national dignity in different fields.
In the field of national education, this emphasis on self – reliance was most evident.
The National College of Bengal was founded as its principal with Aurobindo. Numerous national schools have been established throughout the country in a short period of time.
The National Education Council was established in August 1906.
In Indians entrepreneurial zeal, self – reliance was also evident. The period saw an explosion of textile mills, factories of soap and match, tanneries, banks, insurance companies, shops, etc.
While most of these Swadeshi companies were set up and run as a result of patriotic fervor than any real business interest and were unable to survive for a long time, some others like Acharya P.C. Ray
In the field of culture, Amar Sonar Bangla, written by Rabindranath Tagore in protest against Bengal’s partition, became a rallying point for the Swadeshi and boycott movements and later inspired Bangladesh’s liberation struggle.
Reasons behind Swadeshi Movement
Realizing the revolutionary potential, the government came down with a heavy hand. Most of the important leaders of the movement were either imprisoned or deported between 1907 and 1908.
Any mass movement cannot be sustained endlessly at the same pitch of militancy and self-sacrifice, especially when faced with severe repression.
The internal squabbles, and especially, the split in 1907 in the Congress, the apex all-India organization, weakened the movement.
It lacked the effective organization and party structure.
The movement failed to create an effective organization or a party structure.
It threw up an entire gamut of techniques that came to be associated with Gandhian politics like non-cooperation, passive resistance, filling of British jails, social reform and constructive work but failed to give these techniques a disciplined focus.
The movement largely remained confined to the upper and middle classes and zamindars, and failed to reach masses especially the peasantry.
It was not able to garner the support of the mass of Muslims and especially of the Muslim peasantry. Hindus and Muslims were divided along class lines with the former being the landlords and the latter constituting the peasantry.
Though the Swadeshi Movement had spread outside Bengal, the rest of the country was not as yet fully prepared to adopt the new style and stage of politics.
The movement aroused the people but did not know how to tap the newly released energy or how to find new forms to give expression to popular resentment.
The movement was rendered leaderless with most the leaders either arrested or deported by 1908 and with Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal retiring from active politics.
Tilak was sentenced to six years imprisonment, Ajeet Singh and Lajpat Rai of Punjab were deported and Chidambaram Pillai was arrested.
Formation of Muslim League
The All-India Muslim League (popularized as the Muslim League) was a political party established in 1906 in British India
It was found as an alternative political group to the Indian National Congress
It was created with the aim of representing the interests of Indian Muslims.
The formation of a Muslim political party on the national level was seen as essential by 1901.
The first stage of its formation was the meeting held at Lucknow in September 1906, with the participation of representatives from all over India
The Simla Deputation reconsidered the issue in October 1906 and decided to frame the objectives of the party on the occasion of the annual meeting of the Educational Conference, which was scheduled to be held in Dhaka.
Meanwhile, Nawab Salimullah Khan published a detailed scheme through which he suggested the party to be named All-India Muslim Confederacy.
From their inception, the Muslim League continually called for unity in an independent India but began to fear that it would be dominated by Hindus, who made up the majority of the population.
Following the First World War (1914-18) the Muslim League joined forces with Congress to advocate for Home Rule within the British Empire
Further, in the late 1920s and early 1930s Jinnah consolidated the views of Muslims in India into 14 points.
These included proposals to form a federal government and to have a one third representation of Muslims in the central government.
When Britain declared war with Germany in 1939 it did so on behalf of India as well.
The Congress refused to support this declaration because their representatives hadn’t been consulted. In contrast, whilst the Muslim League remained critical of British rule, they agreed to support India’s participation in the war in the hope of gaining a better vantage to negotiate independence.
In 1940, in what became known as the ‘two-nation theory’, Jinnah began to demand for the creation of a separate Muslim state from territories that were currently in British India.
Further, the idea of a separate state of Pakistan began to gain popularity with Muslims across India.
Gandhi & Mass Mobilization
1. The Khilafat Agitation:
The Indian Muslims Community launched the Khilafat Agitation. Its two important leaders were Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali. It was launched against the Britishers’ imposition of a harsh treaty (Treaty of Sevres) on the Turkish Sultan or Khalifa.
2. Non-Cooperation Movement
It was a significant phase of the Indian independence movement from British rule. It was led by Mahatma Gandhi after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. It aimed to resist British rule in India through nonviolent means.
The programmed of non-cooperation included within its ambit the surrender of titles and honors.
Boycott of government affiliated schools and colleges
Boycott of law courts
Picketing of shops selling foreign cloth was also a major form of the
Boycott could be extended to include resignation from government service and mass civil disobedience including the non-payment of taxes.
National schools and colleges were to be set up
Panchayats were to be established for settling disputes
Hand-spinning and weaving was to be encouraged
People were asked to maintain Hindu- Muslim unity, give up untouchability and observe strict non-violence.
3. Kisan sabhas
In the Avadh area of U.P., where kisan sabhas and a kisan movement had been gathering strength since 1918 and with Non-cooperation propaganda it became difficult to distinguish between a Non cooperation meeting and a kisan meeting.
In Malabar in Kerala, Non cooperation and Khilafat propaganda helped to arouse the Muslims tenants against their landlords.
Charkhas were popularized on a wide scale and khadi became the uniform of the national movement.
Defiance of forest laws became popular in Andhra.
Peasants and tribals in some of the Rajasthan states began movements for securing better conditions of life.
4. Akali movement
In Punjab, the Akali Movement for taking control of the gurudwaras from the corrupt mahants (priests) was a part of the general movement of Non-cooperation, and the Akalis observed strict non-violence in the face of tremendous repression.
The most successful item of the programmed was the boycott of foreign cloth.
Volunteers would go from house to house collecting clothes made of foreign cloth, and the entire community would collect to light a bonfire of the good.
The value of imports of foreign cloth fell from Rs. 102 crore in 1920-21 to Rs. 57 crore in 1921-22.
5. Picketing of toddy shops
Government revenues showed considerable decline on this count.
The educational boycott was particularly successful in Bengal, where the students in Calcutta triggered off a province-wide strike to force the managements of their institutions to disaffiliate themselves from the Government.
Movement was spread almost to all parts of India.
It was a truly mass movement where lakhs of Indians participated in the open protest against the government through peaceful means.
It shook the British government who were stumped by the extent of the movement.
It saw participation from both Hindus and Muslims thereby showcasing communal harmony in the country.
This movement established the popularity of the Congress Party among the people.
As a result of this movement, people became conscious of their political rights. They were not afraid of the government.
Hordes of people thronged to jails willingly.
The Indian merchants and mill owners enjoyed good profits during this period as a result of the boycott of British goods. Khadi was promoted.
6. The Chauri Chaura Incident
Gandhiji was against the use of violent methods and movements. He called off the Non-Cooperation Movement abruptly due to the Chauri Chaura incident in which 22 policemen were killed when a crowd of peasants set fire to the police station in February 1922.
7. The Rowlatt Satyagraha
In 1919, Gandhiji launched an anti-Rowlatt Satyagraha, which received a countrywide response. April 6, 1919 was observed as the day of “humiliation and prayers” and hartal (strike). Satyagraha Sabhas were held throughout the country.
8. The Rowlatt Act
The Britishers passed the Rowlatt Act in India, under which people could be imprisoned without trial. This act was called the ‘Black Act’. This strengthened the power of the police.
9. Civil Disobedience Movement
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government
In India, Civil disobedience movement was a landmark event in the Indian Nationalist movement. In many ways, the civil disobedience movement is credited for paving the way for freedom in India.
The Lahore Congress (1929) left the choice of the precise methods of non-violent struggle for Purna Swaraj to Gandhi
It was resolved that a Manifesto or pledge of Independence would be taken all over India by as many people as possible on 26 January 1930.
On this day Civil disobedience was supposed to commence and It was declared Independence Day
10. Dandi March
Gandhi took the decision to start the movement. On 12 March 1930 Gandhi started the Historic Salt March from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi beach accompanied by his 78 selected followers.
There Gandhi and his followers broke the law by manufacturing salt from the sea. The Programmed of the movement was as follows:
a) Salt law should be violated everywhere.
b) Students should leave colleges and government servants should resign from service.
c) Foreign clothes should be burnt.
d) No taxes should be paid to the government.
e) Women should stage a Dharna at liquor shops, etc.
Thus, the historic march, marking the launch of the Civil Disobedience Movement, began on March 12, and Gandhi broke the salt law by picking up a lump of salt at Dandi on April 6.
11. Quit India Movement
Mahatma Gandhi decided to initiate a new phase of the movement against the British in the middle of the Second World War.
The British must quit India immediately, he told them.
To the people, he said, do or die in your effort to fight the British but you must fight non-violently. Gandhiji and other leaders were jailed at once but the movement spread. It especially attracted peasants and the youth who gave up their studies to join it.
Communications and symbols of state authority were attacked all over the country. In many areas, the people set up their own governments.
August Kranti, or August Movement, is another name for the Quit India Movement. Mahatma Gandhi launched the Bharat Chhodo Andolan, or Quit India movement, on August 8, 1942, with the rallying cry "do or die."
The Cripps mission failed in April 1942. In less than four months, the Indian people's third great mass struggle for independence began. The Quit India movement is the name given to this struggle. During World War II, Mahatma Gandhi's All India Congress Committee in Bombay passed a resolution supporting the Quit India Movement on August 8, 1942.
This resolution stated that the immediate end of British rule in India was necessary for the sake of India and the success of the cause of freedom and democracy, which the UN countries were fighting against fascist Germany, Italy, and Japan for.
Communalism in Indian Politics
Communalism in India is result of the emergence of modern politics, which has its roots in partition of Bengal in 1905 and feature of separate electorate under Government of India Act, 1909.
Later, British government also appeased various communities through Communal award in 1932, which faced strong resistance from Gandhi ji and others.
All these acts were done by the British government to appease Muslims and other communities, for their own political needs.
This feeling of communalism has deepened since then, fragmenting the Indian society and being a cause of unrest.(by Communal award colonial government mandated that consensus over any issue among different communities (i.e. Hindu, Muslims, Sikhs and others) is precondition for any further political development)
Communal consciousness arose as a result of the transformation of Indian society under the impact of colonialism and the need to struggle against it.
Stages in Indian Communalism and how it spread
India is a land of diversity. And it is known for lingual, ethnic, cultural and racial diversity. As, we have discussed above, communalism in India is a modern phenomenon, which has become threat to India’s Unity in Diversity. We will see the various stages:-
First stage was rise of nationalist Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, etc. with only first element of communalism as discussed above. Roots of this were led in later part of 19th century with Hindu revivalist movement like Shuddhi movement of Arya Samaj and Cow protection riots of 1892.
On the other hand movements like Faraizi movement started Haji Shariatullah in Bengal to bring the Bengali Muslims back on the true path of Islam, was one of the religious reform movement which had bearing on communalism in 19th century. Later people like Syed Ahmed Khan, who despite of having scientific and rational approach, projected Indian Muslims as a separate community (qaum) having interest different from others.
Second stage was of Liberal communalism, it believed in communal politics but liberal in democratic, humanist and nationalist values. It was basically before 1937. For example organisations like Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim League and personalities like M.A. Jinnah, M M Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai after 1920s
Third was the stage of Extreme Communalism, this had a fascist syndrome. It demanded for separate nation, based on fear and hatred. There was tendency to use violence of language, deed and behaviour. For example Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha after 1937.
It spread as a by-product of colonialism, economic stagnations and absence of modern institutions of education and health. These factors caused competition, people started using nepotism (patronage bestowed or favouritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business and politics), paying bribes to get job, etc. Short term benefits from communalism started giving validity to communal politics.
Later on, spread of education to peasant and small landlords gave rise to new middle class, as agriculture was becoming stagnant. So, these people started demanding communal representation and this way, social base for communalism widened. Middle class oscillated between anti-imperialism and communalism. Communalism, started rooting deeply, as it was an expression of aspiration and interest of middle class for less opportunity.
From very beginning upper caste Hindus dominated colonial services as they adapted early to colonial structure. Because of Mughal rule and 1857 revolt, colonial government was suspicious towards Muslims and they patronized Hindus. This resulted in resentment in Muslims in late 19th century and they then formed a pressure group under Sir Sayed Ahmed Kahn to bargain as a separate community. In contrast Congress standpoint was always focused on ‘rights and freedom of individual’ not on a particular community.
Communalism represented a struggle between two upper classes / strata for power, privileges and economic gain. For Example- In western Punjab at that time, Muslim landlord opposed Hindu moneylenders. In eastern Bengal, Muslim jotedars opposed Hindu zamindars. Later on, communalism developed as weapon of economically and politically reactionary social classes and political forces.
Divide and Rule
Communalism was a channel for providing service to colonialism and the jagirdari class (land officials). British authorities supported communal feelings and divided Indian society for their authoritative ruling. As we have already discussed above about separate electorate, like that official patronage and favor having communal biasness was very common.
Communal press & persons and agitations were shown extraordinary tolerance. Communal demands were accepted, thus politically strengthening communal organizations. British started accepting communal organizations and leaders as the real spokesperson of communities and adopted a policy of non-action against communalism.
In fact, for the same reasons even the communal riots were not crushed. Separate electorate started in 1909 to communal award in 1932 fulfilled the wishes of British authorities of ruling India by dividing the societies on communal lines.
The Two-Nation Theory, Negotiations over Partition
The two-nation theory is an ideology of religious nationalism which significantly influenced the Indian subcontinent following its independence from the British Empire.
The plan to partition British India into two states was announced on 3rd June 1947. These two states would be India and Pakistan.
According to this theory, Indian Muslims and Indian Hindusare two separate nations, with their own customs, religion, and traditions; therefore, from social and moral points of view, Muslims should be able to have their own separate homeland outside of Hindu-majority India.
The ideology that religion is the determining factor in defining the nationality of Indian Muslims was undertaken by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
The partition of Bengal in 1905 served as the first act of the British towards breaking Hindu Muslim unity.
The later introduction of the Morley Minto reforms in 1909 proved to be a critical juncture in struggle against colonial domination in India.
The reforms introduced a system under which separate electorates were formed, where in only Muslims could vote for Muslim candidates in constituencies reserved for them.
By so doing the British wanted to promote the idea that the political, economic and cultural interests of the Muslims and Hindus were separate.
Then, the Montagu Chelmsford reforms or the Government of India Act 1919 in addition to the reserved seats for Muslims.
Later, Hindu-Muslim unity began to bond with the coming of Non-cooperation Movement in 1919, by rallying on the Khilafat issue.
However, Following the Chauri Chaura incident(1922) where some British policemen were killed due to some action initiated by the participants of the Non-Cooperation movement, the movement itself was called off by Gandhiji.
So, now the Muslim leaders felt betrayed since their cause of revolting against the removal of the Caliphate was left unfinished due to the calling off of the movement.
From that time on, the differences between the Hindus and the Muslims only increased over a period of time and eventually became irreconcilable.
In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal became the leader of the Muslim League in 1930 and for the first time articulated a demand for a separate Muslim state.
He argued that Muslims and Hindus constituted two different nations in themselves and were incompatible.
At this time, the congress rejected this theory and argued in favour of a united India, based on unity between different religious groups.
Further, the policy of the British to divide and rule got exemplified in the Communal Award of 1932. This policy further strengthened the provisions for separate electorates.
The Cripps Mission in 1942 suggested that India be granted a Dominion status under the British Empire.
The Mission did not accept the demand for Pakistan but allowed for a provision whereby provinces could secede from the Indian Union.
But, the Congress and the Muslim League interpreted this in their own unique ways.
Eventually, on the 16th August 1946 Jinnah declared Direct Action Day and the Muslim League raised the demand for an independent Pakistan.
There were communal tensions amongst the Hindus and the Muslims in places including Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Punjab
In 1947, Mountbatten agreed with the Muslim League’s demand for an independent Pakistan but he also saw merit in the Congress’s demand for unity.
He was asked by the British government to explore options of creating a united India or the option of partition
However, the unity signs did not find place, and as a result India and Pakistan dominions were created in 1947.
The British Colonial state chose to strengthen its power in India by adopting the strategy of dividing social groups and pitting them against each other
The British said that in order to deal with the problem of Hindu-Muslim discord and in order to avert the threat of Hindu majoritarianism, it was critical to give special representation rights to the minorities.
As a result, the colonial policies led to communal practices in following ways:
Firstly, communities were separated and defined on grounds of religious affiliation. This meant that Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. were treated as separate communities and were given representational rights accordingly.
Further these communities were believed to be completely different and hostile to each other. Thus, it was argued that only the representatives of each community could represent the interests of that community.
Thirdly, the British readily accepted the communal spokespersons as the sole representatives of their communities. Towards the end of the British rule, Jinnah was seen as the sole spokesperson of the Muslims in Colonial India, in spite of the fact that other Muslim leaders were present within the Muslim League and in the Congress who were opposed to the idea of Partition.
Thus, it is evident that Communalism could not have flourished the way it did, without the support of the British Colonial state.
Thus, the policy of Divide and Rule lead to communalism and further, extreme communalism led to Partition.
The dilemmas and decisions of the Congress
The Indian national movement succeeded in forming an alliance between some classes and communities and in acquiring independence from the British, but it failed to create unity which could have prevented Partition.
So, what happened in 1947 was a result of the collapse of negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League.
Essentially the Congress did not vouch for Partition of India. Congress leaders wanted the British to transfer power to a united India.
One of the reasons for accepting the demand for Pakistan was that the Congress leaders came to the conclusion that the demand was based on ‘popular will’
Also, the Congress leadership agreed to Partition was also because they saw it as a sort of temporary measure
It was thought by some that after passions subsided, people would see the futility of Partition and would want to re-unite.
Further, the Congress accepted the proposal for Partition in the hope that it would finally help in ending the wide spread communal violence prevalent in Colonial India in 1946-47
The Congress could have opted to oppose the demand for Partition through use of force but this was against its democratic ideals.
So, When dialogue and negotiations with the Muslim League failed and the Interim government didn’t succeed, the Congress accepted the demand for Pakistan
Still, the Congress tried to pressurize the British to transfer power to a united India but didn’t succeed in the endeavor primarily because of its inability to forge a united front with the Muslim League representatives.
Eventually, inevitable circumstances led to partition of India into two dominions. However, it all didn’t end here. It was followed by a serious aftermath of communal tensions across the two regions, disturbing peace and stability soon after Independence from British in 1947.