Indian independence movement
The Beginnings of the British Empire
The Europeans came to Indian shores, with the arrival of Vasco da Gama, in 1498. Vasco da Gama, docked on the port of Calicut in Kerala. The Portuguese challenged the Arab supremacy in the Indian Ocean for the want of Indian spices. Soon, the Portuguese set up a network of trading posts along the shores of the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Soon other European nations came to India and started competing with the Portuguese. In 1510, the Portuguese established their trading center at Goa. The British East India Company was established in 1600. The company's primary aim was to capture the spice trade from the hands of the Portuguese. Meanwhile the Dutch, with a large supply of capital managed to establish their warehouses along the Indian coast. As early as 1609, the Dutch had established a warehouse at Pulicat, about 20 [kilometers]] from Madras (now Chennai). In 1615 Sir Thomas Roe was instructed by King James I to visit the Mughal emperor Jahangir (who ruled over nearly 70 percent of the subcontinent). The purpose of this mission was to arrange for a commercial treaty which would give the Company exclusive rights to reside and build factories in Surat and other areas. In return, the Company offered to provide to the emperor goods and rarities from the European market. This mission was highly successful and Jahangir sent a letter to the King through Sir Thomas. He wrote:
The Europeans fought on Indian soil to capture a major portion of the trade. Soon, they began maintaining regular armies to protect their warehouses, factories, and shipments. The sepoys, of the British army were usually European trained Indians. Eventually, local rulers used the services of the British army to settle scores with their enemy.
The Establishment of the Company's Rule
However in 1757, the British and the then Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah, fought the Battle of Plassey, a small village between Calcutta, (now Kolkata) and Murshidabad. The British East India Company under Robert Clive defeated the army of the Nawab in a few hours. The outcome of the battle was decided before the battle itself. Mir Jafar, who aspired to be the next Nawab of Bengal, joined forces with the British. While Clive bribed the soldiers of Siraj-ud-daulah's army and asked them to surrender, and even turn their arms against their own army. This battle is widely seen upon as the beginning of the British Raj in India.
Later, Clive defeated the Mughal forces in the Battle of Buxar, a town in the west of Patna in Bihar, and in 1765, and the Mughal emperor Shah Alam conferred the company administrative rights over Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, a region of roughly 25 million people with an annual revenue of 40 million Rupees. And hence Clive became the first British governor of Bengal. The British Parliament enacted a series of laws, among which the Regulating Act of 1773 stood first, to curb the company traders' unrestrained commercial activities and to bring about some order in territories under company control. This act gave the British government supervisory rights over the Bengal, Bombay (now Mumbai), and Madras (now Chennai) presidencies. The Governor General of Bengal was also elevated as the Governor General of India. The India Act of 1784, enhanced Parliament's control by establishing the Board of Control, whose members were selected from the cabinet. The Charter Act of 1813 recognized British moral responsibility by introducing just and humane laws in India, foreshadowing future social legislation, and outlawing a number of traditional practices such as sati.
In 1835, William Cavendish Bentinck, the governor-general from 1828 to 1835, introduced the English language as the medium of instruction. English replaced Persian in public administration and education. Western-educated Hindu elites sought to rid Hinduism of its much criticized social evils: idolatry, the caste system, child marriage, and sati. Religious and social activist Ram Mohan Roy, who founded the Brahmo Samaj (Society of Brahma) in 1828, displayed a readiness to synthesize themes taken from Christianity, Deism, and Indian monism, while other individuals in Bombay and Madras initiated literary and debating societies that gave them a forum for open discourse. The exemplary educational attainments and skillful use of the press by these early reformers enhanced the possibility of effecting broad reforms without compromising societal values or religious practices.
In 1850, during the tenure of Dalhousie as governor-general, the first railroad system was established from Howrah, (across the Hoogli River from Calcutta) to the coalfields at Raniganj, Bihar, a distance of 240 kilometers. In 1851, the first electric telegraph line was laid in Bengal and soon linked Agra, Bombay, Calcutta, Lahore, Varanasi, and other cities.
The First Indian Uprising of 1857
The Indian Mutiny (also known as the Sepoy Mutiny) as known to the British or The First War Of Indian Independence as known to the Indians was a period of uprising in northern and central India against British rule in 1857-1858. It is also known as the Sepoy Rebellion, the Great Mutiny, and the Revolt of 1857. It is widely acknowledged to be the first-ever united rebellion against colonial rule in India.
The most famous reason for this mutiny is the use of cow and pig fat in .557 calibre Pattern 1853 Enfield (P/53) rifle cartridges. Since soldiers had to break the cartridges with their teeth before they could load them into their rifles, this was offensive to Hindu and Muslim soldiers, who considered tasting beef and pork to be against their respective religious tenets. In February 1857 sepoys refused to use their new cartridges. The British claimed to have replaced the cartridges with new ones and tried to make sepoys make their own grease from beeswax and vegetable oils but the rumor persisted.
Mangal Pande and the march to Delhi
In March 1857 Mangal Pande of the 34th Native Infantry attacked his British sergeant, wounded an adjutant. General Hearsay, who said Pande was in some kind of "religious frenzy" ordered a jemadar to arrest him but the jemadar refused. Mangal Pande then turned the gun against himself and used his foot to try to pull the trigger to shoot himself. He failed, was captured and then hanged on April 7 along with the jemadar. The whole regiment was dismissed as a collective punishment. Other sepoys felt this was too harsh.
On the 10th of May when the 11th and 20th cavalry assembled they broke rank and turned on their commanding officers. They then liberated the 3rd Regiment. The rebelling forces were then engaged by the remaining British forces in Meerut. Meerut had the largest percentage of British troops of every station in India 2,038 European troops versus 2,357 sepoys. The British side even had 12 field guns while the sepoys lacked an artillery. The British forces could have stopped the sepoys from marching on Delhi.
On the 11th of May they reached Delhi. They were joined by other Indians from the local bazaar. Here they attacked and captured the Red Fort (Lal Qila) which was the residence of Bahadur Shah Zafar. The sepoys demanded that he reclaim his throne. At first he was reluctant but eventually he agreed to the demands and became the leader of the rebellion.
About the same time in Jhansi, the army rebelled and killed the British Army Officers. This led to a left Rani Laxmibai, the queen of Jhansi, to defend herself and her kingdom. In 1858, when the British army once again marched towards Jhansi, the Rani assembled an army of 14,000 volunteers to fight the invaders. The war lasted 2 weeks but eventually the British won. The queen escaped on horseback to the fortress of Kalpi. Here she organized a few other kingdoms to rebel against the British. These rebel forces captured Gwalior from the British. The British placed a prize of Rs. 20,000 on the capture of Rani Laxmibai.
The British response
The British were slow to respond at first but eventually two columns left Meerut and Simla. They proceeded slowly towards Delhi and fought, killed, and hanged numerous Indians along the way. At the same time, the British moved regiments from the Crimean War, and diverted European regiments headed for China to India.
After a march lasting two months, the British fought the main army of the rebels near Delhi in Badl-ke-Serai and drove them back to Delhi. The British established a base on the Delhi ridge to the north of the city and the siege began. The siege of Dehli lasted roughly from July 1st to August 31st. However the encirclement was hardly complete the rebels could easily receive resources and reinforcements. Later the British were joined by the Punjab Movable Column of Sikh soldiers and elements of Gurkha Brigade.
Eagerly-awaited heavy siege guns did not guarantee an easy victory against numerical superiority of the sepoys. Eventually the British broke through the Kashmiri gate and began a week of street fighting. The Sikh troops left after the death of their commander. When the British reached the Red Fort, Bahadur Shah Zafar had already fled to Humayun's tomb. The British had retaken the city.
The British plundered Delhi and killed many Indian soldiers (and civilians) in revenge for the mutiny. Artillery was set up in the main mosque in the city and used to bombard nearby neighbourhoods. These included the homes of the Muslim nobility which contained cultural, artistic, literary and monetary riches. An example would be the loss of most of the works of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib thought of as the greatest south Asian poet of the era.
During the bombardment, British forces arrested Bahadur Shah. The days after the arrest, officer William Hodson unilaterally shot Shah's sons Mirza Moghul, Mirza Khizr Sultan, and Mirza Abu Bakr. The heads were presented to their father the next day.
The last rebels were defeated in Gwalior on June 20 1858. Sporadic fighting continued to 1859 but most of the rebels were subdued. It is during this battle that the Rani lost her life. The British adopted the old Mughal punishment for mutiny and sentenced rebels were lashed to the mouth of cannons and blown to pieces. It was the crudest war India had seen in a long time, with both sides resorting to barbarism tactics.
In the aftermath of the rebellion, the British government decided to take India under the direct control of Crown under the rule of British Raj. A Viceroy was appointed to represent the Crown. The British embarked on a program of reform, trying to integrate Indian higher castes and rulers into the government and abolishing the East India Company.
They stopped land grabs, decreed religious tolerance and admitted Indians into 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. In 1877 Queen Victoria took the title of Empress of India. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon, in Burma where he died in 1862, finally bringing the Mughal dynasty to an end.
The spontaneous and widespread rebellion later fired the imagination of the Indian nationalists who would debate the most effective method of protest against British rule. For them, the rebellion represented the first Indian attempt at gaining independence.
The developments after the uprising
The civil war was a major turning point in the history of modern India. The Britishers abolished the British East India Company and replaced it with direct rule under the British crown. In proclaiming the new direct-rule policy to "the Princes, Chiefs, and Peoples of India," Queen Victoria (who was given the title Empress of India in 1877) promised equal treatment under British law, but Indian mistrust of British rule had become a legacy of the 1857 rebellion. Many existing economic and revenue policies remained virtually unchanged in the post-1857 period, but several administrative modifications were introduced, beginning with the creation in London of a cabinet post, the secretary of state for India. The governor-general (called viceroy when acting as the direct representative of the British crown), headquartered in Calcutta, ran the administration in India, assisted by executive and legislative councils. Beneath the governor-general were the provincial governors, who held power over the district officials, who formed the lower rungs of the Indian Civil Service. For decades the Indian Civil Service was the exclusive preserve of the British-born, as were the superior ranks in such other professions as law and medicine. The British administrators were imbued with a sense of duty in ruling India and were rewarded with good salaries, high status, and opportunities for promotion. Not until the 1910s did the British reluctantly permit a few Indians into their cadre as the number of English-educated Indians rose steadily. The viceroy announced in 1858 that the government would honor former treaties with princely states and renounced the "doctrine of lapse," whereby the East India Company had annexed territories of rulers who died without male heirs.
Origins of the Congress and the Muslim League
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. Inspired by the suggestion made by A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant, seventy-three Indian delegates met in Bombay 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. They had acquired political experience from regional competition in the professions and from their aspirations in securing nomination to various positions in legislative councils, universities, and special commissions.
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 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 meager. 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.
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 had by then begun to realize their inadequate education and under representation in government service. Muslim leaders saw that their community had fallen behind the Hindus. Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow killing, and the preservation of Urdu in Arabic script deepened their fears of minority status and denial of their rights if the Congress alone were to represent the people of India. For many Muslims, loyalty to the British crown seemed preferable to cooperation with Congress leaders. Sir Sayyid Ahmad 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 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.
Sir George Curzon, the governor-general (1899-1905), ordered the partition of Bengal in 1905. He wanted to improve administrative efficiency in that huge and populous region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The partition created two provinces: Eastern Bengal and Assam, with its capital at Dhaka (then spelled Dacca), and West Bengal, with its capital at Calcutta (which also served as the capital of British India). An ill-conceived and hastily implemented action, 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.
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, terrorism, and repression ensued in some parts of the country. 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 1906 a Muslim deputation met with the viceroy, Gilbert John Elliot (1905-10), seeking concessions from the impending constitutional reforms, including special considerations in government service and electorates. The All-India Muslim League was founded the same year to promote loyalty to the British and to advance Muslim political rights, which the British recognized by increasing the number of elective offices reserved for Muslims in the India Councils Act of 1909. The Muslim League insisted on its separateness from the Hindu-dominated Congress, as the voice of a "nation within a nation."
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 became New Delhi.
War, Reforms, and Agitation and the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi
World War I began with an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill toward the British, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt. India contributed generously to the British war effort, by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and laborers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. But disillusionment set in early. 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 prewar nationalist movement revived as moderate and extremist groups within the Congress submerged their differences in order to stand as a unified front. The Congress even succeeded in forging a temporary alliance with the Muslim League-the Lucknow Pact, or Congress-League Scheme of Reforms-in 1916, over the issues of devolution of political power and the future of Islam in the Middle East.
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 of 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.
The Rowlatt Act and its aftermath
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 "seditious conspiracy." 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 political activists without trial, and arresting any suspected individuals without a warrant. No sooner had the acts come into force in March 1919-despite opposition by Indian members on the Imperial Legislative Council--than a nationwide cessation of work (hartal ) was called by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Others took up his call, marking the beginning of widespread--although not nationwide--popular discontent. The agitation unleashed by the acts culminated on April 13, 1919, in the Amritsar Massacre in Amritsar, Punjab. The British military commander, Brigadier Reginald E.H. Dyer, ordered his soldiers to fire at point-blank range into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 10,000 men, women, and children. They had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, a walled garden, to celebrate a Hindu festival without prior knowledge of the imposition of martial law. A total of 1,650 rounds were fired, killing 379 persons and wounding 1,137 in the episode, which dispelled wartime hopes and goodwill in a frenzy of postwar reaction.
Gandhi returns to India
India opted for an entirely original path to obtaining swaraj (independence) was due largely to Gandhi, commonly known as "Mahatma" (or Great Soul) A native of Gujarat who had been educated in Britain, he was an obscure and unsuccessful provincial lawyer. Gandhi had accepted an invitation in 1893 to represent indentured Indian laborers in South Africa, where he stayed on for more than twenty years, emerging ultimately as the voice and conscience of thousands who had been subjected to blatant racial discrimination. He returned to India in 1915, virtually a stranger to public life but fired with a religious vision of a new India.
Gandhi's ideas and strategies of nonviolent civil disobedience, first applied during his South Africa days, initially appeared impractical to many educated Indians. In Gandhi's own words, "Civil disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments," but as he viewed it, it had to be carried out nonviolently by withdrawing cooperation with the corrupt state. Observers realized Gandhi's political potential when he used the satyagraha during the anti-Rowlatt Acts protests in Punjab. In 1920, under Gandhi's leadership, the Congress was reorganized and given a new constitution, whose goal was swaraj. Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee, and a hierarchy of committees--from district, to province, to all-India--was established and made responsible for discipline and control over a hitherto amorphous and diffuse movement. During his first nationwide satyagraha, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British education institutions, law courts, and products (in favor of swadeshi ); to resign from government employment; to refuse to pay taxes; and to forsake British titles and honors. The party was transformed from an elite organization to one of mass national appeal.
Although Gandhi's first nationwide satyagraha was too late to influence the framing of the new Government of India Act of 1919, the magnitude of disorder resulting from the movement was unparalleled and presented a new challenge to foreign rule. Gandhi was forced to call off the campaign in 1922 because of atrocities committed against police. However, the abortive campaign marked a milestone in India's political development. For his efforts, Gandhi was imprisoned until 1924. On his release from prison, he set up an ashram in Ahmedabad, on the banks of river Sabarmati, established a newspaper, and inaugurated a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society, the rural poor, and the Untouchables. Emerging leaders within the Congress--Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Jayaprakash Narayan (J.P.)--accepted Gandhi's leadership in articulating nationalist aspirations but disagreed on strategies for wresting more concessions from the British. 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. Regional political organizations also continued to represent the interests of non-Brahmans in Madras, Mahars in Maharashtra, and Sikhs in Punjab.
The Congress, however, kept itself aloof from competing in elections. As voices inside and outside the Congress became more strident, the British appointed a commission in 1927, under Sir John Simon, to recommend further measures in the constitutional devolution of power. The British failure to appoint an Indian member to the commission outraged the Congress and others, and, as a result, they boycotted it throughout India, carrying placards inscribed "Simon, Go Back." In 1929, the Congress responded by drafting its own constitution under the guidance of Motilal Nehru (Jawaharlal's father) demanding full independence by 1930; the Congress went so far as to observe January 26, 1930, as the first anniversary of the first year of independence.
In Lahore, Lala Lajpatrai and Pandit Madan Mohan Malavia protested to the commission in open about their displeasure. Thousands joined. It was a silent demonstration. Even then, police officer Scott beat Lala Lajpatrai with a lathi (bamboo stick) on the head several times. Finally the leader succumbed to the injuries.
Bhagat Singh vowed to take revenge and with the help of Azad, Rajguru and Sukhadev plotted to kill Scott. Unfortunately, he killed Mr. Sanders, a junior officer, in a case of mistaken identity. However the Britishers, under the Defense of India Act, gave more power to the police to arrest persons to stop processions with suspicious movements and actions. The act brought in the council was defeated by one vote. Even then it was to be passed in the form of an ordinance in the "interest of the public." Bhagat Singh, who was in hiding all this time, volunteered to throw a bomb in the central assembly where the act was to be passed. It was a carefully laid out plot, not to cause death or injury, but to draw the attention of the government. It was agreed that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt would court arrest after throwing the bomb.
On April 8th, 1929, at Delhi Central Assembly, Singh and Dutt threw handouts, and bombed in the corridor not to cause injury and courted arrest after shouting slogans "Inquilab Zindabad" (Long Live, Revolution!). Bhagat Singh thought the court would be an ideal place to get publicity for the cause of freedom, and he also did not want to disown the crime. He was "proved" guilty. He wanted to be shot like a soldier, and not die at the gallows. But, his plea was rejected, and he was hanged on the 23rd of March 1931. He was 24.
The Dandi March
Gandhi reemerged from his long seclusion by undertaking his most inspired campaign, a march of about 400 kilometers from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat between March 12 and April 6, 1930. At Dandi, in protest against British taxes on salt, he and thousands of followers illegally but symbolically made their own salt from sea water. Their defiance reflected India's determination to be free, despite the imprisonment of thousands of protesters. For the next five years, the Congress and government were locked in conflict and negotiations until what became the Government of India Act of 1935 could be hammered out. But 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 by 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 Civil Disobedience Movement
Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by the Indians, an All-Party Conference was held at Bombay in May 1928 under the presidentship of Dr. Ansari. 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. The British Government, however, declared in May 1929 that India would get dominion status within the Empire very soon. However, the Congress, at its historic Lahore Session in December 1929, under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, adopted a resolution to gain 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 (complete independence) Day.
Gandhi, was called upon to lead the movement. He decided to launch a nation-wide satyagraha against the British Government. Thousands of people went to jail and faced lathis, bullets and loss of property in the course of the Civil Disobedience Movement. In April 1930 there were violent police-crowd clashes in Calcutta. It is estimated that approximately 90,000 people were imprisoned in the course of the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-31). While Gandhi was in jail, the First Round Table Conference was held in London in the November of 1930. It had no representation of the Indian National Congress. The ban upon the Congress was removed because of the economic hardships caused due to the satyagraha. Gandhi along with other members of the Congress Working Committee were released from prison in January 1931.
In March of 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, and the government agreed to set all political prisoners free. On the other hand, 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 Second Round Table Conference ended in failure in December 1931. Gandhi came back to India without achieving his goal. Gandhi was utterly disgusted at the attitude of the government and decided to resume the Civil Disobedience Movement in January 1932.
The Elections and the Demand for the formation of Pakistan
The 1935 act, 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 center, 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.
However in 1937, the Viceroy Victor Alexander John Hope declared India's entrance into World War II without consulting Indian leaders. So in protest the Congress asked all its elected representatives to resign from the government. Jinnah and the Muslim League welcomed the Congress withdrawal from government as a timely opportunity. Jinnah persuaded the participants at the annual Muslim League session in Lahore in 1940 to adopt what later came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution, demanding the division of India into two separate sovereign states, one Muslim, the other Hindu. Although the idea of Pakistan had been introduced as early as 1930 at Allahabad, very few had responded to it. However, the volatile political climate, the personal hostilities between the leaders, and the opportunism of Jinnah transformed the idea of Pakistan into a popular demand.
The British seemed reluctant to grant India independence. So Gandhi, in an effort to bring the British to the negotiating table, launched the Quit India movement in the August of 1942, and issued the call "to do or die" from a large meeting ground in Bombay (since re-named August Kranti.) However, almost the entire Congress leadership all over the nation was arrested within a span of 24 hours after Gandhi's speech. Large scale violence resulted in the aftermath of the Quit India Movement.
World War II not only changed the map of the world and reduced Britain to a second rate power, it also helped mature British public opinion on India. The Labour Party’s victory in 1945, an expression of the intellectual and social ferment helped in reassessing the merits of the traditional policies. While the Britishers prepared to transfer power to India, the Muslim League renewed its demand for the formation of Pakistan. Even the more mature Congress leaders, especially Gandhi and Nehru, failed to see how genuinely afraid the Muslims were and how exhausted and weak the British had become in the aftermath of the war. When it appeared that the Congress had no desire to share power with the Muslim League at the center, Jinnah declared August 16, 1946, Direct Action Day, which brought communal rioting and massacre in many places in the north. Partition seemed preferable to civil war. On June 3, 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the viceroy (1947) and governor-general (1947-48), announced plans for partition of the British Indian Empire into the nations of India and Pakistan, which itself was divided into east and west wings on either side of India. At midnight, on August 15, 1947, India strode to freedom amidst ecstatic shouting of "Jai Hind" (Long Live India), when Nehru delivered a memorable and moving speech on India's "tryst with destiny."
Concurrently the Muslim northwest and north east of British India was separated into the nation of Pakistan. Violent clashes between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs followed this partition. The area of Kashmir in the far north of the subcontinent quickly became a source of controversy that erupted into the First Indo-Pakistani War which lasted from 1947 to 1949.